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Sunday, June 9, 2019

March Owl Hunting near Cape Town

Marsh Owl | Vleiuil | Asio capensis

Frieda and Jan Prinsloo were on walkabout when they noticed a Rock Kestrel diving into the reeds.  It was clearly disturbed by something.   We first read about this sighting of a resident Marsh owl at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve in the Western Cape. 

When they approached they managed to get a few photos of a marsh owl.  This was soon circulated on social media and had the local birders scrambling to get this one ticket off.

We have seen almost all the local owl species and we were very excited after learning about this new find close to home.  Adding this one to our list became high on our agenda as this would be another lifer for us.

We were no different and after a quick check on the weather and obtaining a pinpoint on where to view this uncommon owl species here in Cape Town, we loaded our camera gear and hoped for the best.

As luck would have it, the weather turned out to be perfect with bright sunlight and a light wind blowing, we spotted owl.

The Marsh Owl has been recorded on a regular basis from about 16h30, when it starts to hunt and we were all ready waiting for the action to unfold.

Thanks to Trevor Hardaker who knew the lay of the land and got us into the best possible position to obtain these images.  It was not easy, rushing around in the scrub with our gear, but we were very fortunate and grateful for a wonderful one hour display of this magnificent owl hunting.

35–38 cm; 230–370 g
A plain brown, medium-sized owl with a buff-coloured or greyish face, small ‘ear' tufts and dark brown eyes. In flight, wings broader than African Grass Owl, with much larger buff ‘windows' in primaries, less contrast between coverts and flight feathers, and pale trailing edge to secondaries and outer primaries. Underwing has dark carpal marks; tail barred. Voice: Harsh, rasping ‘krikkkkrikkk', likened to sound of material being torn. Status and biology: Common resident and nomad in marshes and damp grassland; avoids dense reed beds. Often circles overhead after flushing. Less nocturnal than most other owls; sometimes roosts in flocks.  - Source: Sasol eBirds

Friday, May 3, 2019

Marloth Nature Reserve Swellendam

Our family decided to venture in the opposite direction this year to explore the Easter Galaxy.  This time we decided to head East from Cape Town in the direction of the Overberg. 

Marloth has two cottages to chose from, the one is the Bushbuck cottage and the other is Suikerbekkie.  

It was indeed a refreshing change from the Cederberg, albeit we always miss those very special rocks and sand. This time we had another beauty the Swellendam mountains and lots of luscious green forests...  We had no idea how lovely it is this side of the world.  Well we kind of knew, but exploring the hikes and reserves is a first.

Mountain biking is not very high on the agenda for the reserve, per their brochure, but the mountain biking here is unbelievable good, from easy rides to more advanced.  

You are also able to book a horse ride at a local operator, or you may bring your own horse to enjoy the many routes amongst the plantations and on the mountain.

The vegetation in the reserve is mainly mountain fynbos with patches of Afromontane forest.  Many of the species of proteas found here do not occur any where else in the world.

There are many animal species around, but not easy to be seen.  A great venue for the birders, which is rich in birdlife, with a listing of 114 birds recorded.

Multi-day over night trails are highly rated and worth considering.  The Glenstroom Trail Hut can be seen (the green roof) in the image below.

After a 3 hour drive out of Cape Town, add an extra 30 min for the Easter-mad-rush-escape-traffic, we finally arrived at Marloth Nature Reserve.

It was very special to see the Spotted Eagle Owl and the Fiery Necked Night-Jar amongst the more regular seen birds such as this beautiful male Cape Sugar Bird in the image below.

This reserve is no further than 1 km from Swellendam town, and a hidden little gem.  The reserve has two self catering family chalets, fully equipped with electricity, fire place, and 2 bedrooms.


We tried out two easy walks, which head up towards a waterfall.  They venture up the mountain next to the most beautiful stream, and under the forest brush, making it a perfect route to try on a hot summers day too.  Juanita does not enjoy hiking in the heat of summer, but this one seems to be a good choice all year around then.

The teens and the toddler loved the hikes and surrounding.  We explored the area looking for all the creepy crawlies and tried very hard to find a Strawberry Rain Frog, but with no luck.  This specific species will definitely be on the list to find for when we return again some time soon.


Bring your mountain bike, your SUP, binoculars, camera and your walking shoes, because this venue has enough for the whole family to explore and have fun.

As Marloth is 1 km outside Swellendam on the mountain side, so is Bontebok National Park also 1 km outside Swellendam on the ocean side of the N2 highway.

We were pleasantly surprised at the popularity of the venue and could see why.  This tranquil reserve also offers hiking and mountain biking for the whole family.   

Visitors can enjoy rowing and swimming in the Breederiver, which borders the main camp and many self catering chalets.  We hope to visit this venue one day too for a longer stay. 

Cape Grass Bird

These erica and protea species occur nowhere else in the world.  The display was at its most beautiful we have ever seen.