Kalahari Blog

Adventures of a field biologist and wildlife photographer living and working in the Kalahari.


1 Comment

Game Capture

The Helicopter taking off!

The Helicopter taking off!

Back in June we had a Game capture with the aim of removing 70% of the animals on the reserve. As there was a drought this year the grass hasn’t had much time to grow so the livestock on the reserve has had to be supplemented with leucerne which is quite expensive. Capturing and selling some of the animals should bring the levels of game back to a more sustainable level.

The capture itself involves flying a helicopter around to manoeuvre the game into a large V-shaped enclosure called a boamer, with a livestock truck at one end and curtains which are pulled across to stop the game running back out of the enclosure.

All of us Meerkat volunteers got to help and it was our job to pull the curtains across. It was quite exciting staying hidden behind the curtain with a heard of Wildebeest or Gemsbok running by waiting for the siren from the helicopter to tell you to run across.

One of the guys out here with a gopro gave it to the helicopter pilot and got an awesome video which clearly shows the structure of the boamer, some of the landscape of the reserve, how the pilot herds a group of Gemsbok into the boamer with the siren and the curtains getting pulled across. You can also see that one of the Gemsbok gets separated from the group, runs back to the first set of curtains and also how close a couple of the people are to the Gemsbok. On this run I was on the last set of curtains and it was pretty hard to tell what was going on as the heard had already run past.

We got to  have a go for about 6 runs at least one of Gemsbok, a run of Red Hartebeest, one of Wildebeest, and a couple with Springbok. Most of the animals just run straight up the ramp and into the truck however the springbok try to jump the fence and get very stressed out in the truck so they have a big net which most of them get caught in and any stragglers have to be grabbed. We then had to hold them down whilst we waited for them to be injected with a sedative before carrying them into the truck. Some of the Springbok were quite lively and quite difficult to hold onto their legs whilst they were kicking!

Vanessa demonstrating the curtain mechanism.

Vanessa demonstrating the curtain mechanism.

Peering through the netting.

Peering through the netting.

Pushing the Gemsbok up the ramp into the truck.

Pushing the Gemsbok up the ramp into the truck.

Hitting the protectors onto the horns.

Hitting the protectors onto the horns.

Quite exiting being this close to stampeding Wildebeest with just a curtain as protection.

Quite exiting being this close to stampeding Wildebeest with just a curtain as protection.

Unfortunately this one broke its leg and had to be killed.

Unfortunately this one broke its leg and had to be killed.

Here come the springbok!

Here come the springbok!

Try to grab one....

Try to grab one….

Me holding down a Springbok. It looks quite calm here but they are difficult to hold when they start to struggle! Thanks to Rachael for the picture.

Me holding down a Springbok. It looks quite calm here but they are difficult to hold when they start to struggle! Thanks to Rachael for the picture.

Advertisements


2 Comments

Birds of the Kalahari – Part 1.

I’m on holiday in Cape Town at the moment so I finally have access to some good internet! I will upload a load of pictures and prepare a bunch of posts that I have been meaning to get up for a while and hopefully all I’ll have to do when I get back to the Kalahari is to click “post”!

There is quite a high diversity of birds around the reserve and this post is a collection of photos showing just some of the birds I see on a daily basis. It is by no means an exhaustive list as there are many more birds I see daily that I have not managed to get a good image of. I will have another post showing some of the rarer birds I have photographed very soon.

Yellow Hornbill

These Hornbills tend to hang around in pairs or small family groups, there is a family of them that hangs around the farmhouse and they tap on the kitchen window demanding bits of bread that people sometimes feed them. I have seen them use their large beaks to dig in the sand for insects and this one somehow managed to catch a bat in the tree next to the farmhouse! It was trying to kill the bat before swallowing it by bashing it against the tree but was having difficulties due to a lack of hands with opposable thumbs!

Yellow Hornbill

Yellow Hornbill

A Yellow Hornbill eating a bat.

A Yellow Hornbill eating a bat.

Cape Glossy Starling

There are lots of these starlings around and they are just as common as blackbirds in the UK but with the iridescent plumage and bright orange eye they are better looking. The often follow the Meerkats around (as do many other birds) waiting for them to uncover ants and other small insects.

Cape Glossy Starling

Cape Glossy Starling

Lilac-Breasted Roller

Rollers are some of the most colourful of all African birds. They get their name from the display flight they have where they fly up high and tumble back down. Whilst they may have pretty plumage, they also make a pretty awful noise. They are quite common but quite difficult to get pictures of because they tend to sit right at the top of trees and don’t let people approach very closely however they don’t seem to be too afraid of cars so you have to be lucky enough to get one close to the road.

Lilac-Breasted Roller

Lilac-Breasted Roller

 

Fork-Tailed Drongo

The Fork-Tailed Drongos are one of the most interesting and most intelligent birds in the Kaklahari. If you watched the Kalahari episode of the BBC’s Africa you will have seen the Fork-Tailed Drongo’s kleptoparsitising (stealing food from) the Meerkats. The footage from that segment was actually filmed at the KMP. The Drongo’s have several false alarm calls which they use to scare the Meerkats enough so they can steal their food. The Meerkats only tend to react once to each particular alarm call however the Drongos have several calls that they cycle through when the Meerkats don’t react. Apart from the Meerkats the Drongos also kleptoparsitise other bird species and have a sentry call which attracts social weavers, this is believed to be a mutualistic behaviour as the Drongos snatch up any insects that the foraging weavers flush out and the weavers gain an extra pair of eyes to look out for predators. The reserve is also the base for researchers working on the Drongos.

Fork-Tailed Drongo

Fork-Tailed Drongo

Fork-Tailed Drongo.

Fork-Tailed Drongo.

Sparrow Weaver

These weavers build small round nests you see hanging from trees out of grass, they are quite loud and also follow the Meerkats about looking for unearthed insects. Like many species in the Kalahari (including Meerkats) Sparrow weavers are cooperative breaders.

White-Browed Sparrow Weaver in evening light.

White-Browed Sparrow Weaver in evening light.

White-Browed Sparrow Weaver.

White-Browed Sparrow Weaver.

Social Weaver

These weavers build huge tent shaped nests in which colonies of up to several hundred weavers live. They often choose to build their nests on telegraph poles and are responsible for power shortages when the nests get too heavy for the poles to handle. Many other species also used the abandoned compartments of the weaver’s nests such as Pygmy Falcons. Cape Cobras are often found in them looking to eat the weaver’s chicks. Like the Sparrow Weavers they are cooperative breeders.

Sociable Weaver at the nest.

Sociable Weaver at the nest.

Sociable Weavers being sociable.

Sociable Weavers being sociable.

Pied Babbler

The Pied Babblers are yet another cooperative breeder and live in groups of 5 to 15. In many ways they behave much more like Meerkats than other birds for example they have a sentry system and inter-group conflicts happen in a very similar way to Meerkats. There is also a project running on these birds based at the KMP.

Pied Babbler.

Pied Babbler.

Kalahari Scrub-Robin

Very curious but quite shy little birds with a characteristic tail flick they will hop right up to you sometimes if you sit very still but will retreat into dense bushes if you move.

An inquisitive Kalahari Scrub-Robin.

An inquisitive Kalahari Scrub-Robin.

Red-Eyed Bulbul

These guys hang around in the trees around the farmhouse eating the berries.

A Red-Eyed Bulbul eating a berry.

A Red-Eyed Bulbul eating a berry.

A pair of Bulbuls looking for insects.

A pair of Bulbuls looking for insects.

Namaqua Sandgrouse

Large flocks of Sandgrouse fly over everyday when I’m out with the Meerkats but catching them on the ground is far more difficult. They make a very distinctive noise which I will forever associate with being out in the field collecting data.

Namaqua Sandgrouse pair.

Namaqua Sandgrouse pair.

Namaqua Sandgrouse female.

Namaqua Sandgrouse female.

Marico Flycatcher

Seemingly quite boring plumage but these guys have a lot of character and watching them hunting small insects on the wing is very cool.

Marico Flycatcher

Marico Flycatcher