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    The variety of habitat in Mkhuze lends itself to excellent bird viewing. The reserve differs from any of the other Zululand game reserves, with the exception of Ndumu, in that the range of habitats that it has to offer is so varied. Waterbirds of various kinds are attracted to Nsumu and the other permanent or seasonal pans in the reserve and in a relatively small area, large numbers of aquatic species are to be found, while the sand forest and riverine forest contain their own specific birds. In the western section of the reserve typical bushveld species such as the secretary bird, helmeted guineafowl, hornbills and rollers are to be found. European migrants such as the white stork, European bee-eater and yellowbilled kite are common throughout the summer.

    As the reserve lies at the south-western extremity of the Mozambique coastal plain the Tongaland Sand Forest to be found within it, is close to the southern limit of its range. This forest, in the KuMahlala area, supports a host of forest birds and is home to such species as the crested guineafowl, gorgeous and orange-breasted bush shrikes, pink-throated twinspot and even the rare Stierling's barred warbler has been recorded there. Another uncommon resident is the African broadbill. John Tinley saw three separate birds during a walk through the Msinga Forest in December 1966, the first recorded observation of this species since he saw a bird in almost the identical spot in 1959.  It is interesting to note that many of the birds that are associated with this particular environment are not found very much further south. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve, which represents almost half the total number for the whole of Southern Africa.

    Two bird viewing hides have been erected at Nsumu Pan where, depending on the season, large numbers of pinkbacked pelicans, whitefaced ducks, and spurwing geese, together with numerous other waterbirds and waders may be viewed. On the far side of the pan there is a large nesting colony of yellowbilled storks which is a hive of activity during the nesting season. It is clearly visible on the left-hand side of the southern bank of the pan, when looking through binoculars from the picnic spot. Unfortunately, visitors cannot approach the site.

    With Nsumu now being assured of a constant supply of water from the Mkhuze River running directly into it, the birdlife is fairly predictable. Natural migrations and movements do, of course occur, but the arrival of birds now is not as sudden as it used to be when the pan would remain dry for months on end and then fill up overnight. The change at Nsumu when this happened was always very dramatic. What had been a dusty dry pan, baked to a brick-hard consistency by blistering heat the day before, could turn into a vast inland waterway within the space of a few hours. Birds were always very quick to move into this new territory. Within a day of the pan filling up the first fish eagles would arrive to be followed shortly by ducks, herons, pelicans and many other species. During the course of a patrol that we did by boat on Nsumu, in February 1964, we noted large numbers of yellowbilled and maribou storks but by far the commonest species seen was the African jacana.

    From the boat it was possible to see as many as 10 of these birds at a time running over the waterlily pads and we noted a number of these birds breeding. One semi-submerged nest that we came across consisted of a few sticks and bits of straw, pulled haphazardly onto a waterlily pad. The three beautifully marked eggs that it contained had a high gloss and the lines and markings on them formed a perfect camouflage with the nesting material. One family of newly hatched chicks was also observed. These little birds, although only a few days old, were miniature replicas of the adults and every bit as active and had no difficulty in running from one waterlily pad to another. On seeing the approach of our boat, one of the chicks quietly lay down on top of a pad and remained motionless. Although we were only a metre or so away from it, we had great difficulty in distinguishing it from its surroundings. 

    Early reports written by staff after the conclusion of the Nagana campaign, record the gradual return of birdlife driven off by the disturbances of the shooting campaign and the large-scale mortality which resulted from the aerial spraying of the reserve. The spraying of the reserve with vast amounts of DDT must have caused a tremendous mortality amongst the insectivorous species and many hundreds of birds must have perished from the cumulative effect of feeding on DDT-poisoned insects. Many others would have moved out of the reserve after the campaign, due to the destruction of their food supply. The campaign which single-mindedly concentrated on the destruction of the tsetse may well have been successful, but at what cost to the avifauna of the area. Ranger John Tinley reported a suspected poisoning of whitebacked vultures in December 1966. As he passed the Vulture Pan one morning he saw two vultures that looked distinctly sick. Returning to the pan two hours later, he found that both birds had died and been partially eaten by other vultures. It was common knowledge at the time that one of the local farmers was using poison to kill hyenas on his farm and it was strongly suspected that the dead vultures had eaten some of the poisoned meat.

    Wildlife is very resilient though and has the remarkable capacity of re-colonising any suitable niche left in nature. As early as December 1954 Singie could record the return of redbilled oxpeckers after an absence of a number of years: the birds were seen perched on the backs of blue wildebeest. Two months later, in February 1955, he commented on the large numbers of yellowbilled kites that had congregated in the reserve prior to their migration back to Europe. The recovery of the birdlife of the area gained further momentum when, following a long dry spell in the reserve in 1954, water started flowing into the Nsumu Pan again in February 1955. Three months later, in May 1956, Singie could write that "there is no doubt that if the level of water in the pan could be maintained, Nsumu would rapidly become a major tourist attraction, as hippo and various forms of birdlife would soon make their home at the pan".

    During the winter months, when most of the other surface pans in the area are dry, it is now usually possible to see large numbers of pelicans, ducks and geese on the pan. In the years when the pan used to fill up overnight, it was matter of great excitement to report the arrival of the first birds. In September 1956 Singie could report that hundreds of pinkbacked pelicans had arrived at the pan during the month and in January 1957 he recorded the presence of a single saddlebilled stork - a rare sighting indeed and one that not many staff or visitors have been privileged to see. He also recorded seeing a pair of the storks on the Qakweni Flats, near the Nsumu Pan in November 1962.

    In August 1958 Ranger Tony Pooley reported on the spectacular birdlife at Nsumu, when he estimated that there were more than 400 pelicans on the pan, together with 200-300 spurwing geese and hundreds of whitefaced ducks. Singie wrote at the time " what a sight.... What a great pity that the water of this pan cannot be kept at its present depth. Birdlife at the moment is amazing and it would be no exaggeration to say that thousands of wild birds, including knobbills, whitefaced ducks, spoonbills and whistling teal are to be seen. Spurwing and Egyptian Geese are sailing around in hundreds while pelicans come in to feed two or three times a day, when possibly each school may amount to as many as 200 to 300 birds".

    In the same month large numbers of white storks arrived in the reserve. Forty of these birds were seen in one group in a smouldering field near the Mtshopi entrance gate and it was estimated that close on 1000 of these birds had been seen in the reserve, or in the fields along the main road into Mkhuze village. Less welcome visitors earlier that year had been a large swarm of Redbilled Queleas that had nested in the reserve in February.

    On 7 May 1959, the scene of prolific birdlife in the reserve repeated itself, this time at the Nhlonhlela Pan. During the course of a patrol to the pan, Tony estimated that there were between 800 and 1000 pelicans concentrated around the last remaining pool of water, about 60 metres in length. The pan was filled with a seething mass of barbel. Also in attendance at the time were 45 marabou storks, 7 fish eagles and three ospreys, all intent on devouring the remaining fish. Barbel of seven or eight kilograms presented no difficulty to the birds and went down with relish. Some of the pelicans had become so gorged that, no sooner had they caught a fish and swallowed it, than they were forced to disgorge it. The following day the birds were gone and there was no sign of the fish, except for those that had been disgorged. According to Singie, the fish had been discarded because they weighed the birds down in flight.

    The fig forest near Nsumu, which is now open to the public, is particularly rich in birdlife and a walk along the trail that has been laid out in this area is well worth the effort for any visitor interested in bird watching. An abundance of food here has produced an abundance of birds. Sycamore fig trees are prodigious producers of fruit at least twice a year and the varying fruiting seasons of many of the other trees and plants to be found here ensure a steady food supply throughout the year, either from the fruit itself, or from the insects associated with it.

    Having crossed the rather rickety swing bridge across the Mkhuze River to get into the forest, one is transported into a magical world. Huge sycamore fig and fever trees rise above one and the area echoes with the wailing calls of trumpeter hornbills. Purplecrested louries and green pigeons are often to be seen clambering around in the fig trees, while the fortunate visitor may occasionally be rewarded with the flash of scarlet from a Narina trogan as it swoops through the low canopy. The narina trogan and the black stork became new records for Mkhuze when they were observed in October 1958 for the first time. A number of bird species are associated with this unique habitat and some are totally dependent on it. Pel's fishing owls are found here, as is the southern banded eagle, the green coucal and the broadbilled roller.

    The birdcalls of the inhabitants of the fig forest are, in themselves, sufficient reason to visit the area. The brochure on the fig forest walk, which is available from the camp office, has this to say about the sounds of the forest. "some of the more common birdcalls to be heard here are those of the bleating bush warbler, sombre bulbul, greenspotted dove, goldenrumped tinker barbet, purplecrested lourie, trumpeter hornbill, and redbilled wood hoopoe. Other calls that may be heard include Natal and Heuglin's robin, gorgeous bush shrike, narina trogon, white-eared barbet, squaretailed drongo, black-headed oriole, tambourine dove, olive sunbird and, of course, the fish eagle".

    Whitebacked, lappetfaced and the rarer whiteheaded vulture all occur in the reserve and whitebacked vultures regularly nest here. Whitebacked vultures have always been particularly numerous, particularly during the years of the Nagana shooting campaign when there was an abundance of food. In November 1954, four months after he started with the Board, Singie recorded the first impala lamb of the season on the 22nd of that month. When he made the observation, whitebacked and lappetfaced vultures were perched in the tops of trees all over the reserve, watching for dropped placentas as the lambs were born. He again saw this sight two years later, in November 1956. The preferred choice of nesting sites for whitebacked vultures is in the tops of tall Acacia nigrescens trees and their nests are often surrounded by small nesting colonies of masked weavers. The weavers show a preference for such nesting associations, not only with vultures but with other raptors as well. The nesting associations presumably afford them a greater measure of protection, real or imagined, from predators.

    While working in Mkhuze, I discovered a number of other interesting nesting associations. One such strange association was between a pair of pied crows, normally a very aggressive and predatory bird, and a colony of weavers. On another occasion I came across a nest of a pair of crested guineafowl, which contained 14 eggs, at the base of a tree in which whitebacked Vultures were nesting. There was also a number of nesting associations between masked weavers and yellowbilled kites. In all instances, the predatory birds took no interest in the weavers and continued to prey on other birds, reptiles and small mammals in the normal way. Two nests of yellowbilled kites in such a nesting association were inspected in October 1962. Each nest contained an immature bird, one of which was lying on top of the remnants of a weaver's nest. Amongst the other odd bones that the nest produced, was the skull of a small tortoise, a foot and feathers of a hadeda ibis and shin bones, skull and bits of skin from an inyala lamb. An interesting discovery in the kite nests were several pieces of hyena faeces lying around the young birds and on the edge of the nest, with several more pieces on the ground, below the nest. No attempt appeared to have been made to break up the faeces, some pieces of which were 80mm in length. An incongruous discovery at one of the nests was a ladies' silk stocking draped over a thorn branch above the nest - a lonely remnant of "Operation Impala" (see chapter on game capture).

    The hadeda ibis cannot be described as a predatory bird but weavers were nevertheless observed on two occasions, building nests in the proximity of the ibises. There may therefore be a possibility that, when choosing a site for their nests, the weavers pick a particular style and size of nest, rather than specifically identifying it as the nest of a predatory bird. 

    I had a rather painful experience of a nesting association of a different kind while I was climbing an Acacia nigrescens to investigate a scarlet chested sunbird's nest. I had seen the nest from the road while driving through the reserve. Parking the Landrover next to the trunk of the tree, I climbed onto the roof and pulled myself into the tree. Manoeuvring my way carefully around the thorns, I got myself quite close to the nest, only to find that the birds had constructed it right next to a hive of hornets. The hornets took immediate exception to the invasion of their territory and I got badly stung as I tried to beat a hasty a retreat. I crashed my way down through the hooked thorns, cutting myself quite badly in the process and beat an ignominious retreat into the Landrover to lick my wounds. Whether the sunbirds had chosen the vicinity of the hornets nest as the site of their nest or whether the hornets arrived after the sunbirds had completed their nest was never established. One fact certainly became very clear to me - from the sunbirds' point of view, the nesting association with the hornets was very effective! 

    Raptors are well represented at Mkhuze, although some species are not all that common. Martial eagles are occasionally seen, as are bateleurs. There is a record for December 1958 of a martial eagle killing a white stork. In February of the same year, one of these raptors was observed on the carcass of a baboon that it had caught and killed shortly before. On inspecting the carcass of the animal after the bird had flown away, it was noted that it had pecked out the baboon's eyes. I made a similar observation later, when I was recording the feeding habits of vultures. It confirmed that the eyes of the prey are the first to go and that this appears to be common behaviour amongst raptors.

    I had set up a small reed and hessian-covered hide, under a low thorn tree, near the Vulture Pan and placed an impala carcass near the water's edge. After a wait of about an hour I noticed the first vulture circling overhead that, in time, was joined by others. As I crouched in the small hide, I marvelled at the grace and beauty displayed by the birds in the air, as they circled within the thermals, compared with their ungainly actions on the ground and gross behaviour when squabbling with other members of their kind over a carcass.

    It took another hour for the first bird to glide in and settle heavily in one of trees near the carcass and its appearance was a welcome relief from the monotony of sitting in my cramped surroundings. Other birds soon joined it in adjoining trees, periodically flying from one to other, but making no attempt to land on the ground. Eventually a bird flew to the ground and it was soon followed by some of the others. Expecting action at any minute I sat with my eye glued to the camera's viewfinder, but I was in for another long wait. The birds were very cautious and in no hurry to start feeding. They sat around in a circle, some distance from the carcass, making no effort to approach the animal.

    After about 30 minutes and having surveyed its surroundings very carefully, a bird, bolder than the rest, stalked up to the carcass and immediately pecked out the eyes. Once the eyes were gone, this appeared to be the signal for the other birds to hop up to the dead animal to start feeding. In no time the carcass was covered by a mass of hissing, squabbling birds and all were suddenly frantic to get at the meat. Fights amongst the birds were common. As they became entangled, a bird would often lie on its back with its wings open, clawing and hissing through a bloodstained throat at its opponent.

    Two lappetfaced vultures sailed in a little later and landed near the feeding throng. With hunched bodies and wings half-open, they hopped up to the carcass and chased the other birds off with aggressive hisses. Having secured the carcass for themselves they, started feeding while the other vultures sat in a circle around them. These birds definitely appeared to be at the top of the pecking order in the vulture hierarchy and their presence at the carcass was not disputed.

    Having leisurely eaten their fill, the lappetfaced vultures retired to the sidelines and the other vultures descended on the carcass again. The group was later joined by a Wahlberg's eagle, while a group of pied crows was constantly in attendance, stalking the periphery of the frantically feeding horde, to dart in periodically to grab a morsel of meat whenever they could. A particularly beautiful and relatively rare vulture is the whiteheaded vulture. The bird looks more like an eagle than a vulture with its striking black plumage and white head and I was fortunate to see one of these birds come down as well to feed on the carcass. Within an hour of the first bird having arrived at the carcass, the impala had been reduced to a few pieces of sinew and skin, attached to the cleanly picked skeleton.

    Marabou storks arrived after the vultures had started feeding and were in attendance at the carcass. Waiting for a vulture to tear off a piece of meat, they would dart in and peck at the bird until it dropped the meat, which they would then snatch up and gobble down. They followed the same procedure at Nsumu Pan, on the various occasions that we saw them there as the pan was drying up and trapping large numbers of barbel. In this instance it was the fish eagles and yellowbilled storks that were robbed of their catch.

    Sightings of bateleurs are rare and in my four years at Mkhuze, I only saw one bird. In March 1961, Ranger John Dixon, was travelling back to camp, when he saw a banded cobra in the process of killing a large rat that it had caught in the veld next to the entrance road. John stopped to watch the snake and was surprised when a bateleur suddenly swooped low over his Landrover to grab both the snake and the rat and carry them high into the air. The bird then, unfortunately, flew out of sight and John was not able to record the end to this interesting wildlife drama. 

    Golden orb-web spider



    Another interesting incident involving a raptor occurred during a patrol that I was on near the Nsumu Pan, some months after my transfer to Mkhuze. Early in 1961 there was a particularly extensive occurrence of golden orb spiders in the reserve. These large black and yellow spiders are so named because of the golden threads that the spiders spin for their large webs that are placed between thorn trees and bushes.

    Walking through the bush at the southern end of Nsumu, the guards and I saw something flapping in a low thorntree some distance ahead of us. As we approached, we established that it was a yellowbilled kite that was dangling from the tree by one of its legs. Its frantic efforts to free itself were unsuccessful and we could walk right up to it to establish what had happened. An examination of the bird revealed that it had a mass of golden spiderwebs wound around one of its legs and these had somehow become entangled in the thorns of the tree after it landed in it. The spider webs had come from the webs of the golden orb-web spider. Obviously, while flying through the bush in search of prey, the bird had picked up pieces of spider web as it progressed until there was such an accumulation around its legs that it became snagged on the thorn branch, when the bird landed in the tree. Its efforts to free itself were finally successful and it flew off just as we got close to it.

    On another occasion, whilst in the Nyagaza area on a routine patrol, my attention was drawn to a male yellowbilled hornbill sitting in an Acacia tree. As we approached the tree the bird reluctantly flew away at the very last moment, which I thought was uncharacteristic. An examination of the tree revealed that it contained a hornbill's nest, in a hollowed out section of the tree trunk, with the entrance to the nest sealed up. As is usual in such cases, a narrow opening is left in the sealant, through which the male feeds the female bird, while she incubates the eggs and attends to the fledglings. As there was no sign of life in the nest, we decided to investigate further.

    We carefully opened the nest by breaking through the mud and debris that had been used to seal the entrance, and found the mummified remains of the female hornbill lying on top of three old, dirty white eggs. Two of the eggs contained well-developed embryos, whilst the third appeared to have been infertile. I had been told that female hornbills have to be freed from the nest by their mates, after their eggs have hatched and the chicks have been reared and that they will make no effort to free themselves. This had obviously been the case in this instance. The bird had died or been killed, perhaps by a snake, whilst sitting on eggs in the nest. The interesting thing about this observation was the length of time that the male bird had spent in the vicinity of the nest. From the dehydrated state of the carcass of the bird, it had obviously died some weeks before we discovered it and yet the male bird had continued with his lonely and faithful vigil at the nest, long after his mate had died.

    One of the most distinctive birds of the Mkhuze sand forest is the crested guineafowl. This shy bird has a limited distribution, but the possibility of seeing them in the vicinity of the central hides of Bube and Msinga is usually very good. They are regular visitors to the pans and a sighting of them as they come down to drink is always a bonus for any visitor interested in bird watching. 

    In 1961 Single received a directive from Head Office to try to capture a number of these birds for the Pretoria Zoo. Game guard Khonjwayo Ndhlovu was given the task of devising a method of capturing these birds and he designed a walk-in trap built out of bush timber, the gate of which was released by an elaborate trigger mechanism as a bird stepped onto a twig Iiside the cage. This initial attempt to capture the guineafowl was not very successful, the trap constructed for the purpose caught everything except the birds for which it was intended. During the first month that it was set up it caught, at various times, 5 vervet monkeys, an owl, a bushpig, two francolin and a porcupine! We never did catch any guineafowl in it for the zoo.

    Later on, in July 1963, another attempt was made to secure the birds, this time for release in the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve near Codemore in Durban. Khonjwayo now decided to set up his traps in the riverine bush along the banks of the Mkhuze River. This time it was decided to use a specially designed noose snare, which would capture but not injure the birds, rather than the walk-in trap that he used on the previous occasion. Bush was cut to form a barricade that was constructed along paths known to be regularly used by the birds. Gaps were left in this barricade at regular intervals for the birds to walk through and it was in these gaps that Khonjwayo placed his snares. All the snares were checked several times daily. This new method of capture was considerably more successful than the previous one and 14 birds were caught in the first two weeks that the snares were set. Unfortunately, 4 birds died in captivity, but 10 were successfully transported to Kenneth Stainbank and released.

    Another species that had a penchant for the silk stockings we used on our game capture operations (see the chapter on game capture) were pied crows. In 1963, following the annual session of impala capture, I discovered two pied crow nests in the Ndunagazi area that had been lined with the remains of silk stockings discarded during the capture operations. Both nests contained young birds. When I mentioned this to the then director of the Board, John Page, some time later he asked me to obtain one of them for our Head Office in Pietermaritzburg. Knowing that these birds tamed down very easily, he thought that it would be an attraction to have a crow around the Board's newly constructed office complex in Queen Elizabeth Park. Shortly after this I located another nest in an Acacia nigrescens tree, near the Mtshopi entrance gate, that also contained young birds. One of the fledglings was removed and taken to my single quarters, where I was to look after it until it could be sent to Pietermaritzburg. I named the bird Oswald and shortly after its capture it was packed into a cardboard box and duly despatched to John Page in Pietermaritzburg.

    Some months after this I received another request for young crows, this time for reintroduction into the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve in Durban. I was again fortunate in finding a nest with young birds, removed two of them, and took them back to my squaredawel. I could not establish what sex the birds were, although I did hope that they would be male and female so that they would breed. In any event I named the birds Elsworth and Archibald, after the two well-known crow characters of cartoon fame. Elsworth and Archibald soon settled down around my quarters and, having a plentiful supply of meat available, they grew rapidly. They soon turned out to be real juvenile delinquents and it was not long before I started regretting the fact that I was rearing these birds around my house. In view of later developments with Oswald the remarks that I made in my diary during January 1964 were to prove prophetic. I wrote at the time "Elsworth and Archibald, country cousins to Oswald, who has moved up somewhat in the world, are once again proving the validity of the old theory that 'heredity is more important than environment'. They are every bit as destructive and messy as their more sophisticated relative that has now moved to Head Office. In an effort to dominate the territory in which they have taken up residence, and in pursuit of further territorial ambitions, they have embarked on a campaign to systematically eradicate the one alien influence which constitutes a threat to their sphere of domination - me! Starting with the thatched roof of my squaredavel, they are proceeding to remove its contents in an orderly and well-organized manner. A largish piece of thatch grass has already been pulled out from underneath the metal roof capping. Although no real concern is felt at this stage, the film "The Birds" comes to mind when contemplating what their next strategy might be - but, no doubt, you have problems of your own with Oswald!"

    Oswald did indeed become a major problem to the staff at Head Office. As soon as the bird had settled down it took to entering offices and helping itself to anything that took its fancy. After my transfer to Head Office in 1964, I discovered a "cache" of Oswald's gleanings under the concrete steps at the back of the building. These included blue plastic caps from ballpoint pens, gem clips, and brightly coloured scraps. It would get into the building at lunchtime, hop up the stairs, and enter any empty office that it came across. Hopping up onto office desks or tables, it would then help itself to anything that took its fancy. I returned from a lunch break one day to find Oswald in my office, systematically shredding the contents of a file of papers that I had left on my desk. The documents were required for a meeting of the Historical Reserves Advisory Committee, a new responsibility of the Board's at the time, which involved the control of battlefields, monuments and cemeteries associated with the Anglo-Boer War in Natal.

    Having chased out the bird, I patched up the shredded papers with scotch tape as best I could. At the next meeting of the committee as Secretary, I had the rather embarrassing task of have to table for discussion, the tattered and scotch-taped papers that Oswald had torn to shreds, much to the amusement of the everyone present.

    Oswald gradually became more adventurous in his pilfering and I recall two amusing incidents that involved his antics. The first was the sight of Bim Dowle, the Board's Secretary crawling across the slate-tiled roof below his office, trying to retrieve his smoking pipe that Oswald had lifted from his desk. On another occasion, Miss Crosby-Spratt, our elderly telephonist came limping after Oswald, trying to retrieve some keys that he had lifted off her desk. She was muttering audibly "that damn bird, that damn bird" while Oswald stayed one jump ahead of her.

    On another occasion a member of the public motored up to the Reservations Office at Head Office in his Mercedes Benz.  After making his reservation, he returned to his car in time to see Oswald flying off with his car keys that he had succeeded in removing from the ignition. This caused a great deal of inconvenience to our prospective visitor and the agents for the car had to be contacted in town with the request to come out and start the car for him.

    Arriving at work one morning early in September 1964, most of us were rather delighted to discover that Oswald was missing. A game guard on duty at the time reported that he had seen Oswald getting into a motor car, which had then driven off with the bird. Our delight was to be short-lived though; Oswald had friends in high places. Having been responsible for his arrival at Head Office in the first place, John Page, the Director immediately issued instructions that the local press be informed of Oswald's abduction, with a request that a news item be printed requesting the bird's return. After an absence of a week, Oswald was back again! It was never established whether Oswald's abductors, were prompted to return him by a guilty conscience or, like me, they rapidly realised that they had bitten off more than they could chew. I suspect the latter. I am fairly certain that they quietly returned the bird to Queen Elizabeth Park and drove out of the gates with a sigh of relief and without a backward glance. On 27 January 1965, Oswald went for another journey, but he was back the following day! A game guard informed us that the bird had been seen sitting on the bonnet of a motor car with a Johannesburg registration number and had eventually climbed into it, before the car drove off. Again, the person responsible for removing Oswald must have soon realised that the bird was too much of a handful for the next day he was back in Queen Elizabeth Park. The circumstances around his journey remain a mystery but Oswald did have his moment of glory. His abduction and return was prominently reported in the Natal Witness of 29 January 1965, when Peter Potter had this to say about the incident  "he is regarded as a pest by officials, as he is a habitual thief. All valuables must be kept under lock and key while he is in residence. In spite of this, everyone missed him and he will be given a warm welcome home again".

    Not too long after this incident, the Board itself decided Oswald's fate and gave the bird to a local farmer who had expressed an interest in it.  This was because Oswald had become more aggressive on his return from his abduction. He acquired the habit of hopping up behind visitors to Queen Elizabeth Park and pecking them on the ankles. The situation was rapidly becoming untenable. What finally prompted his removal was the sight one-day of him sitting on the open windowsill of a visitor's car that contained a baby.  It was felt that the bird could well have attacked the child, causing a serious injury. The time had obviously come for Oswald to go to pastures new. Oswald was certainly a character who will long be remembered by all who came into contact with him. The bird should never have been removed from the nest in Mkhuze in the first place and taken to an urban area: he should rather have been left to live his own life in his natural environment. He was certainly one of the most interesting birds to come out of the Mkhuze Game Reserve!

    A final note regarding the birdlife of Mkhuze is to record the arrival of 6 ostriches that were delivered to the reserve from Hluhluwe in March 1966. Their introduction was not a great success. Within a month, two of them had been killed by jackals, three had disappeared into thin air and the remaining bird hung around the Mbanyana outpost, stealing putu from cooking pots and pecking out putty from windows! Putty was not all that this animal pecked. In July 1967 it was spotted on the Nsumu Flats, chasing an impala, which it caught and pecked on the rump.


     Yellowbilled storks nesting at Nsumu Pan.