Crowned Ruler of the Skies | by Nyawira Gitaka Esther

She was perched on a dead tree branch about three meters in front of me. Oh was she a sight to behold. She posed like she owned the world as if in wait for the trees to take a bow in honor of her magnificence, oozing of strength, power and blood from traces of her last meal.

It was her eyes that got me. She stared at me with intent and intensity. Her eyes seemed pierced to the depths of my soul, her intense stare wouldn’t release me- it took me hostage.

My brain could only try and scramble for the secrets they held, secrets that nature so freely had entrusted her with…

You see I had never come this close to an African Crowned Eagle better yet witnessed one in action. Little did I know that nature’s best had prepared a show I’d never forget…

It was the peak of the cold season and being at an altitude of 2400 m didn’t help either. I had strategically positioned myself on a giant rock seated on the edge of a rugged steep cliff. It was the best position to observe the elusive Colobus monkey family I was following on that day.

Dressed warmly and with my data sheets clutched tightly, I sat in wait for the monkeys to wake up. I was going to follow them for the next 12 hours.

Exactly like I had done the previous day, the day before that and was going to do the next day, the day after that…. you get the picture. Yaay me. Research life is like a tight ropewalk which one has to walk very carefully while balancing their sanity…

  • Journal Entry: Research Day 11, July 3rd 2015
  • Altitude: 2412m Approximately 1113hrs East African Time
  • Coordinates: S 00°31.032΄E 36°30.622΄

It’s four hours into research day number 11. The clouds are parting. The sun’s rays are peeking warming the wet damp earth albeit slowly. The monkeys are already peeking their heads. The hyraxes scamper from rock to rock. Emerging from the crevices to get a good sun bathe.

The serene silence is broken by an eagle call in the distance. It’s her. I’ve been seeing her almost daily. This isn’t earth shattering considering that I’m very much within her territory.

She comes to sight making her customary grand entrance. She soars high above the canopy and darting her eyes on the look out for any unwelcome guests and prey.

In no time she’s out of sight. Three Colobus infants running around in the shrub distract me. I’ve never seen them this active before. Well, every day in the wild is an adventure

She comes back to sight soaring higher than before and scanning the expansive bush land. Barely a minute passes she disappears again.

Abruptly, she emerges from the backside to my left flying low.

The Snatch.

It takes less than three seconds. By the time she is done my brain and eyes are still putting together what had just transpired.

She comes flying low from the left. In an instant she’s headed down talons sharp, out and front. Her target? A rock hyrax basking on a cliff’s edge, sprawled on the flat rock peak for maximum sunshine.

She grabs the hyrax just as he was. Prostate. Helpless. Warm. Her talons were built for this. She clasps the rock rabbit in her talons with ease. Touch and Go. She barely touches the ground.

He tries to wiggle out but she’s already going up with him. She keeps soaring she’s a mistress when it comes to high ground. Her kind rules the skies. Resigning to fate the hyrax is now still.

The Throw.

She keeps soaring. I stand up to have a better look. In a few seconds I can barely make out the giant eagle and hyrax tightly held in her talons.

They are but a speck in the sky. She goes higher and higher. Then…. releases the hyrax, lets it go. Why tear up lunch when nature can do that for you. Gravity takes over. The lifeless, half dazed and scared rock rabbit comes tumbling down.

Splat! On the side of a jagged rock innards are strewn and blood trickles down the rock. She follows closely and methodically tears her prey up.

Taking down the sumptuous meal in huge chunks. In the world of eagles sharing is unheard of. She enjoys the meal alone and flies close by and perches on a dead tree staring at me with her intense eyes.

I must say a captivating morning it was.

About the Entry

Nyawira Gitaka Esther

Nyawira Gitaka is a passionate conservation and environment enthusiast who teaches, learns and educates on nature through the art of storytelling. She is a total animal lover and will never pass up an adventure in the wild. Through storytelling and sharing her experiences she hopes to inspire and encourage more people to take part in conservation in their own way.

You can read our bloggers’ full profiles on the Meet Our Bloggers page.

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