After a restful night in Satara Rest Camp we photographed one or two of the birds that were to be seen in and around the gardens, including this superb Bearded Woodpecker, only our second Woodpecker of the trip.
Next we checked out the area outside and around Satara, including the S100 N'wanetsi River Road which is famous for the number and variety of Game and wildlife sightings, perhaps the best in the Park.
We were not disappointed. It was still early morning when we came upon a family of Common Buttonquail. Stephen was lucky to be on the right side of the car and he photographed the female fending off an aggressive snake, fantastic shots. I did manage to capture the male leading his offspring across the road after the thwarted snake attack. he does look a bit stressed out.
This species was once common in Southern Spain where it was known as the Andalucian Hemipode. Hunting and habitat loss have rendered it almost certainly extinct here now and it is increasingly scarce in N. Africa, it might even have gone from there too but they are notoriously difficult to see, being very small and well hidden in its grassland and scrub habitat. It rarely flies and does not flush easily. Anyway we were very lucky indeed to have this wonderful sighting of a quite charming little species. It is interesting that the male incubates the eggs and rears the chicks, the female plays a hunter-gatherer role.
The Red-billed Buffalo Weaver is a fairly common and very large member of the Weaver family. We saw many of them and their colonial nest sites which consist of an enormous mass of thorny twigs. These twigs are divided into separate lodges, each with multiple egg chambers. Each chamber has a smaller nest, typically built by the female and which are composed of grass, leaves, and roots. The whole nest is usually found in a thorny tree or in a windmill near areas inhabited by humans. It is interesting to note that when humans depart from a particular area, so do the Red-billed Buffalo weavers, they prefer the proximity of human habitation.
The Brown Snake Eagle is fairly small as eagles go. It is a fierce predator of snakes though, having good protection against venomous bites including very thick-skinned legs. They will take cobras and other highly venomous species.
Here are a couple of shots of a Purple Roller with an interesting looking insect. It must be a species of grasshopper or cricket which is camouflaged to look like blades of grass. The camouflage didn't work on this occasion.
Here's another look at a female Double-banded Sandgrouse. I wish I had captured a better image of the male with its distinctive double banded head markings, but it was not to be.
The Lanner Falcon is often bred in Europe for falconry as it is easy to keep and train. It can be mistaken for the similar Saker Falcon but the Lanner has a reddish/brown back to the head. They are sometimes crossed with peregrines (perilanners) and they hunt smaller birds on the wing. They have also been observed hunting bats, whch requires considerable speed and agility.
Eventually we made our way to the largest camp in the Kruger, Skukuza. This is more of a small town than a rest camp but they had no accommodation available, so they booked us into Pretoriuskop, another restcamp nearby and the oldest in Kruger.
Before we transferred to Pretoriaskop however we enjoyed some hide watching at nearby Lake Panic. This is a superb spot overlooking a lake which is created by an earthen dam across the Sabie River. It's an idyllic place from which to watch birds for an hour or two, with the added bonus of hippos and a few crocs thrown in.
My favourint esighting from the hide was this stunning Malachite Kingfisher which perched conveniently on a dead treestump in fairly close proximity.
The Malachite Kingfisher is a river species that fishes but also eats insect prey. It was fun watching it snapping at some of the flying insects around its perch.
African Jacanas were wandering aroung the lily pads looking very smart with their pale blue face shields.
A Striated Heron flew in and stood nicely on a dead tree stump. I have photographed this species in S E Asia and in fact it is one of the most widespread of all herons, being found across west Africa to Japan and Australia, and in South America.
A few White-faced Whistling Ducks were swimming around the edges of the lake, mainly remaining under cover of the fringe vegetation, avoiding the attention of predators.
.On the opposite bank a Water Thick-knee bathed in the sunshine. Lake Panic defied its name, we found it was a very pleasant and peaceful place to spend an hour with some nice birds to add to our expanding list.
This was our last night in Kruger National park. We would head back towards Johannesburg in the morning. I took a picture of one of the Helmeted Guinea-fowl that hung around the bungalows in Pretoriuskop hoping for scraps from the guests. Then we retired for the night ready for a long drive next day.
We left after breakfast and exited the Park through Nunbi Gate. I took one last shot of an Impala with a Red-billed Oxpecker on its left ear. Then it was time to go. Kruger had been superb but all good things come to an end.