This week I thought I would chat about our feathered friends as I am greeted every morning just as the sun starts to rise in the sky by a lovely chorus of bird song. We have a huge colony of weavers who nest in the palm trees and bamboo that overhangs our rather large pond. This colony grows in number every year as the parents from last year come back together with their grown up offspring and the number of nests this year is probably close to a thousand.  I drink my morning cup of coffee serenaded by thousands of birds and watch the busy little males making numerous nests to try and please the demanding females.

We also have a number of doves with their gentle coos, beautiful little sunbirds and 3 different species of kingfishers who each have their own section of the pond to fish and woo betide a kingfisher who strays into somebody else’s territory. My favourite is probably the little hoopoe with his extra-long beak and the least friendly is the very territorial cougal pair.


At night the owls and night jars come out and treat us to their melodious hoots. Over the years we have rehabilitated and released a number of owls who come back to visit from time to time as we practise a soft release programme where we start to put the owls food on a platform in the aviary for them to feed themselves and then eventually open up the aviary so that they can come and go as they please but still put food onto the platform for a few more weeks in case they are not yet skilled enough to catch their own food. The owls are clever creatures who know how to manipulate me and from time to time if they have had a bad nights hunting they will land on top of the aviary and hoot until  come out and put food onto the platform for them even months or years later.

We have a new resident baby Southern white faced owl who typical of his species is a regular Napoleon – struts around and is very cheeky and has to try and attack me for at least 5 mins before each feed after which he settles down, perches on my hand and eats like a gentleman. Catherine loves the “new birdy” and has to supervise every feed.  She is a funny little girl who seems to try and work out how to call or communicate with every animal she comes in contact with – she clicks her tongue every time she sees a horse, goes psss pss titty when she sees a cat, makes kissing noises to call the dogs etc. and she was rather confused at how to call the owl until he clicked his beak and now she clicks her tongue every time she sees him – not quite sure what goes on in her mind and if she has decided that this is some strange kind of horse. I can’t actually let her touch the little owl as his talons are lethal weapons but she sits quietly (apart from the odd click of the tongue) and stares for ages saying mmmm mmmm as he takes a piece of his “special meat ball” from my hand luckily she has not yet decided to try and share his food as we mix bone meal, meat, chicken livers calcium and mineral supplements, cotton wool and feathers into his meat ball which is not exactly great human baby food.

Our little Napoleon is almost fully fledged and within the next week or so should be ready to start picking up his own food instead of being hand fed at which stage he can move into the aviary for a month or so before we start the soft release. Africans in general are very superstitious of owls and see them as an omen of death or misfortune so are not happy when they move into their area and in the past we would often come across people stoning owls to try and kill them but I am really heartened to say that in more recent years the people in the area leave the owls alone, call me to please move them if they move into their homes or bring me babies that have fallen out of the nests which is a great step forward.