Back to Trip Reports

Photos of Animal seen.

Nov 9th & 10th birds Nov 11th & 12th 13th birds Nov 14th & 15th 16th birds. Nov 17th & 18th birds. Nov 19th, 20th & 21st birds. Nov 22nd & 23rd birds. Nov 24th birds. Nov 25 & 26th birds. Nov 27th, 28th & 29th birds.

Above are links to pages of photos covering varios dates. Click onto any link and it will open up a page of photos taken on the dates you click into.

Unfortunately on the day I drove down to Heathrow I found out that I had snapped off the Image Stabiliser button on my lens which meant that I had to live with whatever effects it would have on my lens throughout the holiday.

This will be a summarised report, basically because there is far too much to write about that covers the time we were in South Africa, which was from Nov 9th - 29th 2009. To cover it all in any detail would probably become boring to read to most of you. There were three of us on this trip. David, Ivan & myself. David's daughter lives in South Africa and David has an apartment there as well, including having a car & trailer as well which was used throughout for the travelling and camping we did.

The weather news wasn't good as Ivan & I received a text from David (who was already in the cape Town area) that said "Massive gales with torrential rain for 36 hrs. More forecast, Pelagic unlikely" Thankfully upon our arrival at Cape Town the rain had stopped and it was occasionally sunny, although very windy.

Nov 9th. After our long flight from Heathrow via Abhu Dhabi, (where we found a bird in the Terminal that was new to us (it was a White-cheeked Bulbul) then a connecting flight from Joberg to Cape Town it was decided to go to Stranfontein to do the first day's birding.

On the way to Stranfontein we were treated to a roadside grass verge that had Hadeda, Sacred & Glossy Ibis & Blackl-headed Heron feeding close to the road. This was in a built up area and really surprised two of us (David is a regular visitor and is used to it) but that was only the start of three weeks of surprises. Stranfontein was a good place to start our birding and many lifers were found, mainly wildfowl but included other birds such as Darter, Y B Kite, African Marsh Harrier & many more.

Nov 10th. The day of the Pelagic and we chose a very windy day that gradually got worse and worse until it was aborted about 2 hours early due to very rough seas. We were being tossed about like rag dolls and it wasn't the most comfortable of situations with which to watch this superb spectacle of seabirds. Sadly I had to get down from the higher deck as I couldn't photograph anything. If I tried I either got one of the other birders heads in the way or if I stood up I was in danger of being tipped overboard so I went to the lower deck where I was on my own.

This had two effects. One, I couldn't hear the guide on what birds were about and two the huge waves were actually going higher than the boat which caused the birds to disappear out of view. Added to that I was hanging on for dear life and you can see the problems I was having. Hence I missed a few lifers and year birds. I did get Shy, Yellow nosed & Black-browed Albatross as well as White-chinned and Pintado Petrel but I missed out on the Southern Giant Petrel & Great Shearwater plus a few others that my friends saw.

The actual Pelagic was aborted early because the conditions were getting too severe and we arrived back at Simonstown just before 2pm after a very lumpy ride back.

As we were back so early it was decided to move onto Boulders Beach after the African Penguins. It felt surreal watching these penguins just sitting under bushes or out in the open at the side of the boardwalk but it was well worth the visit. Whilst there a few more new birds entered the log such as Black Oystercatcher and Lesser Double-collared Sunbird.

The end of Nov 10th was horrendous with a fierce gale and torrential rain sweeping the Cape, with a lot more forecasted for nearly a week, so it was decided on the morning of the 11th to pack up two days early (we had planned for four days in the Cape). Our next recognised stop was for Garingboom but we managed to find an area that was free of the bad weather at Karoo N.P and so we made a one night camp there.

Nov 11th.

On our drive to Karoo we added a few new birds to the trip with Blue Crane (Lifer) Black-shouldered Kite, Red-eyed Bulbul (Lifer), Ostrich (Lifer) &Black Crow (Lifer) &Southern Red Bishop (Lifer).

By late afternoon we had camped up at Karoo NP under a fine blue sky and warm temperatures. We had spotted a pool not far from the visitors centre and decided to finish off the day around there and also a short drive up one of the tracks. The pool was fairly productive with Southern Red Bishop, African Marsh Warbler, Southern Masked Weaver plus quite a few Greater-striped Swallows that were using the pool for drinking on the wing. On the short drive we found a few lifers such as Rufous-eared Warbler. Mountain Chat, Familiar Chat & White throated Canary.

Nov 12th

Karoo N.'P.

We woke up to a tremendous dawn chorus. Birds were everywhere. I had spread a little bird seed not far away from the tents and not long after it started to get light quite a few birds came down to feed on it. Amongst them was the stunning Southern Red Bishop. Many others came down such as Cape Sparrow, Cape Wagtail, Laughing Dove, Red-eyed Bulbul, Southern Masked Weaver, Cape Turtle Dove &Red-winged Starling, It soon became evident that most of them were not afraid of humans as not long after they were all over the camp. Even on our breakfast plates then picking up bits we had dropped right by our feet. This was a real treat. After a while we had a walk around the camp and found a few more lifers and year ticks such as Rock Martin, Cape White-eye, Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Robin, Karoo Thrush, White-backed Mousebird, Cape Robin-chat, Fiscal Shrike, whilst above us was White-rumped Swift & Booted Eagle. We decided to do a dive on one of the tracks for about three hours before packing up for our drive to Garingboom. Birdwise it was not that productive but we did add Ludwigs Bustard, Sicklewinged Chat, Southern Ant-eating Chat and the beautiful Pale-chanting Goshawk to the ever growing list.

Our trip to Garingboom was a long one but it did produce one lifer (Verraux's Eagle) and one trip tick (Kestrel) on the way. We arrived there quite late but still found a few Lesser Kestrel on the final approach track plus we managed one lifer as we arrived as a Crested Barbet was pointed out to us by the owners.

Nov 13th

Garingboom B&B

What an amazing day. The Griesel's own the place and his wife, Riette offered to take us on a two / three hour drive around their huge farm for a donation to the Raptor Fund they help support. This turned out to be about five plus hours as there was so much to take in. I can highly recommend staying at Garingboom and using Riette as a guide. She is a brilliant guide and knows her territory like the back of her hand. Here is a link to their web site. http://www.garingboom.co.za. This is their contact numbers. Tel No +27517830203. Cell phone +27829009888

We ended up with an incredible list of birds here, including a Juv Pale-chanting Goshawk, Double-banded Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, Kittlitz's Plover, Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting, Quail Finch, Clapper Lark, Northern Black Korhaan, Desert Cisticola, Capped Wheatear, Kimberley Pipit, Red-capped Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Plainbacked Pipit, Blackchested Prinia, Buffy Pipit, Yellow Canary, Tink-Tink Cisticola, Eastern-paradise Whydah, Blue Crane, Ludwigs Bustard & Secretary Bird. In the buildings area we had a pair of Redthroated Wryneck and a Fiscal Shrike with young of the Western Race. Also around the buildings and trees were Speckled Mousebird and on the railings around the swimming pool a couple of White-throated Swallow.

There is a small bird hide over a pool about a mile from the complex so I made my way there in this beautiful weather and spent a couple of leisurely hours just sitting there watching the birds, mainly Southern Masked Weavers, Red-eyed Bulbuls, and Red-billed Quela's but I also added Orange-throated Longclaw, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting & Three-banded Plover to the list whilst there. On the way back to the complex I also added Neddicky as well.

That was it for Garingboom as we were to leave at about 04.30am the next day for Sani.

Nov 14th.

The trip was uneventful until about 30 miles from Sani when we went from clear sunny skies to misty rainy conditions. By the time we reached Sani we were struggling to see too far in front of us. The forecast was for more of the same, even the possibilty of Snow was forecasted. Just before we reached the camp site we did find a lifer for all of us when a Bokmakierie was seen.

It was not ideal conditions for putting the tent up but eventually the camp was set and a hearty meal cooked and devoured. Unfortunately there was little tyime left for any birding a few birds were seen including a Southern Boubou, Black-headed Oriole, Fiscal Shrike, Olive Thrush, Black Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Sacred Ibis, Hadeda & Cape wagtail.

Nov 15th.

Sani Pass.

The weather was the main thing of the day. It was very misty plus constant rain being the order of the day. We waited around the camp for a few hours waiting for the rain and mist to subside and whilst doing that we had a chance to walk around the grounds of the backpackers. Birds seen here included, Streakyheaded Canary, Black-eyed Bulbul, Pin-tailed Whydah, cape Weaver & Cape Canary.

Eventually the rain eased and the cloud lifted slightly so we decided to try to go to Lesotho. The track was treacherous under very muddy conditions and at one point we faced a lorry that was beginiing to slide sideways towards us but thankfully he styraightened out. Birds seen on the way to the border wereMalachite Sunbird, Ground Woodpecker & Grassbird. The Lesotho border was productive with Open-billed Stork, Paradise Flycatcher, Red-chested Cuckoo, Golden-breasted Bunting, Tawny Eagle &Jackal Buzzard.

We drove through the border but within 100 yards it became clear we were going no further when we tried to negotiate a raised area of ground and the car bottomed out badly. Sadly that was it and we were forced to turn back. Not long after doing that the weather closed in yet again and a quick retreat back to the camp was made.

We were going to stay another night but in these conditions it wasn't worth it. We were due to have a guide for Karkloof on the 17th but a quick call to him allowed us to bring it forward by a day.

Nov 16th

Karkloof.

We had a brilliant time at Karkloof with an excellent guide, Glen Valentine - booked through Rockjumpers. http://rockjumper.co.za. Their phone number is: +27333940225

I can highly recommend Glen. He is one of the best birders I have come across and his IDying skills are nothing short of awesome. The only downside was the weather. It was atrocious and it was a good job all three of us had waterproofs on, but not Glen, he had shorts on. Plenty of birds but sadly, due to the weather conditions not that many photos as it was dank & very dark.

From here we carried onto Hluhluwe for one night, staying at Dave's place. We arrived in torrential rain quite late and quickly settled down to a drink at the bar. It was nice not having to put up the tents for a change so we relaxed before going to bed.

Nov 17th.

We awoke to no rain and high clouds. A quick walk around the grounds brought us a new lifer when we found a Burchells Coucal in the field nearby. Crested Barbet, Southern Boubou, Red-backed Shrike, Woolley-necked Stork then a Blue-billed Firefinch (the latter two were lifers) were also good additions for the start of the day.

After breakfast we drove to Hluhluwe Game Park, something we hadn't planned to do. Originally we were going straight to Bonamanzi from karkloof but we were a day early so this was a bonus and what a good decision it was, There were plenty of birds found her but the new ones were: Hamerkop, Lesser-striped Swallow, Pygmy Kingfisher, Blue Waxbill, Violet-backed Starling, African Pied Wagtail, African Fish Eagle, Green-spotted Wood Dove, Trumpeter Hornbill, Crested Guineafowl, Cape Vulture, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Red-billed Oxpecker, Natal Francolin, Dusky Indigobird, Yellow-throated Longclaw & Bleating Bush Warbler, all of them lifers for us three plus one bird I found alone Natal Red-capped Robin-chat.

It was about mid-day when we went back to Dave's place to hitch up the trailer. We were now on our way to Bonamanzi for a three day stop and just before the entrance we found a Thick-billed Weaver. Bonamanzi was fairly close by and the camp site we were on was brilliant. 15 minutes from the centre on a site of our own with our own toilet and shower block, brilliant. One bird was rapidly becoming the sound of Africa. The Red-chested Cuckoo. This bird called non stop throughout the day and most of the night, even the early hours and it was to this sound that the two tents were erected. This bird was to be heard virtually everywhere we went for the rest of the holiday.

We had a couple of hours to use and a short drive into the reserve was undertaken. This added more birds to the trip. Red-breasted Swallow, Malachite Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater which were lifers plus Bee-eater (European) which was new for the trip.

We had earlier called into the visitors centre and after a conversation with the staff it was decided to book three tours. Firstly the boat trip, then the evening drive then the next day the floodplain walk. The latter didn't happen as it was cancelled due to being flooded from the earlier rain. The boat trip that night was both excellent and relaxing. The drive to the boat was good in it's own right. Just before reaching the boat the driver pointed out a nest that had a female Crowned Eagle & chick on it. That was a good start. The boat trip contributed even more birds. They were: Black-collared Barbet, Green-backed Heron, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, African Palm-swift, Scarlet-chested Sunbird & Black-breasted Snake Eagle were all lifers whilst White-winged Black Tern was a new trip bird.

The drive back threw up a real jewel when the driver spotted a Lizard Buzzard in the tree canopy after earlier spotting two Crested Francolin.

The night drive was virtually a waste of time. A few animals were seen but no birds were either heard or seen throughout the drive.

Nov 18th

The planned floodplain, as mentioned earlier, had been cancelled. In it's place we managed to talk the Driver / guide from the night before for aguided tour. It should have lasted about three hours but in fact lasted nearly five hours. Her skills on the boat were superb but not quite as good in the bush but more new birds were found including: Southern Puffback, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Purple-crested Turaco, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Purple-banded Sunbird, Forest Weaver, Collared Sunbird, Black-tailed Grey Waxbill, Yellow White-eye, Square-tailed Drongo, Chinspot Batis, Klaa's Cuckoo, Grey Sunbird, African Dusky Flycatcher, African White-backed Vulture &Southern Black Flycatcher. All of them lifers.

The latter hours of the day were spent around the pool by the centre and they in turn produced with African Jacana, Water Thick-knee & Golden-rumped Tinkerbird being entered in as more lifers.

Nov 19th.

We decided to go to the coast near St Lucia. First taking in a boat trip then driving to Cape Vidal. On our way to the boat we took a wrong turn and ended up in a woodland car park. We were just about to go back out when it was noticed that four people with Bins were looking up a tree so we decided to see what they were looking at. That was fortuitous as we saw the only Brown Scrub-robin of the trip. We eventually found our way to the boat and was told that it was about another 90 minutes to sailing. The boatman advised us to go to where the boardwalk was near to the beach and that was good advice. New birds found here were: African Golden-weaver, Yellow-billed Stork, White-faced Duck, African Spoonbill, Goliath Heron, Pink-backed Pelican & White-fronted Plover which were all lifers plus the following birds were new for the trip: Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Common & Wood Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Little Stint & Purple Heron.

The boat trip was enjoyable. Not particularly rich on new birds but none the less some good birds were seen. Amongst them were: African Golden-weaver, Lesser Masked Weaver, Giant Kingfisher & Grey-headed Gull which were lifers plus Osprey & Caspian Tern as new trip birds.

As the boat returned the sky was taking on a malevolent look about it. It was turning inky black and the wind was beginning to whip up. We got off the boat and decided to head for a restaurant for something to eat. Just as we walked into the restaurant the heavans opened up big style and what appeared to be nothing short of a monsoon hit us. It was still like that when we eventually left there.

We decided to try for Cape Vidal. The weather was absolutely foul but we soldired on. There was a pan fairly close in on the drive so a stop was made. Not too much could be seen through the wind and rain but eventually we made out a couple of Wattled Plover (Lifer) & Collared Pratincole (new trip bird). The drive to Cape Vidal was virtually pointless as the wind and rain was making conditions difficult to drive in never mind seeing anything. No birds could be seen and we reached Cape Vidal in a Howling gale and torrential rain. Photos showing the conditions are on the Nov 18th to 22nd page of photos.

Nov 20th

It was time to leave Bonamanzi for Wakkerstroom. As we came away from the Bonamanzi gates a Jacobin Cuckoo was perched on a nearby telephone wire but soon we were on our way to Wakkerstroom. We decided just to straight there and at the speeds we were going at no birding was possible.

There was no birding done for the rest of that day.

Nov 21st

Wakkerstroom.

We stayed at Toad Hall, again I can recommend here as a place to stay and here is their web site address. http://www.wakkerstroom.com. Their phone number is +27 (0)17 730-0427

The guide we used was Norman and he was organised by Toad Hall and was another guide we can highly recommend as some of the instances where he picked out birds were awesome and uncanny.

We started at the local Wetlands on the edge of the town and that was a good start to the day. New birds included: Hottentot Teal, Yellow-billed Egret which were both lifers plus a couple of new trip birds were: Squacco Heron &Little Bittern.

Norman then took us on a large circular drive around the area and proceeded to find birds that the normal birder would be hard pressed to see never mind ID. We visited many differing habitats so that a varying species of bird could be seen. In the end we saw 102 different species, a few of them were lifers or new trip birds. They included: Grassveld Pipit, Banded Martin, Red-billed Teal, South African Shellduck, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Black Sparrowhawk, Grey-winged Francolin, Blue Korhaan, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Amur Falcon, Southern Bald Ibis, Yellow Warbler, Rufous-naped Lark, Diedric Cuckoo &White-bellied Bustard. All these were lifers plus a few new trip birds were: Zitting Cisticola, Lesser Grey Shrike, Cuckoo (Common) & Plain Martin.

Nov 22nd

Today was to be the drive to Berg En Dal in the Kruger N.P. Prior to that we spent a little time around the Wetlands but even though we had some impressive birds nothing new was added until we reached Kruger.

Between the gate into Kruger and Berg En Dal (only a fairly short drive) we added: White-fronted Bee-eater & Lilac-breasted Roller, both lifers.

We put up the tents in blazing sunshine (which was to stay with us throughout Kruger) and still had time for a few hours in the area. This added even more lifers which were: Red-billed Hornbill, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Grey Hornbill, Woodland Kingfisher, Grey Lourie, Magpie Shrike, African Hoopoe, Kurrichane Buttonquail, Bluegrey Flycatcher, Cardinal Woodpecker & Wahlberg's Eagle. Other new birds for the trip were: White Stork & Black-crowned Tchagra.

Nov 23rd.

We needed to be at Lower Sabie by the end of the day so we spent our time looking along various tracks from Berg En dal to Lower Sabie and this added quite a few more lifers for us. They were: Groundscraper Thrush, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Horus Swift, White-browed Robin-chat, Wire-tailed Swallow, Brown-headed Parrot, White-bellied Sunbird, Marabou Stork, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Melba Finch, Fulvous Duck, Knob-billed Duck, Sabota Lark & Spectacled Weaver.

Nov 24th

We had two nights here so plenty of time to explore the locality, plus also looki ng at Skukuza and lake Panic before ending the day at a bird hide not far from Lower Sabie. On the way to Skukuza & coming back to the bird hide it was getting harder to find new birds. We did manage a few and they were: Burchell's Starling, Arrow-marked Babbler, Southern Ground Hornbill, White-browed Scrub-robin & Levaillant's Cuckoo (all lifers) and a new trip bird was: Green Sandpiper. At Skukuza we added: African Finfoot and that was it for the day.

Lake Panic is a lovely place but nothing new was seen but even so some good birds were there including a fairly close Goliath Heron and a Black Crake and chick.

The day was finished off at the dam at Berg En Dal to the noise of both the Woodland Kingfishers and Red-chested Cuckoo. Thankfully a lifer was waiting for us as well when a Dwarf Bittern was seen.

Nov 25th

Today we had to make our way to Satara for a two night stay. Again we had plenty of time to get there so Kruger was done at a very leisurely pace but before we left we spent some time around Lower Sabie camp. Quite a few birds were seen including two lifers. They were: Rattling Cisticola & Redfaced Cisticola.

Our drive around Kruger to Satara was brilliant. New birds found were: Red-faced Mousebird, Kori Bustard, African Hawk Eagle, all lifers plus a new trip bird, Roller (European). We came across the Mondozi Dam which produced a lifer when a Hooded Vulture drifted over our heads, then the Mazithi Water Hole which gave us an unexpected spectacle. On our approach to the water quite a large number of raptors could be seen circling in the air. At the water hole there was a dead young Elephant on the far side of the water and nearby was perched well over a hundred vultures with just as many in the air. They were nearly all African White-backed Vulture's but a Lappet-faced Vulture drifted over our heads as well. This was a lifer.

We stayed watching for about an hour but it soon became time to carry onto Satara. Upon arrival there a lifer was added straight away with a Mourning Dove.

There wasn't enough time to do any other birding as it was late and the tents had to be put up.

Nov 26th

The day was really hot. 33 degees by 8.30am. We spent some time around the camp before venturing out to explore the local Kruger area. At the camp we added a few lifers which were: Marico Sunbird, Marico Flycatcher, Red-billed Firefinch & Pink-throated Twinspot. Out and around Kruger it became too hot and the only new bird added was a Spotted Flycatcher. It became far too hot for birding so we just went back to the camp early and relaxed in the grounds.

Nov 27th

Today was to be a drive to Dullstroom via the Taita Falcon site. On the way out of Kruger three new lifers were added with Shikra, White-headed Vulture & Double-banded Sandgrouse and not far out of Kruger a surprise lifer was seen when two Blue Swallows were flying around above our head when we had been forced to stop at roadworks. The Taita Falcon sit produced and we had good views of this extremely rare bird.

Prior to the Taita Falcon site we had called into a cafe called mad Dogz cafe. Although no new birds were here I can still thoroughly recommend this as a stop. Good food in a beautiful location. The birds seen here were: Brown-hooded Kingfisher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Lesser Masked Weaver, Cape White-eye, Olive Thrush, Blue Waxbill, Malachite Sunbird, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Cape Canary, Red-backed Shrike, Cattle Egret with White Stork overhead.

We carried onto Dullstroom and Ivan had read of a site where we had a chance of seeing Gurney's Sugarbird. The site was easily found but unfortunately the bird itself didn't co-operate and wasn't found. We turned onto a dirt track that eventually joined the main road to Dullstroom. This track went through the Veloren Valei Nature Reserve, which is the Wattled Crane reserve, but on this occasion we didn't find one. We did get one lifer on that track with a White-winged Widowbird.

The day was finished trying to find a Cape eagle Owl at the Dullstroom Municipal Dam when the weather turned viciously within seconds going from a calm day to gale force winds and torrential rain which forced us to retire back to the Tumbleweeds Backpackers.

Nov 28th

It was decided to drive to the Veloren Valei Nature Reserve but not before ringing them for permission to go there, which was granted. You do need to ring them a day in advance if possible otherwise you won't get onto the reserve as the gates are locked. Their phone number is: 083 363 0489.

We arrived at the gates and one of the local guides was there and for a small fee he took us around the reserve and thankfully found us three Wattled Cranes, which was a nice bonus and the only lifer of the day and in fact the last lifer of the trip. We did add a new trip bird when a Montague's Harrier was found.

The rest of the day was being driven to the outskirts of Joberg where we were flying to the UK from. There was no more birding that day

Nov 29th

Very little birding done as we only had time for a breakfast before getting ready for the airport. We did find two new trip birds at the nearby Benoni Pool when a pair of Mallard plus a whiskered Tern was found.

That was the end of the trip. The total birds seen (which could still change) was 363 for me of which 287 were Lifers.