There are sightings and then there are sightings. While most first time safari goers are looking for The Big 5 sightings and other things like a Lion killing a Buffalo, people who have been on safari over and over and over again are looking to build up their safari sighting profile with more exotic, or unattainable, sightings. For some, like Twitchers, they’re looking for Lifer Birds like Pel’s Fishing Owl, or for big cat specialists, their looking for unusual interactions between species or for specific Leopards, etc. For myself I am always looking for the unusual, the different, or the once in a lifetime type sighting.

The other day, my guests and I were fortunate enough to witness a sighting in the different, or even once in a lifetime category. W were busy looking for Lion, when one of my guests asked me to please stop and back up as he’d seen a bird he was interested in. As we reversed there, on the left hand side of the car not more than half a meter from us, sat a Dark Chanting Goshawk on a very low branch. We stopped and chatted about it for awhile. The Goshawk was very calm, not moving, just enjoying the day. After five minuets or so, the bird still had not moved, which is unusual. It was a full grown adult, not a juvenile, so he should had carried off after sitting so close to the vehicle for so long.

Then, to my delight, the Goshawk jumped to the ground and started hop-walking towards a very small bush. He then started to jump and flap on top of the bush, moving this side and then that. For twenty-five minutes we watched this beautiful raptor try and hunt something out of a thorny bush. There were no audible noises coming from the small shrub, so I could not for the moment ascertain what type of creature the bird was after, but I explained to my guests that they usually eat small mammals like mice and shrew and also other smaller birds. I’ve even seen one eating a fully Crested Francolin.

As we were reaching the 30 minute mark of this fantastic sighting small little squeals started coming from the bush. Bingo! A mouse and the Goshawk had obviously finally hit home with his sharp and slightly curved at the end beak. A few seconds later in a furry of half opened wings and squeals the Goshawk emerge with a baby field mouse in his beak struggling and pleading. He then proceeded to fly up the tallest tree he could find to consume his hard earned meal. FABULOUS and unusual sighting indeed!    

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger