South Africa Diaries: Day 11

We headed out early this morning and walked down to the dam to collect some more data for our projects. We collected spoor and scat from the same three roads and game trails as yesterday. Because we used the feather duster to clear the tracks of any spoor yesterday, we only saw the spoor of animals that had walked here in the last twenty-four hours, which was very interesting to see and also meant we were done a lot quicker.

I feel my tracking skills have developed a lot faster than I thought they would, and I am now able to fairly confidently identify most spoor and scat that I see. The rest of the day was then spent in our groups working on our presentations of our findings for tomorrow.

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Species Of The Day: Fork-Tailed Drongo

The fork-tailed drongo, Dicrurus adsimilis, is a common sight in South Africa. It is usually 23cm to 26cm long and is black all over with a deeply forked tail. It is extremely fearless, even of large birds of prey such as buzzards and eagles, which is often dive-bombs from great heights.

They are very noisy and are extremely good at mimicry, which they use to their advantage by using false alarm calls to scare other species away from food, so that they can swoop in and steal it. Pied babblers are the species usually targeted with false alarm calls by these birds, but they also often mimic meerkat alarm calls to deceive them too. This shows the benefits of using different mimetic signals in deceptive communication.

Fork-tailed drongos are native to most of sub-Saharan Africa, and there is also a subspecies, modestus, which is endemic to the Príncipe islands. The increased use of pesticides reducing the number of invertebrate prey, are putting this subspecies at risk.

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