an unexpected death - by will lawson

Wahlberg's Eagle

One morning after an action packed game drive with wild dogs, leopard and an amazing elephant sighting my guests and I got back to the camp for breakfast. After we had finished, we decided that seeing as they were only scheduled to depart at 15:00 it would be nice to get one last "chilled" walk done for old time sake.

Well, chilled is something it definitely wasn't. We started our walk from Earth Lodge and planned to do a circular route back to camp. We began walking and straight away found some impala and then later on some waterbuck. We hiked past a hide not far from a little pan, designed to watch game and bird life at the water. "Now normally we see a Barn Owl in the hide, so we should approach slowly just in case it is there", I told my group; but before we even got near, the owl flew out and landed in a nearby tree.

We went a little closer to get a good look at the owl which is normally only seen at night and never stays long enough to get a good picture. While we were watching the owl, 2 Wahlberg's Eagles started coming down and they had obviously also seen the owl. They came crashing through the branches and knocked the owl out of the tree - this just about 15 metres from us. The fighting started and they tumbled around on the grass screeching and tearing at each other. There were feathers everywhere and wings and talons and dust flying...this went on for a minute or two and then it stopped.

The owl took its chance and tried to get away from the eagles and flew off. The two eagles were right behind him and one grabbed him in mid air, pulling him back down to earth into a small shrub. The other eagle landed in a nearby tree and watched us for a while then went right back into the shrub and carried on in the brawl. By now my guests were speechless, some even emotional. As a guide I had never seen anything like this. My guests and I moved on once the fight was over. Our walk back was silent - we were so shocked by what we had seen and also by how amazing the sighting was.

When we got back to camp we sat down to discuss what had just happened. We came to the sad conclusion that it was all about survival of the fittest - and the need to remove competition. Birds of prey compete with each other for resources and food, and, sadly for the owl, eagles are the most powerful in the raptor group.

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