Friday, 14 June 2013

The Eagle Has Landed!


It's not every day you get to make a boyhood dream reality!!! After arriving at Lorna Glen for our eagle capture mission on Tuesday, I was absolutely ecstatic today when we were successful in capturing an adult Wedge-tailed Eagle (this one a male) after less than 24 hours of trapping. Fitted with a long-term solar GPS/Satellite transmitter, this bird will allow us to track its movements over the coming years. Today is a day I will never forget - suspense, excitement, nervousness, and capped with raw emotion and happiness. I must start by saying a huge thankyou to all my wonderful support crew - Gill behind the camera and at my side as always, Neil H the extraordinarily calm and wise eagle handler, my close friend Judy who first introduced me to this study area, Mum and Dad here with me in spirit in everything I do, my Aunty who left us so suddenly last week and is now looking down on us all, everyone who has helped in the preparation.... and most importantly, these majestic, MAGIC eagles which continue to bring me inspiration, as they have done for much of my lifetime. Here's how the day went...

We baited the 'crow traps' (a large wire cage) yesterday arvo with a few road-killed kangaroos, and on our way out to prepare another trap site after lunch today, we saw an eagle circling near one. We slowed down to get a closer look and our binoculars confirmed this was a dark adult bird. Just what we wanted. This pair was not the primary target but (I think) the neighbouring pair towards the east. A little further down the road and we found a second adult bird perched in a tree. (This was almost certainly the mate of the bird just seen, and also very dark). We carried on to continue with our trap setup and worked for about an hour, when a call on the radio excited us. It was Judy saying that she'd just driven past an adult eagle perched right above one of our baited traps! Knowing how alert and suspicious adult eagles are, I just didn't believe they would go into a crow trap... but we held our hopes. To be honest I wasn't feeling the best and didn't feel like catching an eagle - I wanted my headache to have cleared before the big moment. But it is often at the strangest of times when these rare moments descend upon us.



Half an hour later we left our tools and drove down the road towards the the trap where the eagle had been sighted. My nerves rushed as we slowed down for the last 50 metres, then stopped. I glanced out the window. BOTH BIRDS were at it - the male inside the cage and the female sitting on the ground outside. She launched into the air and flew as Neil and I dashed to the trap. I expected the male bird to try and fly out - he didn't. He  just stayed on the ground and tried running into the wire. I wanted to pin him urgently and Neil hadn't yet got the gate open, so I just dived over the fence and secured the bird with my net. Soon Neil was in and also placed his net over the eagle, then grabbed his legs. Even before we had it caught, I was amazed at how calm this bird seemed. The eagle had hardly flapped and only jumped at the side of the cage a couple of times. When secured it was totally uninjured - not a scratch. And it became even calmer when I had it blinded (thanks a million to Nick Stanton for making me such a perfect fitting falconry hood!).



The rest they say is history (although you can watch the whole thing when my documentary comes out!), but it took about 40 minutes to fit the transmitter, then band, weigh and measure the eagle, before it could be set free. Just before sunset we released him, and had tears welling in our eyes as he flew away down the road beautifully, not a feather out of place, with the transmitter firmly on his back, flapping his huge wings and lifting himself above the mulga scrub. A dream come true. But only the first phase complete. We still have one more bird to catch...



1 comment:

  1. A dream for me. i wish, i was even a .5% part of this. i wish you all the very best. i hope & prey that 2014 brings you all the success with this. Most importantly i pray these beautiful birds of our outback soar up in population & have a grt life. I m a big fan of you & will do follow you from now on.

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