SAFTC completes Spring 2019 francolin survey on Verloren Valei

Important data collected to assist the Reserve manage its francolin population.

By Mike Zingel

Two Pointers find francolin. The lead dog is pointing due to scent that it has found. The second dog is backing the first. Backing is visual, not scent related, and is the dog’s inborn instinct not to disturb the find (Photograph: Mike Zingel)

Early on Saturday the 31st August 2019, The South African Field Trial Club (SAFTC), a long-time corporate member of the Friends of Verloren Valei, set out with their pointing dogs to survey for Red-winged and Grey-winged Francolin. Verloren Valei is renowned for healthy populations of these species.

The Spring 2019 survey took place on Patrysberg and Kruisberg, two of the farms that make up the Reserve, which occupy some of the highest ground.

It was a cold drizzly start but, as so often happens on Verloren Valei, the weather changed and soon the teams were enjoying a bright, sunny morning. The early-morning moisture helped scenting conditions which was very helpful seeing that the veld was so dry.

A fine German Short-haired Pointer on point

The SAFTC was accompanied by officials of Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, which controls the Reserve. Their ecologist, Jannie Coetzee, takes a keen interest in the surveys, and processes the data logged on the CyberTracker computer app during the surveys. This data is helpful in the management of francolin on the Reserve.

By midday, the designated areas had been covered and good numbers of francolin had been found, flushed, identified and counted thanks to well-trained, wide-ranging SAFTC pointing dogs.

The next francolin survey is planned for Autumn 2020.

Pointers range widely in big country like Verloren Valei (Photograph: Mike Zingel)
Diagram: Finds on courses taken

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