Wildlife & Wild Places

Bush Boyes on Expedition: Pel’s Fishing Owl, More Research and Mokoro Surveys

The last three days have been spent dodging thunderstorms and sheltering under tarpaulins to get our fieldwork done. There have already been some interesting findings with several bushbabies (Lesser galagos), woodland dormice, squirrels, starlings, woodhoopoes and much else (see photos). We also had our first nest box occupations by bees in the dry Mopane woodlands where there is a paucity of suitable nest cavities.

 

Lesser bushbabies in one of our nest boxes. (Neil Gelinas)
Long-tailed or Meve's starling chicks in one of our nest boxes. (Neil Gelinas)

 

These findings build on data from the last nine years and will be included in two upcoming peer-reviewed publications on the application of artificial nest boxes as conservation tools. Science direct from the wilderness to you… The Okavango Nest Box Project is looking forward to five more years of research into cavity-nesting bird, mammal and reptile communities in the Vundumtiki. Wilderness Safaris, my host for the last ten years and a constant source of support, are stimulating positive change by supporting this important research and conservation project, which has wide-reaching benefits and application outside of the study area. We are currently looking for international research partners interested in cavity-nesting birds to encourage the influx of new ideas, methodologies and approaches for our research on this remote island.

 

Pel's fishing owl perched in a tree above the nest. Simply stunning. (Neil Gelinas)

 

The last few days have also been spent with a pair of Pel’s fishing owls at their nesting site. It is a wonderful thing to sit in an old-growth gallery of riverine forest with two Pel’s fishing owls just above you, making sure that you do not disturb their nest. Their intelligence is clear as they carefully consider who you are and what you are up to. We all felt privileged to be the sole focus of such an enigmatic owl, even for a short time… These are the experiences that we will never forget and can only hope to repeat.

The mokoro’ing has been an absolute pleasure with all the water in the area after record floods and rains. We have been having some trouble adjusting to “tandem-poling”, but will have this right by the time we embark on the 2012 Okavango Wetland Birds Survey. Over the last few days, we have managed to use the mokoro to access most of our study sites, mainly because the roads are non-existent, thus making getting around a difficult, risky affair.

We look forward to our few days on expedition and hope to share some final experiences with you.

Dr Steve Boyes
National Geographic Grantee
Director – Wild Bird Trust
Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology (University of Cape Town)

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Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa’s wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer’s Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa’s endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on “mokoros” or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.

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