Libby and the Black Eagles
The newest camera addition to Africam is one of great interest and fascination. The Black Eagle cam lets us peek in and watch as a pair of Black Eagles progress through the breeding cycle. They have been incubating two eggs, and just this week one has hatched and is being taken care of every second by its proud parents. The nest is located in Walter Sisulu (Witwatersrand) National Botanical Gardens. Witwatersrand, in Afrikaans, means “the ridge of white waters”, fitting the description of that area perfectly. The Witwatersrand is a range of hills that run in an east-west direction through Gauteng in South Africa. The “Rand” or reef, as the Witwatersrand it is sometimes called, is famous for being the source of 40% of the gold ever mined from the earth. In fact, the South African currency was named after it.
The Black Eagles are territorial, so this is their home year round unlike some birds of prey that nest, raise their brood, and leave the nest until the next season. The female, Emoyeni has been here since the early 1970's, and has lost two previous mates. The mate she has now, Thulani, arrived in 1998, and the pair have produced every year since then. Emoyeni means “of the wind” and Thulani means “shy one”. They breed during the winter as the chick cannot endure the heat of the summer sun. You may often see Emoyeni standing on the nest to shade the chick. Emoyeni will be the parent that will spend about 95% of the time on the nest, switching out with Thulani for very brief periods. Thulani's job will be hunting and returning with prey to feed both the chick and Emoyeni. The nest is 40-50 metres from the ground and can be seen quite clearly from the lawn below.
There have been major concerns about prey being scarce in the area where they are nesting, this due to the development of their hunting territory...once again mankind threatens the survival of nature. In recent years the pair has been supplemented with prey since their hunting success had declined. However they have been successful in returning with a variety of prey items, resulting in the supplementation being stopped in 2009 to document whether the eagles would be able to sustain both themselves and a growing chick during the breeding cycle.
The Black Eagles are not without friends from the human world. Libby Woodcock, the Project Coordinator since 2000, has been with the project since 1997, taking it to new heights as far as research and protecting the surrounding habitat from development. The live streaming web-cam will be used to monitor and obtain vital research information about the breeding cycle. This research will be used in conjunction with Witwatersrand University Zoology Department to help conserve the eagles within their habitat, while educating the viewers worldwide. Over the past ten years, Libby has spent many hours with the eagles, so much so that Emoyeni would fly above her while Libby walked the ridges. When Libby stopped to sit on a rock and admire the view, Emoyeni would perch in a nearby tree. They truly have a special relationship. Libby says that the eagles gave her inspiration to cope with some very tough times in her life. One of the tireless efforts of her dedication to the eagles can be seen when you visit the website at www.blackeagles.co.za. Libby started the website so the public could be informed about the project, its progress, and the eagles themselves.
The pair of Black Eagles have a rough road ahead in trying to keep the chick safe and thriving, but they are experienced parents and will do whatever they need to in order to see their offspring fledge and start a life of its own. We are truly privileged to watch this unfold in front of our eyes. In the next few months you will see videos, pictures and facts posted here in Africam and on the facebook page ( http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/blackeagleproject?v=wall&ref=ts ) whereLibby posts updates as often as she can.
We'll delve into the history of the park, the efforts to protect and the progress of the chick right here in Eye Spy as time goes by. Enjoy the beauty of new life and the wisdom of the parents, with a big thank you to Libby, the project, and Africam for working together so we can watch in awe.