Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Kruger National Park (3/6)

The three night stop at Hippo Hollow gave us two days for Safaris in the Kruger National Park. Our tour included prepaid ranger led safaris in ten seater open sided vehicles. Better for taking pictures and bringing you closer to nature. Very close to nature in fact. Twenty five feet from a lion with no sides on the vehicle makes you realise just how much you are relying on the ranger. I don't think it would be allowed at Longleat or Woburn!

Ranger led was the best way to go for our limited time in the park. The rangers keep in touch by radio and any sighting reported had us speeding off to join the twitch. We saw a lot more than I expected -  Elephants, White Rhino, Lion, Water Buffalo, Hippo, Leopard, Cheetah, Crocodile, Hyena, Zebra, Giraffe, Warthog, Baboon, various monkeys and a large assortment of antelope.

The rangers are good and they are focused on delivering a product to their customers, that is sightings of all the big mammals. It was an experience and worth doing but to be honest I would have rather spent the time birding. Fortunately on the first day we had a ranger that was interested in birds. When I asked a question, he pulled out the most thumbed bird guide I have ever seen from under his seat. He took the time to search out birds for me and stopped so that I had time to take a picture. Not as much time as I would have liked but then I was the only birder on the vehicle.

White Rhino with Red-billed Oxpecker

I looked at the big animals but I took very few pictures of them. I preferred to keep the long lens on in case a bird showed up. That meant that I had too much lens on for most of the animal shots. A 100-400 zoom is probably the best lens to take for general Safari pictures.

Marabou Stork, Blacksmith Lapwings, and a Water Thick Knee

If I was driving myself around I might have waited for a better shot when the Marabou Stork stopped preening but at least I got the three Blacksmith Lapwings and the Water Thick Knee into the shot.

There were some really stunning colourful birds about

Lilac-breasted Roller

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill   (Flying Banana)

Southern Red-billed Hornbill   (Flying Chilli)

Helmeted Guinea Fowl

The Guinea Fowl was far to close for me to get a picture but I did get to see them later in the trip.

There are a large number of different birds of prey in the reserve although I didn't get to see many of them. There are also the usual scavengers.

Wahlberg's Eagle


Juvenile Bateleur

Hooded Vulture

White-backed Vulture

This Red-billed Buffalo Weaver seemed to be nest building underneath the White-backed Vulture nest.  Although reading up on them, it seems as though the Buffalo Weavers would have been there first, building a large shared nesting colony with the vulture building on top of them

Red-billed Buffalo Weaver

I managed a distant shot of a Striated Heron (Green-backed) and would have liked to have got a bit closer but it was not really a good idea.

A rather large Nile Crocodile

Striated Heron (Green-backed)

Magpie Shrike

African Green Pigeon

Arrow-marked Babler

Laughing Dove

Speckled Mousebird

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Fork-tailed Drongo

Greater Blue-eared Starling

Water Thick-knee

I nearly missed this African Fish Eagle as it flew over my head and disappeared into the distance. Just managing to grab a record shot as it went. A real missed opportunity for a good shot. I did miss a Yellow-billed Kite and a good few other birds.

African Fish Eagle

I didn't see any of the Kruger big six birds - 

Lappet Faced Vulture
Southern Ground Hornbilll
Pel's Fishing Owl
Saddle-billed Stork
Martial Eagle
Kori Bustard. 

I only managed to see a few of the 477 birds on the Kruger list (517 if you include all the rare vagrants). Nor did I see my one target bird, the Secretary Bird, but I did have a great time and I would love to go back and spend a week birding the park. Maybe one day.

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