Rob Little’s article ‘Space In-vaders’ (July/August 2020 issue) detailed the tussle among three Accipiter species (Black and Rufousbreasted sparrowhawks and African Goshawk) nesting on the Cape Peninsula. Rob’s account described what I too was witnessing in the remnant of a pine plantation in Tokai, outside Cape Town. Before the majority of the plantation was felled, each species had more than one nest and they all had sufficient space to avoid conflict.
Now that only 25.5 hectares of the plantation remains, a space race between the species is evident. Fortunately, since Black Sparrowhawks in the Western Cape breed in winter, they are usually teaching their offspring to hunt by the time the Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawks and African Goshawks begin their summer breeding season.
From time to time I had seen a pair of Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawks in a stand of pines, but once that was felled I had no idea if they had moved into the only section remaining or had deserted the area. However, in September 2018, while checking on juvenile Black Sparrowhawks, I heard a pair of Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawks calling within the pine trees. Following their softcalls, I found them building a nest near the centre of the plantation. They raised a brood of three chicks that fledged in late summer and they again nested nearby during the summer of 2019. Also in 2018, while strolling on the eastern edge of the plantation, I saw a female African Goshawk perched on a fairly low branch. Before I could lift my camera, a male flew in from behind me, landed on the female and copulated with her. He then disappeared just as quickly out of the pine tree area, but to my delight soon returned carrying a stick that he took up to a nest, high in a pine tree.
I had no idea that African Goshawks were breeding in the plantation, but this is not surprising since they are secretive and silent while constructing their nest and seem to work on it mostly in the late afternoon. But once I knew where their nest was, I was able to monitor the breeding process and eventually enjoyed observing the two juveniles, which were far more confiding than their parents. So all three species successfully raised broods in 2018.
In 2019 the adult Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawks and African Gos-hawks returned. The goshawks used the same large nest that they had occupied previously and they soon started repair work. The Rufousbreasteds built a new nest, but it was farther into the plantation and a good distance from the goshawks’ nest. Again, both clutches were successful and both species moved off in autumn. Each year the Black Sparrowhawk nesting attempts had also been successful. On most days I could hear the juveniles whingeing for yet more food and it was clear that they hadn’t begun to hunt for themselves.
So from 2017 to 2019 we had the three species breeding successfully in the plantation. I would wander away from the Black Sparrowhawk juveniles to watch the antics of the Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk and the African Goshawk chicks and all seemed peaceful.
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THE BIRDS AND THE BEAST
Addo’s bird/mammal associations
IT'S A CALLING
Warwick Tarboton is a true naturalist and respected as one of the country’s foremost natural history authors and bird photographers. There is little doubt that he has influenced many people to take their interest in birds in particular to the next level.
SIGHTINGS IN THE SUBREGION: Mid-January to mid-March 2021
After a midsummer that was so busy with rarities, one might have thought that things would calm down somewhat, but the later part of the season continued to deliver a dazzling list of mouthwatering records. Twitchers were kept fully entertained and on their toes!
Observing Striped Crakes
Deciphering South Africa’s first Crested Honey Buzzard
Natural fish traps in the Okavango
Redefining Plett Rage
The call I received from my friend Alastair at 06h00 on a Friday at the start of our year-end holiday was inevitable during the advancing second wave of Covid-19 cases, but it was one I had hoped to avoid. His entire family had just tested positive for the virus and we had just given his son, Alec, a lift from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay to join us for a few days of holiday. Alec qualified uncomfortably as a close contact, having spent eight hours in the car with us and then slept in the same dorm room as all my kids for two nights.
Juvenile African Cuckoo Diet
Juvenile African Cuckoo Diet
A Wahlberg's Summer
Wahlberg’s Eagles have always been close to my heart and when the opportunity arose to photograph a breeding pair at the nest, I grabbed it with both hands. It all started when Marius, my future son-in-law, told me early in 2019 about an eagle’s nest in a thorn tree near the Sand River on the farm where he lives in Limpopo. He sent me a photograph of the two eagles at the nest and I immediately recognised them as a pair of Wahlberg’s. To add to my excitement, one of them was a pale morph.