The Sandveld is rated as the second most threatened ecosystem in South Africa. Of the 12 vegetation types that occur there, nine are threatened by habitat loss (C.A.P.E. 2011). Fragmentation due to agriculture is widespread and potato fields now dominate the landscape.
|A view from a Sandveld nest
Considering this, I was pleasantly surprised by the findings of my latest visit to the area. I went to 12 nests and can confirm 6 chicks, I suspect a further 3 nests also have chicks but due to bad weather it was very difficult to tell. Two nests have failed – one at chick stage and one did not complete incubation. One pair is not breeding this year but is building a new nest above the previous nest.
Nest spacing in the Sandveld is much wider apart than the Cederberg where spacing is ±3km. In some cases this is due to the lower availability of nesting habitat – i.e. less cliffs. However, this is not always the case and I have been looking for nests in suitable habitat 3km away from the nearest known and not found any.
The first GPS has just arrived and I will start testing it for suitability this week. This will be a really exciting step and will allow us to explore questions such as ‘do Black eagles in the Sandveld need to travel further to find prey than those in the Cederberg?’
Many thanks to Pierre at Wagenpad farm for providing accommodation for this trip and thanks to all the friendly and helpful landowners – your support makes this research possible.