Tag Archives: Tawny eagle

Dinner time in the park

Africa is not called the ‘Dark Continent’ for nothing.  Life is cheap in Africa and nowhere is that more evident than in a game reserve.  Spend a couple of days driving through any one of our reserves and you will see death at every turn.  It may be a bird eating a lizard or a mouse, a snake eating a bird or something much larger like a cheetah eating a buck.  Death stalks almost every animal and very few are privileged to live without predators.  You’d think that it would mainly be the smaller birds and animals that are at risk, but we found that even the enormous elephant is vulnerable and part of the food chain.  On an early morning game drive in Chobe, Botswana, we came across a fresh carcass of a young elephant that had been attacked by lions during the night.

Breakfast time in Chobe

Elephants aren’t normally killed by lions as there are animals that are much easier for them to prey upon.  However, we saw no less than three elephant carcasses in the space of about three days in Chobe recently, which showed that perhaps there is a new trend happening with the lions there. These kills certainly provide food for many different animals besides the lions.  Apart from the jackals, hyenas and vultures that normally feast on carcasses, we also noticed a Tawny eagle protecting his piece of the action.

Tawny eagle joins the feast

Even a little mongoose came along to see what was in it for him.

Mongoose at elephant carcass

There is seldom a dull moment in Chobe and you have to keep your camera at the ready all the time.  Tawny eagles are well worth keeping an eye on.  We saw this one swoop down and catch a francolin, which it took up into a tree.  Once it started eating, the feathers were literally raining down.

Tawny eagle catches a francolin

The raptors are always hungry.  African fish eagles are ever-present and one can usually find one or two eating a fish.

African fish eagle with a catch

We were surprised to see that even the Yellow-billed kite is not averse to fishing.  This one (not photographed in Chobe, but at Kalizo Lodge) was an excellent fisherman as he perched above our tent every day with a fresh fish.

Yellow-billed kite with a fish

I think he fared better than many of the local anglers at the campsite.


Botswana 2010 : Polentswa

The road from Kaa Gate to Polentswa takes one through the most magnificent savannah and woodland scenery.  With no time pressures and no problems with grass seeds we were able to enjoy the animals that came into view every now and then.  As we neared the dry Nossob riverbed we started to see raptors of every description.  The Kgalagadi is famous for its raptors and one is always assured of good close up sightings of the magnificent snake eagles, tawny eagles and the many falcons and goshawks.

Raptor flying overhead

The many snakes and rats in the area keep these birds well fed.  We came across our first snake shortly after crossing the Nossob river.

Snake on the road to Polentswa

Once on the South African side of the park, we immediately felt a bit restricted as we could no longer get out of our cars to take photos.  When spending time in Botswana, where campsites are unfenced, one tends to forget that there are rules and regulations about getting out of ones vehicle.  It takes the deep resounding roar of a lion close by at night to make one realize that these rules are absolutely essential and one should be very careful.  The sound of a lion roaring outside one’s tent sends shivers up one’s spine.  It truly is one of the classic sounds of the African bushveld.

The Polentswa campsite is on the Botswana side of the park, so once again we had to cross over the Nossob riverbed to get there.  It was a typical Botswana camp with a wooden A-frame construction to give one a measure of shade.  Our site overlooked a pan and we were not far from the Polentswa watering hole.  This proved a wonderful spot for our evening sundowners where we were rewarded by the many animals and birds that came to take their last drink of the day.

Black-backed jackal

On our first evening six black-backed jackals converged from various directions, followed by a herd of hartebeest that gave us a wonderful horn-butting display.

Hartebeest head-butting

The next day the watering hole proved very rewarding as no less than fourteen secretary birds came to drink.  It is always enthralling to see these beautifl big birds in the wild.   To have fourteen of them at once was almost mind-boggling.  Unfortunately they were a bit scattered and we weren’t able to photograph them all together.  Nevertheless it was an unforgettable treat seeing so many.

Secretary birds at watering hole

There was also a resident tawny eagle at the Polentswa watering hole which we  saw on each of our sundowner visits.

Tawny eagle

Visitors to Polentswa will notice an unmarked grave a few hundred metres from the campsites.  We wondered who had been buried here – was it a favourite animal in the Park or perhaps an unlucky visitor who didn’t abide by the rules of staying in their vehicle?    We were later enlightened by Don, a Parks Board officer, who gave us an information leaflet about the grave.

According to the book called “Kalahari Gemsbok National Park” by Gus Mills and Clem Haagner, the grave was that of one Hans Schwabe, a diamond prospector who was passing through the Park on his way to Namibia (then South West Africa)  in 1958.  He enquired whether there were diamonds in the area and didn’t believe it when he was told that there weren’t any.  Schwabe abandoned his car and went in search of diamonds on foot.  He left a note in his car saying that there was no water for the car (which was untrue as the radiator was found to be full) and did some illegal prospecting along the way.  Game rangers later found his unsteady tracks and saw vultures overhead.  It wasn’t long before they came across what was left of his remains.  As it was impossible to remove his body, they buried it where they found it and placed a little wooden cross on his grave.