Pennant-winged Nightjars in Southern Kruger

Pennant-winged Nightjar 3
Yes you read that correctly: we have Pennant-winged Nightjars in Southern Kruger, to be more precise very close to Numbi gate on the Nkambeni Concession.
Most birders will be familiar with this iconic, awe inspiring bird, the Pennant-winged Nightjar, Macrodipteryx vexillarius. The bird is an intra-African breeding migrant that moves down to South Africa from Central and West Africa. Birdwatchers take the annual trip up to Punda Maria rest camp in Kruger in November as this is possibly the best place in South Africa to see the bird.
Imagine the excitement when I woke to hear news that a male had been seen displaying with full pennants very close to Numbi gate on the Nkambeni Concession, some 2km west of Albasini road(S3). The bird was spotted by Alision Drake from Nkambeni Safari Camp while on a sunset drive. I have had a look into previous records and there are records of the birds been seen around Pretoriuskop Camp and around Shabeni granite Rock. I had to make a plan to see this bird as it’s been a bird that is always such a treat to see and view.
We managed to get a drive to go out on Friday the 17th of November 2018 to see this amazing bird. I felt like a kid in a candy shop due to the excitement. Good distractions on the drive included: Bushveld Pipit, Violet-backed Starling, Cardinal Woodpecker and a female Leopard slinking through the grass with the sun setting behind her. The stuff dreams are made of in my opinion!!
We positioned ourselves on the rock where the male was seen displaying, and after a nervous wait of about 20 minutes, the call came out, “Here it is! Look!” Boy oh boy we were treated to a spectacle with the bird flying overhead, landing on the rock just in front of us and displaying on the rock. This sighting ranks as one of my top bird sighting I have had in my career. To have this elegant, awe inspiring bird flying overhead and in front of you with its full, long pennants on show is an amazing, mind blowing experience that will live with me for a long time. I was so blown away by the sheer size of the bird and how amazing it is I eventually stopped taking photos of the bird and just enjoyed having the bird displaying for us. We had 2 different males displaying for females.
It’s amazing to know that these birds seem to be breeding and are comfortable in Southern Kruger as the habitat in the area is suitable, and just shows how important the Kruger National Park is at protecting habitats for our Birdlife and Wildlife. I am hoping that these birds hang around and that a trip to see these birds might become regular for us in November in Southern Kruger.

Written by: Marc Cronje (Nature Travel Guide)

Of cranes and mountains

I recently ticked off two of my bucket list items when I travelled to magical India on a Nature Travel safari. I saw both the world’s tallest flying bird and the world’s highest mountain range in one trip!

Sarus Crane
The Sarus Crane (Antigone Antigone) is at 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) the world’s tallest flying bird, and was a main contender for title of India’s national bird, eventually losing out to the Indian Peafowl. It is an elegant bird with mainly white-grey colouring and a bright red head, throat and upper neck. It is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and is considered sacred by Indian people. It was a magical experience seeing these birds in their natural swampy habitat in Uttar Pradesh, foraging for reptiles and plant matter. It was easy to see why the Sarus Crane is on most lists of India’s most beautiful birds.
Just a day later I was standing next to the road in the small town of Pangot, awestruck as the snow-capped Himalayas loomed large in front of me. The Himalayas include over fifty mountains exceeding 7,200 metres (23,600 ft) in elevation! They are inhabited by over 50 million people and are spread across five countries, separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan plateau. The mountains are considered sacred by many religions in the area, and has had a profound effect on the cultures of the Indian subcontinent. The sheer majesty of this vast natural wonder was astonishing, and I just stood there for an hour trying to take it all in…

Himalayas - India
These two magical experiences were made possible by the team of the Nature Travel group, and can be enjoyed on one of their Nature Travel Birding or Nature Travel Expeditions trips to the diverse country of India.
Written by : Nature Travel Birding client

Finding the most powerful Eagle in Africa

Crowned Eagle 2.jpgAny birder who comes to Africa will know of the Crowned Eagle, Stephanoaetus coronatus.  This mighty bird mainly occurs in our forests in Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia to South Africa and is often seen soaring high above the canopy calling its characteristic kewick-kewick-kewick call. This majestic eagle with its powerful talons preys on small antelope and monkeys and pairs have been documented hunting monkeys cooperatively.
Imagine my excitement when I spotted a juvenile Crowned Eagle along the Sabie River on a recent birding trip in the Kruger National Park with some guests. This was my first sighting in Kruger and the first sighting of the species for our guests on a Nature Travel Birding trip. My heart was pumping and it was amazing to see this normally shy species out in the open for us to admire. We all managed to get cracking views and photos of this amazing bird. It was even more special for one of my guests as he had always wanted to see a Crowned Eagle in the wild. What an exciting and rewarding sighting.
Crowned Eagles are rare in Kruger National Park but are common in the forest plantations just outside the southern part of Kruger and it is believed that birds looking for territory do wander into Kruger National Park on occasion. Why the birds don’t become resident in the Southern part of the park is a mystery as the habitat along the rivers is perfect and prey availability is high. One theory is the competition and pressure from the other large eagles in Kruger, like Martial, Tawny and Fish Eagles.
What is great is to see that the populations of Crowned Eagles are growing as the species is near-threatened and it is great to see juveniles looking for territories and setting up territories to breed.
The joy one gets when looking up into the African sky and seeing a raptor soaring above you is something that every birder should experience and it will stay with you for a long time. Come and experience Africa with us – an amazing adventure awaits!
Written by Nature Travel Guide: Marc Cronje