The great thing about KrugerNational Park is its wide variety of wildlife and birds, all easily accessible and easily photographed. When you are not photographing wildlife, there are birds by the ton and hardly a few minutes’ passes without something interesting to aim the cameras at. The camps within the park are comfortable and a birders paradise. So even when resting after a long hot drive, it’s hard to rest.
One of the most common birds in the park are Lilac Breasted Rollers that seem to be perched facing into the wind on every second bush next to the road. They are so common that after a while one tends to ignore them and drive past. However, whilst some will stay perched, most will fly off if you stop too close. This provides an excellent opportunity to photograph their absolutely stunning blue wings in flight. Once you get one shot like the one at the top of the page, its game on to try and get more! One tip though, make sure you have plenty of free card memory…you are going to need it!
The other great thing about Kruger is its raptors. They are there for the taking, and hardly a day will pass without the opportunity to photograph these magnificent birds either resting on an exposed branch or circling the thermals above. In many cases it is possible to get good shots out of the car window as was the case with the following shots of a Brown Snake Eagle as it circled low trying to find a thermal.
One of Africa’s great birds of prey is the African Fish eagle. Its haunting call is a pleasure to hear and carries for miles. One morning, early, we set off to see if we could find a lion, and just out of the camp came across this fish eagle perched on a dead tree above the last muddy remnants of a waterhole. The bird was trying to warm itself in the early sun, providing a fantastic photo opportunity.
In the air these birds are equally majestic and I really like these shots of one taken on a last flight round a waterhole as the sun was setting. As I tracked it round I was half hoping it would make a last fishing dive into the waterhole but my luck was not in as it flew off into the sunset.
Probably the most majestic of all of Krugers raptors has to be the Bateleur Eagle. The adults are a stunning blend of rich red, deep rust brown and black. They are found throughout the park and are fairly easily photographed. Unfortunately, despite many attempts, I’ve yet to get a decent shot of one in flight. But on the other hand, I suppose we have to leave something for the next trip!
Shortly before we exited the park on our way home we came accross a pair of adults and one young fledgling perched high on exposed branches not too far off the road. Proud parents of one of the truely wonderful great birds of Africa.
I also particularly like the following shot of what I think is a juvenile Bateleur Eagle. It was perched high in a tree and when we stopped to photograph it, it took off almost right towards me. There was no time to adjust camera settings and I had to just shoot. The outcome is some blurred wing movement, but overall a very nice photograph.
Another fairly common smaller raptor is the Black Shouldered Kite. These guys can be found almost everywhere, but seem to be more predominant in the northern reaches of the park where they are often spotted sitting on exposed branches next to the road. As with all the birds of Kruger, a soft, steady approach yeilds some great shots.
Surprisingly each trip we have made to Kruger we have managed to come away with a few shots of various Owls. The first for this trip was a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, or Giant Eagle Owl as it’s commonly known, which obligingly perched on an exposed branch very close to the road resulting in a nice classic photo of this great bird.
Ok, so here goes with some post posting editing….! Thanks to a heads up from Graham Kelly who correctly identified the owl below as a Pearl Spotted Owl and not an African Scops Owl as I originally wrote, I have to change some text here. This owl was perched on a fairly low branch next to one of the lodges in Shimuwini Bush Camp. The occupants of the lodge seeing the lens on our camera called us over and pointed the bird out to us. We all assumed it was a Scops Owl, and I never checked the bird book. The positive thing about this change is it means another lifer to the bird list. Thanks Graham, appreciate the comment!
Some of the great savanna birds of Africa can be found in the open grasslands of central and southern Kruger. The biggest is of course the Ostrich, but today to close this blog I decided to show one of Africa’s truely great savanna birds of prey, a Secretary Bird. It’s not the best shot, because it was a very long distance effort, but its a capture for the files any way you look at it. These long legged birds are simply elegant as they strol the grass looking for insects and small rodents.