The Southern White Faced Scops Owl is a small owl easily recognizable by the very striking white facial disc with a border of black plumage. It has large, bright orange eyes, which are surrounded with black colours. They are 25cm in height and they weigh around 200gms, making them one of the smallest owls in Southern Africa.
This species is found singly or in pairs, where the female will lay a clutch of 2 or 3 eggs in an old stick nest of many other bird species. If these abandoned nests are not available, they will nest in natural tree holes. The young chicks will start flying at roughly 33 days.
These nocturnal owls are very well known for their ability to “transform” their shape. If they are alarmed, they have a way of escaping detection – they can elongate their bodies and contract their plumage, making themselves look taller and thinner. At the same time, they can narrow their very bright eyes into slits, making their faces less visible. To create the illusion of being much larger and more aggressive, they will open and raise their wings, creating a large “semi-circle” around their bodies – and then fluff out their feathers to further increase their apparent size.
According to tradition, owls are considered to be the wisest of all birds. Their large eyes give the impression of intelligence, so they are often depicted in stories as wise and knowledgeable.
In our world full of endless activity and distractions, being able to sit quietly is a lost art.
Story by Chané (River Lodge)
It is the first drive for my new guests. They were staying for two nights so the plan was to maybe track down one of the big 5. There was no pressure yet and everything was still new and exciting to them. So the drive went along smoothly as we looked at birds, trees and general game like impala and giraffe.
After about an hour, we came across some lion tracks. It seemed to be quite fresh so we decided to follow them. They led us into and down a riverbed. I will never complain as I enjoy driving in the sand every now and then. Further along we came across some rhino tracks going in the same direction as the lions. But since we decided to follow the lions, the rhino tracks didn’t bother us too much when they veered off to the north.
As I stopped at one of the nicer tracks to explain to the guests about how we go along identifying the tracks, my tracker spotted a rhino not too far ahead of us. He must have been dreaming because as we drove around the corner there was nothing. But I trust my tracker and if he insists that he saw a rhino, then he saw a rhino. He could see tracks of them going north again. I couldn’t, showing why he is the tracker and I am not. We drove north and sure as daylight there was a different one of the big 5 – the buffalo. This may sound weird, but at quick glance, a buffalo can look identical to a rhino, especially in the thick bush. Again my tracker said that the tracks keep going north, so after a while we continued north, completely forgetting about the serious lion tracking we were busy with. And suddenly there they were – beautiful white rhino females, standing larger than life in the middle of the road.
After we enjoyed the rhinos for a while, we thought about the lion tracks again and decided against it. Don’t want to spoil the guests too much on the first experience. So we headed to an open area to enjoy sundowner drinks as the sun disappeared over the horizon and giraffes gracefully walking across the open plains. Great ending to another perfect day in Africa.
Story by Jacques (River Lodge)
Our safari was almost complete. We only had one night drive and a morning drive left. It was time to look for what we haven’t seen yet. The answer – lion cubs. Setting out, all the other rangers were determined to find a leopard. So we were alone. We did however have an idea of where the animals had been by trying tracking them that morning. But they hadn’t been found yet. And the tracks disappeared because of a soft rain all day. So this was going to be a mission from the start.
As we drove around, we started losing hope – there was no fresh tracks to be found, and the spots that were most likely to be their end destination turned up empty. Until that one unknown turn you go around and they are, lying on the road. Mom and the older sisters sleeping while the cubs play around and on top of them. It turned out to be fantastic. With everybody else still looking for leopard, that ensured that we had the sighting to ourselves for as long as we wanted. Then however, we got thirsty for more.
We made our way to a nice open spot, far enough away from the lions to enjoy a sun downer drink. Just as the guests were finishing up their last sips, we heard a lion roaring. Then a few minutes later another roar. Closer this time. So we packed up and got back onto the vehicle. It didn’t take as long to find the big male walking along slowly up the road, marking his territorial boundaries after the rain. He walked closer to the car and flopped down a little distance away from us, but still facing the vehicle. We got the opportunity for some amazing photographs and then he started to roar. Lying down, head up. Full volume roar. It sounded like it came right from the stomach, straight through the car! Awestruck, we realized again the immense presence this magnificent animal has wherever it goes. And there is no place I would have rather been at that moment than right there. Beautiful, amazing Africa
Story by Jacques (River Lodge)
This afternoon, we had a breeding herd of buffalo with many calves that moved through the southern parts of the reserve. For the majority of the females, the 11 month gestation period is now over. Now that the bush is lush and green, there is enough food and water for a few big herds. Herds of buffalo don’t stay in one area as they are always moving from one area to another looking for good water and good grazing areas. All the bachelor herds that we had wandering around last couple of month have now seemed to have moved back to the breeding herds. Our trusted old dagga boys are still around, always close to waterholes or mud pans to keep them cool in the harsh African sun.
Story by Clement (River Lodge)
It was on a late morning walk, when everyone was walking with their heads up after viewing a breeding herd of buffalo at one of the dams, when suddenly, one of my guests was trying to tie his shoe laces, and one of the grasses draw his attention. With a flower with a light blue colour, he called me to have a look at this beautiful plant on the ground. I immediately I started to think of names that this plant might be, like Benghal Wandering Jew, Blue Mouse ears, Venus Bath and many other names of this lovely blue wild flower belonging to the Commelinaceae family. During this time of the year, in this area, we have 25 different species in Southern Africa and in Brazil. There are 3 of the Commelina species that are poisonous to humans. This plant it is well known from Southern Africa to countries far like India, Tanzania and Islands of Philippines, Madagascar and Mauritius, where the plant have been used as a cure for fever, swollen glands, leprosy, dysentery, sore throats, sore eyes, infertility, burns and many more ailments.
Story by Kallie (River Lodge)