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SAFETY IN NUMBERS?


PHALANX
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Samburu in March is Hot, very hot. But it is also the time that the Somali Ostrich is rearing their new broods. We had never seen so many, from Immature right down to new chicks, they were everywhere.

On one drive we came across two different males, one with 10 chicks and the other with 8. Later that day we found one of the males with all 18 chicks. The other male never returned during the week we were there.

It is difficult not to get caught up in the awe factor when young are concerned and we spent quite a bit of time with them during our time here. With all youngsters there are always the bossy ones, the adventurous ones and those who keep their heads down and get on with life.

I have always liked the adventurous ones, the ones who push the boundaries, but they are of course a nightmare for the parents. With so many bundles of fluff dashing here & there and becoming more & more spread out the danger increases significantly. Samburu has many birds of prey and one of these chicks would make a nice meal.

Each day we came across groups of 6-8 Immature Ostrich. As we never saw them with any adults we assumed they had left the protection of the parent' and were big enough to take care of themselves.

On our next encounter with the brood of 18 was in the evening and it was good to see that they were still all there. We spent some time with them filming the chicks who were very active. The day was cooling down as the sun had slipped behind the hills that form the backdrop to Samburu. As I was filming the shadow of the hills was slowly creeping across the plain, but the chicks were still in good light. As I zoomed in on one chick who was pushing the boundary and moving further away from the rest, a shadow suddenly covered it. I stopped filming, looking up to see what was causing the shadow, and as I did I saw that a Martial Eagle had swooped down and grabbed one of the other chicks and was now flying away with it firmly in it's talons..

I had no chance to film what had happened as it was literally over in seconds, and all I could do was watch as the Martial Eagle flew off towards a distant Acacia tree.

"Wow! that was amazing" I said, I got no reply, my wife was firmly on the chicks side. In an instant of it happening all the other chicks ran to the parent for protection. But within a few minutes the chicks went back to feeding, and the parent, like a huge sentinel took up guard duty.

So, does safety in numbers really work? I thought the chick I was filming was the most in danger, and yet it was one of the chicks on the edge of the brood that was taken. Could it be a case of; it's the chick in the most suitable position for the Eagle to take with as little difficulty and harm to itself?

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