Helderberg Village boasts an impressive variety of birds and other wildlife, including over the years otter, porcupine, water and small grey mongoose, Cape fox, scrub hare, duiker and grysbok.
Particularly active and providing much joy to residents are several pairs of Spotted Eagle Owls, some of whom have bred successfully.
Early on Saturday February 27, we were alerted to a Spotted Eagle Owl in apparent distress inside the tennis court. It seemed disorientated, flopping along the ground and unable to fly any distance.
Suspecting he might have been poisoned from eating poisoned mice, we wrapped him in a towel and took him to the Raptor Rehabilitation Centre, Eagle Encounters.
Here he was checked and treated for poisoning as a precautionary measure, then carefully fed and monitored for the rest of the week.
On Friday came the good news that he was ready to be collected. Once again swaddled in my arms, the little guy was happily back to his feisty self and fought me all the way home glaring, hissing and clicking indignantly, a far cry from the subdued little fellow we dropped off last week.
We had chosen a safe release site away from roads, the tennis court and areas frequented by our other owls, but when I carefully placed him into a leafy Cape Ash, he clumsily fell out twice into the undergrowth.
This was alarming, but we persevered, and eventually he scuttled out of the bushes to a nearby sunny lawn where he stood for the next 20 minutes glaring at me in apparent disgust.
Curiously he wasn’t afraid of the human onlookers who’d gathered round, but seemed irritated by hooting hadedas and a robin chat brazenly scratching for worms right under his feet.
This seemed the catalyst that spurred him to action. In no uncertain terms he chased the robin and still glaring back at me, shook his wings, lifted off and sailed over the rooftops to freedom.
Once again heartfelt thanks. from the Helderberg Village Wildlife Group, to Hank at Eagle Encounters. who over the years has frequently assisted us with rescue and rehabilitation of birds, most notably in December last year with a tiny Spotted Eagle Owl chick injured from falling out of his nest.
Orphan chicks require huge input over a lengthy period, as they can only be released when they can hunt for themselves. Our little fellow along with about 20 others spent the past three months being lovingly fed by foster Spottie mothers, who themselves cannot be released for various reasons.
Spotties are unique in that they will feed any soul who begs from them, and in this way our little fellow was recently strong enough to be released back into the wild.
Eagle Encounters, hosted by Spier Wine Farm, do amazing work in the field of raptor conservation, education, rescue, rehabilitation and release. They are well worth a visit, and provide an up-close-and-personal raptor experience that no-one, especially grand-children, are likely to forget.