Objective of the flight:

The objective of the flight was to relocate Red-billed Oxpeckers from Limpopo to Mokala National Park in the Northern Cape. The Operation Oxpecker project was requested to catch Red-billed Oxpeckers at the Doortjie and Berg-en-Dalen farms near Swartwater in Limpopo as the farmer felt he had too many on his property and that the birds were keeping wounds on his cattle open.

Report from the beneficiary:

“A site assessment was conducted in June where 50-70 birds were seen on his cattle. The capture took place from 11th-16th August 2013 and 38 birds were caught. One bird was lost during the week.

The birds were all marked with a metal alphanumeric ring (SAfring) which individually identifies them as well as with a colour ring (in this case the colour was purple). The previous group of birds released into Mokala National Park had yellow rings on. These markings will help to know that birds seen with yellow rings were the ones released into Mokala in 2012 and those with purple rings were from the 2013 release. The birds were fed on a mixture of minced meat, minced liver, blood, Pronutro, egg and Avistress (a vitamin and electrolyte supplement used when handling or transporting birds). Avistress was also added to their water source.

On the 17th of August, the birds were caught in the early morning and placed into the transport crates, which are lined with shade cloth allowing the birds to cling onto the sides. Just before 5am, Leigh left the farm with the birds and made her way to the airstrip in Mokopane.

Noel, Andre and Mandy took off from Lanseria at about 6:30am and arrived at the Mokopane airstrip at about 7:30am. Mandy got off the plane and kindly drove Leigh’s vehicle to Lanseria airport. Leigh and the two crates of birds boarded the plane and we were off on our trip to Mokala National Park. The weather was perfect for flying. A little after 10am we landed in Mokala and a short drive later the birds were released into the temporary holding facility near the Stofdam bird hide. Once the birds had been safely relocated, Andre, Leigh and Noel departed for Kimberly to refuel and then headed home to Lanseria.

The weather for Mokala predicted a cold spell and as a precaution the birds were released on the 20th of August 2013. Operation Oxpecker will continue to monitor the population and will get regular feedback from Deon Joubert and his rangers to see where people have seen the birds. Thank you to Noel and the Bateleurs for assisting us with this relocation.

Thirty-seven Red-billed Oxpeckers were relocated to their new home in Mokala National Park. This helped to alleviate a conflict situation in Swartwater Limpopo and to boost the number of birds released in Mokala in 2012.”

Report from the pilot:

“We took off on the morning of 17th of August 2013 from Lanseria at first light with Andre on board and flew to Mokopane (old Potgietersrus) municipal airport. After a fourty-minute flight we loaded the Oxpeckers and project leader Leigh Combrink.

The flight to Kimberly was beautiful with crisp clear air and good visibility at flight level 085.

After a two and a half hour flight we landed at Mokala National Park airfield and were met by the Park Warden Deon Joubert. Deon transferred all of us to the halfway camp which was to be the birds’ new home for the next week or two prior to their release.

It was the back to the air with a short hop to Kimberly for fuel and then back to Lanseria, where I left my passengers.

The mission was again a resounding success. The total flying time was four hours forty two minutes with the birds in the air for only two and a half hours with speeds of up to 370km/hr.”