Jessie Walton

Jessie Walton (Fagan)

South African born and growing up mainly in the Cape, Jessie's interest from early childhood was in birds and animal behaviour. She worked in the Palaeontology department of the SA Museum before doing an agricultural diploma (Animal husbandry and Agronomy) at Elsenburg, Stellenbosch. 

Jessie now runs a specialist nursery on a farm in Elgin, and her spare time is spent rehabilitating sections of weed-infested land, creating wetland areas (She ran a pilot project) as well as establishing corridors for bird movement. She also takes in injured birds (especially raptors) to rehabilitate. Keen on bird photography, Jessie has had many photos published in various publications.

Jessie's interest in birds grew, but the turning point was meeting the late Rob Martin, who patiently imparted some of his vast knowledge to her. They worked together over six years as field monitors on EIA projects.  This allowed them to study new terrain and submit many original observations to Promerops, as well as some popular articles to B&B.  On one of these trips they found the first known Black Harrier Circus Maurus communal roost, which they subsequently monitored for a number of years.

Another ongoing project, with help from the late Phil Hockey, involved attempting to unravel the mystery of the breeding Buzzards in the Cape.  They collected data and samples over 10 years.

In 2012, Jessie started an ongoing study of the brood parasitic Brown-backed honeybird Prodotiscus regulus and the Karoo prinia Prinia maculosa hosts with the help and guidance of Claire Spottiswoode, Peter Ryan and others from the FitzPatrick Institute. The first three years were mainly spent collecting baseline data on the breeding behaviour the Brown-backed honeybird and the response of the prinias. Further study is focused on the co-evolution of the two species, as well as investigating how the nestling honeybirds recognise and kill the host chicks but (mostly) not their honeybird siblings.