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  • Olivia Venter

The ocean breathes salty


I saw my first Cape Rockjumper chicks this Sunday! So, on Krista’s request, I’m writing my first ever blog post ever about it.

Last week Monday, Susan Miller informed Krista that her husband, Vincent Ward, had found a Rockjumper nest at Rooi Els (pictured above). Krista immediately started organizing people and permits, and thanks to everyone's dedication and enthusiasm, we were able to visit the nest on Sunday.

Luckily it was a perfect day – nice and cloudy with just a gentle breeze – because our birds were absolutely fantastic parents. We watched and waited for 2 hours, while they took turns foraging and keeping watch over the nest area, before we got a very brief window of opportunity to get to the chicks.

 

The chicks were so adorable! They looked so small and vulnerable, and so cute with their already reddish breasts (around 13 days old). Vincent quickly ringed the chicks, while Campbell Fleming took a blood sample. But with the parents’ constant vigilance and the one chick squeaking as Vincent picked it up, we didn't want to stay too long, so we returned the chicks as soon as possible and ran back down the hill. Just as we got to the road, the female was already returning. We stayed to check that everything was fine, but she just went into the nest, briefly went off to forage, and came back with an insect again, so all seemed ok.

(top left: Campbell prepares to draw a small blood sample, top right: Vince taking morphometrics, bottom left: Vince, Susan, and Campbell scouting out the nest location, bottom right: Vince quickly retrieving a nestling).

It was such a great experience being able to watch the behaviour of what I'm more and more fondly starting to think of as "my (and Krista's) birds". I look forward to getting to know them a bit better, and to see more of their adorable little chicks. That's why I'm so excited to go back to the Blue Hill Nature Reserve this November/December. I'll be keeping an eye on some of the Rockjumpers and their nests over there. I can't wait to be in the mountains again, and to learn more about these (and all the other) birds. I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do, with both this project and birding (since I only started this year), but I'm definitely super keen!


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