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September research blog

September research blog

What a month September has been! We started off the month with our elasmobranch egg case collections at our three sites, with Nature’s Valley yielding over a whopping 1200 egg cases! We had finally gotten our backlog under control and now we are still busy processing just that one site’s haul! This is definitely a record collection for us, and can attributed to the rough seas and bad weather just before the collection. As a result we have also found three egg cases still with developing feotuses: one puffadder shyshark Haploblepharus edwardsii and two twineyed skates Raja miraletus. Also of particular interest are the two biscuit skate Raja straeleni egg cases we picked up. Despite there being a good record of skate egg cases, with the natural variation within each species sometimes identification can be slightly questionable, but with more samples, things are becoming clearer.

We were invited to give a bird ringing demonstration to the Greenwood Bay College eco-club this month, much to our delight. It is always lovely sharing a passion with youngsters, as well as ring at a new site. We went through on the Thursday evening to walk the school grounds and find a good spot to set up the nets. Again we ended up setting the nets up that evening and furling them (to make sure we didn’t catch a late night bird or bat) to save us time in the morning. Friday morning had the ORCA team and the Greenwood eco-club meeting at 6am to open nets and have an introductory talk about bird ringing and its value. Then the pressure was on! Over 10 expectant young faces followed as we walked the nets for the first check, and the next, and the next… Finally at 07h30 we caught our first bird! Never has a sombre greenbul looked so good! After showing everyone how to ring and measure a bird, it was released, and the kids headed off to assembly. Over the next 2 hours we had a very slow trickle of birds in the nets, and various classes popping past to have a look at what we were up to. By the time we packed up we had caught only 8 birds, one being a young Knysna turaco, and another a common starling – definitely bird of the month and a ringing lifer. What a beautiful bird!

We have spent some time this month processing the fish gut samples in the freezer as the end of the program is swiftly approaching. It is smelly and backbreaking work pouring over a microscope for hours at a time, but it is very interesting looking at a whole range of natural items under high magnification!

We have had some lovely weather recently as spring ramps up, along with the first sunburns of the season! We hope to see you out enjoying the sunshine as we certainly are.

Written by Minke Tolsma, ORCA Foundation Researcher

Embryo of a twineyed skate

A biscuit skate egg case

A beautiful common starling

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