Many people think that birding is best kept for the summer months, when the migrants have arrived and when the birds are at their most active. During the July holidays we proved that birding can be just as successful in winter as in summer. Our trip started off at Mogalakwena River Lodge, an area well known for its sightings of African Finfoot. My dad and I took turns scanning the river from the deck overlooking the river hoping to see this elusive bird. After a while it became somewhat of a bogey bird but on the last morning our efforts paid off when it finally showed itself.
Our next stop was Punda Maria in the northern Kruger National Park. On the way there we saw our first returning migrant, a Red-breasted Swallow, at Waterpoort. On our way to Punda Maria I received an email that a pair of African Skimmers had been sighted at Makuleke Dam about 26km from Punda Maria Gate. We set off early the next morning in the hope of bagging this mega-tick in South Africa. The morning started well with my second lifer for the trip, an African Cuckoo Hawk near the Punda Maria gate. The day turned out to be a lucky day as we not only saw the pair of African Skimmers (lifer #3), but also Grey-rumped Swallows (lifer #4) and a few other nice birds such as a lone Great-White Pelican, a few White-fronted Plovers and Temminck's Coursers. We also got two more migrants on the day, namely Lesser and Greater Striped Swallows. The next day we got yet another intra-African migrant, Klaas's Cuckoo, at Dzundzwini Hill near Punda Maria.Back at the camp we were treated by a fly-over of a few Grey-headed Parrots - always nice to see. No trip to the north is complete without a visit to Pafuri and once again it proved to be very productive, with Mottled (lifer #5 and my 600th species in southern Africa) and Bohm's Spinetails, African Yellow White-Eye (lifer #6) and African Paradise-flycatchers. Overall our trip was a great success for mid-winter birding with good sightings of some real regional specials and it was great to see the first few returning migrants already.
Images by Daniel Engelbrecht