Friday, March 1, 2013

Victoria Country Club Photo Diary

Burkhard Schlosser has been at the Victoria Country Club Estate on almost a daily basis for the last few months.  He has had his camera trained in one particular direction from one particular spot at the Estate.  Trained towards the Crowned Eagle nest that has become somewhat famous in the area.

This nest is quite a special one for me.  It is the first eagle pair to nest on an artificial platform that I built for a raptor. I put this up for them after they failed to build their own nest earlier last year.  Once the little eaglet reached 15 days of age I was able to put up a nest camera to record all the behavior and especially, the food, of this nest since.  Having being called Donna for months, a blood test during the ringing process confirmed this eaglet was indeed a Don.  The mum is named, appropriately, Victoria, a regal and hard willed girl, and by default dad is Albert.

It has been very nerve racking to work with this particular nest because, despite the carefully planned ethical considerations and cautions for the study methods employed in my own research. There is great deal of passion, enthusiasm, caution and personal connection to these birds felt and expressed by the local residents and public around the VCCE.  So while being so concerned with the welfare of the bird from my own perspective, I would also feel that much worse by empathizing with the public followers of these birds should anything happen to them. The stability and durability of the built nest site, the disturbance from monthly climbing to the nest to service the cameras, and the delicate operation of briefly removing Don from the nest to ring and record a bunch of morphometric data.  A bunch of nests did fail this year, mostly seem due to bad weather during the hatching and newly hatched stage, but I am glad to say all of the five nests that I studied with cameras have successfully fledged.

Thankfully we have has a very good run with this pair and that we have collected a remarkable set of prey data from the camera.  67,000 photos.  This is mostly thanks to Ron Perks who was the driving force behind securing the donations required to purchase the equipment used for the study, with acknowledgements to all of the various supporters for the Victoria Country Club Estate surveys.  I have recently done the prey analysis for the first four months of operation to date.  I am quietly holding onto that data for now, so that there will be great revealing of the new data on the night that I make a presentation to be held at the Victoria Country Club on the 9th of April.

So while there are quite a few example photos from the camera to be seen on previously published blogs.  The photos leading to fledgling won’t be posted here yet.  Maybe later in April?  So for now though, I am happy to reproduce here a bunch of Burkhard’s photos, with his permission of course.  Burkhard has been getting his photos spread far and wide, and some of these are on Africa Geographic, a stunning photo of a Malachite Sunbird was on the cover of Wild Bird Trust website, and there are plenty of followers to frequent updates on facebook.

All rights to these photos are copyright to Burkhard Schlosser.

Victoria feeding little Don on the 28th of October.  The camera (black bok to far left) has been in place since 21 October

After the meal Victoria likes to bring fresh gum sprigs to cover the remains of the food

Don at 47 days old.  23 November 2012

With still very undeveloped flight feather, Don exercises and develops muscles. 72 days old on 18 December 2012

Despite the look, Victoria is grateful for the food given by Albert. 22 Dec 2012.  Don was ringed at 80 days old on 26 December 2012.

Lunch delivery 12 Jan 2013

Gentle motherly tenderness at feeding time. 12 Jan 2013

At 97 days old, Don's flight and tail feathers are still growing. 12 Jan 2013

At 99 days old the wings have an impressive spread and catch a lot of air. 14 Jan 2013

Branching', walking out and jumping back to the nest, three days before first free-flight.  17 Jan 2013

Freedom of flight. 21 January 2013

Out on a limb. 21 January 2013

Don has an urge to return to the nest regularly.  He continues to be fed on the nest. 21 January 2013

Albert bringing in another morsel. 27 January 2013

Relaxed and windswept, at just under four month old, Don is a beautiful eagle. 2 February 2013.

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