May 2016

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.

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In This Issue
Breeding Success Red-billed Hornbills
No Peaceful Sleep Here House guests terrorised by marauding solifuge
Free-ranging Cats A study in the USA
Interesting Sightings Observations from our residents
Photo Gallery Great results from our photographers
A Final Word Raptor's View Bird Count

Raptor's View Autumn Colours
At the start of writing this issue (quite some time ago - and we apologise for the tardiness of delivery - Eds!) our weather seemed rather unsure if it is summer, winter or autumn - but now in late May it is most definitely winter! However we should still take time to admire the stunning change in season colours captured here by Hilda Cavill Taylor, RV 233

Red-billed Hornbill Breeding Success - Maryke & Gerhard Redecker, RV100

hornbill hornbill

We took much pleasure in watching the successful breeding of a Red-billed Hornbill pair in a Common False Thorn, Albizia harveyi over December/January. The nest hole was about 2m off the ground and we were kept entertained as the male tirelessly brought food to the incarcerated female and then once she had broken out she joined him in the endless delivery of insects for the chicks. The female undergoes a wing and tail moult when she is incubating the eggs and is totally reliant on the male bringing food for her survival.

According to Roberts Birds of SA the eggs hatch in the order laid so the brood varies is size and the female breaks out of the nest once the oldest chick is 16-24 days and then helps the male deliver food. The chicks reseal the entrance and the nesting period is 39-50 days.

hornbill hornbill

The hornbills keep a very clean and tidy nest hole (as can be seen in the image above right) by placing their rear end close to the nest hole and squirting their droppings out! The poop trail was then cleaned up by many dung beetles.
Eds - This behaviour is particularly noteworthy as one doesn't often see dung beetles cleaning up bird droppings (as they are far from ideal for rolling into a ball etc.) so we'd suggest that they were actually feeding on the hornbill droppings as the adult beetles have specialized mouthparts adapted to feeding on dung juices which also contain tiny particles. We would be interested to hear from anyone with other ideas.

dung beetles

No Peaceful Sleep on RV for House Guests - Dave & Hilna Berry, RV65

Earlier in the year we had house guests who were terrorised by a then unidentified ferocious arachnid which once disturbed late on a Saturday night, chased them aggressively all around the house. It came out with "six-shooters firing" from under our one guest’s bed and had them standing on chairs all over the house – we were fast asleep and blissfully unaware!

Eds - The solifuge (or sun spider) can vary in colour from quite pale to chestnut brown – and although harmless they look rather fearsome as they are very fast and usually make straight for people – usually wanting to get into the safely of their shadow.

sun spider
Many thanks to Hennie Steyn for the photo from the January 2014 issue of The Raptor.

The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States

cats Although this study was done in USA it makes for interesting reading - thanks to Janine Scorer, RV299 for sending it through.
Read the Survey Here

Interesting Sightings on the Estate
tortoise tortoise
This Speke's Hinge Tortoise was spotted in mid March after the recent 45mm of rainfall and the backside of the shell was full of mud and sand, so we presume that it had just been laying eggs in the nearby lovely moist and soft soil. Dave & Hilna Berry, RV65

We had a great sighting in today's drizzle (18 March) of a Eurasian Hobby perched in a dead tree just off Snake Eagle Road near the start of the Aardvark Trail. This is just about time for this little raptor to be heading back overseas. Jeremy & Jill Brown, RV192

Photo - Derek Solomon

Eurasian Hobby

baboon spider bugs
Horned Baboon Spider (Ceratogyrus darlingi) about 10 cms in length.
Chris Gregory, RV221
Mating Handmaiden (day-flying moth).
Simone Braun, RV255

woodpecker mantis
Bearded Woodpecker.
Chris Gregory, RV221
Praying Mantis, Simone Braun, RV255

Steenbok frog
Steenbok, Jackie Preston, RV288 Bushveld Rain Frog, Chris Gregory, RV221

We're delighted to see that one of our leopards is back! We were wondering whether the rabies had got them. This big boy was caught on my camera two nights in a row. Keith Hartshorne, RV298

Photo Gallery
Brown-hooded Kingfisher - Jof McLean, RV163

Shikra - Jackie Preston, RV288

Golden Orb-Web Spider - Jof McLean, RV163

Plated Lizard
Plated Lizard and its young - Lawrence Morgan, RV283

Raptor's View Bird Count

The RV Bird Count was on 22 April (in conjunction with the Southern Cross Schools' Earth Day) and teams covered Osprey Dam and the school and the Aardvark Trail and the Lion and Buffalo trails. Many thanks to the various team leaders and to all the birders who participated in the count. The species total reached was 89.


Please send your notes and photos to the editors (Derek & Sarah Solomon) on