African Birds of Prey (Ashburton) Saturday morning 3rd November 2012

Photos and comment by Rod Hart


An Educational outing organised by Mark Nellist for the MHC. We met at 10am for the demonstration and talk which started at 10.30. There was also a Vulture feeding at 12:30pm. Several of us took the advantage of their restaurant to have lunch there as well. The centre has 36 well maintained enclosures, with eagles, owls, vultures, kestrals, hawks and falcons. The demonstration, held against an idealic background of green rolling hills looking towards Hammarsdale, was extremely informative and presented in a most entertaining way and is well worth the trip to the centre (from Pietermaritzburg turn off the N3 at Exit 65 Lion Park interchange, then 4 km towards Lion Park)

The details about the birds in my pics in the first three sections are mostly taken from the information boards posted at the individual enclosures.

Pic - 1 Taita Falcon: This small falcon derives its name from the place that the species was first collected - Taita in Kenya.
Pic – 2 Jackel Buzzard: These pretty raptors are enedemic to South Africa and southern Namibia. They get their name from their loud yelping call that sounds like a jackal.
Pic - 3 Greater Kestrel: These medium sized kestrels are found mostly in semi-arid areas and hunt by hovering, or moving from perch to perch, scanning the ground below, until they spot their prey.
Pic - 4 Brown Snake Eagle: All snake eagles have rather large heads and prominent yellow eyes. Though they are not immune to snake venom, they will eat poisonous snakes. Their heavily-scaled limbs and thick under-plumage offer them a degree of protection against potential strikes.
Pic - 5 Egyptian Vulture: Although reports in 18th century claim that it occured commonly this vulture is virtually extinct in Southern Africa.
Pic – 6 Egyptian Vulture on its way out of my picture frame!
Pic - 7 Pygmy Falcon:These tiny shrike-like raptors weigh just 50-70 grams.

Pic - 8 Verreaux' Eagle Owl: These are the largest sub-Saharan eagle-owls that can be identified by their distinctive sleepy pink eyelids. They nest in trees in the stick nests of other birds.
Pic - 9 African Wood Owl: Has a second eyelid. This blue, nictitating membrane closes protectively over the eye when they pounce on their prey, thus preventing this forest dwelling owl from receiving ocular wounds from sticks and branches.
Pic – 10 Marsh Owl: This species can be seen quartering low over wetlands just before and after sunset hunting for rats and mice. Their call is a harsh croaking noise that sounds more like a toad than an owl.
Pic - 11 African Grass Owl: Their wide, moonlike facial disc assists the owl in locating their prey by sound as well as sight. They nest on the ground and make a series of tunnels covered by long grass.
Pic - 12 Cape Eagle Owl: These distinctive owls are the third biggest owl species found in South Africa and can take very big prey for their size. As well as insects, birds and rodents, hares and dassies have been recorded in their diet.
Pic - 13 Southern White-faced Scops Owl: They hunt from a perch, dropping down onto small rodents and athropods. These owls lay their 2 to 3 eggs in old nests of other birds. Some of their vocalizations sound like that of a cat: they also purr and yeowl!

Pic – 14 Verreaux' Eagle: These cliff dwelling black eagles live in territorial pairs and build huge nests to which they add sticks every year. The biggest nest recorded extended 4.1 m high!
Pic - 15 African Fish Eagle: They fish from prominent perches that overlook the water. Their presence acts as a barometer to the quality of the water system. They are notorious pirates and will steal fish from herons or cormorants. Their very broad wings provide maximum lift to enable them to rise off the water with heavy fish.
Pic - 16 Bateleur: These, the most colourful of all eagles, spend most of their time soaring at low altitudes in a slow rocking motion and can cover as much as 300km daily. Because they eat carrion they are suseptable to poisoning and are now rarely found outside of conservation areas.
Pic - 17 The handsome Bateleur.

Pic - 19 A Lanner Falcon introduces the demonstration by swooping through the stands then eyeing the audience!
Pic - 20 The handler with the falcon
Pic - 21 The Cape Eagle Owl demonstrates its camouflage capability.
Pic – 22 The Cape Eagle Owl
Pic - 23 The handler throws meat treats in the air which the Yellow Billed Kite swoops on. If you look at the enlarged pic you can see the treat almost directly above the handler's head in line with the Kite's beak.
Pic - 24 Goshawk
Pic - 25 A Barn Owl launches from the handlers glove
Pic – 26 Barn Own
Pic - 27 Barn Owl
Pic - 28 Peregrine Falcon

Pic - 29 A hungry Whitebacked Vulture at lunchtime sussing out my camera (or fingers)
Pic – 30 The Whitebacked vulture: Their scavaging nature rids our veld of carcasses and prevents the spread of disease. They glide at speeds of around 60km/hr and locate their food with amazing eyesight which is eight times better than our own.
Pic - 31 Vulture feeding frenzy!