“My friends and I recently witnessed a juvenile Rufous-bellied Eagle (Hieraaetus kienerii) diligently practising hunting manoeuvres at Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia.
“At first we only noticed a raptor flying relatively low. As I lifted my camera, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a large leaf floating in mid-air (above left). As I looked for the bird through the viewfinder and prepared to shoot, an excited cry came from my companions. ‘It has caught a prey, it has caught a prey in mid-air!’ (above right; below left). You can imagine the adrenalin pumping accompanying the ‘wows’ to be witnessing the event. Then suddenly ‘O, it’s lost it. It dropped its prey… awww… (below right)’ and ‘O look, it’s caught it again.’
“Wow, what excitement. And all this time my finger was on the shutter! But guess what? It soon dawned that the raptor wasn’t actually hunting. The prey turned out to be a large leaf. It was a juvenile practising its skills of capturing a prey in mid-air (it was using the leaf as a dummy prey). It would catch the leaf, flew for a while then release the leaf, fly in circle to return for a recapture. It went through this process a few times before disappearing behind some tall trees out of our view.
“From the series of shots taken, you can see clearly the capture-release-recapture cycle it was practising. It must have been practising for an upcoming exam.”
Lim Poh Bee
27th September 2010