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.
Filed under Birds General Nature Ranger Wildlife
Amazing Keagan! For me, when walking out in the African bush – it is about freedom and of course my senses coming alive! Finding a nest is special. It would been great tracking these owl’s progress! Eagerly awaiting the update.
Look forward to the continuation of this story! Great find!
So excited to see the Spotted Eagle Owl eggs and hopefully watch them hatch and grow. I had a close encounter with a Barred Owl last year and it took my breath away. So majestic! I will never forget it. Looking forward to my next trip to Londolozi with my granddaughter, Jordan in August 2023.
Keagan, thanks you for sharing this new discovery. It is a privilege tone able to observe these owls as they expand their family and nurture their young. Can’t wait for the updates!
First, let me say that I love how you described leaving the vehicle as becoming a participant and no longer just an observer. I felt that same way during our coffee breaks on game drive, even when not venturing that far from the vehicle. I was very alert. I imagine a bush walk would be exhilarating, just due to the heightened awarenesss necessary.
Secondly, how exciting you found this nest! I hope they are successful and continue to nest here so more data points can be mapped about this pair and their behavior over many years. I loved following along with the jacana.
You were so lucky to see the adults fly off the nest, other wise you would not of known that they were there. They blend in so well with nature and sometimes it is hard to spot them. We had a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls in our yard and my husband Google to see what kind of nest they will breed in. He then made a box out of wood according to the specifications and hoisted it up in the tree. We waited patiently and at last they breed and 3 chick’s hatched out in the box. So so precious and the mother was quite tame and I would call her and watch how she feeds the chick’s. One day she came and sat quite near to our back door on the pole that we used for our grape vine, and it was drizzling outside. The chick’s used to fly out the tree over our wall and into the grassland behind us waiting for the parents to feed them. Next morning they are back again in the box in the tree.
Fantastic news Keagan! Walking in the bush can bring many surprises, especially when you discover the beginnings of new life, in your case, finding Spotted Eagle Owl eggs. I’ll be looking forward to updated reports on how incubation is progressing, and to the end excitement of seeing the fluffy little owlets caught by your cameras.
So great! Will be nice to follow the baby owl’s progress. I remember the wonderful bush walks with Nick and Joy, sensory overload! Miss it badly…
Doesn’t look like much of a nest! How do they contain the young once hatched? Or even the eggs from rolling away?
What an exciting discovery!
I am looking forward to hearing more about the breeding success of this couple and to seeing a photo of the chicks when they have hatched. Will the parents care for both chicks, or is one egg only a “spare” one?
Very very cool Keagan! Really looking forward to further posts as this story develops, and rooting for this family of eagle owls!!
What an exciting discovery, Keagan! I’m looking forward to the next chapters in this story!
This is really exciting! I’m looking forward to the updates and watching the family evolve!
So exciting and can’t wait for the updated on the chicks!