Marsh Owl in Centurion

May 23rd, 2007 by Thinus Leave a reply »

Eco Park Estate
Near: Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa
GPS: -25.87323, 28.18467
When: 2007-05-23
Who: Thinus

Marsh Owl in Centurion This saga unfolds on one of my more frequent ‘outings’. See, Tuesdays and Thursdays are “lets see if we can fit 3 days into one” days at one of the places where I work. Louis, ThinusH and me then try and re-invent the word ‘overtime’ by working till about 1am. Considering that our day starts at around 8am, to the untrained ear this might sound quite hectic. But, around 5pm we go mountain biking together for about an hour in the hills of Centurion and Zwartkops. This means we get out, see the sun and sweat a bit. Actually we have nothing to complain about. (And we don’t).

The setting is the very security estate where I live, Eco Park. Like all security estates, it’s a high density people cramming cement matrix of cloned houses, cul-de-sacs, guarded entrance gates and electrified 8 feet fences. Also, the chance of your house being robbed is about 3.14% less than a normal town house. A marvel of 21st century civilization.

Unlike your vanilla flavored security estates, however, Eco Park is built on the edge of a small stream that forms part of the Hennops and Sesmylspruit rivers. Together with the many springs feeding it, it creates an all year green grassy corridor with reed filled wet parks and lakes straight through Centurion city. This provides a few benefits over and above the average security complex: A bit more varied bird life than is usual for a neighborhood with this many high tech development, the ability to have ‘Eco’ in your address, more green scenery than expected when looking out from your balcony and more cracks in the walls because of the clay foundations everything is built on.

Anyways, so tonight I was driving back from a late session of designing multiple feedback bandpass filters. It’s the start of a promising Winter season and as I left for home my car already reported the outside temperature as 1 degree Celsius. (About 36 less than what I prefer). With the road always quiet this early in the morning, I normally end up trying to improve my time driving home by timing the few robots more accurately, trimming my out-in-out line in the corners and fine tuning my left-foot braking to compensate for the slight over steer of my rear wheel drive car

Tonight was different though: because I was so freaking cold, I drove slower than usual. Lucky for me, as it allowed me to see out of the corner of my eye the large ‘thing’ jumping out of the grass as I took the last corner before turning in to the estate. I immediately turned around and followed it, for it could only be one of 7 things.

Marsh Owl in CenturionIt turned out to be the 3rd one: A big owl flying low in the road in front of me with another bird in its one foot! There were feathers all over on the side of the road. I followed it into a cul-de sac, where it landed in the middle of the road. I got out and with my cellphone recorded a video of my closest encounter with a big owl like this till now. I walked to about 3 meters of it, sitting with its back to me, constantly turning its head 180 degrees to look at me over one of its shoulders with its big black eyes.

It was a Marsh Owl, fairly common in South Africa, but only the 3rd owl I’ve seen in the wild so far. It is light brown, about a foot and a half tall, with small humps for ears, a rounded white face and massive black eyes that look even bigger because of the black feathers surrounding it. And this time of year is breading time for them. For the next 30 minutes I stood and watched as it moved its head side to side to judge my distance, while every now and then it ripped a bite from its meal, which turned out to be an unfortunate pigeon.

Did I mention I was freezing? Next to the river, 2am in the morning, it was about -1 degree Celsius, but hey, like they say, “we go further to take you closer”. Because of low light, and me shivering on the edge of hypothermia, the cellphone video didn’t come out that great, and the still frames from it below came out even worse. So, if you don’t get the same thrill as I got, I understand. For me – it was a magic moment.

Marsh Owl in CenturionMarsh Owl in CenturionMarsh Owl in CenturionMarsh Owl in CenturionMarsh Owl in CenturionMarsh Owl in Centurion


  1. Thinus says:

    Centurion and the small remaining vleis and clinging on for dear life little rivers does indeed still have its welcome surprises:

    I went mountain biking today, and on my way back drove past a small patch of water close to Eco Park Estate’s entrance. Here I saw a lost, but equally placid with its new Blacksmith Plover friends, African Openbill Stork.

    With its large beak and separated mandibles touching only at the tip, it was doing its little bit to catch frogs which might make it strong and help it get of the IUCN endangered animals list.

    I got quite close and took a picture. This is a first time see for me, and I will check up on its welfare everytime I cycle here.


  2. Honey says:

    Wow! you’re an adventurer??I look at this owl it make me think of an owl in Harry Potter which I just finished hehehe (^.^)

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