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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Big Five
Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project    Share

When people come to Africa they come to see the Big Five. I’ve always found it a bit odd how the five most important species for hunting have somehow transferred their significance to the camera-wielding tourist crowd of present day. Most people aren’t even sure what the Big Five are, they just know they want to see them. Masai Mara has amble populations of all of the big five and occasionally people will see a rhino, buffalo, elephant, lion, and leopard all in the same day. Leopards are usually the hardest to find and although I have been fortunate enough to see one this trip in over a month that is exactly how many I have seen – one. But the leopard hasn’t been the only spotted carnivore avoiding me. I’ve seen surprisingly few Martial Eagles this season. Martials are your quintessential majestic eagle with deep yellow eyes, huge talons and a small grey crest at the back of their regal heads. They are mostly grey with a creamy white chest that is speckled with grey spots. Over the summer, I saw quite a few and one had even taken up residence in the nearby group ranch area of Koyiaki. On my drive back from Nairobi a few weeks ago I saw a Martial eagle like never before.

martial eagleThe huge eagle was sitting on a small shrub less than a foot from the road. Her crop was full – a bulging white sack at the base of her neck, showing that she had eaten recently. Even her beak was stained with red from her recent kill. She sat calmly as tourists stopped to admire the unexpected predator. I moved out of the way to watch her for a while. As she yawned and gulped, I noticed the kill. There wasn’t enough left to tell what it was, but the brown furry hide of some sort of antelope lay in the tall grass next to the eagle. Watching her capture and perhaps travel with that prey would have been something. Now she was all but ready for a nap. As the sun went down, I took one last look into her yellow eyes, wondering what small detail she might be staring at with her keen vision. Then it was time to go back to camp.

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