long-tailed hawk

Dec. 4, 2012     Yesterday I placed my camera back in the forest of the large elephant.  After most of a tube of epoxy, I hope the camera is repaired and operating, as well as waterproof.  Several tests around Casse 33 reveal that the motion sensor is working, and pictures recorded.  The camera now monitors the stream cutting through the forest overlooking a junction of two trails.  I have set the camera as high as I can reach, tucked into a cluster of trees, hoping to reduce the likelihood of another attack.

The African Long-tailed hawk is a forest-dwelling hawk, not uncommon, but secretive and rarely seen.

Continuing through the forest, as I approach the savanna I hear a ruckus of mangabeys.  Their coughing alarm sounds from a narrow gallery of forest across the savanna.  I can see the forest but can’t imagine myself as the source of the mangabeys’ alarm.  Several individuals are leaping among branches, beating tree limbs in agitation at the edge of the forest gallery.  They are clearly upset.  I approach the savanna discreetly, taking a post concealed in shade behind a dropped tree limb for a better view as to what may be alarming the mangabeys.  After a few moments I see movement in my line of sight.  A large bird comes into view, sailing close above the savanna grasses directly before me. It is heading straight on, the only apparent movement being the pumping wings of its nearly meter-wide wingspan.  Within seconds, I can make out its intention, giving every indication that it plans to land on the dropped tree limb I am resting against.  Something is dangling from its talons.  At the last instant, three meters before me, it sees that I am not part of the tree limb, and with a shriek of surprise, it veers off course around me and into the forest above my shoulder, its lunch, a half-eaten bush squirrel, tumbling into the leaf litter as the hawk dodges my presence.  It is a beautiful accipiter-like hawk, an African Long-tailed hawk, Urotriorchis macrourus.  These hawks are forest hunters, undoubtedly the source of concern for the mangabeys.  A beautiful bird, slate-gray back with russet breast; the tail, dark gray with white bars, is nearly a half-meter in length.  A brilliant yellow border surrounding a hooked bill, piercing yellow eyes, long yellow legs trailing beneath the grand tail; it has disappeared into the forest without a trace.

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