When I took up bird watching again after a
very long break one of my best discoveries was the Zandvlei Nature
Reserve. It became a weekly trip for me and at that time there were so
few people there during the week. I could pretend that it was my own
Best of all were the Fish eagles, although I constantly felt sorry for
them being bombarded by the seagulls. The poor birds hardly had a
I was also spending a lot of time in the Constantiaberg forests and I
became more and more curious about how often the Fish Eagles were
overhead. I started searching to see if I could find a nest, and then I
met someone who reported watching them fishing regularly in the dams at
the top of the vineyards. That answered the question as to where they
would find food to feed their young, if they were to indeed nesting in
the Constantiaberg forests, because Zandvlei would then be too far for
them to carry fish from several times a day.
Then one day last year Sharon Yodaiken and I were standing looking out
over the vineyards on the Constantiaberg slopes when a Fish eagle flew
over silently, tucked in its wings and disappeared into the forest. We
took off at great speed especially for two ladies well over 50) and,
very soon after entering the forest where the bird was last seen, found
a large well formed nest. we watched and searched the area but didnt
spot the Fish Eagle.
For the next year we visited the area at least once or twice a
month hoping to be able to confirm that the nest really belonged to the
Fish Eagles. About 5 months ago I picked up two feathers under the nest.
One was large (31cm) and black and the other small, white and
triangular. That did not constitute proof, but we felt things were
At dawn on the 7th June, Tish Foyle and I had just arrived in the forest
when a wonderful Fish Eagle duet broke out. Needing no further
encouragement we crept down to the nest. At first the nest seemed as
deserted as always and then I saw some movement. We watched for ages as
a white tail bobbed up and down over the edge of the nest.
Suddenly a second bird arrived on the nest, but in the early morning
light neither of us could make out what it was. Then at last a large
white head appeared over the edge of the nest. We had our confirmation!
The bird took off and sat on a branch of a nearby tree, a Fish Eagle in
all its magnificent glory.
The whole event was terribly exciting and it made up for all those times
we had puffed up the mountain to no avail.
(Ann is a volunteer researcher for the Western Cape Raptor