At the moment in the Busanga Plains, as I write this, the water levels are just starting to recede enough to cause the peripheral veins of the deeper channels to expose fish traps which are a feast for birds which enjoy a pescatarian diet.
One such trap presented itself just at the bridge crossing from Shumba Camp to Busanga Bush Camp. A flock of marabou storks was dangling their engorged crops and plodding up and down the water’s edge like the morbid undertakers they resemble. A pair of fish-eagles was parking off on the ground, showing only the slightest interest, but making sure they were not missing anything of substance. And then in the midst of this a hamerkop strutted out, front and centre, smacking a small catch from side to side in his beak.
Now, the hamerkop is an unfortunate-looking bird. It has a head shaped like a hammer, is plain brown and has thin black legs. At this point I felt quite sorry for the slimy-whiskered barbel because it was forced to endure a rather long and tortuous death as the hamerkop smacked it from one side of his head to the other. The fish was quite resilient, but the hamerkop was more tenacious.
My interest appeared to alert one of the fish-eagles, which launched itself up into the air and swooped down for a better look at the head-smashing hamerkop. The feisty feathered hammer-head squealed from its clenched beak and leapt into the air, still holding onto his catch. Despite being weighed down by the fish, he was still able to duck and dive with skill, and with the benefit of being smaller in size than the fish-eagle, managed to get away. Far enough out of reach to firmly smack the barbel and then make very short work of swallowing it head first. After which, he strutted over to the shallow stream, took a few sips of water, scratched his beak a few times, and immediately proceeded to go fishing again!