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Day Two - Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Center
Following on from last week's #wednesdaywalk hosted by @tattoodjay, I will share what we saw on day two of our walks in the Drakensberg, something we do not get to see in our day to day walks.

Situated in the Champagne Valley at Cathkin Peak, Drakensberg is Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Center, a very special place where injured raptors and large birds are rehabilitated. Sadly many of the injuries on these sky warriors have been inflicted by humans.

On walking into the grounds, we saw different birds of prey in cages, obviously still being rehabilitated - Peregrine Falcons, Martial Eagles, Crowned Hawk Eagles, Harris Hawks, Fish Eagle, Cape Griffon Vultures, Owls, Kites and more.

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This center puts on a breathtaking raptor show every morning showing off the strength, speed and intelligence of these large birds of prey.
It's quite amazing seeing them fly so high that they become almost invisible, yet they return with lightning speed when their handlers call them back.
We were told how they use the hot rising air to fly thousands of feet high, waiting for thermal pockets to take them up.

Birds of prey have excellent eyesight, it is said that they can see up to 2 kilometres far, therefore the saying watching like a hawk or eagle eyes. Interesting they have what is known as binocular vision so they're able to zoom into their prey. Further, because of their eye placement, they're able to determine the distance to their prey. They also bob their heads from side to side and in circles to calculate how close or how far their prey is.

When the birds are released for their daily flight at Falcon Ridge, some occasionally do not return, perhaps finding a mate or strong enough to go back to the wild.

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An interesting fact about the Spotted Eagle Owl is that it flies absolutely silent due to adapted feathers on the edge of its wing, it flew right above our heads but we could not even hear it.

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Fascinating to learn that bird of prey are still used in hunting today by falconers, and even kill large prey like deer and antelope using their speed, wings and the power of their claws and sharp beaks.

Also interesting to hear that the Fish Eagle hunts together with the Pointer dogs.

We were saddened to hear that some locals climb up to the birds' nests, steal their eggs, let them hatch and once they're fully feathered, sell them for pocket money to Sangomas (Witch doctors). The handlers explained that imprinting happens during the first fourteen days, so although Becky the Fish Eagle was rescued, she thinks she is human and will never be able to go back to the wild.

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Black eagles mate for life and produce one chick every winter. This particular black eagle was injured when young and decided that the female handler is his mate :)

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We walked away from this center full of wonder at the abilities of raptors and the work done by the handlers to rehabilitate these wondrous creature of the air.

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Later that afternoon, back at our chalet, we could feel the chill in the air and as night fell, we lit the fireplace and sat around it reminiscing on what we learned that day. Nothing better than putting your feet up, feeling the warmth of the fire and hearing the cracking of the wood fire.

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For those who would like to see a little more, I'm sharing a promotional video on Falcon Ridge Credit to Open Africa

I do hope you've enjoyed walking with me and seeing these creatures of the sky. We'd love to see what you come across on your walks, so join in the challenge but do check out @tattoodjay's Wednesday Walk challenge for the guidelines.

Original Content by @lizelle
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