CAPE TOWN TO KRUGER PARK VIA THE DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAINS AND KZN

Clients : Andrew & Maureen Day, Durham, UK
Dates : 23 September to 13 October 2007
Duration : 21 days

Route: A two part birding trip in keeping with a request to embrace the best of birding the Western Cape with the endemic highlights of the Drakensberg and the wildlife reserves of KwaZulu Natal and the Kruger National Park. As such the geographic combination represented an optimal blend of sighting opportunities in the east of SA over a three week period. Starting in Cape Town, and geared to a leisurely pace, birding emphasis in the Western Cape focused on S.A. endemics restricted to the ‘fynbos’ biome. All of the key species of sunbird and sugarbird were sighted along with Cape Rockjumper as the Cape’s No.1 showcase attraction. Sadly, the erratic weather pattern of westerly fronts played havoc with intended sailing dates resulting in the cancellation of the scheduled pelagic trip. This at a time of year when albatross, petrel and shearwater numbers are at their peak off Cape Point.

Journey to the east of the country commenced with a flight to Johannesburg before birding our way across rolling grasslands to the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment.

Kori Bustard, W Tarboton

This high altitude biome is home to two endangered and highly localized larks (Rudd’s & Botha’s) as well as a suite of korhaans, bustards and cranes. From here a scenic untarred road was followed to the eastern end of the spectacular Sani Pass. This tortuous and heavily eroded 4 X4 track winds its way up the Drakensberg into the Lesotho. The Black Mountains at 3300m beyond the head of the pass are home to Bearded Vulture, Southern Bald Ibis and Drakensberg Rockjumper. On the way to Sani we were treated to scope views of three Wattled Crane. A highly endangered species in serious decline due to habitat loss in recent years. From Sani the route east followed the coastal plain through the relic forests and open savanna of Zululand to the southern sector of the Kruger National Park. ‘Mega’ sightings in Kruger included the so-called avian ‘Big 5’ – Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard and Southern Ground Hornbill. Aside from birds in abundance we were treated to excellent views of rhino, buffalo and elephant. All at close quarters before returning by road to Johannesburg for the outbound flight.

Listings: A total of 438 species were recorded, excluding pelagics due to unfavourable weather conditions off Cape Point. Highlights included Shelley’s Francolin, Red-necked Francolin, Crested Guineafowl, White-backed Duck, Pygmy Goose, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Red-throated Wryneck, Bearded Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, Half-collared Kingfisher, White-faced Owl, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Kori Bustard, Ludwig’s Bustard, White-bellied Korhaan, Black-bellied Korhaan, Blue Korhaan, Wattled Crane, Lesser Jacana, Chestnut-banded Sand Plover, Red-winged Pratincole, Antarctic Tern, Palm Nut Vulture, Bearded Vulture, Martial Eagle, Crowned Eagle, Taita Falcon, Forest Buzzard, Southern Bald Ibis, Saddlebill Stork, Southern Tchagra, Cape Rockjumper, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Black-eared Sparrow Lark, Grey Penduline Tit, Yellow-spotted Nicator, Rufous-winged Cisticola, Rudd’s Lark, Spotted Ground Thrush, Southern Tchagra, Green Coucal, Chorister Robin, Eastern Bearded Robin, Mocking Chat, Gurney’s and Cape Sugarbird, Spectacled Weaver, Green Twinspot, Pink-throated Twinspot, Grey Waxbill, Lemon-breasted Canary and Drakensberg Siskin.

Several intra-African as well as Palearctic migrants had still to arrive of which cuckoos, swallows, swifts, warblers and a number of raptors were the most conspicuous by their absence.

Full details of sightings for the trip are available on request.

In the client’s own words: Just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for a wonderful trip. We had a fabulous time and the trip lived up to all our expectations. The bird list was even greater than we expected. The only disappointment was the cancellation of the pelagic trip but we can’t control the weather can we? This of course gives us an excuse (as if we need one!) to come back. Patrick’s knowledge is outstanding!
Andrew & Maureen Day UK

For more information contact Marie-Louise on enquiries@avianleisure.com

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