So far I have enjoyed every trip undertaken to the ever-in-bloom van Stadens Wildflower Nature Reserve, just outside Port Elizabeth. All the trips have been bird ringing trips, of which I've blogged about one visit before, and on each visit I've handled a new species of bird.
The last two nights I camped at Falcon Rock with Ruby and Dan (UK volunteers) and we headed to the reserve on two mornings to meet up with Ben and Jerry. Jerry is Ben's Master's student looking at differences in foraging strategy between male and female Cape Sugarbirds, to try and understand why females appear to be more stressed (they weigh less) in hot years.
Tuesday morning was cold and wet, but as it was overcast, we had a good haul for the morning, with over 50 birds dominated by sunbirds and sugarbirds. My new birds for the day were Yellow-eyed Canary and Green-spotted Wood-dove. We were assisted by Nick, another of Ben's students who will be starting a Master's on Rufous-eared Warbler (not found at Van Stadens but a bird of arid Karoo), and he was put to good use extracting birds from the widely dispersed nets.
|Dan seeks shelter from the drizzle while Ruby and Jerry ring birds|
|Checking for wing molt and beautiful colours on this Emerald Spotted Wood-dove|
|Synchronized cataplexy tests (tonic immobility)|
|In their hands: A young Greater Double-collared Sunbird male doing tonic time before its release|
|Amethyst Sunbird males are gorgeous|
|as are King Proteas|
|Young Lesser Honey Guide|
Wednesday dawned not much better, we'd been listening to rain from our tents all night, but it cleared enough to put up some nets. It was gratifying to get several recaptured Cape Sugarbirds during the morning – nice to know they are still around, and it gives a chance for Jerry to show he is getting independent samples for his research.
On each visit it has also been impressive to see the fruits of the labours of the Friend's of Van Stadens. This time recent work was very obvious: the large gum trees in the middle of the reserve had been felled. While raptorphiles might get uppity about this, I approve as exotic trees are the biggest current threat to Fynbos integrity. On a tangent, I don't believe that cutting down the large exotic trees that raptors like to nest in will impact raptor populations as the raptos are simply choosing the largest trees to nest, which happen to be exotics, but would then nest in the next best thing, albeit smaller stunted endemic tree species. I don't believe there is evidence they would simply not nest.
Also – I was very excited to see the first signs of a bird hide being built passing through the arboretum. Two thumbs up to Mr and Ms Goossens for their efforts! I for one can't wait to use the final product. If their energy and enthusiasm for the environment was virulently contagious we'd be living on a more beautiful and healthier planet.