July 15: Arguments With Owlists

A Sunset drive tonight with more high quality sightings. The kind where the animals are up close and doing things. Tonight was all about the owls. Oddly, the only big Kalahari owl we missed out on was the Spotted Eagle Owl, which is by far the most common!

In the Kalahari, a lot of our Spotted Eagle Owls have orange eyes. This is a problem because Spotted Eagle Owls are supposed to have yellow eyes. It’s the easiest way to tell the difference between the Cape Eagle Owl (with it’s orange eyes) and the nearly identical Spotted Eagle Owl (with it’s yellow eyes). This had lead to more than a few arguments with serious birders on my drives, who insist we’re seeing Cape Eagle Owls. But actually, we’re seeing a rare ‘rufous morph’ of Spotted Eagle Owl– with orange eyes. But try telling the birders that.

Sightings:

Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Steenbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Springhare
Scrub Hare
Southern White Faced Scops Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Barn Owl

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July 12: There’s No Shame in Calling Things ‘Cute’

 A delightful sunset drive tonight, with some high quality sightings and a wide variety of cool animals to look at. Just look at how long tonight’s sightings list is!

And I do hate to be such a girl about this, but the Kalahari is home to more impossibly ‘cute’ animals than anywhere else. Take tonight, when a cute Cape Fox started digging frantically in the sand, to create a cozy new bed for itself. You could actually see the bliss on it’s face when it snuggled down into its little bed. There’s nothing wrong with calling something ‘cute’, if it’s really very cute.

Also snapped a quick and blurry photo of a Black Backed Jackal trying to catch a scent. It was also rather cute.

A cute Jackal

And finally, this Spotted Eagle Owl. Not tremendously cute, but it was eating a mouse. The mouse would have been very cute once.

Not a cute owl, eating a once cute mouse

Did you know that Owls can lift their food up into their mouths with their feet? It’s very dignified and it beats just ripping it up with their faces, like raptors do. The only other birds who can do this are parrots.

Sightings (i’m still really into gestation periods):

Brown Hyena (Gestation 90 days)
Meerkat (65 days)
Slender Mongoose (63 days)
African Wild Cat (65 days)
Black Backed Jackal (60 days)
Cape Fox (56 days)
Bat Eared Fox (60 days)
Springhare (77 days)
Scrub Hare (42 days)
Steenbok (7 months)
Springbok (5.5 months)
Gemsbok (9 months)
Wildebeest (9 months)
Spotted Eagle Owl
Giant Eagle Owl
Gabar Goshawk
Tawny Eagle
Pale Chanting Goshawk

June 25: Kudus are Kudutastic

Last night I was asked what the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl’s wingspan was. Oddly, none of my three bird books list it, so in this case I had to say I didn’t know. Today i’ve looked it up, and if anyone is curious, their wingspan averages about 55 inches. Which is massive.

So tonight we had the first night drive we’ve had in a while. I think this cold spell is putting people off coming out on night drives, but it shouldn’t because it doesn’t put the animals off in the slightest. Once again we saw so much tonight!

Today’s highlight- a KUDU! Yay! Only the second i’ve seen on a game drive here.  When we first spotted it, it had its head in a bush, but after some backing and forthing we managed to get the view that confirmed its kuduness. The Kalahari isn’t exactly Kudu Central and they don’t much like our environment, but a few brave ones live here quite happily. Fortunately for them, if they want to leave they can do so at any time. No game fence can contain a Kudu. They’re totally invincible.

Very excited about the Kudu…

Sightings:

Kudu
Small Spotted Genet
Pygmy Mouse
African Wild Cat
Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Springhare
Scrubhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Barn Owl

June 24: Starry, Starry Owls

Just back from one of those really uplifting sunset drives. Drives are rarely made good solely on the basis of their sightings. Drives are made good by the people you share them with.

I had two separate lion ‘tip-offs’ before the drive and shared these with my two guests. Each sighting was farther than i’d usually drive, but not out of the question, and I haven’t seen lions at ‘home’ now for a long time, so I was more than happy to make the effort. Five minutes into the drive, I knew that these weren’t people to rush off to a lion sighting. They were so content and captivated with the things around them. As a result, we spent a lot of time just parked and absorbing Kalahari. Plenty of good, intelligent questions and wonderful conversation too. Tonight was the sort of drive I wish I could do every night. Love.

We didn’t need lions. The owls were the big stars tonight (not as big as the actual stars, which were also big stars tonight). The Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl and Southern White Faced Scops Owl all delivered sightings of the highest quality. The memory I take with me from tonight is that of the Scops Owl’s eyes. They were so ridiculously orange! The only time i’ve ever seen orange that intense was last week when I bought a small bottle of orange flavoured ‘Drink-o-Pop’ from the camp shop. I was so taken with the luminous, rather toxic-looking artificial orange liquid that I took a photo of it. It took great courage to drink it. But it’s the only colour I can use to describe the Scops Owl’s eyes. I shall write to Roberts and make sure that they refer to the Scops Owl’s eyes as ‘Drink-o-Pop Orange’ in the 8th edition.

No camera can capture the true orangeness of ‘Drink-o-Pop’ Orange.

Sightings:

African Wild Cat
Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Springhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Ostrich
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Southern White Faced Scops Owl
Black Headed Heron

June 14: Pretty Pink Eyelids and Blue Jelly Bean Teeth

I may have had blue jelly bean teeth and a slight raspberry juice mustache on the night drive tonight. It really does pay to look in mirrors before leaving the house. Fortunately the moon is still gone and it was extra dark.

Our drive tonight started with a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl- an exceptionally huge owl with pretty pink eyelids. It’s fairly common here but not something we see often. This Owl is a serious hunter, often killing other birds such as raptors and the very rare Pel’s Fishing Owl. It’ll even hunts Flamingos in other parts of the Kalahari!

Photobucket

The Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. A photo I took back in 2008>>>

Sightings:

Brown Hyena
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Springhare
Scrub Hare
Springbok
Steenbok
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Dikkop