Industrial biodiversity 1

BDI took occupation of its unit in Epping Industria I on Monday this past week. Director Pete Laver is doing some spectacular innovations. Watch this space.

Meanwhile we are exploring our new neighbourhood. It’s a mix of industrial warehouses and factories. Lots of hard surfaces: roads, roofs and paving. But the sheer number of birds is impressive.

The most common species is House Sparrow. This is the male of a pair with a nest behind the fire alarm. What happens when the alarm goes off?

House Sparrows everywhere. This rust inspector is on the job.

Most razor wire never actually gets to serve its function of keeping intruders out. Here is an alternative use for razor wire. Providing this House Sparrow with a perch in the early morning sun.
 

Although Factory Sparrows (sorry, House Sparrows) are abundant, they do not manage to totally exclude Cape Sparrows.

Rock Doves (feral pigeons) are also almost ubiquitous. This concentration must be finding something special on the stones!
 

You need to remove the speck of dirt from your beautiful sheen.

A comfortable spot for a preen.

The Rock Doves share this space with three other members of the pigeon-dove family. This industrial Laughing Dove is closing its eyes while the southeaster ruffles its feathers.

The Red-eyed Dove has found a daytime use for street-lighting.
 

There IS a little bit of green in this picture. This Speckled Pigeon was finding food on the tar.

The third most abundant species is, like the House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon, an alien. The only green in this picture is the sheen on wing of the Common Starling.
 

There’s an indigenous starling too. This Red-winged Starling has found a little snack.
 
 

Even in this environment there are people who care for their biodiversity. People, who in their own way, are “connected to nature.” Here are three containers of water. They have rocks in them so that the birds can perch and drink (and so that the southeaster doesn’t blow them away).

Epping Industria I, established in the 1940s, is what is known as a novel ecosystem. A space so utterly transformed that it cannot serve any conservation function. Is that really true? If the biodiversity can be used to “connect to nature” the thousands of people who work here, then it can serve a purpose. We live in the “Anthropocene”, the period in which human activity is the dominant influence on the environment and on biodiversity. Ultimately, the only way we are going to achieve biodiversity conservation is by ranking up the concept of “connectedness to nature.” And BDI will try, in its way, to achieve this in Epping Industria I.

Here are two species in Epping which don’t have to compete with alien “cousins.” This Cape Wagtail is hiding in the shadow of a security fence …

.. and this, with its grey collar, is a Cape Canary …

By the time we get to write Industrial Biodiversity 2, the BDI logo will be in the frame above the door of Unit 4.
 

Les Underhill
Les Underhill
Prof Les Underhill has been Director of the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town since it started in 1991. Although citizen science in biology is Les’s passion, his academic background is in mathematical statistics. He was awarded his PhD in abstract multivariate analyses in 1973 at UCT and what he likes to say about his PhD is that he solved a problem that no one has ever had. He soon grasped that this was not the field to which he wanted to devote his life, so he retrained himself as an applied statistician, solving real-world problems.