Birds and Animals Zambia

Birds of Zambia

This post is dedicated to Philip (you know who you are), a friend and former patient, who is fed up with looking at photographs of doors and is desperate to go on safari in Africa.

Yellow billed storks on a dead tree. Dead trees might look sad and leafless, but they are often teeming with insects, and so attract birds. But these storks are just chilling en masse, enjoying the evening light
This is a hooded vulture. It actually walks just like the cartoon version in the Lion King. Poachers poison vultures because the carrion-eaters betray the position of the poachers. Circling vultures can be seen from a kilometre away, alerting the anti-poaching scouts that a kill has occurred, natural or poached.
Black-headed heron. When you have got an itch, you just have to scratch it.
This is a green-backed heron in pale, immature plumage.
Marabou stork at a fishing party. They might be ugly, but they are very efficient at catching fish.
White-fronted bee eater. “But it is orange, there is just a sliver of white,” I hear you, I hear you, but I don’t make the rules.
Carmine bee eaters burrow into the sandy walls of the river bank. Absolutely amazing colours, wonderful acrobatic skills. My favourite bird at the moment.

Above are two African Hawk Eagles. Eagle-eyed readers with good memories will recollect that I saw AHEs in Embu, Kenya.

Long-billed crombec, an uncommon bird, but seen here in woodland 20km away from the National Park.
Grey-hooded kingfisher on the lookout for a meal, not usually fish.
Orange-breasted waxbills, male in plumage, female in flight. What gorgeous colours!
Hamerkop – indeed the head does look a bit like a hammer, if you’ve had a few drinks. This bird is skilled at grabbing small fish, flipping them up in the air and catching them oriented so the fish slide head first down its gullet, avoiding awkward fins and spines.

African Fish Eagle

One of my friends who lives on the eastern bank of the Luangwa River has a smartphone. The ring tone is the squawking call of a fish eagle. I still find myself looking up into the sky trying to spot an eagle when her phone rings.

Fish eagles are imperious birds. They like to perch high in dead trees, so they get a great view. This means that they are easy to spot and photograph. I took a dozen photographs of an immature fish eagle scanning a cabbage-covered lagoon in the park, trying to shoot every angle of his head. On returning home, I loaded up the images into my laptop, intending to delete most, keeping just one or two for posterity. But the eagle was so magnificent, that I found it impossible to cull most of the photographs. Here are a few for you to enjoy.

If they are not perched by the riverside, I sometimes see them on the ground, tearing at a lizard or a fish which they have captured in their talons. I have only ever photographed a fish eagle swooping down to pluck a fish from water once. And that was a cheat, when a guide took us out into Lake Naivasha in Kenya and threw a dead fish into the water. Our cameras sounded like the staccato of machine gun fire as the habituated eagle picked up the floating fish and flapped away.

In 2018, I bought a new Panasonic Lumix G9 camera, with a couple of Leica zoom lenses. They were on sale so I treated myself. There is a mode on the camera to record 60 pictures in a second. Even better, if you half press the shutter button, it will record the previous half second’s images. This makes up for my slow reaction time. So I pointed the camera at this majestic fish eagle, pressed the button as soon as I saw it take off and got sixty brilliant pictures as it left the branch. Job done, I thought.

Then I turned away from the viewfinder and watched the eagle swoop down onto the surface of the lagoon and catch a fish in its claws. It flew off into the distance to eat its fish supper in peace from intrusive paparazzi.

It was better watching the eagle in action with my naked eye than using my camera with its fancy electronic wizardry.