This was the exciting news I received on Saturday 22nd April in an email from Margaret Caetano. It was seen by her son Judah about a kilometre from the camp site at tweede tol. These pictures were taken by Judah.
Over the years I have wing tagged 28 young eagles at their nest about a week or so before they fledge. The eagle Judah saw is the 8th tagged chick re-sighted since fledging.
We tag chicks in the hope of finding them again and learning more about where they go to after they leave their natal territory. It’s a hit and miss affair. Wing tagging is perfectly safe, but one cannot track the eagles’ movement. One has to rely on people like Judah to spot tags. Satellite tracking is far more effective, but also far more expensive and its inherently far more risky to literally strap a tracker onto an eagle. much like we would put on our backpacks. albeit that the trackers are very lightweight. Nevertheless eagles and in particular Verreaux’s (Black) Eagles regularly engage in breathtaking swoops, pendulums and somersaults as part of their display when they are either marking their territory, intimidating a rival, trying to impress their mate or just celebrating a great day. So there is the over riding concern about fitting a backpack that can remain in place during these energetic manoeuvres. When the air is right, they fly, that’s what’s so magical about the Black Eagle.
The eagle Judah spotted is a female. We could tell by her weight, over 4 kgs as a near to fledge chick on the nest. She was tagged on a farm in the Akkedisberg which lies between Caledon and Stanford. I started monitoring this pair in 2007 , a year or two after an extensive fire ravaged the mountain.
The eagles had not been breeding for several years. They attempted in 2009 and 2010, but failed. No eggs seen on the nest and no chick. Since 2011 however they have been producing a chick every single year and the tagged eagle Judah saw is a chick, we tagged in August 2014, which makes this eagle three years old, going into her 4th year.
- Its generally accepted that Black Eagles take four years to reach breeding age, so it’s likely she has not found a mate yet. Should she have had a mate Judah would have seen another eagle close by. Black Eagles come in pairs. Where there is one, the other should be close by, unless its what we call a floater. This means its an eagle still looking for a mate and a territory.