1. The stunning African Black Oystercatcher
(Swarttobie) along our coastline epitomises the conservation struggle and the way we can overcome it – working together to understand the biodiversity and minimise our impact to co-exist. A real wow bird.
2. I just had to throw in the Gorgeous Bushshrike
(Konkuit), a stunning bird I often get up close and personal with during my work in KwaZulu-Natal.
3. The Kelp Gull (Swartrugmeeu). Yup, I put a gull in my top ten. What a fabulous group of birds. Successful urban invaders, highly adaptable, and very sassy – great birds to watch and work with.
4. Raptors are another obsession, and working with species like the African Crowned Eagle (Kroonarend) has been a major highlight of my career. The one pictured here was the first individual trapped as part of a large study on how these regal eagles co-exist within cities like Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
5. The delicate Fairy Tern is a beautiful, gentle bird that epitomises island living. They occur in the Seychelles where we are studying the impacts of climate change on seabird breeding.
6. Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Kleinrooibandsuikerbekkie). I have an obsession with nectar-feeding birds. I did my PhD on the relationships between birds and the plants they pollinate, and spent loads of time studying sugar and concentration preferences of both specialist and occasional nectarfeeding birds. Captivating stuff.
7. Once regarded as one of the world’s rarest birds
(by the 1970s there were only 16 individuals left on one island), the Seychelles Magpie-Robin is now regarded globally as one of the major conservation success stories, with more than 250 individuals located on five islands. Such a privilege to have done work on them.
8. The Cape White-eye (Kaapse Glasogie) is one of the species I have studied and admire the most. A great example of a generalist species – eats almost anything, occurs almost everywhere, and adapts readily to change. Ubiquitous in SA – doesn’t matter where I go, chances are I will see or hear white-eyes.
9. The White-fronted Plover (Vaalstrandkiewiet) is a common species disappearing before our eyes.
Did you know that in some provinces numbers have dropped 30 per cent in just 30 years – mostly due to disturbance while breeding on our beaches? Yet simple interventions and awareness programmes can significantly increase breeding success.
10. The gorgeous Diederik Cuckoo (Diederikkie) is the first species I spent time studying in the field as an ornithology postgraduate. The complex world of brood parasitism, with a continual arms race going on between host and parasite, is fascinating.