Birding weekend at Berg en Dal Kruger National Park – By Mike Karantonis

I have just returned from a birding weekend with 50 plus birding enthusiasts from Swaziland hosted by the West Rand Honorary Rangers.

Berg en Dal is a relatively difficult region to bird watch in, as the mountainous terrain makes access limited leaving us with vast tracts of land that are inaccessible. However, as mountains always do, they supply us with wonderful surprizes. For example, on a separate birding safari in December around Berg en Dal, we found two Sooty Falcons. I have not seen this rare and uncommon summer visitor for over 8 years, so this was an unbelievable treat! With this recent find in mind, it created amazing optimism for the birding weekend with the Swazi’s and the Honorary Rangers. Every drive we went out on I encouraged all to keep it in mind that there are some special jewels out there; we just need to look and get lucky!

The bird watching is actually a side-line event to what is actually happening over the weekend. It is a fund razing event where all the funds generated from the weekend are funnelled straight back into conservation. I was blind to the efforts of the honorary rangers for many years until I accepted their invitation as a birding expert to host the group. On the first evening on all of the trips, there is a short video for all to see of what has been achieved and where the donor’s money is being spent. It is absolutely remarkable to see the dedication and passion the honorary rangers have for their environment and their Africa. If all of us just put in a tenth of the effort to conserve through awareness and giving back like they do, our world would be a better place.  So I encourage all to have a deeper look into what they do in order for us to support the soldiers that fight our wildlife battles while we are too busy with our own lives.

The total number of birds seen on the 2 drives and one social drive was 122 which could have been better but included an Osprey, Eurasian Golden Oriole and nesting ground hornbills as highlights. We did however bump into a cheetah with her sub adult cub, a lioness and a big bull black rhino to add to the experience! The weekend had a wonderful wholesome feel to it as it had all the elements needed for a perfect 2 days in the bush. There was bird watching, photography, big game sightings, active conservation, eating and drinking, laughing, beautiful places, wonderful people who believe in our wildlife as true naturalists, rain, sunshine, stars and plans for another trip!

Join us next time as it is a lot more fulfilling than just bird watching 😉