Night Owl Part 1
Some of the best places to spot owls are in the Kruger National Park: Tzendze, Crook’s Corner and the trees lining the Sabie and Olifants Rivers.
By Lisa Wassenaar
I remember our excitement on seeing our first African scops owl. We were emerging bird lovers, anxious to start with our first bird list. Owls featured high on our list of expectations. We were told to look out for it in the Kruger National Park (KNP). We had just entered and stopped at Afsaal, and there it was, in broad daylight, resting in a tree. I took about 50 photos of the sleeping owl! Ever since we have heard and seen it in many camps in Kruger. Being able to recognise its high-pitched prrt call has helped us find it on many occasions.
The next owl we wanted to see was the pearl-spotted owlet. We had heard how many birds were afraid of it, despite its small size. Then we saw it at Tzendze. Actually, we saw plenty of them perching on the dry branches of trees. To hear their call at night or early in the morning, long before sunrise, is always a thrill. We kind of associate Tzendze with pearl-spotted owlets now.
Once on our way to Kruger, we were camping at Tshipise, and we saw our first African wood-owl. Everybody had just tucked in, when I heard it call. I crept out of the tent and there it was, perched in the tree right next to our tent! It sat there and called to its mate, who answered from a nearby tree. I woke everybody from our group. Some were reluctant to leave their cosy sleeping bags, but I insisted that they come and see this rare and magnificent wonder. We stood there in awe, just listening, watching, almost too afraid to move. To me the wood-owl is one of the most beautiful owls, but they are all so fascinating. Since then I have downloaded its call as my cellphone’s ringtone.
Oh and how we have searched for the elusive Pel’s fishing owl. Somehow we felt that seeing a Pel’s fishing owl is almost like a landmark to becoming a true birder. Our first sighting was of a pair at Crooks’ Corner in the KNP. We spent about half an hour taking turns looking at them through a bird spotting scope that we had borrowed. Unfortunately they were hidden amongst much foliage.
We have seen Verreaux’s eagle-owl on many occasions. On one occasion we decided to take a little nap under one of the trees lining the Sabie River. I was awakened by a repetitive shaking sound. There it was, sitting in the tree above us, shaking its feathers. On another occasion we saw three of them together in a tree next to the Olifants River – dad, mom and youngster!
Posted on: July 6, 2012, 9:51 AM