South Africa is blessed with several national parks. It takes time and travelling long distances to visit even some of them, yet none disappoint. Today I will feature scenes from a few of them. The Addo Elephant National Park is not very far from where we live and so, every now and then, we go there for a day visit. Given its name, visitors naturally expect to see elephants there:

It is also a good place for birding, where one might be fortunate to see raptors such as this Jackal Buzzard:

The Mountain Zebra National Park is also easily accessible to us and is the perfect place to spend a few days. Visitors here would obviously expect to see mountain zebras:

However, one might also be fortunate to spot a cheetah lying in the yellow grass:

There are red hartebeest in the Karoo National Park – which makes a good stopping point between where we live and Cape Town:

One can also enjoy seeing ostriches striding along the open veld:

The world famous Kruger National Park is several day’s journey from here and hosts an enormous variety of plants, birds, insects and animals. When we consider the alarming rate at which rhinos are killed in this country, we cannot help but feel privileged to see them from close quarters here:

The name on every visitor’s lips is ‘lion’. Mention the word and people speed up and jostle for space to see even the tip of the tail of one. Equally exciting to see though are leopards:

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is the furthest away from us and – despite its remote location – is such a popular destination that one has to book accommodation about a year ahead. This is an incredible place for seeing lions:

It is also a marvellous place for seeing the very beautiful crimson-breasted shrike:



A distinct advantage of travelling even a short way from one’s home environment is the opportunity to both see and photograph birds other than those which have become familiar as garden birds. Take this Pale Chanting Goshawk, for example. Even though it is endemic to much of South Africa and beyond, it is not a bird I would expect to find in our town for it prefers more arid areas. We always look out for them when travelling through two of our nearest national parks:

Another endemic raptor we are more likely to see out in the country is the Jackal Buzzard, although I have seen one in our garden on rare occasions over the years and once photographed one with an injured leg perched on a street lamp on the road below our house:

It is years since we spotted a Cape Longclaw during walks on the outskirts of town. That area is now a haven for dog-walkers as well as for herds of cattle and donkeys. So, one is more likely to see these pretty birds during travels further afield:

I don’t hear Crowned Lapwings as often as I used to when they nested on the nearby golf course or on the lawns near our home. I suspect the constant presence of various members of the Urban Herd create too much disturbance for them. Again, one is more likely to see them in our national parks:

Cape Glossy Starlings are birds I happily associate with various national parks as they too enjoy more arid areas. I sometimes catch sight of them along one of the country roads I regularly drive along and become very excited when one or two stray into our garden:

I love seeing Cape Bulbuls which have a distinctive white ring around their eyes. We live too far out if its range, although sometimes see them in the Addo Elephant National Park:


While Jackal Buzzards (Buteo rufufuscus) cover an extremely large range throughout South Africa, around here we have seen several in the open grasslands and in agricultural areas not far from town. I more often than not see one a perched on a fence post in the distance only for it to fly off as I approach. This one obligingly posed on a branch for a minute or two:

This gives us a good view of its strong talons and beak used to tear through the skin and muscles of its prey – in this case it is eating a Scrub Hare:

These impressive-looking birds are sturdy, with the adults measuring 44 to 60 cm in length and weighing up to almost 2Kg. I always feel privileged to come across one of them for I feel that they rank among the most beautiful of our raptors.

The ‘jackal’ part of their name relates to the sound they make, which is similar to the call of the Black-backed jackal.


During the summer, I would often see at least one Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufufuscus) in the area around town – once one perched on a lamp post in the street below our home. This is not surprising as they are endemic to the southern part of Africa. It is a large, heavy bird with striking black, chestnut, and white patterning that makes it stand out from some of the many raptors in the area.

In common with other raptors, it is frequently observed on prominent lookout perches, such as dead trees, fence posts, telephone poles as well as rocks. They sit very still while searching for prey, but tend to take off as soon as a vehicle approaches along the road – and are beautiful to see in flight.

Although I have seen them swooping down to catch their prey, today is the first time that I have seen one on the ground from only a short distance away.

Jackal Buzzards are known to feed on small mammals up to the size of a hare, as well as on lizards, snakes, and smaller birds. When one flew low over my garden earlier this year the birds disappeared into the trees and shrubbery in a flash – and didn’t make a sound! They are known to scavenge on carrion too when food is scarce. This one is feeding on a Scrub Hare that must have been killed by a passing vehicle during the night.

I imagine is was very hungry, for it didn’t move when the vehicle stopped and allowed me to observe it for several minutes, during which time I noticed its mate flying low overhead.