Vultures, antelopes and other crash landings

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by DaleForbes on November 6, 2011 · 1 comment

in Birdblogging

The other day, a video of a paraglider getting entangled and crash landing with a Himalayan Griffon Vulture was pretty much everywhere in the news. A Russian paraglider was evidently enjoying the high thermals and in the (Russian) video text, they explain how the Himalayan Griffons (aka “Eagles”) are common in the area and the paragliders enjoy flying with them and use them as a guide for where the best thermals are.

I find the amazing thing about the video that both survived the accident relatively unharmed, except for both being rather shook up by the event. It showed some pretty impressive presence of mind from the paraglider to respond like that, and then to take the time to carefully free the vulture from the lines.

But it did get me thinking about physical crashes between man and the birds and creatures around us. I found this video of a Eurasian Griffon getting hit by a wind turbine. Many of the video comments were rather critical of the “stupid” bird that should have seen that he needed to avoid the area; but a good few also pointed out that very little in the evolutionary history of these birds has prepared them for great big wind turbines. Now, one could argue that smaller birds – for example sparrows – have a history of being chased by sparrowhawks and goshawks and so need to be aware of quickly approaching danger, and quickly get out of the way in as agile a manner as possible.

But vultures just do not get attacked in the air.

As a young child, one of my mother’s friends came to visit one afternoon and we discovered a Barn Swallow dead in the radiator grille of her car. I remember this really affecting me – this beautiful creature lying limp in my little hands. This swallow – a master of the air – miscalculated something and found its end on the forehead of a metal antelope.

But talking about antelope, this guy also ended up on the losing end of an antelope while riding through Albert Falls Game Reserve (and area I spent a lot of time growing up). The Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus caama) is pretty quick, running at 55kph (34mph) and easily weighing 120kg (265 lbs) so that has got to have hurt!

Come to think of it, that antelope was about the size of Jonah Lomu, but at least Mike Catt saw him coming and he was getting paid to stand in the way (however fruitless that turned out to be):


All this has lots of unresolved questions running through my head about our interaction with wildlife; where our responsibility starts and ends; our increasing need for more electricity and natural resources; and the meaning of life the universe and everything.

If anyone has any answers to any of these questions, I would love to experience them.

Happy birding,
Dale Forbes

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