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African Fish Eagles Study
Shiv Kapila — in East Africa Project    Share
Photo by Teeku Patel
This is the first blog since I’ve started here, so let me tell you a bit about myself and my study. I’m currently studying for a M.Sc. in Conservation at UCL (University College London), and I’ll be spending six weeks at Lake Naivasha, in Central Kenya, documenting the population structure and breeding dynamics of the African Fish Eagle. This study will build on existing work by The Peregrine Fund and the National Museums of Kenya. I’ll be focusing on the progression of human activity and development around the lake and how this affects fish eagle populations and behavior. The work is being facilitated by The Peregrine Fund under the supervision of Dr. Munir Virani who has been working on African Fish Eagle population dynamics since 1994.

The first week here has been thrilling-on the 21st and 22nd, Munir and a couple of assistants (Rahul Shah and Teeku Patel) helped me catch two eagles, which were then ringed and weighed (vital in assessing how much effort they put into hunting-a clear indication of the quality of their respective habitats), as well as being fitted with radio transmitters to aid in locating the birds. The caught birds were also sampled for blood for toxicology studies. All in all, a very stress free process for the eagles, especially after covered with a falconer’s hood–one even seemed to go to sleep!

Since then, the going has been slow; finding a boat for a reasonable price is a tough ask in Kenya and this can be a great drain on funds, not to mention the significant cost of accommodation which has to be taken into account. The latter problem was thankfully taken care of by the Elsamere Field Study Centre, who have very kindly put me up at a reasonable rate. The boat has been provided very kindly by Oserian, a large flower farm, and potentially a major culprit concerning water abstraction from the lake-the irony of the situation is not lost on me...

Photo by Teeku Patel
A partial count of the lake has shown worryingly low numbers of fish eagles–this could be a bye-product of the drought that Kenya is experiencing; as the lake level drops, fishing conditions worsen, forcing all the juveniles, sub-adults, and un-established adults out of the area to other permanent watercourses. This being the case, the birds are still behaving the way I’d like them to–pairs in poorer habitats have larger territories as they are less productive and vice versa.

During the next week, I’ll be doing a detailed habitat classification of the lake to show areas of high human activity and other areas of optimal fish eagle habitat. I’ll keep you posted.

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