Category Archives: Rosy and Girl in Naivasha

Rosy and Girl, back together.

News on Rosy and Girl:

Those of you who remember Rosy and his cataract eye operations may be curious to know how he is getting on. The truth was that for months after his operations and prolonged treatment he was a shadow of his former self, usually sitting idle in his corner half blind and unable to interact with Girl, his mate of some 25 years. He could not easily find his food or build a nest and he just spent his day loafing with glazed eyes. Every now and then he’d crash into the shed wall and our hearts would sink. I had little hope and therefore no reason to write about him when in so pathetic a state. While it has been incredible that he could see a bit and look after himself we’ve all been disappointed that it was not a miraculous total recovery. But sometimes he’d surprise us all by being seen high up on a perch looking cocky. How did he get there?

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Girl inspects Rosy's DIY skills.

 For the last year and more I usually spend 2 to 3 days in one place before heading off to another destination in my camper car. It (then) hadn’t resulted, as I had hoped, in employment or a place to live. But I think I am doing a number of worthy things and being productive nevertheless. But when I am utterly fed up with everything and in despair, I end up going to see Rosy and Girl now happily housed at Sarah Higgins’s sanctuary at Naivasha. I feel good and among family when I see them. When I visited in October 2010 Rosy and Girl, were showing distinct signs of breeding.  They would sometimes sit side by side. Rosy would try to get the food to the nest, or Girl would take a sprig of green leaves in her bill and look confused. In mid December, while asleep in my car roof top tent behind their shed I was awoken by Girl calling at night. That was always a sure sign when we were all together in Athi that she was thinking of breeding. It was a low monotone call, somewhat sad and foreboding. I went down to see them in their pen in the morning and saw Rosy at one end low down on his usual perch and Girl up in the old nest. Nothing had changed.

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Rosy and Girl on nest

By mid October 2010 I was helping Masumi Gudka to do a Fish Eagle/pesticide project. We were all staying at Sarah Higgin’s place where she also has a research facility. I heard Rosy and Girl make a “mating” call! By the time I rushed down to their shed I saw nothing other than Rosy and Girl on the nest looking innocent. But Rosy was on the nest….a rare feat for him. Over the next few weeks Mwanzia and I with the help of Sarah’s workshop fundis put together a King Sized eagle bed, built for having large and strapping eaglets. A massive iron structure some 2.2m across was set, with some danger to life and limb, on top of their old nest. Not only is the centre nest tree flimsy, but Rosy and Girl could of course drop you with one single blow. We then added a few extra poles to assist Rosy in getting to the nest. Within minutes after we departed Rosy was in there busying himself with nest renovations. By late November he was totally at home nest building and rearranging. I suspected that they had mated, but I was not sure. Still almost blind, his determination is so admirable that it just makes all of us stand back and shake our heads with wonder. He is incredibly clever at using what senses he has at doing what he was always good at. He used to be an exceptional nest builder and father who used to take on incubation, brooding and feeding chores with rare dedication. During the beginning of his current nest duty he would charge threateningly down the perch to collect fresh green branches we placed for him. He would return to the nest to place it with artistic flourish in the bowl, and I smiled a lot for no very good reason. I haven’t smiled in this paternal stupid way since they last had a chick in late 2005. Rosy and Girl look to be back in business, and with them I feel as though things never changed. It would be better than just “good” if they did breed. It would defy all that stood in the way. Much did, and I still harbour simmering anger at those that did harm and ruin so good a thing. But this great news would surely delight all those that helped by gave funds when Rosy needed two cataract operations. Those that contributed and those that did the surgery and cared for him would all finally feel it worth their while. Rosy and I owe so many people, especially Sarah Higgin’s. Above all, everyone can rest assured that the operation was no failure and Rosy and Girl are back together.

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Eagle foreplay. NB: Closed 3rd eyelid.

(At this point I had hoped to close one blog entry so as to build suspense for the next. But caution ruled and I did not post it. Part 2 of the story follows)

In January 2011 they were both busy making the nest. It was impossible now to enter without Rosy or Girl attacking. When the mating call was being made I would rush down and just miss it. Sarah too would dash to see what was happening. Only Mwanzia witnessed them mating, but something was not exactly right. When I finally did see them mate I was confused to see Girl on top of Rosy! It is a very rare thing for eagles to do. Physiologically the mechanics of the whole process just don’t work in this position.  I assumed Girl was frustrated with Rosy’s ineptitude at this tricky task. It takes a lot of caution (those feet could kill the female), and balance to mate. But every time Rosy looked near to mating (lots of nibbling and foreplay etc), Girl would back off. Rosy is smaller than Girl and I worried that this odd mating position could end in serious injury. Girl’s feet are massive. However on one occasion in late January I rushed to the peep hole to see Rosy dismounting. What happened I was unable to tell.

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The nest and eggs. The metal nest rim can just be seen.

On the 2nd Feb 2011 I came in exhausted from a long drive to look into their shed and see only Rosy. Alarmed I swung open the door and entered, only to have Girl rise like a massive demon from the nest and glower with gaping mouth and open wings. She was on an egg! Rosy stood statuesque and in solemn pose a few feet away. His demeanour may look calm and composed, but he was anything but. Had I stepped one more foot into the shed he would have flung himself at me and Girl would have certainly followed. I raced off to tell Sarah. When I returned to Naivasha a week later Girl was on two eggs!

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An egg! Girl attacked so photo poor!

Eagles, unlike people have two birthdays. There is cause for celebration when the egg is laid, and there is yet another celebration when it hatches. In a way, the nail chewing period stretches the entire incubation period for nearly two months. If one or more eggs hatch, Sarah, Mwanzia and I would be thrown into disarray. Good food will be the top priority, and not easy to find.

Of course this is something of a record. Rosy is the only eagle in the world with 2 artificial lenses. He is the only one with such a disability to breed. That both are in the mid thirties is also a feat of sorts. And in Africa captive breeding eagles of any sort is extremely rare. On top of all that, not much was going for them when Sarah stepped in and helped us all out when we had to separate and go our different ways. One thing is for sure, I have felt an inexorable pull towards them and failed hopelessly in the attempt to rid myself of the birds and get a “real job”. I can’t, and should they have a chick I see it as inevitable that I slide back into doing what I always enjoyed. Breeding eagles and releasing their young is about the only thing that has made sense to me in a conservation world utterly bogged down in semantics, strategic plans, funding proposals, jargon and futile inaction. Rare is it to break through and actually work with wildlife make it grow, nurture it and set it free.

(Here I end the second blog entry……read on if you wish to know what happened!)

The Little Owl Sanctuary: Waddlesworth and Rosy

Another great guest post from Sarah Higgins

Waddlesworth is still with us and is worth his weight in gold for all the chuckles he gives us. He spends his days mucking about in the garden, pulling the flowers off my plants and annoying the tortoises by attempting to catch their heads whilst they are trying to eat. When he is feeling really adventurous he gallops (a pelican’s ungainly version thereof) down the lawn and into the air for a quick spin round the bay, but making sure that he is always back in time for ‘lunch’! Then a post-lunch snooze, some more rotting-up of the tortoises and guddling in his little pond and then it is food time again!

He has just recovered from (according to him) a very serious injury! He came in a couple of weeks ago and claimed that he was totally unable to walk. He refused his fish and just lay there with his foot off the ground and was even trying to keep his wing away from the foot. We couldn’t find anything wrong with him bar a little cut on the bottom of his paddle but after a couple of days of this we decided that we were going to have to call the vet. The vet couldn’t find anything that could cause this serious inability to even put his foot to the ground but suggested all sorts of things that we could do to try and help the bird. After day three both Sammy (Waddlesworth’s keeper/mum!) and I had decided that all that was wrong with him really was that small cut on the bottom of his paddle, after all pelicans are renown for getting stressed over the silliest things! So we just continued to carry him out into the sun in the mornings and carry him back to his favourite sleeping spot in the evenings and forced fish down his throat at meal times and ‘Hey presto’ after five days he could walk (with a dramatic limp) and by day seven had forgotten all about it and was cured! It is silly enough that we have a pelican living with us but to have a hypochondriac pelican – well!

He is still showing absolutely no sign of leaving home, I suppose that life must just be too comfortable for him. Perhaps if I cut his food a bit he might think about going and looking for his own, but somehow I doubt it and anyway, with the lake so low, there are not that many fish available for hungry pelicans!

He often amuses himself by trying to catch butterflies but the other day he snapped at a hornet, which naturally didn’t take too kindly to this and stung him in his pouch. I looked up from my lunch just in time to see him open his beak with a squawk and the offended hornet fly out and away. Then there was a great deal of shaking out of the pouch trying to get rid of the nasty pain, poor fellow. You should have seen the swelling that had come up by evening, it was really quite impressive, but by next day all was okay again. I just hope that he learned from that but I doubt it. He still tries to catch butterflies!

Waddles has recently taken to having his bath in the bird bath and, as you can see, it is a perfect fit! Which of course means that he doesn’t get very much of himself wet during the wash, particularly as he has usually spent some time prior to his ablutions using his bill and pouch to scoop most of the water out of the bath! It amuses him to watch the water flow over the edge and then try to catch it on the way down!

Waddles enjoying the bird bath

Waddles enjoying the bird bath

Rosy does not seem to have made any progress with his ability to see. We watch him closely and grasp at every little sign that his sight might be improving but I regret to say I am beginning to give up hope a little. He can see something so the operations were not totally wasted, and can certainly see enough to get round his ‘palace’ on foot and be able to hop up onto his perches. He seems to see much better in poorer light (he has trouble when it is very bright), so these rainy days that we have been having over the past few months have definitely been good for him. He can detect movement in the grass and makes a very good attempt at pouncing on things but if the movement is too fast he can’t follow it and Girl then takes over. Despite this they both seem happy and call often so although the lack of sight seems to have put a stop to the breeding programme they both appear to be content with their lot and are both in very good health.

Back With a Vengeance

After all the setbacks, we were keen to get on the road as soon as I got back to Kenya on December 30th. We set off for Nakuru, a small National Park on a brackish soda lake full of flamingos and pelicans. We had received a tip that it had lots of migrant Steppe Eagles and Steppe Buzzards as well as the rarer Spotted Eagles. Simon had been working on the car over the Christmas break, and we packed it up and hit the road.

It was my first time in Nakuru and I was immediately impressed with the beauty of the area and the amount of wildlife. We got into the park in the early evening and had to rush to our campsite but saw a Spotted Hyena, the much rarer Striped Hyena and rhinos as well as thousands of buffalos on the way.

The three days we spent in Nakuru were very productive. We saw lots of Steppe Eagles, Steppe Buzzards and Montagu’s Harriers as well as a few Lesser Kestrels. We found the most productive area for raptors to be on the outskirts of the park on the sewage treatment plant. There resided cormorants in large numbers alongside Marabou Storks and here we saw the largest numbers of Eurasian Marsh Harriers, Fish Eagles and European Black Kites. We didn’t turn our heads away from the lions we saw walking along the lake shore, or the two leopards we saw sitting in trees.

eurasian marsh harrier at nakuru
Eurasian Marsh Harrier

We dropped off to see Sarah Higgins and Rosy and Girl in Naivasha on the way back. Rosy is back in the big shed with Girl. He can see a little out of his right eye but nothing out of his left eye. His immune system seems to be rejecting the lenses and building up fibrin. But he still seems as tough as ever and calls out territorially.

We spent a night in Hell’s gate and sat atop a cliff in the morning waiting for the cliff-nesting Ruppell’s Vutlures to start flying below us. We spent three hours photographing and watching the vultures as they set off for the day. We were giving a presentation that afternoon so we sat alone at a designated picnic spot, working on the computer. Simon suddenly shouted, and I turned to see a huge male baboon sitting on the wall behind me. Simon ran at it with his arms waving and shouting. This baboon was not one bit intimidated and jumped straight into the car, turning the place upside down before Simon managed to scare him off. He didn’t go far though, just a few feet away where he drank from a tap that required him to press a button and dip his head under the tap to drink at the same time. Impressed, we decided to move on before his buddies joined him.

Ruppell’s  Vulture at Nakuru
Ruppell’s Vulture

Simon gave his presentation that afternoon and we returned to Nairobi where we are now, sorting a couple of things, before setting off again tomorrow. It’s good to be on the road and busy. The birds of prey have not let us down. In fact, we have been luckier than expected with a second sighting of the Greater Spotted Eagle in Nakuru. Our piece of good news is that we have heard from Ole Donyo Laro who are almost ready to take the Bearded Vulture which will completely free us to start moving through the continent on this expedition.

Make that clever baboon famous – Digg this story!

Up and Down Week for Rosy and His Team

From Sarah Higgins

This has been a week of ups and downs. Rosy had an operation on both of his eyes on Saturday the 11th and now we are back to putting drops in his eyes four times a day. He was a very much quieter bird for the first few days after the operation, which was hardly surprising, but there were definite signs that now he really can see something. Prior to the operation he was always ‘scanning’ or ‘reading’ (as I am told it is called) which indicated that he could see nothing, but that has stopped altogether since this latest op. Now he points his beak or left eye right at you when you talk to him. I don’t think that he can see too much yet, but part of that is because of the milky steroids that were injected into his eye.

On the 15th he started calling again and called four times that day and was answered twice by Girl who was perched on the branch within her ‘palace’ that overlooks where Rosy spends his days. BUT the same day that Rosy started calling I could see the dreaded fibrin again, poking its way through Rosy’s newly opened right pupil. My heart dropped down to my boots and I sent of a picture of the eye to Doctor Dan. He too was disappointed but not despondent.

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Rosy on October 15

The next day when I went to see Rosy I had my camera slung round my neck. I approached him from the left and as I bent forward to greet him the camera swung forward towards him and he nearly jumped out of his feathers. There is absolutely no doubt that he saw something coming at him although he probably couldn’t make out what it was. Despite this, when I looked into his left eye this too was showing signs of the fibrin beginning to fill up behind the pupil, although not nearly as severely as was happening in the right eye. Yet another photo was sent to Doctor Dan who again was not despondent and assured me that the steroids that he injected into the eye should eventually clear everything up. He said that Rosy’s eyes were reacting exactly like a human baby’s eyes do and that things really should start to look better soon.

Because the news was basically depressing I was reluctant to write up my Rosy Report. But today it looks as if the fibrin is beginning to retreat from his right eye and so things are definitely looking rosier. The big boy still chats to me in his silly little un-eagle-like voice when I spend time with him but that same voice is also regularly raised to its full volume as he claims his territory and makes absolutely sure that no one is going to trespass on HIS patch or try to steal his Girl.

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Rosy on October 18

Please keep sending your good thoughts to Rosy as I am sure that it all helps in the healing process and we do so want him to be able to see again and be able to go back to his lonely Girl.

Rosy Recovers After His Operation

Rosy stepped out of his dog kennel and onto the glove this morning still groggy from yesterday’s operation. He was a little different from usual in that he was more active in moving his head and scanning the world through open, if bleary, eyes. The eyes themselves were opaque, but that was to be expected given the recent operation and the injections of milky white anti-inflammatory drugs.

Rosy getting his eye drops
Rosy getting his eye drops

He sat on his perch in the early morning sunlight, while I put various eye-drops into each eye. It seemed as though he flickered an eyelid before I touched him. I asked Mwanzia if he could look after him while Laila and I walked to view the lake shore and the incredibly tame herds of zebra and waterbuck. Pied Kingfishers and Great Cormorants offered superb photographic opportunities. The pair of resident Fish Eagles often sit on a flimsy dead tobacco plant overlooking the water and this morning, the male was there allowing us to approach within 50 meters.

We returned for a late breakfast with Sarah and Mike on their verandah accompanied by a menagerie of wild weavers, doves, babblers and finches that busied themselves establishing the pecking order of the day. The ancient pet African Grey Parrot added some pertinent comments to the conversation that could have only meant it understood the gist of what we were saying. I felt a disturbing awareness that I might have been more careful in what I said, lest I offend the bird! I am not a great parrot fan, maybe because I have an uneasy feeling that they know very much more that what you think. Besides, the worst bite I ever had was from a parrot.

After breakfast, we “coped” one of Sarah’s Marsh Owls, who had a slightly overgrown bill. “Coping” simply means trimming the bill or talons of hawks, eagles, falcons and owls. It entails the use of a sharp knife and a file. The idea is to remove the overgrown part and return it to normal shape. The Keratin part of the bill and talons has no nerves or blood supply so it is a painless task. But the owl was very indignant.

Sarah and marsh owl
Sarah and one of her Marsh Owls

We planned to visit friends Tommie and Annie at Carnelley’s Camp for lunch and then go to Hell’s Gate National Park. But the meal there was so good that we overstayed. Annie took showed us the newly fledged chick of a Fish Eagle, born in a massive tree in their garden. She is looking after one of the ugliest of all things, a baby Hadada Ibis, knocked from its nest at night. Despite its grotesque gargoyle shapelessness it was, of course, adorable.

At Hell’s Gate, we were unable to meet the Warden and the acting deputy. I had worked for some years in Hell’s Gate with students studying Augur Buzzards and Egyptian Vultures, and latterly releasing Bearded Vultures (Lammergeyers). I always had a great affection for Hell’s Gate and its towering cliffs. It is our hope that we can also do a census in the park and its nearby environs in order to continue to promote raptor conservation and awareness.

We returned to check on Rosy. He had not eaten much during the day, but this was not unexpected. He was much more jumpy than he had been since May 2008. As my hand approached his face to put the eye-drops in, he threatened it! I turned my head upside-down and he threatened that, too! Laila stood up and he followed her with his head. He definitely has more vision than at any period in the last five months. We can only pray that this improvement continues, especially as Girl sits confused and lonely in her grand breeding pen. I retired Rosy early to bed where he bounced about with something of his old belligerent manner.

Rosy’s Second Eye Operation

Laila and I drove to Naivasha to stay with Sarah and Mike Higgins on Friday night where I was able to reunite with Rosy and Girl for the first time in weeks. I was shocked at the condition of his eye, but Rosy was in good spirits and was particularly talkative. The iris of the right eye had, within the last few days, burst forward to coat the inner side of the cornea. Sarah had earlier sent Dr. Dan Gradin a photo of this eye by e-mail. Dan viewed this as an emergency requiring immediate surgery. I went to the shed to see Girl, and half hoped that she would be pleased to see me. But she was not and made it clear by launching herself around the shed in mad abandon. We did manage to exchange a few words after she recognized me.

Early next morning, after taking pictures of wildebeest, zebra and waterbuck at the lake shore, I took Rosy out for a short walk to enjoy the warmth of the sun. He leaned his body against me as we had done for so many years and seemed happy. But he was totally blind.

view of animals from Girl’s shed
View of animals from Girl’s shed

We were able to convene at Dr. Barry Cockar’s clinic on Saturday at 10 a.m. After taking pictures in the morning light by the lake shore, we all had breakfast and then drove to Dr. Cockar’s, with Sarah following close behind. We arrived late but safe.

We met Dr. Barry Cockar, Dr. Nonee Magre and Dr. Dan Gradin and soon anaesthetized Rosy and proceeded with the operation to relieve the glaucoma. Pressure was immediately reduced by puncturing the iris. Within a minute, the iris collapsed and returned to near normal shape. Dan removed a coat of fibrin from the acrylic lens but in the process he had to remove some of the iris. He joked that should he be photographed, we would have to use his “good side.” The iris shape may look odd but it is of little consequence to good vision.

Dr. Gradin looking down the scope
Dr. Dan Gradin looking down the scope

Rosy’s support group
Rosy’s support group

The other eye needed similar treatment. The lens was coated with an amazingly tough layer but the process was very much shorter than the previous operation. Both eyes were injected with steroids and anti-inflammatory agents that are slow release and would inhibit the fibrin growth.

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Drs. Nonee Magre and Barry Cockar preparing injections

During the operation, Rosy awoke and leapt about scattering people and equipment. This relieved the tension as there were times when it was difficult to hear his heart beat or breathing.

Like last time, we retired for a great lunch at the Cockar’s house. It was great to stand back and watch Rosy’s support team gather together on a veranda. We all had his interest at heart. Rosy was handed around and held like a baby as he recovered from the anaesthesia.

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Rosy and Barry

We drove back with Rosy recovering on Laila’s lap. That night he spent standing up in his dog kennel. He did react to light, and the prognosis is good that he will see again. How well is not known.

Rosy and Laila on way home
Rosy recovering on journey back

Crowned Eagle Faces Another Eye Operation

We are in Naivasha as Rosy the Crowned Eagle is set to undergo emergency surgery on his eyes tomorrow. We get online as often as we can and when Simon checked his inbox yesterday, e-mails were flying around between all concerned parties about a sudden change in Rosy’s right eye. It seems he has glaucoma which, if left, could be disastrous.

Rosy’s eye pre-op

We were up before the sun this morning to drive Jim, a friend and fellow wildlife enthusiast who teaches baseball here in Kenya every year, to the airport. We took advantage while we were in Nairobi to pick up the Range Rover, our expedition vehicle. It has been kitted out with a huge water tank and a tent that opens out on top of it. It was amazing to see this car that is effectively home for the coming year. It is not yet finished as it still needs to be kitted out with fuel and gas tanks but it looks and feels good already.

While we were at Bali’s garage, picking up the car, Simon was madly on the phone and it was soon established that Rosy would undergo surgery tomorrow. Sarah Higgins and her husband Mike kindly invited us to stay with them in Naivasha tonight so that we could be there first thing to bring Rosy back to the vet clinic. On arrival, Simon had a nice reunion with Rosy who seems to be in good spirits despite what must be a very painful condition. Girl is living in a large, well-designed shed that she seems pleased with.

A special treat for the evening was being able to photograph a pair of resident wild African Fish Eagles. Sarah has not only taken on Rosy and Girl but is also caring for an unreleasable Fish Eagle and a pair of Augur Buzzards. The good news is that the Augur Buzzards are on eggs which, if successful, should hatch within the coming days. We are keeping our fingers crossed. They have not yet bred successfully and if this is to be the year, Simon and I will return to release the young back to the wild.

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Rosy Getting More Comfortable In New Home

From Sarah Higgins:

Unfortunately I didn’t know Rosy before his operation so can’t be sure that what I am saying is fact, but I am getting the impression that Rosy is feeling perkier. In my discussions with him (he is a great talker) he is getting louder in his responses and appears to be feeling happier particularly since, on doctor’s orders, we reduced the amount of drops being put in his eyes. Certainly he is calling more often. Yesterday he called at 10 a.m. and again at lunch time and today he has called four times already and it is not yet midday! It is an intriguing call, rather like a giant hacksaw through metal (you can tell I live on a farm!). This may also be because the short rains seem to be upon us at last and this morning has been overcast with that ‘it’s gonna really rain today’ feel to it. Everyone and everything in Africa always feels happier in the wet weather. There is a general feeling of optimism and recharge as the grass grows, the flowers bloom, crops are sown and nests are built.

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Mwanzia and Rosy

Rosy’s eyes are clearing although his pupils are still ‘stuck’ and he is still totally blind. Nobody has given up hope though. There was always the possibility that the retina could have been damaged with the pressure build up after the operation or even that there was an underlying condition that was hidden by the cataracts. Those that know all say don’t worry, give it time. So time and lots of prayers from a lot of caring people are what we are giving.

rosy’s eyes on september 4 2008
Rosy

I ‘parrot-sit’ when my neighbours are away. Jo (an African Grey Parrot) was rescued as a little wild defeathered baby from an illegal bird exporter. She was lucky as very few of that consignment survived and luckier still in finding Peter, my neighbour, to take her on, as he and his wife Jane adore her and give her an interesting and varied life. She is now 40 years old and one of the happiest birds I know (also one of the bossiest!) and I love being allowed to look after her when her ‘folks’ are away. Having said that – I was a little concerned that she might have been worried by Rosy’s call (they are both birds of the forest), but not a bit of it, she continued cracking sunflower seeds and paid not the least bit of attention!

The future of Rosy’s eyes

On the 25th Sept 2008, I woke up early and started the process of packing Rosy and Girl’s stuff into the car. At 8am, Mwanzia, Jonathan and I walked into the shed to catch Girl. She leapt from perch to perch frightened. Only 3 days previously she had escaped through the roof, bored and unhappy at being alone without Rosy. Luckily we were all outside at the time and we were able to drive after her. Weak with so little stamina from being cooped up in a small shed she was not fit enough to fly away. The small shed is twice the size of most exercise sheds in rehab centres, but still far too small to allow much muscle tone. Once she was trained and relatively tame and very fit. But these days she is wild. Now you have to catch her and that can be dangerous.

When she landed on the ground, we cornered her and threw a blanket over her head. I then injected her with Rompun, a very strong sedative. In 2 minutes we expected her to calm down and doze off. Half an hour later she was as vigorous as ever, and in a bad mood. I then entered alone and repeated the process. Another half hour past and I could not believe she was that strong. She weighs nearly twice as much as Rosy at some 12lbs. Finally, now late to get on the road, I used another drug on her and she went to sleep. Quickly I got Rosy in the far back, Mwanzia and Girl in the back seat and tore off for a tough 4.5 hour drive to Naivasha, dodging truculent traffic police waving us down on the road, and endless potholes. Three quarters of the way there, Girl woke up enough to throw Mwanzia around the back of the car. One foot in his chest and it would be all over for him, but her feet were like a puppies, incapable of gripping anything.

At Sarah Higgin’s house at Naivasha, we arrived frayed and exhausted. Rosy had behaved very well, although in thick traffic passing Matatus with loud ‘music’ blaring out, he did get nervous and try to struggle free. Blind but strong he sat it out patiently.

Immediately Sarah, Mike and I with a small entourage took the eagles down to the shed. Just finished and looking very fine under the shade of large yellow fever trees. We took the opportunity to get pictures of Sarah holding Girl, still a bit dozy from the drugs. We released her in familiar surroundings. The shed looked just like the old breeding shed in which she had been calm enough to raise families. Only the view outside was different. Not that much different, it has a sweeping view of wildebeest and giraffe too.
In 10 minutes I explained to Sarah the drugs, and the order in which they should be used. There really isn’t a strict order of use. You have some to lower the eye pressure, some to keep infection away and another to expand the pupil, one to inhibit protein. It started to rain, and I did not have headlights for the car, so I was on my way back in a very short time. I was, as can be imagined, very confused. This was the first time I had ever left Rosy or Girl in someone else’s care. Arriving home at dark with no headlights, I had 12 hrs to pack before leaving for UK and Ireland. I would be back in just over one week, and was grateful that I had these as a distraction.

Meanwhile the question remains as to whether or not Rosy will ever see. I have over the last few weeks accepted that he might not, and I haven’t considered putting him down. I sought confirmation in this from others as would most in my position. It is a weak thing to do. A few I had talked to did not understand why I would bother suggesting that he be kept alive when blind. I remembered an old colleague of mine who had a blind Red tailed Hawk, which he would show people and educate kids and appear on TV. He went on to do great things, and the hawk led some sort of valued life too. Mwanzia and Jonathan referred to Rosy and Samson. He is blind yet terribly powerful. When I last saw him in a shed with Sarah and others standing before him. He stood on one leg, preened and stared about him. Had he been sighted one or more of us would have been immediately hospitalized. But he had won over everyone there. Mwanzia has stayed on to be his minder. In that group the question of putting him down would not arise. Rosy was as alert and independent as most pets, and certainly better able to defend himself than almost all.

Sarah sent some pictures of the eyes to Dan Gradin and I read his comment back, thousands of miles away in a little upstairs room in my sister’s house in Canterbury. It was a very unfamiliar environment for me, and Rosy did not seem far away at all. Dan’s response was that he was surprised that Rosy could not see a thing despite the current condition of the eyes. Perhaps there was more damage; perhaps the retina was damaged too. I like to doubt this as I saw he had a good pupil reflex before and just after surgery. But he will have to be checked soon for this.

If Rosy requires it, additional surgery to remove the fibrin coat is possible. I am sure everyone agrees. If as it may turn out he needs a fresh new lens in each eye, then this too could be considered. At no point has he shown any sign of depression. If we have the technology to make him see, then we should try everything possible to make this happen. But I am now not his keeper and these options depend very much on just how long it will take for him to recover.
Laila and I hope to see Rosy and Girl as soon as we get back. Sarah and Mike have been incredibly hospitable, realizing the problem, and coming to the rescue of us all.

Another milestone

From Sarah Higgins:

At 1.45 this afternoon, Rosy laid claim to his new territory!

This is the first time that he has used his territorial call since he has been in Naivasha. It was also the first time that I have ever heard a Crowned Eagle’s full cry and I was momentarily confused by this unknown sound. But then my heart swelled with joy – Rosy is feeling at home enough to start laying claim to his new patch. So – another milestone is passed, and I am sure that Girl too will be taking comfort from her male’s warrior cry.