Posting the video of the Crowned eagle reminded me of my weirdest and one of the most thrilling birding experiences ever. I was in High School at Treverton and I was doing a biology project on eagles. I was fortunate in that one of the best naturalists in the area was also a friend of the school. I ended spending two glorious weeks with him studying eagles and other birds. The one morning he told me we were heading out to a Crowned Eagle nest site to watch them repair the nest for the new season. I figured we had a good 2-3 hour drive ahead of us as we were in Escort which is bushveld and Crowned Eagles prefer heavily forested areas. He smiled slyly as we headed to the car.
The drive turned out to be 20 minutes long as the nest was located right outside of town. You can imagine my surprise when we pulled up to a house on about 2 acres with a beautifully manicured lawn. Right in the middle of the lawn stood a massive eucalyptus (Blue Gum in SA slang) tree with an enormous stick nest in the center. Surely this couldn’t be a Crowned Eagle nesting in some dude’s front yard, I thought to myself. I was introduced to the home owner and we all took seats on his porch. Sure enough, within a couple of minutes a Crowned Eagle flew in with a massive branch. This continued for a long time while the three of us watched the show. By now I was sitting spell bound with my jaw literally on the ground.
To my surprise the day got even stranger because as we were leaving I saw something thin and long flying across the yard. I noticed a cat in the area where the flying object originated and I decided to go see what had landed in the bushes. As I approached the area I noticed a small snake lying there. I took a few more steps and the little man reared up his hood in an aggressive show of strength. Yip, we had found ourselves the first flying Mozambique Spitting Cobra. Both of us decided that this day was moving from the surreal to the ridiculous, so we packed up our donkeys and headed on home.
Its fun thinking back to that weird day and I often wonder whether that nest is still there or whether someone handed that Crowned Eagle a bird book and explained that it was actually nesting in the wrong spot. I also wish that I had owned a camera back then, so I could post some of those incredible pictures that I still have in my head. I was fortunate to see Crowned Eagles on several occasions; mostly either circling above the forest canopy or zooming through thick patches of forest; but nothing came close to my day in Escort! Have you got any surreal birding experiences? I’d love to hear from ya.