Kedar Dhepe

One day with Bonellis Eagle…

One day with Bonellis Eagle…

By Kedar Javadev Dhepe

I will not be alone in the company of Nature and Birds…” – Salim Ali

Some people say the attraction to anything is from birth and it’s in the blood. Love for nature and wildlife too seems to be in the blood of many of us. It is another matter that not many people are able to take time out from their busy schedules to visit nearby wilderness areas. However, when life throws many curve balls at us and we are deep down in stress, taking a break and visiting a nearby forest area or hill makes us forget our stress.

In March this year, the urge to run and take shelter in mother earths lap became very intense and we took a trip to hills near Kolhapur. Myself and my friend Prashant departed from Ashta and took minimum luggage and food so that it doesn’t become cumbersome in the field.

At 3pm we reached the bottom of the hills and started to climb upwards. It was very hard to continuously climb this hill. We saw many common birds like Bulbul, dove, sparrow, bee-eaters etc. We also sighted Kestrels which are hovering in the sky like helicopters.

As we reached the middle of the hills we suddenly saw a large bird in the sky. It had huge wingspan and appeared regal. We looked at it through our binoculars and were happy to identify it as the Bonellis eagle.

Bonelli's Eagle

Bonellis Eagle

We increased our speed, at the same time trying to keep contact with the beautiful bird with the binoculars and suddenly we realized we had reached the top of the hill. The view from the peak was incredible.

Unfortunately we found a large nest on tree near to hills. The nest was large enough for a man to even sit easily. However, a word of caution, one should not go close to a nesting bird as the bird might get disturbed. When a person is close to a nest the mother bird won’t come close to the nest and hence the chick may remain hungry. And in case of large raptors, you may be attacked by the raptor. [For Ethics on Nature Photography please check this here: ]

We noticed the small chick looked like cotton. It was a new born chick. They had very small feathers which were white. After sometime the chicks tried to sleep alone in nest with spreading of its small wings. They were waiting for their parents..

After a long wait at a distance from the nest,  at 6.30pm at last we saw its flight. She was returning to the nest. We became really happy to hear the sound of the chick when the parent came closer. The chick welcomed its mother after a long wait. It got closer to its mother and rests its head under her feathers, seeking the warmth from her feathers. We witnessed this affectionate display in the golden light of the sunset.

I wanted to observe its behaviour at night so we planned to sleep on that hills and observe that nest and beautiful eagle. Most birds sleep on branches of trees in standing position which is known as roosting. Eagles are also not any different. The female stayed with its chick in the nest the whole night. We observed their activities after every 2 hours in the moon light.

Bonellis Eagle with Chick

Bonellis Eagle with Chick

That night we had dinner at the temple which is near to the hill, so sadly we missed the opportunity to cook food outdoors. There are also high risks of forest fires so we decided it would be safer not to cook. We had our meal and returned to our tent. For that whole night I was thinking about the mother’s love of the Bonellis. These eagles are mainly found in mountains or open woodlands. These eagles mainly feed on hares, other birds, reptiles, lizards etc.

After some time I fell asleep but woke up early in morning to observe its morning activities. I was stunned to witness that the roosting eagle was in the exact same position the whole night with its chick safe near to its stomach.

It was magical to witness the rising sun from over the hills in the distance… not a common site in the cities or from our hostels. The chick is also experiencing the first sunlight of day from its nest. At 7:15am the female left its nest and took high flight and perhaps forgets all efforts of night shift.

Bonellis eagle in flight

Bonellis eagle in flight

After sometime we were unable to see her so we walked down to see her. After about half an hour or so we saw both the male and female were resting on top of the other hill. We reached the bottom and from the other side I tried to scan the hill so as to get closer to them to get good photographs. Unfortunately I was able to get about 10 ft. or so and they also noticed me approaching and quickly took flight to the skies…!!  What eyesight they have..!!  Their eye reflects golden light of sun and huge wings…!!

We felt really lucky and blessed to have witnessed the Bonellis from such close distance. And main thing is they didn’t attack me. I also doubt that they even thought of attacking. Sometimes nature, animals appreciate our love for them and give it back with much satisfaction and happiness. If one approaches the subject slowly without making any undue noise and sudden movements and without appearing to directly approach them, birds and animals get comfortable.

People always think animals are wild and that they attack us but true be told – no wild animal will attack you if you don’t cross your limits. They always try to avoid people and avoid conflict. If we give them the space they need, they don’t mind our presence.

We returned from the mountain and had some tea with the local people near the temple – a memorable cup of tea, without milk but with lemongrass. We then headed back towards the nest.

After much waiting we heard the sound of a chick. It noticed its mother before we noticed her approach. At 11:30 female came with a Francolin bird. We were amazed after seeing this because the size of frankolin bird is so big. The chick was hungry so the female continuously chopped the meat into small pieces and fed them to her chicks. She held these small cuts close to her chicks beak. The chick used to quickly catch the food and swallow. It was a very nice experience to see eagle feeding its chicks. We have seen these only on national geographic and discovery channels but today we experienced and videoed first hand. We were very blessed to see this amazing experience of an eagle’s life.

The feeding continued nearly for half an hour. Chick became silent after feeding and went near the female. The female protected her chick from the direct sunlight by spreading her wings. I will always remember this moment… A mother’s love for her child is always so lovely to watch. Whether it is humans, animals or birds, every one protects their children. Their It occurred to me that they do not have mind like humans but they have love and other emotions…they work everyday for their survival…so no different to humans,

“  They also have equal right to live…!! “

At 2:30pm the female took flight and left the nest. After half an hour the male came to the nest, and the chick started continuously calling for food. We were amazed to see that male vomited food and fed it to his chick. We realised that Eagles can eat more meat than they require and they keep it in the trachea or within the neck and can at any time vomit it and feed it to their chicks. When the chick is growing and getting stronger, it would require feeding twice a day. So, hunting a large prey once a day becomes necessary.

The entire day, we were taking rest in the hills and whenever we used to see the flight of eagle or hear the call of chick, we used to take our cameras, binoculars and run madly to see it, hoping that we don’t make noise in the process. It was exhilarating. We had never felt so much happiness as we got watching the love between the eagles and their child. From this experience I have started feeling a deep love and connection with these birds.  The sight of these majestic birds flying in the sky or the cute chick being protected by their mother fills me with joy and makes us forget all our problems and worries.

After 3pm we took our bags and left the hills. We are remembering all the things that we witnessed while we are walking. We both can’t forget this amazing experience with this Eagle. Just then we noticed that the female was flying in the sky. I thought she is saying goodbye to us…

Kedar Dhepe
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