This weekend I learned that you can do more than just wine-tasting at Spier Wine Farm here in Stellenbosch, South-Africa. Spier Wine Farm has a huge Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. They have a huge selection of owls, hawks, buzzards, kites and falcons that you can inspect close up and maybe even get to touch.
Here at Spier they provide rehabilitation, release, conservation, education and even eco-tourism programs. Most wildlife they try and release into the wild again and only keep hand-reared animals for education purposes.
Here I got to interact with these magnificent birds, a great way to bridge the gap between awareness and an active will to conserve these beautiful animals.
Walking into the centre I was greeted by row upon row of birds, either in cages or sitting on their perches. I hardly had an hour to explore the centre so I will definitely be coming back to visit the other birds and hopefully get to watch one of the bird “shows” the have every day.
The Wahlberg’s eagle is probably the most common eagle in Africa as it is a very generalized hunter that will take almost anything it is capable of catching and overpowering. This ranges from guinea fowl and hares down to lizards and even other insects.
I loved the small Forest Buzzard who sat posing on his perch for me. This buzzard is found in indigenous forests but has adapted to some exotic trees.
I love the stare the Spotted Eagle Owl, the commonest large owl in Southern Africa, gave me. These owls hunt a variety of prey from beetles and large crickets to small mammals such as bats and mice at dusk.
Probably one of the most majestic birds of them all is the Martial Eagle, the largest eagle in Africa. The female can actually weigh up to 6kg and have a magnificent wingspan of up to 2.6 meters. It is definitely a very powerful looking bird with its flat head and penetrating yellow eyes.
Mother Nature has provided each raptor species with its own unique adaptations and special features for individual hunting styles. The powerful Martial Eagles do most of their hunting from the air thus their powers of vision must be phenomenal.
Definitely the cutest of all the owls were the Famous Dancing Barn Owls. The have the sweetest heart-shaped faces and long bare legs. When they played some lively music all three the little owls started bobbing and dancing to the beat.
This Black Eagle, named ‘Mick’, is actually one of Africa’s largest true Eagles and is a magnificent flyer. They are often seen floating on air currents with hardly a wing flap, soaring in thermals or plunging in spectacular aerial displays. They are truly masters of the air, soaring effortlessly for hours as they patrol their mountainous territories.
My favourite birds of the day were the little Wood owls all perched in a row next to each other. They sat there with these huge inquisitive eyes and allowed me to actually touch them. They are such placid birds and hardly move when approached, probably because they are actually nocturnal. The most movement they do when disturbed is to bob their head and sometimes they utter a soft ‘oop-oop’.