Thank you to everyone who has submitted articles, photos and comments for this edition.
Please do keep sending all the sightings and information through, The Raptor is what YOU make it.
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.
Bushveld Birds, Part 3 - Helmet-Shrikes - Derek Solomon, RV254
The unique brush or helmet-like structure formed by the feathers on the forehead gives this family of birds its name. Both species have pectinate or comb-like wattles around the eyes with the colour differing depending on the species. Retzís Helmet-Shrike is mostly dark and is larger than the White-crested, and like its former name (Red-billed Helmet-Shrike) has a red bill. The White-crested has a distinctive black and white plumage, a grey head and the Ďhelmetí is white.
Both species live in permanent family groups, generally of 5 Ė 7 members, although these groups may become larger during the winter months. Groups are led by a dominant female and her mate and the other members of the group that are brothers and sisters of the dominant pair, or offspring. Young birds may remain in the group for at least two years and when they leave brothers will join up with a similar number of females from another group.
Both species feed mainly on insects and spiders gleaned from the branches, or in the case of the White-crested, may be collected on the ground. They sometimes feed together in areas where they overlap such as in Raptor's View. Away from our area Retzís prefers taller and moister woodlands but it is interesting that both species happily co-exist here on the estate.
When breeding all members of the group help with incubation, feeding and brooding of the chicks. Brood parasitism has not been recorded in the White-crested Helmet-Shrike, but in an intensive study in Zimbabwe, 55% of the nests of Retzís were parasitized by Thick-billed Cuckoos. This cuckoo has not been recorded in Raptors View as yet, so we must presume that there is no local parasite for this species.
Both species give a variety of musical and grating or churring calls, those of Retzís being somewhat louder and more musical. At our home (254 Martial Eagle) both species are regular visitors to the office window and all photos were taken through these windows.
Giraffe Rescue - Byron Wright, Estate Manager
On 6 April our security company called me with the report of 'a giraffe stuck in a hole!' My wife and our 7 month old son joined me to investigate...
Arriving at the location we found a young giraffe, about 10 days old, that had fallen into an erosion donga. The head and neck were way down in a peculiar position and the legs were entangled worse than "koeksisters"! The animal was very weak. We first raised the head above the level of its own body to prevent it from drowning in its own fluids, we then covered its eyes to try and keep the animal calm. With some effort we managed to get the giraffe out of the trench and onto the back of my bakkie.
We met up with Liesel from Provet and Christiaan the state vet. They had a look at the young fellow and after consulting with Dr Rogers, we decided the best chance the giraffe had was to take him to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. We met up with Brian Jones and a group of volunteers and they off-loaded the giraffe into a holding facility. A drip was put into the animal and milk was given to try and rehydrate him.
Two weeks later we went to see how he was doing and were happy to see that he was recovering just fine and was named Theo, after our son!
Although this is all in a day's work on Raptor's View this giraffe rescue made the front page of the local paper (Kruger2Canyon) and also page 3 of the Beeld newspaper. Byron Wright, Estate Manager
The Value of Good Neighbours - Rita & Don Priest, RV165
Returning to Raptor's View after 2 weeks away we found the guest bedroom in chaos.... there was lots of poop everywhere, the bedside lamp was on the floor with the glass shade shattered and the contents of the cupboard were strewn across the floor!
We cleaned and tidied up - finding no culprit. We consulted our neighbour, Sarah Gutteridge, and she confirmed the poop was far too big for squirrel and contained beetle shells.
A few days later when investigating a noise, I discovered a half meter long monitor! I encouraged it to leave but it wasn't interested and retreated into the cupboard. I called our intrepid neighbours again and this time Lee Gutteridge and his son, Kellan, came to our rescue. Kellan caught it quite quickly, holding it firmly by neck and tail; and as I wasn't keen to have it coming right back inside they took it next door and released it there.
We could find no holes in the thatch so assume it was in the bedroom for the weeks! It's great to have such good and bush-wise neighbours.
Interesting Sightings on the Estate
After the rains the small river at the bottom on the estate crossing Grey Kestrel was flowing.
When the stream slowed down we were surprised to find fish that were being trapped in the small ponds.
After investigating we worked out the fish were washed out of the Hamerkop dam.
The kids had fun catching them with nets and returning them to the dam.
The following three species were found -
Mozambique Tilapia (also as known as Blue Kurper) which has the black stripes;
the shiny gold coloured fish appears to be a Barb, but the exact type is hard to tell as there as many types of Barb;
and some baby catfish. Rob Severin, RV240
The Grey-headed Kingfisher (sometimes known as Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher) is a relatively uncommon Intra-African breeding migrant. Besides South Africa, this species also breeds Angola, Zambia, DRC, Malawi and Mozambique and Tanzania. In southern Africa some remain in their breeding area until May. At this time they move north to their Equatorial non-breeding grounds, possibly joining up with birds that bred in Tanzania, and then migrate north and west into Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. Interestingly they are thought to migrate at night.
The advantage of ringing a species such as this is that if it is ever recaptured it adds to the information about its movements and distribution while providing interesting information on their morphology, site fidelity and potentially their longevity.
Grey-headed Kingfishers have a voracious appetite, with their diet comprising mainly locusts, crickets, mantids, bugs, ants, beetles, moths, caterpillars, scorpions, spiders, small lizards, mice and frogs. Despite their name this species seldom feeds on fish. Rael Loon, RV38
Tim Parker informed us that one of his collared leopards was on Raptor's View and that the tracking logs were showing that she was in one area for a few days. This usually indicates that the leopard is on a kill and Tim asked us to see what we could find.
We found the carcass of a male adult impala and put the camera trap up to record her - and she was photographed beautifully at @ 4pm on 6 May. Byron Wright, Estate Manager
The Delalandeís Beaked Blind Snake, Rhinotyphlops lalandei, is generally a burrowing snake and thus seldom encountered. It is a harmless slender snake with a cylindrical body, has a beaked snout (hence the Latin name) with a chequered pattern on its back and the scales being yellow-edged.
They feed primarily on termites and may be preyed upon by a variety of other snakes. Its close relative and larger Schlegelís Beaked Snake, Rhinotyphlops schlegelii, is generally more common, probably due to the fact that it can produce up to 60 eggs at a time compared to only 2-8 in the Delalandeís. These snakes have the habit of digging their sharply pointed tail into oneís hand when handled, an adaptation to fool would-be predators in thinking the tail is the head, and thus giving the snake a better chance of escape. Rael Loon, RV38
This large Bushveld Bolete, Phlebopus sudanicus, was found by Don Priest, RV165 and photographed by Sarah Gutteridge (with Savannah helpfully providing a size reference!).
According to the Field Guide to Mushrooms of southern Africa it is widely distributed but not common and 'the edibility of this species is unknown but it has been reported to cause intoxication among the indigenous people of tropical Africa'! - Eds
We photographed this evidence of Cape Clawless Otter on Raptors View at the end of March. With the recent rains at that time, perhaps an individual surfed down the Zandspruit from the Blyde?! Rael & Helene Loon, RV38
Ropalidia - a large genus of eusocial paper wasps. The elongated nests are not unusual for them.
Byron Wright, Estate Manager
Stripe-bellied Sand Snake photographed over the Easter weekend. Kevin Dickinson, RV252
We found this Woodland Doormouse trapped in the bath on our return from a long Easter weekend away. We're not sure how long he (or she) had been there but he seemed unstressed, and quite relaxed about his predicament. We put him on a sheet of newspaper and carried him out into the bush where he hopped away quite happily.
Jackie Preston, RV288
A new record for Raptor's View - I heard a Freckled Nightjar in mid-March while cycling. The bird was calling from the rocky area near the junction between Tawny Eagle and Snake Eagle roads. If readers are unfamiliar with the call, it sounds like a dog barking (I presume it wasnít actually a real dog due to the no-pets rule?!!) Rael Loon, RV38
A pair of African Hawk-Eagles seen along Snake Eagle Road on 29 March @ at 11:15. Glenda Sparkes, RV195
Earth Tongues - a tiny fungus photographed along the Lion Trail after the heavy March rains. Derek Solomon, RV254
A pair of tiny dung beetles! Keith Hartshorne,
Crimson-speckled-Footman Derek Solomon RV254
A beautiful pattern formed by processionary caterpillars. Tally Dickinson, RV252
Porcupine with baby.
Rob Severin, RV240
A few images from our March floods - the first 2 are taken from both sides of the causeway and the final one showing that some enjoyed the adventure more than others! Sarah Gutteridge, RV164
A Final Word - Raptor's View May Day River Braai!
By all accounts the River Braai on 1 May was a great success and was enjoyed well into the night!