So the Kruger trip was a birding success with approx. 80 birds seen and heard. There were certainly a few very exciting moments when I finally found some new birds and found birds in unexpected places!
Of course the Woodland Kingfishers were around and calling all the time. At first I could just hear them and despite their bright blue coloured plumage, they camouflage well against the lush green trees that they hang out in. We stopped off at the Gardenia Hide and were treated to a few nice birds, as well as someones wallet that they had lost!* We saw a couple of Crested Francolin, heard and then found the Black-backed Puffback, saw one of those yet to be identified water birds 😦 and then…..the beautiful Woodland Kingfisher sitting only a couple of metres away from the hide in a little bush, quietly grooming itself. This is the best ever shot I have got of this bird, it was a perfect model.
A huge highlight for me, and for some reason I nearly cried when I saw it, was a beautiful little Barn Owl. We were driving along a very scenic riverside road and went into a little loop surrounded by huge tall trees. They were the perfect ‘Leopard Trees’ so I was looking up inspecting each one carefully for those elusive spots. I did not find those spots, instead I looked up into one tree and there, framed between 2 branches, sat a Barn Owl, in a hole in the tree! I gasped at the site and straight away a tear nearly came to my eye, haha I dont know why. Maybe because I actually got such a fright/surprise at seeing it, or it was the first time I have seen a Barn Owl in the wild, or because of the Fairy Tale scene. In books from my childhood there were always Owls sitting in holes in trees, I even remember drawing pictures like that. It was magical and perfect!
It turned out to be a weekend of finding Owls in amazing places. *Here comes the reveal to the photo at the end of my last blog, look right at the centre of that photo* Driving past a big koppie where we search every time for more elusive spots I found yet another Owl. I dont even know how I saw this bird, the camouflage was insane and we were moving, but my eyes must have just caught something softer than rocks and vegetation. After having driven past it, we reversed so I could check what I thought I saw and yes, it was indeed an Owl, a Spotted Eagle Owl. Sitting tucked right back against the rocks, behind a few thin branches and the colour blending perfectly. Its always very special to see this bird as it reminds me of the Owl that lived in our garden for a short while and which sparked my love of Owls.
Some of the other highlights were a flock of Knob-billed Ducks. I first saw 2 fly past when we were at a Lion sighting, but the next day we saw a whole flock of these ducks, first it was just the female ducks, and at first I was slightly confused as to what they were, but just as I figured them out the males flew into the picture and confirmed the ID. They are very different looking birds, but the colouration and markings are quite pretty actually. The most strange part of this sighting though was the fact that they were sitting in trees, huh ducks in trees? I will have to research this a bit more and learn about this species. I have seen them twice before, once at a small water hole, not in the water though, and another time just on the side of the road in the middle of the bush.
Also saw a female Cardinal Woodpecker, which I think is the first time I’ve ever seen one, or at least first time I have identified it. This woodpecker is tiny!
We came across a group of Ground Hornbills, 3 adults and one juvenile. As we stopped alongside them, the juvenile discovered a pile of dry dung and seemed to begin playing with it, almost trying to toss it around. Just then one of the adults seemed to attack this juvenile, grabbing it on the beak and pushing it around and down to the ground. It looked quite hectic, those beaks are large and sharp and I’m sure could do some damage to another bird. The older bird then itself went over to the dung and started picking it up and tossing it around. Unusual behaviour which I have never seen before.
Purple Roller!!! This was on my wish list for the Kruger trip. Only recently did it dawn on me that Purple Rollers are found down in the South of Kruger as well, I always imagined them being a bird you only found in the North. I think they could be easily confused with the Lilac-breasted Rollers, so maybe I have seen one and just not paid any attention to it (Lilac-breasted Rollers are stunning birds, but very common in Kruger). So I was double checking every Roller I saw and eventually there they were, for real, 2 Purple Rollers with that distinctive white streaked chest! Very cool looking birds, hopefully from now on I will see them more often!
And the last exciting find in the park as we were driving out across the Crocodile River, was this African Openbill. I’ve only seen them a couple of times maybe, so always nice to see them. These birds have an usual beak, which is not completely closed. I’ll write more about it when I get around to doing my Bird pages.
I’m not sure where my next birding adventure will be, but I cannot wait!
*We eventually located the owner of the wallet!