Run to the hills
Back at Blue Hill for another season and boy, have the Fires of Yavimaya ravaged the hillsides. It felt like starting from scratch as so many of our ringed rockjumpers were nowhere to be found. Had they moved on to greener pastures? Or had they fallen to the Fires of Mount Doom? I did not want to imagine a worse fate for them, as even my favourite families (End of Saimic and Rift Valley) were gone. Lizzie and John were going to have their work cut out for them. We had all met at Uniondale to drive in together, with Olivia picking Lizzie and John up in Wilderness on her way from Cape Town, saving me the trouble. Olivia was recently accepted into the prestigious CB Masters Programme at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute for African Ornithology (try saying that 3 times fast!), and will hopefully be an official member within a few weeks!
(above left: Lizzie and Olivia looking for rockjumpers)
(above right: packing up the Beast)
However, 3.5 positive attitudes (mine being the half) made all the difference, and the week was a
great success. I am so happy that I managed to get Lizzie and John (from Chattanooga, Tennessee), and feel completely confident leaving them to find and film any precious rockjumper nests they happen upon this year. Even given the sparse conditions, the birdlife was abundant, and we saw a host of little buck, including a baby Grysbok (below left) who had been born in the Lee's garden and felt quite comfortable around humans. Below right, John takes a photo of a strange human-rockjumper hybrid (me!).
We spent the week trying our best to re-sight individuals, find nests, and figure out how this whole shebang was going to go down. Highlights included:
1 - re-sighting a female ringed in 2013 (nice!).
2 - finding a female with fluff, but no nest to our eyes.
3 - catching the re-sighted females' male and was able to demonstrate how to insert a PIT-tag (temperature transponder) between the wings (see right).
4 - setting up a weather station out at the Baviaans gate (where Blue Hill becomes the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve; pictured below) to see how temperature there differs from the station down at the farm.
5 - most importantly, having a fantastic pizza party with Olivia, Lizzie, and John, who made homemade delicious dough and then we watched Galaxy Quest.
6 - other random encounters with amazing Blue Hill nature:)
left to right
Top: apple blossoms in front of the Lee's house, orange-breasted sunbird male, blue crane
Middle: bokmakierie (a personal fave!), pear(?) blossoms, member of resident grey-winged francolin family
Bottom: female Cape rockjumper (should be everyone's fave!), road to Kammanassie where I will be sampling in October, groceries to sustain Lizzie and John for a few weeks