12 July 2014 Mopani To Satara
Our start this morning was early as we were moving to another camp. This time we were to spend three nights in Satara. After three days of clear skies but chilly weather we found that we needed to discard our jerseys quite early in the day as we headed further south. The game viewing also improved and today was one of the best birding days we’ve had this trip.
After packing up, we had coffee and rusks and set of just after 6:15. The temperature was 5 degrees C but rose to 32 later in the day.
We started on the H1-6 and Our first sighting was buffalo then a Swainson’s francolin. We then did the S50 loop and found Kori Bustards at the waterhole as well as Kitlitz plover and Monotonous lark. Later we found red-headed weavers in their non breeding plumage.
Together with zebra we found some more Tsessebe which are known to be in the Northern part of the park. There were 8 and they were looking good.
When we turned onto the H1-6 again we increased our speed to almost 50 the limit on the tar roads.
Suddenly I spotted a small bird of prey hiding among the leaves of a tree on Earl and Peter’s side of the road. (We are all supposed to keep our eyes open on our own side of the road!) I yelled stop and E had to reverse until I found the spot. They could not believe I’d seen it at that speed and on the other side of the road! It was a little Shikra – a ‘lifer’ for all of us.
When we crossed the bridge over the river we got out of the car between the yellow lines and looked down on the river bed. We found a Saddle-billed stork and two spoonbills sharing a drink as well as white-fronted plovers, some little swifts flying about and a friendly African Pied Wagtail who came right up to our feet on the bridge.
At 9:30 we arrived at Letaba and had just over an hour’s break there. Breakfast this time was perfect although we had to wait a while before it was served.
After breakfast it was onto the H1-5 where we found an elephant enjoying a branch full of leaves.
Then a hugely exciting spot for us – two birds of prey which at first we thought were Martial Eagles but on closer inspection we found that they were African Hawk Eagles – a really special sighing One was high in a dead tree and the other in another dead tree in front of it.
Our next road was the S89. As we went into a dip in the road Heather spotted a nest and asked Earl to stop so we could see if anything was in it – we all saw it at once – a Martial Eagle in a very awkward viewing position. Earl managed to get some good shots. Note its full crop.
We wondered why we were not seeing Vereaux’s Eagle-owl as it is resident in the park. Heather read up on it and discovered that this is their breeding season so we started paying more attention to nests – they use other birds’ nests instead of making their own. This paid off and Heather was the first to find a Vereaux’s at the top of a tree, hunkering down in its nest. This was on a long dirt road to Satara and while on it we hardly saw another car but the birding and game viewing was good.
We found a few pipits and larks.
Ground hornbills kept company with a few zebra.
Kori Bustards were quite common as were korhaan
The lilac breasted roller is a common but beautiful bird and poses willingly to have its portrait taken. But its cousin is not as pretty but less common so we were thrilled to find him a couple of times. I even managed to get him in flight.
At Satara there were plenty of elephants and other game at the waterhole. It seems that we will be having a good time here. We enjoy everything about The Park but would really like to see a leopard. Hopefully our luck will change now that we are back in the South.