Satara 15-16th Dec

Satara Sat 15th Dec

The rain clouds have disappeared completely as we make our way southward to our favourite Sweni Road (S126). We pause for coffee at the start of the road waiting for the sun to rise at 4.55am, The first 8Km of this road is exquisite and cannot be missed in the soft morning sunlight.

There seem to be a few raptors around this morning. First a Fish Eagle and then a flock of Amur Falcons that are a bit distant as they drink at one of the many pools of water lying in the open veld.

A Juvenile Steppe (Common) Buzzard is sunning himself.

But the star of the show was yet to come. I have on occasions seen the male Red-Crested Korhaan “rocket” skyward and then “parachute” back to earth as part of his courting ritual. I once vaguely saw a reddish feather at the back of one’s head but the term “red-crested” has always puzzled me a bit. Over the many, many times I have visited Kruger I have never witnessed what we saw a couple of Km’s short of the Welverdiend water point. A car had stopped ahead of us but then moved on and Gareth immediately picked out a pair of Red-crested Korhaans mating some 30m off the road in the grass. The following rather enlarged photos show clearly the remarkable transformation that comes over the normally drab male bird. The red crest is amazingly prominent with trailing, spidery feathers dangling down his neck. When behaving normally, how does he manage to hide this incredible plumage?    I have enlarged the photo to  give a close-up shot of this rather spectacular face. 

It is always thrilling to see something new in Kruger but who would have thought that our normally bland Red-crested Korhaan could put on a show that was worthy of a David Attenborough “Birds of Paradise” special. The eccentric behaviour of all the Korhaan family really endear them to me. Always interesting.

More coffee at Welverdiend and we push on to the Mzandzeni Picnic Spot where Gareth produces a ‘fry up”.

Over the fence knob-billed ducks are feeding in the many pools of water.

Thereafter the day warms rapidly and we return to camp and the swimming pool.

Late evening we travel down the Nwanetsi H6 Road but despite the green flush of new grass, cover is scarce and there is little activity.    

Satara Sun 16th Dec

A brisk south wind comes up during the night catching us a little unawares with a flapping awning. By 4.25am it has dropped but it is cloudy and dark as we join the queue at the gate. It is scarcely believable but we are number sixteen in the line. 

We are going down the brilliant S100 Nwanetsi River road today but approaching the river we stop for coffee to let the traffic time to disperse. Again large pools of water stand in the veld but the grass generally is short. As usual there is non-stop activity along this road which can offer up everything. We see two Side-striped jackal which is now becoming a regular sighting. Snippets of interest occur along the length of this beautiful road as the cloud cover starts to break up and the wind veers around to the north.

It is evident that it was the eastern areas of Kruger that had last week’s rain.

At the bottom end of the road Renette spies a leopard making his way through the grass but the angle is all wrong and I don’t get a photo as he crosses the road just in front of us. In typical leopard fashion he slowly makes his way deeper into the bush where we lose him.

Gudzani Dam is bone dry which shows that its catchment area to the north and west of Satara has received little rain. And yet the nearby Nwanetsi and Sweni rivers have both recently flowed strongly.

The weather warms rapidly and we have our customary lunchtime swim in a crowded pool.

This afternoon we drive out west towards Orpen to Bobbejaanskrans on the banks of the Timbavati River. Surprisingly Nsemani Dam is nearly dry with a Saddle-billed Stork fishing for pickings in the small pool that remains.

The veld gets drier the further west we go and the Timbavati has not flowed at all. We meet a delightful young couple at the Bobbejanskrans lookout where we enjoy coffee before slowly making our way back to camp.

That marks the end of the visit with Gareth and Sarah who have added so much to the enjoyment of our trip. Gareth with his ability to put the Quantum in the right place for me to get a good photo and Sarah with her amazing sketches. We are very blessed to be having a girl of her quality joining the family when she and Gareth marry in Cape Town in March. As a first trip to Kruger Sarah has done so well winning the “spot of the trip” award for the leopard on the Salietjie road.