South Africa - June 2010 - World Cup Birding and Wildlife Tour

Published by Lawson's Birding (leon AT

Participants: Leon Marais, Terry and Robert from Montreal, Canada.


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Crested Barbet
Crested Barbet
Lilac-breasted Roller
Lilac-breasted Roller
Goliath Heron
Goliath Heron

Tour Summary (full report and images available as PDF dwonload from: Lawson's Birding and Wildlife Tours; Trip Reports)

Photo acknowledgements: Leon Marais

Temperature Range: 3 - 28 Degrees Celsius

Total Birds Seen: 150

Total Mammals Seen: 22

Trip Breakdown

Day 1: Sunday, 20th June 2010 – Otter’s Den
Route: White River to Otter’s Den.
Weather: clear and mild.
Temperature range: 17 - 25˚C.

Day 2: Monday, 21st June 2010 – Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge
Route: Otter’s Den to Balule Nature Reserve via the Abel Erasmus Pass.
Weather: cold to start warming up during the day, clear sky.
Temperature range: 3 - 26˚C.

Day 3: Tuesday, 22nd June 2010 ~ Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge
Route: Mohlabetsi to Kruger National Park via Orpen Gate.
Weather: cold to start warming up during the day, clear sky.
Temperature range: 5 - 27˚C.

Day 4: Wednesday, 23rd June 2010 ~ Nkorho Bush Lodge
Route: Morning birding at Mohlabetsi; Sabi Sand Game Reserve via the Blydepoort Dam.
Weather: cold to start warming up during the day, clear sky.
Temperature range: 6 - 27˚C.

Day 5: Thursday, 24th June 2010 ~ Nkorho Bush Lodge
Route: Nkorho to Kruger National Park via Orpen Gate.
Weather: cold to start warming up during the day, clear sky.
Temperature range: 6 - 28˚C.

Day 6: Friday, 25th June 2010 ~ Nkorho Bush Lodge
Route: Nkorho to Hazyview; Kruger National Park via Phabeni Gate.
Weather: cold to start warming up during the day, clear sky.
Temperature range: 6 - 28˚C.

Day 7: Saturday, 36th June 2010 ~ Gecko Lodge, Hazyview
Route: Hazyview to Kruger / Mpumalanga International Airport.
Weather: cold to start warming up during the day, clear sky.
Temperature range: 4 - 26˚C.


Day 1: Sunday, 20th June 2010 – Otter’s Den

I met up with Terry and Robert at Kruger / Mpumalanga International Airport amid a throng of eager Italian and New Zealand soccer fans and soon we had the vehicle loaded and were on our way northwards via the R40 to Otter’s Den on the Blyde River. We had a refreshment stop en-route and also pulled over near the Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation centre where a vulture restaurant attracts scavenging birds and we recorded Cape Vulture and Marabou Stork as some of the fist birds of the trip (Cattle Egret, Long-crested Eagle and African Hawk Eagle being the first three to be exact). We arrived at Otter’s Den in the mid-afternoon and recorded Collared Sunbird while ferrying our things across the suspension bridge over the Blyde River. Shortly afterwards, while Terry and Robert were having a refreshing beer, I spotted a male African Finfoot from the bridge and called them over for a look at this elusive and sough-after species. Later on we went for a walk in the riverine forest but it was rather unproductive, with only fleeting glimpses of Sombre Greenbul, Green-backed Cameroptera, Southern Boubou and Black-backed Puffback. We then had some time to relax in our rooms before dinner. After dark the forest came alive with the duetting calls of African Wood Owls and the wail of Thick-tailed Bushbabies and we were treated to a view of a pair of Wood Owls in the large tree in front of the lodge.

Bird of the Day: Long-crested Eagle

Day 2: Monday, 21st June 2010 – Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge

After a cold night we met up at around 7:00 AM for a birding walk before breakfast. The forested section heading downstream from the lodge was once again rather quite in terms of birds but when we emerged into the sun in the open areas adjacent to the forest we started to rack up the birds in quick succession. Species recorded included Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Speckled and Red-faced Mousebirds, Black-collared Barbet, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black-headed Oriole, White-throated Robin-Chat, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Long-billed Crombec, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Blue Waxbill, Cape White-eye, Spectacled Weaver, Red-billed Quealea, White-winged Widowbird (non-breeding plumage), African and Red-billed Firefinches and others. With the day warming up nicely after the cold start we headed back for a wonderful breakfast at Otter’s Den and then packed, trekked back across the suspension bridge and headed on up the Abel Erasmus Pass to meet up with Michael, the falcon man, who pointed out the male Taita Falcon high up on the cliff face. Other birds seen at the stop were Cape Vulture, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Red-winged Starling and Rock Martin. After viewing the falcon we headed back down the pass, through the town of Hoedspruit and on to Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge in the Balule Nature Reserve. After arriving we had lunch and then Terry and Robert elected to spend the afternoon in camp, birding and watching the soccer on TV. In the evening we met up and had a great dinner around the open fire while making plans for some intense birding the following day. Other species recorded for the day included some typical ‘bushveld’ birds such as Southern White-crowned Shrike, Lilac-breasted Roller, Burchell’s Starling, Red-billed, African Grey and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills, Helmeted Guineafowl and others.

Bird of the Day: Black-collared Barbet.

Day 3: Tuesday, 22nd June 2010 ~ Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge

In order to maximise the birding we decided to head into the Kruger National Park via Orpen Gate for a day of birding. We arrived at the gate as the sun was breaking over the eastern horizon and were soon birding our way through the vast Kruger National Park. We took the long dirt road route via Talamati Bush Camp to the Muzandzeni Picnic Site where we had some coffee and breakfast before continuing on to Satara Rest Camp for lunch. Birds recorded for the day included Tawny and Martial Eagles, Bateleur, Brown Snake-Eagle, White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Crested and Natal Francolins, Swainson’s Spurfowl, Red-crested Korhaan, Double-banded Sandgrouse, African Green Pigeon, Brown-headed Parrot, Burchell’s Coucal, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Striped Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Crested Barbet, Sabota Lark, Arrow-marked Babbler, African Stonechat, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Magpie Shrike, Brubru, Red-billed Oxpecker, Golden-breasted Bunting and many others. Animals however were rather scarce in these broad-leaved areas and we only managed to record one old buffalo bull and an elephant (in addition to the usual plethora of herbivores such as Giraffe, Impala, Burchell’s Zebra and others). After a late lunch at Satara we headed back to camp and arrived in the late afternoon, with time to unwind before dinner around the fire once again.

Bird of the Day: Crested Barbet (above in photograph).

Day 4: Wednesday, 23rd June 2010 ~ Nkorho Bush Lodge

Our morning activity at Mohlabetsi consisted of a dedicated birding drive in an open Land Rover with lodge manager Tony Williamson. We headed out early under cool and fresh conditions and spent the next three and a half hours driving around slowly and recorded species such as Purple Roller, Green Wood-hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, African Hoopoe, Namaqua Dove, Fiscal Flycatcher (a first record of this species on the property for Tony), Marico Flycatcher, Pale Flycatcher, Southern Black Flycatcher, Cardinal and Bearded Woodpecker, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Southern Black Tit, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and others. We had a wonderful coffee stop with the entire northern arm of the Drakensberg lying crystal clear to the south-west and the sun providing a nice warm glow. We then headed back to the lodge for a hearty breakfast and then got ready to depart for our next port-of-call in the Sabie Sand Game Reserve. We left in the late morning and took a detour via the Blydepoort Dam, spotting a female African Finfoot on one of the river crossings. Bird-wise it was quiet however and we headed on for a lunch stop at a small pub near Klaserie before heading on to the lodge. We arrived in the late afternoon and had time to relax and enjoy the peaceful surrounds, with a quartet of Black-backed Jackals baying across the clearing in front of camp as the light began to fade, and later on met up at the bar for a drink before dinner in the boma around a roaring log fire.

Bird of the Day: Purple Roller (above in photograph).

Day 5: Thursday, 24th June 2010 ~ Nkorho Bush Lodge

We made plans for an early departure from Nkorho on another day trip into Kruger, and the pre-dawn darkness saw us loaded up and on out way to Orpen Gate. This time we headed straight in to Satara, seeing a Tawny Eagle and African Hawk-Eagle in a tree next to the road and a male Cheetah not long afterwards before arriving in camp for a bite to eat. We then headed on to the dry plains to the north-east of camp. New birds seen included Black Crake, African Mourning Dove, African Scops Owl, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Desert Cisticola, African Pipit, Wattled Starling, Cape Glossy Starling, Green-winged Pytilia, Spurwing Goose and others. At Gudzani Dam we saw large pods of Hippopotami sunning themselves on the mud banks side by side with large Nile Crocodiles, several Elephant bulls and a single Lioness. We road back along the Nwanetsi creek produced several herds of Elephant and a single Spotted Hyena who came tearing across the road in front of us, the reason for his haste not clear to us. Once again we arrived back at camp in the late afternoon and had it to ourselves while the other guests were out on safari. With slightly warmer evenings we enjoyed a superb dinner around the fire before retiring in anticipation of our final full day of birding (and a good one it was to be).

Bird of the Day: African Hawk-Eagle

Day 6: Friday, 25th June 2010 ~ Nkorho Bush Lodge

Once again we were up early and left the Sabi Sand Game Reserve with all our luggage and drove on to Hazyview, where we dropped off the trailer and luggage and promptly headed into the Kruger National Park via Phabeni Gate. The habitat here is slightly different to that we’d explored around Satara and we hoped to rack up a last few species for the final day of the tour. We birded our way eastwards towards Skukuza, stopping off at Nyamundwa Dam where we recorded our first water birds of the tour including White-breasted Cormorant, African Darter, Grey Heron, Pied Kingfisher and African Spoonbill. Later on we stopped off at the Lake Panic bird hide, which was very productive as usual. New species seen and photographed included African Jacana, Purple, Grey and Goliath Herons, Pied Kingfisher, African Darter, Water Thick-knee and several Hippopotami. With stomachs rumbling we headed on to the Skukuza Gold Club for breakfast, where we saw species such as Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Ashy Flycatcher, White-fronted Bee-eater, Black Crake, African Jacana, Golden-tailed Woodpecker and others while we waited for our meal. Afterwards we took a short drive along the Sabie River before turning around and heading back out via Phabeni Gate and on to Gecko Lodge in Hazyview to unwind a bit before dinner. New raptors for the day included Dark-chanting Goshawk, Lizard Buzzard and Gabar Goshawk.

Bird of the Day: White-fronted Bee-eater.

Day 7: Saturday, 36th June 2010 ~ Gecko Lodge, Hazyview

As Terry and Robert had an early flight out of KMIA we didn’t have much time for birding on this last morning (though there was a Giant Kingfisher perched over a small pond near the parking lot) and after packing the vehicle and having breakfast we left and drove straight on to the airport where they caught a flight on to Bloemfontein for one of the WC Soccer matches.


The species mentioned in the report are only some of the species seen at each locality. Please refer to detailed checklists at end of the report for all species seen on this specific tour.

Lawson's Birding and Wildlife Tours

Species Lists

White-breasted Cormorant
African Darter
Grey Heron
Goliath Heron
Purple Heron
Cattle Egret
Green-backed Heron
Marabou Stork
Yellow-billed Stork
Hadeda Ibis
African Spoonbill
Egyptian Goose
Spur-winged Goose
Hooded Vulture
Cape Vulture (E)
White-backed Vulture
Lappet-faced Vulture
Black-shouldered Kite
Tawny Eagle
African Hawk-Eagle
Long-crested Eagle
Martial Eagle
Brown Snake-Eagle
African Fish Eagle
Lizard Buzzard
Gabar Goshawk
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Taita Falcon
Crested Francolin
Natal Francolin (NE)
Swainson's Spurfowl (NE)
Helmeted Guineafowl
Black Crake
African Finfoot
Red-crested Korhaan
African Jacana
Three-banded Plover
Crowned Lapwing
Blacksmith Lapwing
Water Thick-Knee
Double-banded Sandgrouse (NE)
Rock Dove
African Mourning Dove
Cape Turtle-Dove
Laughing Dove
Namaqua Dove
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove
African Green-Pigeon
Brown-headed Parrot
Grey Go-away-bird
Burchell’s Coucal (NE)
African Wood Owl
African Scops-Owl
Pearl-spotted Owlet
Fiery-necked Nightjar
African Palm Swift
Speckled Mousebird
Red-faced Mousebird
Pied Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Striped Kingfisher
White-fronted Bee-eater
Little Bee-eater
Lilac-breasted Roller
Purple Roller
African Hoopoe
Green Wood-Hoopoe
Common Scimitarbill
African Grey Hornbill
Red-billed Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Black-collared Barbet
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
Crested Barbet
Brown-backed Honeybird
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Cardinal Woodpecker
Bearded Woodpecker
Sabota Lark (NE)
Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark
Wire-tailed Swallow
Rock Martin
Brown-throated Martin
Fork-tailed Drongo
Black-headed Oriole
Pied Crow
Southern Black Tit
Arrow-marked Babbler
Dark-capped Bulbul
Sombre Greenbul
Mocking Cliff-Chat
African Stonechat
White-throated Robin-Chat (E)
White-browed Scrub-Robin
Yellow-breasted Apalis
Long-billed Crombec
Burnt-necked Eremomela
Green-backed Camaroptera
Desert Cisticola
Rattling Cisticola
Red-faced Cisticola
Tawny-flanked Prinia
Ashy Flycatcher
Southern Black Flycatcher
Marico Flycatcher (NE)
Pale Flycatcher
Fiscal Flycatcher (E)
Chinspot Batis
African Pied Wagtail
African Pipit
Yellow-throated Longclaw
Common Fiscal
Magpie Shrike
Southern Boubou (E)
Black-backed Puffback
Black-crowned Tchagra
Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike
White-crested Helmet-Shrike
Sthern White-crowned Shrike (NE)
Wattled Starling
Burchell’s Starling (NE)
Cape Glossy Starling
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Red-winged Starling
Red-billed Oxpecker
White-bellied Sunbird
Scarlet-chested Sunbird
Amethyst Sunbird
Collared Sunbird
Cape White-eye (E)
Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver
House Sparrow
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
Spectacled Weaver
Village Weaver
Lesser Masked-Weaver
Red-billed Quelea
White-winged Widowbird
Green-winged Pytilia
African Firefinch
Red-billed Firefinch
Blue Waxbill
Common Waxbill
Bronze Mannikin
Yellow-fronted Canary
Golden-breasted Bunting

Mammal List:

Baboon, Chacma
Duiker, Common
Elephant, African
Giraffe, Southern
Hare, Scrub
Hyaena, Spotted
Jackal, Black-backed
Mongoose, Dwarf
Mongoose, Slender
Monkey, Vervet
Squirrel, Tree
Waterbuck, Common
Wildebeest, Blue
Zebra, Burchell's