Snake Snatch

Dark Chanting-Goshawk (Melierax metabates) with Western Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis occidentalis). Chitwa-Chitwa, Sabi-Sand, South Africa. November 2012.

We’d left the family of Lions dozing in the dry riverbed as Rexon eased the open Land Rover along the smooth sand track. The pungent, cat-pee scent of Silver Terminalia flowers hung in the humid lowveld air. Somewhere out of sight, an Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove let out is mournful, mid-morning melody.

Andries, the sharp-eyed tracker perched on his bonnet seat, pointed to our left. There, on the dead snag of an old Leadwood tree was a hawk. Four sets of binoculars swung in its direction and it was rapidly identified as a Dark Chanting-Goshawk.

Suddenly, the goshawk left its perch and plunged into the tall grass alongside the track. It had pinned something down and had spread out its ashy wings to mantle over it. We watched on as the raptor held down its victim – a green snake. With the snake clasped in both feet, the goshawk rose out of the grass and we could see now that the reptile was not going to go quiety. It had coiled itself around the hawk’s thigh and was attempting to wrap itself around the raptor’s back. But this was clearly no new situation for the goshawk which promptly landed on a horizontal branch of a leafy Marula tree and seized the snake by the head. The slim snake thrashed about for a few moments, but it was no real contest.

We left the hunter to its meal and headed back to the lodge for our own breakfast.

Chitwa-Chitwa, Sabi-Sand, South Africa. November 2012.

About Duncan Butchart

Duncan Butchart is interested in all aspects of the natural world, with a particular fascination for birds and their ecological relationships.
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2 Responses to Snake Snatch

  1. KAte BArnett says:

    Fascinating description. Such a treat to see a drawing of something like this not a photo.

  2. Beth says:

    Lovely paintings.

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