Enraptored

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The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has a reputation as one of the top places to photograph Africas great birds of prey. So it was with much anticipation that we entered the park hoping to come away with a fair share of its bounty. Despite it being a short trip we were not disappointed and I can confirm that if it’s Raptors you want then Kgalagadi is the place to get them!

Top spot for today’s Blog has to go to a Bateleur Eagle, the Kings of Kgalagadi. These magnificent birds posed for us in nearly every part of the park we traveled, sometimes so close we couldn’t photograph them. And unlike their cousins in Kruger, these guys don’t fly…they pose. Being a sucker for posers we obliged them to the point that on one occasion we ran out of memory cards and on another nearly ran out of charged batteries.

The top posers were a pair of Bateleurs sunning themselves at the top of a dead tree. What a show it was. We had seen photos of them wings open taken by others but never expected to ever get the chance ourselves. So when they began to open up it was an opportunity not to be missed and we just let rip, making small adjustments to the settings to try and accommodate the strong light. The result was so many good shots it was almost impossible to choose which ones to post here.

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These were followed a day later by a juvenile Bateleur at a waterhole not too far north of Nossob. We had pulled up at the waterhole and noticed a Land Rover with a big lens very strategically positioned. So, figuring that it must be a good location we tucked ourselves in next to it and settled down to see what would happen. Within minutes a number of other vehicles with heavy-duty equipment arrived. So we knew we were in a hot spot.

Sure enough over the next hour we were entertained by a huge number of birds visiting the waterhole. One of these was the juvenile Bateleur that couldn’t have landed in a better spot. It was almost too close. Just perfect!

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After the Nossob Bateleur experience we knew we had to watch the waterholes carefully and from then on always took care to really observe the trees and bushes near any water source. It was a strategy that paid off with some reasonable shots of a Lanner Falcon having a drink.

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One of the more common raptors in Kgalagadi are Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks. Although they were everywhere, I found them not so easy to photograph as they always took flight before I could set up. However, I did manage a few shots of them as they either came down for water or rested in thorn trees during the heat of the day.

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I was also very pleased with this shot of a juvenile Chanting Goshawk which confused me regarding its identity until my old friend Chappie Abrams confirmed it for me.

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Another bird we managed to shoot watering was what I think is a juvenile Black Chested Snake Eagle. Like the others it was quite comfortable hanging around the edge of the water.

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Of course Kgalagadi is also home to the big birds and we were pleased to get these shots of a Tawny Eagle as it took flight from the top branches of a thorn tree.

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All these great birds aside, the grand prize for the trip was being able to photograph a Pigmy Falcon resting in  the shade of a thorn bush right next to the road. This beautiful tiny little guy was not at all bothered by ours and other vehicles that stopped right next to it. Pigmy Falcons are well known for their nesting within the huge Sociable Weaver nests that are found in this part of Africa.

When you arrive in Kgalagadi, its one of the birds that you hear about and hope to get, but never expect to get. So seeing it and photographing it was a very special moment and something well worth cooking in the sun for!

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Kgalagadi…a truly special place for Africas great birds of prey. It’s a bit far out of town so to speak, and its damned hot in summer, but its definitely worth the effort.

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