Less-than-ideal scenting conditions (Photograph: Roberto Marcer)
On Saturday 2 July 2023, the South African Field Trial Club undertook to second francolin survey. Eleven dogs took part and unfortunately, unlike our first survey where scenting conditions were good, this survey had very poor scenting conditions. It had rained heavily the night before and the morning at the reserve was very misty and overcast—very poor scenting conditions all round.
Two groups were formed, with one group working down towards Patrysberg from the wagon wheel on top of the reserve. The other group worked down back towards the reception from the wagon wheel keeping to the right.
Despite the difficult conditions, a few birds were found, mostly Greywing . One group, working a loop route back towards reception, found seven Greywing and two Redwing. The first group, working the loop around Patrysberg where most of the birds were historically found, only flushed four Greywing during their survey.
What was noteworthy was that the dogs were picking up some scent, but were not able to “pin the bird”, possibly as a result of the exceedingly damp conditions.
Francolin survey: SAFTC teams battling cold, misty weather
Field trials held on Friday and Saturday 11 and 12 August 2023
The trials were broken down into two sections. The first was a derby maiden stake , limited to dogs that are younger than two years or that have as yet not qualified for championship stakes ( i.e. young unexperienced dogs). This event was held on Friday morning with nine dogs participating. It was run in a section of the reserve on which we have always found birds on the surveys (that is walking down from the wagon wheel towards Patrysberg). Scenting conditions were not great, but better than we experienced during the survey (see above). However, despite the fact that the ground that we covered had been productive in the past, no birds were found by the young dogs.
Scenes from the SAFTC trials weekend (Photographs: Roberto Marcer)
The open/ championship stakes began on Friday afternoon, with all 17 dogs competing. We initially worked the area behind the reception adjacent to Tom Prinsloo’s farm. Four Redwing were found in the thick marsh grass at the close to the road.
On Saturday, we started again at the wagon wheel at the top of the reserve, and walked right in the direction of Patrysberg. No birds were found in areas that are normally productive, but we did flush approximately 10 Redwing down the valley on the way back. In the past, this had always been Greywing territory.
Interestingly, Susan and Clyde Allen, who were working independently, having been eliminated from the trials on Friday, found six coveys of Greywing in the Kruisberg area. One could speculate that that the Greywings we used to find around Patrysberg had migrated further down the valley.