Sunday, June 11, 2017

Relieve Stress by Surrounding Yourself With Loud, Irritated Birds

Name: Eileen Connon
Class/Year: Class of 2019
Hometown: Mandeville, LA
Internship: Cape Parrot Project
Location: Hogsback, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Hello again! It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks here in Hogsback since my last post. The title of this one comes from an article title that I saw on Facebook- quite the entertaining read! I feel like it pretty accurately summarizes what I'm doing this summer. Interning here is a weird mixture of routine and surprising because we wake up just about every morning around 5 to leave by 6, but where we go varies. We’ve gone to Zingcuka Forest, a pecan orchard in nearby Alice, a large hill/small mountain in Sompondo, and some suburban streets in King William’s Town. I haven’t actually been to Zingcuka in a while, but Delaney and Cassie went out to observe while Kate and I observed in Hogsback one morning. Delaney and Cassie then did a tree phenology survey on a transect in Zingcuka while Kate and I did the same on a transect in Hogsback.

Kate checking for fruit on one
of the transect A trees- they're
pretty tall!

The phenology surveys are to see which trees are fruiting when, both in terms of times of year and stages of life. There are 70 trees on each, so it's definitely a decent expedition to do each one, and the surveys happen monthly. Kate and I came back via Swallowtail Waterfall, which was an intensely steep trek, but very fun. 

After that, we spend almost an entire week in Alice trying to catch a parrot to track, but no luck. The mist net we use is pretty tall, but the parrots kept flying right over it! We spent a lot of time getting very, veRY EXCITED ABOUT THE PARR- aw,  he flew right past it again.

To the right is the mist net we use for catching- the tallest one I’ve ever used! It takes all four of us about fifteen minutes to set up. Below is a photo of Cassie and Delaney setting up the sampling station in the back of the bakkie. The sampling station has all the tools we need for taking measurements, blood samples, feather samples, photos, etc when we finally catch a parrot. Delaney and I have tried to set it up ourselves a couple of times, but Cassie always rearranges it, so we just let him do it now. My job is to be on camera, so that when we do catch a bird, I can photograph every step of the process, as well as take photos for data collection, so that we have a good record of the process.

Despite the lack of capture, being in Alice did finally give me a chance to take some pictures of the parrots! They’re very photogenic.

Smize that Tyra Banks would be proud of

And it gave Delaney time to get in touch with nature with some arts & crafts.

Queen of the Pecan Orchard

But mostly, it’s just waiting around.

this picture was only SLIGHTLY staged..
There's something breathtaking about hiking above the clouds.
Or maybe that's just the altitude...
With no luck catching and Kate taking a day off, Cassie, Delaney and I headed out to Sompondo to, in Cassie’s words, “Climb a little hill.” The mist was quite heavy as we arrived, so we couldn’t see just how big the “hill” (and Cassie’s lie) was. When we stopped for a moment next to a reservoir, Delaney and I thought we had reached our destination, only for Cassie to tell us that we were only an eighth of the way there! Finishing the hike was worth it, though, as we got a beautiful view of the valley as the sun rose and burned away the mist, and we were right next to a tree that the parrots foraged in.

On our way back down the “hill” we stopped again at the reservoir, only this time we saw something moving in the little well-it was a sheep! Luckily, Delaney jumped right in to help.
He wasn't very grateful

At the beginning of this past week, I ended up getting pretty sick, so Kate insisted I stay home, and I ended up missing the first catch! She wasn’t a good candidate for tracking, though, so she was released. The next day, I was again home sick, and while they didn’t catch another parrot, they did accidentally catch a crowned hornbill! It was quickly freed from the net and released, and man am I jealous! I’ll let Delaney elaborate on both of the catches since she was actually there. Unfortunately, as soon as I was feeling better, a huge storm hit Cape Town that affected us all the way up in Hogsback. 

One of the other project staff added the
mattress and we appreciate it!

We had some pretty intense winds, so we knew that catching a parrot was not going to be an option. That’s when we decided to head over to King William’s Town and look for parrots there. Our first day, the wind was still incredibly strong, so we didn’t see a lot of parrots and we didn’t get any useable vocal recordings, but we did get some errands done. Errands included a trip to the South African DMV, where Cassie was in and out in less than FIFTEEN MINUTES! The next day we returned to King William’s Town, and this time we were able to get some pretty incredible recordings, so we were happy. The tough thing about King William’s Town is that it’s about an hour away, and at least one of us always has to ride in the back of the bakkie. It gets pretty bumpy back there! I figured out pretty quickly that it’s a pretty good place for a nap, though, and Delaney agrees.

I'm sensing a theme...

We were planning on heading  to a new observing location yesterday morning, despite it being Saturday, but the wind had kicked back up and it was definitely not worth it! Delaney was not exactly thrilled to be told that she had woken up so early for nothing…

And that catches us up to today! We had a very nice day off; we took a short hike close to home, stopped by the shop, cleaned up around the house, Cassie made some delicious sandwiches for lunch, and now we’re sitting in the local coffee shop/pub watching the French Open. I'll leave you with just a few more pictures. I'll try and update again soon!

Cassie, Delaney, and me at the 39 Steps waterfall earlier today

Cassie really, really loves trees

Here's a picture of Kate and Cassie, so you all
have a picture of who I'm always
talking about

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