Radical Raptors – a definite must!

Brittany Arendse
3 November 2015

I woke up at 4:30 am that morning, September 25th. It was dark and cold and I was sleepy and grumpy, as I pulled out of Nature’s Valley to join Mark for my first Raptor ringing experience. It was my best experience with raptors, thus far; getting to know them, watching how they stalk their prey and then swooping in for a taste. The prey (Blacky and Whitey – yes one is black and the other white) our little mice, safely behind impenetrable bars, although neither they nor the raptor know this. This leaves both prey and predator in for a surprise - and some trauma, as the mice get the fright of their lives and the raptor is caught by the ankle on a noose.

Fig 1

Kellyn and Mark sprinting towards our first successful catch.

 

I too was in for a surprise as I saw Mark doing a sprint towards the trap – never would I have guess that engine could move with such speed. He gets to the site of capture and secures both the mice and the raptor, with finesse and care. The best part then comes as I get to hold this powerful Jackal Buzzard in my hands.

 

Fig 2 It may look like I am frowning but I am not the creased brow is only because the sun is softly jabbing me in the eye with its fiery rays of death.

So ecstatic to hold my first raptor. It may look like I am frowning but I am not, my creased brow is only because the sun is softly jabbing me in the eye with its fiery rays of death.

 

She stares at me with such piercing eyes and a bill that looks like it could crush and tear my finger off and I give a little inward whimper. Although, I am sure everyone could hear but kept quiet to save my ego.

 

Fig 3Fierce eyes and strong bill staring back at me

That sparkle in her eye is ME!

 

I soon warmed up to the experience and calmed my pounding heart, as I ringed, measured and weighed this majestic creature. We trapped two more Jackal Buzzards and three beautiful Rock Kestrels that day and it was the most humbling experience holding such powerful birds in my hands.

 

Fig 4 taking some measurements

Taking some measurements: Wing length (left) and Primary moult - scoring the condition of the feathers (right)

 

Lastly, came the release, another fantastic experience: feeling the strength in the legs and wings as it slips from your hands in almost slow-motion as your mind tries to hold on to the magnificent sight.

 

Fig 5 the graceful release

The "graceful" release.

 

It is sad to think that many of us, young and old, will not have this same experience as I did this day. And this is what I, and I’m sure many others, believed before I was introduced to Radical Raptors, a bird of prey rehabilitation and awareness centre just outside Plettenberg Bay. Although not entirely the same as studying wild raptors, it is an amazing experience. This centre gives you hands-on experience with very powerful birds. Here they teach awareness of raptors and the impacts humans have on their environments. They do this through interactive flying displays, whilst sharing the significance of these birds and equipping you with factual background for each bird you interact with. The birds at this sanctuary have all been saved from horrific situations and only the ones that cannot be released back in to the wild are given a home and aid in educating the youth and captivating the rest.

 

Fig 6

I'm in love and i think he feels the same!!

 

So if you are looking for something to do this holiday, visit Radical Raptors. Adults and kids alike will definitely have loads of fun interacting with and learning about these birds. The proceeds go to rehabilitating injured birds as well as caring for those that are non-releasable. This facility is one of the best of its kind and gets a stamp of trust from The Trust!!!

 

Fig

Argh it's coming for me... oh.. no it's not!

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