In the pristine Pongola Game Reserve abundant bird-life vies for attention with four of the Big Five.
Words and Pictures: Peter Chadwick, www.peterchadwick.co.za
Pongola Game Reserve overlooks the western escarpment of the Lebombo Mountains, Lake Jozini and the endless savannah woodland of Northern Zululand.
- Saddle-billed Stork
- Yellow-billed Stork
- African Openbill
- White-headed Vulture
- Secretary Bird
- Flappet Lark
Season and Weather
Summer months are extremely hot and humid and afternoon thundershowers can be expected. Note that this is a malaria area. Winter weather is pleasant with cool temperatures and more stable weather.
Accommodation & Activities
Accommodation at the White Elephant Lodge comprises five-star luxury at either the Safari Lodge or Bush Lodge. Activities include game drives, guided walks, fishing on the Jozini Lake, bird watching, sundowner cruises on the lake and accompanying a researcher monitoring the resident African elephant herd.
The lodge is easily accessible from Gauteng and Durban, situated directly adjacent to the main N2 East Coast route, between Mkuze village and Pongola.
- The African Openbill (Oopbekooievaar) feeds almost exclusively on snails and molluscs, using its oddly shaped bill to extract snails from their shells.
- The Purple Heron (Rooireier) seldom forages in the open, preferring to feed among reeds and sedges.
It breeds singley or in small colonies in dense reed beds.
- Standing at 1.5m in height and weighing up to 7kg, the unmistakeable Saddle-billed Stork (Saalbekooievaar) male has black eyes, while the eyes of the female are yellow.
- The Yellow-billed Stork (Nimmersat) breeds in colonies, often with other heron, stork and cormorant species. It feeds by walking through shallow water with its bill held slightly open and sweeping from side to side.
- The Croaking Cisticola (Groottinktinkie) is a common resident in rank grasslands and grassy savannah. The male is very vocal and conspicuous, calling from a prominent perch or while in flight.
- Usually searching for prey by striding through the veld and then quickly stamping on any prey that is found, the Secretary Bird (Sekretarisvoël) feeds on anything from insects and small mammals to bird’s eggs and large snakes.
- Found in small family groups of three to six birds, the Swainson’s Francolin (Bosveldfisant) has been known to hybridise with Natal and Red-necked Spurfowls.
- The Blacksmith Lapwing (Bontkiewiet) builds a shallow scrape of a nest often lined with small stones from the immediate surrounds to add to the camouflage. Two or three mottled brown eggs with black streaks and blotches make up the clutch.
- A non-breeding migrant that moves into Southern Africa in the summer months, the Amur Falcon (Oostelike Rooipootvalk) moves in nomadic flocks across open country, often mixing with Lesser Kestrels.
- The Purple Roller (Groottroupant) hunts from a prominent perch where it drops to the ground to catch its prey, mainly insects. It occasionally takes prey in the air.