The final preparations are under way for the raptor expedition. Simon is moving Rosy and Girl to their new home in Naivasha today. He will be travelling to the UK on Friday to sort out a couple of things, after which he joins me in Ireland to help transport all the equipment back to Kenya. We will be travelling on 4th October, arriving in Nairobi on the following day. We have a busy first week, with three locations to visit, after which we will be going to a very remote location to release Mutt, a Bearded Vulture (Lammergeyer).
The first few months of the expedition will be spent in Kenya, where there is a huge diversity in habitat and, accordingly, raptor species. We hope to observe and photograph a large portion of the African species during this time. We will also be spending time in Ethiopia and possibly Tanzania before Christmas. In the New Year, we will be travelling south, after which we would like to spend some time in western and central Africa. We will interrupt our car expedition either in spring or in autumn of next year to catch the raptor migration through Israel.
The expedition is intended for data collection, as well as for material for the books. We hope to gather as much data as possible. We are in the process of trying to raise funds for this data collection so that we may be as thorough as possible. For example, it would be of great value to the exercise to be able to extend the trip to islands off mainland Africa, such as Madagascar. Finding funding is crucial to making that happen.
We will make every effort to keep this blog going regularly, if not daily. There will be times when we are away from any kind of Internet facility and for that, we are sorry. Sheryl Bottner has very kindly offered to help us with our Internet management while we are on the road. We will have a Facebook group going soon, as well as other networking tools. I hope you all enjoy following our adventure and feel free to participate by making comments, starting discussions, etc.
We’d like to thank everyone who has been so supportive throughout Rosy’s eye ordeal. News on his progress will follow soon. It has also been great to have everyone’s encouragement for this expedition. I hope it is successful and can contribute to the protection of raptors as well as to conservation more generally.
Being slow-breeders and top-end predators, birds of prey are highly vulnerable to any persecution or change in their habitat and environment. These traits also make them good indicators of overall ecosystem health. Not enough is known about birds of prey at the expert level, or by the world at large. This has led us to devise a plan that would take us on an Africa-wide adventure which we are hoping you will join us on. It will involve travelling, mostly by car, through Africa, researching birds of prey and photographing them for what will ultimately lead to some books that will serve to raise awareness and increase knowledge of these sensitive animals.
We are in the process of making preparations for the trip, which include buying the necessary equipment, kitting out the car, and sorting out all the administration that such a big project entails. Sadly, it also means that Simon must find temporary homes for his birds. Once on the road, probably around mid-to-late-September, we hope to give you daily updates on the places we go, the people we meet and, most importantly, our wildlife experiences.
Our trip will include:
1. Doing a road count of the raptors as we travel through the continent.
2. Regularly updating a blog, Facebook group and MySpace page in order to keep you in-the-know.
3. Helping local raptor specialists with research as we move along.
4. Observing and photographing the birds with the overall goal of producing a comprehensive publication on all the raptor species of Africa.
We are looking for funding in the form of grants or any such scheme to support the expedition. Do not hesitate at any time to contact us with ideas and suggestions at [email protected]
Thank you so much to those who have generously donated to Rosy. The funds will go towards getting him the care that he needs to make a full recovery. Any further donations over the coming weeks will also be used to this end. While Simon is rushing around Nairobi trying to sort out Rosy’s operation, let me introduce myself…
I first met Simon when I volunteered to work with him in Athi River, helping him to look after the birds. I suppose I shouldn’t really mention the fact that he failed to turn up at Nairobi airport to pick me up as promised due to a slight run-in with the police (expired insurance). And perhaps it should remain unsaid that, that same day, he had managed to annoy quite a few people by pulling out some gum trees (“damn exotics”).
Simon with Duchess, who is posturing because I am there.
However, his unusual character aside, he did make sure I was picked up at the airport despite his “arrest,” and also made sure that not one moment of my stay with him was boring. Incidents that come to mind include hiding up a tree from a charging buffalo, almost backing the jeep into a bull elephant (this one was my doing), lessons in paragliding and many more. If he had not crashed his aeroplane earlier, he assures me I would have learned to fly as well.
The highlights were not the brushes with danger, though those were fun. The best moments were the times with the birds. I remember all too clearly the words that Simon said to me on my first day with him: “One mistake, and the bird could die.” Tim, a young injured Lanner Falcon, had just been brought to Simon and was perched in his living room. As we were introduced, Simon informed me that I would be training Tim, getting him ready to be released back to the wild. I was terrified that I would make that fatal mistake. But from the first time that Tim sat on my fist, I was hooked. And by the time I saw him flying free, watching him as he made his first attempts at catching his own prey, there was no going back.