Friday, 28 November 2014

Cape Rockjumper chicks

Wednesday was a big day for me. I’d been watching Cape Rockjumpers all morning with Christina (she who sends leopards scampering away in fear), and had noticed that the male was often running around with insects in his beak. He’d also disappear for extended periods of time in the vicinity of a certain pile of rocks. According to literature, breeding time is September/October, and last week we had seen a fledgling with a family group at another location. So although we’d expect breeding to be over, this all looked too much like something was up. I headed over the rocks and had a scout around, peering under boulders and into cracks and crevices. Nothing. I had practically given up when I gave one last brush against a tuft of grass next to an innocuous medium sized rock. And there it was! A typical cup shaped nest with two downy chicks and an unhatched egg! That is the first Rockjumper nest I have found ever.

Coincidentally, I had a camera trap with me I was going to install for wildlife monitoring. After watching the parents return to the nest from a respectable distance, I waited for a period when both had departed on foraging forays, and set up the camera on an abandoned fence pole to observe the comings and goings of the parents. Installing the camera to observe the chicks was impractical and would have been too intrusive. When the male return, he regarded the new ‘rock on a pole’ suspiciously for a couple of minutes, but was then back to being a daddy. As Christina put it: he decidedly had the air of someone doing his duty with the feeding but who couldn't wait to get outta there.

None of the three other colour ringed Cape Rockjumpers from the vicinity were helping out (these are meant to be cooperative breeders) and we are pretty confident it’s just mom and dad on duty here.

Today I changed the memory card and checked the nest was still alright. All good. There will be another check in a few days time (mostly because I’ll need to change the 8Gb memory card as I’ve set the camera to take a photo every minute as I don’t want to miss a thing).

Jump for Joy! It's great being a Dad!

Mom carrying a grub - this was what cued us in to the possibility of a nest

The nest! tucked away under a rock

Two balls of fluff, heads tucked down, probably trying to hide away.

This one must have mistaken me for his dad.

Camera installed, no problems, male back at the nest. I've since camouflaged the pole/camera with dead brush.

Photo from the camera trap, the view allows an idea of comings and goings (e.g. food delivery)
Just down the valley, Aspalathus hirta (pain in the ass bush)

Our morning view, Hoops Berg near Uniondale

This klipspringer spent hours just sitting on her rock admiring the view

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