Friday, February 4, 2011

When Eagles Fly

February, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

As I sit down to write this morning, it is hard to know where to begin this story. guess we should begin when I received a phone call from Becky last fall asking us if we would like to go the tent bush camp Mpila within Hluhluwe-Imfolozi nature reserve. When I read the write-up, it said, “Be sure to protect your small children. Hyaenas will steal the meat off your braai.”

Wanting to protect Zane (who is now 11 months old) and not knowing if he would be walking, or crawling, or opening zippers, Floyd and I opted out of that one for Zane’s first safari experience. We decided instead to stay at Hilltop camp in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, a place we had been to before, where you stay in cottages and where there is a fence around the camp so most predators are locked out. We did however share the space with bush buck, vervets, baboons, spiders, geckos and other small creatures.

All was well. We had settled in. In the morning, we would look out and see the bush buck and her twins feeding in the dense foliage in front of the cottage.
Vervets with sad eyes watched from the trees then gracefully moved through the branches. Baboons raced across the clearing screeching as they went.

After the morning safari, time spent looking for rhino and other animals, we would go back to the cottage so Zane could take a nap. After nap, it was time to sit out on the deck and look for animals in the valley below. In the quiet time, Floyd would sit out there watching for a rare, beautiful blue bird with red wings, a purple-crested turaco. He was trying to get a picture of it as it flitted from tree to tree (never did) to prove that it really did exist in that environment.

On our second afternoon there, he and Kurt were sitting out trying to get that picture when a large raptor circled overhead. It circled and circled and circled.
It would go away a bit and then come back and circle some more, floating over the deck. The guys were madly taking its picture.

I (Betsy) came out to look, then Becky brought Zane out and sat on the deck floor so he too could watch the bird. And it circled some more.

We lost sight of it for a little while when all of a sudden, winds flapping and talons flared, it whooshed by Becky and Zane’s heads… to pick up prawn crisps out of a bowl on the table. It scared us all and reminded us that raptors in Africa can kill small primates. Prehistorically, the Taung child (an early human ancestor) was killed by either a Martial or Black eagle but then the Taung child at three years old was very small, the size of a three year old chimp.

From that moment on, we all watched the skies with renewed vigor whenever we were out hiking. Who would have thought...

Love to all from South Africa,

Betsy and Floyd

PS. Here is a picture of a crisp thrown in the air and the bird, later identified as a black kite. Floyd and Kurt spent the entire afternoon trying to lure it back down so they could get another picture, and finally did…the one directly above.

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