Eagle project takes flight

THE Verreaux’s (black) eagle pair that has been nesting on the outskirts of Alberton since approximately 2003 used to breed within the steel bracing structure of the nearby 210kV Eiger Fordsburg power line pylon. Subsequently they nested on a man-made artificial nesting platform (ANP) when the nest was moved in February 2009. Now they are breeding again.

GETTING TO WORK: Cherry picker at the site.

Successful breeding on the ANP during 2010, 2013 and 2016 is an indication that the pair has fully adapted to the mast and its surrounds, a project that was originally donated and erected by the Siyavaya Highway Construction JV for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) from 2008 to 2010.

Mast refurbishment

“We were privileged to receive the sponsorship of an articulating boom lift (cherry picker) from SkyJacks Waco Africa (Pty) Ltd over the weekend of January 20 to 22, to assist the project with the refurbishment of the eagles’ artificial nesting platform that stands erected since their 2009 breeding season.

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED: The Verreaux’s eagle.

“A donation of red oxide primer paint was received from Krugersdorp Paint Centre cc and with the assistance of project members, we managed to get the mast painted over one-and-a-half days, making the most of the time available to us.

“However, not everything went smoothly in that a rather large beehive was noted right at the top end of the mast nearest to the nest that had to be removed in its entirety prior to the new breeding season commencing. Having angry bees so close to the eagles and or chick on the nest may be fatal should the eagles get stung and quite possibly die of the multiple stings,” said Bo van der Lecq, from Raptor Conservation Projects.

“To assist the project, the services of Walkerville Bee Keepers were recruited (and subsequently donated) as it was paramount that the hive be removed in its entirety to safeguard the eagles. The sealing of the open-ended mast was executed thereafter. The hive eradication process commenced on the Friday evening while the bees were the least active, with the actual sealing of the mast completed by midday on Saturday.

CLEARING BEGINS: A team begins to clear the bottom of the site.

“Painting the mast was rather cumbersome in that one person was strung inside the cat ladder with two others inside the boom platform basket, with the bulk of the paint at ground level to minimise possible spillage. We managed to get the mast completed with a fair reduction of at least half 60cm-thick nesting material to a more manageable overall height of 30cm by late Sunday afternoon. The reason for the size reduction is to minimise the possible toppling over of the nest during high wind spells. It would be a tragedy if the nest toppled over with a growing chick/juvenile that will most certainly cause severe injury or even result in death,” Van der Lecq added.

ARRIVAL: The cherry picker is delivered.

Naming of the eagles

At a recent project meeting, one of the project members felt it was necessary to officially name the eagles and their offspring, to fall in line with the naming of the eagle pair that is resident within the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort on the West Rand.

HARD WORK: The mast refurbishment begins.

Since 2007, they have provided ad hoc names for the chicks/juveniles, but never seriously considered naming the adults. A decision has been taken to name them for the following reasons: it would assist in terms of veterinary and conservation records into the future; creating a public education and awareness by bringing the eagles into our schools and homes; and the eagles should be the pride and joy of everyone in the community who should feel privileged that they have chosen to take up residence in our area.

The objective is for the general public to get involved by voting on their Facebook page: “Klipriviersberg Verreaux’s Eagles Inc WBC”. Become a member and vote for the name that appeals most to you.

“The names are a combination of the Sotho and Zulu languages and are easy to pronounce and spell with their appropriate meanings in brackets. Project members have already chosen some names in an effort to reduce the long list that was initially made available to us and these names are: Adult Male – Serithi (having presence), Kefentse (conqueror), Umzingeli (the hunter), Nkululeko (freedom), Ncomo (admired) and Mandla (power/energy). Adult Female – Umusa (grace/graceful), Khetiwe (chosen one), Mhambi (the traveller), Thandi (loved one), Mantso (the dark one) and Benya (to shine).

“As a gesture of appreciation, the project will put all the winning participants’ names in a hat and draw one for each eagle name chosen. The prizes will be a NesTin (recycled bird nest) donated by BoArt Creations and an educational walk and talk at the eagle site for two persons per winning name. Closing date of the competition has been extended to Saturday April 15.

MAST GETTING A COAT OF PAINT: The painting team set to work.

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Julie Maule
Comaro Chronicle News Editor

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