The Black Sparrowhawk Project was started in 2000 to monitor the Black Sparrowhawks on the Cape Peninsula. These birds of prey (raptors) are particularly fond of nesting in tall pine and eucalyptus trees, both of which are classed as “alien species” in South Africa. The planned removal of all alien vegetation from the Table Mountain Nature Reserve area on the Peninsula, would, therefore, have a major impact on these birds and that has been the main focus of the project. As many nesting territories as possible have been identified and the individual birds have been uniquely marked so that each of them could be followed as it goes about its daily life.
The study area runs along the edges of the mountain range that stretches along the length of the Cape Peninsula. This area consists of Fynbos conservation areas, pine plantations, and vineyards which start at the edge of the mountain cliffs, and give way, at lower altitudes, to greenbelts, golf courses, and large leafy gardens which, in turn, gradually end up in the sprawling suburbs of Cape Town with its cemeteries and recreation areas on the sandy Cape Flats.
For the people working on this project, all volunteers, the journey of discovering the intimate lives of these charismatic birds has been fascinating. Becoming familiar with individual birds and their very varied characters and their adventures over the years has been a privilege for all of us.