1 John Edmond | ENCORE… We’ll tell you more OCTOBER 2019.

Dear Friends, Rhodies and Countrymen,

Our country is in turmoil! Do we sink...If you can't see this message, view it in your browser

John Edmond Newsletter

ENCORE… We’ll tell you more OCTOBER 2019.


Dear Friends, Rhodies and Countrymen,

Dear Friends, Rhodies and Countrymen,

Our country is in turmoil! Do we sink or swim and enjoy the sunshine, braai’s and boerewors? The latest league table of the HSBC Expat confirms people are still staying due to the relative attractiveness of South Africa in terms of quality of life and climate. So, you like us, might not be in the category of the Forbes’ annual ranking of dollar billionaires but for those of us that live close to nature enjoying the sunshine and staying positive, realise that money can’t buy health or the natural beauty that exists in South Africa. – “life is what you make of it”

South Africa has one of the highest ranges of biodiversity in the world, which generally refers to the richness or variety of life in an area including the number of species found in their respective areas. With a land surface of 1,1 million square km – representing only 1% of the world’s total land surface – South Africa contains almost 10% of the world’s total known bird, fish and plant species, and over 6% of the world’s mammal and reptile species. The combination of climate and topography give rise to broad vegetation zones in the country, and together with their associated animal life, they form diverse areas we refer to as South Africa’s biomes. There are nine classified biomes across the country, each offering unique opportunities to explore the natural specialities found within them.

This brings us back to John Edmond’s Music that shares his love and knowledge of the bush. – This month he is making us aware of South Africa’s 2019 bird of the year. The Secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)–  or as John calls him in his song “Knees up”

Here’s why……….. Well, the Secretary bird can walk through long grass with no worries because he is protected by his scaly legs but warns humans to be nimble on their feet like the Duiker or the zebra when walking in long grass –

But why is it called the secretary bird – well let’s start with the scientific name Saggatarius Serpentaris- Killer of snakes.  That’s OK but the common name Secretary bird has two schools of thought. The first one is because behind their heads are 20 quill-like crest feathers that resemble the quill pens that secretaries of old kept behind their ears, also the black feathers down to the leg joints and black wings resembling black knickerbockers and coat tails the old secretaries wore. Of course French is “secretaire” and Afrikaans is Sekretaris Voel but the Arabs called it Saqr Etair- meaning hunting bird. Our Zulus call it I’Ntungo-nono.(“Little porcupine” because the quills behind the bird’s head look like those of the porcupine that's a cute and apt description) This bird graces the coats of arms of Sudan and South Africa and denotes “A messenger from Heaven –protecting the nation from enemies and evil”. listen to this song. Knees-up. We can really take some lessons from the Secretary bird in more ways than one.

The Secretary bird keeps his mate for life. Mostly he is silent, but when he is in courting mode he announces his territory which is about 50 square km he can walk 30 km a day around this territory. The life span of these birds is about 10 – 15 years in the wild but longer in captivity. They are endemic to Africa and we are pretty lucky when we see them because they are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature endangered list.  Their main enemies are humans, pythons, carnivores or giant eagle owls. They stand well over a metre high and from chest to tail is about a metre and a half long. The wingspan on these birds is almost two metres. Both sexes are dark grey in colour with black on their wings and thighs and they’re feathered down to the leg joints and below the joint they have protective scales. Their toes are pink with fat pads and stubby claws. The tail feathers are very long; grey with black bars towards the ends. The beak is grey; juveniles have a yellow bare patch around the eyes which turns red when the birds mature. They’re also the envy of many a pretty lady with their long eyelashes.

These stately creatures weigh about 5kg but are great flyers. They have a sort of a take-off run before getting airborne and landing is much the same with landing roll. They can fly at great altitudes plus-minus 10,000 ft above sea level; a higher ceiling than many ultralight aircraft. A radio satellite transmitter was once placed on a young secretary bird fledgeling in southern Limpopo Province. The bird flew in a northwesterly direction and within a few days crossed into Botswana ending up at the Magadigadi Pans, several hundred kilometres away. It stayed there for a year and returned almost by the same route but diverted towards Pretoria where it eventually sadly fell victim to a collision with power lines.

The main diet of the Secretary Bird is one of snakes, insects, rodents, reptiles, tortoises, anthropoids’ young game birds and terrestrial birds’ eggs. The mode of hunting is to stomp around in the grass, flush out the prey and stamp on it with their big feet giving a pressure of 5 times their own body weight. That is like dropping half a bag of cement on the hapless creature; they then stab it with their beaks. When encountering a snake they use their wings as shields. Snake venom cannot penetrate hollow feathers. They make sure the prey is dead before swallowing it whole.

Roosting and nesting takes place on tops of trees. The nests are big; 2 and a half meters across. Two to three bluish-green eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 50 days. Unlike raptors, all chicks almost always survive. The same nest is used over and over.

Well, what else can we say, the secretary bird is special in many ways! But so are all the birdie stories and songs, start a new hobby or encourage someone to start… birding, they will be tweeting forever and ever.


This month we are launching “TALES OF THE BIRD WATCHERS VOL.4” and as a special offer you can get all 4 copies of Tales of the Bird Watchers Volume 1 - 4 for only R600.00 couriered to your personal address. (For SOUTH AFRICAN RESIDENTS ONLY) To place an order email info@johnedmond.co.za and make an eft payment. What a special gift this could be!

So knees up knees up and get a movin this offer is only for October!

The tweetin’ Birdin’ Roan Antelope Team!