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Page History: Kruger National Park

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Page Revision: 2008/10/07 10:05


Introduction

The Kruger National Park is, without doubt, the finest birding locality in southern Africa. It provides a unique combination of wilderness areas, varied habitats, easy road access, and comfortable amenities, together with a wide variety and concentration of bird species and big game animals. The park is situated in the north-east of south Africa, bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe, in an area known as the Transvaal Lowveld. As one of the largest parks in Africa, it covers an area of almost 20 000 square kilometres, and is roughly 350 km long and 60 km wide. For the birder, the high diversity and density of bird species is the great attraction. The wide range of habitats is responsible for a bird list of over 500 species, while the productivity of these habitats is such that many species occur in abundance. The Park is especially good for large raptors which are rare outside of extensive conservation areas, while many other scarce and migrant species are attracted to it's unspoilt wilderness.

Habitats

The parks wide variety of habitats can be summarised into 13 major habitat types, which are are the product of the underlying geology, topography and annual rainfall. The park is generally flat to undulating, with average height of 260m above sea level. The Lebombo Mountains form the eastern boundary, and hilly areas occur in the south-west and far north. Rocky outcrops also occur sporadically throughout. Rainfall occurs in summer from September to March, decreasing from 800mm in the south to 400mm in the north, with an average of 500mm. Flat basaltic plains in the east support open grassland and savanna, while the undulating granitic soils in the west support various woodlands. In the drier area north of the Olifants River, the dominant woodland and savanna plant is the Mopane, while in the moister south, mixed broad-leaved and acacia species occur. In the far north, a dense mixed woodland occurs on red sandy hills around Punda Maria, and a rugged dry Baobab and Mopane veld occurs around Pafuri. On the eastern boundary to the east of Punda Maria, the extensive Nwambiya Sandveld in Mozambique just pushes into the park with its characteristic sandveld vegetation and associated avaifauna. Six major rivers traverse the park from west to east and these yield a range of riverine habitats including forest. Approximately eighty dams and numerous seasonal pans provide additional habitat for water birds. Cliffs and gorges occur where the rivers cut through the Lebombo mountains, and also along the Luvuvu River in the north. The flooding of most of the major rivers in February 2000 had a dramatic impact on the riverine vegetation. Most of the large figs and other trees were swept away which totally changed the character of the riverine plant communities. The effects of these changes on the associated bird communities is not yet clear.

Birding in General

Finding birds in the Kruger Park is a relatively simple matter. On arrival, one is immediately impressed by the sheer number of birds and variety of species. With a potential bird list of over 500 species, and depending on the season, a competent birder could expect to find between 150 and 250 species on a one to two week visit. In general, the denser vegetation and variety of habitats in the south and far north are the most productive birding areas. Punda Maria and Pafuri are particularly good for specials.

1. Rest Camps, roads and picnic sites.

The older camps with more established indigenous gardens are some of the best places for general birding while the newer bushveld camps attract shyer species to their more natural areas. At some of the camps, bird baths are worth spending time at during the heat of the day. While driving, the roads that follow rivers and drainage lines with well developed vegetation are generally best. Picnic sites are usually situated in these areas and are worth walking around.

2. Bushveld and Woodland birds

are found throughout the park in any habitat that has bush and trees. The camps, riverine bush and acacia thickets are best, while the mopane and broadleaved woodlands north of Olifants are less productive. The park is particularly rich in Cuckoos(9 species), Rollers(5 species), Hornbills(6 species), and Kingfishers(9 species). Interesting species include Grey-headed Parrot, African Cuckoo, Thick-billed Cuckoo, and Great Spotted Cuckoo, Grey-headed Kingfisher and Woodland Kingfisher, Southern Carmine Bee-eater and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller and Racket-tailed Roller, Southern Ground-Hornbill and Trumpeter Hornbill, Bennett's Woodpecker and Bearded Woodpecker, Red-breasted Swallow and Mosque Swallow, Black Cuckooshrike and White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Eurasian Golden Oriole, White-throated Robin-Chat and Bearded Scrub-Robin, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Meves's Starling, Greater Blue-eared Starling and Violet-backed Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker and Red-billed Oxpecker, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Red-headed Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia, Violet-eared Waxbill and Lemon-breasted Canary. Almost all buffalo herds in the northern half of the park are attended by Yellow-billed Oxpecker.

3. Grassland Species

also occur throughout, but more predominantly in the savannas around Satara. Good birds to see are Coqui Francolin and Shelley's Francolin, Harlequin Quail, Kurrichane Buttonquail, and after good rains Corn Crake, Flappet Lark, Monotonous Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Black Coucal, Black-bellied Bustard, Red-crested Korhaan, Kori Bustard, Montagu's Harrier and Pallid Harrier. During drought years, influxes of species favouring the drier western parts of the country sometimes occur. These include Red-headed Finch, Lark-like Bunting, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and Marico Flycatcher.

4. Riverine Forest.

Although there is no true forest within the park, the riverine forests support some species more typical of forests, including African Goshawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Narina Trogon, Trumpeter Hornbill, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Green Twinspot. In winter a number of species moving to lower altitude are found, including Grey Cuckooshrike, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Cape Batis and Cape Robin-Chat. The dense woodland around Punda Maria also supports some typically forest species, including Narina Trogon, Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Retz's Helmet-Shrike, while Black-throated Wattle-eye and Tropical Boubou can be found at Pafuri.

5. Waterbirds

are found on all the major rivers and dams, and at seasonal pans and streams during the wet season. In general, the larger species are encountered, with ducks and smaller birds that prefer waterside vegetation being less common. The best places to look are the low-level bridges and the major dams. Some of the more interesting species include Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, African Openbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Black Stork, Marabou Stork, White-backed Night-Heron, African Finfoot, Comb Duck, White-crowned Lapwing and Half-collared Kingfisher. After good rains birds like Dwarf Bittern, Little Bittern, African Pygmy-Goose, Greater Painted-snipe, and Black Coucal are seen. Collared Pratincole are uncommon but regular breeders.

6. Raptors

are generally widespread in the park and occur over all habitats in search of prey. The Satara area is particularly good for large raptors with its tall trees in open savanna plains. Red-billed Quelea breeding colonies attract many species including Lesser Spotted Eagle and Steppe Eagle. Flocks of kestrels congregate for insects after good rains. The tall trees found along rivers also provide roosting and breeding sites for vultures and other large raptors, especially at Pafuri. Smaller raptors are less frequently seen but are more common in the thicker bush of the south and far north. Vultures include White-backed Vulture, Cape Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Hooded Vulture and White-headed Vulture. Large raptors encountered throughout the year are Martial Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Verreauxs' Eagle, Tawny Eagle, African Fish-Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Brown Snake-Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Bateleur and Dark Chanting Goshawk. Summer visitors include Steppe Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle. Smaller species include African Cuckoo Hawk, Bat Hawk, Lizard Buzzard, Gabar Goshawk, African Goshawk, Shikra, Little Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Lanner Falcon, Eurasian Hobby, Dickinson's Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel and Amur Falcon. Rare visitors include Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Sooty Falcon, Red-necked Falcon, European Honey-Buzzard and Osprey.

7. Night birds

are frequently encountered in the park. Most camps have a variety of resident owls and nightjars, and these need only to be listened for to detect their presence. The night drives also afford the chance of seeing species not normally found in camps. During the day, careful spotting will also reveal both owls and nocturnal ground birds such as coursers and dikkops. Species seen regularly include Barn Owl, African Scops-Owl, Southern White-faced Scops-Owl, African Barred Owlet, Spotted Eagle-Owl and Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Square-tailed Nightjar, and Freckled Nightjar, and Bronze-winged Courser. Specials include Pel's Fishing-Owl, Bat Hawk, Pennant-winged Nightjar, White-backed Night-Heron and Three-banded Courser.

Birding by Rest Camp

The following descriptions of birding from the various camps vary from general to specific. It should be borne in mind that the Kruger Park is larger in area and has more bird species than many countries. Many of the birds are general and common throughout and only the more interesting species are named.

Berg-en-dal

Berg-en-dal is one of the most attractive camps in the Kruger Park. The buildings are set within natural bush, the gardens planted with flowering shrubs and aloes, and the restaurant looks onto a small dam. The camp is surrounded by rocky hillsides covered in a mixed broadleafed woodland known as Malelane Mountain Bushveld.

Many of the shyer bush species are attracted into the camp itself, and the area is large enough for a walking trail around the perimeter fence. If quiet, the campsite is good for birding. Birds include Natal Spurfowl, Crested Francolin, African Hawk-Eagle, Brown-headed Parrot, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Cuckoo, Diderick Cuckoo, Lesser Honeyguide, White-throated Robin-Chat, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Cape Glossy Starling, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Red-winged Starling, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, White-bellied Sunbird, Blue Waxbill and African Firefinch.

From the camp, the loop road S110 heads west and then swings north through a heavily wooded valley. Here you should look for Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Stierling's Wren-Warbler and in summer, Grey-headed Kingfisher. The rocky hills should be checked for Mocking Cliff-Chat and Red-winged Starling. Continue on to the H3 tar road connecting Malelane to Skukuza.

The mountainous terrain has attracted both Verreauxs' Eagle and Jackal Buzzard.

Bateleur

Bateleur is a small bushveld (residents only) camp situated in Mopane woodland about 40km from Shingwidzi. Although the Mopane is fairly quiet for birding, the camp is situated beneath some tall trees that attract a variety of birds, including Shikra. Southern Ground-Hornbill nest nearby, and Rufous-cheeked Nightjar are heard at night.

The nearby Rooibosrand Dam (residents only) is worth visiting for all the general waterbirds, including African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Stork and African Fish-Eagle, White-faced Duck and Comb Duck, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilt and even Greater Painted-snipe.

Biyamiti

Biyamiti is a 'bushveld' camp (residents only) on the Biyamiti River at the southern end of the park. The luxurious accommodation has been developed within the natural bush, and there is a waterhole directly in front of the camp. The surrounding vegetation is a mixed woodland with heavier growth and sizeable trees along the river.

The camp is small and relatively quiet. Consequently most bush species move straight through camp. These include Grey-headed Bush-Shrike and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Levaillant's Cuckoo and Diderick Cuckoo, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Woodland Kingfisher, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Blackbacked Black-backed Puffback and Scarlet-chested Sunbird. Lesser Striped Swallow breed under the eaves. Yellow-throated Longclaw and Red-faced Cisticola occur in the long grass in front of the camp. At night African Scops-Owl, African Barred Owlet and Fiery-necked Nightjar occur in camp, while Water Thick-knee call from the riverbed.

Access to the camp is along a 'private-residents only' road that follows the Biyamiti River. The bush is fairly dense and birding from the car can be quite successful, including Violet-backed Starling, Purple Roller and Red-backed Shrike.

Crocodile Bridge

Crocodile Bridge is situated on the Crocodile River within easy reach of a variety of habitats As an entrance gate and public camp with campsite it is fairly busy, and the camp area is small. Some of the parks rarer species have been recorded from this area, including Purple-banded Sunbird, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and Black-bellied Starling.

The hippo pool on the Crocodile River is a pleasant 6-km drive through Knob-thorn and Marula savanna, and then Delagoa thorn tickets where woodland birds are plentiful. Smaller raptors also like this habitat. Species such as Goliath Heron, Green-backed Heron and Little Egret may be seen at the hippo pool.

In wet years, the S28 leading north to Lower Sabie passes through flooded vlei areas where Black Coucal and migrant crakes and flufftails should be looked for.

Further north, the Nhlanganzwani Dam is a good spot for general waterbirds.Similarly, the S130 passes a few pans that are worth inspecting for waterbirds and Woolly-necked Stork.

The savanna plains along the S28 are also good for large grassland species such as Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard and Swainson's Spurfowl, and in wetter years Harlequin Quail and Kurrichane Buttonquail are common.

Letaba

Letaba camp is situated on the Letaba River in the centre of the park in the Mopane woodland belt which is not very productive for birds. However, birding in the camp and along the Letaba River and nearby Engelhardt Dam can be rewarding.

The rest camp itself is a haven for woodland birds and the parklike gardens are worth walking around. African Mourning Dove and Red-winged Starling have colonised the camp, as have Red-capped Robin-Chat. There is a paved walk along the riverfront that provides lovely views of the river. Check the swallows for Grey-rumped Swallow, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Brown-throated Martin and even Horus Swift. In winter, Red-billed Oxpecker come to roost in the camp's palms in considerable numbers at sunset. If searched for, African Scops-Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Barred Owlet and Barn Owl can be seen in the camp. European Nightjar roost in the palms to the left of the shop in summer.

The Engelhardt Dam

is relatively close to camp and worth visiting. Look out for Dusky Lark on the roadside on the way to the dam. Collared Pratincole have bred in early summer on the south bank right next to the road. Waterbirds vary with the level of the dam and may include pelican and flamingo, African Openbill, African Spoonbill, Goliath Heron and Grey Heron.

In summer a visit to the high level bridge can be rewarding as a huge flock of Little Swift breeds and roosts on the structure. Bats also roost in the bridge by day and the resident Wahlberg's Eagle has acquired the skill to catch them as the emerge at sunset.

Lower Sabie

Lower Sabie is situated on a dam in the Sabie River. The surrounding plains are covered in a low scrubby savanna. The rest camp is busy, but the gardens are pleasant and overlook the Lower Sabie Dam. A short distance to the south-east of camp, the causeway over the Lower Sabie River is a good spot to look for waterbirds including African Jacana, Goliath Heron, Green-backed Heron and Wire-tailed Swallow.

Heading north on the main road to Skukuza, just a short distance from the camp gate is a small dam that regularly attracts a variety of storks, including Marabou Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, African Openbill, Woolly-necked Stork and Black Stork. A few kilometers up the road towards Skukuza White-fronted Bee-eater breed in a large 'donga'. Further up the road the N'watimhiri causeway is a spot to look for White-crowned Lapwing. The Mkuhlu Picnic Spot is also good for this species and for Half-collared Kingfisher.The surrounding plains support Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Red-crested Korhaan and Black-bellied Bustard, Swainson's Spurfowl, Common Quail and Harlequin Quail and Kurrichane Buttonquail. On very short or burnt veld you may find Temminck's Courser and Senegal Lapwing.

At Nkumbe mountain on the road northwards to Tshokwane, look for Shelley's Francolin and Yellow-throated Longclaw.

Mopani

Mopani is a relatively new rest camp situated in the north of the park in the less productive Mopane woodland area. The camp itself is attractively situated on a hillside overlooking the Pioneer Dam and is luxuriously appointed. On the dam larger waterbirds are common and include White-breasted Cormorant and Reed Cormorant and African Darter.

The nearby Mooiplaas picnic site is a good spot to look for Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, and two new bird hides have been built close to Mopani giving the birder other options.

The nearby Nshawu Dam broke during the 2000 floods and has now been rehabilitated. However it is still worth checking for waterbirds, although one generally cannot get close to the water. On the shoreline, Kittlitz's Plover are regular, while Collared Pratincole have bred and Caspian Plover are rare visitors.

The surrounding savanna plains are less interesting but support Red-crested Korhaan and Black-bellied Bustard, Crowned Lapwing and Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark.

Olifants

Olifants rest camp is attractively situated on a high ridge overlooking the Olifants River. Although the surrounding mopane veld is not particularly attractive for birding, the camp itself is worth exploring for Red-winged Starling, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Mocking Cliff-Chat and a variety of sunbirds. The outlook over the Olifants River can provide views of Saddle-billed Stork and Black Stork which breed in the vicinity. The updraft from the ridge is attractive to soaring raptors, and at sunset Gabar Goshawk, Eurasian Hobby and occasionally Bat Hawk prey on emerging bats. Check the sandbanks along the Olifants River for White-crowned Lapwing and Black-winged Stilt. Paradoxically though, White-crowned Lapwing are absent from the Letaba River which would seem to offer the same habitat.

Pafuri

Pafuri is situated on the Luvuvu River at the northern tip of the Kruger Park. It is an exciting birding spot with a high concentration and variety of birds. Birding Big Day teams have recorded 24-hour lists of over 260 species for the area. The prime habitat is riverine forest, and this is backed up by the sandy river bed itself, patches of acacia woodland, cliffs, and all surrounded by dry mopane and baobab woodland. The nearest camp is Punda Maria, although there is a very attractive picnic site on the river. Birding is best if you leave Punda Maria when the gates open, and drive straight down to Pafuri (about 60 km).

Stop on the bridge over the Luvuvhu River, and check the river for White-crowned Lapwing and Black Stork. Search the riverine trees for Pel's Fishing-Owl, and check the swallows and swifts overhead for Mottled Spinetail and Böhm's Spinetail. A lot of raptors use the riverine forest for roosting and nesting, so look out for Bateleur, White-backed Vulture, Hooded Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, African Crowned Eagle, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Steppe Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle. In summer, listen out for Thick-billed Cuckoo. Ayres's Hawk-Eagle has also been recorded here.

Return to the south side of the river and at the crossroads turn west along the S64. This is the shorter of the two loops and should be done first. Look out for Crested Guineafowl and Grey-headed Parrot. Further on, the dry acacia woodland should be checked for Meves's Starling and Burnt-necked Eremomela. African Crowned Eagle breed in the riverine forest at this point, and Verreauxs' Eagle can be seen along the cliffs to your left. At the end of the road, check the riverbed for Woolly-necked Stork and Black Stork, and check the skies for Mottled Spinetail and Böhm's Spinetail. This is also a good spot for Retz's Helmet-Shrike and Rock Martin.

Head back to the tar and continue eastwards along the S63. This route is far longer and can include a stop at the picnic site for breakfast or lunch. The first few kilometers pass through dense acacia thicket that should be checked for Burnt-necked Eremomela, Green-capped Eremomela, Brown-backed Honeybird, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Green-winged Pytilia. In late summer, and where the undergrowth is denser, listen out for Olive-tree Warbler and River Warbler. Beyond the picnic site in the denser riverine bush and forest, listen for Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Eastern Nicator. Take all the loops down to the river and check the large trees for Pel's Fishing-Owl. Beyond the dense woodland, the fever trees are a good spot to look for Broad-billed Roller in summer. Towards the end of the loop is a more open palm savanna where Lemon-breasted Canary occur.

The picnic site is a tranquil and shady spot where you can relax through the heat of the day beneath the tall trees and observe the river bed. A short walk can be taken to the left of the site. Birds include Trumpeter Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Narina Trogon, Tropical Boubou, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, and White-crowned Lapwing.

If you have time, look for Three-banded Courser, a very rare summer migrant that has been recorded in the dry woodland just north of the bridge. In late summer a number of migrant warblers occur in the thickets, including Icterine Warbler, Marsh Warbler, River Warbler and Thrush Nightingale.

Punda Maria

Punda Maria is the northernmost camp in the Park, and is situated on a ridge amongst some rolling hills. It is a good base for the northern areas from Shingwidzi to Pafuri, and provides access to a number of productive habitats and special birds.

The camp itself is small but charming, and the fenced area is quite large, with an area of natural bush on the ridge above the camp. The birdbath just below the picnic site in front of the chalets is always productive; White-throated Robin-Chat, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Green-winged Pytilia, Purple-crested Turaco, Terrestrial Brownbul, Violet-backed Starling, Blue Waxbill, Cut-throat Finch, Jameson's Firefinch, Bearded Woodpecker, Greater Blue-eared Starling and Red-headed Weaver are amongst the visitors. The trail up the ridge behind the camp is worth exploring for Grey-headed Bush-Shrike and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Eastern Nicator and Bearded Scrub-Robin. The campsite is rather bare but may turn up Dusky Lark, Golden-breasted Bunting, Grey Penduline-Tit, Yellow-bellied Greenbul and Burchell's Starling. At night, listen out for African Scops-Owl, African Barred Owlet, Barn Owl, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl and Southern White-faced Scops-Owl, as well as Fiery-necked Nightjar and Square-tailed Nightjar. Pennant-winged Nightjar has also been recorded in summer.

The Mahone Loop (S99) is an excellent 28km circuit for a mornings birding. The road passes through some dense mixed woodland on red sandy soils. Driving anti-clockwise, you first pass through some mixed mopane woodland. The best 'sandveld' woodland is in the region of Matukwale dam on the western side of the loop. Here you should look out for Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Narina Trogon, Eastern Nicator, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Broad-billed Roller, Mosque Swallow, Grey-headed Parrot and Grey-headed Kingfisher. The rare Racket-tailed Roller has been recorded from Mopane woodland on this loop, and the few Burkea africana trees have attracted Southern Hyliota. African Crowned Eagle breed near the dam, African Hawk-Eagle have a number of nest sites along the ridge on the southern side of the loop, and Bateleur breed near the waterhole 3km from the tar road.

During the heat of the day, and especially when a southerly wind blows, large raptors use the ridge above the camp for uplift. These include White-backed Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Brown Snake-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Lanner Falcon and African Goshawk all year round, and in summer, Wahlberg's Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Yellowbilled kite, Black Kite and Eurasian Hobby.

From Punda Maria take the tar road H13-2 towards the junction with the H13-1.There is some worthwhile birding along here, including African Cuckoo, Grey-headed Parrot and Mosque Swallow. The road passes over a culvert that is used for breeding by White-rumped Swift, Little Swift and Lesser Striped Swallow. Shortly thereafter turn left onto the S60 towards Pafuri. The road runs along the side of a ridge of hills and passes through some mature Mopane woodland. Look out for Eurasian Golden Oriole, African Golden Oriole, Racket-tailed Roller, Purple Roller, Arnot's Chat, Bearded Woodpecker, Bennett's Woodpecker, Arnot's Chat and Stierling's Wren-Warbler.

Continue to the tar via the S59, S60 or S61. The more open habitat here is suitable for Black-bellied Bustard, Kori Bustard and Southern Ground-Hornbill, and if lucky, Dickinson's Kestrel. In spring, burnt areas will have Temminck's Courser, while in late summer Harlequin Quail, African Crake and Corn Crake should be looked for in rank grass. Klopperfontein Dam can be checked for Comb Duck, African Jacana and possibly Lesser Moorhen.

At the tar head south to the intersection with the H13 back to Punda Maria. Look out for Tawny Eagle and Black-chested Snake-Eagle, and in summer, Montagu's Harrier. Continue past the Punda Maria turnoff (towards Shingwidzi) and stop at an area of palm savanna. In late summer this should be checked for Black Coucal, African Crake and Croaking Cisticola and Rufous-winged Cisticola. A little further on turn right onto the S58 where the road crosses a stream and passes through some wet areas after good summer rains. These should be checked for Little Bittern, Dwarf Bittern, Lesser Moorhen and Allen's Gallinule. Head back to Punda Maria through the tall Mopane woodland on the H13-1, and check carefully for Arnot's Chat, especially on the north side about 500 m before exiting the woodland.

Pretoriuskop

Pretoriuskop is situated on higher-lying ground in the south-west of the park. The surrounding vegetation is varied with some well developed woodland, grassland and the granite dome of Shabeni hill. A few species not normally found in the lowveld may be encountered. These include Broad-tailed Warbler, Red-throated Wryneck, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, and Amethyst Sunbird. Shabeni hill has some dense thickets that support Gorgeous Bush-Shrike. Other birds to look out for are Mocking Cliff-Chat, Lazy Cisticola and Brown-crowned Tchagra. If you leave camp very early in summer, and preferably on an overcast morning, you may be lucky enough to see Freckled Nightjar and possibly Pennant-winged Nightjar, which are recorded from the area.

From Shabeni Hill, the S1 becomes the S3 and follows the Sabie River to Skukuza. The riverine forest supports some species more typical of forests, including African Goshawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Narina Trogon, Trumpeter Hornbill, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Green Twinspot. In winter a number of species moving to lower altitude are found, including Grey Cuckooshrike, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Cape Batis and Cape Robin-Chat. The river itself should be checked for African Finfoot.

Satara

Satara is situated in the centre of the park in the middle of a flat plain of tall tree savanna, of which Knob-thorn and Marula are the dominant species. Although there are no major rivers, there are watercourses lined with well-developed trees. The rest camp area is large and although busy, is relatively good for birding. Burchell's Starling, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver and African Mourning Dove are common. The central 'park' has a small reed-lined pond with Black Crake and Thick-billed Weaver, Red-billed Hornbill nest in a nearby tree, and Groundscraper Thrush inspect the lawns. The office/restaurant complex has a colony of Lesser Masked-Weaver, and Little Swift nest under the eaves. In summer, Woodland Kingfisher calls prettily and hawks insects in the restaurant garden. African Scops-Owl often roost conspicuously in the trees in the camp.

The surrounding savanna plains have Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, Black-bellied Bustard and Swainson's Spurfowl. Sabota Lark, African Pipit and Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark inhabit the short grass areas. Other ground-dwelling species of interest that are regularly found in the Satara area are Senegal Lapwing, Bronze-winged Courser and Temminck's Courser. The S90 north of Satara is particularly good for these species. After good rains Common Quail and Harlequin Quail and Kurrichane Buttonquail call from the long grass, and Monotonous Lark call incessantly from any available perch, while Flappet Lark and Zitting Cisticola cruise overhead. Red-backed Shrike and Lesser Grey Shrike, and even African Cuckoo can be seen hawking from low bushes.

Flocks of small raptors converge on termite emergences after summer rains, and include Lesser Kestrel, and Amur Falcon, Black-shouldered Kite and Lanner Falcon. Red-footed Falcon and Montagu's Harrier are rare and Pallid Harrier very occasional. In summer Wattled Starling and Red-billed Quelea breed in colonies in dwarf knob-thorn veld to the north of Satara, especially along the S127. These are regularly attended by a variety of large raptors. The open savanna habitat with large trees, high population density of herbivores and attendant predators, is prime habitat for large raptors. Many of the parks large raptors can be seen in the Satara area, including Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Steppe Eagle, and Lesser Spotted Eagle. Kills attract White-headed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Hooded Vulture and sometimes Cape Vulture. Two new hides have been built - one at Piet Grobler Dam on the Timbavati River and the other at Nwanetsi. The Nwanetsi Hide offers Blue-cheeked Bee-eater in summer.

Skukuza

Skukuza is the operational headquarters of the Kruger Park. Situated on the Sabie River, the surrounding habitat is a mix of riverine forest and thorn thicket, providing for very good birding.

Although very busy, the camp area itself is large and has well established trees and gardens. In front of the restaurant complex is a walk along the river bank, and one looks directly into some large sycamore fig trees. When the trees are in fruit, African Green-Pigeon and Purple-crested Turaco are regular visitors, while Village Weaver and Lesser Masked-Weaver hang there nests here. The river should be checked for African Black Duck, African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher and Red-faced Cisticola call from the reeds. On summer evenings, Eurasian Hobby and rarely Bat Hawk can be seen hawking bats along the river front. The campsite has a number of tame woodland species, including Cape Glossy Starling and Greater Blue-eared Starling, Cardinal Woodpecker and Golden-tailed Woodpecker. Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird have recently colonised Skukuza. Thick-billed Cuckoo is fairly regular in summer. Five robins can easily be seen in the camp - White-browed Robin-Chat, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-throated Robin-Chat and White-browed Scrub-Robin.

The plant nursery at Skukuza attracts a variety of birds, including Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Marico Sunbird, White-bellied Sunbird and Collared Sunbird. The dam on the access road to the nursery now has a hide and is worth checking out.

The low-level bridge over the Sabie River is a good spot to look for African Finfoot in the very early morning. Half-collared Kingfisher have also been reported from here.

Shingwidzi

Shingwidzi rest camp is situated in the north of the park on the Shingwedzi River. The surrounding habitat is Mopane woodland, but birding is very good in lush the riverine woodland.

In camp, the restaurant and picnic site front onto the river and many species can be observed at close quarters, including Red-billed Hornbill and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Cape Glossy Starling, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Natal Spurfowl, African Mourning Dove and Grey Go-away-bird. The riverine vegetation supports Red-faced Cisticola, Green-backed Camaroptera. The camp area is rather bare but is worth walking around. Red-headed Weaver breed amongst the huts, and are followed by Cut-throat Finch using their nests. Bennett's Woodpecker is also resident.

Just south of the camp is a low-level causeway over the river. This is a good spot for waterbirds, including White-crowned Lapwing. The drive to Kanniedood Dam along the S50 passes through some dense riverine woodland, with many loops of the main road that allow views of the river. A variety of woodland species occur, including Woodland Kingfisher, Brown-headed Parrot, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Broad-billed Roller and possibly Thick-billed Cuckoo. Verreaux's Eagle-Owl should be looked for in the large dense trees. Kanniedood Dam is good for general waterbirds and has a lookout platform.

Collared Palm-Thrush has been regularly recorded in recent years around Hut 25 in the camp and also in suitable habitat along the Shingwidzi River. ==== Wilderness Trails==== The Kruger Park runs a number of three-day walking trails that offer an excellent opportunity for birding on foot. There are seven different trails, the most popular for birding being the Nyalaland Trail between Punda Maria and Pafuri. Booking needs to be done up to a year in advance. To avoid conflicting interests, it is recommended that you book the trail as a group of eight birders.

Accommodation and Reservations

The Kruger park offers a wide range of accommodation and camping facilities. Reservations can be made through the National Parks Board, telephone 012-3431991 and fax 012-3430905. Their web page at http://parks-sa.co.za offers the opportunity to explore the options and make e-mail reservations.

Rest Camps

Rest camps are generally the older and more established public camps. They offer a lot of different types of accommodation, from simple two-bed huts to luxurious lodges, and facilities include shops and restaurants. The rest camps are Skukuza, Berg-en-dal, Crocodile Bridge, Letaba, Lower Sabie, Mopani, Olifants, Orpen, Pretoriuskop, Punda Maria, Satara, Shingwidzi.

Bushveld Camps

bushveld camps are small more exclusive 'residents-only' camps developed to include the natural bush environment. The accommodation is usually a four to six bed unit, and is luxurious by park standards. No shops and restaurants are provided. These are Bateleur, Shimuwini, Sirheni in the north, and Talamati and Biyamiti in the south.

Private Camps

Private camps are small exclusive camps for 12 to 19 people that need to be hired in their entirety. Accommodation is luxurious and no shops or restaurants are provided. The camps are Boulders, Roodewal and Malelene..

Private Concessions

The following formerly 'private' camps have recently been privatised - Jakkalsbessie, Jock of the bushveld and N'wanetsi in the south. Though not yet operational, they will be offering a more exclusive experience in line with the lodges in the private game reserves.

Camping and Caravanning

Camping is offered at all the rest camps but not at the bushveld and private camps. The standard of the campsites and facilities is generally very high, although it can sometimes be very hot in summer and rather crowded in school holidays.

Tariffs:

South African Citizens and Residents (with ID): R30,00 per person, per day

SADC Nationals (with passport): R60,00 per person, per day

Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors): R120,00 per Adult R60,00 per child under 12 per day.

Website: www.sanparks.co.za



Ian Whyte 2001 Scott Ronaldson 2001 Guy Gibbon 1998



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