Yesterday morning we left Cape Town for the picturesque district of Franschhoek, an unimaginably beautiful wine growing valley, as the crow flies, a hundred or so kilometres away from base. We detoured via the coastal road around false bay, Gordon's Bay and the small coastal community of Rooi Els on a big loop back to the farmlands of Franschoek. It was quite a day, spent with the family rather than a birding trip but it turned in to one of course. What is great about this trip is the abundance of brand new species that I am seeing, at times , without hardly looking. This morning was just like that. Normally when away, I get up at dawn and have a wander with the camera and there is always something to see. Today, I was just so tired and enjoying my (expensive) bed in a luxury white thatched villa, so much that when dawn broke, I decided to stay tucked up. I now regret that so much. The grounds of the hotel were planted beautifully, mostly to lawn and shrub accented with sumptuous agapanthus and after 9, Jenny and I went for a meander. There was a small pond, empty of anything and a path leading to tennis courts and lawns.
Someone was peering up in to the darkness of a thick old tree and when I joined them, immediately I saw an awesome sight, 2 immense fluffy owlets and an adult, all three peering back, seemingly with the same degree of wonder. The photo opportunity to photograph Spotted Eagle Owl was immense except that all three birds, sleepily and resolutely refused to open their big eyes in the bright light. Behind, in another massive tree was the silhouette of the male bird, watching carefully with literally one eye open. I was joined at that point by the hotel maintenance man and a lady groundsman, both refreshingly enthused by the presence of the birds and also by my interest. They gave me a detailed account of the birds life so far, telling me that they had bred in a hole in the adjacent old English oak. The eggs had hatched in October and they had fledged in the last week. Yesterday one of the immense volley ball sized chicks had been on the lawn beneath the tree where the adult female had fed it a live mouse in front of the enthralled hotel guests. Imagine!