Tag Archives: raptors

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – February 2015

Besides being a short month, February was also a busy one in the Karkloof – the maize which stood “as high as an elephant’s eye” was harvested, so Gartmore hide is now surrounded by bare fields (filled with lots of Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese, Blacksmith Lapwings, Speckled Pigeons, Red-eyed Doves, Cape Turtle-Doves, Grey Crowned Cranes and Wattled Cranes), Karin Nelson had a bird ringing morning, and the Three Cranes Challenge saw a host of volunteers assembling to cater for the ‘maniacal‘ marathon runners.

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill

We had a new visitor to the Gartmore pan who is now included on our bird list – a Hottentot Teal.

Hottentot Teal

Hottentot Teal

It was much easier photographing their relatives, the Red-billed Teals, as their bills don’t get camouflaged against the reflection of the blue sky in the water!

Red-billed Teal

Red-billed Teal

The local rodent, frog and reptile populations must have experience a rapid decrease in February with all the raptors that were out and perched on the centre-pivots.

Amur Falcon

Amur Falcon

These included the Amur Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kites, Steppe Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, African Marsh-Harrier and the African Fish-Eagles.

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Please remember to avoid using poisons to control your rat populations and seek “raptor-friendly” options!

Other sightings included: White Stork, Cape Crow, Hadeda Ibis, African Sacred Ibis, Southern Bald Ibis, Southern Red Bishop, Barn Swallow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-collared Widowbird, Long-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal, Cape Weaver, Woolly-necked Stork, Diderick Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Hamerkop, Wattled Lapwing, African Stonechat, African Black Swift, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black Saw-wing, Dark-capped Bulbul, Village Weaver, Zitting Cisticola, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Common Fiscal, South African Shelduck, White-throated Swallow, Whiskered Tern, Common Moorhen,

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Bronze Mannikin, Cape Wagtail, African Jacana, Common House-Martin, Common Waxbill, Red-billed Quelea, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Shoveler, Little Grebe, Lesser Striped Swallow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Levaillant’s Cisticola, White-faced Duck, Amethyst Sunbird, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-winged Lapwing, Little Rush-Warbler and Burchell’s Coucal.

African Jacana

African Jacana

It’s all about the little things – Hugh Watson

Hugh Watson, a regular visitor to the Karkloof Conservation Centre bird hides took these breathtaking photographs during his recent visit. Can you spot Wally, the yellow spider?

KK Feb 7 KK Feb 10 KK Feb 9 KK Feb 8

Spitzkop Farm – Tim Hancock

My sighting is very vague – it looked like an Eurasian Hobby – from the falcon like head and very curved back wings and thin tail (just like a big swallow) repeatedly dive bombing what appeared to be a Steppe Buzzard – too far to actually be definite.

Cricket vs.Twitching – Johnny Bouwer

On Saturday morning the 28 February, I was faced with the choice of lying in bed and watching the Kiwi’s thrash the Auzzies in the WC or head out to the rainy & wet Midlands to the Karkloof Conservation Centre.

KK Feb 14

I was rewarded with a some awesome sightings, so I believe I made the right call. At first I thought the birds were probably all snuggled up in bed watching the cricket.

KK Feb 13

White-throated Swallow

KK Feb 11

Pied Kingfisher

These photographs are of a White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Ducks and a pair of intimate Brown-throated Martins.

KK Feb 12

Yellow-billed Ducks

KK Feb 18

Brown-throated Martins

The 3 Cranes Challenge – John and Linnet Crow

Friday was a day in Fairyland, after a beautiful sunrise and being situated in the forest at Karkloof Canopy Tours.

KK Feb 19

The sunlight reflecting off the wings of the butterflies and dragonflies could have been glimpses of fairies.

KK Feb 20

The Samango monkeys and Loeries (now known as a Turaco) watched the show as the competitors enjoyed the canopy tour. The floor moved as the bright yellow crabs and finches carried on with their activities.

KK Feb 21

The troll that I heard turned out not to be a troll, but Kai from the canopy tours coming to check how everything was going.

Saturday was a day of watching runners appear from and disappear back into the mist

KK Feb 22

and looking for some of the little things.

KK Feb 24

A juvenile fiscal shrike kept us company for a while.

KK Feb 25

Sunday did not show us the same spectacular sunrise as last year, but the surface of the dam displayed an incredible reflection.

KK Feb 28

The signs were there that the caracal had departed not long before we arrived.

KK Feb 29

The dam at Bushwillow Park was a welcome sight at the end of the 3 days.

KK Feb 30

Bird Ringing @ Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson

On the 11 February, Karin Nelson hosted a bird ringing day at our Conservation Centre. The day was well attended and we were pleased to see all the homeschoolers that made use of the activity as part of their studies.

Village Weaver waiting to be collected. The netting gently captures the bird. Qualified bird-ringers know all the tricks so that they may safely remove the bird without any injury. Photograph by Richard Booth.

There were also some visitors who were curious about how ringing impacts the birds, but were very pleased to see how gentle and competent Karin is and that the birds were so calm during the process. Karin caught a total of 75 birds with 5 of these being re-traps.

Red-billed Quelea being measured by qualified bird-ringer, Karin Nelson. Photograph by Richard Booth.

These included: 47 x Red-billed Quelea; 7 x African Reed-Warbler; 6 x Village Weavers; 4 x Southern Red Bishop; 2 x Drakensberg Prinia; 2 x Yellow-fronted Canaries; 2 x Levaillant’s Cisticola; 2 x Fan-tailed Widowbirds; 1 x Pin-tailed Whydah; 1 x Dark-capped Bulbul; and 1 x African Stonechat.

Pluviophiles in the Karkloof – Twané Clarke

“Pluviophile: (n) A lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.”

One afternoon when I noticed a build up of dark clouds, I decided to hightail it to the Gartmore hide and see what’s out and about during the rain.

KK Feb 33

Firstly, I noticed a Yellow-billed Duck wandered the pan alone,

KK Feb 34

Yellow-billed Duck

then I saw a flock of Barn Swallows flying in the distance with two breaking away to rest on a branch,

KK Feb 35

Barn Swallows

and the last bird I saw was a lonely little White-throated Swallow.

KK Feb 36

White-throated Swallow

These birds all weathered the storm and remained there the entire time. I arrived back at the office a drowned rat, but a happy one indeed!

Owls, Out of the Woods

The Raptor Rescue Rehabilitation Centre receives injured birds regularly. They have been hit by cars, poisoned and electrocuted. Sometimes the raptors are shot by irate farmers protecting small livestock like chickens and geese. After receiving tender loving care, many are able to be released back into the wild. However, this is not just a case of letting them go anywhere, usually they need a soft release, with someone to take care of their needs for a while, while they find their wings.


RRRC is looking for potential release sites for birds. Do you live on a farm or small holding that would be suitable to support birds of prey, either owls, or diurnal raptors?

Katie Robinson at Lemonwood in Dargle has rehabilitated and released a number of owls, a few from FreeMe and the rest rescued by locals. She says I absolutely loved rehabilitating the owls and have done about 12 now over the years and although I don’t see them very often any more, I know they are around and I hear them at night in the forest. 


 My favourite was a barely alive fledgling, a Spotted Eagle Owl, whom we named Challenge. She was brought to me by a couple of the boys in the village.  As luck would have it, I had two homeopathic vets staying in the cottages who told me to feed it a concoction of remedies, one of which was Rescue (I can’t remember the other two).  I got up every two hours to check on it and administer the drops for the next couple of nights. She made a remarkable recovery and was the first owl I had to teach how to hunt for itself.  I had some live rat traps which were incredibly effective (designed and built by Ken Willan) and I would release the rats into the middle of the lawn and the race was on.  I lost a lot of rats (which I am sure were not fooled by the rat traps twice) but eventually the owl caught on and became a brilliant hunter.  She stayed around the garden for months suddenly appearing out of the trees and landing either on my head or shoulder.  Their flight really is silent, I never knew it was there until I felt her talons trying to get a grip on my skull!!  But she was a tremendous help with the rat problems I had on the farm, so a fright a few times a week was worth the pain! The guests in the cottages loved it.  The owls would come and sit on their balcony. I remember one guest who got the fright of her life as she was at the kitchen sink in front of the window at night and suddenly an owl landed on the sill and started bobbing its head around staring at her with those wonderful, piercing orange eyes.  She told me he stayed there for ages just staring at her and bobbing up and down in their customary way.”


What a privilege to be chosen as a suitable custodian and being able to engage closely with a bird of prey. This is a very rewarding experience if you have the enthusiasm, time and money to assist our precious raptors and contribute to conservation. You need to be willing to put up a 3m squared release enclosure at your own cost. It needs to have weld-mesh wire or shade cloth sides tied to a metal frame. One side has to have a covered area to protect the bird from the elements, and one side has to have a door in it. Once it has been set up it can be used repeatedly for several releases of various raptors. If owls are to be released, you would need to buy an owl box which will need to be placed in the protected corner of the enclosure. RRRC then bring the raptor/s and place them into your care.


Four Spotted Eagle Owls were released into the Winterskloof Conservancy area under the custodianship of the Fosters.  Linda Foster: “Thanks for giving us this awesome opportunity to release these lovely raptors.” A while after the successful release, she was delighted to report. “I heard a Spottie calling in the valley last night. Only one calling – couldn’t hear any replies. None of them have been back for food so far though.”

Daily duties for the new guardians will include feeding the birds daily and monitoring their progress for two to three weeks as they settle into their new environment. RRRC will supply the food – several packets of frozen day old chicks which can be taken out, defrosted and used when necessary. Tammy Caine, of RRRC “We will recommend the amount of food to be given depending on the raptor, and which time of day is best to feed.”


After sufficient time, the door to the enclosure will be opened allowing the raptors to come and go as they please. The guardians will have to continue placing food out until the raptors are hunting and self-sufficient again.

A Crowned Eagle was released in Albert Falls last year – the release process was a perfect success (although later the bird had a sad ending). Theo and Margie Cave reported “Guin (the Crowned Eagle) was released at 17:30 on Friday. She had a successful first meeting with the resident male about an hour later. Both roosted in a large gum tree for the night. Both eagles were in the tree above the hack enclosure on Saturday. Guin came down and fed in the cage.”

16.03.2014 085This is a really worthwhile project to be involved in and obviously a joyful one too. Raptors are often misunderstood and persecuted. “Owls in particular are killed on sight by those superstitious enough to view them as bringers of death. We also get orphan chicks, particularly owls coming into the rehab. It is always a challenge to find suitable homes for these babies as they need longer care, more vigilance and a lot more help in adjusting to life as free, wild birds.” says Tammy Caine. Do contact her as soon as you can to offer your services as a raptor rescuer.  kznraptorrescue@gmail.com 076 724 6846