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Ken Borland

River Cottage

Posted on June 10, 2017 by Ken

Arrowmarked Babbler

River Cottage in Malelane is a beautiful establishment situated just across the Crocodile River from the southern Kruger National Park and it’s an extremely productive spot for bird and animal watching, as well as providing great value for money in terms of decent accommodation.

From their vantage point above the river, birds are constantly flying along and animals are often venturing down to the water, so many classic sightings have been made from River Cottage’s front lawn. It’s the sort of place one expects to hear the famous Fish Eagle cry at regular intervals, and the Fever Trees and other well-established riverine vegetation on their side of the river also hold plenty of birds.

Although I heard African Fish Eagle, the only one I saw was a juvenile flying around away from the water, beyond the sandbanks and scrubby vegetation of the river and towards the S110 road within the park.

But there was a proper sighting of Martial Eagle soaring over the riverine bush, as well as African Hawk Eagle on a speculative foray over the river, where the stunning Saddlebilled Stork, one of my favourite birds, was foraging in stately fashion.

At other times, there were Grey Heron waiting patiently in the Crocodile River, while Squacco, Blackcrowned Night and Greenbacked herons and African Jacana flew past and Buffalo lolled at the water’s edge. Hippopotamus and African Elephant were also spotted.

In the morning, Brownheaded Parrots would fly away from their roost in one of the Fever Trees, flying over to the fruiting trees in the park.

Just walking around the gardens of River Cottage, as was my morning routine before breakfast, provides plenty of lovely sightings.

And it’s not all just lawns and majestic trees either; there are areas of rank grass, which were seeding and produced the charming and infrequent Redbacked Mannikin.

Laughing Dove with inflated neck in territorial display

Laughing Dove with inflated neck in territorial display







Juvenile Laughing Dove

Juvenile Laughing Dove








There were lots of Kurrichane Thrush with their spotted juveniles, Laughing Dove with their young, a big group of Arrowmarked Babblers moved loudly through the trees, catching flying ants that emerged the night before after a thunderstorm, and several, very prominent Scarletchested Sunbirds.

Thickbilled Weaver were hopping around, low down, between the buildings and a pair of Whitethroated Robin were in the dark undergrowth nearby.

Thickbilled Weaver

Thickbilled Weaver

Heuglin’s Robin hopped on to the lawn and investigated around the restaurant, outside of which a loud calling turned out to be a Little Sparrowhawk on its nest – a bowl of sticks between the branches of a tall tree.

Heading back to look out over the Crocodile River again, Whitefaced Duck were flying over, Blacksmith Plover were about with their confusing immature plumages and Bronze Mannikins were having a dip in a pool of water, while a Hamerkop flew along carrying nesting material.

Where is River Cottage?

Sightings List

Redeyed Dove

Kurrichane Thrush

Kurrichane Thrush

Kurrichane Thrush

Blackeyed Bulbul

Bronze Mannikin

Grey Heron

Blacksmith Plover

Water Dikkop

Egyptian Goose


Pied Kingfisher

Hadeda Ibis

Squacco Heron


Little Egret

Lesser Striped Swallow

Cattle Egret

Wiretailed Swallow

Blackwinged Stilt

Blackcollared Barbet

Speckled Mousebird

Arrowmarked Babbler


Southern Tree Agama

Whitefaced Duck

African Buffalo

Blackbacked Puffback

Laughing Dove

Yellowfronted Canary

Yellowfronted Canary

Palm Swift

Yellowfronted Canary

Scarletchested Sunbird

Striped Skink

Great White Egret

African Elephant

Woodland Kingfisher

Spectacled Weaver

Whiterumped Swift

Little Swift

Saddlebilled Stork

Glossy Starling

African Hawk Eagle

Redbacked Mannikin

Thickbilled Weaver


Threebanded Plover

African Jacana

Helmeted Guineafowl

Whitebellied Sunbird

Redfaced Mousebird

Whitethroated Robin

Brownheaded Parrot

Reed Cormorant

Whitebacked Vulture

Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Greenbacked Heron

African Pied Wagtail

African Fish Eagle

Nile Crocodile

Whitewinged Widow

Little Sparrowhawk

Natal Francolin

Blackcrowned Night Heron

Heuglin’s Robin

Martial Eagle


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