Monday, July 10, 2017

Field-ier Fieldwork

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

Hello again from South Africa! We here at the Cape Parrot Project have recently returned from the Great Cape Parrot Eastern Cape Expedition, aka some even field-ier fieldwork than usual! Cassie, Delaney, and I just spent about a week camping in the Transkei region of the Eastern Cape looking for the population of parrots that has been reported there. It was originally going to be all four of us, but with the bakkie out of commission (gearbox failure, ugh) and the stress of organizing all of the rental car and campsite details, Kate decided to stay home. It was really, really stressful to figure out how we could make the trip work, but in the end, we made it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any luck. We didn’t see any parrots, although we did hear one or two flying over the road one night. The road was under a heavy canopy of trees, so we couldn’t see them or figure out where they were going. Despite the lack of parrots, and therefore the absolute lack of data, it was still a very worthwhile trip.  I think it was really valuable to understand that field work doesn't always go the way you want it to. You have to be really flexible and really patient if you want to do this kind of research. We also saw some new (or old and still cool) species of birds, did some pretty cool hikes, and met some really interesting people, so we were at least having lots of fun!

Here are some of the highlights of the birds we saw!

A forest buzzard next to the road in Mboyti
A crowned eagle in the forests of Tabankulu (so big
that Delaney thought it might have been a monkey)
A red-capped robin-chat at our campsite in Port St. Johns
(photo by Cassie Carstens)
Highlights of the hikes!
Our attempted hike into Fraser Falls Gorge- informally
nicknamed "Trash Mountain" 
The (mostly) worthwhile view when we
reached the bottom

Delaney on her way down The Gap in Port St. Johns

The view that made crossing The Gap totally worth it

And, most importantly, highlights of the people!
We met about three people who knew where we could find parrots... about a month ago. We drove past a few places with pecan trees, which we know attract parrots, but they were all finished for the season. Although we didn't find them this time, we now know exactly where to find them next year (a bit earlier in the season), so it wasn't a total loss. We've got contact info for all of them and Cassie is already raring to go again next year.

After we got back from our camping trip, things fell back into the typical rhythm, or as much of a rhythm as you can get with an internship like this. We've been doing lots of early morning vocal recordings, and we've gotten some really useful stuff. We created a third transect for the ongoing tree phenology studies and did the monthly check of the previous two. Thanks to a helpful farmer, we've also found a new pecan orchard in Adelaide with plenty of parrots, and Cassie and I went to visit him a few days ago. The parrots were surprisingly comfortable around people, and we managed to get some excellent photos and videos. Delaney and I have also been spending a lot of time identifying and marking important snags (dead trees) in the Hogsback forests so that we can later observe them for evidence of nesting or other use by the parrots. 

The most exciting thing that's happened recently was a trip Cassie and I took to East London to pick up a parrot from the vet's office. Dr. Pete is super helpful to the project, and he's been caring for this parrot since November, when it was brought in with a wing injury. The injury never healed properly, which means that the parrot cannot be released back into the wild, so Cassie and Kate have been making plans to find a permanent home for it. At the vet's office, we got to watch the vet sex the parrot (it's a girl!!) and Cassie got to practice the sampling he does on the birds we catch in the mist nets. The vet even let me look through the scope to see the ovaries and kidneys, which was so cool. After that, we put her into a travel box and started the journey to Stutterheim, where she'll be staying until she moves to her permanent home. Let me tell you, there are few things more nerve-wracking than carrying a member of an endangered species on your lap! Everything went to plan, though, and apart from a few intimidating growls, the parrot was a model passenger. 
Parrot selfie! (she started growling when she
saw my phone)
I'm now in the last few weeks of my internship, and I can't believe how quickly the summer (winter) has gone! There's still plenty that needs to get done before I fly home, but I'm sure we can do it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment