Monday, 26 September 2011

Raptor rapture

Howdy folks,

First to clarify: I am not using the word 'rapture' in the biblical sense. As far as I'm aware, we are not facing any sort of judgement day/end of the world scenario at the talons of eagles, falcons, or any other bird of prey. Though as always, I reserve my right to be completely wrong. Rather I refer to the joy that can be had in observing such magnificent birds.

I've just returned from my second trip to Etosha National Park, in the North of Namibia. Etosha translates as the 'great white place', and the 23000 km2 park is named after the 4730 km2 salt pan. The Etosha pan is dry for most of the year, though floods after heavy rains from the Ekuma and Oshigambo rivers, at the north east of the pan. The adjoining Fischer's Pan usually holds water. Around half of Etosha National Park is well developed for tourism, and is far from a wilderness experience. A well developed network of roads makes self-drive safaris in a car possible, and three lodges inside the park cater to your every need: camping sites, chalets, restaurants, even swimming pools. The lodges do suffer from infestations of Germans though. The rest of the park is more remote, and out of bounds to self-drive visitors (like me). 

The wide open spaces and scattered trees of Etosha make it a great location for spotting raptors. Etosha is home to around 44 species of vultures, eagles, buzzards, harriers, harrier-hawks, goshawks, kites, sparrowhawks, kestrels and falcons. I regularly spotted Tawny eagles (Aquila rapax), as well as black breasted snake eagles (Circaetus pectoralis), and lappet-faced vultures (Torgos tracheliotus). In addition to the pictures below I successfully photographed black kite (Milvus migrans), black-shouldered kite (Elanis caeruleus), and dark chanting goshawk (Melierax metabates). Most of my pictures from this trip have been committed to slide film and won't be processed until I get home, so the pictures below from my digital camera are just a taste. When perched, the silhouettes of their often large frames make a picturesque addition to the skyline, while the circling of buzzards and vultures can be a little unnerving if you find yourself temporarily misplaced (especially on foot in the desert; not that I would ever do such a thing...). 

Alas my time in Namibia is drawing to a close. I've had a fantastic time getting my bird geek on here, but after a few days in Capetown my neglected doctoral thesis will be getting some much deserved attention. 

Till next time, bird geek out.

Tawny eagle with it's eye on the prize.

Southern pale chanting goshawk (Melierax canorus), perched atop an Acacia arioloba tree. 

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