Caravelle Cruising in Kruger October 2011 Day 6 & 7

FRIDAY 21 OCTOBER 2011 PUNDA MARIA

We pack plenty of snacks, juice a flask and sandwiches as one cannot buy food at Pafuri or Crook’s corner where we are heading today. We see lots of bird – always in parties – suddenly gathering and creating a fuss then just as quickly dispersing into the silence. It is at first quite overcast so the light is not good for photography but we see brown-headed parrot, white-fronted bee-eaters, red-billed firefinch, blue waxbills, common waxbills, emerald spotted dove, wire-tailed swallow, among other more common species.

The scenery in the north is just too beautiful and it is great to see baobab trees in various stages of leafiness.

At Pafuri a harrier-hawk (gymnogene) flies overhead, we see a red-chested sunbird and a Bennet’s woodpecker’s loud knocking got us looking for and finding him in a nearby tee.
There are lots of monkeys in attendance trying to steal our hot cross buns and they are quite aggressive. This is because homo idiotus thinks it’s cute to feed them. We hear a red-chested cuckoo (Piet-my-vrou) and a fish eagle. We also see a skaapsterker rapidly cross our path – which freaks me out – and nyala are grazing on the river bank.

En route to Crook’s Corner we find two broad-billed rollers in a tree. In one of the leafy afrits I notice a big bird fly into a tree. “I think it’s a hornbill,” I say “but there is something different about it.” It turns out to be a trumpeter hornbill. He is sitting on the trunk above a hole and clearly feeding his wife! We watch in fascination for a while and he poses beautifully for pictures.

At Crooks’Corner we find two beautiful giant kingfishers, a fish eagle flies by and EEC sees him fly with a fish into some thick foliage. We observe him with our binoculars but photography is impossible.

Other interesting birds are white-fronted lapwings and white-fronted bee-eaters.

A hippo rests in the shallows.

And the crocodiles laze on the sunny bank. One looks particularly scary.

On the way home a huge tusker appears and makes EEC nervous when he comes right up close to the car before crossing behind us.

We arrive back at Punda at 3 o’clock and sit on our stoop to watch birds and other visiting creatures. This mongoose pops up to say hello

In the late afternoon we walk around the camp and visit the hide. There are some impala and buffalo having a drink then a troop of elephants arrive and enjoy themselves in the mud. Just as the light fades dozens of double banded sandgrouse fly in – too bad the light was not good enough to digitally capture them.

SATURDAY 22 OCTOBER 2011 PUNDA MARIA
We make an early start this morning and are on the road by quarter past six. We have not gone far when EEC callsout – Hyena – and there on the side of the road we see him on what looks like a very old carcass of a nyala. We watch him tear at it for a while and then he drags it off and out of sight.

Our first birds are yellow-fronted canaries and as usual where we see one species many come along to join in the fun. A green pigeon tries to hide from us

The yellow-bellied greenbul is not shy

The orange-breasted bushrike teases us with his beautiful call but as soon as we spot him and aim our cameras he flits off before we can take the shot.
This is the area for broad-billed roller and today with the skies being clear we see quite a few of them showing their colours to perfection.

Some birds, though, just love to show off and are not at all camera-shy. A wahberg’s eagle next to a nest catches our attention when he cries out and his mate comes to join him. She stomps in the nest for a few seconds then alights onto the branch next to him. The nest now ready, they decided it is time to do what is needed to be done before an egg or two can be hatched. Afterwards we are delighted to watch a clear show of affection as they kiss and preen each other.

Not long after this exciting stop we find a martial eagle perched high in a tree.

It is good to see groups of animals gathered together in some areas – large groups of kudu, impala and nyala, huge herds of buffalo and elephant and families of warthog among them all. We found one particularly big family of mom, dad and six piglets.

We returned to camp at half past 10 and find a mother and juvenile marabou stork near the staff compound.

We decide to rest during the midday heat. We have a lovely outlook from our cottage and get many feathered visitors. We sit outside relaxing and downloading photographs while grabbing the camera now and then to snap a bird or creature. Last night we had a nagapie, duiker and civet pop in while we were eating supper on the deck.
We go out again at 4 and enjoy some good birding and game viewing. It is fun to find a varied group of species in a clearing dominated by a large tree. Baboons are foraging, feeding their babies and watching their children climb and tumble. 

Nyala and Kudu shared a meal of delicious leaves, impala grazed nearby while their young gambol and play, full of the joys of spring.
Our afternoon highlights are a green-winged pytilia who shows nicely and allows a reasonable portrait to be taken.

Later this red-crested korhaan appears at the side of the road.

I make spaghetti bolognaise for dinner and tomorrow we say goodbye to Punda and make our way to Mopani.

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