WHEN two Spotted Eagle owlets were born in De Waal Park, local residents erected a fence around the tree where they were nesting to keep dogs and people from getting too close.
It was well intended, especially as the babies could not fly properly and on some days ended up on the grass below the nest.
But it took a homeless man, who sleeps in the park, to work out that there was a problem with the fence. As he watched the babies and adult owls at night, he worked out what he needed to do.
Mike Bosazza, chairman of Friends of De Waal Park, said yesterday the organisation had put up the fence after asking for advice from raptor specialists.
“The fence is really just to keep the dogs away, and also some of the over-enthusiastic people who get too close. Then about a week ago one of the homeless men, Vuyo, who sleeps in the park, appointed himself as keeper of the birds. It’s too sweet, really. And he used his brains in this case,” Bosazza said.
“We didn’t realise that the fence was too tight for the parents to fly in at night to feed the babies when they were on the ground, but this chap did. He waited until everyone was gone, all the dogs and people, and then he opened up the fence and the parents flew down and fed their babies.
“The next morning he put the fence back, and also fetched some red and white tape from somewhere and put that around the fence too.”
Bosazza said Vuyo had told him he had watched the baby owls get back up the tree at night.
“He said they literally clawed their way up the bark of the tree back to the nest.
“He really responds to birds and I would like to try to get him some work where he can use this talent, perhaps at the SPCA wildlife centre or something like that.”
Peter Steyn writes on the Cape Bird Club website that Spotted Eagle Owls mate for life. They start hunting at dusk, usually after the pair have exchanged a series of characteristic hooting calls, often in duet. The female rarely leaves the nest when the young are small and feeds them on prey supplied by the male, an average of four deliveries a night. Steyn writes that many are killed by vehicles.
They hunt from a perch, including fence posts or telephone poles along roads, and many are killed at night by speeding vehicles.
In Namibia 26 dead spotted eagle owls were counted along a 200km stretch of road.