The road to Shingwedzi (H1-6) divides the western mixed woodlands from the open savanna grasslands of the east. The Steppe Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle are often seen in summer in the Bowker's Kop area, while there are lots of rollers, Greater Blue-eared Starlings and African Grey Hornbills busy along the roadside.
Kruger Park Birding by Region | Mopani to Shingwedzi
Birding Map of Kruger Park Northern Region
Mopani to Shingwedzi (H1-6)The Mopane trees vary in size according to the richness of the soil. The road passes a series of pans, one of the better ones being Shidayangwenya, 8km from Mopani Camp. It is a long stretch of water amongst tall Mopane trees and often attracts elephants.
The Shingwedzi Road crosses the Tropic of Capricorn just north of Grysbok Pan. Theoretically, one is in the tropics north of this point, although the vegetation typical of central Africa only becomes apparent in the Luvuvhu River area.
North of the tropical line, the H1-6 passes through intermediate Mopane with Apple-leaf trees and Leadwoods marking the watercourses. These trees are a favourite haunt in summer for the noisy Woodland Kingfisher. Burchell's Coucal and Natal Spurfowl* are usually seen from the road. As the terrain opens up halfway between Mopani and Shingwedzi, rollers begin to dominate the roadside. The open grassland suits the Steppe and Tawny Eagles, while small flocks of White-crested Helmet-Shrikes are active, lower-level feeders in the pockets of woodland.
The main water hole along this road is Olifantsbad Pan which, like most of the pans along this road, becomes really interesting after good rains. Early summer thunderstorms result in millions of termites emerging from the ground, attracting a feeding frenzy of eagles, hawks and buzzards that gorge themselves on these high-protein delicacies.
North of Olifantsbad Pan, a small intrusion of gabbro thornveld marks the mini-escarpment between the Dzombo River catchment area and the Shingwedzi floodplains. The mopaneveld becomes visibly stunted as one moves into the eastern basalt plains. The grassland in turn gives way to mixed woodland as the road dips gently next to the Nkokodzi Stream into the alluvial floodplains of the Shingwedzi River system.
The floodplains are marked by a stark change in the geological variety of the rocks, which have steadily been deposited in the watercourses over millions of years of flooding. In summer the Southern Carmine Bee-eater provides a striking colour contrast to the green-brown bush.
The H1-6 closely follows the Shingwedzi River for 15 kilometres before Shingwedzi Camp. This is a very good birding drive, particularly in summer, when there's lots of avian activity among the large Leadwoods, figs and Apple-leaf trees that line the river. Closer to Shingwedzi there is an increase in the number of francolins and other game birds feeding in the grassy verges on the roadside.
Mopani to Shingwedzi via Shilowa (S50)The S50 leaves the Nshawu watercourse (see Nshawu) and crosses the basalt flatlands of scrub Mopane. Common Ostrich* and other large game birds inhabit this lightly wooded savanna, which birding author Callan Cohen rates as one of the best grassland birding areas in Kruger.
The Kori Bustard, Black-bellied Bustard* and Red-crested Korhaan can be seen in the veld, while Swainson's and Natal Spurfowl* feed along the road edges. The S50 reaches the Lebombo just after the Tropic of Capricorn, which is marked by Shilowa Hill (382m). Shibavatsengele, Grootvlei and Nyawutsi are all interesting birding stops. The best birding on the road is north of Dipene where the S50 tracks the Shingwedzi River over 20km past Kanniedood Dam to Shingwedzi Camp.
See Letaba to Shingwedzi.Sabota Rap
The Sabota Lark (Mirafra sabota) can mimic up to 60 other bird species including falcons and guineafowl. It is one of the more common birds of the mopaneveld, with Roberts VII estimating more than 260 000 of this species in the Park. The Sabota Lark sings from a prominent perch and it has a long and rambling, melodious song, interspersed with the calls of other birds' whistles, buzzes and trills. It even mimics the sounds of a dove's wings flapping. The Sabota Lark forages on open ground and has been known to dig up grubs. It eats insects and grass seeds. Researchers believe it never drinks but gets all its moisture requirements from grasses.
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