Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ringing at van Staden's wildflower reserve

On Thursday night the rain was coming down so hard I could hardly hear the speaker at our local farmer's meeting. In only a few hours time I would be waking up to head east towards Port Elizabeth, together with volunteers Jessy and Adrian to the van Staadens wildflower reserve to catch birds.

At 3.30am the windscreen wipers were still working, but they were also off as often as they were on. By 4.30, with the first glow of dawn on the horizon, it finally looked like our rendezvous with Ben Smit and Jerry Mokgatla would not be in vain after all. We pulled up at the locked gates at 5.30am. Now what!?

Ben arrived a bit later and we scouted around for someone to open the gate – no-one! Only thing to do was set the nets up close to the gate, as the Watsonia's were flowering prolifically and we could hear Cape Sugarbirds among the scattered pincushions.

The reason for our visit was to meet Jerry, who will be doing a Master's with Ben. The target species being Cape Sugarbirds, and the questions being whether there are differences between the sexes in terms of foraging behaviour and physiology.

Our first sugarbirds were in the net before we'd even finished tying down the last strings, and all in all it proved to be worth the drive, with 50 birds processed from a variety of species, including some I had never rung before.

Exhausted by lunchtime from our night drive, we headed to Falcon Rock campsite, where we set up tents and collapsed for a well deserved siesta.

In the late afternoon Adrian and I still had enough energy for the one-hour hike up Lady's Slipper – the hills overlooking van Staden's. We were interested to see if we would be able to spot Cape Rockjumpers, which were know to occur here until recently. We had to settle for lovely views instead.

Saturday morning we set up nets in a patch of pincushions to target the Sugarbirds. However, a stiff easterly wind had me concerned about safety of birds in the nets and we wrapped up the day by 10am. However, again, not a bad haul... below are some of the highlights...

Black Cuckoo-shrike, male. A ringing-lifer. Amazing orange gape.

Black Cuckoo-shrike, female

Black-headed Oriole

Common Waxbill

Forest Weaver

Ringing station, with Jessy, Adrian and Jerry

On top of Lady's Slipper

Lazy Cisticola, another lifer!

Red-faced Mousebird. 

Southern-masked Weaver


  1. Love all the pictures , including the mountain top one. Trying to recall ever seeing a bird with a blue iris

    And how quaint, dawn glow starting at 430. We wont see that until late next May

  2. I really enjoyed the ringing sessions. Looking forward to the next major field work in January.

  3. Hi, this is so nice to see that you were so successful at the van Stadens Wild Flower reserve. One of our aims as Friends of the van Stadens Wild flower Reserve is to make the reserve more bird friendly eg by maintaining the levels of the dam,taking out aliens etc. Would be nice to read the result of your research!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...