Research Associates

Jessie Walton

Jessie Walton (Fagan)


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

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

My interest in birds grew, but the turning point was meeting the late Rob Martin, who patiently imparted some of his vast knowledge to me. We worked together over 6 years as field monitors on EIA projects.  This allowed us 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 we found the first known Black Harrier Circus Maurus communal roost, which we 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.  We collected data and samples over 10 years.

In 2012 we 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 Fitz. The first 3 years was mainly spent collecting baseline data on the breeding behaviour the BBHoneybird 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.