The Return of the Wakkerstroom BLOG contributor!

Although I started with great gusto – perhaps too much so  –  the enthusiasm waned and I see it is a year since I last sent in something for the BLOG! The obvious comment is “where has a year gone” but that is just too easy to make as an excuse although at the moment I can not think of any other good one!

NOW, I am trying again with the help and encouragement of Debbie who will guide this un-electronic-age person through the intricacies of the modern media world! Thanks Debbs – or maybe not!

It seems a reasonable idea to kick-off with a résumé of the crane breeding season, which has not been too bad, in this highveld grassland area – one fledged Wattled Crane chick – from one pair – 100% success rate! The 25 pairs of Blue Cranes on the Mpumalanga side of my stamping grounds have fledged 17 young and on the KZN side 6 from 8 pairs. There are others around Luneburg but am not sure of fledging rate. So after a strange start to the season – a few pairs starting to nest quite early but most a bit later than usual, I feel is it about average.

The Grey Crowned Cranes – usually so predictable on this Wakkerstroom wetland, led – and still lead me a merry dance! There were unusual nesting patterns again with a later than usual start. Then very often we saw small parties of visiting cranes that had to be chased off by the resident pair. Quite often no single bird around indicating that the other was still on the nest, or two out feeding together making one think something had happened to the nest, then suddenly just one again and then a few weeks later, chicks! Perhaps this is a plan to keep me guessing!

It is said, good information comes out of long term monitoring BUT it also becomes very confusing when the “norm” changes!

Last year there were 3 pairs in various places that fledged 3 chicks each and this season there are two pairs just on this wetland that have produced 3 hatchlings each. In fact the one pair lost all three overnight and again had three chicks the second time around which must be some sort of record –  and the other pair – made many of us who have been observing them regularly since the day the young first appeared – blush! From eight different observers, over three weeks, we all happily confirmed the good progress of two chicks. Until a few days ago – when the resident observer Hans (whose house is alongside the wetland) and he and his wife Diana phoned to say something odd had taken place and now they could not see any chicks. With a heavy heart I later went out not expecting to see the pair at all but to my delight I quickly saw them clearly – and to my amazement and chagrin – there were three chicks! Something really odd had happened! So – a happy ending to the day.

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‘til Anon

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About whittingtonjones

I’m Brendan Whittington-Jones, a Capetonian and a ginger – what a pearler of a combination! I manage the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s KZN Wild Dog Project in northern Zululand. The initial aim of the project was to answer research questions around what influenced where wild dogs moved when they dispersed out of protected areas, and what the attitudes of rural communities surrounding these protect areas are towards wild dogs. Over the years, the project has evolved to play a stronger management role in wild dog conservation in the province. I coordinate the KZN Wild Dog Management Group, where we focus on range expansion for the species, collective management of the species in the province and mitigation of potential wild dog conflict with landowners. One of the bonuses of my job is the opportunities I have to explore new reintroduction locations like Tembe, or track after dogs through parts of the region I’ve never seen before – although I would prefer it if the dogs did this in shorter stints rather than month-long treks.
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