October 2014

The Raptor is what YOU make it so please do keep sending all the sightings and information through.
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 5 Bateleur
Interesting Sightings Observations from our residents
Photo Gallery Great results from our photographers

Bushveld Birds, Part 5 - Bateleur - Derek Solomon, RV254
The Bateleur is a relatively common sight over the estate, and in adult plumage easy to identify both in flight and when perched. Adult females have a narrow black trailing edge to the underwing whereas the male shows a broad edge. It was originally named by the French naturalist and explorer, Francois le Vaillant, for the word that means juggler, tumbler or tightrope walker, the latter describing its flight action of rocking from side to side. The Afrikaans name is Stompstertarend (direct translation means Short-tailed Eagle) and it has the shortest tail of any African eagle. The scientific name Terathopius ecaudatus means ‘brilliant face without tail’ referring to its almost non-existent tail.

However it is the younger birds that cause lots of identification problems as the bird only obtains its full adult plumage at 7-8 years of age. The first year bird actually has a longish tail and in flight the feet do not project beyond the end of the tail so beware! The juvenile is light brown in color and the cere and face are greenish blue, and the legs and feet whitish. In the 2nd year the tail begins to grow but it is only in the 3rd year that plumage changes become noticeable when the black feathers begin to show through on the brown underparts creating a mottled appearance. At the same time the face, legs and feet begin to change slowly to a darker colour.

Into the 4th & 5th years, the feathers darken and the face becomes yellow, darkening with age. On the underwing the birds begin to show the trailing edges to the wings (narrow = female; broad = male). The feet now project beyond the tail tips in flight and the tail feathers become progressively shorter with each moult until the adult length is reached.

Finally, when the bird is in its 6th and 7th years, the pattern of the adult plumage is visible and continues to darken, as do the feet, legs and face. The grey patch on the wing coverts is the last area to obtain its full adult color. The bird has now reached the stage where it is ready to breed and will choose a mate for life.

bateleur bateleur

bateleur bateleur
Immature (photo - Lee Gutteridge)
Immature (photo - Lee Gutteridge)

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Adult Female
Allopreening - with adult male on the right

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Adult Female
Adult Male

Interesting Sightings on the Estate
snake snake
On 5 October we visited our stand when we saw a Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus) elegantly gliding through some trees. We walked a bit more and returned to the same spot 15 minutes later, only to find the head of the snake in the mouth of a Olive Grass Snake (Psammophis mossambicus)! The hunter was making chewing motions, slowly working the prey down its throat.
Joël Roerig & Dianne Tipping-Woods, RV142

Bird Arrivals - We heard our first Red-chested Cuckoos on 29 September - 3 days later than the previous 2 years; and European Bee-eaters were seen a day or 2 later.
Jeremy & Jill Brown, RV192

batis batis
During the last week of July I was looking at the pool one morning and saw something standing on the flap in the weir. It turned out to be a Chinspot Batis that must have fallen into the pool somehow. He was wet and had dragged himself to the only place where he could get out of the water. He was unable to fly out and just sat there. I plucked him out with my hand and released him. He managed to hop up onto a red bushwillow and dry out his wings before flying off.
Rob Severin, RV240

wild dog wild dog
Wild Dogs seen on 21 August 2014! - Andreas Bretscher, RV311

mantid robin
Lovely Flower Mantid discovered in our 'garden' in late July.
Hugh & Julie Marshall, RV243
Bearded Robin investigating the nest box - it would be an unusual breeding site for this bird.
Derek Solomon, RV254

mopane bees mopane bees
These mopane bees (or sweat bees) were taking pollen into their tiny nest in a leadwood stump in this outdoor shower. A few fairly large black ants were trying to gain access to rob the nest - initially with no luck, but succeeded eventually.
Anne Watt, RV176 & Derek Solomon, RV254

honey badger snake tracks
Honey Badger
Lawrence Morgan, RV283
Mamba tracks on the bonnet of the car!
Sarah Gutteridge, RV164

twig bug
This photograph taken by Tally Dickinson, RV252 is of a caterpillar (kindly identified by Lee Gutteridge) – and is a species of Geometridae or inch worm (or looper). They are amazing stick mimics - as you can see! It is apparently a big family and most of the moths are dull to light green in colour.

Photo Gallery
zebra guineafowl
A quartet of zebras drinking at Guineafowl Dam, taken from the Hide
Tally Dickinson, RV252
Helmeted Guineafowl trying to warm up on a cold morning in mid July.
Jackie Preston, RV288

birds ringed
Beautiful series of birds caught and ringed - Retz's Helmet-shrike, Grey-headed Bush-shrike and African Barred Owlet.
Rael Loon, RV38

bark spider ant lion
Bark Spider - Tally Dickinson, RV252
Adult Ant Lion - Tally Dickinson, RV252