Now owls are not something you see often in the UK, or, I imagine, the rest of Europe. When we were staying at Twitchers Retreat in Norfolk earlier in the year (see earlier post), it was a real and unique privilege to see the Barn Owls that nest in the B&B's garden.
Yet here in Namibia, owls are rather more common, and certainly more diverse. We have three species resident in our garden alone, with a fourth visiting now and again. And another two species are often encountered in Etosha NP. That's six species in this area!
But that doesn't make it any less special when we do see "our" owls. We hear them every day/night: the diminutive African Scops Owl calls without fail every evening - "Prrrrrrp.... prrrrrrrrp" - usually two of them, sometimes up to four. But it wasn't until this week that we finally got a good look at one of them, when one was perched low down in our bamboo stand.
The pair of Southern White-faced Owls that reside in our garden every winter (reliably so for the past five years at least) roost so high up in the fig-trees that you get a sore neck trying to get a look at them, and need a telescopic lens and plenty of luck to get a decent photo of them through the dense foliage. But you hear them calling regularly during the day and night ("cooroocooroocooloo").
And then the Barn Owls are so shy that we've never yet had more than a fleeting glimpse of them as they fly from the top of one palm tree to another, yet we hear them screeching nearly every night.
The fourth species, an occasional visitor, is the Pearl-Spotted Owlet. At 19 cm and just 65g, it's the smallest of the owls, and difficult to see, but just as distinctive in its call as any of the others (a dramatic ascending and then descending sequence of whistled notes).
And then in Etosha, we often come across the Spotted Eagle Owl, which usually nests in old Acacia trees out on the plains, often on top of sociable weaver nests.
The last species that can be found (but rarely seen) in Etosha is the Verreaux's ("Giant") Eagle Owl, a bird nearly 50 times heavier than the Pearl-Spotted Owlet! This giant can occasionally be heard in Okaukuejo, and on rare occasions can be spotted near the top of one of the taller trees in the rest-camp.
Sightings from Day 7 (22 July 2014)
Day 7 of our "Big Year" was the last time that we saw more than a dozen new bird species in one day - after this the numbers per day tail off considerably, as expected. All the new species seen on this day were recorded by Danie in Windhoek (WHK) - the majority on a walk around Avis Dam Reservoir. Unfortunately he didn't have the camera with him, so there's no pictures of of them, except for the Grey go-away bird that he managed to snap with his phone, but here's the list anyway:
78. Grey go-away bird (WHK)
79. Long tailed paradise wydah (WHK)
80. White-backed mousebird (WHK)
81. Common scimitar-bill (WHK)
82. Great white pelican (WHK)
83. Little egret (WHK)
84. Grey Heron (WHK)
85. Three-banded plover (WHK)
86. Great egret (WHK)
87. Cape wagtail (WHK)
88. Black winged stilt (WHK)
Getting close to 100 after just 7 days!
Til next time...