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Wonderboom Verreaux's Eagle Project - Pretoria, Gauteng, South-Africa

How we met these Eagles: 


You are sitting in the veld looking at the southern slopes of a mountain, you pick up a slight movement on the rockface and pick up your binoculars... As you fight to get the movement focused, you realize that you are looking at not one but two eagles that have dropped from a near vertical rockface.  You follow them through your binoculars and see that they are not flapping their wings at all, they are rather soaring - their flight is effortless, they follow each other in circles, with the completion of each circle they gain 5 to 7 meters in height.

 You continue watching, folowing their climb through the binoculars, they reach a height of about 750 meters, they are difficult to pick up without the binoculars - being only two circling dots in the sky.  As you watch through your binoc's your heart suddenly misses a beat as you realize that first one and then both eagles have toppled over and have their wings tucked in.  They pull their wings into a tight 'V' close to their body and plummet to the ground at remarkable speed you are so awe struck that it takes you a few seconds to register that they have fallen more than two thirds of the height they had gained only a few moments earlier.

Your awe is replaced with concern and then panic as it looks like these eagles you have just picked up a few minutes earlier for the first time through your binoculars, are now going to crash to the earth, did something go wrong, is it going to be all over in the next few seconds?  You want to look away, but their impeding doom has you rivetted, you no longer need the binoculars, they are within 30 meters of the tops of the trees in front of you, 25 meters, 20  meters, 15 meters, 10 meters - It is going to be all over in the next two or three seconds, five meters!!!  Then first the one then the other opens it's wings and they turn out of this steep dive, only a few centimeters between their bodies and the impending tree tops, such great speed that the leaves are tucked at by the vortices created by their wings through the air, you hear the whistle of the air passing over their wing feathers.

With a slight adjustment of their wings the two birds head towards each other, like they are testing each others nerve, in a second the distance between them shrinks from 15 meters to nothing, they pass within centimeters of each other and then both of them shoot up towards the sky again, they head up weaving in and out to where their airspeed is null, just like an airplane climbing well beyond its capabilities, they stall in mid air and topple over, again they fall down towards the earth like they did a few seconds ago.

 This time they push the limits even farther and you start thinking that they are not going to pull out of their dive in time, they will hit the trees and this will be the end of them...  They pull out just in time doing the same weaving to about two thirds the height they originally fell from, then the serenity returns as they drop down like feathers, parachuting using their wings.  They slowly glide down to the area where they originally took off from and watching them through your binoculars it takes you a second or two to realise that there is a pile of sticks precariously wedged into one of the cracks in the mountain face...  Could it be a nest??? They drop down and perch just above this pile of sticks on a dry Rock Breaker Fig Tree, the one bird rustles her feathers and the second bird drops from the branch as if leaving, but quickly turns back towards the branch and mounts the Female bird, they copulate for only seconds before dismounting and perching next to one another once more, preening their feathers, bathing in the sliver of sunlight that has just started to pierce the shadows on the southern side of the mountains...

I watched this reality unfolding in front of my eyes, forgetting that I was only a stone throw away from Pretoria CBD, nestled not in the embrace of nature on some Game Farm or Rural Reserve, NO, I was in a 2 square kilometer island of nature surrounded by the tormenting seas of civilisation.  Overhead powerlines less that 600 meters from us, Metro Rail lines less than 400 meters away, one of the main access routes to Northern Pretoria within 200 meters from us, an airport approach path above us...  And yet these majestic eagles had decided to make their nest here in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Urban Jungle!!! 

My wife (and Joint Project Co-ordinator) once, after a display just like the one above, commented:"The Lord must have been in a GREAT mood when He created these majestic creatures, for they are truly perfect".  Which seems fitting as our Creator even 'branded' them with the sign of an angel on their rump.   

Welcome to the Official Wonderboom Urban Verreaux's Eagle Monitoring Project (W.U.V.E.P.) Website!

Please take the time to read through the tabs above to see the plight of these majestic creatures...

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