Its Monday 4th February 2013 and a rapturous morning!

I hope that you had a lovely weekend and are ready for what lies ahead this week! To kick start your Monday we have a few words from Robin about his latest trip to Liuwa Plain. So for this week over to Robin…..

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Whilst driving across the plains, on our last safari in December, we came across a life and death struggle, which had some unusual participants.

We were close to one of the few sausage trees in the east of the park. A number of tree lines intrude onto the plains at this point. It is always a good tea spot as there is one perennial lagoon and a number of seasonally flooded pans close by. A lot of birds, some occasional buffalo, as well as large herds of blue wildebeest can usually be found here.

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Across the track flew a large raptor. Longish tapering wings, fast wing beat, Peregrine-ish’ but with a brown crown to the head and larger, one of the largest falcon on the plains. The Lanner falcon.

The Lanner was in a declining power dive as it stooped on one of the Blacksmith Lapwings (plovers) which abound across the plains at this time of the year. A few days previously we had counted 136 together at one of the small pans at Mtata wa siengi in the west.

The falcon made contact and a burst of black and white feathers erupted from the grass cover. The plover ducked into some grass tussocks. The Lanner, after only making a superficial contact, did an amazing display of flying, repeatedly power-diving on the plover then climbing steeply into what is known aeronautically as a wing over, then renewing the attack, diving again on the hapless bird which, to its credit, knew that to fly was suicide. It remained in the grass tussocks ducking the stooping falcon and trying to avoid the deadly talons.

The falcon dived on the plover more than 20 times. It was hitting the plover more and more repeatedly, each time with a puff of feathers, until, with a final stoop and approach from low level, it took the plover and had it on the ground. Our emotions, initially for the falcon, were now very much for the plover. A rush of wind and a fish eagle, always an opportunist, stooped on the falcon and the still alive plover. The falcon tried to fly off with the plover but had to drop the still struggling bird to avoid the attacking fish eagle.

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The fish eagle landed beside the plover which had now miraculously got to its feet. I believe it knew it was still faster than the eagle on foot however it remained close to the eagle knowing the falcon would not attack it so close to the eagle. So a bit of a standoff ensued which was abruptly ended by another rustle of wings. A Tawny Eagle, another opportunist hunter, entered the fray and deftly stooped on the injured plover ending the encounter. Two vultures drawn by the activity spiralled overhead.

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It interested me that so many large birds were at hand and keen to take over the falcons prey.

All this raptor activity reminded me of a walking safari I was leading on the edge of the Chifungwe Plains in the Luangwa Valley in 2001. I spotted an unusual bird, a Palm Nut Vulture in a thermal overhead. Shortly after this a Western Banded Snake Eagle joined the thermal followed by a Martial Eagle, a Tawny Eagle, White backed Vulture, Bataleur Eagle and finally a pair of Long Crested Eagles all rising with the thermal as it moved, drawing the birds away across the plain.

Good day
Robin Pope.

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Wow, what an amazing sighting – thanks ever so much for sharing that with us Robin, its left me rather jealous! Strangely enough the only part of Africa which that we were able to pick out when we were flying from London to Johannesburg was Liuwa Plains, all flooded and looking absolutely incredible! It really is quite a phenomenal sight from the air as it is from the ground.

Ok well that’s about that for this week not much point in attempting to surpass Robin’s story so have a great week and next time some news from the Luangwa.

Cheers

emily

 

 

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