Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2015

The lovely warm winter days have certainly been abundant this year, we have had some chilly frosty mornings here in the Dargle, but by 9am it’s usually pretty warm. One thing needing mentioning, the Merricks sent through their sightings for March, but somehow they got lost in “cyber space” and only came through in June! So let’s see what pictures have been sent in and creatures spotted…

Tony Ritchie/Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

This pic of our Crowned Eagle was taken by a guest: Tony Ritchie, as the bird flew over our driving session on Monday 15th June.

Crowned Eagle

Crowned Eagle

Nikki Brighton and Tiffany Atwell (Old Kilgobbin) as well as Tammy Caine & Shane McPherson (Owl Box Project)

Early morning wanders around the farmyard have been a real treat for the last while. Often the silent silhouette of a barn owl swoops by just before the sun starts to rise. The hungry hiss of a couple of chicks in the owl box is unmistakable, but we can’t see them tucked safely in their bed high in the shed. Fortunately, Tammy Caine and Shane McPherson of the Owl Box Project visited to install a box in another shed on the farm and couldn’t resist a peek. Tiffany took these wonderful photos while they ringed the chicks so that we will be able to see if one of them takes up residence nearby.

Barn Owl 1

Barn Owl 2

Barn Owl 3

Barn Owl 4

Barn Owl 5

Dr. Amy-Leigh Shuttleworth, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Some images captured on the trail cameras on Albury Farm last month, Sandra Merrick sent through this information:

Dr Amy-Leigh put up 4 cameras during the month, as we had a very active aardvark on the farm but as usual, no luck after ten days, but there are a couple of other wonderful pics she sent us.

This huge samango monkey at sunrise was a surprise.

This huge samango monkey at sunrise was a surprise.

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

 

Jackal

Jackal

Porcupine

Porcupine

 

Reedbuck doe

Reedbuck doe

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

After attending all the recent Owl talks we’ve had in the Dargle, I have tried to be more observant to see what owls we have here on our farm. Last month we had a Barn Owl flying around inside our shed whilst we were working with the sheep. Then last week as I was driving out the gate in the evening, there was an African Eagle owl sitting on the fence just looking out over the veld. Hopefully he/she managed to catch lots of rodents and keep them out of our tractors!

Brian & Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

The first part of June did not deliver many photographs. Brian then moved the camera to a different part of the GlenGyle forest. (These were all captured with the Dargle Conservancy Trophy Camera.)

Blue Duiker

Blue Duiker

Bushbuck doe

Bushbuck doe

Bushbuck ram

Bushbuck ram

Jackal

Jackal

Porcupine Family

Porcupine Family

Spotted Genet

Spotted Genet

Tailend of a Bushpig

Tailend of a Bushpig

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm (March & June)

We were away when the juvenile Blue Crane started flying. They are still on our farm and fly to the dam every night at about 5.30pm.

Blue crane family - the juvenile started flying early march while we were away

Blue crane family – the juvenile started flying early march while we were away

Saw 7 crowned crane at the dam one evening. Have seen 2 sets of Crowned crane with one juvenile this month. Have not seen our Blue crane in a long while.

Grey crowned crane with juvenile

Grey crowned crane with juvenile

Last month we got quite excited when we saw a large hole had been dug in the hill opposite our house.

Aardvark burrow

Aardvark burrow

We went to investigate and found scratch marks from the claws of the aardvark just inside the burrow. I contacted Dr Amy Wilson who came out with her trail cameras and set up 3 outside the burrow. Unfortunately, the next 8 nights were either stormy or drizzly and cold. Much to our disappointment, the cameras showed no activity at all, so either he had bunkered down or gone elsewhere.

Aardvark claw marks inside burrow

Aardvark claw marks inside burrow

The black female sunbird was sitting when we went away but not there on our return so not sure if a juvenile had been hatched.

Black female sunbird sitting once again

Black female sunbird sitting once again

The swallows, sparrows, barn owls and rock pigeons are still around the house.

House sparrow

House sparrow

Seen a number of duiker and reed buck. They are eating the acorns.

Male duiker

Male duiker

The black sparrowhawks are still in the gum plantation. The buzzards seem to have vanished.

Jackal buzzard

Jackal buzzard

Chats, sunbirds, wagtails, southern bou bous, cape robins, drakensberg prinia, olive thrushs still around.

Olive thrush in the rain

Olive thrush in the rain

Gurney's Sugarbird

Gurney’s Sugarbird

Black sunbird on kniphofia

Black sunbird on kniphofia

I am convinced that these Malachite sunbirds were mating. I saw this happening beginning June. The problem is, do sunbirds mate in winter?

Malachites 1

Malachites

They first both landed on tree, looked at each other and then touched beaks (did not get this photo unfortunately). They moved closer together on branch and then she turned upside down and he flew on top of her – this all happened in seconds…

Malachites 4

Perhaps someone who is experienced in this behaviour can shed some light on what they were doing.

Male malachite sunbird

Male malachite sunbird

We saw our neighbour who told us that he had 9 water buck on his farm eating his pastures, so we decided to go for a hike one morning when the electricity was off for 13 hours (repairs). He also told us that there were a number of aardvark holes next to the dirt road. He had noticed the trophy camera that Dr Amy Wilson had put up the previous week, as we had told her the aardvark was around once more digging his holes. She put up several cameras around our farm roads.

Unknown butterfly

Unknown butterfly

It was a beautiful morning and we soon found the 9 Waterbuck lying in the long grass. There were many aardvark prints in the soft dirt road and also a number of large holes. I took a few pics and we carried on walking to a stream on the next door farm, wanting to stop for a tea break. What we encountered in the Wattle trees was a bush pig. Fortunately there was no confrontation and he just ran off. Whew.

Aardvark prints

Aardvark prints

The very next day those same 9 water buck arrived on our farm once more. We have always had 5 buck but now the 9 from next door had arrived – had they followed our scent?
They seemed to enjoy eating the roughage for a few hours before disappearing over the dam wall. We haven’t seen them since.

The water buck are back, but 9 arrived on farm this time although only managed to get 7 in this shot

The water buck are back, but 9 arrived on farm this time although only managed to get 7 in this shot

The one Barn owlet was giving us a lot of problems through the month by flying through the security beams every night. We were getting a little tired of this and one night when he arrived on the window sill I told Pat to go and fetch him before the dogs caught him! We put him in a large box and took him to Free Me next day. We decided to do this before he injured his wings. All the previous owlets that we have taken to Free Me had injured their wings. When I went to go see him a week later at Free Me, I was told that Tammy Caine from the Raptor Rehab centre had arrived at Free Me and had ringed him and taken him away. I just hope that he will be released soon in an area where he will be happy.

Barn owl on window sill

Barn owl on window sill

I have seen a number of commodore butterflies this month. One sat on the ceiling in our lounge for a week. One warm morning when I opened the doors he flew out.

Garden Commodore (Precis archesia)

Garden Commodore (Precis archesia)

Emperor swallowtail

Emperor swallowtail

A pair of African shelduck at the dam.

A pair of shelduck

A pair of shelduck

A yellowbilled duck hatched out 10 ducklings beginning of the month. So very late. A few days ago only 4 were left! Every night about 60 spurwing geese spend the night on the dam. Pat saw 3 francolin chicks.

Yellow bill duck and 4 ducklings

Yellow bill duck and 4 ducklings

There are a lot of reedbuck around – a few days ago saw a baby reedbuck with mom which was encouraging as the jackal are still howling every night.

Female reedbuck

Female reedbuck

Exploring Forest Habitats

Thanks to the Dargle Conservancy, the Midlands Conservancies Forum and N3TC, grade 5 and 6 learners from Corrie Lynn Primary School were afforded the opportunity to go on a wonderful school outing on the 24 June 2015. The children were excited to embark on an adventure in the nearby Kilgobbin forest.

Corrie 3 2015

We gathered in the school library and went through the rules of the day. The children laughed initially when I said we were going to be visiting a home, but then I introduced the concept of visiting a habitat and not disturbing the inhabitants just as we would never barge into someone’s home uninvited and behave badly. Some of the children knew exactly what a habitat was and then when I asked them if they knew what biodiversity meant they were quick to respond with ‘lots of different living things’. What bright sparks! I taught them my biodiversity song because it was a fun way to get moving in the chilly morning air.

The group of 19 children split into four groups and each group received a different coloured bandana and came up with a team name. We had The Strawberries, The Superstrikers, The Monsters and The Bananas. Team leaders were appointed with Sibu, Gugu, Gill and Abi taking charge. They received a booklet on the forest and an information sheet on animal tracks to use for reference.

Corrie 2 2015

We gathered in Barend and Helen Booysen’s garden and did some deep breathing exercises in a circle to get relaxed and become more aware of our surroundings. We were ready to enter the magic gate into the whimsical forest! The children were very respectful and soon found seeds, feathers, shells, interesting fungi and lichens. When we reached the stream the groups split up and went habitat hunting to find places where spiders were nesting, interesting burrows in the stream banks and places where civet and mongoose had come to drink. Others found bushpig tracks and porcupine quills, as well as a tiny nest. When this exercise was well and truly done we headed further along the path, gazing up at the huge trees and chatting softly.

Corrie 1 2015

At the next big clearing we settled down and sat with our eyes closed, listening to the unique sounds of the forest. Now that the kids were relaxed we had a storytelling session. Stories included ‘The Memory Tree’, which is about loss and how to heal a sore heart, as well as a funny story called ‘Please Frog, just one sip’. Everyone was starting to feel a little hungry after all the stories, so we headed up to the wonderful campsite for sandwiches, fruit and delicious crisp spring water straight from the hose-pipe. Some children were lucky and spotted a lone samango monkey while we were there.

Corrie 4 2015

We laid out the treasures that had been picked up along the way and on our way back returned them to the forest (apart from a few cape chestnut seeds which the children want to grow and bring back to plant in the forest). We stopped at the bottom of the hill and discussed how protected areas such as this forest are needed for the wild animals to live and hide, breed and roam. The children all agreed that it is very important and that only having domesticated animals in our environment could be very boring.

Corrie 5 2015

We chose to walk back to the gate in complete silence. This was a challenge, but everybody managed it and the group felt very calm and reverent as we bid the forest goodbye. We stopped to admire the huge arum lilies by the stream and then clambered back into our vehicles to head back to school.

Upon our return, the groups gathered once again to write down their experiences: 

  • “It is my first time to go into a forest, it is so peaceful and beautiful and I would like to bring my own children back here some time”. Ms. Chalufa (Grade 1 & 2 teacher who volunteered to accompany us)

  • “Our group saw a mushroom, a monkey and shells of snails. We liked seeing the birds and the big yellowwood trees”. Siyanda Mkhulisi & Nhlonipho Nkomo

  • “We saw lots of things in the forest! Some examples are: a yellow frog, spiders, tree seeds and a loerie bird. Some people think that trees should be cut down or removed- this is not good and we think they should not be allowed”. Samekelisiwe , Wandiswa , Lungelo and Anele

  • “We enjoy(ed) looking for the animal footprints in mud. It was so exciting to be in the forest. We saw birds, a bee and a white butterfly”. Siyabonga, Mxolisi, Samkelo and Bongeka

  • “In the forest we were excited to see a lot of different feathers and kinds of trees, the long, short and big ones. We saw an ant with black spots, a big fungi and bees. We like to walk in the forest”. Thembeka, Fezeka, Kwanele, and Siphesihle

The day ended with big hugs and thanks to Gill & Abi Nelson, who were thrilled to be part of the excitement: “Today was an absolute pleasure! Wish we could do it more often. Thanks for inviting us to join in. Mwah!”

The kids headed home grubby, tired and happy.

Threatened Plant Species – Moraea hiemalis

IRIDACEAE: Moraea hiemalis [Near threatened]

The elegant Moraea hiemalis is a solitary plant that grows to heights of 450 mm in open grassland, with its distribution restricted to parts of Pietermaritzburg, Richmond and Kamberg. The second part of the binomial name “hiemalis” means “of the winter”, which refers to the mid-winter flowering season that falls between the months of July and August.

Moraea hiemalis

Moraea hiemalis

Plants produce an underground storage stem (corm), 12 mm diameter that has dark brown tunics (coat of the bulb) with netted-veins. The stems are 150 mm long, upright, single, gradually narrowing over a long distance and brown at the apex, and contain enveloping and enclosing bract leaves .

Leaves are solitary and lengthier when compared to the stems. The leaves are scale-like, whole, brittle and brown in colour on the surface and ribbed and silver-purple beneath. The leaf margins are rolled inwards and cylindrical with a groove on the side towards the axis, 5 mm diam. The large enveloping and enclosing leaf bracts are herbaceous, desiccated, gradually narrowing over a long distance and light brown at the apex. The interior leaf bracts are 10 mm long and the exterior bracts are equivalent to or shorter than the interior bracts.

The flowers of the Moraea hiemalis are yellow with deep apparent veins and intense yellow nectar guides that are clearly visible on the outer tepals (a segment of a perianth which is not differentiated into sepals and petals). Outer tepals 50 mm long, limb 30 mm long and 20 mm wide. The flowers are marginally curved backwards. The inner tepals are 35 mm long and 12 mm wide, upright, narrowly egg-shaped and tapering to a point on the axis.

The filaments are 7 mm long, attached midway downwards. The anthers are 8mm long. The Ovary is 15 mm long, protruding out of the scale-like leaves. The style is 20 mm long, 10 mm wide and tubular. Seeds are flat like a disc or plate.

Have you seen this beautiful plant growing naturally? If so, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager: s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References:

  • Goldblatt, P. 1986. The Moraeas of South Africa: a systematic monograph of the genus in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Transkei, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Annals of Kirstenbosch Botanic gardens. 14: 1 -224. National Botanic Gardens.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – June 2015

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”: This June we’ve experienced swings in temperature, from hot berg wind days

Before the cold front.

Before the cold front.

to icy frosts and damp overcast or misty days, with four snow falls visible on the Drakensberg.

Snow on the Drakensberg

Snow on the Drakensberg

The days after the cold fronts have gone through sparkle with clarity and golden colour.

After a cold front.

After a cold front.

Added to the atmospherics is the constant smoke from firebreak burning.

Sunrise

Sunrise

This has resulted in some stunning dawn and sunset colour. Very few flowers, even for June, as it’s been dry and frost burns back tender buds.

Sunset

Sunset

There have been some interesting birds around. A lone White Stork foraged in dry grass, missed the flight to northern summer. An African Harrier-Hawk swooped low amongst the trees, bombed by Drongos as they chased it off. In the indigenous shrubbery tapping could be heard, a Cardinal Woodpecker. Not far off two Black-crowned Tchagras flitted through the branches, I have only seen them here once before, over ten years ago.

The lone White Stork

The lone White Stork

Amethyst and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds are still here. A Long-crested Eagle sits sentry on Eskom poles. At night the familiar sound of Spotted Eagle-Owls calling. My favourite small birds, Cape White-eyes, love the small birdbath on the verandah, bathing several times a day.

Cape White-eyes bathing

Cape White-eyes bathing

A stunning Duster moth, Pingasa abyssiniaria rested on the windowpane. One of their larvae foods is Cabbage Trees.

Duster Moth - Pingasa abyssiniaria

Duster Moth – Pingasa abyssiniaria

A tiny spider caught a ladybird and spent most of the morning binding it to place in its web.

Spider and Ladybird

Spider and Ladybird

Near the garage shallow trenches have been ploughed up by Bushpig. I didn’t see them this time, but have in the past.

Bushpig rootings

Bushpig rootings

Other excavators have been very busy pushing up mounds of earth creating wonderful replenishing top soil for the lawn. Mammal Mole & Mole-rat excavations When we dug our well many years ago, a Cape Mole-rat Georychus capensis, fell in and drowned.

Cape Mole-rat

Cape Mole-rat

This interested biologists as the main populations are found in the Western Cape, with very small remnant populations near Giant’s Castle, in small areas of Lesotho and Mpumalanga. Dr. Peter Taylor brought Professor Nigel Bennett here hoping to observe live animals. 

Distribution of Cape Mole-rat

Distribution of Cape Mole-rat

They didn’t succeed, but did find an unexpected small Mole-rat usually found in Lesotho, Crytomys mahalia.

Male Cryptomys mahali

Male Cryptomys mahalia

We also have Common or African Mole-rats Cryptomys hottentotus here.

Common or African Mole-rat

Common or African Mole-rat

Apart from the Mole-rats, Tigger our cat once caught a Hottentot Golden Mole Amblysomus hottentotus.

Hottentot Golden Mole

Hottentot Golden Mole

So there is a subterranean hive of activity. Please excuse some of the photos, they were taken with a small camera!

Hottentot Golden Mole by C. Grant

Hottentot Golden Mole by C. Grant

(Photo and map images also from ‘Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa’ C&T Stuart pub Struik, ‘The Mammal Guide of Southern Africa’ B Cillie’ pub Briza and ‘Sani Pass Mammals’ poster illustrated C Grant pub WESSA Sani Wildlife.) Rob and Celia Speirs of “The Rockeries”: On Montshonga dam, we saw an African Jacana and a Squacco Heron. We also saw Little Grebe; Three-banded Plover; Sacred Ibis; Cape Wagtail; Pied Crows; Reed Cormorant; Blacksmith Lapwing; Black-winged Lapwing; Pied Kingfisher; Pygmy Kingfisher; and eight Cape Parrots which were harried by a Pied Crow and departed. The usual Yellow-billed Ducks and Egyptian Geese were around. Peter and Karen Geldart of “Cocquidale”: Regular visitors were six Southern Ground-Hornbills. David and Wizz Lawrence of “The Willows”: Nightly call of the Spotted Eagle-Owl; splendid male Reedbuck in wetlands. Bruce and Bev Astrup of “Highland Glen”: Oodles of Egyptian Geese in the tall surrounding trees and also Spur-winged Geese; plus Spotted Eagle-Owl heard calling. Barbara and David Clulow, visiting on 25th June: Family group of three Grey Crowned Cranes over “Netherby”, circled and settled to feed in old maize lands. Rob and Gail Geldart on “Boston View” and “Watershed”: Small herd of Eland; a Waterbuck, Common Reedbuck; a notable increase in the numbers of Mountain Reedbuck; two Oribi; Blesbuck, which never stay put, Grey Duiker and Bushbuck. Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”: I’ve seen a small herd of five Mountain Reedbuck. Also a Common Reedbuck and, while out horse-riding, I’ve been pleased to see an Otter swimming in a dam. The Porcupine seem to be quite active as I’ve come across quite a few quills in various locations out and about. There has been the resident Grey Duiker in the home paddocks and I’ve seen her a couple of times. The troop of Vervet Monkeys has visited a few times – they seem especially to lounge in the trees and watch me if I’m doing some training with one of the young horses. I also had a sad case of finding a dead Little Sparrowhawk. I think it may have flown into a window as it had broken it’s neck. I have lots of other Sparrows, nesting around my house, so that may be the reason. I’ve some African Hoopoe birds, eating on the grass at the moment too. Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”: In mid-winter it is only the hardy residents still hanging around and getting a bird list of 60 – 70 is hard work. A welcome sight was Black-winged Lapwings, making use of their preferred short grassland habitat.

Black-winged Lapwing

Black-winged Lapwing

It is easier to spot the gaudy Malachite Kingfisher against the pale, frost-bleached landscape of browns and yellows,

Malachite Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher

but you have to look twice to make sure the brown shape huddled on a rock is a Hamerkop and not a Hadeda.

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

In winter when you spot a raptor on a pole you can be fairly certain it will be a Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

And the wires are also sometimes used by Rock Kestrels.

Rock Kestrel

Rock Kestrel

The list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Sombre Greenbul, Brown-throated Martin, Black-headed Heron, Green Wood-hoopoe, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Black Sparrowhawk, Natal Spurfowl, Cape Longclaw, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Robin-chat, Red-necked Spurfowl, Spotted Eagle-owl, Cape Glossy Starling, Cape Weaver, Southern Red Bishop (in winter plumage),

Southern Red Bishop

Southern Red Bishop

Red-throated Wryneck, Drakensberg Prinia, Amethyst Sunbird, Pied Starling,

Pied Starling

Pied Starling

Levaillant’s Cisticola, Three-banded Plover, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-shouldered Kite, Cape Sparrow, Village Weaver, Southern Boubou, Cape White-eye, South African Shelduck, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Bokmakierie, Pied Kingfisher,

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Grebe, African Pipit, Red-capped Lark, Spectacled Weaver, Black-headed Oriole, African Rail, African Stonechat, Cape Grassbird, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Sacred Ibis, Common Waxbill, African Spoonbill, Common Fiscal, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Cape Wagtail, Grey Crowned Crane, Hadeda Ibis, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Crow, Fork-tailed Drongo, Long-crested Eagle, Speckled Pigeon. Also providing a splash of colour is Yellow-fronted Canary,

Yellow-fronted Canary

Yellow-fronted Canary

While it was nice to find a little posse of Bronze Mannikins near the Boston garage.

Bronze Mannikin

Bronze Mannikin

Stop Fracking in its Tracks

It comes as a surprise to most South Africans to discover that land ownership does not extend to ownership of any of the minerals buried in the earth. Mineral rights belong to the State. ‘Mineral’ means any substance, whether in solid, liquid or gaseous form, occurring naturally in or on the earth.

FRACK 01

We are justifiably proud of our Constitution – it is one of the best in the world. The Bill of Rights section of the Constitution includes our right to an environment that is not harmful to our health and wellbeing and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations – through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation, promote conservation and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources, while promoting justifiable economic and social development. In reality, economic rights and development goals often override environmental rights leading to a situation where people have to live with toxic air, polluted water and downright dangerous surroundings.

FRACK 05 rs

Two companies, Rhino Oil & Gas and Sungu Sungu, have been issued Technical Cooperation Permits (TCP) by the SA Government for large swathes of KwaZulu-Natal. The TCP permits allow the companies to survey existing geological maps/seismic data and explore the area, but not to actually prospect – i.e. disturb the earth. Landowners cannot legally object to a permit holder entering their property, if they have been given 14 days written notice. Prospecting Permits (issued by Department of Mineral and Energy, not Environmental Affairs) allow the prospector to establish the existence of the mineral or gas by digging test holes or wells. They have the right to extract gas if they find it and, rest assured, they will take it to the next level should they find something! We need to prevent the issuing of prospecting licences as these will inevitably lead to full scale extraction. In the case of fracking the same extractive techniques which are employed in full-scale operations, are likely to be used in the prospecting phase. This has the potential to impact on the water, soil and air in the vicinity.

f13

Most of us agree that fracking in the Midlands will completely destroy the sense of place and our psychological wellbeing, let alone the environmental disaster it could cause. How do we ensure this does not happen? It is vitally important for landowners to be prepared and informed should prospectors arrive at their gate and to ensure they have followed the correct notification procedures. Often environmental consequences are not valued as much as the effect on humans, so make sure you know all about the health issues associated with fracking – pollution from toxic emissions, dust, noise and light, waste disposal, water pollution and the impacts from truck traffic. One of our best allies may be the local Municipality. Make sure that you participate in the public process of creating the Land Use Management Scheme (LUMS) for the area. Listen to others and speak up, don’t expect someone else to deal with these issues on your behalf. Become informed – the internet makes it so easy!

FRACK 02

Make friends with local officials. In the Midlands, land zoned for ‘Agricultural Use’ will need to be re-zoned for mining, so current local land use could help prevent fracking. Help your Municipality to understand that they will need to deal with all the waste, water and environmental issues that mining creates, but without benefitting financially. Any benefit in terms of employment creation is likely to be limited and of short duration whereas the negative impact on tourism is likely to gravely affect municipal income and job creation in the area.

f4

Register and comment on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for developments when they arise in your area. Inappropriate development affects our health, water and food security. Start now on smaller projects to get used to the public participation process – don’t assume someone else is doing this work. We will achieve much more with a strong common voice. If we need to fight on behalf of the environment in court, at least our Natural Environment Management Act (NEMA) ensures that even if we lose, costs are not ordered against us. Let’s make sure that it does not come to that.

f7

Other places on our planet have successfully prevented mining with low-tech tactics like refusing to serve or host prospectors in restaurants and B&B’s, creating human barriers that last for months and relentlessly reporting minor infringements like insufficient ablution facilities for workers. The Midlands is renowned for its creativity, surely we will not allow prospectors to destroy our environment for short term exploitation of a non-renewable resource. Support other communities fighting mining, such as Fuleni beside the iMfolozi Wilderness Area, Xolobeni on the Wild Coast and Mtunzini up the North Coast. See how they have approached their stand to keep their ecosystems functioning and learn the lessons to make your campaign more successful. Everyone can make a difference, no matter how small the action may seem.

SOLAR 01

Sign the petition: extra.greenpeaceafrica.org/petitions/keep-fracking-out-of-the-drakensberg-karoo

Learn from other campaigns:

Threatened Plant Species – Disperis woodii

ORCHIDACEAE: Disperis woodii [Declining]

Disperis woodii commonly known as Wood’s Disperis was named after John Medley Wood (1827 – 1915), a botanist and collector who became the first curator of the Natal Herbarium. Many people will know him through his numerous publication on KZN flora. The exquisite orchid is a declining species, which is under threat from urban development and sugarcane cultivation.

Disperis woodii is found in the damp, sandy grasslands of KZN and the Eastern Cape, growing to heights of between 40 – 150mm. Disperis woodii contains two leaves that are alternate, sharply pointed, dark green with silvery veins, egg-shaped with the wider part below the middle and are situated at the base or on the stem.

Wood's Disperis - Disperis woodii. Photograph by Geoff Nichols

Wood’s Disperis – Disperis woodii. Photograph by Geoff Nichols

Flowers are solitary, whitish or pink, in the axil of a small bract on a red stalk. Median sepal are egg-shaped with an upright, tubular spur (a slender hollow extension of the perianth, often containing nectar), 10 – 15mm long and dark yellow-green. Lateral sepals are broadest at the middle with two equal rounded ends, gradually narrowing to a long tip, however, the spurs are not pointed and are 4 – 6mm long, marked with a longitudinal pink streak. The petals are attached to the median sepal, curved like a sickle and divided into two unequal parts. They are long and rounded in outline, gradually narrowing to a long tip of 5 mm long and 3 mm wide. The ovary of Disperis woodii is egg-shaped and about 4 mm long.

Disperis woodii can be seen flowering between March and August.

Please report sightings of these naturally occurring plants to Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References:

  • Kurzweil, H. & Victor, J.E. 2005. Disperis woodii Bolus. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2014.1. Accessed on 2015/06/04
  • Linder, H.P. & Kurzweil, H. 1999. Orchids of Southern Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam.
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Autumn 2015

Barry Downard

Here’s an unusual sighting – a Praying Mantis “riding” a bicycle!

Praying Mantis fits in with the KZN Midlands lifestyle.

Praying Mantis fits in with the KZN Midlands lifestyle.

Brandon Powell

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 08

We climbed Inhlosane in a stiff autumn wind – the view of the changing colours of the landscape and fast-sailing clouds was incomparable, as was the huge eagle that flew straight over our heads as soon as we opened the first weissbier at the top…

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 07

There seemed to be beautiful, late-blooming flowers in every crevice and cranny of the mountain.

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 01 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 06 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 05 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 04 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 03 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 02

At Bukamanzi the spiders and beetles get odder and odder looking, but I’m quite fond of them now: This shy, translucent one hides under the rose leaves.

2015-05-04 Bukamanzi 01

There’s a rather mad-looking orange and black one who turned up in the kindling basket.

Scorpion Spider

Scorpion Spider

And a beetle with a back that looks like a Congolese mask.

2015-05-04 Bukamanzi 03

Otherwise it’s been the usual Reedbuck, jackal and vervet monkeys but no sign of the resident genet or duiker in while.

A new addition is the resident snake, Sir Hiss, who I trod on one afternoon on the sunny door-mat. He streaked away like molten toffee being thrown in the air, a wild line of green, as I yelled and jumped up and down on the kitchen table for a good hour. After I described him to her, Helen Booysen thought it must have been a boomslang. She would know, after finding Barend with one whirling around his head like a kite. As snakes go it was wonderful to look at but like a mad horse I still shy away stupidly from hose-pipes/dropped tea-towels/dead sticks.

Our bit of the valley has had an especially fine blaze of autumn colour and flowers:

2015-05-09 Autumn 02

And as ever it’s the details that really stay with one long after the big showy scenes have faded from memory:

2015-05-09 Autumn 01

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

I think we are extraordinarily privileged to be able to observe wildlife at close quarters – often from the comfort of our favourite chair. Over the top of my computer screen, I was able to watch this gorgeous Golden Orb Web spider for a few weeks.

Golden Orb spider

Golden Orb spider

The low sun catching the threads of the web and creating sparkles in the partial shade of the forest. Quite challenging to photograph.

Golden Orb Spider

Golden Orb Spider

After a windy day, red Halleria lucida blossoms were caught in the web creating a really festive forest decoration. She is gone now.

Spider silhouette

Spider silhouette

Just outside, Hadedas built a nest in the Kiggelaria africana tree and hatched two babies. Once again, I was able to observe them at leisure, which was a treat, although the droppings made the most awful mess on the shrubs and patio beneath. Astonishing how two big chicks managed to perch on the tiny, flimsy nest. Before the fledged, they hopped from branch to branch stretching their wings.

Hadeda chicks

Hadeda chicks

A Midlands Autumn classic is the blaze of Leonotis leonaurus across fields and along roadsides. They are particularly spectacular this year.

Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonaurus

Wild Dagga – Leonotis leonaurus

Also still in flower in the long grass is the dainty, parasitic Striga bilabiata. The pinkish mauve flowers with prominent veins are borne on hairy, plum coloured stems.

Striga bilabiata

Striga bilabiata

Veronia natalensis (I think) is also still flowering. The dark purple contrasts beautifully with the gold, bronze and russet grasses.

Veronia  natalensis

Veronia natalensis

Not so natural, but spectacular nonetheless, are the seed heads of Blackjacks (Bidens pilosa) along paths in the grassland.

Blackjacks

Blackjacks

Also in the grassland, there are lots of buck to be seen. I spotted Oribi (a group of three), Common Duiker and Reedbuck.

Beautiful Reedbuck ram

Beautiful Reedbuck ram

Relaxing in the sunshine in the middle of the road one afternoon was this beautiful Midlands Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates). I moved him out of harm’s way and took some photos. Lucky me.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Mike and Anne Weedon

With much of our grass having been cut and the weather allowing for some green growth, the numbers of Reedbuck spotted have increased somewhat in recent weeks.

Female Bushbuck

Female Bushbuck

One of our members of staff was fortunately alerted by a scuffle in the bushes on the way to work recently and, on investigating, discovered a rather exhausted Serval (Leptailurus serval) caught in a snare. Not wanting to unnecessarily alarm the poor animal, I called on Free-Me and SA Can for assistance and they both reacted immediately. With a blanket over its head, the serval was soon calmed and the snare around its rump was quickly removed. A thorough examination surprisingly revealed no injuries whatsoever and the cat was released back into the bush. Many thanks for the prompt and expert help from these two wonderful organisations.

Serval trapped in snare. Free-me and SA CAN helped to free it.

Serval trapped in snare. Free-me and SA CAN helped to free it.

David Crookes

Sunset over Mavela Dam.

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Pat and Sandra Merrick

Some lovely sightings in April and May:

White-throated Swallow chicks thrown out their nest.

White-throated Swallow chicks thrown out their nest.

Painted lady butterfly

Painted lady butterfly

Dead jackal on D17 - run over during the night.

Dead jackal on D17 – run over during the night.

This moth was on the window when I drew the curtains one morning - no idea of its identity.

This moth was on the window when I drew the curtains one morning – no idea of its identity.

These lizards are very social and run in and out the rocks while I am gardening.

These lizards are very social and run in and out the rocks while I am gardening.

Jackal buzzard

Jackal buzzard

Southern Boubou shrieking at her partner down below her

Southern Boubou shrieking at her partner down below her

Malachite sunbird in autumn colours.

Malachite sunbird in autumn colours.

I think this is a reed frog in its brown colouring.

I think this is a reed frog in its brown colouring.

Buff-streaked Chats having a bath one hot morning

Buff-streaked Chats having a bath one hot morning

Reed cormorant drying its wings after diving in and out the pond all morning eating crabs and frogs.

Reed cormorant drying its wings after diving in and out the pond all morning eating crabs and frogs.

Common baboon spider

Common baboon spider

We have had 5 female water buck on the farm this month. They seem to hide during the day in the gum trees and come out in the early evening to drink at the dam.

We have had 5 female water buck on the farm this month. They seem to hide during the day in the gum trees and come out in the early evening to drink at the dam.

Female waterbuck

Female waterbuck

An Aardvark dug this huge hole in our driveway. We filled it in but he came back several times and dug it out again. So presumably heaps of termites down this hole.

An Aardvark dug this huge hole in our driveway. We filled it in but he came back several times and dug it out again. So presumably heaps of termites down this hole.

Cattle Egrets and Reed cormorants settling down for the night.

Cattle Egrets and Reed cormorants settling down for the night.

Secretary bird showing his crown of feathers.

Secretary bird showing his crown of feathers.

African Stonechat

African Stonechat

Crowned crane on power lines at dusk - juvenile in the middle with small crown.

Crowned crane on power lines at dusk – juvenile in the middle with small crown.

We have had a pair of Blacksmith plovers sleeping in our garden each evening - they would walk around the house with their distinct tink tink sound waking me up.

We have had a pair of Blacksmith plovers sleeping in our garden each evening – they would walk around the house with their distinct tink tink sound waking me up.