January 2014

Happy New Year! And a special thank you to everyone who has submitted articles, photos and comments for this edition of The Raptor. We were delighted to receive so much content - particularly of the smaller estate wildlife for this issue.

In line with current eco-trends and aiming for a 'greener' lifestyle this is an e-newsletter - it does not conform to traditional page sizes and is not designed to be printed.

In This Issue
Bushveld Birds, Part 1 Leaf Gleaners
Muddy Pools and their Visitors
Giant Eagle Owl Nesting on the Estate
Arachnids! Some Creepy Crawlies!
Interesting Sightings Observations from our residents
Photo Gallery Great results from our photographers
A Final Word Hal the Horrible Hornbill!

Bushveld Birds, Part 1 - Leaf Gleaners - Derek Solomon, RV254
Raptors View is home to several tiny, often hard-to-see, species of birds that collect much of their food from the leaves and twigs in the canopy of the trees that they favour. This behaviour is known as gleaning and the birds are collecting food in the form of insects and insect eggs from the trees. Because of this behaviour they are often rather difficult to see hidden in the canopy but their very distinctive calls give them away. Two common species are the Long-billed Crombec and the Yellow-breasted Apalis.

The Crombec is probably best-known for its extremely short tail – so short that in fact it sometimes seems to be non-existent. Like its name, it has a long, slightly decurved bill, and the upperparts are grey with buffy coloured underparts. It is a restless feeder moving constantly from one part of the canopy to the next. The call is a repetitive “chee-chirritt”.

The Yellow-breasted Apalis is an equally busy feeder with a long tail, bright red eye, grey head, white belly and yellow breast that gives this bird its common name. The male generally has a black patch below the yellow breast. More often than not it is seen in pairs or small family groups. The call is a repetitive “krik-krik-krik-krik".

Long-billed Crombec

Yellow-breasted Apalis

Long Billed Crombec Yellow Breasted Apalis
Long Billed Crombec
Yellow Breasted Apalis

Muddy pools and animals on Raptor's View - Lee Gutteridge, RV164

Mammals seem to really enjoy the muddy pools during the summer months, and not always for the same reasons. Outside our house we have an area which fills up nicely after the refreshing summer storms, creating a superb wallow. Apart from the usual utilisation of the fresh water (once the mud has settled) there are some creatures which are frequent visitors.

One of course is the warthog. We have small groups which frequent the yard, and spend many happy hours wallowing in the mud. This helps them to stay cool, as well as several other purposes. Many ectoparasites are removed during the process and the thick coating of mud which results, prevents further attachment by creatures such as ticks, which battle to find clean skin. Nits of various mites can still be seen on the longer hairs on a warthog, as they are very resilient, and not easy to remove.

Another frequent visitor to our puddle is the nyala bull. These majestic creatures often come by, and perform the interesting act of gathering as much mud on their horns as they can. There appears to be some sort of display linked to this, with larger more bulky horns being more impressive to others of his kind!


Giant Eagle Owls - Sandy Schulze, RV312

This is the second year that we have had the privilege of a pair of Giant Eagle Owls nesting on our roof. In early December we noticed the two baby owlets out of the nest for the first time and have slowly watched their progress since, as they run around the roof and get fed by their parents. Unfortunately, as the adults preferentially feed only one, we have only seen one of the babies over the past couple of days.

This morning (4 December), the remaining owlet was over anxious and thought that he could fly, unfortunately, landing in our court yard to the distressed calls of its parents. Thanks so much to Byron for coming and replacing the baby back on the roof, where we hope that his (or her) next flying attempt will be more successful!
Giant Eagle Owl

Arachnids - Derek & Sarah Solomon, RV254 & Hennie Steyn, RV188
The excellent photos from Hennie Steyn has prompted this article on some of the creepy crawlies on the estate.

Arachnids are a class of joint-legged invertebrate animals characterized by four pairs of segmented legs and a body that is divided into two regions, the cephalothorax and the abdomen and include spiders, scorpions, sunspiders or solifuges, whipscorpions, mites and ticks.

All arachnids have eight legs, although the front pair of legs in some species has converted to a sensory function, while in other species, different appendages can grow large enough to take on the appearance of extra pairs of legs. Hundreds of thousands of species of arachnids have been identified.

Arachnids require liquid nourishment and obtain this by injecting digestive juices into their prey and sucking out the useful portion. All arachnids, except mites, are predators of insects and other invertebrates. Mites, however, feed on several other sources of nourishment (i.e. fungus, plants, dead animals, etc.).

Baboon Spider Sun Spider
Baboon Spider

Scorpion Scorpion
Hadogenes troglodytes
Opistophthalmus glabrifrons

Scorpion Scorpion
Parabuthus mossambicensis
Parabuthus transvaalicus

As a general rule scorpions with weak pincers have thick and powerful tails and catch their prey by injecting venom. The Parabuthus species above is a good example - and they are the most venomous of the southern Africa scorpions.

Scorpions with thin tails and powerful pincers can crush prey items but their venom is very weak and are thus not medically important - Hadogenes and Opistophthalmus above fall into this category.

Interesting Sightings on the Estate

snake snake
On 5th November there was some excitement outside.... at first I thought it was a Spotted Bush Snake but on closer inspection found it was a female Boomslang in the olive morph colouring. She was lying on the ground basking and I disturbed her as I came out the house, she went into a bush right by the dead tree where we have Crested Barbets nesting. She was mobbed by drongos, barbets and starlings and I was sure she would get one of them but she didn't and they eventually chased her out the bush down and into river bed. It was super exciting to watch!
Janine Scorer, RV299

catepillar bug
Caterpillar - any suggestions on identification?
Rob Severin, RV240
Insect - any suggestions on identification?
Rob Severin, RV240
We have included these beautiful unidentified creatures in the hope that one of readers can enlighten us - Eds

leopard vultures
1 January camera trap image of a leopard!
Lawrence Morgan, RV283

Vultures on a female kudu carcass, killed overnight (by same leopard?) in RV158's driveway on 3 January.
Caryn Bowie, RV274

turaco turaco
We were delighted to see a trio of Purple-crested Turacos at our birdbath in early November. This uncommon resident is more often heard than seen.
Lawrence Morgan, RV283

trap pic trap pic trap pic
trap pic trap pic
A series of camera trap photos showing our wide array of wildlife coming down to drink overnight - porcupine, aardvark, honey badger, civet and genet.
Hennie Steyn, RV188

Beetle Ship beetle
Giant Longhorn Beetle
Hennie Steyn, RV188
Ship Timber Beetle - RV is out of typical range.
Lee Gutteridge, RV164

Photo Gallery

sparrowhawk catepillar
Little Sparrowhawk
Glenda Sparkes, RV195
Dice Moth Caterpillar
Hennie Steyn, RV188

Bee Fly butterfly
Bee Fly
Rob Severin, RV240
Smokey Orange Tip
Rob Severin, RV240

zebra monitor
Damp baby zebra
Lawrence Morgan, RV283
Large monitor, basking
Lawrence Morgan, RV283

flower fungus
Blue Commelina
Rob Severin, RV240
Parasol Mushroom
Rob Severin, RV240

Agama Jackal
Tree Agama
Lawrence Morgan, RV283
Black-backed Jackal pup
Glenda Sparkes, RV195

butterfly butterfly
Queen Purple Tip
Rob Severin, RV240
Dark Webbed Ringlet
Rob Severin, RV240

A Final Word - Hal the Horrible Hornbill! - Savannah Morgan, RV283

Hornbill Hal
There is a hornbill whom I hate.
He never lets me sleep in late.
At 5am: Crack! Rat-tat-tee!
I lunge awake and run to see
him smack into the window pane,
Fly off and do it once again.
Sometimes he'll perch upon the sill
And bang bang bang his nasty bill
to crush his tasty millipede
Or other insect, leaf, or seed.
But sometimes he's got naught at all
When I come charging down the hall.
I screech and stomp and wave my arms!
He never seems the least alarmed.
And if I chase him with a broom,
He soars off to another room.
The glass is smeared with gooey guts,
The surface marred by little cuts.
I've put blockades of thorny sticks-
It was a temporary fix.
He's unperturbed by lurking snakes,
As if he knows that they are fakes.
I beg him, “Please, just let me be!”
He goes crack! Wham! I'll go make tea.
Hal the Hornbill