THE LOCUST HUNTERS - 11 February 2022

Every summer a few Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanni, Kleinrooivalk) descend on Loxton but this year with the copious rains they called our village home in their thousands! Also, for the first time several hundred Amur Falcons (Falco amurensis, Oostelike Rooipootvalk) joined in the hunt. With the good rains the dreaded Brown Locusts (Locustana pardalina, Bruin Treksprinkaan) emerged in vast swarms, the main target of the kestrels and falcons.

Loxton is well known for its abundant trees and these provide excellent roosts for the hordes of small raptors. Within a short time the village became speckled by their white droppings and their regurgitated pellets decorated the areas below the roosts.

Consider, the Lesser kestrels leave from Spain and a broad swathe of central Asia to arrive in the south during the northern winter. The Amur falcons have an even more impressive migration, travelling to Southern Africa from south-eastern Siberia and northern China. These small raptors journey south to feed on the locusts, corn crickets and other insect delights.

Of course this season Loxton was lucky to host such numbers but they are a common sight in other Karoo villages and towns. What impact do the poisons used on the locust swarms have on these kestrels, falcons and other creatures? We do not know!