The Martial, the Badger and the Secretary General

Last Sunday heading back solo to Cape Town from up the coast, I hit a dirt road detour just after Swellendam (down toward Infanta) to try to see a Secretary Bird. For a little context, on my recently reset SA bird list, this bugger has been eluding me. Gotta be 2 years trying now. Maybe 3.

So I’m many many km down, totally out of reception and pass “an area” that just feels right. I park the Duster on an embankment and start scanning the hills with my binoculars.

All of a sudden about 30 Helmeted Guineafowl hurl out of a field, screeching.

What’s flushing them?

Quickly lowered by binoculars, to take a faster 360 degree scan, I catch a juvenile Martial Eagle nearing the field. Raising my binos again, I lock in tight watching it soar.

Absolutely majestic.

All of a sudden it missiles down towards the same field and SMASHES a Denham’s Bustard right before my eyes.

Two nearby Cape Crow‘s go mental and repeatedly scream “BLOODY MURDER” while the Martial simply sits firm on the Bustard, waiting for it to die.

Shortly after I hear a 3rd crow screeching, except this time behind me. I spin around to find ANOTHER juvenile Martial Eagle gliding in the background.

As I spin back to return to the murder scene I realize there is literally no one in sight. Not even a farm house in view. The hair on my neck stands up. I even start shaking a little from adrenalin.

After a few more minutes locked in on the sitting Martial – and just as I thought my luck could not get any better – a… wait for it… a freaking Honey Badger came to take a look. The Martial Eagle raises it’s wings while sitting firm on the Bustard. The Badger raises it’s tail but then simply hobbles on past.

It all happened up on a hill and I unfortunately had no long lens camera to capture it. Hence the reason for this blog post to preserve the moment.

1km drive on were no less than 30 Cape Vultures circling and then 1km past were these two magnificent Secretary Birds feeding in perfect light.

Years of trying to see these two and wow they delivered.

Secretary Birds

Taken with my iPhone through my Nikon Monarchs