If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that I occasionally write about the ecosystem of the Lowveld. These last few weeks, I’ve been writing about owls. Lots of them. I like owls. But I must confess to being just about over writing about owls.
I’ve never seen a Bushpig. I have loved wildlife for as long as I can remember, and wherever I go, I keep an eye open for things that creep and crawl and growl and bustle about in the undergrowth. I’ve seen quite a lot over the years, and in terms of mammals, I can page through a South African mammal guide and tick off most of the list, not counting rats and mice and bats, because life is too short.
There are a couple of ticks missing. I’ve never seen a Serval, or a Pangolin. But that’s OK. Hardly anyone has. They’re pretty rare. But I’ve never seen that Bushpig, either. And they are not rare at all. Better yet, they tend to cling on in areas where most other big mammals have been wiped out. They are pests for farmers, and lurk around in thickets along hiking trails and wilderness areas. Continue reading
I’ve been threatening to carry on writing about owls for a while, and now that I’ve arranged a place for them to sit, today is the day I do so. As I have said, the Lowveld supports ten different species of owl. We’ve dealt with one of them, in a bit of a hurry. Today, we deal with another three.
When most people think of owls, they tend to picture the sorts of birds that flapped around in the Harry Potter movies; large, powerful birds that would have no problem carrying obscure magical packages around. These are not those sorts of owls. These are small owls. Tiny owls.
I had promised I would get round to writing about Lowveld owls soon. And I will. Soon. But when I sat down to write about them this morning, I realised I had not arranged a place for them to sit. Fear not. I’m on it. They can sit in one of these, in a few centuries time;
I had promised to do a post on the owls of the Lowveld. I’m not going to. I’m going to do a few. And today, I’m going to do a very short one indeed. I’ve been called away on an emergency. I have to go the bush for a night. There I will be forced to spend an afternoon driving around looking at elephants and rhinos while sipping an ice-cold beer before being forced to endure yet another African sunset, while the meat sizzles over the fire and I force down a glass of chilled white wine.
I woke up this morning in the mood to write about Lowveld owls. Actually, to tell the truth, I woke up this morning in the mood to not be awake. The cold has finally moved in, and I would like to take to my bed and stay there ‘til spring.
But life goes on, so Lowveld owls it is. Or rather owls it isn’t. Most places have one or two species of owls. The Lowveld has about seven. That involves quite a lot of research, and cannot be whipped off on a whim. And besides, there’s something in the way that must be dealt with first. The not-owls.
At a glance, the night belongs to the bats. There are tens of millions of them, flitting unseen through the dark. They are hugely successful; about 20 per cent of all mammal species are bats. But bats have their limitations. There are some things evolution hasn’t had time to do to their basic design yet. They have left some room, out there in the cold and the dark, for those other denizens of the air; the birds.
And now you are thinking of owls. But there are other birds out there in the dark. Certainly there are down in the Lowveld. So let’s get those out of the way before we tackle the owls.
The Bat Hawk.
Picture the scene. You’re in Cape Town, one of South Africa’s tourist hotspots. It’s a beautiful sunny day, perfect for a daytrip. So you decide to go here;
That’s Cape Point, Africa’s southernmost point. It’s a dramatic finger of rock stretching out into the sea. It’s where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic. And it’s well worth seeing. So you pack up your hire car with a few tasty snacks for the road and set off. Continue reading
If I say the word “monkey” to you, a whole bunch of associations are sure to be triggered. First of all, you will picture a cheeky little scamp, a charming, miniature man-beast who lives to laugh and play, swinging through the trees playing practical jokes on his companions and eating bananas. If you’ve spent a bit of time in zoos, you might also picture a certain amount of self-abuse and poo flinging. And this is how you will picture his home;
There are few things in this world quite as cool as going on a night-drive in the bush. You bundle into an open vehicle with hand-held spotlights and set off into a world completely different to the one you left as the sun went down.
Something really cool happened the other night. Mrs 23thorns and I were sitting outside having a glass of wine on the stoep (patio). The stoep has a roof over it, and we had the lights on, but the garden was almost in darkness. All of a sudden, two enormous, tawny wings spread out on either side of her head, framing her like some sort of Celtic nature goddess with glasses on.