When the eagle met a cobra

Photographer and birder Ramamurthy Karthik captured a fiery battle between a short-toed eagle and a spectacled cobra on the outskirts of the city

Updated - October 24, 2019 04:20 pm IST

Published - October 24, 2019 04:19 pm IST

The fight lasted 10 minutes. Will it be the eagle or the cobra? In the end, the former won, and the cobra ended up being its breakfast. City birder Ramamurthy Karthik photographed the entire sequence that unfolded before his eyes earlier this month at Senneri lake, that is near Walajabad in Kancheepuram district. “I waited for that photograph for eight years,” says the 39-year-old, who gave up his IT job three years ago to take up birding and be a full-time birding guide. “I take people on birding trips in and around the city,” he adds. “In fact, that day, I was with a group from Coimbatore.”

The group reached the spot at 6 am. “We wanted to see the short toed-eagle hunt,” says Karthik. “It usually feeds on snakes and lives in grasslands and cultivation lands. I have seen it hunt rat snakes and vipers so many times in the locality.” But not once did he have the opportunity to take photos of the hunter and the hunted together. He is fond of raptors (birds of prey). “It is not easy to keep up with them and I find their hunting prowess fascinating,” he says.

They waited an hour, two hours, three hours... nothing happened. Finally, at 10 am, a short-toed eagle swooped into view. An expert flier, it spread its expansive wings with purpose. Its sharp, yellow eyes focused on its prey: a spectacled cobra nearby.

“The two were just half a kilometre from where we were standing,” remembers Karthik. He started clicking away. The eagle obviously had an upper hand. “The moment the cobra saw it, it was sure its end was near,” he says. But it still put up a good fight. In the sequence he captured, the eagle is seen staring down fiercely at its prey; the cobra meets it eye-to-eye and even strikes the eagle. It did not have anything to lose and gave its all.

Watching this from a distance, Karthik realised how lucky he was to have been there at that moment. “It was as though the two wanted to give me enough time to take photos,” he says. Once the eagle killed the cobra, it spent a good twenty minutes eating it. It was a good day for Karthik, his birder friends and the eagle. A not so good one for the cobra, though.

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