Report by Paul and Sally Bartho
Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th July 2016
Sally and I were invited by Jenny and Dave Rix to join them for their visit to Mkuze. They had booked into the Tented Camp but the only one available was a double. All the huts, cottages and Tented Camp sites were full most nights we were there. The Camp Site only had one occupant.
The park is exceptionally dry. Dave, who has been coming to Mkuze since the 70s, says he has never seen it so dry.
Most of the animals were in the southern reaches of the park in the Fig Forest area.
All the roads are being upgraded and some repaired so access to various parts of the park were not possible. Basically we were limited to the northern part of the park. We were unable to get to Nsumo Pan as well as the road leading down to the hunting camp and the Loop Road off it.
kuMasinga and kuMahlahla Hides were both open and had water. The new kwaMalibala hide remains closed.
The first afternoon we took a drive to kuMasinga hide. As we were on the Beacon Road we were unable to take the first dirt road to the hide – it was closed. So we continued south to the next turn off to the left – again the road ahead was closed. Eventually we got to the hide. A number of animals came for a drink as well as numerous Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves.
The next morning we went with Patrick to the Fig Forest. It was the first time in weeks that the Fig Forest was open so we were very fortunate. New swing bridges greeted us and another treat was the Lookout Tower in the Fig Forest – standing some 10 metres tall in the canopy of the surrounding trees. Apparently this has been there for 5 years.
Our initial goal was to find the Pel’s Fishing-Owl. It did not take long for Patrick to find it and although it was distant we had good views of it.
Otherwise birding in the forest was productive unlike the arid areas of the park although we did find a Burnt-necked Eremomela. Here are some of those we did manage to photograph.
Most of our birding revolved around the main camp as well as the two hides and the campsite.
At kuMahlahla it was not as busy as kuMasinga except for the Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves. However a Black Sparrowhawk did make an appearance at the far end of the dam. Several Tambourine Doves also came down to drink.
On an evening walk around the Main camp we found an African Goshawk perched atop of the Reception – much like a weather vane.
The campsite too was relatively quiet birdwise. The place was a large dust bowl.
As expected we had several unwanted visitors around the tented kitchen. During the day it was monkeys at breakfast and lunch. At night it was the Bushy-tailed Bushbabies. During the evening braai one took his chance and swiped half of a rump steak. We would have been quite cross but the steak was tough and flavourless.
Crested Guineafowl and tame Nyala visited at breakfast. One naughty adult Nyala male kept coming up behind us and giving a nudge – probably wanting water.
In total we identified 93 different species – not a bad count considering the arid nature of the park. Click here to see our bird list.
Paul and Sally Bartho