Eagle Encounters, pier Stellenbosch
Before starting, have to say hindsight as they say is always 20/20. I was moaning about my 6/7 hour trip few blog posts back but now came to know about the 17.5 hr. flights (17.5x800km/hr=14000 km.) which are happening around me.
I would say I was whining about nothing seeing those flights. I can’t even imagine how people would feel in those flights. Six hours were too much in the tin-can, thankfully though I was in the aisle seat. In 14 hours most people would probably give to Air rage .
I just saw an excellent article on the subject. I also came to know that seat-selection and food on a long-haul flights are a luxury, hence that changes the equation quite a bit as well. So on these facts, it seems Qatar Airways treated me quite well as I was able to use both those options.
Disclaimer – My knowledge about birds/avian is almost non-existent, Hence feel free to correct me if I do go wrong anywhere.
Coming back to earth literally 😉 , I will have to share a bit of South Africa as that is part and parcel of what I’m going to share next. Also many of the pictures shared in this particular blog post belong to KK who has shared them with me with permission to share it with the rest of the world.
When I was in South Africa, in the first couple of days as well as what little reading of South African History I had read before travelling, had known that the Europeans, specifically the Dutch ruled on South Africa for many years.
What was shared to me in the first day or two that ‘Afrikaans‘ is mostly spoken by Europeans still living in South Africa, some spoken by the coloured people as well. This tied in with the literature I had already read.
The Wikipedia page shares which language is spoken by whom and how the demographics play out if people are interested to know that.
One of the words or part of the word for places we came to know is ‘bosch’ as is used in many a places. ‘Bosch‘ means wood or forest. After this we came to know about many places which were known as ‘somethingbosch’ which signified to us that area is or was a forest.
On the second/third day Chirayu (pictured, extreme left) shared the idea of going to Eagle Encounters. Other people pictured in the picture are yours truly, some of the people from GSOC, KK is in the middle, the driver Leonard something who took us to Eagle Encounters on the right (pictured extreme right).
Update – I was informed that it was a joint plan between Chirayu and KK. They also had some other options planned which later got dropped by the wayside.
It was supposed to be somewhat near, (Spier, Stellenbosch). While I was not able to able to see/figure out where ‘Eagle Encounters’ is on Openstreetmap, somebody named Firefishy added Spier to OSM few years back. So thank you for that Firefishy so I can at least pin-point a closer place.
I didn’t see/know/try to figure out about the place as Chirayu said it’s a ‘zoo’. I wasn’t enthusiastic as much as I had been depressed by most zoos in India, while you do have national reserves/Parks in India where you see animals in their full glory.
I have been lucky to been able to seen Tadoba and Ranthambore National parks and spend some quality time (about a week) to have some idea as to what can/happens in forests and people living in the buffer-zones but those stories are for a different day altogether.
I have to say I do hope to be part of the Ranthambore experience again somewhere in the future, it really is a beautiful place for flora and fauna and fortunately or unfortunately this is the best time apart from spring, as you have the game of mist/fog and animals . North India this time of the year is something to be experienced.
I wasn’t much enthused as “zoos” in India are claustrophobic for animals and people both. There are small cages and you see and smell the shit/piss of the animals, generally not a good feeling.
Chirayu shared with us also the possibility of being able to ride of Segways and range of bicycles which relieved me so that in case we didn’t enjoy the ‘zoo’ we would enjoy the Segway at least and have a good time (although it would have different expenses than the ones at Eagle Encounters).
My whole education about what a zoo could be was turned around at Eagle Encounters as it seems to be somewhere between a zoo and what I know as national parks where animals roam free.
We purchased the tickets and went in, the first event/happening was ‘Eagle Encounters’ itself.
Our introduction to the place started by two beautiful volunteer/trainers who were in charge of all the birds in the Eagle Encounters vicinity. The introduction started by every one of us who came for the ‘Eagle Encounter’ show to wear a glove and to have/hold one of the pair of snowy owls to sit on the glove. That picture is of a family who was part of our show.
Before my turn came, I was a little apprehensive/worried about holding a Owl -period. To my surprise, they were so soft and easy-going, I could hardly feel the weight on my hand.
While the trainer/volunteers were constantly feeding them earthworm-bits (I didn’t ask, just guessing) and we were all happy as they along with the visitors were constantly playing and interacting with the birds, sharing with us the life-cycle of the snowy Owl. It’s only then I understood why in the Harry Potter Universe, the owl plays such an important part. They seem to be a nice, curious, easy-going, proud creatures which fits perfectly in the HP Universe.
In hind-sight I should have videod the whole experience as the trainer/volunteer showed a battery of owls, eagles, vultures, Hawks (different birds of prey) what have you. I have to confess my knowledge of birds is and was non-existent.
Vulture, One of the larger birds we saw at the Eagle Encounters show. Some of the birds could be dangerous, especially in the wild.
That was the other Volunteer-Trainer who was showing off the birds. I especially liked the t-shirt she was wearing. The shop at Eagle Encounters had whole lot of them, they were a bit expensive and just not my size 😦
Tidbit – Just a few years ago, it was a shocker to me to know/realize that what commonly goes/known in the country as a parrot by most people is actually a Parakeet. As can be seen in the article linked, they are widely distributed in India.
While I was young, I used to see the rose-ringed parakeets quite a bit around but nowadays due to probably pollution and other factors, they are noticeably less. They are popular as pets in India. I don’t know what Pollito would think about that, don’t think he would think good.
As I cannot differentiate between Hawk, Vulture, Eagle, etc. I would safely say ‘a Bird of Prey’ as that was what he was holding. This photo was taken after the event was over where we all were curious to know about the volunteer/trainer, their day job and what it meant for them to be taking care of these birds.
Update – KK has shared with me what those specific birds are called, so in case the names or species are wrong, please take the truck with her and not me.
While I don’t remember the name of the trainer/volunteer, among other things it was shared that the volunteers/trainers aren’t paid enough and they never have enough funds to take care of all the birds who come to them.
Where the picture was shot (both this and earlier) was sort of open-office. If you look closely, you will see that there are names of the birds, for instance, people who loved LOTR would easily see ‘Gandalf’ . that board lists how much food (probably in grams) did the bird eat in a day and week.
While it was not shared, I’m sure there would be a lot of paperwork, studies to get the birds as well as possible. From a computer science perspective, there seemed to be lot of potential for avian and big-data professionals to do lot of computer modelling and analysis and give more insight into the rehabilitation efforts so the process could be more fine-tuned, efficient and economic perhaps.
This is how we saw the majority of the birds. Most of them had a metal/plastic string which was tied to small artificial branches as the one above.
I forgot to share a very important point. Eagle Encounters is not a zoo but a Rehabilitation Centre.
While the cynic/skeptic part of me tried to not feel or see the before and after pictures of the birds bought to the rehabilitation centre, the caring part was moved to see most of the birds being treated with love and affection. From our conversations with the Volunteer-Trainer it emerged that every week they had to turn away lots of birds due to space constraints. It is only the most serious/life-threatening cases for which they could provide care in a sustainable way they would keep.
Some of the birds who were in the cages were large, airy. I wouldn’t say clean as what little I read before as well later is that birds shit enormously so cleaning cages is quite an effort. Most of the cages and near those artificial branches there were placards of people who were sponsoring a bird or two to look after them.
From what was shared, many of the birds who came had been abused in many ways. Some of them had their bones crushed or/and other cruel ways. As I had shared that I had been wonderfully surprised by seeing birds come so close to me and most of my friends, I felt rage about those who had treated the birds in such evil, bad ways.
What was shared with us that while they try to heal the birds as much as possible, it is always suspect how well the birds would survive on their own in nature, hence many of these birds would go to the sponsor or to some other place when they are well.
If you look at the picture closely, maybe look at the higher resolution photo in the gallery, you will see that both the birds have been adopted by two different couples. The birds as the name tag shows are called ‘Secretaries’.
The Secretaries make a typical sound which is similar to the sound made by old typewriters. Just as woodpeckers make Morse Code noises when they are pecking with their beaks on trees, something similar to the sound of keys emitted by Old Remington typewriters when clicked on was done by the Secretaries.
This is one of the birds in one of the few cages. If you see a higher-resolution picture of the earlier picture, the one which has ‘Secretaries’. Also as can be seen in the picture, there is wood-working happening and they are trying to expand the Rehabilitation Centre.
All in all, an excursion which was supposed to be for just an hour, extended to something like 3 odd hours. KK shot more than a 1000 odd pictures while trying to teach/converse in Malyalam to some of the birds.
She shot well over 1000 photos which would have filled something like 30 odd traditional photo albums. Jaminy (KK’s partner-in-crime) used her selfie stick to desired effect, taking pictures with most of the birds as one does with celebrities.
I had also taken some but most of them were over-exposed as was new to mobile photography at that time, still am but mostly it works.
That is the lake we discovered/saw after coming back from Eagle Encounters. We had good times.
Lastly, a virtual prize distribution ceremony –
a. Chirayu and KK – A platinum trophy for actually thinking and pitching the place in the first place.
b. Shirish and Deven Bansod – Metal cups for not taking more than 10 minutes to freshen up and be back after hearing the plan to go to Eagle Encounters.
c. All the girls/women – Spoons for actually making it to the day. All the girls took quite sometime to freshen up, otherwise it might have been possible to also experience the Segways, who knows.
All-in-all an enjoyable day spent in being part of ‘Eagle Encounters’ .