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Dr. Kate Carstens
So far we have successfully deployed passive acoustic monitors in 10 forest patches out of the targeted 17 (Figure 2 and 3), and have collected a total of 3,700 hours of recordings.
Travel to - and deployment of PAMs in - these remote and beautiful forest patches has allowed for some really interesting findings. We are gaining a much deeper understanding of the population size of Cape Parrots (Figure 4) in the Amathole region and collecting data on new roosting and breeding sites that were previously unknown. The species is down to 1800 individuals, and so the identification of key breeding and feeding habitat sites is crucial.
Possible breeding sites are identified by the presence of territorial âArch-angel’ calls (Figure 5), which can then be ground-truthed by field researchers. Breeding has not yet gotten underway and we are well into the breeding season. Fruit has been scarce due to the drought that the area is experiencing, and with so little food available, it's no wonder the pairs haven’t occupied nests yet.
In addition to potential breeding sites, preliminary analysis of vocalisation data has allowed us to identify new patches that Cape Parrots utilise. Their contact call (Figure 6) and four-note âgreeting’ call (Figure 7) are easily distinguishable from the other forest bird species. With the knowledge of which patches this species utilises, steps can be taken to increase the levels of protection and conservation for the far-flung forests of this region.
Since July 2019, we have successfully deployed passive acoustic monitors in 16 forest patches out of the targeted 17, and have collected a total of 8,009 hours of audio recordings. Excitingly, during the deployment of monitors, we have confirmed the presence of Cape Parrots in a previously unmonitored forest patch, Qacu Forest (pronounced “Gatu”). This forest patch lies on the far north-eastern boundary of the Amathole Mountain Range.
In traveling to these remote forest patches, research Manager, Cassie Carstens, has been also doing reconnaissance on some of the trails and roads in and around the patches, mapping these as he walks and drives, where suitable habitat will be used to look for cape parrot activity. For instance, we have identified 12 potential nesting sites, as well as nine new roosting and five gathering trees from observing parrot activity during employment. He also recorded strategic positions useful for observing cape parrots before they fly down and disappear into the forest (Figure 7). The latter is particularly useful for the annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day, where hundreds of observers from different locations throughout the country count Cape parrots.
The replacement microphone stubs have proven invaluable, as Samango Monkeys continue to find these a source of interest and have destroyed several (Figure 8)!
On a more serious note, today, 27th March 2020, begins a lockdown here in South Africa due to COVID-19. Although we will be pausing on field work for now, our analysis of vocalisation data will continue as we set up our work stations at home.