Category Archives: Southern Banded Snake Eagle

Southern Banded Snake Eagle Snapped Again!

Hello all,

Once again one of our groups in the forest has been rewarded for their keen eyes and quick camera fingers!  Our guys were out on transect 5 and glanced up to see a southern banded snake eagle sitting right there!

Over the last 6 months or so the number of sightings of these beautiful eagles has increased dramatically.  When we first started seeing them (relatively) frequently, we noticed that many of the sightings were of juveniles that still had remnants of down feathers and hints of juvenile colouration.  This led us to assume that the young ones from a nest must have reached maturity and taken to the airs above Shimoni forest. 

The photo taken by Thalia approx. 5 months ago

The photo taken by Thalia approx. 5 months ago

We still only see one of these eagles about once every few weeks, and seeing as Shimoni forest is so small, it is perfectly feasible that it is only one or two individuals that we keep re-sighting.  It is particularly exciting seeing these birds of prey, as they are listed as near-threatened on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Redlist, and to know that Shimoni forest is a viable habitat for them is awesome. 

Only twice has someone managed to a) get their camera out in time, and b) been close enough to get a decent shot of the eagle.  The photo above is the last one we managed to get about 5 months ago (thanks again Thalia!), and the photo below is the one James managed to get just the other day.  Good work chaps…                

The photo taken by James on Tuesday

The photo taken by James on Tuesday

A Real Welcome Back

Well hello everyone!

First of all, apologies for the lack of blog action over the last few weeks or so.  We have had a month long break in research, and all of us here at GVI have had a well deserved holiday!  We’re back now, for another 3 month research period that will bring us up to December. 

We’ve kicked off with an amazing first week for both the marine and terrestrial research programs, with plenty of exciting sightings.  I’ll begin today with a bit about the terrestrial action, and then will fill you all in tomorrow about our humpback whale sighting on marine!

Wednesday saw the first exciting sighting for one of the groups in the forest.  We were on transect 6 (our northern most transect) doing a primate community survey.  We had stopped to observe two troops of colobus monkeys that were having a verbal disagreement.  The two dominant males were producing a barrage of croaking roars, aimed at each other.  Male colobus monkeys have an enlarged larynx which allows them to produce this sound – a territorial vocalisation.  It is an awesome sound to hear, and we were standing in the middle of these two going all out!

As we were watching the colobus, a huge shadow passed over us as gazing upwards we were presented with a spectacular view of a southern-banded snake eagle! It had obviously been disturbed by the noise, and flew so low over our head we got a perfect look at it, allowing for a 100% identification.  We are all trained on the identification of the rare, threatened or endangered bird species in Shimoni forest, specifically for opportunities such as this.

picture1.jpg 

(Stevenson, Fanshawe 2004)

The southern banded-snake eagle is a threatened species, and we have only sighted it a few times over the last year.  It is a stunning eagle, and we were all gibbering with excitement for hours afterwards! 

 picture2.jpg

(Stevenson, Fanshawe 2004)

We have a bunch more exciting sightings from the rest of the week, but these shall have to wait until we’ve told you about the whale tomorrow!  We are very glad to be back, and look forward to getting into our blog again, to keep you all up to date with the progress, sightings and happenings on the beautiful south coast of Kenya.

Until tomorrow!

 picture3.jpg

(Stevenson, Fanshawe 2004)

Southern Banded Snake Eagle Spotted in Shimoni Forest

Today in Shimoni East Forest was a particularly special one for us here on the south coast of Kenya. There were the usual vegetation and habitat surveys being conducted, as well as the primate community surveys which provided some wonderful sightings of the Angolan black and white colobus monkey. Today however, the limelight was stolen from these charismatic monkeys by a much rarer sight. Our research team was walking down the negative sections of transect 5, which is largely low, dense canopy, when Matt glanced up through one of the few breaks in the canopy and was provided the most spectacular view of a Southern banded snake eagle!  It was gliding slowly, and surprisingly low over the canopy directly above givign him at least five seconds of perfect, uninterrupted visibility.  

The southern banded snake eagle is listed on the IUCN red list as near-threatened, so all of us here are trained on its identification specifically so that we can be certain if we do happen to spot one. Matt clearly identified the thinly barred body and wing linings, the plain brown head and upper chest, and the tail with the four brown bands.

 Southern banded snake eagles (Circaetus fasciolatus) have very restricted distributions, found only in Kenya in coastal areas, inland along the lower Tana river, and once near Voi amongst the Tsavo National Parks. They are locally common in Tanzania’s East Usambara Mountains. The preferred habitats are coastal areas and near-coastal forests. 

This is a very exciting sighting not only because of the conservation status of the eagle, but because it reiterates that the Shimoni area is a confirmed habitat for the species.  This will add weight to the research GVI is doing in Shimoni, in conjunction with the community-based organization Friends of Shimoni Forest with the eventual aim of protective status and community led management.  The more we can highlight Shimoni Forest as a biodiversity hotspot and key habitat for threatened species, the sooner we will achieve this goal.

More information can be found at http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sites/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3387&m=0

Pictures of the beautiful bird are available at http://www.tanzaniabirds.net/African_birds/Eagle_Southern_Banded_snake/sbse.htm