Boeta and the tortoise

Boeta walked up to me and we watched the merinos for a moment before I showed him something much more interesting. Looking back his reaction was pretty fascinating for a 2 year-old.

Boeta drive-17Half “parked” in a small bush next to us was a wild Leopard tortoise. By my estimation it must be around 30 years+ old, if not much older, whatever the case may be, not a young specimen. I told Boeta to look at the tortoise, his first ever face to face with a big one. An amazing thing happened, he was like a veterinarian, immediately interested and concerned for the health as he laid his little hands on the old lady’s shell and inspected her…he was very serious too.

Boeta drive-20Boeta drive-19 Boeta drive-18I turned her slightly out the bush so that he could see her face and this seemed to get him excited and in a lighter mood again. We decided to walk on, excitedly talking about our find and the fact that it blended in so nicely, I nearly missed it totally.

Boeta drive-21 Boeta drive-22Boeta was back exploring, which made life pretty tough for mom, because he kept running off the track into the field and getting grass up in places he did not want it.

Boeta drive-23 Boeta drive-24 Boeta drive-25Once she got the irritants out, he immediately forgot about it and was off again…

Boeta drive-26At this point we had been walking for a good 30 minutes and knew we had to turn around as he was still a toddler and this equaled an hour walk already. We turned around and when we got to the point where we left the tortoise, it was still there…

Boeta drive-28Boeta was again heavily concerned for this tortoise and it’s seemingly inability to move away.

We explained that it was still fairly early in the day (10 am) and being winter the tortoise had to first warm up or it may be waiting for warmer times.

(Later the farmer told us they tend to park up against a bush and just sit there until it warms up again, which is precisely what this one did.)

Boeta was not so convinced and again laid his young hands on the shell of the tortoise.

Boeta drive-27I decided to show him the tortoise was okay and asked mom to take a few shot of her, when we turn her on her side, so that we can try to determine the sex later and also show Boeta she was fine.

Boeta drive-31It was a female, the short stubby tail and flat plate indicates that, males having more of a groove and angle from center outward and longer tail with more pronounced V. One special tortoise then as she would be able to lay up to 15 eggs and several clutches in a season, sometimes, taking up to a year to hatch.

It also gave me the opportunity to show you the front and back legs and nails of the mature tortoise.

Boeta drive-29 Boeta drive-30

The rear legs are very trunk-like, the front legs are almost paddle shaped and “pigeon-toed” with a row of small “nails”. They can move very fast on these legs, and maneuver over rocky terrain easily They can also climb and go underwater for up to 10 minutes. Younger animals have a surprising ability to climb, as their toenails provide a very secure grip on wood, concrete, and rough stone surfaces.

The South African leopard tortoise is significantly more difficult to breed in captivity than the common leopard tortoise, S. p. babcocki. Eggs will rarely hatch in an incubator. Most successes have occurred when eggs are left in the ground, and when the climate is similar to the natural one for these tortoises. Not surprisingly, given its propensity for grassland habitats, it grazes extensively upon mixed grasses. It also favors succulents and thistles, and (in captivity) the fruit and pads of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia sp.) (cactus are New World plants not native to Africa). The African Leopard Tortoise typically lives 80 to 100 years.

Leopard tortoises “court” by the male ramming the female. When mating, the male makes grunting vocalizations.

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Keep up mom…

We drove to the top of a hill and got out to explore. We had the area for ourselves, at least 10 – 15 km in every direction, not including the farmhouse, where we stayed, which was about 3 km or so from our location.

Boeta drive-11I got going down the farm tracks in order to take a few shots of the 2 year-old and mom. Initially I struggled to see Boeta, as he was busy collecting rocks and having fun in the immediate area. Mom patiently waited for him to finish his exploration. He appeared with a huge rock.

Boeta drive-2With all the rocks around, it did not take long before he saw another and another in need of inspection. Mom and Boeta traded leading as they walked, stopped, walked, stopped, walked…

Boeta drive-13Boeta drive-3I decided to take a few shots of the Euphorbia that grew everywhere on the hill.

Boeta drive-10 Boeta drive-12I saw a crow in the air and wondered for the slightest of moments about the specie, saw the white and knew it was a pied crow. I asked mom if she saw it and pointed…

Boeta drive-4At the same time a few “Springbok” gazelle took off from close to me and Boeta noticed, but not mom, she was focused on the crow. I could not get a nice shot of them, unfortunately.

Boeta drive-14Boeta, unknown to mom, took off, while she was looking up.

Boeta drive-6 Boeta drive-7 Boeta drive-8When mom looked back, Boeta put some serious distance between them and she needed to lift the speed…seriously.

Boeta drive-9 Boeta drive-16When the little man got to me, I showed him and mom (a little later), the meat merino’s that were standing all around us on the hill.

Boeta drive-15 Boeta driveWe enjoyed seeing fast distances, showing the little man the far mountains and all we could see and find in the fields around us. A special find at this spot with the next post…

Face to Face…with an Eagle-Owl.

Another of our great memories. …
A while back we visited a raptor rehab facility near Addo. The birds and snakes they have are either injured or taken from owners, who cannot look after them. In many cases they cannot be released, due to imprinting. Sad as some of the stories are, we met this beautiful Cape Eagle-Owl.

06-Owl, Cape eagle-owl (2)He had a Spotted Eagle-Owl as a friend.

02-Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl (8)It was such a fantastic experience to be close to these birds. They are used to educate students at schools about owls and they are full of games as well. We were told that by afternoon they like chasing the minder around the big cage. We found them in a great mood for some attention.

The Spotted Eagle-Owl
He likes a scratch. My wife got a bit of a shock, when he decided its better to get the TLC in a more direct way.

10-Owl, Spotted Eagle-owl12-Owl, Spotted Eagle-owl (3) 11-Owl, Spotted Eagle-owl (2)When he was not happy with this head-scratching he decided to gently ask her to move the finger another itch!

14-Owl, Spotted Eagle-owl (5)Yes, yes, much better…

16-Owl, Spotted Eagle-owl (6)

The Cape Eagle-Owl

Our second eagle-owl did not really appreciate the attention given to his friend and decided it would be the best time to have a stare-down with someone or something.

07-Owl, Cape eagle-owl (3)He first tried me, then thought to have a go at the one-eyed camera lens.

15-Owl, Cape eagle-owl (6)17-Owl, Cape eagle-owl (7)Not satisfied with the lack of reaction, he decided to go at his minder and sure enough they had a good stare-down.

20-Owl, Cape eagle-owl (10)Goal achieved! Everybody is now certain who the boss is and he will allow a head scratch.

18-Owl, Cape eagle-owl (8)This was a great treat for us! We will go back next time we visit the area, just to look in on our new friends. I would rather see them in the wild, but on rare occasions like these, you cannot help but feel privileged for the chance to get really close and you walk away with a renewed appreciation for these incredibly beautiful birds.

Interesting 2014….Birds.

Interesting 2014….Birds.

On a birding front we saw many of the normal birds, but tried to present them in new ways.

Orange River White-eye (Zosterops pallidus)

Orange River White-eye (Zosterops pallidus)

We first showed you a bird from our previous region of residence in the Northern Cape, where these endemic White-eyes come from.

A tough little subject to capture on camera.

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The Marabou was another subject, based on a post of a trip by mom to Uganda. These will forever remain fascinating birds to us.

The owl stare-down post was another favorite because these Spotted owls gave us personal contact and something we will forever remember.

20-Owl, Cape eagle-owl (10)10-Owl, Spotted Eagle-owl5-DSC_0433The Greater double – collared Sunbirds and this photo with the nectar and tongue, lovely.

We saw them again in August on our trip in the Addo National Park.

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Talking about small birds, the Firefinch, first time captured on camera and a great source of pleasure.

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Another fun sight was the fighting Malachite Sunbirds. Another unique chance – something different.

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The fun sighting was the very distant Secretary Birds on their nest, changing guard. It was an absolute lucky find, being so far away and even the long lens struggled, but from birding perspective, priceless.2-DSC_0127Red-necked Francolin’s offered some wonderful chances for photos.

3-DSC_0084 2-DSC_0070A major find and capture was the Stanley’s Bustard. Again a lucky find, but so special.

2-DSC_0108 3-DSC_0113The first ever sighting of the Forest Weaver….thrilling!

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One of Boeta’s favorite birds would have been the Masked Weaver.

These kept hanging around the deck of the lodge, and kept him busy for periods.

 5-DSC_0650Daddy love the capture of the Kelp gull in a row…

08-DSC_0202And the performance given by the European sparrows also made the little man laugh and gave us a whole morning of fun, catching midges.

DSC_0110e 16-glans 13-glansWe can go on and on, lots of raptors and a nice list of birds we posted about during the year, all listed on the fauna page. We can summarize by saying this, if we just visited natural areas for the wildlife, it would have meant losing out by heaps, because adding birding to the list makes your trips and travels just that more exciting and fun. A last wave goodbye by the African Hoepoe to 2014.

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African Spoonbill (Platalea alba)

How would it feel to walk around with a spoon for a mouth? Well, I guess this bird should be able to answer that question. The African Spoonbill, pure white, a challenge for a point and shoot, especially on early afternoon, with distinctive long, flattened spoon-like bill. Red tinge around the edges with featherless (bare) face.

We saw these in the Eastern Cape, around Port Elizabeth, but they occur in most of Southern Africa, except dry regions, up the eastern African countries mostly.

03-DSCF0140They feed by sweeping those spoons side to side. I tried to get some pictures of this.

10-DSCF0153 09-DSCF0152 08-DSCF0148 06-DSCF0145 05-DSCF0143 04-DSCF0141Hope you enjoy this quick look at the spoonbills.

Previous post of birding: Eagle, Verreaux’s

Pale Chanting Goshawk (Melierax canorus)

The introduction picture is how we usually see these in the field. They are endemic to the South Western Africa region, which basically means South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

In flight the white under-wing contrast strongly with the dark primaries on the wing tips, as well as white “windows” on top of wings.

2-162 Bleeksingvalk (Mokale park) 09 (4) 3-162 Bleeksingvalk (Mokale park) 09 (8)The beautiful barred rump can only really be seen up close, and here the raptor rehab center came to the rescue. We found they had some birds with wing damage (mostly) and took a few pictures.

7-2009_1114 Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk (11) 3-2009_1114 Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk (23) 2-2009_1114 Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk (21) They also have long reddish legs and wonderful calls. Always nice sight in the wild.

Warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicas)

We found some Warthog in Addo National Park. Not the most beautiful animal you could ever see, but yet, there it is.

3-DSC_0594 1-DSC_0592A muddy concoction of compactness, with a huge head, small eyes, and a wart just below the eyes, males have another set lower down, and then the canine teeth forms prominent tusks, growing outward and then upward. The weight of the males average around 80 kg.

They like open woodlands, grassland and floodplains. They feed on grass, roots, seeds, fruit, bark and even invertebrates. Interestingly babies eat mother’s dung to inoculate their gut with bacteria.

Their love for mud is for removing parasites and cooling off. They form loose families, usually males with 2 females and piglets. I managed to capture a meeting of 2 groups and in what is said to be a friendly meeting with recognition, some sniffing and possibly a bout of head pushing.

6-DSC_0613 7-DSC_0614 5-DSC_0612After the head pushing, all was good again, and everybody went on with their day’s task of foraging for food.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Very common bird in South Africa and Africa, also found in Europe and Asia. Birds of the extreme northern and eastern parts of its range tend to be migratory, but those in Africa do not and many part of Europe.

You can read more about them, here.

The pictures I have so far, are from various parts of the country, dry central, garden route and sunshine coast.

8-DSCF6260 6-DSCF6258 5-DSCF6257 3-DSCF0346 Grey Heron (BlouReier) #62 W#36980 1-62 c

African Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

These largish black waders are found mostly in South Africa. Mainly in estuaries, coastlines and lagoons.

We see them regularly here, coming and going from their nesting sites or sleeping spots, in groups. You cannot miss the red/orange bill and eye-ring. Here are a few pictures I took at various spots.

Some of the photographs are on mussel colonies and I understand there may be oysters around here too, but not sure.

06-IMG_0468 11-2010_0215beachview0026 12-2010_0215beachview0052 15-2010_01300017 16-2010_06120087 19-DSCF1654 21-DSCF1685 22-2010_0215beachview0035Previous birding post:

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)

2-Pied Kingfisher  Ceryle rudis (Female2)A pretty common kingfisher throughout most parts of Sub – saharan Africa. Only black and white kingfisher in Africa.

This one is a female and only varies from female by a double band on the breast, being the male. Interestingly, I read somewhere once that they have helpers when breeding and a scarcity of food occurs. Helpers usually, offspring or non-breeding individuals, increase as the food becomes less. Wonderful how nature works.1-Pied Kingfisher  Ceryle rudis (Female)Previous birding post:

Knysna Toraco

Knysna Toraco (Tauraco corythaix)

An amazingly beautiful bird with a not so great hoarse voice. One of the special birds in my heart. First time we saw it was on honeymoon in Knysna area, on the Garden route of South Africa. We took coffee, binoculars and selected a piece of natural forest to go sit.

I remember it took a little time to get used to the sounds and surroundings, we saw basically nothing, and suddenly, the forest came alive around us. My wife went missing for a while, hunting a bird she saw with the binoculars, next moment I saw 2 Turaco’s, and tried to get her attention. Waving, soft calling, whatever, eventually she noticed my attention seeking behavior, and saw the birds. We left that spot excited and happy. I did not have a camera either, so it was a pure experience for us.

2-Knysna LourieWe now live in a region where they also occur, just 1 km from our house we tend to see them fly over the road. They are endemic to South Africa and occur along the western and eastern coast forests.