Zululand and the Kruger

A Summary

Paul and Sally Bartho

The purpose of this final chapter in our saga through Zululand and the Kruger is:

  • to show a detailed Bird List of birds we saw in each place we visited – as an Excel spreadsheet. Highlighting the birds we considered special.
  • to display the possibly contentious and mystery birds we encountered and photographed – feedback always welcome.
  • to identify our worst sighting on the trip.
  • to comment on a few observations we made.
  • to post a summary of photos of birds and animals we saw on our trip.

Click here to see our bird list for each area we visited.

Next are some photos of birds which require ID. Have a go if you are interested and make your comments in the assigned place beneath each photo.

Then we have birds which are contentious. Again have a go if you are interested and make your comments in the assigned place beneath each photo.

Definitely the worst sighting of our trip occurred as we reached the turn-off from the main road to Pafuri Picnic site. Right on the corner we saw three Common Mynahs.

Highlights and Observations:

  • We never saw nor heard a Woodlands Kingfisher between 22 October and 19 November – the whole time we were in the Kruger. Our first sighting was in Ndumo.
Woodland Kingfisher - all mouth as it tries to scare off a Broad-billed Roller
Woodland Kingfisher – all mouth as it tries to scare off a Broad-billed Roller
  • We did not see an European Roller until Eastern Shores, Isimangoliso on 24 November and it was the only one we saw.
  • Red-backed Shrike had only just started appearing in the Kruger when we reached Pafuri on 5 November. Only a few more were seen on our way south.
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
  • Yellow-billed Oxpeckers were seen as far south as Balule – mainly on Buffalo. There was a time not long ago when you needed to be in the Punda Maria region to be lucky to see one.
  • Eurasian Golden Orioles were seen in pairs on four occasions -Tsendze; Shingwedzi; Skukuza and Ndumo.
  • By far the best camp we stayed at was Tsendze. The staff are exceptional, the habitat varied and interesting, the campsite full of Owls in the many tall trees. Balule and Malelane are two other campsites that we will visit again.
  • On the S114 heading N/S to Skukuza a Cocqui Francolin was heard – try as we may we were unable to see it – Sally’s current bogie bird. However this led us to an excellent sighting of a Stierling’s Wren-Warbler nearby.
  • Being at the right place at the right time – that is how we were lucky enough to see the African Finfoot as we crossed the Sabie Bridge on the way to Skukuza.
  • Our Owl sightings started in Mkuze with a great view of a juvenivle Pel’s Fishing-Owl followed by Verreaux’s at Crocodile Bridge; Spotted Eagle Owl in Ndumo; Scops, Barred and Pearl-spotted in a number of places.
  • In Mkuze there was a Crowned Plover on its nest right beside the road – it had 2 eggs. Two days later there was nothing to be seen.
  • An amazing hairstyle of an African Paradise-Flycatcher and an Afro-styled Brown Snake-Eagle in Punda Maria.
  • Exceptionally dark colourations of Laughing and African Mourning Doves in Tshokwane Picnic site and in the Satara camp.
  • On the S100, N’wanetsi River Road, we came across what at first we believed to be a pair of Red-necked Spurfowls – we were excited. However we later found out that they were hybrids. This poses further questions: Why a pair of hybrids together? Brothers, sisters, brother and sister or a mating pair? Mating pair – more questions!
  • We had four different sightings of Greater Painted-Snipes. A sole male at the Sweni hide, Satara; a pair of males on the Tsendze loop; another pair of males on the walk below the Mopani restaurant; and two males and a female together on the S93 just north of Olifants.
  • The Green Sandpiper at the Sweni bridge on the main road south of Satara was observed by us on a number of occasions.
  • Two Red-chested Cuckoos were seen together in the Pafuri Picnic site – a male paying attention to a juvenile. Shouldn’t be offspring so it is assumed that the juvenile was a female coming of age and being swooned by an adult male.
  • Also near the Pafuri Picnic site we observed 2 squabbling Eagles – on settling in the same tree we noted that they were both African Hawk-Eagles – an adult and a rufous juvenile.
  • We had the challenge of identifying a Harrier seen in the distance at the Thongonyeni waterhole on the Tropic of Capricorn loop just north of Mopani. Luckily not a female but a juvenile – a Pallid Harrier.
  • In St. Lucia we found a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits along the mud flats at the mouth of the Lake St. Lucia estuary. There were also 13 African Black Oystercatchers on the beach. Many other waders and Terns were also seen.
  • In Ndumo there was a female Little Bittern dashing between the reeds right in front of the Nyamithi Hide. At the Vulture restaurant on separate occasions we noticed an adult and then a juvenile Palm-nut Vulture.
  • Interesting animal sightings include:
    • a one tusker Elephant with a very long tusk
    • a Civet in broad daylight unconcernedly foraging right next to us. It had a sore back right leg and was limping. This was the only lifer that either of us had on our trip. As we watched we did not notice an elephant approaching directly towards us from the other side until it was just metres away. Mega hasty retreat was called for – adrenalin does wonders to focus you.
    • a male Leopard coming for a drink at Lake Panic Hide, Skukuza.
    • Dwarf Mongooses around our campsite at Malelane.
    • Hippos resting in peace at Sweni Hide
    • Numerous very large herds of Buffalo. One herd was over a kilometre long and it appeared to be over 20 animals across most of the way – must have been thousands of animals.
    • A rather interesting Waterbuck – rather suave and foppish!

Some of the other animals photographed:

  • There is one photo which does not appear real – it looks as if a tree has uprooted itself and is coming straight for us.
  • However the “piece-de-la-resistance” is definitely the two magical mystical photos of the Pennant-winged Nightjars we saw while at Punda Maria.

And finally an album of some of the other bird photos follows:


Again I hope you have enjoyed the read and the photos.

Paul & Sally.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. John Bremner says:

    Thanks Paul and Sally for sharing your trip with us. Realy good set of reports and photos.

  2. Norman says:

    What an incredible trip you guys had. Great sightings, great photo’s.

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