July 10, 2013

THROUGH THE BUSH TELEGRAPH: Woody getting comfy at Makuleke

At first they thought the feathered visitor would put in a solitary appearance, never to be seen again… But then he (or she?!) kept coming back and now the wood owl is part of the family at EcoTraining’s wilderness camp in the Makuleke concession in the far north of the Kruger National Park.
Dee Lawson tells the whole story:
“Our feathered visitor arrived about eight weeks ago, and initially came to rest during the day, in the back-up’s tent (nr 10).
He (or she) would simply come in the early morning at dawn, perch on the overhead supports just inside the tent and then between naps, watch everyone as they came in and out of the tent for the duration of the day.
He would often sit and watch with huge owl eyes, whilst the guys cleaned up underneath, laying down towels to avoid getting messy meds, books, clothes and other gear that it chose to perch above.  People could come and go as they pleased, he just wasn’t disturbed at all.
In the early evening as the sun would go down, he would fly out and go about his nightly activities.

We thought that this was just a once-off thing, but he took to coming back daily.  Some days he would visit tent 9, but often the noise of the students would send him back to number 10.  He also enjoyed sitting in the bathroom above the shower, even when the girls were showering… (So maybe it’s a male after all, lol!)
Some days, when we assumed he needed some academic inspiration, he would perch on the top of the projector board on the study deck, effectively at the head of the table, watching the students all day and listening to lectures.  Again, he seemed quite happy with everyone moving around on the study deck below him.
About 4 weeks ago, he visited the office and sat up on the top of the cupboard, but it wasn’t as easy to depart as there are windows on all sides and he did fly into the partially opened window pane, trying to get out, so now the preference is the tents or the study deck.
He has now taken up daily residence in our tent, arriving early morning and perching just above Bruce’s pillow.  We cover the bed and pillow with a towel (else it is very messy) and he is quite happy to stay there all day. 

We can now tell when he is on his way to the tents in the early morning as he is followed by shouting and mobbing camp birds.  They follow him to the tent, perch on the veranda and continue shouting at him, until they realise that he does not care and he isn’t going anywhere.  They then depart and leave him in peace.
Evenings, when he departs the tent, he usually sits outside not far from the tent, obviously deciding where he is going to go hunting and again, all the birds come to shout and mob him. 
Often, at this time of the evening, he sits very low in the trees, or on Bruce’s gym equipment and you can walk directly under him or passed him and he is not fussed at all.

He/she is a lovely bird and we couldn’t but help nickname him ‘Woody’. The last couple of nights, we have had a Verreaux’s eagle owl calling in camp all through the night, but Woody still returns and finds his refuge inside the tent during the day.  Normally a Verreaux’s eagle owl would force a wood owl to go elsewhere.
It is lovely to see him in camp and all the students on our courses get to come and have a close look at a wood owl during the day, which he doesn’t seem perturbed by. 
We think he must be the most photographed wood owl in this area and suspect that he may be a juvenile  (although he does have distinctive adult plumage) and still looking for a mate as we haven’t heard him calling at night, which they usually do when in pairs.
Hopefully he will find a mate and choose to stay in the area during the breeding season and beyond…”

(Thank you for sharing this amazing story Dee!) 
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