Limpopo Weekend Raptor Trip 19th to 21st August 2011
Michael Parker and Malcolm Wilson
Leaving Johannesburg at 0500hrs we got past Pretoria and into the Springbok Vlakte, a huge area once covered with millions of Springbok, now mostly farms and re-colonising thorn-scrub. However, a good area for some species of raptor and we had our first bird in the bag at 0700hrs in the form of an adult Greater Kestrel.
Over the next couple of hours, we caught 5 Black-shouldered Kites, 2 sub adults, 2 juvs and an adult. We were very surprised to find and early Black Kite which but was hell bent on feeding on something in The centre of the main road, something very flat and very dead.
At lunchtime we had just passed the city of Polokwane when we spotted a large Brown Snake Eagle on a pole by the side of the N1 Highway. Normally it is madness to attempt catching such a bird so near traffic, but I saw a plan. There was a large verge and a farm track away from the road and so we tried for it and succeeded!! It was a 2nd year bird with a moult score of 8 and weighed in at a healthy 2.1kg. We let it go some 2 km from the highway as road collisions are one of the highest causes of mortality for large eagle.
We now set off into a more remote area and before reaching camp caught a 2nd year Pale-chanting Goshawk which we showed to a passing tractor full of farm labourers, all most appreciative and went on their way with renewed resolve to conserve Limpopo’s birds of prey! At camp we spotted a pair of African Hawk Eagles in the distance, too obscured to drop for. We set 3 nets in the dry scrub and caught a few Green-winged Pytila, Blue Waxbill and Brown-crowned Tchagra. 2 of the Pytilia were retraps from January 2009!
Heading south we got another 2 PCG before we hit the motorway and headed back to town. All in all a great trip with a record 5 Brown Snake Eagles, 7 Pale-chanting Goshawk, 1 Dark Chanting Goshawk, 6 Black-shouldered Kites, 2 Greater Kestrels, 2 Pearl-spotted Owlet and a White-faced Owl, 24 raptors in total.