Things have been a bit busy lately. The focus of most efforts has been the attempt to get rings on birds. 'Attempting' because the weather has not been playing ball – hours spent setting up nets just to see them to start billowing in the wind like the sails of a yacht – not even a seagull would be silly enough to fly into them. Average haul has been between 5 and 10 birds, when I need to be putting hundreds of rings on birds. Desperate measures have been resorted to, including select species playback (which did net two gorgeous Victorin's Warblers); and flushing of birds – but they soon wise up or move on. Luckily my frustration is not alone, I am in the company of a David Braun, a volunteer from Germany, who is keen to get 500 birds and 50 species – the minimum requirement for consideration for one to obtain one's ringing permit in South Africa. Other requirements include confidence in bird extraction from the nets, as well as good bird identification skills. Attention to detail during data entry, as well as competence in the handling of ringing equipment, as all part of the package.Our quest at the moment is to find out where the Cape Sugarbirds are. We know they are strongly affiliated with Protea species, but finding flowering Protea at the moment in the Kouga and surrounding area is proving challenging. This is because of the large fires in January, which burnt most of the upland Fynbos where Protea eximia flower – which is an important food source at this time of year when most other species have finished flowering.
There have been a few bright moments among the breezes. David and I were up a 3.30am during the week to set up nets on the Kougaview Game Farm to the north of us, in a patch of flowering Erica curviflora. While we did not catch an abundance of the targeted Orange-breasted Sunbirds, due to wind in the early morning, a second set of nets over a local stream netted many Yellow Canaries as well as beautiful Red-faced Mousebird and Layard's Tit-babbler (both new for me).
In addition, with the eternal battle between summer and winter, summer is gaining ground and warm days are starting to outnumber cold days. This in turn has seen an increase in reptile activity, which included a sunbathing Puffadder and Spotted Skaapsteker.
|A heavy load of Protea mites on this Cape Sugarbird|
|Don't Bug Me!|
|Fledgling Protea Seedeater in an Aspalathus hirta|
|Ah bliss! A young Orange-breasted Sunbird cools off during a hot spell|
|Protea Seedeater with an odd 'egg-tooth' on the bill|
|David with Victorin's Warbler|