We ended as we started, with a small transportation hiccup. The minibus driver managed to get himself lost on the way to Blue Hill. So we loaded everyone and their kit into two of the four wheel drives, and headed out to intercept the bus on a dirt road, and ensure that flights weren’t missed.
I can hardly believe our first expedition in South Africa is already over. Let me start by thanking our team. First off, our volunteers, for being pioneers, willing to take the expedition leap of faith and believe in a new project – you’ve all made a great contribution (see below). But firstly, we owe a big thank you to the Lee family, particularly Anja, Eli and Charlie, and Chris and Elaine (our collective hosts) for your endless hospitality. Grateful thanks also go to Melda and Stefan, for the continual provision of culinary delights, and their botanical and camera trap ID wisdom! And finally, our enormous collective thanks go to Alan, our leader in all things scientific. It has been a fantastic privilege to share in your world.
So what about that contribution I mentioned? We achieved the following:
– 15 new camera traps have been deployed both across the Blue Hill area and in the Baviaanskloof, to monitor leopard, caracal and other mammal activity and movement patterns.
– Over 3500 camera images from Blue Hill have be analysed, identified and catalogued, revealing activity of leopards, caracals and African wildcats across a number of locations.
– 20 km of flush transects surveys have been completed across the Blue Hill area, and the first-ever flush survey was completed in the Welbedacht section of Baviaanskloof.
– We completed the first series of small mammal trapping surveys in the Blue Hill area of the fynbos, and demonstrated the presence of Namaqua rock mice, which was previously unknown in this location.
– We identified the location of more Cape rockjumper nests (a bird endemic to the fynbos), and installed camera traps to monitor chick development and feeding behaviour.
– We completed more radio-telemetry surveys on tagged rockjumpers, to assess activity and distribution patterns.
– We located an active nest of the endemic jackal buzzard, with two chicks and again installed a camera trap to assess prey species brought to the nest.
– Four species of bat have been identified in a small survey area around Blue Hill, and a cave roost of the Cape horseshoe bat has been identified.
– New locations and examples of rock art have been discovered.
That broadly covers the headlines, but our work is still not complete. Data still needs to be crunched from the various field surveys and just think of all those new camera traps still clicking and collecting data….long beyond our departure.
The keen-eyed amongst you will have realised that this is nine different, and in several cases, new achievements, in nine full days, by the collective efforts of nine people. Full marks and many thanks for this great contribution.
Don’t forget to share your pictures and you’ll hear from us again when the full technical expedition report comes out in a few months. Safe travels home and we hope to see you on another expedition again at some stage, somewhere on this beautiful planet of ours.
From our working holiday volunteering with leopards, caracals and Cape biodiversity in South Africa.