Celebrating World Wetlands Day

Article supplied by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

World Wetlands Day, celebrated annually on 2 February, provides an opportunity to celebrate a natural resource that is critical for people, the environment, and biodiversity. Wetlands come in all shapes and forms, from estuaries along our beautiful coastlines and high altitude inland wetlands within the grasslands of Mpumalanga, to the hard working wetlands within our urban landscapes. Much of our conservation effort within the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is centred around the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands and the catchments that feed them, and we encourage you to celebrate World Wetlands Day with us.

wetlands-day

Two of South Africa’s three crane species, the Grey Crowned and Wattled Crane, are completely dependent on wetlands for their survival – yet both are threatened with extinction. Their threatened status mirrors the loss of wetlands in our country, with an estimated 50% of wetlands completely transformed in South Africa. The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP), a partnership between the EWT and the International Crane Foundation, has used these charismatic, long-lived birds as flagships for wetland protection, restoration and management.

The ACCP’s South Africa Regional Manager, Tanya Smith, confirms that the efforts of the ACCP team and its partners have ensured the protection of nearly 100,000 ha of grasslands, wetlands and associated rivers in important catchments for people and cranes in South Africa over the past five years. The protection of the key water resources contributes to the long-term security of our water supply for millions of people in South Africa.

Wattled Cranes

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

From large charismatic cranes to the small and slippery, wetlands are home to many. Globally, amphibians are the most threatened class of vertebrate with 32.5% of species currently listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Approximately 800 species of amphibians make exclusive use of wetland habitats. Here in South Africa, a tiny frog the size of your thumbnail is found only in 25 wetlands along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Therefore, a key focal species of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP), is the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. These coastal wetlands are unique in their structure and are themselves classified as Critically Endangered. “The presence of flagship species that depend on wetlands for their survival really helps leverage support for the protection and restoration of wetlands,” says Dr Jeanne Tarrant, TAP Programme Manager. The EWT embarked on an ambitious journey to restore four of these wetlands in the Durban area through alien plant control, re-establishment of indigenous plants and assessing wetland rehabilitation needs and this year will be working towards formal protection of two of these wetlands through community stewardship models.

This year’s World Wetland Day theme is “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction” and this theme truly celebrates the services wetlands provide for us free of charge. Wetlands greatly reduce the impacts of flooding by slowing down the flow of water, and reduce the impacts of droughts by slowly releasing water to our streams and rivers. In the current drought gripping much of South Africa, the role and protection of healthy wetlands has never been more important.

silindile learning about wetlands

Slindile students learning about the importance of wetlands

The EWT is involved with several World Wetlands Day celebratory events around the country. In KwaZulu-Natal, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated at the Greater Edendale Mall wetland in Pietermaritzburg on 2 February from 10am. This is a collaboration of all partners of the KwaZulu-Natal Wetland Forum and will see over 300 children learning about and experiencing the value of wetlands. In the Eastern Cape, the EWT and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa have partnered to get our future generation’s hands dirty experiencing the wetlands of the Amathole area, where the EWT has been implementing catchment restoration work for the past three years. Lastly, in Gauteng, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated on 17 February at Tembisa Esselen Park Pan. A fun day of activities is planned, so be on the lookout for the EWT stand.

Later on in the month, you can get involved in raising awareness for our special wetland dwellers, the frogs, by joining in on a number of Leap Day for Frogs activities, including the EWT’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog on Friday, 24 February. This exciting event gets underway at 10am on the Durban beachfront promenade near uShaka Marine World. Find out more by visiting www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za or emailing JeanneT@ewt.org.za

Yellow-striped Reed Frog 1 - Nick Evans

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

You can make a difference to our wetlands all year round in a number of different ways, including:

  1. Planning a wetland clean up in your community with local schools and parents.
  2. Reducing your waste, reusing bottles and containers you would normally throw away, use reusable shopping bags and recycle! Our water resources like rivers and wetlands are heavily impacted on by litter and waste, so these small actions can make a huge difference.
  3. Reporting any illegal dumping in wetlands and rivers to your local municipality or police station.
  4. Supporting the efforts of organisations like the EWT in protecting wetlands on your behalf.

Useful resources to learn more about World Wetlands Day 2017:

Boston Wildlife Sightings – Summer 2016

November 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

November has had the first typically summer rainfall pattern in three years. Hot humid haze days, interspersed with misty cool ones, regular thunderstorm activity and glorious rain. Finally our well has some water in it, the first time since May. Wildflowers particularly have responded and the hillside is covered in a neon orange wash of Watsonia socium.

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Watsonia socium

Some of the spectacular array of flowers are: Adjuga ophrydis; Albuca pachychlamys; Asclepias albens, these amazing flower heads droop downwards, hiding the vivid lime green and pink flowers;

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Adjuga ophrydis

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Albuca pachychlamys

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Asclepias albens

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Asclepias albens

Aspidonepsis flava with Crab spider; Berkheya macrocephala;

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Aspidonepsis flava with a well camouflaged crab spider

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Berkheya macrocephala

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Berkheya macrocephala

Chlorophytum cooperi; Cyanotis speciosa; Cyphia elata; Dierama latifolium; Helichrysum pallidum; Hermannia woodii; Indigofera hilaris, bright pink clumps in the grass;

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Chlorophytum cooperi

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Cyanotis speciosa

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Cyphia elata

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Dierama latifolium

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Helichrysum pallidum

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Hermannia woodii

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Indigofera hilaris

another different Ledebouria sp; delicate Lobelia erinus; hundreds of Merwilla nervosa; Pachycarpus natalensis; Scabiosa columbaria; Searsia discolor;

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Ledebouria sp.

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Lobelia erinus

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Merwilla nervosa

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Merwilla nervosa

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Pachycarpus natalensis

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Scabiosa columbaria

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Searsia discolor

two species of Silene, Silene bellidoides and Silene burchellii;

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Silene bellidoides

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Silene bellidoides

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Silene burchellii

Sisyranthus trichostomus; Trachyandra asperata; Wahlenbergia cuspidata;

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Sisyranthus trichostomus

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Trachyandra asperata

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Wahlenbergia cuspidata

I finally have a name for this beautiful Watsonia via a Facebook group: Flora of southern Africa, Watsonia meriana

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Watsonia meriana

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Watsonia meriana

and Xysmalobium parviflorum.

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Xysmalobium parviflorum

I managed to get a photo of a Spectacled Weaver on a nest in the Plane Tree. The Spectacled Weavers don’t seem to strip off the leaves in the vicinity of their nests as the Village Weavers do; perhaps they seek camouflage rather than being able to see their predators approach. The Striped Swallows have returned over a month later than usual. Red-collared Widows are now in full courting plumage and a large flock roams over the seeding grass. A Long-crested Eagle perches regularly on the Eskom post. The Southern Boubou’s are a delight with their varying call and quiet movements on the lawn and in shrubbery. A Bokmakierie pair are frequently heard and seen in the Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja thicket that has grown up behind the house.

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Spectacled Weaver

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Spectacled Weaver nest

With the rainfall, fungi pop up regularly. A Horse Mushroom and Star Stinkhorn with a millipede are two of them.

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Horse mushroom, Agaricus arvensis

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Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe ruba, with a millipede

Butterflies are starting to be seen more frequently. I watched an African Common White butterfly feeding in Vernonia natalensis.

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African Common White butterfly on Vernonia natalensis

Bagworm larvae, of the Psyshidae Family of moths, on Vernonia hirsuta.

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Bagworm on Vernonia hirsuta

Insects, like these Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys, are nibbling many flowers and buds.

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Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys

Finally a delight on the lawn one morning, a Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra!

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Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra

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Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra

November 2016 on Stormy Hill – Caroline McKerrow

I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.

dormouse

All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Speckled Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.

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December 2016 on Gramarye – Crystelle Wilson

On a trip to a Zululand game reserve in November we were lucky enough to see cheetahs. Back at Boston I was just as excited seeing a Serval on an early morning walk down to the river.

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Serval

The breeding season was in full swing and juvenile birds were everywhere to be seen. At the river two Levaillant’s Cisticola fledglings tried to balance on the same stalk

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

And in the garden African Paradise Flycatcher parents were industriously feeding their newly fledged chicks

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African Paradise Flycatcher

On the kitchen verandah there was a near tragedy when part of the nest of the Greater Striped Swallows collapsed on Christmas Day, leaving the three chicks exposed inside. Fortunately they were about to fledge and within a few days were flying strongly with the parents.

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Greater Striped Swallows

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Greater Striped Swallows

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,

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Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Amethyst Sunbird, Common Moorhen, Hamerkop, Three-banded Plover, Wailing Cisticola, Blacksmith Lapwing, Speckled Mousebird,

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Speckled Mousebirds

African Spoonbill, Black-headed Oriole, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Lazy Cisticola, Neddicky, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Canary

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Yellow-fronted Canary

Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Barn Swallow,

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Barn Swallow

Yellow-billed Kite, Little Grebe, White-backed Duck,

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White-backed Duck

Cape Wagtail, Black Crake, Cape Weaver, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Crow, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola,

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Zitting Cisticola

Fork-tailed Drongo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Burchell’s Coucal, White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Cape Glossy Starling,

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Cape Glossy Starling

African Hoopoe, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, Egyptian Goose, Cape Canary (well camouflaged in the summer grass)

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Cape Canary

Red-chested Flufftail, Grey Crowned Crane,

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Grey Crowned Crane

Cape Longclaw, Common Waxbill, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cattle Egret, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Bokmakierie, Village Weaver,

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Village Weaver

Southern Fiscal, Brown-throated Martin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Quail, Southern Red Bishop,

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Southern Red Bishop

Drakensberg Prinia,

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Drakensberg Prinia

Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird,

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Fan-tailed Widowbird

Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Rush-warbler, African Reed-warbler, African Stonechat, Long-crested Eagle, Hadeda Ibis, Cardinal Woodpecker

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Cardinal Woodpecker

Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Pin-tailed Whydah

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Pin-tailed Whydah

Red-eyed Dove,

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Red-eyed Dove

Cape Turtle-dove, Southern Boubou, Greater Striped Swallow, Cape White-eye, Diderick Cuckoo

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Diderick Cuckoo

December 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

Sultry hot days with thunderstorms have produced a vivid green landscape, however there has not been enough rain to raise the water table significantly; although there is water in the well it is a fraction of what is usually there in December.

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Summer solstice

Clouds obscured the full moon rise; however early the next morning it was visible through scudding clouds.

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Summer solstice was a glorious day, ending in a beautiful sunset. Already many grasses are seeded, the red tinge of Themeda triandra softening the green.

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Themeda triandra

There are still many wildflowers in bloom, some that I saw were: Agapanthus campanulatus; Aristea woodii; Berkheya setifera; Clutia monticola fruit;

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Agapanthus campanulatus

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Aristea woodii

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Berkheya setifera

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Clutia monticola

Craterocapsa tarsodes, which I usually associate with the mountains grows here too on rocky clay patches;

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Craterocapsa tarsodes

Dipcadi viride; Epilobium capense seeds; Gladiolus ecklonii; Haemanthus humilis; Lobelia erinus;

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Dipcadi viride

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Epilobium capense

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Gladiolus ecklonii

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Haemanthus humilis

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Lobelia erinus

four orchids, Eulophia hians var. nutans; Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii; Eulophia zeyheriana and Satyrium longicauda;

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Eulophia hians ver. nutans

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Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii

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Eulophia zeyheriana

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Satyrium longicauda

Papaver aculeatum; Pelargonium luridum; Rubus ludwigii; Senecio subrubriflorus; Strigia bilabiata and Zantedeschia albomaculata.

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Papaver aculeatum

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Pelargonium luridum

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Rubus ludwigii

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Senecia subrubriflorus

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Strigia bilabiata

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

 

An unusual fungi was growing in stone gravel.

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In the lush foliage I found some delightful insects: two Bee Fly species, a Foam Grasshopper and a lucky sighting of a Giant Forest Cicada!

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Bee Fly

 

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Bee Fly

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Foam Grasshopper

 

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Giant Forest Cicada

Most mornings the birds find the night flying moths before I do, but I did see a few, including the wings of a Wounded Emperor, Neobunaeopsis arabella; then a rather spectacular first for me, a day flying moth, a Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp. which at first I thought must be a butterfly!

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Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.

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Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.

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Wings of an Emperor moth, Neobunaeopsis arabella

After a misty night I saw a water-beaded spider web.

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Long-crested Eagles catch thermals between waiting and watching patiently from perches.

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Two discarded eggshells, one from a Spectacled Weaver and the second from a Village Weaver prove that some of the nests were acceptable.

The Striped Swallows have selected a new site to build a nest, I hope this one works out. A pair of Cape Wagtails have recently taken up residence in the garden. Occasionally I hear Spotted Eagle-Owls calling at dusk and dawn.

One morning I discovered a newly excavated Antbear hole, as it was in the middle of the driveway we had to fill it in.

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Sadly I will have to live-trap and relocate the Lesser Savanna Dormice that have taken up residence in the house; a hole in a carpet, wooly slippers and clothing where they have selected bedding material, and they devour any food left out… Drawers are their favoured places to make nests. I love their chirrups as they move through the house and occasional sightings as they scurry across the floor and furniture.

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Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were away for half of November but on our return we were thrilled to find we had had a lot of rain and our dam was full at last and everywhere so green. Quite a change from the Cape.

One morning to our astonishment, a young male reedbuck wandered through the garden quite happily. Thank goodness the dogs were elsewhere.

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We have woken up for the past few weeks to Reedbuck eating the long grass in our garden.

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A porcupine got into the garden one night and dug up a heap of cannas – there was a fight with the dogs and as usual the dogs came off second best being stabbed with quills.

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The gymnogene has been terrorising the birds in the garden who have made nests in the trees. Caught a lovely picture of him perched on my bottle brush tree.

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A pair of wattle crane arrived at the dam and stayed for a week.

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The one has tags on its legs which I had sent to the KZN Crane Foundation for identification.

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Response from Tanya Smith, African Crane Conservation Program: “It is so great to get this resighting, this bird is definitely of breeding age and is perhaps looking for wetland area to set up a new territory. The combination of rings (Green/Blue on the left leg and large white on the right leg) is of a bird we caught and colour ringed at the end of August 2011 on a farm just outside Nottingham Road (on the Fort Nottingham Road), from a farm called Shawlands. Therefore this bird is about 5.5 years old.”

The pair of blue crane come and go and do not seem to have made a nest yet. We also have a number of oribi running around – the past 2 days we have seen a pair of males.

There were 5 Grey Crowned Cranes that arrived at the dam one morning.

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We also have African Spoonbill,

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dozens of Yellow-billed Duck, White-faced Duck,

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Little Grebe (where do these waterbirds come from as the dam was empty for months??), Red-billed Teal, Spur-winged Geese and a pair of Egyptian Geese with 5 young who are now about a month old.

We have been inundated with Puff Adders once again – one next to our soak pit eating a frog and the dogs killed an enormous one in our driveway – our rottie proceeded to eat it – we are always concerned that the dogs will pierce the poison sac while eating these snakes – on the same day Pat saw some children from Kazimula school walking down the D18 carrying a dead puffie.

The Steppe Buzzard, and Jackal Buzzard often sit on our dead tree next to the pond waiting for a juicy meal now that our ponds are full.

The Long-crested Eagle is often seen perched on one of the poles along the D18.

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Two White Storks arrived on the farm a week ago. We have a number of Sunbirds flitting around the garden now that the summer flowers are in bloom.  Saw this female Amethyst Sunbird feeding off Wygelia flowers.

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The White-throated Swallows that made their nest on our verandah lampshade have hatched out 4 chicks who are now about ten days old. We have to clean up a heap of poop each morning. The other swallows nest outside the bedroom window fell down during a severe wind.

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In the past few days a pair of Greater Striped Swallows have arrived and make a huge chirping noise before perching on the hanging basket where they groom themselves. This is about 4pm each day. They are very tame and do not mind my running around and taking photos of them thru the glass doors. We have not had them here before.

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The Cape White-eyes have been stealing the coir from my hanging baskets.

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The Red-chested Cuckoo (piet-my-vrou) sometimes sings for hours. Hope it finds a mate soon.

Drakensberg Prinia

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Anthericum, possibly angulicaule (Thanks Nikki Brighton)

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Gladiolus longicollis

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Senecio bupleuroides (yellow starwort)

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Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Rinkhals which has been roaming around the garden for a while.

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Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

Our small dam at it lowest this year. Only 2 puddles left for the fish. Quite a few died but some fortunately survived.

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Since the rains we have had recently, things have improved.

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The Christmas herald! We have a little patch of Christmas Bells on Kildaragh. They are fast disappearing though. As children we would pick bunches for the Christmas table. Now we look in excitement when we see just one.

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Clausena anisata, Perdepis or Horsewood. A neat, small tree for the bird garden. Some Swallowtail butterflies breed on this tree.

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A close up of the leaves, which have a very unpleasant smell, when they are crushed. The prolific fruit is visible.

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The Pom – Pom tree (Dais cotinifolia). This is an especially large specimen on our property. It was probably planted years ago by June Fannin who planted many trees here but never lived on the property. These trees grow well in the Midlands as is seen along the Main Road in Howick. Always a wonderful show.

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Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Such a treat to have the grassland streams flowing again.

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I adore the cool early mornings and frequently wander about at dawn. Seldom have my camera or phone with me, but fortunately did on this day.

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Every year I say the same thing, but as this interests me every year, it is worth repeating: Isn’t it fascinating how a patch of grassland that you can be very familiar with suddenly produces an abundance of flowers that you have not noticed much before? Clearly, rainfall and temperature patterns have an enormous influence (never mind grazing and burning) on which plants flower best when. This spring I have particularly noticed Arum lilies thriving, lots of Striga bilabiata, dainty white Kniphofia and more recently lots of Christmas bells – Sandersonia aurantiaca.

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The Cape Chestnut (Calodendron capense) hasn’t been as spectacular as usual – the leaves appeared at the same time as the pink flowers. Someone told me that Scilla nervosa has been amazing this year, but I have not noticed that where I walk. Anyway – a few floral treasures to share:

Plenty of pale blue Thunbergia natalensis in shady areas

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Asclepias gibba – in Lesotho all parts of this plant are eaten. Flowers like sweets, bulbs straight out of the ground and the leaves cooked with other greens.

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Asclepias albens – always a spectacular find

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Pachycarpus natalensis – love the two kinds of ant and the beetle lurking in the flower!

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Aster bakerianus

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Kniphofia – most likely breviflora

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Vernonia hirsuta with attendant fly

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Hypericum lalandii – the tiny indigenous Hypericum, not the invasive shrub.

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Alepidea natalensis

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Ajuga ophrydis – Bugle plant

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Cyperus spharocephalus

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Dierama luteoalbidium

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Morea possible inclinata

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Pentanisia prunelloides

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Sisyanthus trichostomus – the Hairy Grass-Flower. I think I may have found Sisyanthus fanniniae too, but the photo is dreadful, so I can’t be sure.

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I have never come across this pale Gladiolus before. Not sure what the species is but possibly serica as the stems are really hairy.

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Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Continuing on from last month’s dead things, here is a tiny baby Skink which I found next to the dog’s water bowl

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I first thought that this might be the larder of a Fiscal Shrike, but I’m sure something larger like a raptor must have eaten something and left the gizzards on this pole

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A juvenile Fiscal Shrike which was stuck in the water tank

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A pretty tame Black-backed Jackal that had been lying in the long grass in one of our sheep day camps, sometimes terrible creatures for us farmers but still beautiful to look at. This one was only about 20m away, taken with my cellphone. I managed to herd it around into the purple flowers for a more visually appealing shot!

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Some cracks in the mud of Mavela Dam, hopefully it’ll be full again by the end of summer! Still waiting for a big rain.

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“Working for Water” did a very good job cutting and helping to clear some invasive alien wattle trees on our farm. Hopefully I’ll be able to take a photograph of this corner one day and it will be bugweed and wattle free!

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Couple of beetles fighting over a mate

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2 large Rhino Beetles

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A large fern next to a small pond in the veld

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The Rinkhals have been doing the rounds on Copperleigh recently.

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I’m not sure if this is a fly or a bee as I’ve never seen one before, but the colour was very striking on the brown fur of this cow

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Reedbuck Doe

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Reedbuck Ram

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A spider in its dewey web on the ground

I took the dogs for a walk through the veld one Sunday, and took the following images, this is a panoramic view of Inhlosane in the distance

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Very happy to have running streams

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Red hot pokers

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Pink Wildflowers

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Arum Lily

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Forest, Fireflies and Camping

Written by Janine Smith, Chairlady of the Midlands Conservancies Forum and Regional Secretary for the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Honorary Officers.

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Sixteen kids aged between 3.5 years and 11 years old spent two wonderfully exciting days at Bushwillow Caravan Park in the Karkloof, accompanied by parents and grandparent.

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This is thanks to the founders John and Linnet Crow, and Twané Clarke whose dream to give kids in the area the opportunity to learn to love and enjoy the outdoors has become a reality as a result of their hard work and dedication to KRANES club. KRANES is a joint project between the Karkloof Conservancy and the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Lions River Honorary Officers, and this partnership has proven to be invaluable over the 2 years that this club has been running.

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This weekend was the first camp out for the club. On Saturday morning, 3 December 2017, excitement filled the air at the caravan park as kids began their weekend of camping and fellowship with other similarly minded children. There were rules that were set. The first was that kids were to assist in setting up the tents.

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It was amazing to see all of them knocking pegs into the ground with mallets and running hither and thither taking camping gear out of vehicles, whilst all the time keeping their eyes on the dam, which promised so much fun, but they had a job to do and got on with it.

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Finally the beckoning dam was “in bounds” for these hard workers. Next rule, children had to wear life jackets and be accompanied by an adult if they were on the edge or in the dam. A rush to find the life jackets and fishing rods to catch that big one followed, with John teaching them a few basics. Bread was the preferred bait and it certainly was the right choice. Fish of all sizes were caught in abundance. The rods, with the fish on the hook, were hurriedly brought up the bank for all the parents to admire, then dash back to the dam to release the fish (only to be caught again later). The kids had great fun and the fish were well fed. Then they all jumped into the water and had an absolute ball until 14h00 when they were called to the clubhouse for orientation and forest rules were explained and discussed.

Twané sat all the kids in a circle and asked each one to choose an animal beginning with the same letter of the alphabet that their names began with and to share what they loved most about nature and the outdoors. Listening to their explanations of why they loved being in nature was an eye opener, replies ranged from enjoying seeing the flowers in the veld, to sightings and identification of birds, insects and mammals. Ethan Gillings, who is 3.5 years old, said he loved Reedbuck because when they pooed in his yard he collected the droppings to put in the garden, but he didn’t like it when Zebra came and used their garden as a toilet because that was not such nice poo.

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Then it was time for the family scavenger hunt, which was lead by Linnet. Each family was given a map of the park and had to find and retrieve various articles from the forest, grasslands and dams. This clever idea was for everyone to become aware of the surrounding area. The kids also learnt to read a map and keep their eyes open whilst walking. When everyone returned to the camp site, the dam called again and a great afternoon of swimming, canoeing and fishing followed.

That evening the kids each helped to make a braai fire safely. This was a highlight as they were even allowed to light the fire themselves.

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They were given dough which they put onto a stick (stokbrood) and cooked over the fire. Patience waiting for the dough to cook was put to the test. Then the best of all, syrup was poured into the hole made by the stick.

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After everyone had eaten, the campsite looked like a Christmas tree with all the torches dashing around as kids went searching for fireflies and frogs followed by some quiet time and stargazing.

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Tired kids and parents had an early night.

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Dawn on Sunday beckoned everyone to the dam and once again this body of water became a hive of activity, after kids were chameleons and trees during the sunrise forest yoga.

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After a relaxed breakfast, the kids were lead on a forest walk by Linnet and Twané. Twané had explained to the children the difference between a forest and a plantation, so off they went into the indigenous mistbelt forest to look and learn. At about midday the trekkers returned looking fulfilled and tired. Another quick swim in the dam before it was time to pack up camp. Each family left armed with a booklet “My Forest Experience” that the team had put together which included different types of forests, a forest code (leave nothing but footprints), why our forests need to be protected, critters that can be found in forests, signs of the forest (spoor to look out for) and so much more.

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Well done to the KRANES team. It was amazing to see kids playing and learning together in nature. No one missed TV or cell phones and the children were taught responsibility and self-discipline. Keep up the good work and thanks for the many hours that you put into these children’s lives. You are helping to foster a generation of conservationists.

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The kids found a Yellow-striped Reed Frog amongst the reeds in the dam.

For more information about KRANES and to sign your children up to the mailing list, please visit the Karkloof Conservancy website or email us: karkloofconservation.org.za / info@karkloofconservation.org.za

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Welcome to the October Dargle Wildlife Sightings! With the spring we finally saw some much needed rain falling on the dry parched earth, the grass and other plants are definitely improving all the time. Dams are still very low as we haven’t had much running water yet, so those of us who are farmers are still waiting patiently for some more big storms to arrive.

This month we have an interesting collection of images that have been sent in. Bushbuck have been spotted in the hills, snakes having a snack on the run and some odd looking plants that were found out in the veld – so please enjoy and remember to always carry your cellphone with you, why? Well then you always have a camera nearby to capture that interesting something to share with the rest of us! Happy reading.

Garry & Camilla Barlow

Our Mountain Reed Buck came down from the high hills and gave birth to a new fawn, I have attached a picture of her with it…

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Also some flowers that are now in bloom:

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Aster bakerianus

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Indigofera sp.

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Cycnium racemosum

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Everyday when I do my rounds in the area and check up on our livestock, I’ll usually come across some interesting finds. You can usually spot one or two Porcupine quills lying around, but on this occasion I found a whole pile of them.

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A couple of locusts on the paving

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I was moving some old tiles under one of the trees when I spotted this very fine looking black spider sitting between two of them.

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Mavela Dam is still very low, hoping the two little streams start to pick up a little bit so that they can start running properly into the dam again.

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I then had a couple of weeks where I found lots of dead wildlife lying around, starting with this African Harrier-hawk (previously known as a Gymnogene)

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Dead male Reedbuck

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We seem to have a bit of an infestation of these rats on the farm. I really wish the owls, jackal and other other raptors would do their job and start catching some! Not sure what happened to this one though, was just lying out in the open on top of the hill.

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A dead Skink

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…and a soon to be dead frog! This Natal Green Snake decided it needed a good meal, although I think it really did bite off a little more than it could chew! This frog was about 4 times as big as the snakes head!

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We were all taking pictures of it in the garden before it decided to move off deeper into the bushes to have it’s snack in peace.

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I heard some commotion coming from next door so went to investigate to see what was upsetting the dog. Clearly Trinny did not appreciate the large toad swimming in her water bowl!

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And finally, I was walking through the veld one day and happened upon this very strange looking plant which I have never seen before…according to Nikki Brighton it is a Star Stinkhorn mushroom!

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We also spotted 4 blue crane on the far side of Mavela Dam one day, as well as one Oribi on the farm.

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We have had good light rains this month although the dam is only quarter full due to little runoff. There have been many sunbirds around due to the many flowering bottlebrush trees in the garden. On a cold drizzly day when the bottlebrushes were dripping wet, I captured dozens of Cape White-eyes,

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Dark-capped Bulbuls,

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Gurney’s Sugarbirds

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and sunbirds feeding off the flowers.

The male and female Amethyst Sunbirds have been visiting the verandah – she keeps sitting on the rope chain that she built on last year but nothing has developed as yet.

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One morning the male malachite sunbird sat on the wrought iron balustrade and was then joined by a female Amethyst Sunbird – he checked her out but showed no interest – it was then I noticed that there was a spot of yellow on his side.

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His breeding colours – I got very excited as have only seen these yellow pectoral tufts once before about 7 years ago in this garden. I was very determined to get a picture of this remarkable colouring which only appears for a few seconds. I took a few photos here and there but not great. Then on another miz day I spied him on the bottle brush tree (which is right outside my bedroom window) and thought I would take a few pics once again. Suddenly the female malachite sunbird appeared above him and quick as a wink he puffed out his chest, his beautiful yellow pectoral tufts appeared.

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He turned his head up to look at her. It was so quick, I only got 2 pics, but amazing, virtually unseen pics I think according to the internet pictures. Out of the hundreds of pictures that I perused, I only saw one malachite sunbird with a spot of yellow on his side. I hope you enjoy this special picture – I am blown away by it.

I still see the fledgling Black Sparrowhawk in the gum trees –I am sure he is still being fed by his mother.

There are a number of oribi on the farm – the one that stands out is ”one horn” – he appears with either another male or a female or sometimes on his own. I wonder how he lost that horn?

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There have been 2 male Reedbuck careering around the hills chasing each other, all in the name of a fair damsel who appeared to be on heat. I have a lovely pic of the action and the female shying off before the males. The victor eventually went off up the hill with his maiden.

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Pat took a lovely picture of our Blue Crane one morning in the garden – they have never been this close to the house – unfortunately the second one was over the rise. With the dam filling up they have appeared quite often but as we have cattle grazing in this camp, I feel sure they will nest elsewhere where it will be quieter and more peaceful and safe.

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The Cape Wagtails have produced one fledgling in the jasmine creeper once more.

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They have been feeding it – it usually hides in the miniature roses and mom and dad run in there with a wriggly worm – a few days ago mom and fledgling arrived on the balustrade – mom had a worm and was about to feed the youngster when a forked tail drongo attacked her, she dropped the worm and the drongo picked up his prize and flew off.

We have a steppe buzzard who flies around but I just cannot get a good picture of him – also a few jackal buzzard and crested black eagles. A lonely black stork and 13 crested crane flew over the farm one day. Pat saw the steppe buzzard and the crested eagle eating prey on the side of the D18 road.

I saw a Forest Canary

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and a Cape Canary eating merrily from my miniature white chrysanthemums.

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I thought they did this because there are sometimes “nunus” on these daisies, but not this time – not sure why they actually eat these flowers.

Dozens of white eyes fly through the garden each day and they have now found the rock pool – captured a picture of a very wet bedraggled Cape White-eye after a bath.

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Have never seen these birds bathing before – its usually the robins, thrushes, sparrows and bulbuls.

A few days ago after an afternoon storm, I was driving along the D18, where thousands of flying ants were emerging from their holes. There were dozens of monkeys and pigeons scooping them up. The children at Jabula school were running around capturing them with butterfly nets.

The Red-collared Widowbirds have been eating the grass on the lawn for the past month

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and I have seen a couple of Yellow Bishops amongst them for the first time.

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Yellow Bishop

Our pair of White-throated Swallows are back and have built a mud nest on top of the glass lamp shade on the front verandah. They make an awful mess with mud everywhere and sometimes it falls off and they start over. They sleep on top of the lampshade each night and 2 Rock Pigeons keep them company sitting on the ledge.

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Fire lily

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Pair of Spur-winged Geese viewing their surrounds

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Reedbuck hidden in bush behind Oribi

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Sunset – storm building

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I pray the rain continues in the next month.

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

A magnificent puffball in the Kilgobbin Forest

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There was a large mouthful taken out of this one…

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Large field mushroom

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The tumbling stream on the top of Carlisle in the grasslands

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Harebells or Dierama up in the Carlisle Grasslands

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We also spotted a pair of Wattled Cranes up in the grasslands, with very healthy glossy plumage. An Oribi junior with her mum and our old companion, the adult Reedbuck Ram. We also saw the big dark Bushbuck Ram on our forest margin up adjoining Carl`s haylands.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

October has been a busy month, not much time at home to explore, so few sightings. There was a final snowfall at the beginning of the month, then the weather settled into a summer pattern, regular thunderstorms, rain and misty days between hot ones.

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One misty day a pair of Common Reedbuck ventured close to the house, unhurriedly grazing as the passed by. I had several close-up encounters on different predawn mornings with individual Reedbuck.

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The moist conditions have produced many flowers, they sparkled at me as I passed by. The few I managed to find time to photograph were Asparagus africanus, Monopsis decipiens and Oxalis smithiana.

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Asparagus africanus

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Monopsis decipiens

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Oxalis smithiana

A tiny Lacewing sp. perched on the kitchen towel.

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Lacewing

There have been several lovely moths including these two, an Emerald sp. and one unidentified.

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Moth – Emerald sp.

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Unidentified moth (suggestions welcome)

Tiny Dunce Caps, Conocybe tenera; popped up in the lawn after rain as did a False Earth-star.

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Tiny Dunce Caps – Conocybe tenera

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False Earth-star

The Village Weavers have been very busy in the Pin Oak and in an adjacent Plane Tree Spectacled Weavers have built a few nests. The Piet-my-Vrou, Red-chested Cuckoo finally started calling on the 19 October. I also saw an African Harrier-Hawk flying by.

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.

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All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.

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Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

The onset at last of the rainy season is so welcome, that one doesn’t mind days of grey, mizzling weather – which is no good for taking great photographs. It also doesn’t put a damper on the excitement of seeing a pair of Wattled Cranes looming large right next to the road.

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Wattled Cranes

And it is always pleasing to see Grey Crowned Cranes, there were a group of six on The Drift one morning, flying off north

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Grey Crowned Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Red-capped Lark, African Dusky Flycatcher, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Great Egret, African Darter, Greater Striped Swallow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Grassbird, African Reed-warbler

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African Reed-Warbler

Red-necked Spurfowl, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

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Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Burchell’s Coucal, Bokmakierie, Cape Sparrow, Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Mousebird, African Paradise-flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, , African Hoopoe, Pin-tailed Whydah, Olive Thrush, Spur-winged Goose

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Spur-winged Goose

Lanner Falcon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Cattle Egret (closely roosting overnight near the dam)

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Cattle Egret

Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant (also at the dam on a tree in the island where it was perching room only)

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White-breasted Cormorant

Cape Longclaw, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Crow, Cape Robin-chat, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Pipit,

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African Pipit

Red-collared Widowbird, Village Weaver, White-throated Swallow, Cape Weaver

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Cape Weaver

Brown-throated Martin, Southern Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Little Grebe, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, African Spoonbill (taking a break from feeding)

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African Spoonbill

Common Waxbill, Cape Turtle-dove, Pied Starling, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-chested Cuckoo, Helmeted Guineafowl, Amethyst Sunbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Double-collared, Sunbird, African Stonechat, Cape Canary, Cape White-eye, African Fish-eagle

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African Fish-Eagle

Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Boubou, Forest Canary, Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Goose (the gosling turning into gangling teenagers)

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Egyptian Geese

Red-knobbed Coots were feeding three newly-hatched chicks

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Red-knobbed Coot

Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck

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Yellow-billed Duck

Long-toed Tree Frog

– Article written by Nick Evans of KZN Amphibian and Reptile Conservation –

KwaZulu-Natal is the most diverse and species rich province, playing host to many forms of wildlife, including frogs. The KZN Midlands is particularly fortunate to be home to many of these beautiful frog species, and one such species endemic to the area is the special little Long-toed Tree Frog.

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Long-toed Tree Frog photographed by Nick Evans

The Long-toed Tree Frog (Leptopelis xenodactylus) is simply adorable, cute, loveable, however you want to put it – except gross or ugly! The same can be said for the other two Tree Frog species in this province, the Natal and the Brown-backed. There’s just something about Tree Frogs though.

This frog’s most unique and interesting feature is what its name suggests: their very long toes. The back toes are especially long, making the frog look quite comical. These extraordinary toes come in handy when moving through the long grass. The Tree frog walks and hops across grass blades, and may even be seen hanging off long pieces of grass, using those long limbs.

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Long-toed Tree Frog photographed by Nick Evans – Note the long toes.

The Long-toed Tree Frog is a ground-dwelling species. They live in grassy wetlands, or flooded grasslands. Here, they can be seen sitting on the ground next to the water, or as mentioned, moving through the grass, where they may be looking for a mate, or a mosquito.

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Long-toed Tree Frog photographed by Nick Evans

This is an endangered species with their main threat, like all wildlife, is habitat loss and habitat degradation. It is imperative that we protect the remaining habitat and to rehabilitate wetlands and grasslands where possible. We cannot lose this precious little mosquito-muncher.

Even ranidaphobes (people who fear frogs) could not possibly cringe at the sight of these little chaps – they’re just so cute! If you ever happen to see one, be sure to take a photo and contribute to science by uploading your records to the Animal Demographic Unit’s Virtual Museum: http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_projects.php

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Long-toed Tree Frog photographed by Nick Evans

I hope that you see the beauty of this frog in these photos which I took recently in Lion’s Bush Conservancy area. Happy frogging during this ‘froggy’ season!

Nick Evans

kzn-amphibian-reptile-conservation

Email: nickevanskzn@gmail.com
Website: www.kznamphibianreptileconservation.com