Next stop on the South African Tour was at Hazeview just outside the Kruger National Park. We stayed at the Hippo Hollow hotel which is about six mile from the Phabeni Gate entrance to the park. Arriving at the reception you get the impression that this is going to be a great place to stay.
We didn't see any Crocks in the grounds but there was one Hippo in the lake when we arrived and there were Hippos grazing on the lawn during the evening. Birding around the hotel was great. They have a large lake, lawns going down to the Sabi River, and plenty of trees and vegetation to attract the birds. We stayed three nights giving us two days for safaris into the Kruger. I have split this into two blogs, the first for birds seen around the Hotel area and the second for those seen in the Kruger Park.
It is difficult to describe the birding. Everything is different and for me, with one or two exceptions, every bird was new. The real surprises were the Egyptian Geese and Cattle Egrets which were probably the most common birds seen during the holiday.
The hotel lake proved to be a great attraction to the birds as well as to me. I have never seen a Purple Heron in the UK and from what I hear they are secretive and difficult to approach. This one was the complete opposite. I approached slowly but it took no notice of me. Perhaps it was aware of the electric fence topped with razor wire that stopped me getting any closer. Still getting this full frame on a 400mm lens left me feeling very happy
Other regulars around the lake included a couple of African Wattled Lapwing, a Malachite Kingfisher, and an African Pied Wagtail.
|African Wattled Lapwing|
|African Pied Wagtail - it takes a while before you notice the different markings|
Dawn was the best time to be out but I always left the river to last. It was the dry season and the water level in the Sabi River was low but then I am not sure how much water Crocks need, so I wasn't taking any chances.
This Reed Cormorant was one of the early morning visitors, again posing nicely for front and side views -
and I had good views of this Black Crake before it disappeared into the reeds on the opposite side of the river.
It was difficult to stop birding. Everywhere I looked there was something new. I could tell that Sue was getting agitated over breakfast so I decided to put the camera down and spend a peaceful half hour enjoying breakfast with her . Good idea but then this turned up. I disappeared at speed, upsetting the coffee on the way.
The hotel gardens gave plenty of other opportunities and we also paid a visit to a reptile park just down the road. Fortunately for me there were more birds than reptiles with over two hundred weaver nests around the site. If you spot any thing wrongly labelled, please let me know.
|Difficult to see but a Black-collared Barbet|
|African Golden Weaver|
|Yellow-fronted Canary Crithagra mozambica - I think!|
I have a few other record shots taken around the hotel but record shots is all they are. Nice to have but they don't really make the grade for publishing on the blog. Most are more colourful versions of our LBJs, fast moving, difficult to photograph and difficult to identify. The only ones I was sure of were the Yellow-breasted Apalais, Cape White Eye, Red-breasted Swallow and Brown-throated Martin. I just wish I had spent a bit more time recording the Swallows, Swifts, and Martins during the tour.
One poor shot that does gain a place though, is this Purple-crested Turaco. He woke me every morning and called continuously but I couldn't locate him. He stayed high in the trees in dense cover and in any glimpses I had, he always had his back to me. On the final morning just as we were about to leave I got the shot. Low light levels and a long way off but I got it. Probably more pleasing than all the other pictures I took on this holiday.
|Purple-crested Turaco - plus the usual branch|
Kruger National Park to follow.