safari bush sightings

sabi river raptor encounter

eagle owl

The Sabi River is a very productive area for wildlife viewing and is especially good for birding, the dense vegetation along the banks creating a very unique habitat for a lot of specialist bird species. It's for exactly this reason why two other rangers and I went down to the Sabi River recently for a morning of serious birding.

We settled beneath a huge Natal Mahogany tree in hopes of spotting a Narina Trogon amongst the foliage, but instead we discovered a roosting pair of Verreaux's Eagle Owls, (sometimes called Giant Eagle Owls.)

A Wahlberg's Eagle flying overhead also spotted the pair of owls moments after we did, and started dive-bombing the much larger raptors! Obviously annoyed by the eagles' interruption of their morning siesta, the owls broke cover and settled in a nearby tree in hopes of being left alone - only to be pursued and irritated even more by the determined Wahlberg's Eagle.

All the commotion in the canopy of the tree where the owls had now retreated attracted the attention of a pair of African Hawk Eagles which had been circling high above. These powerful eagles swooped down to investigate. Upon seeing the owls they flew right into the canopy and chased the owls back into the open - and pursued them until the owls reached their original cover right above our heads.

The Wahlberg's Eagle had by this time made a quick getaway as he was clearly 'outgunned' by the much larger Hawk eagles, which started circling the canopy of the tree where the owl pair had again taken shelter. Suddenly one of the Hawk Eagles darted into the foliage and all we heard was a crash of leaves and branches and ruffled feathers as the pair of owls once again darted out of the tree with the Hawk Eagles in hot pursuit.

The birds all disappeared from our view into the dense riverine vegetation surrounding the banks of the Sabi River and left us stunned and in awe of the epic raptor 'dogfight' we had just witnessed!

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