25.2.18

Birdwatching the South-Western Kruger National Park

Please note that the asterisk refers to new bird species that has been added to my list.

Any South African who has an avid interest in birds or nature in particular would name the Kruger National Park as one of South Africa's best birdwatching destinations.

This year I had the opportunity to visit the Kruger National Park again - which was exciting because the KNP was one of my family's favorite holiday trips - though we didn't go as often - and absolutely loved it because of:

- the history surrounding the Park due to it being one of the first conservation areas established in South Africa.
- the biodiversity in fauna, flora and avifauna that exists in the Park due to the diversity of savanna biomes that make up the National Park
- the amazing and interesting stories that come from tourist accounts visiting this world-famous destination.

But my focus on this visit this year will be recording the birdlife that I have encountered specifically in the Southern Region of the Park as we have family that lives in Malelane in Mpumalanga quite close to the Park Gate and they also live on the bank of the Crocodile River.

And the birds did not disappoint. The birds seen from the view of the porch included:
  • Laughing Dove
  • Hadeda Ibis
  • *Water Thick-Knee
  •  Egyptian Goose
  • Blacksmith Lapwing
  • *Reed Cormorant
  • Pied Kingfisher
  • Little Egret
  •  Cattle Egret
  • *Great Egret
  • *Purple Heron
  • Grey Heron
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • *Woodland Kingfisher
  • *Green-backed (straited) Heron
  •  *Dark-capped Bulbul
  • *Yellow-billed Kite
  • *African Fish Eagle
  • Southern Grey Headed Sparrow
  • *Bronze Mannikin
  • *Natal Spurfowl
  • *Pied Wagtail
  • *Western Osprey
  • *Cut-throat Finch
  •  Arrow-marked Babbler
  • Cape Glossy Starling
  • *Crested Barbet
  • *Village Weaver
  • *Red-faced Cisticola
  • *Trumpeter Hornbill
  •  White-breasted Cormorant
  • *Saddle-billed Stork
  • White-faced Whistling Duck
  • *Red-billed Oxpecker
  • *White-throated Robin-chat


And this was only on the outside of the Southern part of the Kruger. On the third day of my visit, we got up early to visit the Park (and to avoid the crowds) and entered at the Malalane Gate.

All I can say is Wow! What a fantastic and spectacular experience. Not even a full minute inside, we already found elephants and that was only the beginning of a few spectacular encounters, which included *lions, *rhinos and even *wild dogs feeding on a kill near Skukuza.

But what especially made the visit memorable were the number of spectacular birds!

On the road between Malelane and Skukuza and even at Lake Panic (though Lake Panic was a bit of a disappointment) - we found innumerable numbers of birds, with quite a percentage of them going on to my life list.

My bird list for that first trip and the addition of new species (to be marked by a star) looks to be something like this:

  • *Woodland Kingfisher
  • *Magpie Shrike
  •   Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
  • *Rattling Cisticola
  •   Arrow-marked Babbler
  • *Red-backed Shrike
  • *European Roller
  •   Cape Glossy Starling
  • *Wahlberg's Eagle
  • *Grey Lourie
  • *Swainson's Spurfowl
  • *Red-billed Oxpecker
  •   Black-headed Oriole
  •   Red-eyed Dove
  • *Brown-hooded Kingfisher
  • *Red-faced Cisticola
  • *Saddle-billed Stork
  • *Chinspot Batis
  • *African Green Pigeon
  • *Dark Chanting Goshawk
  • *Marabou Stork
  •   Amur Falcon
  •   Bateleur
  • *Green (Red-billed) Wood-Hoopoe
  •   African Paradise Flycatcher
  • *Levaillant's Cuckoo
  •   African Grey Hornbill
  • *Southern Red-billed Hornbill
  • *Hooded Vulture
  • *Southern Ground-Hornbill
  • *Crested Francolin
  •   Helmeted Guineafowl
  •  *Southern Carmine Bee-eater
  •    Fork-tailed Drongo
  •   Burchell's Starling
  • *Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
  • *Green-backed Heron
  • *Pied Wagtail
  •   White-faced Whistling Duck
  • *Water Thick-Knee
  •   Blacksmith Lapwing
  •   Pied Kingfisher
  • *African Fish Eagle
  • *Wood Sandpiper
  •   Black Crake
  • *Blue Waxbill
  • *Lilac-breasted Roller
  • *European Bee-eater
  •   Secretarybird
  • *Tawny Eagle 
  •   Sacred Ibis
  •   Grey Heron


On the second trip taking a different route along some riverine woodland - my list grew with some more with exciting additions and the discovery of an excellent (if not peaceful) birdwatching spot in a beautiful rocky wetland with a dam which provided for a very enjoyable hour of birdwatching, the birds found here included :
  •   Pied Kingfisher
  • *African Jacana
  •   White-faced Whistling Duck
  • *Common and Wood Sandpiper
  • *Hamerkop
  • *Green-backed Heron
  • *Black Stork
  • *Saddle-billed Stork
  •   Blacksmith Lapwing
  •   Bateleur
  • *Martial Eagle (which was especially exciting)


Overall, the bird list for that day looks like this (asterisk - new birds):
  • *Brown-headed Parrot
  • *European Bee-eater
  • *Red-billed Oxpecker
  • *Grey Lourie
  •   African Hoopoe
  • *Saddle-billed Stork
  •   Lappet-faced Vulture
  •   White-backed Vulture
  • *Hooded Vulture
  • *European Roller
  • *Southern Red-billed Hornbill
  • *Lilac-breasted Roller
  • *Red-backed Shrike
  • *Natal Spurfowl
  • *Rattling Cisticola
  • *Crested Francolin
  • *Black Stork
  •   White-faced Whistling Duck
  •   Blacksmith Lapwing
  • *Common Sandpiper
  • *Green-backed Heron
  • *African Jacana
  •   Egyptian Goose
  •   Pied Kingfisher
  • *Hamerkop
  •   Bateleur
  • *Martial Eagle
  • *Water Thick-knee
  • *Woodland Kingfisher
  •   Fork-tailed Drongo
  • *Dark-capped Bulbul
  •   Burchell's Starling
  • *Wood Sandpiper
  •   Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
  •   Black-shouldered Kite
  • *Brown Snake Eagle


Overall - I found myself quite enchanted by the charm, magnificence and beauty of the Kruger and that was my experience with only a tiny section of this vast and enormous National Park.

Next time - I'm hoping to tackle the Central, Northern and the other Southern sections of the Kruger and looking forward to more exciting experiences and new birds.

And as a huge and vast area with a bird list of 520 species - it is certainly guaranteed that a few visits will needed to spot all 520 of these birds and I am looking forward to future visits to this amazing place to accomplish my goal of spotting all of Kruger's bird population. Wish me luck!

Current count: 85/520 - 16.3%