2011 was a year of intensive fieldwork to launch the project. The primary task was to establish a study area and find every Black eagle nest within it. In the Cederberg, Lucia Rodrigues introduced me to seven known nest sites. By June I had found an additional thirteen nests. As some of these proved to be inactive this year, monitoring was concentrated on eight active nests and an additional three nests that I found late in the season. Incubation started as early as May and from these up to seven chicks fledged. One nest was unsuccessful at incubation stage. In the Sandveld up to eight chicks fledged from fourteen nests that were monitored. Three pairs failed, two nests had pairs present throughout the season but the breeding attempt was unknown and one nest was inactive.The Cederberg Cellars sponsored a live feed camera, which was trialed at a nest in the Cederberg. In 2012 I hope to have it permanently installed at a nest and perhaps streamed online. This will be important to contribute to data on the diet of the Black eagle and the fate of the breeding attempt.
The year ended with a trip to France in December to join a team who were catching four Bonelli’s eagles. The trapping and GPS tagging was done by Victor Garcia from the Ministry of Environment in Spain. It was a great opportunity to liaise with a project with similar objectives and to learn specialized techniques. Next year the Black Eagle Project will embark on eagle tracking using novel GPS technology. This will allow the first insight into how these eagles use their home ranges and how they might be affected by human land-use.
It was a tough year with ups and downs, not least finishing off with a broken leg. Nevertheless it was incredibly rewarding. I love being in the Cederberg and as my leg heals I’m looking forwards to getting back to work in February. I am hugely grateful for all the support I have received in the last year – for supporting my studies thanks go to Prof Les Underhill and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town, Dr Andrew Jenkins, Lucia Rodrigues and Dr Quinton Martins. For supporting the Black Eagle Project through sponsorship thanks to the Cape Leopard Trust, the Cederberg Cellars, George van der Watt, K-way, Jan Hoving and Eikehof Organics.