Kruger hosts a wide variety of colourful species, but there is no bird more revered than the LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER. Amazingly this species is widespread and easy to see as it perches in on small bushes and shrubs in the open savanna.

The are half a dozen bee eater species possible in summer but in winter when we visited, only two are likely. These cozy WHITE-FRONTED BEE EATERS are the most widespread and common species then, with LITTLE BEE EATER also present in small numbers.

Shrikes and bush shrikes are particularly well represented in Kruger with over a dozen species likely on a visit of several days. This BLACK-CROWNED TCHAGRA is one of this 'clan'. They frequently forage on the ground, searching for small invertebrates.

Half a dozen species of robin chats occur in Kruger, with this WHITE-BROWED ROBIN CHAT being a typical showy representative.


The diversity of landscapes and wildlife in South Africa is impressive. There is a great system of protected areas and national parks, the most well known of which is Kruger National Park. The park boasts an enormous bird list, with several hundred species likely in a visit of three days.

Raptors are particularly well represented. The largest of all is the MARTIAL EAGLE which tends to favour guineafowl as a prey item. The individual below caught a CAPE TURTLE DOVE right in front of our car - landing on the road and then alighting right above us! We watched for nearly fifteen minutes as it plucked the dove clean and then proceeded to eat it.

Another stunning raptor that is common in Kruger is the BATALEUR. This medium sized eagle often scavenges at kills. The black adult and brown juvenile below are vying for the gut pack of an impala that was recently killed. Surprisingly, the juvenile dominated the adult!

But neither of these smaller birds were able to hold onto the prize once a TAWNY EAGLE appeared.

Another great moment came when we got close to this GIANT KINGFISHER (about the size of an AMERICAN CROW!). It was chomping down a small invertebrate which turned out to be a mudcrab - a small freshwater mollusc.

Not a raptor but a species that likes to feed on fish, so certainly a predator, is the rare AFRICAN FINFOOT. I had searched the streams of Kruger on every previous visit but always missed this bird. Paul's sharp eyes picked out an adult male swimming at a bridge just east of the Skukuza Camp. We watched the bird swim towards us and then eventually swim right underneath us and pass downstream!


One of the greatest experiences in South Africa is a night drive in Kruger National Park. We were lucky enough to do several during our stay in this immense protected area. Unfortunately you cannot drive yourself at night, so you have to rely on the park ranger led drives. Some are good and others leave a lot to be desired - mostly because of the staff leading the drives. By far our best night drive experience was at Satara camp where we saw a superb array of mammals and also had a driver who understood how to get everyone good views.

I had read that some drivers were even able to spot chameleons at night as the fed on the edge of branches. Given the thick scrubby vegetation this is hard to imagine as you speed along the roads! Nonetheless on our Satara night drive our ranger spotted no fewer than three WHITE LIPPED CHAMELEONS along the roadside.

Of course everyone on the drives wanted to see big cats, and that was the focus. We saw lions and leopards on several night drives (cheetahs are diurnal) but I was equally interested in the smaller cats and predators. One of the most common nocturnal cats is the AFRICAN WILD CAT, a species which is almost never seen during the day. The eyeshine on this small cat is impressive.

Another small 'cat like' mammal that is frequently seen is the GENET. This LARGE-SPOTTED GENET was actually photographed on a self drive outing at Bonamanzi Reserve when it sat right beside us marking a scent post only ten feet from the car window!

One nocturnal mammal that is frequently heard "whooping" during the night is the SPOTTED HYENA. We came across this one on a drive near Pretoriskop camp and were surprised that it came right up to the game drive van, appearing almost curious.

The night birding is often good on these drives. Both of SPOTTED EAGLE OWL and AFRICAN SCOPS OWL were seen on multiple drives.


Here are some catch up posts from my trip to South Africa in the fall of 2010.

This first one is from the KAROO. The karoo is an arid, steppe like habitat which dominates much of South Africa. Below is a photograph taken near the remote town of Pofadder (from the Afrikaans for the venomous "puff adder").

The Pofadder area is famous for larks. This family of birds reaches its peak of endemism in southern Africa. I tallied over twenty lark species during my trip and several were only found while near Pofadder. One of the most difficult to find is the nomadic Sclater's Lark.

These two Sclater's Larks flew in to take a drink at a water trough. Note the dark tear like mark below the eye, which is a key feature of Stark's. Waiting at water troughs, water holes or other water sources is a great mid day birding technique in this habitat. Here is another example of birds coming to a water hole - in this case a mixed flock of YELLOW CANARIES, BLACK-HEADED CANARIES and CAPE SPARROWS.

The plant life of the karoo is often bizarre. Here are several photos of karoo plants.

The karoo isnt just little brown birds and plants! Here are three of the more striking birds that are widespread throughout this region of South Africa. First a striking raptor - the PALE CHANTING GOSHAWK.

Next, is the cryptic KAROO KORHAAN - this time a male fluffed up prior to display.

Lastly, the beautifully marked DOUBLE-BANDED COURSER - a member of the shorebird family that loves arid sandy plains.


The year 2011 began with a quick scan of the bird feeders. Would the first bird of the year be a House Finch? or a House Sparrow? or something more exotic? Incredibly a thorough scan of the feeders and trees didn't turn up a single bird! Checking another window produced the reason why... a first year COOPER'S HAWK was perched right next to the feeders! What a great bird to start the year off and certainly this is the first time I have tallied this species to start out a year. Hopefully it bodes well for a year of high quality birds and birding!

As I filled the feeders up I was surprised to hear several COMMON REDPOLLS calling from overhead. They didn't seem to land but we'll keep an eye on the nyger feeder over the next couple of days. Hopefully they are the vanguard of a bigger movement.