Martial Eagle vs Stork – A post by Jana

Cameras prepped and hefted onto the vehicle, photographers and guides all “Tea’d up and Wee’d up”, we head out on an afternoon drive. With large, dark clouds begin building on the horizon, William our guide shrugs his shoulders to my question, “Do you think it will rain? “….It’s certainly possible” he responds.

It is an entirely appropriate answer, we are exploring the stunning Mara North Conservancy, massive Lake Victoria is just 100km away and often creates its own localized weather systems that can drop “bonus rains” throughout the year.

A few moments later the sun pokes through those ominous clouds and the photographers heart skips a beat, the light is just beautiful.
A little journey of Maasai Giraffes are lit up among the Euclea bushes and we cannot resist to stop and take a few pictures! Dark grey skies and evening sunlight are a rare and exquisite combination. As we reposition the car to get a preferred angle, William spots a bird of prey perched in a nearby tree.

I am so engaged with the giraffes that I only notice it a few moments later; from the corner of my eye I can see something else is moving in that tree.

Large wings beating at the foliage, something is struggling up there….. Two eagles fighting perhaps? An eagle trapped in something?

A closer look through the binoculars reveals a majestic Martial Eagle holding a White Stork desperately fighting to get away from the vice of her talons. As we drive a little closer the hunting bird releases and we gasp in distress as the poor stork falls to the ground. Close to the tree now we can see the stork trying for a last escape on wobbly legs, it’s hopeless and tough to watch. The eagle rises and we get a few pictures of her while the sun is setting.

Elegant circles in the air and she dives with a ferocious speed, plunging onto the helpless stork. A sad second or two and all is over, the Martial Eagle drags her prey away to a more comfortable spot and begins to feed.
We (honestly even William!) are all shaken, dumbstruck at the lethal efficiency of this powerful African eagle.

Martial Eagles rarely reach a weight greater than 4.5 kilograms (lighter than the camera body and lens around my neck), yet they can dispatch prey as large as a Thompsons Gazelle with a swiftness you won’t often see from a big cat.

At least in my mind now, they are truly affirmed as one of the ruling predators on the great Savannah.

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Photo Credits: Rachel Ambrose, Gerard Ambrose, Andrew Brown, Eliza Deacon, Peter Haygarth, John Moller, Paul Sheen, Angus O'Shea, Roisin Perret, Anup Shah, Manoj Shah & Alex Walker.
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