The owl keeper of Tsendze

Winona Griggs

The Owl Keeper of Tsendze

Once upon a time, I stumbled upon a magnificent creature in the heart of Tsendze, a majestic forest. It was an owl, a wise and enigmatic bird with eyes that radiated ancient knowledge. The encounter left me in awe and sparked a deep curiosity within me.

Have you ever wondered about the mysteries that lie within the avian realm? I encourage you to embark on a journey with me as we explore the captivating world of owls. Together, we will unveil the secrets of these nocturnal beings.

Let’s begin by discussing the significance of owls. Owls are known for their association with wisdom and intuition. They symbolize knowledge and insight, often portrayed as the wise advisors in ancient folklore and legends. Their ability to navigate through darkness also represents the light of truth shining through even the darkest of times.

So, why are owls so important? Owls play a vital role in maintaining the balance of their respective ecosystems. As predators, they help control populations of rodents and insects, contributing to the overall health of their habitats. In a way, they are like guardians, silently watching over the delicate web of life.

Moreover, owls possess a remarkable set of adaptations that enable them to thrive in their environments. Their specialized feathers allow for silent flight, making them efficient hunters. Their incredible hearing capacity enables them to locate prey, even in complete darkness. And of course, their iconic eyes give them exceptional night vision.

When it comes to choosing the right owl, it’s essential to understand their diverse species. There are over 200 known species of owls, each with its unique characteristics and habitats. From the tiny Elf Owl to the mighty Eurasian Eagle-Owl, these birds span a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Now, let’s delve into the fascinating lifestyle of owls. These creatures are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night. Their exceptional adaptations allow them to hunt and thrive in darkness, giving them an advantage over their prey. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects.

And if you’re wondering about their hooting sounds, then you’ll love this fun fact: each species of owl has its distinct hoot. Their hoots are not only a form of communication but also serve as a way to establish territory and attract potential mates.

So, how can we interpret the lessons owls teach us?

Owls remind us to embrace wisdom and intuition in our lives. They encourage us to navigate through darkness with resilience and faith, knowing that even in the most challenging times, the light of truth will guide us. They teach us to be patient observers, to listen attentively, and to trust our instincts.

By observing the owl keeper of Tsendze, we gain a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all living beings. We learn to appreciate nature’s delicate balance and our responsibility to protect it. Owls are not mere creatures of the night; they are symbols of harmony and guardians of wisdom.

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So, let us embark on this enchanting journey, captivated by the allure of these enigmatic creatures. Together, we will uncover the beauty and mystery concealed within the wings of the owl.

The owl keeper of Tsendze

During my recent camping trip to Kruger National Park, I had the incredible fortune of meeting one of the park’s most celebrated bird enthusiasts, Lauren Dold.

The owl keeper of Tsendze

When I arrived at Tsendze, I was immediately struck by the size of the adult scops owl. It measured around 14-18cm, a sight to behold. The campsite itself, located in the Kruger Park, is notorious for its difficulty in securing a spot. But what is it that makes Tsendze so special?

Perhaps it’s the magnificent leadwood, jackalberry, and other trees that provide shade and create a serene atmosphere in the campsites. Or maybe it’s the secluded driving routes with minimal traffic that add to the allure. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: Tsendze has a certain magic that draws people in, and it’s not just about the natural beauty.

During my visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Rodgers Hobyane, the camp’s guardian. It was evident that he had a special connection with the owls that inhabit the area. These magnificent creatures, with their mysterious and wise aura, captivated me.

It seems that Rodgers and his owls are an integral part of what makes Tsendze so unique and sought-after. Their presence adds to the enchantment and tranquility of this place. It’s no wonder that people are willing to book a year in advance to experience the magic that is Tsendze.

When my friends couldn’t make it, they passed on their camping booking to me. I happily arrived at Tsendze one Monday evening, excited for my Kruger adventure. Before leaving, I had boasted to my friends and colleagues about my midweek getaway, and they all asked me to give their greetings to the owls and say hello to Rodgers.

But to my disappointment, Rodgers was nowhere to be seen. I learned from his partner, Elinah, that he would be back from his leave the next day. As a curious journalist, I decided to extend my stay for another night. I wanted to meet Rodgers and uncover his intriguing story.

Hey there! Guess what happened when I went out exploring the mopane veld to the north of the camp the other day? When I came back in the afternoon, I was greeted by a symphony of African barred owlets and pearl-spotted owlets! It was like they were welcoming me home.

And you know what made my evening even more magical? As the sun started to go down, I could hear the sleepy African scops owls hooting in the distance. It was as if they were cheering us on as we lit our evening fires. Such a peaceful and heartwarming moment.

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Oh, but it gets even better! Rodgers and Elinah, the lovely caretakers of the camp, came by later that night as they always do. They greeted us with big smiles and open arms, making us feel like we were part of their family. It’s so nice to be welcomed like that.

The owl keeper of Tsendze

I’ve been working at Kruger Park since 1998 and specifically at Tsendze since 2006. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know the camp and its birds really well.

“They move around a lot,” I explain, “but I can tell you they don’t really like sites 31, 32, 33, or 34. Those spots are too overgrown; there aren’t enough trees.” At the same time, we hear a scops owl calling from site four, confirming my observations.

“It’s really nice to hear them again,” I say. “I missed them in June. They were here, but they were probably hiding because of the cold weather. June and July are quieter months for scops owls, unlike pearl-spotted and barred owlets who keep making noise throughout the year.”

I’m keeping an eye on some interesting creatures here at Tsendze. There are scops owls that I’m familiar with, and there’s also a pair of pearl-spots that like to breed around this area. I haven’t had a chance to see them since coming back from leave, but I noticed that their favorite tree is losing leaves. Soon enough, though, they’ll move to this side of the camp where there’s a hole they like to nest in around September.

I should also mention the barred owlets that call Tsendze their home. They never leave the camp, not even after their babies have grown and flown away. They just prefer to stay. Can’t blame them really. This place is pretty special and the perfect spot to be.

The owl keeper of Tsendze

Contrary to what its name suggests, the woodlands kingfisher doesn’t actually eat fish. It prefers to hunt for insects, far away from water.

Rodgers, the caretaker at Tsendze, dedicates each day to finding and observing owls. He takes great pleasure in sharing his discoveries with the camp’s guests. Thanks to a camera gifted to him by a returning visitor, he captures beautiful pictures of these birds in every season.

Although owls are his specialty, Rodgers has also started expanding his knowledge about other bird species. He has been given countless bird books from Tsendze’s guests, with titles ranging from Robert’s to Newmans to Sasol.

I asked him which bird is his absolute favorite, expecting him to choose one of his beloved owls. But instead, he paused for a moment, checking if I understood Afrikaans, before revealing that his favorite bird is actually a spookvoël, or gray-headed bushshrike… “although the owls still hold a special place in my heart,” he added.

To keep up with Rodgers and his owl sightings, you can join his Facebook group called “Tsendze Rustic Campsite Sightings.”

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The Wonderful World of Owls

Have You Heard About These Feathered Wonders?

Did you know that there are different types of owls? Some owls, like the African barred owlets and pearl-spotted owlets, are known as pygmy owls because of their small size. They are about 18 to 21 centimeters tall. On the other hand, African scops owls, while smaller than the barred and pearl-spotted owlets, are classified as true owls. The interesting thing that sets them apart is their ears.

Most owls are nocturnal, which means they are active at night. These nocturnal owls have a unique feature – their ear openings are placed unevenly on their heads. They also have a circle of feathers around their eyes that helps them capture sound. This special adaptation allows owls to hear better. The uneven placements of their ears give them the ability to hear different frequencies. As a result, they can locate sound from different directions at the same time. This is super helpful when they are out hunting for their prey at night.

But things are a bit different for the pearl-spotted owlets and barred owlets. These owls are not nocturnal – they hunt during the day. Unlike their nocturnal counterparts, they don’t need such advanced hearing because they rely on their sharp eyesight instead. So, they don’t have the same kind of ears that other owls do. They are perfectly suited to their daytime hunting habits and don’t need the same level of sound detection as their nocturnal relatives.

The Truth About Owls

Let’s Discover More About Pearl-Spotted Owlets

Have you ever heard of pearl-spots? They’re these little owlets that often get picked on by birds. You see, if birds find a pearl-spot nearby, they all team up and gang up on the owlet until it goes away. Sneaky, right? These attacks usually happen when the owlet is looking the other way. So, what do you think the pearl-spots did? They came up with a clever trick to fool the birds! They grew fake eyes on the back of their heads. Can you imagine how confused those birds must be when they see these owlets with eyes everywhere? It’s one way for pearl-spots to protect themselves and make the birds think they’re still being watched.

The owl keeper of Tsendze

Welcome back!

Woodland kingfishers

Every November, like clockwork, the woodland kingfishers make their triumphant return to the Lowveld. It’s a spectacle that we all eagerly await, and the lodge guides even place bets on when the first bird will be seen. Will it arrive on the 11th or the 15th? While there’s some friendly disagreement, one thing is certain – the mid-November date marks the beginning of the season to keep our ears tuned and our eyes searching for the vibrant turquoise wings against the lush green of the bushveld.

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