Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Monday, 14 December 2015

South Africa 2015

This trip to South Africa was a regular two week package holiday with my wife, travelling to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town. Our trip included some time in the Kruger NP before embarking on a coach journey through Swaziland to visit the battlefields of Rorkes Drift etc. and then whisked off by plane to George to travel through the Cape to taste wine, admire flowers and ultimately to reach the Cape Peninsula and Robben Island. We like to pack it in!

My birding was done primarily in the Kruger but each hotel we stayed in offered a plethora of birds for me to struggle with. South Africa is a paradise where birds are concerned and I saw and missed as many species as I clearly identified which totalled 158.

Out first hotel was a one night stay at the Indaba Hotel on the outskirts of Jo’burg. It was a good place to start as the hotel had a bird list of over 150 species and I spent about 2 hours wandering around the grounds and saw some great birds.

African Wattled Lapwing

Black-collared Barbet 
Blacksmith Lapwing
Cape Sparrow
Crested Barbet
Grey Go-away-bird
Southern Masked Weaver

White-throated Swallow
African Olive Pigeon
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Karoo Thrush
Laughing Dove
Southern Red Bishop
Thick-billed Weaver

The following day we had a brief tour of Jo’burg which appears to be in a state of flux at the moment as they try to improve what appears to be a concrete jungle of a city. We were now on our way to the Kruger and 3 nights at the Hippo Hollow Lodge situated on the edge of the park – I was like a child in a sweet shop by now.


This hotel is aptly named. We weren’t allowed on the lawns after 6pm as Hippos and Crocodiles liked to use the hotel facilities at dusk. You don’t get this at a Premier Inn. So we just sipped cocktails and watched the wildlife from the safety of the bar. Bee-eaters, Giant Kingfishers, Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers and Brown-hooded Kingfishers and Hadeda Ibis were all frequent along the stretch of river by the hotel.

So now to the Kruger NP. We had an early start at 5.30am and it was quite cool even though the noon temperatures would reach the mid thirties so we needed to wear layers and hats etc. Our guide and driver was called Andrew and he would prove to be a master at keeping one eye on the road and the other in the bush.

The Kruger National Park is about the same size as Wales. We were in the lower western part of the park along the Sabie River. Naturally the big 5 were the main attractions for the many who come here (Cape Buffalo, White Rhino, Lion, African Elephant and Leopard)  and we were lucky enough to not only see them all but also Wild Dog, Hyena, Wildebeest, Hippo, Giraffe, Zebra and quite a number of different antelope species. I however was constantly looking for other things!

African Fishing Eagle
Bateleur (Imm.)

Crested Francolin
Goliath Heron
Hooded Vultures
Kori Bustard
Lappet-faced Vulture
Lilac-breasted Roller
Martial Eagle
Pied Kingfisher
Red-billed Oxpecker
Southern Ground Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Tawny Eagle
Pretty much wherever you looked there was something to shoot. I missed most as our jeep jerked and bumped it’s way to the next big game spot. I did of course shoot lots of animal stuff but apart from the Wild Dogs and Leopard, the others after hours of shooting became a bit passé for me. We sat for ages for a pride of lions which was great but they didn’t do anything and after about 50 frames of said lions I wanted something else. Generally, people seem happy with lions and giraffes so I shut up.


African Elephant


Sleeping Hyena





Cape Buffalo

White Rhino

Wild Dog


The skies were always full of birds. If it wasn’t an eagle or vulture then a stork or hornbill would catch my eye. Bee-eaters swung on thorny branches and Fork-tailed Drongos called teasingly from remote bushes. My strategy was to shoot first and look them up later.

Marabou Stork
Crimson-winged Starling

Brown Snake Eagle

White-backed Vulture
From the Johannesburg region, we travelled south through Swaziland on our way to the battlefields of Zululand. Any birding I did was from the road or from the hotel stops along the way. Doing the road stuff is a bit of an issue as you only get fleeting glimpses of birds on wires and trees so I probably missed many great ticks but the hotels always had something interesting to see.

Helmeted Guineafowl
Cape Weaver
Winelands Region

From Johannesburg we flew down to George to begin our exploration of the Western Cape. We began by staying in the winelands region which I particularly took to for some reason. The landscape had completely changed now to a lush, fertile geography that takes your breath away.
African Black Duck

Olive Thrush

Cape Canary

Fiscal Flycatcher

Common Fiscal

Common Fiscal

Cape White-eye
Blue Crane

From the winelands we journeyed on to Cape Town which was a vibrant and very cool city. From here we went to the Cape of Good Hope with it’s incredibly rugged coastline and also visited Robben island to take a picture of Nelson Mandela’s cell (there’s not a lot else to see!)

Rock Hyrax

Hartlaub’s Gull

Swift Tern

African Oystercatcher
African Sacred Ibis
Red-winged Starling
Cape Bunting
African Penguins
African penguin
Table Mountain