Trip report: South Africa Fairest Cape to Kruger (January 2014) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Charley Hesse.This was a set departure tour.

January is a fascinating time to visit South Africa and our tour was full of surprises. The weather can be a bit hit and miss although luckily we didn’t lose any time to the rain. Even though we may have missed a couple of endemics due to the breeding season already having passed, other late breeders like Melodious and Dusky Larks would not be seen on a September/October tour. With the beautifully colored bishops & weavers plus the long-tailed whydahs & widowbirds, the sheer volume and diversity of attractive migrants makes the timing of this tour an enticing proposition. The long summer days allow those with the energy to bird to the max and in Kruger we were clocking up 16 hour birding days. The heat in the middle of the day, does however make a good excuse for siestas. We did a good number of night drives and night excursions and were rewarded with some wonderful prizes, like Aardwolf, African Wild Cat, genets and porcupine along with all the Big 5 in Kruger. In fact our total mammal list numbered a whopping 57 species. Birdwise we clocked up over 440sp, remarkable considering there was no pelagic or extension. This total included an impressive 17 larks species, 13 swallows, 12 eagles, 11 cisticolas, 8 bustards, 8 cuckoos and 4 nightjars. The high quality of accommodations and food on the tour was also commented on by all participents and the sheer variety of habitat types, from misty montane forests to fynbos and from the semi-desert of the Karoo to the typically African savannas of Kruger, are mind- blowing. A Tropical Birding trip to South Africa is not one you forget in a hurry.

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