I’m almost half way through the first season’s roadkill transect (three seasons in total to do) and the results are already extremely interesting. Whilst birds by far dominated the taxon killed during the March 2011 transects, it seems that mammals are the top ‘hit’ at the moment, with Scrub Hare tipping the scale. It’s the breeding season for Scrub Hares at the moment and are most often seen at night.
In March, I had previously found only one or two per week, dead on the road. I’m currently getting one or two per day, interestingly with the majority being male.
This doesn’t tell me a huge amount (although the female bloggers amongst us may be able to come up with a few choice comments), but the sex ratio is certainly something to consider, particularly in rarer species. The sex of many species are quite difficult to detect, as it involves prodding and probing the genital area. I’m confident ‘sexing’ mammals, and even many birds, since their plumage often varies between the males and females. Reptiles and amphibians are not so easy. Again, you can often tell by colouration or the tail length (particularly in snakes), but I am struggling with some of the toads!
Despite my project ‘looking only for dead animals’, I often see some amazing ‘live’ species on the road sides. The other day, I saw an enormous Martial Eagle perched on a tree by the roadside – I looked closer, and noticed that it was eating a Scrub Hare , which had possibly been scavenged from the road – one less statistic for me to count.
I often pass numerous antelope grazing on the neighbouring reserves, as well as giraffe and elephant.
The variety of bird species in this area is outstanding, with over 400 different species counted. The migrants are starting to reappear, and whilst this is great for many birding fanatics, they will take their toll on the roads. The beautiful and colourful Bee eaters are appearing again, and already I am finding them as roadkill casualties.
I started last week an additional transect to try and ascertain what species were being hit during the night, and were then not there in the morning when I re-drove that section of the transect. This involves starting the 20km sub-transect 1 ½ hours before dawn…. so at the moment, I’m getting up at 03:45. I have to admit, that every morning, I’ve not bothered getting dressed, but have grabbed a cup of tea in my travel mug and gone out in my pyjamas. The beauty of working where I am means that you can get away with this, as no-one will see you.
I’m only going to do this sub-transect for 20 days (out of the total 40) as the concern is ‘observer fatigue’. I’m already feeling really tired from the disruptive sleep patterns, so I really don’t think it is safe or beneficial to try and repeat it for the full 40 nights. So, at the moment, my typical day is:
03:45 Get up
03:50 – 04:50 Pre-dawn transect (20km)
05:00 – 06:30 Quick sleep
06:35 Get up
06:45 – 10:45 Morning transect (20km dirt road and 100km tar road)
11:00 Brunch (usually left-overs from last night’s evening meal)
11:15 – 13:30 Data entry and admin.
13:30 – 15:00 Sleep
15:00 – 17:30 Work on thesis / statistics
17:30 Cook dinner – and allowed a luxury sundowner glass of wine!
19:30 – 20:30 Evening transect (20km)
20:30 Bath and bed
Social life……. N/A at this current stage!
In fact, I think it’s time for my one glass of wine before my night-time transect, right now!