Fatherly care

This post is also available in: Dutch.

Years ago I had the fortunate opportunity to work with a professional nature photographer, Peter van der Wolf. He had a highly developed sense of animal behavior, and this helped him, for example, to trace nests of breeding birds. With his assistance I have been able to record this shot of a nest of white-tailed-hawks (Geranoaetus albicaudatus). The trick for this type of recording is to use a shelter tent, but the animals have to get used to it first. After about a week the recording effort can start. The cameraman needs to be escorted to the tent by a second person, and that person must then leave. The birds will assume that everyone is gone, and they will resume their normal behavior quickly.

As with most wildlife photography projects, that day the circumstances did not fully cooperate. Of course you want to capture as much behavior as possible. Breeding in the tropics is primarily with the aim to regulate the temperature of the eggs. The birds do this by repeatedly sitting on the eggs and leaving, to let them cool for a while. I knew this, so I had hoped for a lot of action. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas. After the male (a couple of white-tailed-hawks stay together for life and do everything together, even breeding) settled himself cosily on the eggs and performed his task for about fifteen minutes his beak started to open, which is a sign that the animal is getting too warm. I really thought that a spectacular flight-shot would be mine, but right at that moment it began to drizzle softly. Dad cooled somewhat, and decided to stay put. When I was picked up from my shelter tent three hours later, he was still there.

We kept on following this nest for a while, but since this was the first breeding attempt of this young couple, their two eggs did not hatch, and were quickly abandoned.

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