A late winter / early spring Raptor Run to the Limpopo
With Richard Charles
I arrived at Pilanesberg National Park at 0800 having seen a flock of 6 Yellow-throated Sandgrouse fly across the road, and collected Richard to follow the Crocodile River up as far at the Botswana border.
Our first bird was an adult male Pale-chanting Goshawk which we caught without any trouble. It was to be the first and last PCG we were to see this day. These birds are normally very commonly seen on electrical poles, but move around in times of extreme dry weather into areas which have had slightly better rainfall in the previous summer, that offer better prey availability.
We got into the Crocodile River area, a mosaic of farms and thorn bush, usually a great combination of habitats. We were rewarded with a fine healthy juvenile Black-chested Snake-eagle which weighed 1.650 kg, a good weight for a juvenile which are normally around 1200g to 1300g. the bird had just started its initial primary moult and as such would put the bird at an early 2nd year.
After releasing the bird, it took to a thermal and we watched it go up for a while and then suddenly it was hunting on the wing! This is one of the few eagles which actively hover to hunt often at great height. This was the first time I had seen this and it just goes to show how soon the bird had got over the ordeal of having been caught!
Ten minutes later we were onto another Black-chested Snake Eagle! This time it was a sub adult, a bird coming into its 3rd year. This one weighed 1.430g and had just the last remnants of juvenile body plumage.
A vehicle had stopped to see what we were doing and we were very happy to show 2 farmers the ringing process and to talk about raptor conservation, they were both dedicated conservationists and were very excited to see what we were doing. I asked them to check on any road kill raptors they come across for rings!
So far we had seen a distant Wahlberg’s Eagle on the wing and an adult Bateleur further north. Apart from that there were no raptors around at all. We eventually reached the Botswana border where the Crocodile River meets the Limpopo River and turned back. We eventually found a sub adult Black-shouldered Kite which we caught that had an assortment of young and adult feathers. I think these young birds are moving through as they are usually more associated with farm land and exotic trees to nest in, so it was a good individual to ring.