Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Eye on Life

Broad interest online magazine


A Raptorous (sic) Time

Over the last few years, my son has become a keen birder, particularly with the Nikon D500 in his steady grip, and having started off in the usual place (Kirstenbosch), he has now become enraptured with raptors. Living within a little more than a stone’s throw of Wildevoelvlei on the way to Kommetjie, we have started making regular visits to look at the waterbirds, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Fish Eagles that frequent the area. To say that it is a birder’s paradise may be a slight exaggeration, but it isn’t far off. We start with observing the Levaillant’s Cisticola (making a nest at present) and a few weavers, common fiscals and lovely warblers – Little Rush and Lesser Swamp. Common waxbills whizz around in a little flock, while African Darters fly up and down the channel in the company of Caspian and Swift Terns according to the season.

Black crakes with bright beaks and long legs poke around at the edge of the reeds, and a dashing African Swamphen provides a splash of colour against the beige background. Yellow-billed ducks, Cape Teal and Cape Shovellers paddle up and down the channel, their offspring sadly diminishing (see below). The presence of food is what brings the raptors, and although it is never a happy sight, it is always an incredible experience to see them in action. Sometimes he sees Maccoa ducks, Mallards, various species of Grebe and too many others to list. So far his species count at Wildevoelvlei is around 110. Although access is controlled, the gatekeepers allow birdwatchers to drive down to the edge of the vlei, where a well-worn path and strategically placed benches make it a quiet and welcoming place to spend a few hours watching the avian activity.

Recent observations have been: African Fish Eagles snatching fish with their unerring skill and fearsome talons, African Harrier Hawk with possibly duckling in talons, Peregrine Falcon catching a starling, African Marsh Harrier, Black Harrier, Rock Kestrel with lizard, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Booted Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle, Yellow-billed and Black-winged Kites, Common Buzzard, European Honey Buzzard, and Jackal Buzzard. Quite astounding and some very special sightings with prey. Almost all of the action was captured on camera and here I share a few.

His most astounding sighting was a rare vagrant, the Red-tailed Tropic Bird!

This will teach me to say, No, I don’t feel like going to sit among the mosquitoes! I’ll have to slather myself with Tabard and head down there!

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