September 2020

In line with current eco-trends and aiming for a 'greener' lifestyle The Raptor is an e-newsletter - it does not conform to traditional page sizes and is not designed to be printed. The Raptor is what YOU make it so please do keep sending all the sightings and information through.

Many thanks to residents for all the great contributions to this newsletter!
Keep them coming.

In This Issue
Focusing on Figs Ficus abutilifolia - Large-leaved Rock Fig
Bushshrikes Getting to know the two on Raptor's View.
Scrapes, Hollows and Holes Tracks & Signs on RV
Martial Eagle Electrocution EWT & Eskom Raptor Protection Program
Through the office window Daily distractions
Interesting Sightings Observations from our residents
Photo Gallery Great results from our photographers

Focusing on Figs - Dave & Bernie Spencer
Raptor's View has two species of fig (Ficus) which form a valuable component of our flora. This article will focus on Ficus abutilifolia - Large-leaved Rock Fig or Grootblaarrotsvy, a specie which is able to modify landscapes.

As the common name implies these trees are often found on the dolerite outcrops that occur across the estate and can attain considerable size. The characteristic growth form makes for easy identification. Once mature the trees have very attractive, often twisted trunks, and yellow-green bark peeling off in small papery flakes.

Conspicuous pale grey to white roots spread out over and between rocks, breaking off slabs as the roots grow.
The trunk and roots of a mature Large-leaved Rock Fig
This process increases the surface area of rock exposed to other change agents for instance water, wind and lichen leading over time to the formation of soil. Leaves are large and heart shaped with prominent veins. The specific name abutilifolia refers to the resemblance in leaf shape to members of the genus Abutilon.

Abundant round figs grow singly or in groups, initially green with white spots, ripening to red. The fruit attracts animals - monkey, baboon, nyala , duiker, and bushbuck. Birds such as green pigeons, bulbuls, barbets and grey go away birds are also frequent visitors. In addition fallen fruit and the associated insect life provide a good food source for smaller animals and ground feeding birds.

An alternative growth form is that of a strangler. A fig is deposited in the fork of a tree or in a hole by a bird or an animal. The seed germinates putting down roots which eventually kill the host plant. A fine example may be seen on the eastern fenceline, where a fig has grown around a Knob Thorn - Senagalia nigrescens. Over many years the host tree has fallen over and a sizeable fig tree has taken its place.

Figs are members of the Moraceae or Mulberry family and all have a milky latex present.

fig fig
Large-leaved Rock Fig as a strangler on the eastern fence line. Typical leaf of Large-leaved Rock Fig.

fig fig
Unripe fruits

A new fig taking hold in the trunk of a Albizia harveyi - Bushveld Albizia, this shoot is already several years old.

RV's Two Bushshrikes - Steve Benbow
Bushshrikes are smallish passerine birds found in scrub or open woodland. They used to be classified with true shrikes but have subsequently been separated from that group (Laniidae) and given their own family group; Malaconotidae. There are a number of bushshrikes found in our part of Limpopo, however there are only two species found regularly on Raptor's View. They are the Grey-headed Bushshrike and the Orange-breasted Bushshrike. Superficially they can appear similar as both are 'yellow shrikes' with grey heads, however the Grey-headed Bushshrike is much larger and has a pale eye compared with the Orange-breasted Bushshrike's dark eye. Both bushshrikes are residents in our area.

Grey-headed Bushshrike Orange-breated Bushshrike
Grey-headed Bushshrike
photo Derek Solomon
Orange-breasted Bushshrike
photo Derek Solomon

Grey-headed Bushshrike (Spookvoel in Afrikaans)
Also known as the 'Ghost bird' due to its mournful, drawn-out call, the Grey-headed Bushshrike is the largest of the bushshrikes at around 26cm and 77g. It is a foraging bird, searching for its prey of insects and small lizards in the lower canopy as well as the undergrowth. As well as insects and lizards, the Grey-headed Bushshrike will take frogs, small birds and even small snakes as part of its diet. Like most shrikes, the Grey-headed Bushshrike often impales its prey on thorns allowing it to use its heavy bill to tear the meal into bite-size pieces. A striking bird which is often heard before it is seen.

Orange-breasted Bushshrike (Oranjeborsboslaksman in Afrikaans)
Although smaller than the Grey-headed at only 19cm and 27g; the Orange-breasted Bushshrike can appear similar, however the dark eyes, yellow forehead and supercilium are diagnostic. Additionally, its call is totally different and has been likened to the phrase, 'coffee, tea or meee', although one could assign other phrases to the call. In my experience, the Orange-breasted Bushshrike is a much shyer bird than the Grey-headed, often remaining out of sight in the tree canopy. Unlike the Grey-headed Bushshrike which tends to be more solitary, the Orange-breasted Bushshrike can often be observed as part of a 'bird party' travelling through the veld with other birds having more sets of eyes for spotting predators. Another beautiful bird, the Orange-breasted Bushshrike is always a pleasing observation on a birding outing.

Scrapes, Hollows and Holes - Ken Farnsworth
Now that winter has been in full force and grass cover has all but disappeared, all manner of scrapes, hollows and holes are exposed in the bush. Trying to decipher what events happened there, what made them and why can be a fascinating aspect of any bush walk and those shown here are all commonly found on Raptor's View.

In addition to these, in our arid area one will also come across scrapes where birds have dust bathed: hornbills, mousebirds, Red-billed Oxpecker, bee-eaters, sparrows and bearded scrub-robins, guinea fowl and francolin all love doing this. This too can be a fascinating exercise to try and unravel who did what and when.
Just on this topic of hygiene amongst the birds…it's fascinating to observe and take note of the drinking habits of birds in the winter months — take note how they approach your waterhole (some fly straight in and drink, others land a distance away then walk to the water) observe how they drink (some sip-and-tilt, others drink by sucking without raising their heads), observe which birds you see in dry months especially those whose diet now mainly consists of mostly dry seeds.

aardvark aardvark
Typical aardvark foraging digging. Tell tale signs to look for: tail mark (used for support whilst digging) leaves a clear mark in the sand, fresh hole often ends in visible ant nests, ants may still be active. Aardvark foraging digging showing tail mark and forepaws.

aardvaark dung aardvark dung
Aardvark dung burial mound — not quiet as rare as rocking horse dung — but still not common! It scrapes a shallow bowl, defecates into it then buries it.

Aardvark dung exposed: full of sand and ant or termite carapaces; resembles oval, clay pellets. In the winter months they feed mostly on ants as termites are less active.

mongoose honey badger
Banded Mongoose digging. Tell-tale signs: shallow, rounded, not very deep, many scattered in an area.

Typical Honey Badger ‘explosion’ digging: tell tale signs: a round hole, with soil scattered all around, often dung beetle brood balls or other insect sign found.

honey badger porcupine
Honey Badger digging showing remnants of possibly solifuge hole.

Porcupine digging…note tuber (possibly ipomea bolusiana) in base. Tell tale signs: porcupine holes typical end in a triangular point, or vee shaped hole. Often with a root or some tuber exposed at the bottom or gnawed on outside the hole, look for tracks, quills, and quill drag marks. They also gnaw bark of trees (particularly tamboti). Although they gnaw on bones and do feed on carrion porcupines are herbivores, so you would not expect to find insect or other invertebrate remains as per Honey Badger foraging in their foraging holes.

porcupine scrub hare
Porcupine…note tell-tale quill in foreground. This is a repeated digging site—hence the vee shaped holes combine to appear similar to honey badger digging. Scrub Hare scraping: note rear leg imprints. Tell tale signs: usually a shallow scrape for roots, corms and tubers that may be seen.

steenbok gerbil
Steenbok midden. The only antelope that buries its dung. A scrape is made with the front legs into which it urinates and defecates.

Bushveld Gerbil hole: often at base of trees and shrubs but also out in open. Hole diameter 4,5-5cm. Used holes show fresh soil after nightly cleanings—often ramped in front of entrance.

warthog Warthog digging; tell tale signs: note parallel marks made by knee pads, shallow, soil bulldozed up in direction of scraping.

Endangered Wildlife Trust & Eskom Raptor Protection Program - Dr Lindy Thompson
eskom pole In July RV management reported a dead Martial Eagle found on the border between Raptors View and Khaya Ndlovu. The bird seemed to have burn marks on its foot, which led us to suspect the mortality was caused by an electrocution, not a collision.

Phil Ovens, the Chairperson of Khaya Ndlovu HOA kindly took me and 2 Eskom staff to the site. We inspected the line, and we think the bird probably perched on the cross-arm and must have touched one of the live components and been electrocuted. We walked up and down the line, to check for other carcasses, but we did not find any, thankfully.

Eskom agreed to insulate all live components on the structure, and put bird diverters (bird ‘flappers’) on the line, to make it more visible to raptors, which will hopefully prevent any future collisions. Eskom had this mitigation work done within a few days, which was really great.

I am extremely grateful for the reporting of this the dead bird beneath the power line. If anyone finds dead raptors near lines, to please let me know, either by email ( or WhatsApp call or message (cell: 0722 414 611), and I will arrange with Eskom for a site visit.

Our vultures and many other raptor species are really struggling, so anything we can all do to help reduce mortalities is a big help.
See the site on the map HERE

Martial Eagle Martial Eagle

Through the Office Window - Derek & Sarah Solomon
aardvark 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.

Without doubt the most exciting - and unexpected - was an afternoon sighting of a totally relaxed Aardvark strolling down our little drainage line. He/she wandered along without a care in the world off foraging for termites and ants. Although Aardvark are reasonably regularly seen here at night on camera traps it is unusual to see them in daylight hours - especially so nonchalant.

Interesting Sightings on the Estate
plated lizards
Plated Lizards - Mike Whatmore

boomslang leopard
On the 14th of May, I discovered this Boomslang caught in the wire cage where my gas bottles are stored. A call to RV management saw James coming to free and relocate her.
Pam Zirkel
Although an image from December it has not been shared here before; it's interesting to note the time of 7.20pm and the relaxed state.
Pam Zirkel

jumping spider
A Jumping Spider with prey! Simone Braun

goshawk francolin
Bit of a commotion and now a standoff at 272 this morning, Woman’s Day, 10 Aug at 10am when a Dark Chanting Goshawk swept down and attempted to pick up a Crested Francolin. The francolin sheltered on the deck and goshawk, eyes on alert, waited on the roof. The francolin lived to tell the tale. Jon Quirk

raptor kingfisher
Shikra - Pam Zirkel
Brown-hooded Kingfisher - Pam Zirkel

spider warthog
Green Pea Spider Araneus apricus
Mike Whatmore
A very impressive specimen!
Jen Lombard

nyala nyala
A new-born nyala on 16 August, safely stashed by the house whilst the mother went off to feed. Simone Braun

Photo Gallery
crested barbet melba finch
Crested Barbet - Thinus Potgieter
Green-winged Pytilia - Thinus Potgieter
Caterpillar - Thinus Potgieter

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