Monday, November 10, 2014

Angazi and dot

Its been a full year since my last blog. In that time the project has progressed in leaps and bounds.  Anyone following the facebook page will have been aware that we are flat out monitoring over 40 active nests - from a database of 65 known sites - this year.  In October I was awarded my MSc with a cum laude pass and have upgraded the research to a PhD.  As such there is a lot to look forward to with another couple of seasons of research.

The last blog posts was regarding the GPS transmitter that was attached to Don, the young eagle hatched from the Victoria Country Club nest in the 2012 season.  Unfortunately that transmitter failed after 6 weeks of tracking, but provided some interesting juvenile movement data.  I am waiting for the technology to improve before proceeding further with juvenile dispersal and survival tracking and hopefully we will have funding and resources to commit 10 trackers to juveniles early in the 2015 year.

In the meantime this blog is being resurrected in response to the Victoria Country Club nest once again.  After a year’s rest and relaxation for Victoria and Albert they have once again built a nest on the artificial platform and have diligently hatched a new brood!

On Wednesday the 5th of November, after confirming the little chick was at least 5 days old.  I climbed to install a new monitoring camera for this chick who is currently holding the temporary name Angazi (after we initially named the 2012 chick Donna – which inevitably turned out to be a male and he had to suffer a name change to ‘Don’).

Climbing 17 meters up this massive Blue Gum, upon reaching the lip of the nest I discovered Angazi was not a solo child.  Indeed at a very critical time the second chick was midway through ‘pipping’ – sawing its little way out of the shell.  I hurried the installation as quickly as I could and hopefully the second will survive that period of disturbance.  Five days on the strong chick Angazi is still obviously thriving, but what of the second chick?

Going up - the foam filled backpack and riot helmet with false eyes are protection against possible attack!

taking strain at about the 12 meter mark

at 17 meters up a 35 meter Blue Gum, one peers over the lip of the nest

getting into position to install the camera

and making a few minor pruning maneuvers to improve visibility

the camera is now installed and safely mounted inside a solid steel security box to protect from possible eagle attacks

checking all is well and descending on the other side of the tree

Only one chick ever survives from natural Crowned Eagle nests.  This is termed 'obligate fratricide'.  As difficult as it can be to witness - it is not easy to justify removing and hand raising the younger chick (sometimes termed Cain-and-Abel rescue) as there can be many complications with imprinting, preparing suitable release areas, and justifying so much of human and financial resources for minimal local conservation benefit.   In this instance we will let nature take its course, as it does across dozens of Crowned Eagle nests in the study area every year.  And hopefully we will record the sibling interactions and the eventual death of the second chick - a very interesting and noteworthy piece of information to publish - on the monitoring camera which is set on a timelapse setting.  Due to technology and power constraints there is no live stream footage from this camera and I will look forward to future blog posts reporting the outcome of these interactions – and the subsequent development of Angazi.

Thank you to Leon Heyes for documenting the successful camera installation!  All photos except these last two are credited to Leon.

the nest site - with Angazi, Dot, and plenty of fresh food: a Hadeda Ibis nestling, and a young Rock Hyrax

Angazi at around 5-7 days old and young Dot having cut its way a third around the shell

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