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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
My family comes to visit
Shiv Kapila — in East Africa Project    ShareThis week, after the end of the 4th population count, I see that things have not changed a great deal, and thankfully I talk about our eagles. They are being found where I expect they should be, and the only imbalance is caused by the temporary presence or absence of sub-adult and juvenile birds, feeding on carrion in the North.   As before, the water level of Lake Naivasha continues to decrease dramatically. Obviously this is in part due to evaporation, but mostly because of a combination of constant water abstraction and the current prolonged drought. Flower farms and power stations are still taking water from the lake at the same rate, and in one case, extending their jetty further into the lake to get to deeper waters. Local residents say that if the rain doesn’t arrive, the area the lake covers will be halved in a matter of weeks. This is very easy to believe when you have to get out of the boat and push in shallow water, even if you are nearly two kilometres away from shore in some places. As the water level recedes, the lake perimeter shortens and eagle territories overlap as a consequence, as well as the fact that the eagles are further away from the fish they want. The resulting conflict and hunger means that some pairs are forced to leave, and this could account for the short term decrease in numbers over the the last six months. 

The thrill of my work was almost interrupted by a visit from my parents but thankfully they brought my twin brother, Jai. We all stayed a night at Chui Lodge, a luxurious tented camp set in a huge (20,000 acres) wildlife sanctuary near Oloidien, a smaller, more alkaline lake to the South West of Lake Naivasha. The sanctuary holds about 16 White Rhinos and hoards of other game. On game drives we managed to see a Serval, Mongooses (mongeese?), some rhinos, buffalos and Grevy's zebras. It seems also to be the warthog mating season. Our stay ended with a tour of Oloidien by one of the Lodge’s guides, who knew almost everything of the area and its wildlife. This lake is very good for waterfowl-we saw a flock of about 300 lesser flamingos here because Lake Nakuru (70km North of Naivasha) is almost totally dry.
 
My brother had decided to stay on for a week or so as an unpaid assistant. This means for the next few days I can ‘out-source’ any work that I didn’t necessarily want to do or found tedious, involving carrying some of the heavier equipment and lunch, and he has proved up to the task, with occasional doses of humour and insight! Our first joint assignment was the weekly trundle around Crescent Island, a good 15 kilometre walk in the blazing sun and heat. This was the penultimate count, but the landowner seems increasingly reluctant to grant my passage. The ordeal involves a screening process with a lengthy wait, often meaning that the walk has to be done in the middle part of the day, with little respite from the sun.  That being the case, it was a fairly interesting Monday; we spent part of it collecting bones and carcasses from under fish eagle nests to take photos to display the difference in prey items between pairs in differing habitats-pairs further from the water’s edge have been found to feed on more varied prey such as cane rats and carrion, but in pairs close to shore the prey is mainly fish. As always the walk was fraught with danger owing to the local wildlife-in some places we had to pass through dense bush, with little visibility and towards the end of the count, there was a point where we were ‘trapped’ between a hippo in the water and an angry pit-bull terrier in someone’s back yard (no good alternatives there).

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