When Kurt Cobain said "we don't have to breed", he was not speaking for Rockjumpers. This is my update for the first two weeks of 2018 CRJ reproduction. This may be long...
The weather was terrible the first week, putting a major dampener on the nest searching –– extremely windy, and even very snowy (below). Not great for searching. My colleague Jo had agreed to come help me for the first 2 weeks and may never recover. When we did find birds, there were no obvious signs of breeding and I assumed they were delaying breeding for better weather. Our territory names are based on location or colour ring combo, so they may not make sense to anyone but Team Rockjumper, so bear with me!
Not so. The second week had some very good weather, and we found nesting activity all over the place. While we couldn’t locate all nests, we did end with a total of 6 (a great start I think!), before I headed back to PE for three days to drop off Jo and fetch some new supplies.
Of these 6, we had our first predation (likely a mongoose, but the trail cams are not great at dusk so it is washed out). Of the other 5, 3 are eggs and 2 have nestlings. Since I am by myself the next month, I made the decision to only film provisioning on nests down the east road, as they are faster to get to, and so I should be able to film multiple nests in a single day. This also sort of gives us a “control” for our presence at nests, as the ones on the south road will only be visited once a week for battery/card changes. Blue Hill only has the two roads, so it makes describing location fairly easy:)
(Until previously, Cape Rockjumpers have only been recorded laying 2 eggs per nest, as seen above from Canada - left, and Burnt Hill - right).
There are three nests down the east road, one I have already collected day 5 footage, and the other 2 were still eggs as of Friday. I hope to film all three this coming Thursday and Friday.
(Day 5 nestling pictured on left from East Saddle).
What’s pretty amazing is we had the first ever recorded CRJ nest with 3 eggs!!! This one was a beast to find, as Jo and I visited Ruins four times without being able to locate the nest. However, I am stubborn, and went back by myself our last afternoon and would not leave until I found it (luckily I found it...). The other two nests down the east road are at Burnt Hill (because it burned...), and a new territory I'm calling East Saddle. We caught the male at East Saddle as they were both unringed, and gave him blue orange red (bor) so his name is now Boris and his lady we named Svetlana.
(top left - Boris with food at East Saddle, top right - Svetlana with food for East Saddle next to a trail cam aimed at the nest to record any possibility of predation, bottom left - Svetlana posing beautifully, and bottom right - 3 eggs at Ruins).
The two nests down the south road were at very different stages. Langkloof had a 12-day old nestling (which I gave a metal ring and one colour ring before I left (pictured below when found on day 8). We also caught the female (finally), as this territory had an unringed female all of 2017. We also re-caught the male, which was great as he had lost one of his colour rings, which I replaced. I wanted full colour rings on the nestling, but the tarsus seemed a bit small, so one will have to do…). Our fifth nest was at Canada, with 2 eggs. We also heard Rockjumpers just below Canada, at a territory (obviously named America) which I will visit on my return.
I have put out trail cams at all nests, with Langkloof and Ruins being graced with our special solar infrared camera setups as well.
That is all for now on the reproduction side! Exciting stuff, and my body hurts from all the mountain hiking, but it feels like a great start!
(Below, random photo of the first Mountain Wheatears I've seen at Blue Hill).