Thursday, November 20, 2014

South Africa Trip, Day 6: Martial Eagle, Hamerkop, and Verreaux's Eagle Owl

Kimberly Writes: After three glorious days, we left Pretoriuskop Camp early this morning to make the drive north to Satara Camp. 

A whole troop of Dwarf Mongoose entertained us as we packed up to leave Pretoriuskop Camp this morning! The smallest carnivore occurring in southern Africa, these adorable little creatures live in troops of 10 - 30 individuals. I was so happy to capture this adult with its young! (Adorbs!)

We took our time today, and the drive was spectacular. We watched as the hilly thorn scrub gave way to more open savanna that supports large herds of grazing animals like Zebra, Wildebeest, African Buffalo, and Impala. What a thrill it was to scan the plains and see hundreds of zebras – with a few Ostrich mixed in! (Ostrich are native here, which is sort of mind-blowing!) 

And after two cooler, overcast days, the sun returned today, and raptors were plentiful. We were blessed to come across a MARTIAL EAGLE perched in a dead tree, and we sat watching it for more than an hour.

A Martial Eagle is an impressive beast. The largest eagle in Africa, the Martial eagle weighs in at almost 14 pounds and has a wingspan of about 6 feet 4 inches. I love the sprinkling of brown dots - one of the field marks of this magnificent bird!

When a Martial Eagle stares you down - you feel it stir and rustle 
all the way down to your soul!

Today was also the day that I fell in love with watering holes! We spent a lot of time just sitting and observing the behavior of many different birds and mammals as they interacted in these areas of precious water.
It's a common bird of this region, but this African Fish Eagle was a highlight bird of the day for me! We were fortunate enough to watch this beauty for several minutes at the edge of one of the great water holes we found today!


One of the birds I really hoped to see on this trip was the Hamerkop.
This heron-like bird is the only member of its family, and they are way cooler in real life than the field guide conveys! We watched this one hunting one of the water holes today, catching frogs and small fish.




The largest stork in this region and arguably the most striking, this Saddle-billed Stork was a pure delight as it foraged the waters of our favorite watering hole!



It's hard to live up to your reputation as a dangerous beast when an 

adorable oxpecker is preening on your face!



The Red-billed Oxpecker
(Buffalo attached, below!) :-) 


Towards the end of the day, we came along this adorable Spotted Hyena cub!
We hadn't seen hyenas yet, and I was delighted that this cub and its

 two siblings were so close and in plain sight.

Three Spotted Hyena cubs loafing near the road 



We ended another spectacular day with THIS remarkable bird: a Verreaux's Eagle Owl mantling over a fresh kill. This is the largest owl in the region, and one of the distinguishing field marks are those pink eyelids! How cool is THAT?!?!I have a charm bracelet that I never take off. The charm says, "Wherever you go, go with your whole heart." I try to live my life by that motto, and it fits perfectly with this adventure. The experiences here tug at every part of your heart.

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