Limpopo Weekend 3rd to 5th August 2012
Michael Parker and Malcolm Wilson
We set off from Johannesburg at 0430hrs and were at daybreak just south of the Waterberg Biosphere reserve. We found a pair of Jackal Buzzards and a Lanner in one field and got a trap down for the JB, but not interested. The Lanner took off before we could get to it.A bit later we found another JB which too was not interested. In the fields here we counted 7 Denham’s Bustards and 30 Blue Cranes.
|2nd yr Male Shikra|
We spotted a few distant Brown Snake Eagles and one Black-chested but conditions this time of year were always going to be a challenge and many areas had not had rain for six months and many birds would move north to better hunting grounds.Got up into the Limpopo valley and tried out a new spring-trap method on a Purple Roller which worked very well and then caught an adult male Shikra a little later. Found the camp on the river and set a net up for owls but got a Southern Pied Babbler just before dark.
SaturdayHaving tea with the sun coming up, we were rewarded by the sight of a huge juvenile Martial Eagle flying through the tall riverine forest to land in a dead tree in front of us. The Egyptian Geese were making a royal racket and wondered about them as a potentially easy prey item for this magnificent Eagle.
Set off in the morning and found a Gabar Goshawk which came into the trap but got off. Dropped for a Tawny Eagle which was some distance from the road but we pulled it in with a ‘distressed mouse call’ on the ipod, but the bird was only mildly curious and took off after circling over a couple of times.
Had another Gabar get off the trap and no luck with a few Pale Chanting Goshawks also set back just too far from the track.Finally our bad luck turned and seemed to lead up to the next encounter when we came across a huge Tawny Eagle on a pole looking at the remains of a dead Steenbok. We got a large trap down for it and it came in in seconds and onto the trap. Giving it a while we saw it was caught and went in, the bird literally dragged a 2.6 kg trap 10m with comparative ease before Michael caught up to it and we had a fantastic looking second year Tawny Eagle of 2.8kgs.
Much flushed with this turn of fortunes we got 2 Black-chested Snake Eagles and a Brown Snake Eagle in the space of an hour! The next bird was a real surprise, thinking a straightforward Pale Chanting Goshawk, turned out to be a Pale-chanting / Dark-chanting Goshawk Hybrid! Very unusual to see or even catch and the first time I have come across it. We caught another adult female PCG back at the bush camp.
That evening just before dark we found a pair of Verreaux’s Eagle Owls in the tall riparian forest but we were too close and they took off before we could get a trap down. After dark we got a pair of beautiful African Scops Owls with the ipod and dazzled a Fiery-necked Nightjar, catching it by hand (who needs a net!?).
SundayWe set off back to Johannesburg, getting another PCG on the way out of the camp, this time the male of the pair. We dropped for a Brown Snake Eagle and got two Lizard Buzzards and a Rock Kestrel on the journey south.
My prediction about the abundance of some species during the winter hunting season seemed to ring true. Normally a rare bird in the province, seing two Tawny Eagles and catching one was good. Also saw 6 Bateleur Eagles including 2 juveniles. I would imagine these birds had come in from the greater Kalahari area to take advantage of the kills and subsequent abundance of offal from game shot on hunts.
Altogether 16 birds of 11 species were ringed on the weekend, could have had a few more, but conditions as they were, I think we did very well.