The Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) is one of the most spectacular species of African raptor. They are localized residents of remote rocky hillsides in the Maasai Mara. Very little is known about their population status in the Mara and throughout east Africa. In late November 2018, Parmuntoro Lemein and I visited Olderkesi Conservancy and Cottar’s 1920s to check on the Martial Eagles and Wahlberg Eagles that we study in the area. We had heard from the Cottar’s team that in the past a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles had nested on the cliffs behind their camp, but since the onset of our project we had only briefly seen the adults a handful of times. On our first evening in the conservancy, Lemein and I set up our scope and scanned the cliff line behind the camp. It had been almost 6 months since I had last been in the conservancy and I wasn’t expecting to see much…maybe one of the adults roosting along the cliff. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Both adult eagles were present as well as a recently fledged chick calling from the nest. This was our project’s first confirmed breeding record of Verreaux’s Eagles in the Maasai Mara.
The recently fledged juvenile and one of the adults perched near the nest
The recently fledged juvenile begging from the nest
Lemein with a big smile after seeing his first Verreaux's Eagle
It was getting dark quickly so we packed up and headed back to Cottar’s. On arrival, a quick chat with Micah Conway, one of Cottar’s managers, confirmed our plans for the following morning. We were heading back to get a closer look at the nest and adults.
At dawn, we left camp and drove to the nest. We parked as close as we could get and then set out on foot. It was a steep climb up the hill to the base of the cliff, but it was worth it. We were rewarded with incredible views and confirmed that we could place a camera in the nest during their next breeding attempt. We are looking forward to many years of monitoring this pair of Verreaux's Eagles in Olderkesi Conservancy.
The view from below the nest
Micah and Stratton resting at the base of the cliff