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  • Krista N Oswald

I Wish I Was the Moon

Oof, long time without an update. No excuses, other than lab-work does not make the most thrilling of reads. Rockjumper research is still trucking at a steady pace –– two manuscripts from my MSc were accepted (hooray! look under my publications for links), two more manuscripts underway, and two of three gene sequences are finished with the next hopefully done next week before I head back to Blue Hill for another round of reproductive data collection in a week. I am pretty excited to see where the season goes, as it would be hard to compete with the dizzying unexpectedness of last season.

However, last week I was in the Kalahari helping my friend Nick Pattinson setup nest boxes for his upcoming field season looking at reproduction in southern yellow-billed hornbills (returning male "Gimli" and female pictured right). This was an opportunity I was unable to say no to, as it may have been my only chance to get to the Kalahari, and I couldn't leave without at least a chance! The Kalahari is known as a great place for birds of prey and owls, and it did not disappoint. One of the

main celebrities was the pygmy falcon, a tiny falcon

(size of a shrike) of which I'd worried we'd see none but then we saw nearly a dozen individuals (photo above).

The nest boxes were in a bit of disrepair, and I got to have some fun being all fix-it-y with electronic tools, although my favourite was the expanding sealant foam (see below for start to finish!).

We also worked on a feeder that Nick could use to supplement food to the hornbills, while keeping the other birds out. Babblers are smart, so we figured if they couldn't get in, then no one could! Below, you can see two southern pied babblers (ringed as part of a separate study) trying unsuccessfully to reach the worms inside. The traps are made so only the crazy bill of a hornbill can reach the food.

Lastly, I was able to see the full lunar eclipse in the Kalahari. Unfortunately I have no photos, as I was busy enjoying the sight and trying to record the 5 owl species heard nearby (pearl-spotted owlet, southern white-faced owl, African scops-owl, western barn owl, and Verreaux's eagle-owl). I still haven't seen a barn owl, but managed to get daytime shots of the other four (daytime owls are the best owls!)

(top left: scops, top right: Verreaux's, bottom left: white-faced, bottom right: pearl)

However, instead here is a photo of the Kalahari at the end of the growing season, with grasses in full seed. This meant there were beautiful seedeaters everywhere, and birds were showing early signs of gettin' it on (i.e. breeding). So, I am going to finish with another round of showing off the neat things I saw (mostly birds –– shocking I know haha), and look forward to the next few months enjoying the splendour of the fynbos!

(top left: black-faced waxbills, top middle: violet-eared waxbill male and female, top right: white-backed vulture, bottom left: golden-breasted bunting with green-winged pytilia and black-eared waxbills, bottom middle: southern pied babbler, bottom right: crimson-breasted shrike).

Keep posted for updated from the field and this years Rockjumper research!

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