September 2020 - Page 11

Crowned Eagles continue

away from the nest , which sometimes has some pretty ripe remnants of decomposing meat stuck between its sticks . However , over time , I have collected pictures from four different years showing the chick actually ingesting some of the pine needles . Who knows ? They might even be the equivalent of an alternative-medicine digestive tonic . Picture 6 shows the female about to fly up to the nest with one of these sprigs of pine needles on 25 August .
Picture 6
August 29 produced an image that is a vivid comment on the hunting capacities of Crowned eagles . In picture 7 , the male is seen contemplating his ascent to the nest with the entire leg and hindquarter of a young impala . In picture 8 , the ascent reveals the extent of the prey he is carrying . While the eagles generally feed more commonly on dassies and monkeys , the San Lameer pair does have access to more venison than this species generally does . At the time that the cycle paths were carved out of the bush on the estate , eagle expert Shane McPherson warned that duikers , which tend to wander down open paths , would become easier prey for the eagles . He appears to have been right but San Lameer fortunately has sufficient numbers of Impala to offer an alternative to the less common duiker . Fortunately , the eagles do not seem to be in the slightest bothered by the cyclists passing close to their nest .
Picture 7 Picture 8
Picture 9 Picture 10
In the late afternoon of 31 August , I had my first comprehensive and definitive sighting of the chick . Picture 9 shows the proud mother and the very sturdy chick preparing for the evening meal . About 15 minutes later , the ritual of the mother shredding tiny pieces of meat from a monkey carcass and placing them directly in the chick ' s mouth , had started . This caring process can go on for as long as 45 minutes and picture 10 shows just how appropriately small and boneless the morsels are which the chick can ingest at this stage of its development .
Picture 11
Picture 12
Ten days later , on 10 September , the situation had changed . Be warned , pictures 11 , 12 and 13 are of the “ not suitable for sensitive viewers ” genre . They are visceral in their depiction of the realities of the food chain in Nature , but reveal an important aspect of the diet of eagle chicks . Chicks tend to develop rapidly and by now the youngster is displaying an interest in both the food and how the mother dissects or dismantles it for ingestion . In this instance the prey is the head of a duiker . Because the eagle chick needs calcium to assist the development of its own bones , the mother regulates its intake of boney material from the prey the male delivers to the nest . Her beak is immensely strong and here she uses it to snap off pieces of the upper and lower jaws of the duiker prey . These pieces , with their teeth , are given to the chick , which swallows them whole . Later in its development , it will swallow remarkably long bones such as the legs of antelope prey .
Picture 13
While this distressing but necessary ritual of the life and death cycle of Nature is taking place 95 feet up in the pine tree , let me leave you with a cleansing image of what is happening down below . Among the carports adjacent to the eagles ' tree , beautiful Strelitizias catch the morning light . And that is where the ever-thoughtful Ronnie Govender , who lives right there , delivered the most delicious Roties to the photographers who stand for hours behind the cameras to record the activities of San Lameer ' s most treasured asset .
Picture 14
Written piece and photographs : Jacques Sellschop