The Crested /Changeable Hawk Eagle (CHE) is a raptor that is widespread resident in India. As we had mentioned in one of our earlier posts, its a shy Bird of preyand rarely sits in an open perch . In our opinion a wild CHE will allow you as close as 30-50 feet, before getting spooked, except when it is hunting.
During one of our jeep safaris into the Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka, India we had this rare encounter with the CHE. It was one of the morning safaris where we had a good sighting of Asiatic Elephants, the Indian Gaur, a couple of species of Woodpecker and a Crested Serpent Eagle. We had almost reached the end of the safari, and were on our way back, when suddenly this CHE came flying past our jeep and landed on a tree, by the side of the tracks, about 75 feet from us. As our jeep was getting closer to the CHE, it descended on the forest floor at the base of a tree. A CHE on the ground is not something seen very often and we took the opportunity to get to as close as within 20-25 feet (way inside the comfort zone of Raptors). All the cameras in the jeep were firing away. The CHE completely ignored us and was intently looking into a hollow at the base of the tree. – laying in wiat for its prey! We were sure that there was a small mammal in the tree hollow that had rushed seconds before trying to escape the claws of the CHE. We were fortunate to witness this hustling behavior of this majestic raptor. It kept alternating between sitting on a low-hanging branch of the tree intently looking into the tree hollow and then descending on it and trying to find a way to het into it. Then finally after 15 minutes into the routine, with no signs of the prey coming out, it gave up the hunt and flew away.
Here are a series of images from that rare sighting of a CHE on the forest floor. The camera setup is our favorite D300 with the 300mm f2.8 lens mounted with the 2x TC. I experimented with the auto ISO sensitivity control mode (to provide minimum shutter speed at 1/200s). Interestingly it threw up some vague ISO settings to maintain minimum shutter speed . Incidentally it was the first and last time I used this feature.
EXIF-600mm focal length, f5.6, 1/200s, ISO560, -1.0EV
EXIF-600mm focal length, f5.6, 1/200s, ISO360, -1.0EV