Friday, 30 August 2013

Snowy Cederberg

During the three years I have been here this is the first time I have seen snow down to this level. Vegetation is bent over supporting the weight of the snow. Slush and ice flew up from the road as I left Driehoek this morning.
I went to visit one of the few chicks which I know of in the Cederberg this year. On arrival I saw the nest  which was covered in a white blanket! Within minutes the snow started to fall again and I lost the visibility of the nest. 
I saw the chick here yesterday, it is quite developed now and having already survived winter downpours, I hope we’ll see him/her again tomorrow! One of the adult eagles perched in a tree on the skyline.


 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

August update


Hello 1st August... where on earth did you creep up from?
This year seems to be zooming past and with it goes my last year of full time field work and living in the Cederberg. After days like today I feel incredibly lucky to be here – hours in the mountains watching the eagles, and finishing up with seeing them dive at none less than a leopard… what more could you want? Okay, so this is not a typical day, and withstanding bouts of rain and snow is also part of duty here but as we begin this month, I thought I’d go over what has happened so far this year:

The breeding season is particularly poor for the eagles of the Cederberg with only 5 pairs of 25 pairs, which have been monitored by myself and Cape Nature staff, actually making breeding attempts. Whereas in the Sandveld 15 of 19 pairs I have monitored are breeding. This is a two fold story and I will continually be trying to work out reasons why the Cederberg eagles seem to be showing such poor productivity. It may be related to weather, prey availability, extensive pre-season fires, or a natural cyclic breeding rhythm.

To assess the prey species which are brought to the nest and possible causes for failure we have successfully installed six nest cameras. Installations were made through May-June prior to chicks hatching.

Last month in the Cederberg we had the exciting return of “Pops”. He was the first eagle to be GPS tagged in April 2012. Shortly after tagging he was ousted from his territory and began a solitary life searching for a new mate. Since then he has made some incredible journeys  both 65km south and 86km north of his previous territory and seems to have set up some sort of base in the Karoo. With his latest return and GPS download will come the unraveling of the secrets of what happens to eagles which do not have a territory or home range.
Data from "Pops". Nov 2012 - July 2013
Many thanks to all sponsors and contributions to the Black Eagle Project. In particular the ongoing support from Driehoek Wines who have provided me with a place to call home in the center of the Cederberg.  To find out more about Driehoek's award winning wines, click on the logo to follow the link to the website.