Why I like watching animals

I have witnessed some interesting animal behavior over the years and one of those that stand out was some fish eagles in Kerala, Southern India. This was 1992 in the sleepy fishing village of Varkala, which I believe today is a major tourist hub. The local fishermen worked as a team each day to fish with a huge net which needed a couple of dozen of them to pull to shore. They would then leave the fish to dry on the beach, this was where the eagles came in. They would swoop in to steal fish, as it was clearly too good an opportunity to miss, the fishermen never bothered them though. Now this wasn’t particularly interesting but what I witnessed later was. I was on the cliff top with German friend as we watched a dog standing on the cliff edge. Three of the eagles took it in turns to swoop down right next to the dog brushing it with their wings. First to the left, then to the right and so on with the dog snapping wildly at them as they went by each time. This went of for several minutes and the dog seemed to be having as much fun as the eagles. As we walked off one of the birds decided to do the same to my 6’5” friend, brushing his hair with its talons and making him jump out of his skin. I guess we stood out, I am only 5’10” and bald as a coot while my huge German friend had long hair. A little latter I watched 2 eagles play fighting with a stick for maybe 20 minutes, bother holding it with their talons while spiraling towards the beach. Sometimes they would drop it and one would swoop down to catch it just before it hit the ground. Great to watch. Three crows joined in briefly, I guess they thought it was food but soon gave up when they realised it was just a stick. The eagles of Varkala certainly had it easy giving them plenty of time to play.

Another entertaining bird experience was had in the Swiss Alps. I climbed up a mountain to about 4,000 meters and was just sitting taking in the breathtaking view, when I noticed 3 crows slowly spiraling upwards on a thermal. As they reached a point roughly level with me all three, in synchrony, folded their wings back and dived at full speed towards the valley floor. It looked like the worlds craziest roller coaster ride from where I was and I swear I could hear them going, wheeeeee, as they disappeared at high speed into the distance. That can only have been for the fun of it. Personally I never underestimate any animals intelligence… well, maybe chickens, they do seem to be incredibly dumb creatures.

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About Allan Michaud

English Wildlife Photographer/Environmental Filmmaker based in Cambodia
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