Threatened Plant Species – Hermannia sandersonii

MALVACEAE: Hermannia sandersonii (Vulnerable)

This wonderful low-growing shrublet, commonly known as umakotegoyile in Zulu, is named after John Sanderson (1820 – 1881) who was a journalist, plant collector, and honorary secretary of the Natal Agricultural and Horticultural Society. This vibrant plant is found in grasslands, Indian Ocean Coastal Belt, on steep slopes in silty sand. Its distribution ranges at Camperdown, New Hanover, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Umgeni and Glenside on the Noodsberg.

Hermannia sandersonii by Alison Young

Hermannia sandersonii by Alison Young

The shrublet is upright and multi-stemmed, with the stems partially divided into leaflets which are star-shaped with stiff hairs. The stems are about 204 mm with distant leaves about 40 mm long. The leaves are partially without a stalk, wrinkled, notched with teeth, star-shaped with long stiff hairs on the upper and velvety yellowish beneath. The flowers are in terminal clusters and very hairy. The roots are dense and woody.

Look out for this plant from September to March and please report these sightings to Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References:

  • Harv. Flora Capensis (Harvey). 1:200.186
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – April, May and June 2015

White Faced Duck

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill:

When Twané gave me her personal list of sightings, she said that she had seen 14 Wattled Cranes on April the first. I thought this was her idea of an April Fool’s, but she was being serious!

Wattled Cranes

Wattled Cranes at the Loskop Pan by Twané Clarke

Pairs of Grey Crowned Cranes have been hanging around the Loskop Hide, but their nest building appears to have come to an end.

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes by Patrick Cahill

I recently saw a Natal Spurfowl (aka Natal Francolin before the taxonomists started messing with our glossaries) and several visitors have reported them during the month.

Natal Spurfowl

Natal Spurfowl by Patrick Cahill

A big thanks to the Karkloof residents who assisted with the NguniTV team to produce the excellent documentary for 50/50 on our Cranes. Congratulations to Charlie and Twané for their performance on the box. They are prepared (for a small fee) to autograph your TV sets. It will be a great loss to the Karkloof if they are tempted to forsake us for a career on the screen! Watch it here: https://youtu.be/9Cb_Tddm0ng

Many visitors have reported regular sightings of Black-winged Lapwings and Malachite Kingfishers, whilst a pair of African Jacana appear to have taken up squatters rights on the Loskop Pan. A Pied Kingfisher was spotted recently saying grace before taking the plunge to get lunch.

Let us prey. Pied Kingfisher by Patrick Cahill

Let us prey. Pied Kingfisher by Patrick Cahill

Other sightings included:

Southern Red Bishop, Dark-capped Bulbul, Forest Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-fronted Canary, Familiar Chat, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Zitting Cisticola, Red-knobbed Coot, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Cape Crow, Pied Crow, African Darter, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, White-faced Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Great Egret, Yellow-billed Egret, Common Fiscal, Southern Black Flycatcher, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Little Grebe, Helmeted Guineafowl, Hamerkop, African Marsh-Harrier, Black-headed Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, African Sacred Ibis, Hededa Ibis, Southern Bald Ibis, Giant Kingfisher, Black-shouldered Kite, African Wattled Lapwing, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, Common Moorhen, Barn Owl, African Olive Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, Three-banded Plover, Drakensberg Prinia, Red-billed Quelea, African Rail, Cape Robin-Chat, Secretarybird, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler, African Snipe, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Spoonbill, African Stonechat, White Stork, Amethyst Sunbird, Barn Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Hottentot Teal, Red-billed Teal, Cape Wagtail, Common Waxbill, Village Weaver, Pin-tailed Whydah, Fan-tailed Widowbird, and Cardinal Woodpecker.

Bird Ringing @ Mbona – Karin Nelson:

I was recently privileged to do some bird ringing in Mbona Private Nature Reserve upon invitation by Richard Booth. Forest edge birding is always very special, as you never know what you may catch. This day being no exception!

Bush Blackcap by Karin Nelson

Bush Blackcap by Karin Nelson

We caught, ringed and released 27 birds, representing 19 different species which included:
Bush Blackcap, Orange Ground-Thrush, Barratt’s Warbler, Lemon Dove, Cape Batis, Forest Canary, White-starred Robin, Swee Waxbill, Sombre Greenbul and Dark-backed Weaver.

Orange Ground Thrush by Richard Booth

Orange Ground-Thrush by Richard Booth

A great ringing morning for me with 2 species that I’d never ringed before. It was also good to meet some of the Mbona residents who came to see what bird ringing is about. We plan to have further ringing sessions, possibly once a season at Mbona.

Barats Warbler by Karin Nelson

Barratt’s Warbler by Karin Nelson

Thanks to Richard for the invite and a great morning.

Cape Batis by Richard Booth

Cape Batis by Richard Booth

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth:

The Greater Double-collared Sunbirds are in our garden where they spend much of the day feeding in the Pink Plumes (Syncolostemon densiflorus) which are in bloom, a real favourite of theirs.

by Richard Booth

Male Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Richard Booth

by Richard Booth

Female Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Richard Booth

Some happy news from Mbona is that we have a pair of Cape Parrots nesting high up in a dead eucalyptus tree on our Reserve. We first discovered them in April and were then seen regularly at the site during May.

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Mt. Gilboa Nature Reserve – Richard Booth:

During the walk at the Mount Gilboa Nature Reserve in April, which was organised by the Karkloof Conservancy and lead by Kevin McCann of the Wildlands Conservation Trust, as well as Donna Lay who is the manager of this reserve.

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

What stood out most in this grassland and wetland habitat, was a gorgeous display of these special White Nerine, Nerine pancratioides. One picture is enlarged to show a fly with a long proboscis coming in to feed and pollinate. Spoiler alert: This is the flower chosen for April in the Midlands Conservancies Forum calendar which will be on sale from September!

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Loskop Dairy Farm – AJ Liebenberg (bestuurder):

On the 16 April, AJ was fortunate enough to see a Serval catching mice or rats in the maize lands near the Polo grounds in the early hours – 00h30! He watched it jump around as it tried to pounce on the little rodents.

Common Duiker by AJ Liebenberg

Common Duiker by AJ Liebenberg

He has also been seeing a variety of buck around Loskop, which includes Common (Grey) Duiker, Common Reedbuck and a female Bushbuck that came into the garden.

Reedbuck ram by AJ Liebenberg

Reedbuck ram by AJ Liebenberg

Bushbuck doe by AJ Liebenberg

Bushbuck doe by AJ Liebenberg

Something he has been noticing more often are about 4 Warthogs in the cut maize lands near the club.

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Another interesting offering were photographs of the Black-winged Lapwings which he noticed around the farmlands, especially under the irrigation systems. There are easily over a hundred of them that gather in an area. Shortly after his sighting, Graham and Trish McGill, from Umtentweni KZN, popped into the Conservation Centre and was desperately looking to photograph some of these birds for his website.

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

AJ was quite happy for us to point out their location and allow him to get a little closer. Much to our amusement, he set up a portable bird hide under the Centre Pivot and waited patiently for them to get closer. This got all the locals driving by quite excited, as they all thought that someone was illegally hunting and immediately got on the phone to warn AJ. A good exercise to check if your neighbours are vigilant! Graham popped back to the Centre to excitedly show us his superb photographs. You can see his photos here:
SA Birding Photography

This is a great website to use when confirming the identification of a bird species.

Taking a Closer Look – Vicki Street:

Vikki, a regular visitor to our Conservation Centre, took these magnificent photographs in April of Damselflies, Ladybugs, Spiders, Flies and Butterflies. These creatures are often the food source for many of the birds that you see from our hides. At a recent talk at the KZN Midlands Bird Club meeting, David Johnson spoke about “50 ways to eat an insect”, which was not only humorous, but a wonderful insight into the many adaptations of insectivorous birds. Next time you’re birding, keep your eyes open for the little wonders.

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Wattled Crane – Andrew Cairncross:

Spent a very pleasant morning at Karkloof and was lucky enough to capture a Wattled Crane. It really is a superb place to visit.

Wattled Crane by Andrew Cairncross

Wattled Crane by Andrew Cairncross

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – July 2015

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

We have been spoilt this month by the visitation of a pair of wattled crane every few days. The one is ringed – Left leg: large white and Right leg: small red over small blue. Quite distinctive in the photo. The other one is not ringed but has a limp. This sighting will be reported to the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Crane Programme.

A pair of wattled crane have been arriving at the dam every few days during the month. One has a white ring on his right leg and a red ring (upper) and blue on the other leg

A ringed Wattled Crane

The wattled cranes enjoyed wading at sunset amongst the egyptian and spurwing geese

The wattled cranes enjoyed wading at sunset amongst the egyptian and spurwing geese

The black sparrow hawks nest has been taken over by egyptian geese. I have seen them flying through the trees but not sure if they are going to build another nest in the gum trees like last year. Every night at sunset about 50 ibis (ha de das) stop at the dam to drink and then fly over the house in various numbers.

Lesser double collared male sunbird - the only time I have seen him in the garden

Lesser double collared male sunbird – the only time I have seen him in the garden

Found 2 dead Reedbuck at the dam. Not sure how they died as only bones left and little flesh.
Bees swarming a few weeks ago down the chimney which chased the owls away as have not seen or heard them since. For days lots of dead bees around the house.

This young male reed buck arrived on the farm a few weeks ago. The older resident male has been chasing him around the hills

This young male reed buck arrived on the farm a few weeks ago. The older resident male has been chasing him around the hills

9 Waterbuck still on farm and neighbouring farms. The day after the snow, they were lying up against the stone wall out of the wind, trying to keep warm.

Waterbuck

Waterbuck

One morning 9 wattled crane flew south over the house.

9 Wattled Cranes flew by

9 Wattled Cranes flew by

An african hoopoe been visiting our garden which is unusual.

African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe

One morning a frantic female duiker was running around the hills smelling the ground and following a scent – not sure if the jackal scent or perhaps the scent of her lost baby which had been taken by the jackal. This went on for 30 minutes and she kept returning to one particular spot in front of our farm gate. The next day 2 duikers were chasing each other around the farm – going at such speed could not see what sex.

Bokmakierie (Bushshrike)

Bokmakierie (Bushshrike)

A great sighting this month was a female sentinel rock thrush which is a first for us.

Female sentinel rock thrush (on barbed wire fence)

Female sentinel rock thrush (on barbed wire fence)

Cape Longclaws visit our garden every few days.

Cape Longclaw

Cape Longclaw

Saw black shouldered kite, crowned grey crane, blue crane only once.

A Black-shouldered Kite

A Black-shouldered Kite

There has been a lot of activity on our road and neighbours road with the aardvark digging huge holes. On the hill behind our house, there were distinct claw marks on the rocks where he tried to pull them out, trying to get to the termites beneath. We therefore asked Dr Amy Wilson (Shuttleworth) to bring up her trail cameras – we put 3 up on neighbour’s farm (Paul Smit) and after a week brought them back to our place and placed them up at the stone wall where there is a rickety old gate where the animals climb through. Unfortunately, we had no luck with pics for the elusive aardvark but plenty of other interesting sightings.

Male buff streaked chat getting a real soaking on a warm day

Male buff streaked chat getting a real soaking on a warm day

A very wet female buff streaked chat after a 5 minute bath

A very wet female buff streaked chat after a 5 minute bath

Rupert Powell Bukamanzi Cottage

With everyone hunkered down for the winter and not all that much on there is a lot more time for Wuthering Heights moments such as these, out on the hills:

WS01

Sometimes the gloom can be more beautiful than the more obvious golden afternoons, I think. The same goes for lesser Dargle wildlife, such as the sociable spiders who have been busy in the grassland (Oh, hello Daphne! is that you?!)

WS02

This great big hairy number got very sociable indeed, and fell out of a curtain in the cottage. I scooped her up and had a good hour photographing her on the verandah – she didn’t mind it a bit and stuck around for ages, showing off.

WS03

Aside from arachnids I have also seen plenty of bushbuck and hares and the return of the weaver birds. I’ve been hearing woodpeckers recently and best of all, at about five-thirty every morning, two Crowned Cranes and their juvenile have been flying noisily over the roof of the cottage to visit the Stipstitches dam, and hold out their damp wings in the rising sun.

Before the frost hit us I also found this single flower, the only bloom for miles:

WS04

After the freak rainstorm of the 25th of July this is how glorious and clear everything looked the morning after the night before. Every blade of grass and every leaf shone as if someone had been at them with a cloth and feather-duster.

WS05

There is a lovely sleepiness to the landscape at the moment – if Inhlosane had eyes then at this time of the year only one of them would be open.

WS06

Helen and Barend Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

Helen was the recipient of the Dargle Conservancy Trail Camera for a month, after she won one of the photography categories at the AGM. These are some of the pics captured…

Caracal

Caracal

Porcupine

Porcupine

Genet

Genet

Bushpig

Bushpig

Bushpig family

Bushpig family

Bushbuck ram

Bushbuck ram

David and Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Red-lipped Herald snake

Red-lipped Herald snake

Sunset 2 Sunset 1

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset 2

Yellow Wildflowers

Yellow Wildflowers

Yellow flowers coming up through the firebreaks

Yellow flowers coming up through the firebreaks

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Red hot poker

Red hot poker

Red Aloes flowering in the hills

Red Aloes flowering in the hills

Orange Aloes flowering in the hills

Orange Aloes flowering in the hills

Inhlosane on the day it snowed in the Drakensberg

Inhlosane on the day it snowed in the Drakensberg

Ice on a puddle

Ice on a puddle

Frost on hay

Frost on hay

Frost in the sheep camp

Frost in the sheep camp

Nikki Brighton – Cottage at Old Kilgobbin Farm

Our baby owls have been learning to fly! Lots of crashing about the barn and hissing. This chap was not too thrilled when I climbed up a ladder to take his picture. I, of course, was delighted.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Samango monkey troops spend late afternoons basking and playing in the sunshine on the forest edges. They pick and nibble at a plant in the grass – obviously just what they need at this time of year. They are also eating Vepris lanceolata berries. I enjoy watching them tumble about and listening to the sounds they make – squeaks and clicks, chattering and booming.

r samango family r samango vepris winter july 2015 099 r samango winter july 2015 072

I’m collecting a collection of winter colours and textures on my walks.

r winte walk colours 027 r winte walk bracken 054 r winte walk rhus 04 0 r winter textures dried leonotis r winter textures 034

r winter walk helichrysum

I have seen Oribi, Reedbuck and quite a few Duiker on my rambles. Lots of raptors, herons, red necked spurfowl and shimmering hadedas. Egyptian geese flying in formation and swimming on the dam.

r winte walk colours 091

An interesting stick insect on my verandah.

r stick insect winterJPG

The first of the grasshoppers to hatch (does this seem a tad early?)

r winte walk grasshoppers 044

The low light at this time of year makes everything seem extra magical,

r low light of winter july 2015

Crunchy leaves carpet the forest and fungi make good use of fallen branches.

fungi winter july 2015 132

Early one morning I spotted three men and seven dogs obviously out hunting. That was a little disconcerting. I reported to SACAN 083 799 1916 as soon as I got home.

r hunting with dogs

Boston Wildlife Sightings – July 2015

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

July and finally winter’s icy teeth start to bite. Many smoky days when fire-breaks have been burnt.

Smoke in the valley

Smoke in the valley

Two snowfalls on the ‘Berg, the last one on the 25 July covered the mountains in a white cap down onto the little berg and dusted Mahaqwa Mountain.

Snow on Mahqwa Mt

Snow on Mahqwa Mt

Snow on the berg, Sani Pass

Snow on the berg, Sani Pass

Although we had no snow here we have had two welcome falls of rain over 12mm. Immediately after the last rain fungi started appearing, what I think might be Sulfur Tufts and False Earth Stars.

False Earth Star

False Earth Star

Possibly the Sulphur Tuft

Possibly the Sulphur Tuft

This month has seen two full moons on the 2 and 30 July, both breathtakingly beautiful.

Full Moon

Full Moon

The dampness has also kick-started new leaf growth in the fire-breaks. Moraea graminicola, Senecio isatideus and tiny Helichrysum globerantum leaves have sprung up.

Leaf of the Moraea graminicola

Leaf of the Moraea graminicola

Leaves of the Senecio isatideus and Helichrysum globerantum

Leaves of the Senecio isatideus and Helichrysum globerantum

Reluctant buds are starting to open on winter flowering shrubs, Glossy Berg Bottlebrush, Greyia sutherlandii, Buddleja salvifolia and Ouhout, Leucosidea sericea.

Glossy Berg Bottlebrush - Greyia sutherlandia

Glossy Berg Bottlebrush – Greyia sutherlandia

Buddleja salvifolia

Buddleja salvifolia

When out trying to get a photo of the delicate Ouhout flowers I became aware of hundreds of buzzing Drone Flies. Everywhere I looked I found them on plants and then realized I’d ‘captured’ a tiny spider as well!

Drone Fly

Drone Fly

Drone fly on Ouhout Leucosidea sericea flower

Drone fly on Ouhout Leucosidea sericea flower

Drone fly with small spider

Drone fly with small spider

A persistent Fork-tailed Drongo reminded me that they are in the garden all year round, as are the pair of Hadeda Ibis.

Fork-tailed Drongo

Fork-tailed Drongo

A delight was a sighting early one evening of a female Common Reedbuck with a very young fawn. Each winter when I see these young animals I am amazed that they are born in such a harsh season. Common Reedbuck spoor and droppings mark their passage around the property. Also seen were a pair of Grey Duiker.

Common Reedbuck droppings

Common Reedbuck droppings

Common Reedbuck spoor

Common Reedbuck spoor

When I pass a particular sunny spot I usually hear a rustle on wood. While standing still and quiet, a shy Agama peeked out from behind the slats.

Agama

Agama

The Striped Skinks are far more brazen, sunning wherever they find a good spot.

Striped Skink

Striped Skink

Rob Geldart of “Boston View”:

It was special to see a Wattled Crane pair at Glandrishok (Myrtle Grove). They were not preparing to breed, as there were no nesting signs yet.

Bruce and Bev Astrup of “Highland Glen”:
A great sighing of 27 Grey Crowned Cranes flew overhead from “Harmony” farm towards “Netherby” farm. We also enjoyed a visit from the delightful House Sparrows.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Barbara and David Clulow:

Visiting on 22 July:

We enjoyed watching 3 Grey Crowned Cranes coming in to land on “Elvesida” at the dam, feeding on grasslands and then roosting in the Willowtree for the night.

We also saw Cape Crows; House Sparrows; Sacred Ibis; Egyptian Geese; Village Weavers; Common Fiscal; Red-eyed Dove; cape Turtle Dove. Calling of Common Reedbuck, that unique wistful whistle; calling of the Black-backed Jackal, that chilling urgent threatening sound.

Visting end July 2015:

Juvenile Long-crested eagle on Garmarye, now stopped calling for food and hunting and feeding itself as parents have left.

Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

Black-headed Heron on “The Willows”, finding it difficult to balance on the fir in the breeze.

Black-headed Heron

Black-headed Heron

Common Reedbuck in the distance in the rye pastures on “Netherby” farm.

Common Reedbuck

Common Reedbuck

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

An unusual sighting for the district was an African Jacana seen at Melrose Dam at the beginning of July. White-faced Ducks and Red-billed Teals were among the other visitors not usually present at the same dam. I was away for much of the month and managed only a few atlas cards with mostly the hardy residents.

These included: Fan-tailed Widowbird, Olive Thrush, Jackal Buzzard, African Darter, Common Moorhen, African Fish-eagle, African Sacred Ibis, Blue Crane, African Rail, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Giant Kingfisher, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Pipit, Red-capped Lark,

Red-capped Lark

Red-capped Lark

Bokmakierie, Common Fiscal, Black-headed Oriole, Southern Red Bishop, Common Waxbill, South African Shelduck, Brown-throated Martin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Drakensberg Prinia, Black-headed Heron,

Black-headed Heron

Black-headed Heron

Cape Wagtail, African Stonechat, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Red-necked Spurfowl, Speckled Mousebird, Red-throated Wryneck, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Fork-tailed Drongo, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Crow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Robin-chat, Village Weaver,

Village Weaver

Village Weaver

Cape Sparrow, Hadeda, Cape Canary and Grey Crowned Crane. The chick ringed at Gramarye earlier this year is now flying strongly with its parents and I love watching the three of them coming to roost at the dam at Elvesida in the late afternoon.

Grey Crowned Crane family

Grey Crowned Crane family

Junior is in the middle of this picture taken on the same night as the first of the two full moons in July.

Full moon

Full moon

And it was also the night when Jupiter and Venus had a close encounter.

Jupiter and Venus

Jupiter and Venus

Sociable Sundowners with the N3TC Birds

On Tuesday 11th August, MCF was privileged to host a visit from N3 Toll Concession in the form of Andrea (Andy) Visser and Thandiwe (Thandi) Rakale. The aim of their visit was to give MCF support and encouragement, so all MCF’s member Conservancies were invited to attend.

Representatives from Balgowan, Beacon Hill, Curry’s Post, Karkloof and Lion’s Bush Conservancies flocked to the Karkloof Conservation Centre where they enjoyed sundowners, snacks, and fruitful discussions with Andy and Thandi in the Crowned Crane Hide.

Front: Andy Visser (N3TC) and Roy Tabernor (Lion's Bush). Back: Karen McGregor (Curry’s Post), Thandiwe Rakale (N3TC), Yvonne Thompson (Balgowan), Eve Hughes (Beacon Hill) and Charlie MacGillivray (Karkloof)

Front: Andy Visser (N3TC) and Roy Tabernor (Lion’s Bush).
Back: Karen McGregor (Curry’s Post), Thandiwe Rakale (N3TC), Yvonne Thompson (Balgowan), Eve Hughes (Beacon Hill) and Charlie MacGillivray (Karkloof)

The N3TC funded projects discussed were:

  • The schools’ projects, in particular the new schools that have been included this year;
  • River walks in 2015: the Indezi River Walk completed in April, as well as the planning for the two river walks in the Karkloof. The latter have a new dimension as landowners and partner organisations will be taking part in the walks;
  • Capacity building for clearing Invasive Alien Plants: This new project was the subject of considerable discussion, particularly in the light of our scarce water resources. N3TC is excited about the MCF strategy of capacity building prior to the implementation of a clearing programme.

There was general discussion on the need to achieve a sustainable balance between human activities (such as development) in Conservancies, and ensuring the preservation of wildlife habitats. The need for partnering between different conservation organisations to maximise efforts was also mentioned.

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes flew by during our casual discussions.

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes flew by during our casual discussions, reminding us of what we’re working towards.

MCF is indebted to N3TC not only for funding, but also for their ongoing support and encouragement. The intention is to give all Conservancies the opportunity to host future meetings so that N3TC can meet all our members, and get a feel for the entire MCF area.

Siyabonga N3TC

“Siyabonga” from the bottom of all our hearts N3TC!

Threatened Plant Species – Aloe dominella

ASPHODELACEAE: Aloe dominella (Near threatened)

The vibrant Aloe dominella is a succulent plant that propagates on the rocky outcrops and hill slopes of central KwaZulu-Natal. It ranges from Escourt and Mooi River to Vryheid.

Aloe dominella photographed by Philip Nel

Aloe dominella photographed by Philip Nel

The stems grow in tight groups, hidden by dried leaves, and are about 150 mm long. The leaves are dull green, many, upright, expanding and gradually narrowing over a long distance. The inflorescence are simple, about 350 mm long, and capitate (like the head of a pin).

The flowers lack a stalk and are about 40 mm long and 80 mm wide. They are yellow, sweetly scented, and capitate. The bracts, which are reduced leaf or leaflike structures at the base of a flower, are egg-shaped and gradually narrowing to a long point, thin, dry and brown in colour. The perianth (corolla) is bright yellow, 18 mm long, and blunt to club–shaped. It is supported on a special stalk at the base.

Aloe dominella photographed by Philip Nel

Aloe dominella photographed by Philip Nel

Aloe dominella flowers in June to October. The flowering usually occur after fires followed by the rain. Aloe dominella is associated to Aloe chortolirioides var. woolliana in terms of growth conventions, such as the growth of stems in constricted groups and size of leaves’ rosettes, however, A. dominella is distinguished from A. chortolirioides var. woolliana by its flower size and colour. A. chortolirioides var. woolliana produces pinkish-reddish flowers about 40 mm long, while Aloe dominella produces yellow flowers of about 18 mm long.

If you have seen these naturally occurring plants, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za.

References:

  • Van Wyk, B-E. and Smith, G. 1996. Guide to the aloes of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Reynolds, G.W. 1938. Plate 36. A new Aloe from Natal. Journal of South African Botany. 4: 101-103
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

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