Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Entertaining efforts

Doug Harebottle from the ADU has been in Plett for the weekend and staying with Mark. He has been here to do the talk on My Bird Patch and led the bird walk on Sunday. He was also very interested in seeing the gull colony, and perhaps even more interested in the Sacred Ibis breeding there at the moment. So Monday afternoon Mark, Doug, Shirley and myself headed for the peninsula, the plan being I would take the paddle-ski across and the other 3 would take the Green Machine. We arrived at low tide and decided that instead of taking the long paddle trip around, we would walk carrying paddle-ski, canoe and gear to the channel, cutting the paddle trip in half. Here we had the first spanner in our plans, the Green Machine, despite her awesomeness, cannot hold three adults. I was on the paddle-ski floating around and watching the antics of the other 3 trying to get into the canoe and not capsize! Momentarily amusing but wholly frustrating. We ended up ferrying Doug and Mark to the nearest exposed sandbank to walk to the start of the colony while Shirley took the canoe and I the paddle-ski and paddled the long way around to beach safely above the high tide mark. By the time we reached the colony we were already tired and ready to head home; I am hoping the muscle conditioning will come quickly! Regardless, Shirley went off to do her disturbance work and Mark, Doug and myself headed into the colony. While I went about checking nests, Doug and Mark spent some time counting Sacred Ibis nests and eggs. Still no gull eggs though, and many nests were no longer active. An exciting development was the first sighting of an African Spoonbill on the colony! I really hope they decide to breed on the colony! Another first was a fresh dead adult gull, which Shirley and I dissected. Empty stomach and empty crop, no plastics or other anthropogenic items, and there are suspicions of botulism poisoning. The deceased was buried in a shallow grave on the dunes, hopefully no scavenger will dig it up. That ended our time on the peninsula and we packed up for the paddle back. By this time the water level had risen and the sand bank that Mark and Doug had walked along was no longer; Mark kindly and bravely volunteered to wade/swim back while we paddled back. The trip back was truly horrid, we were paddling back on the incoming tide and facing a brisk wind in combination making it feel like I was paddling so hard and going nowhere for my efforts except for getting a face full of splash back. I also kept a cautionary eye on Mark, the rip tide in the area is notorious but on an incoming tide is manageable and in the right direction. He even made it back to the launch site before we did! After a while I gave up and walked the paddle-ski back, I could walk faster than I could paddle. We all got to the car, varying degrees of soaked and every degree of exhausted! All in all an interesting afternoon!

Me in all my field-kit glory.. quiver of nest markers on my back!  Photo by Mark Brown.
A gull checking out our awesome weather station. Photo by Mark Brown.
The one Spoonbill on the colony. Photo by Mark Brown.
Mark and Doug looking at the breeding Sacred Ibis.
The stare-down! Photo by Mark Brown.
Then one of the pair quickly moves in and steals an egg.. And fumbles the pass! Photos by Mark Brown.
Juvenile birds still moulting into full adult plumage for their first breeding season.
Shirley and I dissecting a dead gull to look at stomach contents. Photo by Mark Brown.

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