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Many thanks to residents for all the great contributions to this newsletter! Keep them coming.
Following on from the last issue the next road is Pygmy Falcon. An interesting choice as it is a bird of the semi-arid regions in the Kalahari in the west of the country and it is unlikely that it will seen here although there is apparently a record from northern Kruger, possibly a stray from the East African population. Its scientific name is Polihierax semitorquatus polios (Greek) – pale grey; hierax (Greek) – falcon semi (Latin) half; torquatus (Latin) collared.
This little raptor is the smallest diurnal bird of prey in southern Africa, only the size of a shrike. The male is a very striking bird with dove-grey upperparts and white underparts. The black tail has rows of white spots. The female has a dark chestnut back, but otherwise is similar to the male.
While common in Namibia, the Kalahari is probably the best place to find it. What is particularly interesting is its association with the massive communal nests of the Sociable Weaver, making its nest in one of the cavities made by a weaver. Although it sometimes preys on Sociable Weavers, particularly nestlings, its main prey is reptiles and insects and predation of weavers is regarded as minimal.
Scrambling Plants - Dave & Bernie Spencer
Scrambling plants make up a diverse and fascinating component of Raptor' s View flora. Here are four to look for out and about on the estate.
Cissus cornifolia, Ivy Grape or Valsdruif is widespread on RV. A member of the Grape Family, Vitaceae, it grows as a free standing shrub or trailing over other plants and rocks. The edible fruits are purple or black when ripe.
Rhoicissus tridentata, Bushmans's Grape or Boesmansdruif is another fairly common member of the Grape Family. As the species name suggests the leaves are toothed. Considerable variation is seen in specimens from different locations and this plant has several medicinal uses.
Our third climber Ipomoea obscura, Wild Petunia or Wilde Patat has attractive yellow flowers and heart shaped leaves. The flowers are short lived and typical of the Morning Glory (Convolvulaceae) Family
Pergularia daemia, Trellis Vine or Bobbejaankambro is a fast growing member of the Oleander (Apocynaceae) Family. This plant has unusual long stemmed flowers and fruits resembling paired horns which split open to disperse seeds with silky fibres.
Camouflage or cryptic colouration - Derek Solomon
This is a defence mechanism or tactic that organisms use to disguise their appearance, usually to blend in with their surroundings and protect themselves against predators. Cryptic coloration is especially common in small animals such as insects, lizards, snakes, and frogs as well as several species of birds. These animals are often the same colour as the leaves or twigs on which they rest. Some insects even look like the twigs or leaves themselves but this only works if the animal is resting on the appropriate background and usually only when the animal isn't moving.
When out walking on the estate take a little time to look amongst the leaves or branches or in the leaf litter on the ground to see what creatures are living there.
Painted Reed Frog
Foam Nest Frog
Wahlberg's Eagles breed on Raptors View - Steve Benbow
On 1st December a raptor's nest was discovered close to the new Zebra Trail; it was a structure of inter-woven twigs and branches in a Knobthorn, and the birds were Wahlberg's Eagles (Hieraaetus wahlbergi) which are summer migrants to our region, although they are quite common throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
Wahlberg's is a relatively small eagle, uniformly brown in colour with a small crest not always visible. Occasionally, pale morphs are spotted with a creamy-white head and underparts. 'Our' eagles were the more common brown variety.
I was able to access the nest along one of the drainage lines, getting reasonably close and decided to sit under a bush and wait to see what occurred. I was lucky enough to see one of the adult eagles (presumably mum) sitting on the nest and within a few minutes the male appeared with what looked like a small lizard which was immediately consumed amongst much vocalising. I sat and watched for around an hour and dad brought in a further two lizards. It was during the second visit that I noticed a chick in the nest alongside mum.
Over the coming weeks I visited the nest on several occasions and was fortunate to see the chick develop as both mum and dad proved to be good providers bringing food to the nest at regular intervals. Wahlberg's Eagles tend to feed mainly on small mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates as well as birds and it was mainly small (ish) lizards that I saw, however in the nest I could see what looked like a snake skin turned inside out to get at the meat inside, so they are not averse to predating on snakes.
By the end of December the chick appeared to be fully feathered and I expected it to 'fly the nest', however from further research I found that although Wahlberg's are fully fledged at around 42 days, they stick around the nest for a further 4 weeks, presumably relying on the parents to provide food while getting stronger and ready for the flight back to warmer, northern climes during our winter. I'm hoping to capture further images of the fully-developed chick prior to its migration from the Lowveld. Check out the Birds of Raptor's View Facebook site for updates on this story.
Through the Office Window - Derek & Sarah Solomon
We are lucky to have one of the best 'through the office window' views we know; and are constantly distracted by the comings and goings of our local wildlife.
With the recent rain the Bushveld Rain Frogs have been calling happily.
It’s rather a grumpy looking frog with a fat round body and short little legs. It lives underground, usually emerging after heavy rains to find food and to mate.
Interesting Sightings on the Estate
This beautiful creeper festooned many shrubs along the main road through the estate (Tawny Eagle) on the morning of 20 November (after heavy rains). Unfortunately it was only brilliantly noticeable for that one day.
Thanks to all the botanist residents on the estate for the Asparagus ID - possibly Asparagus macowanii Zulu Asparagus. Sarah Solomon
Those same botanists are doing the most amazing work IDing the flora on the estate,
with a challenge to get to 300 species by winter!
Spotted Eagle Owl - one of a pair that live near the small river bed behind our stand, RV214; and we have so enjoyed hearing their mellow hooting call at night.
This image was captured on a camera trap immediately in front of my house. The African Hawk-Eagle had killed a guineafowl at this spot the day before and returned several times to feed.
We're always happy to get images of this Aardvark who visits our bird bath quite often!
Spencer & Cheryl Morrison
This Spotted Hyaena was a surprise night visitor to our birdbath!
An update on our nesting Spotted Eagle Owls - as per the last issue of The Raptor this is the fourth breeding record in a bowl in the trunk of a large Schotia (Weeping Boerbean). We had 2 hatchlings this time and they co-habited very amicably for about 3 weeks until they left the nest overnight, we think prematurely. We only saw one with Mom after that. They found a spot in a little cave under a tree stump in the bank of our river so we could keep an eye on them until the chick fledged about 2 weeks later. All the while, the male was on duty hoo-hooing through the night. We heard them around for another 3 weeks before they left the area.
Our Spotted Eagle Owl pair appeared at the bird bath one evening with a large and rather unskilled chick in tow. The chick eventually tried (after a lot of enthusiastic head bobbing) a very short flight onto a low branch and promptly fell off. One can only hope he/she survived long enough to master the necessary life skills under the watchful eye of the parents.
There are several breeding (or attempted breeding) records and sightings on the estate so it would be interesting to know how many pairs there are resident here. Derek & Sarah Solomon
Lovely to see this herd of kudu from my deck enjoying the (finally) full Hamerkop Dam. Ali Joy
Hamerkop Dam has been very busy with these Yellow-billed Storks, Spoonbills, White-faced Duck, Knob-billed Duck and many others.
Thought to be Schlegel's Beaked Blind Snake.
Spotted Bush Snake Simone Braun
Halictid Bees Chris Hines
Duelling Speke's Hinged Tortoises - Savannah, Lydia, & Lawrence Morgan
Delta lepeleterii, Mason Wasp Mike Whatmore
Mauritian Tomb Bat Mike Whatmore
Slender Mongoose & Spotted Bush Snake battle - Morgan Family
Savannah, Lydia, & Lawrence Morgan
African Rock Python Simone Braun
Savannah Morgan has made a great video of the duelling tortoises and the mongoose and snake battle see it on YouTube HERE
And Steve Benbow has a great camera trap video of mating Common Duiker - see it on the RV website HERE