I have a special spot for Lake Panic which is a waterhole near Paul Kruger Gate in the Kruger National Park. When I was a guide at Singita and had time off I often used to relax here enjoying the great kingfisher photography.
One particular day I had collected a new staff member from the airport and I took her to Lake Panic to see if there was any action. A leopard was vocalizing along the fence as we followed the path to the hide and we arrived full of anticipation. It was however an innocent family of Egyptian geese resting on the island that made this particular visit so memorable. When breeding season starts, Egyptian geese form pairs and often rest in high places and will often and cackle, hiss and honk loudly at other geese coming into their territory. While I have seen them attack other geese and will even kill goslings, I had little knowledge that they could be quite so aggressive towards other species.
The action began on this particular day when the three goslings started meandering in a noisy manner towards the bank in search of a drink unattended by either parent. Stirred by the commotion, and in anticipation for easy pickings, a Grey heron landed nearby. The Egyptian goose was having none of it. She let out an almighty honk and flew directly towards the heron and simultaneously the gander came to the rescue.
Within a moment the geese had the heron ‘s long neck pinned under water and were trying to drown it. The Lake was really living up to its name and for the next 30 seconds while the battle lasted I was firing wildly to capture the chaos.
It’s in both parties’ interest to settle dispute with as little physical interaction as possible and when it was clear that the heron was subdued the geese released it and returned to their chicks. I looked at the Egyptian Goose with new eyes. What had always been, to me, a rather bland bird, with an annoying call, had shown that it could rival the most aggressive animal of the African bushveld when protecting its young. I will never take them for granted again.