Sand Rivers

Fish eagle frenzy!

03 March 2013

Soaring high

A jealous croc wishing he could fly!

Swooping low!

Surveying its surroundings!Anytime spent at lake Tagalala will undoubtedly be accompanied by the haunting cacophony of calling fish eagles, one of the most well known and loved sounds of the African bush. A few afternoons ago we went to the lake to look for the Humblot's Heron, a one off heron for the Selous and Africa, he was first spotted on lake Nzerakera to the west of us about 5 years ago and has now moved across to lake Tagalala.

Approaching the lake we saw at least 50 fish eagles flying above the lake, swooping low across the water's surface showing exemplary hunting skills, most of the birds were adults but there were a few juvenile birds trying to learn the tricks of survival from their elders. Their large and strong talons are equipped with a rough surface in order to keep a good grip on their mostly slippery aquatic prey, from capture in the water or land to the branch of a tree which is where they normally go to eat, if the prey is not too big or misshapen to sit comfortably on a branch, once we saw a fish eagle trying to eat a young terrapin on a tree branch and the bird was having a lot of difficulty keeping it on one place on the branch!

Even though fish eagles are spectacular hunters they are also well known for displaying a behaviour called kleptoparasitism, meaning they steal prey off other birds and wildlife, especially the Goliath heron who gets very upset when it happens, the fish eagles spend far less time hunting than other birds of prey because they are successful opportunists! We didn't see the Humblot's on this particular trip as we were too busy trying to capture the fish eagles in flight with our cameras! But the heron is around the lake somewhere, having been blown over here from Madagascar in a cyclone, at least he has plenty of other bird life on the lake to keep him company.

As well as having the highest density of crocodiles in any body of water in Africa we think lake Tagalala might also be in the running for the highest density of fish eagles!

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