Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

November 28, 2010

The Martial and the Moon

Filed under: 2010,November — Hennie van Heerden @ 11:29 am

Early morning is definitively my favorite time of the day for photography. The cool light brings out the lovely colors so much better than for instance the hard light in the afternoon. And for photography there is no better light than that. Try it out for yourself: take for instance a brightly colored flower and photograph it early in the morning, then late in the morning, beginning of the afternoon, mid afternoon, late afternoon, sunset and just after sunset. Even though you photograph it from exactly the same standpoint, the effect is totally different each time. You’ll find that early morning light gives the best results for colors with the least reflection on shiny feathers or fur. Of course the soft light of the sunset gives warmer colors and a totally different feel, but it does tend to change the true colors. Mid day is the worst for photography as the harsh light gets reflected in feathers and fur, turning the shine into white while hard shadows blacken whole parts of an animal.

In this case the Emerald Spotted Wood Dove and the Baby Impala stood out perfectly in that crisp cool light while a European Roller did his early morning airobics just alongside the road. We spent the morning with a big herd of Elephants and a rather grumpy big bull Rhino.

When we cruised along we spotted a beautiful Martial Eagle in the top branch of a dead tree. With a possible wingspan of over 2m, the Martial Eagle is one of the biggest Eagles of Africa and to see it flying is an incredible experience. Its diet consists of birds as big as storks and small mammals like hares, but it can even take on baby Impala or other small antilopes!! What a majestic bird!!

As soon as it saw us it took off, sailing the skies above us. I took a couple of shots and Matt was about to move on. But then I saw the Moon in the sky and asked Matt to wait a bit more. I tried to follow the mighty eagle with my camera, hoping, praying that it would fly ‘through’ the moon. It came closer and closer until finally, it flew straight through the moon! Only one time, but I got it!! As soon as I shot it, I just knew that this shot was going to be one of my favorite shots of the entire trip. So happy with it!!

Today the Big Cats seemed to be having an ‘off-day’ as far as you can say that when you see both lion and leopard (The Kikilezi Female) but they were all lazily lying around, full and well fed, so not much action going on there.

When the day came to an end, the sun went down in the most beautiful way. A perfect setting for having “sundowners”. To me, that’s always a moment to look forward to; after having been in the moving vehicle for several hours, being tossed around on dozens of dirt roads, it’s lovely to stretch your legs in one or the other beautiful part of the reserve, always on a spot with a great view. Lovely to watch the sun going down with a nice glass of cool white wine in your hand. At those moments I feel perfectly happy!!

But the surprises of the day weren’t over yet…
Normally when you go on a first game drive, the ranger will ask you what you are keen on seeing. Of course in my case, for 16 years the answer had been: leopard. But ever since coming to Mala Mala, that answer seems rather redundant, as you will see those wonderful cats anyway. So I had to think of something more difficult, so the last 4 years the answer has invariably been: Aardvark and Serval! And each year this is met with the same sigh……… In Mala Mala, with all those big predators around, Aardvark is almost impossible; it’s nocturnal and lives a very secluded life (as it’s an easy prey for most of those predators). Serval is equally difficult; also nocturnal and quite rare in MM (as opposed to the Serengeti where I’ve seen several).

But tonight one of my wishes came true!! Serval!! Alright, you’ll have to use a lot of imagination to distinguish Serval out of this (highly cropped) picture, but it’s there!! One down, one to go 🙂

And the last surprise of the day came in the form of a beautiful little Owl.. I’ve looked it up in my Bird of Prey book and to the best of my knowledge it seems that were dealing with a Southern white faced Scops Owl. (I think..)



  1. LOVE the eagle shot. We found one perched in a tree and as we approached, there in its talons was one of the cute baby warthogs I had photographed the day before. Such is life in the wild.

    Comment by Thomas Chamberlin — March 22, 2011 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

  2. You’re perfectly correct in having identified the owl as a Southern White-faced Scops-owl. It’s called a witwanguil in Afrikaans.

    Love your wildlife diaries, not only for the beautiful photographs but also its upbeat and positive tone, and not a single complaint about the lowveld heat….

    Comment by Gerda van Schalkwyk — April 4, 2011 @ 10:50 am | Reply

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