“Stealth Fighter”

Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) at take-off. Kgalagadi Transfrontier park, Northern Cape Province, South Africa.

Canon EOS R3 with Canon RF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM lens with Canon RF 1.4x extender

ISO 800. 1/2000 sec. at f/8. Exposure set manually. Handheld


We recently undertook a trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in late May.  I had not previously been at that time of the year – mainly wanting to view the birds, including migrants, in the summer. The weather turned out perfectly without very hot days and only slightly cooler in the mornings and evenings.  The past summer was occasioned by very good rains, so the desert landscape was largely covered in fairly lush grasses. The light was also not quite as harsh as that experienced in the height of summer.  However, the skies were cloudless which is not the best for landscape photography.  We stayed at Mata Mata and Killiekrankie – both on the Auob River side.

Unfortunately we spotted no cats, and that seemed to be generally the case for everyone.  The dry river beds had lots of antelope, with Gemsbok (Oryx) and Springbok being prolific. We also saw many Red Hartebees and Blue Wildebeest – and quite a few Steenbokkies.  There was certainly lots of food for the predators, but none of them to be seen.

However we did get some excellent sightings of raptors – often seeing Martial Eagles and Tawny Eagles. Strangely, for the first time, we did not see a single Bateleur. As usual, there were many Lanner Falcons, mostly patrolling the waterholes. The above image was captured near Dertiende Boorgat, where a falcon was having a go at a Pied Crow that had killed a small bird.

The image below was captured milliseconds before the featured image above – just as it launched off the branch.

And then in full flight.

Now onto the Tawny Eagles. There were quite a few pairs of Tawny Eagles. We were observing a pair in a nest atop of a Camelthorn tree, when one took off and gave us quite a flight display. It was one of those occasions when the sun angle and light was good and I was able to capture a lot of images.  It makes editing so difficult when you have had the shutter button pushed down for a number of seconds at 30 frames per second. The following two images were part of that sequence. This is a good example to show that you should not always use Auto white balance. The sky was variable with some hazy clouds and some clear sky. I should have dialled in a temp. setting for white balance so that the background sky was more evenly matched.

Both Images: Canon EOS R3 with Canon RF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM lens and Canon RF 1.4x extender.

ISO 800.  1/2000 sec. @ f/5.6. Exposure set manually. Handheld.

However, we saw even more Martial Eagles. There was a breeding pair in a Camelthorn tree overhanging the road quite near to the Sitzas waterhole. This provided some good images, but generally with a tangled background. One morning I did manage to get an image of the male eagle (smaller than the female) perching on a branch with a sky background.

Mating pair of Martial Eagles. Captured at different times of the day.

There was another pair of Martial Eagles near the Dalkeith borehole which I had been observing each day. They were a bit further away from the road (about 40 metres).  One morning (it was quite windy) one of the pair was perched quite prominently on the end of a branch. 

Because of the distance to the subject, I used an R5 with a 600mm f/4L lens with 1.4x extender. This gave me an effective focal length of 840mm.

You can see the effect of the wind by the ruffled feathers around the neck and also on the back of the bird.

I was hoping for a take off, but knew that the eagle would first turn about 90° so that it could take off into the wind – pretty much in my direction










Canon EOS R5 with Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and a Canon EF 1.4x extender attached with an RF/EF adapter.

ISO 400. 1/1600 sec. @f/5.6. Exposure set manually.


The Eagle turned and started to stretch its wings so I quickly captured another image using the R5 and the 600mm f/4 lens with the 1.4x extender.

I then reckoned that if the eagle took off, the 600mm with the 1.4x extender would be too much and the wings would be clipped. So I quickly changed to the R3 and the 400mm f/2.8L lens . As it turned out, it was the right decision and the following two images are shortly after take off.  The second of these images is just one frame different at 30 frames per second and you can see the change in wing position in that short time – just a small downward movement of the wings.

I kept capturing images until the eagle was flying against the blue sky background. The thing that really impressed throughout this sequence was the sheer size of the wingspan of this beautiful creature. Most bird books put that at 2 to 2.5 metres!

So much for the eagles and falcons. Normally I capture a number of images of Pale Chanting Goshawks, both adult and the more colourful juveniles. This time I captured more images of Gabar Goshawks which seemed more prevalent.

Soon after arriving in the Park, I came across this hawk feeding on what looked like a newly hatched chick of some bird.


We then moved onto Killiekrankie for a few nights. This is the first time we have visited this wilderness camp and it certainly won’t be the last.  Whilst game was scarce the beautiful dune surroundings are stunning. A very peaceful and relaxing place.

Sunrise over Killiekrankie is not just a moment in time, but a profound experience that captures the essence of nature’s beauty in its purest form.

Canon EOS R5 with Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens attached with an RF/EF adapter.

ISO 400. 1/800 sec @ f/8. Aperture priority exposure mode. EC = -2/3 EV. Tripod mounted.