Broad Billed Roller, W Tarboton

Clients : Bird Holidays, Leeds, UK
Dates :
24 Nov to 9 Dec 2007
Duration :
14 days

Route:Of all the trips within South Africa the Baobab Trail that wends its way through the sprawling savannas and bushveld of Northern Kruger, before turning west along the baobab studded plains of the Limpopo valley, is unquestionably the most exciting and satisfying in terms of sheer wildlife biodiversity.

This remote region is characterized by a wide variety of strikingly attractive and vocal bushveld birds. Many are relatively conspicuous making observations and photographic opportunities relatively easy for the visiting birder.

The valley also supports a wide variety of mammals, from the highly social and entertaining Dwarf Mongoose, to the enormous and awe-inspiring African Elephant weighing in at nearly six tons! Any trip to the Kruger Park is almost certain to guarantee ‘up close and personal views’ of these gentle giants browsing alongside the road.

Route specifically tailored for optimal bird and mammal sightings on this trip followed the Great North Road from Pretoria, through the sprawling scrublands and rolling bushveld of the Springbuck Flats, to the indigenous forests of the Northern Drakensberg.

Here we explored a mosaic of habitats scattered about the Escarpment for a defined mix of highly localized species before descending into the Lowveld a 1000m below. This region within the Kruger National Park comprises of sprawling mopani woodland and stunted knob thorn thickets bisected by gallery forest along the flanks of the Limpopo River – ‘all set about with yellow fever trees’ as aptly described by Kipling.

From a birding perspective the area is unsurpassed for raptors and a suite of ‘special birds’ only found in the far north of South Africa in this tropical zone. One such species is the Mottled Spinetail found breeding in the hollow trunk of a 2000 year old baobab tree that has recently been declared a national treasure. From here our route west traced the Limpopo river to its convergence with the Shashi river running southwards along the flanks of Botswana. Here at the junction of these two substantial river systems lies a prominent outcrop known as Mapungubwe – ‘the hill of the jackals’- in a semi-arid national park made up of rugged ridge-lines and a mixture of broad leafed woodland and acacia drainage lines that wend their way to the Limpopo. It is indeed an awesome place with a fascinating history dating back to the early Iron Age. From a birding perspective there is much to look forward to in view of the diverse mix of habitat including a number of waterholes and wetlands in the immediate area. There is also a raised boardwalk through pristine gallery forest and a number of strategically located hides and lookout platforms that provided excellent vantage points from which to scan the surrounding area. From here our return run south rounded the western flank of the Zoutpansberg Mountain range where we stopped to scan the towering cliff faces for Black Eagle and Cape Vulture before heading back to JHB across the Springbuck Flats by way of a number of selected birding sites. Scenically the route along the Limpopo and through the Zoutpansberg Mountains and Great Escarpment is nothing short of spectacular and conjures up feelings of the unspoilt Africa of old. Overnight accommodation along the way was hand-picked for comfort and country hospitality as well as location in relation to the best birding spots in Limpopo Province. All in all the Baobab Trail generated unsurpassed viewing opportunities and maximum enjoyment all round for those on the tour.

Ground Hornbill, W Tarboton

Listings: A total of 336 species were recorded. Highlights included Comb Duck, African Black Duck, Greater Honeyguide, Lesser Honeyguide, Bearded Woodpecker, Southern Ground Hornbill, Broad-billed Roller, Pygmy Kingfisher, Grey-hooded Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Carmine Bee-eater, Striped Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Emerald Cuckoo, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Meyer’s Parrot, Meve’s Starling, Knysna Turaco, Tambourine Dove, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan, Lesser Gallinule, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Bat Hawk, Lappet-faced Vulture, Cape Vulture, Lizard Buzzard, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Gabar Goshawk, Crowned Eagle, Goliath Heron, Dwarf Bittern, Black Egret, Saddle-billed Stork, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Yellow-streaked Bulbul, Yellow-spotted Nicator, Boehm’s Spinetail, Mottled Spinetail, Barrett’s Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Red-faced Cisticola, Barred Warbler, Short-clawed Lark, Starred Robin, Chorister Robin, Eastern Bearded Robin, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Spectacled Weaver, Violet-eared Waxbill, Green-winged Pytilia, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Paradise Whydah.

In the client’s own words: ‘Thank you for your excellent organization and support during our recent trip. We miss the Avian Leisure apartment in Simon’s Town which was brilliant. Thanks too Patrick for looking after us on the trip. I noticed that you made a particular effort to make Sulis feel part of the group for which special thanks are in order’

Bob East – Indonesia

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