• Birding in Wakkerstroom.
    Eastern SA Endemics 2023

    Birding safari trip report

Eastern South Africa Endemics birding safari 2023 trip report.

Posted by Leon on Fri February 9, 2024 in Trip Reports.

Our Eastern South Africa Endemics birdwatching safari tour took place late last year, delivering a fantastic overall birding and wildlife experience, with over 400 birds species seen, as well as a decent number of mammals. Read the safari trip report below.

Eastern South Africa Endemics Safari Trip Report.

Above: Ground Woodpecker, Sani Pass.

This birding safari tour is focused on the endemics and near-endemics of the eastern half of South Africa and, when coupled with Western SA Endemics, gives participants a shot at seeing most of the country's substantial number of endemics and near-endemics.

Access the PDF trip report and species list here - Eastern SA Endemics 11-2023.

Here's a breakdown of the main species seen at each of the destinations:

1. Underberg and Sani Pass:

The Sani Pass day trip was a highlight as usual, delivering a number of important birds such as Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Bush Blackcap, Barratt's Warbler, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Lammergeier, Southern Bald Ibis, Cape Vulture, Bokmakierie, Mountain Wheatear, Large-billed Lark, Karoo Scrub Robin, Sickle-winged Chat, Grey Tit, Layard’s Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Mountain Pipit, Yellow Canary, Ground Woodpecker, Sentinel and Cape Rock Thrushes, and plenty more! Oh, and we saw Blue Swallow on day 1, on the way to Underberg.

2. Eshowe and Dlinza Forest:

We 'cleaned up' here with Spotted Ground Thrush, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon and Lemon Dove, as well as Green Barbet and Palm-nut Vulture, all of the main target species for the area, plus many more such as the exquisite Narina Trogon.

3. St Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park:

This superb birding and wildlife venue delivered a number of great birds, such as Southern Crested Guineafowl, Livingstone’s Turaco, White-eared Barbet, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Black-bellied Starling, Purple-banded Sunbird, Woodwards’ Batis, Green Malkoha, Pink-throated Twinspot, Rudd’s Apalis, African Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck and plenty more.

4. Tembe Elephant Park:

Moving on, we had a wonderful stay at Tembe, seeing some great birds such as Bateleur, Purple-banded Sunbird, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Neergard’s Sunbird, Narina Trogon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, African Broadbill, Bearded Scrub Robin, Martial Eagle, Gorgeous Bushshrike and many others, plus of course numerous encounters with Elephant, Lion etc.

5. Wakkerstroom:

With the assistance of local bird guide David Nkosi we did pretty well in this endemics hot-spot. Notable birds seen included Blue Korhaan, Eastern Long-billed Lark, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Red-winged and Grey-winged Francolins, Cape Longclaw, Horus Swift, Ant-eating and Buff-streaked Chats, Mountain Wheatear, Grey Crowned and Blue Cranes, Black-winged Lapwing, Southern Bald Ibis, Secretarybird, Lanner Falcon, Pink-billed Lark, Eastern Clapper Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, South African Cliff Swallow, Pale-crowned, Cloud, Zitting and Wing-snapping Cisticolas, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Long-tailed Widowbird and many others.

6. Kruger National Park:

We stayed for four nights at three different camps, namely Berg-en-Dal and Skukuza in the south-west, and Satara in the south-central region. As is standard for the park, we saw plenty of birds and also had some great game viewing as an added bonus. Birds seen included Eastern Nicator, Swainson’s Spurfowl, Grey Go-away Bird, Red-crested Korhaan, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Goliath Heron, Hamerkop, Tawny and Lesser-spotted Eagles, Southern Ground Hornbill, Striped and Woodland Kingfishers, Brubru, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Red-faced Cisticola, Steirling’s Wren Warbler, Burchell’s Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, White-browed Robin Chat, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Bushveld Pipit, Knob-billed Duck, Burchell’s Coucal, African Cuckoo, Spotted Eagle Owl (on a nest with young), Green Wood Hoopoe, Southern Yellow-billed and African Grey Hornbills, Giant Kingfisher, Magpie Shrike, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Marabou Stork, Secretarybird, Lappet-faced Vulture, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Red-faced Mousebird, Lesser Kestrel, Flappet Lark, Desert Cisticola, Lark-like Bunting and many more. Wildlife highlights included a great Leopard sighting and a Cheetah with a fresh kill.

7. Magoebaskloof:

The penultimate stop was Magoebaskloof in the escarpment to the east of Kruger. Target birds seen here included Magpie Mannikin (en-route from Kruger), Cape Parrot, Knysna Turaco, Chorister Robin Chat, Olive Bush Shrike, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and a number of others.

8. Polokwane:

Our final stop was at Polokwane. Unfortunately we missed the main target, Short-clawed Lark (heard but not seen!), but we put a number of 'arid thornveld' species on the list to take us over the 400 species mark. New birds seen included Crimson-breasted Shrike, Black-chested Prinia, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Marico Flycatcher, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Ashy Tit, Violet-eared Waxbill, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Cape Penduline Tit, Black Cuckoo and others, with a few new ones on the last morning in Johannesburg to take us to 403 species seen (by the guide and at least one of the participants).