White-bellied Fish-Eagle in Yala NP

Weißbauch-SeeadlerIf you are an eagle fan and think that there are masses of White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) on the Volga or even think that Brandenburg is densely populated with this bird species, you really have to go to the Lunugamvehera National Park in the south of Sri Lanka. Such a density of large fish-eating eagles like here at the Weheragala Reservoir I have really never seen before. Well, the White-bellied Fish-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) is not as powerful as the White-tailed Eagle; the weight is also much lower (max. 4 kg against over 7 kg). However, the wingspan is almost as impressive with over 2 meters. The White-tailed Eagle is of course also a little larger. The most impressive thing about this early morning is the rather slow back and forth flight of individual White-bellied Sea-eagles against a green jungle background. Again and again a White-bellied Sea-eagle flies in and then disappears into an old giant tree right next tot he dam. Great flight pictures with a beautiful background.

One reason for perfect shooting is the excellent position on a 25 meter high dam, where the White-bellied Sea-eagle flies along at almost the same height like you are standing. On the other hand the high yield in images is due to the rather low demands on the focusing technique. The auto-focus on the Canon EOS 1 DX has enough time to focus on the flying target. The contrast range is so high that the bright bird is perfectly captured in front of the dark green background, although the depth of field of the Canon EF 600/4.0 L IS II USM is low. Scrap – otherwise high within flight photos (BiF) – is almost non-existent with this series. For quite again and again another immature White-bellied Fish-Eagle can be found, which wants to fly along the dam on the land side. Whereby flying is almost the wrong expression. The birds glide majestically rather than flying consciously. The many dead tree skeletons in the huge reservoir are also a paradise for White-bellied Fish-Eagle. Here they stand – sometimes not so high up – on a strong, bark-less branch, holding half a fish in their catch and doing more or less nothing. The distance between the individual White-bellied Fish-Eagle seems to depend more on the suitability of the dead logs in highly flooded reservoirs than on the observance of species-specific comfort zones. A very impressive experience.

What I unfortunately did not observe was hunting. Here the White-bellied Fish-Eagle likes to patrol in 10-20 m height over its prey area, through flight hunting high up in the sky or by hunting from a perch. Sometimes pair-wise cooperative hunting was observed. Once the Eagle has identified a victim, it attacks by gliding flat or diving to pick prey from the ground or directly from the water surface. The eagle harasses water birds to the point of exhaustion or picks fruit bats or flying foxes (Pteropus sp.) from their common resting places in trees.

Not only for Eagle-photography Lunugamvehera National Park, also known as Yala Block 5, is highly recommended. Via the Galge Gate you enter this part of the huge Yala National Park in the south of Sri Lanka. Here you have to buy the tickets and can enter the park at 6:00 am. This is no comparison to the Main Gate in the Yala NP, where the jeeps jam in front of the gate at dusk. There were only 3 jeeps standing there, which wanted to do the same job. Very nice is the park-like landscape through which you drive. It is 6:15 when we were allowed to pass the gate. Our driver started immediately. Over mobile phone there was a message that a Leopard was sighted further on. The Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is nowhere better and easier to see than in Yala NP. Quickly we reach a dam wall. It belongs to the Weheragala Reservoir. Many dead tree skeletons stand in the huge reservoir. A paradise for the White-bellied Fish-Eagle, which is probably also called White-bellied Sea-Eagle. But first we only had eyes for the Leopard. He actually walked around in the bushes at the foot of the dam when we arrived. Only a minute later, so we wouldn’t have seen him. Respect to the driver. We then stand on the dam of the reservoir and devote ourselves to bird watching.

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic.  Trips to remote places like this one to capture images not only of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The nice image of the blog is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give bird-lens.com a message, if bird-lens.com could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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