We appear to have been super fortunate over the last few weeks as we have found a number of nests that we can observe as the eggs hatch and chicks develop, with the most notable one being the Jacana nest close to camp. However, the next nest we found was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry.
Spending time in nature allows us as rangers to appreciate time exploring the reserve, especially on foot. A bush walk allows us to connect with the bush on a much deeper, more intense level. All your senses are heightened and you notice the smaller things that you might miss on an everyday drive. To be on foot in the bush is to see and feel the natural environment the same way the animals do. Immersing one’s self in the amongst nature. The moment that you step away from the vehicle, your senses are heightened and you are no longer an observer but a participant in the environment.
So what doe this have to do with the Title?
Recently, ranger Barry Bath and I had a morning off and decided to explore one of the larger drainage lines on Londolozi, known as the Tugwaan (that runs from west to east through the Southern parts of Londolozi).
This walk, in particular, a couple weeks back speaks true to connecting with the bush in a way I have never felt before.
Starting off in the dappled early morning shade, Barry and I walked along contently, appreciating the sights and sounds away from the vehicle. After spending some time with a lone elephant bull, ticking off a few birds, and having covered some good ground, we both voted for the inevitable, a well-needed coffee break.
These walks are usually punctuated with a coffee break, pre-maid in a flask, carried in our backpack with the anticipation of finding a beautiful location to sit back and sip on this delightful warm beverage.
As we approached a steep eroded wall in the drainage, out flew not one but two spotted eagle owls from a small ledge! This could only mean one thing, the birds were nesting! Trying to contain our excitement, I scrambled up the wall a distance away to scan with my binoculars and see if there were any chicks in the nest. Instead of young chicks, there were two large perfectly white eggs laying on the bare ground.
Why so special
The Spotted Eagle-Owl is arguably one of the most adaptable owl species, with a distribution across multiple biomes covering the entirety of Southern Africa. Each pair of owls claim a territory of its own. But most exciting for us is that once the pair have found a successful nesting spot, they typically use that same site year after year, sometimes for decades.
Even though these birds are adaptable and fairly abundant, their breeding success is surprisingly poorly documented. So now we know where a nest is and we can observe it over the next few weeks we will be able to watch the little eggs until they hatch and the chicks grow and develop.
Their nests vary greatly, another indication of their adaptability, using anything from a shallow scrape on the ground, between rocks, in a sheltered site on a cliff ledge, in a hollow tree, or even an abandoned nest of other large birds.
In the coming weeks, the female will solely be responsible for incubation (for roughly 30 days), with the male providing all of the food. Once hatched, the young will leave the nest after 30-38 days, but will be dependent on both parents for another five weeks, hopefully providing us with some beautiful scenes of a tight-knit family group of owls!
And with any luck, we will be able to see two tiny, pure white fluffy chicks sometime soon.