20 C
Mossel Bay
31st Mar 2023
secretarybird, sheep, lookout, care, birding
Nature & NurtureUncategorised

A Secretarybird as a sheep-seeking companion

A couple of years ago I was happily turning compost one afternoon when four of our sheep came to tell me that they’d lost the rest of the flock. Eeek. I flung down my fork and went off in search of the errant ovines.

The sheep were not immediately obvious, but the camp they were in covers a
curving hillside – I decided to walk the perimeter of the field hoping that they’d be on the out-of-sight side of the camp.

As I headed down the hill a Secretarybird stepped out of the bushes, about 50m away. I stopped to admire it for a while, and then continued on my planned route, expecting that the bird would fly off. Au contraire! This
bird thought that a bit of sheep-seeking was in order. So there were the
two of us, 20m apart, heading back up the hill. I can report that its
strides were slightly shorter than mine, but that I had to make a little
effort to keep up.

The sheep were quite transfixed at the sight of this odd couple heading
towards them and forgot to run away, which was jolly handy. A quick
head-count put my mind at rest, while my companion went off to check the
fence-line, then breezed by the macadamias and decided to resume foraging
activities nearer the dam.

On another occasion I was convinced that a small, thin boy in black shorts was for some reason bent over in the middle of the horses’ field. Inspection through binoculars showed instead a Secretarybird who had found something edible. Later our neighbour found the bird tangled in the fence and was just in time to free it from the wire.

(Fences are a danger for several species of bird, including Blue Cranes. Birdlife SA are doing a study on the subject, so if you find a bird killed in a fence, please consider sending the information to the “Fence Mitigation Project”.)

Photo credit: Birdlife SA

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