Boston Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Winter truly arrived in June and we regularly had temperatures of -6ºC in the mornings.

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A Cape Longclaw tried its best to warm up in the first weak rays of the sun at the edge of a dam

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Cape Longclaw

A sad sighting was that of a dead Spotted Eagle-Owl lying on the path to the river. We couldn’t work out why it died, but it appeared as if its neck was broken.

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Spotted Eagle-Owl lying dead on the path

Very welcome sights were that of Denham’s Bustards on a few occasions

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Denham’s Bustards

In the frost in a maize field (above) and ponderously taking to the air (below)

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Denham’s Bustard in flight

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: White-breasted Cormorant, Long-crested Eagle, Common Moorhen, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-knobbed Coot, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Brown-throated Martin, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Starling, African Stonechat, Little Grebe, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, African Spoonbill, Black-shouldered Kite (carrying out its pest control duties)

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Black-shouldered Kite

Red-winged Starling, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Common Fiscal, Spotted Eagle-owl, Green Wood-hoopoe, Red-necked Spurfowl, Olive Woodpecker, Speckled Pigeon, Cape Glossy Starling, Sombre Greenbul, Black-headed Heron, Dark-capped Bulbul,

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Dark-capped Bulbul

Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Hadeda Ibis,

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Hadeda Ibis

Southern Boubou, Helmeted Guineafowl, Olive Thrush, House Sparrow, Cape Robin-chat, Village Weaver (making the most of hospitality on offer at the feeding station)

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Village Weavers

As did the Cape White-eyes

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Cape White-eyes

Bokmakierie, Drakensberg Prinia,

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Drakensberg Prinia

Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, African Firefinch. The Grey Crowned Crane family continued with their daily routine, the youngster is still with the parents and roost with them at night.

 

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Grey Crowned Crane family

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

There were three Mountain Reedbuck on the hill. The Common (Grey) Duiker was seen a few times and the Vervet Monkey troop have been visiting. An African Fish-Eagle cruised around overhead. An African Harrier-hawk landed in one of the trees and flew off with one of our resident Weaver birds. A Common Reedbuck was seen while out on a ride. Jackals have been heard a lot with the dogs barking to let them know that they are not welcome near the house.

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

June and fire-break burning are synonymous, tracer lines burnt earlier in April hold the fire when the breaks are burnt. A damp day preceded our burn day so fortunately we had an ideal cool burn, that doesn’t damage the plant life as severely. Jackal Buzzards, Drongos, Long-crested Eagles and Cape Crows wheeled around looking for rodents displaced from their homes. The fires are dramatic, particularly in the late afternoon.

02 Firebreak season IMG_2269

Despite the very dry and cool conditions some of my favourite flowers found here were blooming, bright golden yellow and orange Aloe maculata on the hillside;

03 Flower Aloe maculata IMG_5932

Aloe maculata

snow white, delicate Buddleja dysophylla;

03 Flower Buddleja dysophylla 01 IMG_6012

Buddleja dysophylla

03 Flower Buddleja dysophylla 02 IMG_6018

Buddleja dysophylla

03 Flower Buddleja dysophylla 03 IMG_6017

Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja salvifolia buds are swelling, almost ready to bloom;

03 Flower Buddleja salvifolia IMG_6001

Buddleja salvifolia

tiny, cheerful Euryops laxus have popped up in the short grass around the house; in the tracer-lines,

03 Flower Euryops laxus IMG_5998

Europs laxus

early Gerbera ambigua;

03 Flower Gerbera ambigua IMG_5933

Gerbera ambigua

Halleria lucida is flowering profusely and creating a magnet for birds and insects;

03 Flower Halleria lucida IMG_6022

Halleria lucida

a neon coloured Ipomoea bolusiana plant took advantage of the shelter along the warm east side of the house.

03 Flower Ipomoea bolusiana IMG_5926

Ipomoea bolusiana

The male Black-backed Puffback is still persistently trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. When resting he is starting to display his courtship puffback. The birdbaths are very sought after and often up to 30 Cape White-eyes splash and drink together, the shy Southern Boubou, Cape Robin-chats and Dark-capped Bulbuls take their turn in the verandah birdbath. The Fork-tailed Drongos, Olive Thrushes, Canaries and Cape Sparrows prefer the birdbath under the trees in the garden. Also seen were a flock of Common Waxbills, African Stonechats, Buff-streaked Chats, Amethyst Sunbirds, a Spotted Eagle-Owl and a Cape Batis. A Fish Eagle can be heard regularly calling from the valley.

04 Bird Black-backed Puffback IMG_5908

Black-backed Puffback (male)

The Lesser Savanna Dormice, Grahiurus kelleni, are still very much in residence, though seen less frequently, particularly in cooler weather. The young Duiker has moved off on it’s own, we still see all three around, but separately.

A few butterflies seen are what I think is a Common Hottentot male,

05 Invertebrates Butterfly Common Hottentot male IMG_6002

Common Hottentot (male)

and a Geranium Bronze, Cacyreus marshalli.

05 Invertebrates Butterfly Geranium Bronze Cacyreus marshalli IMG_6003

Geranium Bronze

An unusual Katydid perched on the backstep.

05 Invertebrates Katydid IMG_5913

Kaytid

A spider I hadn’t seen before and rescued from the bath, was identified as a Funnel web wolf spider, Family Lycosidae.

05 Invertebrates Spider Funnel-web Spider of Agelenidae Fam Funnel web wolf spider Family Lycosidae P1070424

Funnel web wolf spider

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

All wildlife seems to be hibernating and as per usual, the Red-lipped Heralds are snugly coiled in the wood pile. We noticed 2 Common Reedbuck on our property – an unusual sighting these days! Good to see. They ran off onto Iain Sinclair’s farm.

Interesting birds have been seen in the garden: Green Wood Hoopoe, Wryneck, Oriole, Golden Tailed Woodpecker, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite and Amethyst Sunbirds. A small flock of about 20 Helmeted Guineafowl scratch round in our pastures with numerous young. With the drought, it has been a good breeding season for them. We regularly see Black-winged Lapwings flying over on their food seeking missions.

In the veld we have noticed Natal Spurfowl, Cape Longclaw, and have heard the Common Quail with their gentle call.

An old Aloe arborescens, the Krantz aloe, that grows on one of our hill slopes is particularly beautiful this year. If you are frustrated with your garden in this season of drought, here’s what to plant!

Aloe tree

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Spotted a Secretarybird whilst driving past Selsley farm. We also spotted one on Knowhere farm earlier in the month whilst moving some cattle.

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

Snake
Pat McKrill, Snake Country: “I’d go with your i.d. Ashley – Spotted Skaapsteker – although it’s not that clear. There’s a slim possibility of it being a Short-snouted Sand snake (grass snake, whip snake – I wish they’d make their minds up!) but we’d need a better pic. Still some activity on the warmer days. Yay.”

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

A very quiet month. At the beginning of June we saw the Black Sparrowhawks hunting and eating pigeons every couple of days. We saw the female at the old familiar nest in the gum trees. She was either adding more material to the nest or feeding young we thought. Well that’s the last we have seen of them, so no idea what happened. With the dry dam we have seen no waterbirds – the crane have disappeared. Only hear the Jackal occasionally.

Black-backed jackal

Black-backed Jackal

We see the secretary bird and gymnogene now and then.

Secretarybird

Secretarybird

The odd Common (Grey) Duiker seen during the day. We saw a very small Reedbuck on one of our walks. When I drove around the farm today I saw 4 Common Reedbuck sitting in the pine trees away from the wind. Two were young females and 2 were young rams.

Sunrise

Sunrise

There are still a number of sunbirds about, feeding off the aloes and proteas.

Malachite male sunbird in eclipse

Malachite Sunbird (non-breeding male)

I think this could be a female malachite or juvenile sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

Greater double-collared sunbird in bush

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

I think this is a amythest male or female in eclipse or juvenile – not sure

Amethyst Sunbird

In the past few weeks about a dozen Weavers arrive at about 9am and descend upon the aloes in front of the house.

Weavers en masse

They have been destructive in the defoliation of the aloes – they pull off a petal,

Weaver pulled off aloe petal

place it beneath a foot, and suck out the nectar and then drop them on the ground.

Weaver holding aloe with her foot

They are also feeding off the tecomas,

Weavers eating the tecoma flowers

bottle brushes and pig ears.

Weaver feeding from pigs ear flowers

I think they are the non-breeding Masked Weavers but am sure someone will be able to identify them for me? So we only see the sunbirds very briefly as they get chased away by the weavers which is rather sad.

Weaver sitting on aloes

Another surprise is that the Sparrows are collecting feathers and going into their nest under the eaves of the house.

Sparrow carrying feather

Surely they are not thinking of breeding now? Perhaps they are just making it warmer!

Southern Boubou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs.

Southern bou bou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs

Southern Boubou

Well that’s all there is to report this month. It would be wonderful to get some rain or snow soon.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

While I hear Spotted Eagle Owls and Wood Owls at night, I never come across the Barn Owls that moved into the owl box in the shed earlier this year. I do hope they have not eaten a poisoned rat. As last month, Jackal calls are still very scarce. Where are they? Very early one morning I met a big Porcupine while out walking and have come across lots of quills on various paths. I wonder, do they shed them more during Winter?

I found a Samango monkey skin and skeleton in the grassland,

winter monkey skin

and this dead Scrubhare beside the road.

winter dead hare

Not a lot in flower, but these little yellow daisies are so cheerful! The hairy, maroon coloured stems should have made it easy to identify, but I can’t find it.

yellow winter daisy

An unusually coloured Leonotis leonarus blooms beside the D707.

winter pale  leonotis

Grassland streams have stopped trickling altogether. Planted aloes are looking splendid.

winter aloe

David Schneiderman – Carlisle Farm

We went out on our farm Carlisle yesterday and we found 2 Waterbuck and 2 Reedbuck.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The water is still receding in Mavela Dam. The ducks, geese and other wildlife are walking through the mud and making little trails.

Mavela dam is very low and ducks and geese are leaving spoor in the mud

A very cold frog I found in one of the water troughs – aren’t they supposed to be hibernating?!

A very cold frog I found in the water trough - aren't they meant to be hibernating

Whilst doing our mandatory firebreaks with the neighbours, I quickly snapped a few pics of the aloes in the area

Aloes that were photographed on neighbours farm whilst we were doing mandatory firebreaks

Aloe 1

Aloe 2

Some burnt aloes, I’m sure by next year they will be looking beautiful once again.

Aloe in fire

Burnt aloes

Fires in the Dargle with Inhlosane watching from a distance

Firebreaks with Inhlosane in the background

We had a very cold weekend this past week, with bits of snow and sleet falling. Sunday morning we woke up to lots of ice on the edges of the dam, and beautiful little icicles forming and coming up through the mud.

Ice 008

Ice 009

Ice 011

Ice 014

Ice 016

Ice 006

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Pamela Ellenberger Kleiman

Being new to the district I hope to be able to contribute sightings occasionally from the Kamberg Conservancy.

A view from the D450 across the hill where 2 farmers regularly put out carcasses for the Vultures. As an atlasser I have seen a group of up to 40+ individuals flying in the area.

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During the first 2 weeks of May I was privileged to see a large flock of Southern Bald Ibis in 4 different areas, the main one along the D450

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I see this pair of Grey Crowned Cranes regularly along our valley which has a series of farm dams in it.

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I love the name Groundscraper Thrush. The only time I have seen them they have been calling from the top of the tallest trees!

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Red-throated Wryneck, a permanent visitor to my garden.

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During May the Black-headed Oriole was often in the garden. Now in June I no longer hear it.

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African Harrier-hawk is often seen in the Oak trees along our valley much to the annoyance of many of the small birds.

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Just a picture of a Long-crested Eagle giving the eye to two Hadedas.

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On the 23rd May there were still White Storks around despite the fact that we had already had a few mornings of quite heavy frost.

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Hottentot Teal that were a new atlas recording for our area.

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On the road to Fairview farm I recorded 2 pairs and 2 individual Secretarybirds last week.

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Buff-streaked Chat. This is a Species I am delighted to be finding more and more often in our area.

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There is an ever present flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks on ponds on one of our dairy farms.

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Another new atlas recording – rather a bad shot, unfortunately of a Black Crake on Connington’s small dam.

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This Denham’s Bustard was also another new atlas recording which I saw along the main road to Kamberg.

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It is such a pleasure to have a pair of Lanner Falcons on Connington. They give me the occasional fly-past.

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High up on grass veld last week I was surprised to find 6 Wattled Crane – such beautiful creatures.

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A very skittish and unexpected visitor to my garden on Connington this week was a Black Sparrowhawk, only just managed this record shot before it flew off.

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Great to be back in the country and be able to see Duiker wandering across the fields in front of my cottage.

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June 21st. Full moon breaking through the cloud.

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Threatened Plant Species – Curtisia dentata

CORNACEAE: Curtisia dentata (Near Threatened)

Curtisia dentata, from the family Cornaceae is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s Near Threatened trees, occurring from Ngome Forest to KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. This tree is commonly known as Assegai, and threatened by over-exploitation and bark harvesting.

Curtisia dentata4

The tree grows between 15m and 20 m tall with leaves that are leathery, shiny and dark green in colour. The leaves are opposite, 120mm long and 75 mm wide, with dense bunches at the base. The under leaf is pale green with noticeable veins.

Curtisia dentata3

The stalks are about 25mm containing fine red hairs. The flowers are small, cream-coloured and velvety, with about 10-25 flowers per umbel, varying from yellow to brownish red.

Curtisia dentata2

The fruit are drupe, one or two seeded, and white to red in colour.

Curtisia dentata1

REFERENCES:

  • Notten, A. (2004, July). Curtisia Dentata. Available on: http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/curtisdent.htm [Accessed on 2 June, 2016]
  • Pooley, E. (1998). A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
  • Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M. and Ngwenya, A.M.(2008). Curtisia dentata (Burm.f.) C.A.Sm. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. [Accessed on 2 June, 2016]
  • Images by A. Rebelo; D. Turner; C. Lochner and A.E. Symons

Boston Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

May has been a Furry-beasties, Ferns and Fungi month. A light overnight snowfall dusted the mountains on the 1st May.

02 Cover Snow IMG_5368

Winter chill, fairly frequent frosts, not much rain but a few damp days and in between smoky sunsets from tracer-line burning.

02 Cover Smoky sunsets IMG_5408

Cool winter skies with beautiful prefrontal cirrus cloud effects. The grass and ground are very dry for this time of year, and the water table is very low.

02 Cover Prefrontal cirrus cloud IMG_5431

At last I have managed to take a photo of the very dear Lesser Savanna Dormouse, one of two in residence… albeit with a cell phone and not a good one, I just hoped I’d captured it in the dark… It had found an unopened packet of peanuts and raisins, tore a hole in the packet and was delightedly eating, making contented chirpy noises at about two in the morning… I know they will have to be relocated, just haven’t the heart to turf them out into winter. All foodstuff has to be carefully put away otherwise it is nibbled.

03 Animals Lesser Savanna Dormouse IMG_2212

The Lesser Savanna Dormouse, Grahiurus kelleni, is only 14cm in length, 6cm of that being the tail. They are definitely nocturnal in habit, extremely agile climbers, scampering up and down furniture and curtains. They eat insects, plant material, seeds and in a house love fruit, bread, cake and almost anything they can find. They are frequently found in association with man-made structures. According to literature local species are supposed to hibernate, or become less active in winter. No one told these two!

The Duiker family, Bushpig and Vervet Monkeys all enjoy the fallen Pin Oak acorns along the driveway.

03 Animals Duiker IMG_5398

Birds flock to the birdbath on the verandah and the one in the garden, often needing a refill by early afternoon. I spotted a juvenile Black-headed Oriole, with dark flecks on his yellow breast. Cape Crows; Dark-capped Bulbuls; Cape Robin-chats; Cape White-eyes; Black-backed Puffbacks; Speckled Pigeons; Amethyst Sunbirds; African Stonechats and the call of a Fish Eagle from the valley. A small nest was exposed when the leaves turned and fell from the Japanese Maple tree.

03 Bird nest IMG_5447

Very interesting Fungi were spotted after a sprinkle of rain and misty conditions. I observed the unfurling of two different fungi; Blusher, Amanita rubescens and The Miller, Clitopilus prunulus; also seen were a False Earth-star and an unidentified, 20mm high mushroom.

04 Fungi Blusher Amanita rubescens IMG_5445

Blusher – Amanita rubescens

04 Fungi Blusher Amanita rubescens IMG_5410

Blusher – Amanita rubescens

04 Fungi The Miller Clitopilus prunulus IMG_2216

The Miller – Clitopilus prunulus

04 Fungi The Miller Clitopilus prunulus IMG_5417

The Miller – Clitopilus prunulus

04 Fungi False Earth-star  IMG_5377

False Earth-Star

04 Fungi IMG_5412

Unidentified fungi

The Fern Allies species Lycoodium clavatum had many strobili, cone-like structures that bear the spores. Two ferns seen, though browning off quickly in the dry weather, were; Cheilanthes involuta var. obscura and Mohria nudiuscula.

05 Fern Allies Lycoodium clavatum  IMG_5425

Lycoodium clavatum

05 Fern Cheilanthes involuta var obscura IMG_5430

Cheilanthes involuta var. obscura

05 Fern Mohria nudiuscula IMG_5426

Mohria nudiuscula

Almost all the flowers are over, all that remains are the dried bracts like those of the Berkheya setifera; or seeds of Plectranthus calycina;

06 Berkheya setifera IMG_5420

Berkheya setifera

06 Plectranthus calycina seeds IMG_5419

Plectranthus calycina

there are however a few hardy ones still flowering, Senecio madagascariensis and Stachys aethiopica.

06 Senecio madagascariensis IMG_5438

Senecio madagascariensis

06 Stachys aethiopica IMG_5433

Stachys aethiopica

A few of the insects seen were: the tiny Common Blue butterfly; Giant Carpenter Bees; a tiny Grasshopper; Green Vegetable Bug, Nezara viridula; an unidentified Moth; very busy Paper wasps, Polistes fastidiotus; and a very small Twig wilter sp.

07 Insects Common Blue butterfly IMG_545807 Insects Giant Carpenter Bee Xylocopa flavorufa IMG_545507 Insects Grasshopper IMG_545607 Insects Green Vegetable Bug Nezara viridula IMG_540507 Insects Moth IMG_545007 Insects Paper wasps Polistes fastidiotus IMG_537307 Insects Twig wilter sp P1070316

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Once again my time in Boston was limited this month. While out birding, it was special to come across a bushbuck doe delicately walking on the side of the road.

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The drought continues to bite, which means that any time spent at the edge of dwindling dams are guaranteed to provide sightings of birds. The Red-knobbed Coot chicks are growing up

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And the African Spoonbill was on its post as usual

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The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: White-breasted Cormorant, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Secretarybird, African Fish-eagle, Grey Crowned Crane, Reed Cormorant, Cape Glossy Starling, Speckled Mousebird, Common Moorhen,

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Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Long-crested Eagle, Olive Thrush, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, House Sparrow, Helmeted Guineafowl, Village Weaver, Cape Wagtail, Cape White-eye, African Firefinch, African Stonechat, Common Fiscal, Greater Honeyguide, Red-knobbed Coot, White-necked Raven, Bokmakierie, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Malachite Kingfisher,

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South African Shelduck, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, African Sacred Ibis,

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Little Grebe, Jackal Buzzard (juvenile),

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Black-headed Heron, Cape Robin-chat, Cape Canary, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Boubou,

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Common Waxbill, Hadeda Ibis, Pied Crow, Red-necked Spurfowl, Yellow-billed Duck,

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Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Crow, Southern Double-collared Sunbird.

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Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

I do love ‘butterfly season’ in Dargle! My garden seems to be constantly on the move, with spots of colour flashing between Hypoestes, Kniphofia, Senecio, Polygala and Leonotis.

Things are a bit quieter in the hills. Has anyone else noticed that there are seldom jackal calling at night? I still hear owls, but no jackal. Have seen a few groups of reedbuck – about 8 in total, during my grassland walks and one bushbuck.

r autumn 2016 reedbuck hiding

A couple of times I have come across Jackal Buzzards sitting quietly on hay bales waiting for a snack to show itself in the newly shorn fields. Unsure who this little brown fellow is in the tall grass?

r autumn 2016 bird on grass 1

I adore the subdued colours of this season. Lots of orange Leonotis leonaurus and the last of the Berkheya flowers

r berkheya

Most of the Gomphocarpus physocarpus pods have popped releasing their fairy seeds to float away.

r autumn gomphocarpus seeds1

The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

r autumn 2016 boophane bulb1

Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

r autumn 2016 phymaspermum 1

A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

r autumn 2016 Aristea 1

Clutia cordata, the grassland clutia, which grows to about 70 cm tall. The plants are single sex. Tiny pale green male and female flowers on separate plants clustered along the stalks.

autumn clutia cordata

Loved this twirled grass – anyone know which variety it is?

r autumn 2016 twirly grass

Shadows in the very scarce pools of water are spectacular. How on earth are animals to survive this winter when the streams have already stopped trickling?

r autumn shadows in pool

Michael Goddard – Steampunk Coffee

Not sure if these little guys have been spotted this far inland but this morning I saw this pair. Common myna (Acridotheres tristis), sometimes spelled mynah, also sometimes known as “Indian myna”

Indian Mynah

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

At the beginning of the month we had Gurney’s Sugarbird in the garden revelling in the abundant blooms of the Leonotis. However they disappeared after a day or so. Probably off to the locally grown proteas, that they much prefer. A Greater Honeyguide was calling in the garden a couple of weeks ago. His unmistakable call of ” vic – tor ” rang out clearly, but I was unable to find him. Another uncommon sight for Kildaragh was a Purple Heron at our little dam. We have recorded one there before,but that was a few years ago. Below is the ribbon bush. Orthosiphon labiatus, a very worthwhile plant for the indigenous garden and the bees love it.

Ribbon bush (Orthosiphon labiatus)

Can anyone out there help me with the identification of the plant below? I know it is African and that it is perhaps a Halleria elliptica (E. Cape), which grows to about 2m. However I am not convinced that it is…
Comment by Nikki Brighton: Looks exotic. Pretty sure it is not indigenous.

Unknown

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Skaapsteker on the road

Spotted skaapsteker 1

Spotted skaapsteker 2

Nola Barrett – God’s Grace

I took this picture of this minute little frog on the inside of my veranda window (~ a Painted Reed frog perhaps? Ash)

Frog 1

Then we put him in the garden. The frog is about 2 – 3 cms long but he jumps very far , over a meter maybe almost 2 metres. My gardener says he’s been on the window about 2 weeks. You’ll have to look closely to see him in the garden.

Frog 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The 3 Wattled Crane have been regular visitors on our farm over the past couple of months now, here are a few pics of them with the Grey Crowned Cranes making an appearance too.

Wattled Cranes 1Wattled Cranes 2Wattled Cranes 3Wattled Cranes 4Wattled Cranes 5

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We have been away for most of May. All these photos were taken in April. Our dam is now just a puddle, so no more crane and water birds unfortunately.
There were dozens of butterflies this year.

Blue pansy

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Gaudy commodore

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Greenbanded swallowtail

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Painted lady

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The sunbirds were showing their eclipse colours. We have quite a number of sunbirds, now feeding off the proteas and aloes.

Greater collared sunbird in eclipse

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a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)

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Male Malachite in eclipse

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An arum lily frog was hiding amongst the pot plants for a couple of days during the cold weather.

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Our skinks have disappeared now. Have a photo of the skin of one of them who was shedding his skin in our study. He was actually pulling off the skin of his legs with his mouth. He ran under the couch, hence only pic of body skin left on carpet.

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Have not seen our Blue Crane for 6 weeks now but early one morning, beginning of may, woke to see 8 Grey Crowned Crane and 3 Wattled Crane at the dam. They flew off at sunrise.

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The Wattled Crane swam around the dam for a while foraging with their long necks. The dam was quite shallow at this stage.

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The Long-crested Eagle is still around

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The African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) arrives on the farm at about 07:30 on most days hopping around the rocks. With the lizards (skinks) which seem to have vanished around the house, he must be eating mice and rats.

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Pat saw a pair of Oribi running through the farm. There are still a few Reedbuck and Duiker around.

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At about 10pm one night the dogs started barking, (in that special way when something is amiss) and we went out to find a huge porcupine around our pond area next to the stone wall. He was trying to hide behind a tree to get away from the dogs. We put the animals away and tried to shush the porcupine out the gate, but he was having none of it and proceeded to try and climb the stone wall. This ended with him falling down, and nearly on top of Pat. He raced off with speed and we could not find him after that. He must have come through the culvert as our whole garden has bonnox fencing to keep the animals from encountering our dogs and prevent them from destroying my garden.

Bokmakierie

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Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat

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Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills

Untitled

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Autumn is officially here with winter trying to sneak in early and this frost we had a couple of weekends ago.

Autumn frost on leaves

A very beautiful black caterpillar with red and yellow markings on the sides and blue spines on the top.

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

Some sort of brown mantis sitting on my arm. Comment from Dr Jason Londt: “It is a mantid (family Mantidae). Don’t know the species (we have over 180 species in SA). Unfortunately I am not aware of a local specialist who could give us a species name – most of the literature on the group seems to be in French! Anyway – nice twig mimic!”

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

Flying ants inside the house which appeared after the recent rains in Dargle

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

I was moving a feed tyre out of the grass and suddenly noticed a whole family of little mice scurrying around. I managed to capture a pic of this guy before they all disappeared into the grass.

Mouse running away

A beautiful Oribi ram, spotted on our farm. The first and only time that I have ever seen one.

Oribi Ram

Not the best pic, but trying to capture a Pied Kingfisher with a cellphone camera in mid dive is a bit of a challenge!

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

I nearly stepped on this orange and black Rinkhals, and had just 3 seconds to capture this pic before he disappeared into the long grass.

Rinkhals in the grass

A very cold, wet and miserable Black-headed Heron which I drove closer and closer to in the Landrover, before it got a little jumpy and flew away.

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

The Wattled crane is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

Wattled Cranes 2

A very large Puffadder which we saw crossing the tar road near Avanol.

Puffadder

Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

I have recently been hearing an African Scops owl calling in the evenings just as it gets dark. It’s an uncommon resident in this area . A couple of nights ago, the evening started with the Scops calling and later when we went to bed we heard Jackal yelping close by. They haven’t been heard for a few months . Waking in the early hours a Spotted Eagle Owl was hooting nearby. Just as sleep had come again we were woken by the raucous call of the Natal Francolin, and finally the Fish Eagle’ s lovely call at dawn, got me out of bed. Who would live anywhere else.

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

Comment by Pat McKrill: “Your diagnosis (Spotted Skaapsteker Psammophylax tritaeniatus) is quite correct, even though those occurring further north are more spotted – as the name implies – than striped. They’re a pretty common grassland snake up your neck of the woods, and because their food preference is pretty wide-ranging, some of it is not necessarily temperature dependent – rodents, skinks – they tend to ignore the hibernation rule and hunt year-round as long as the sun is shining. The concave indentation in the individual dorsal scales is a useful diagnostic. Thanks for the pics, great!”

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were blessed this month to see 7 wattled crane on the farm for a week – they would feed on our neighbours oats during the day and arrive at the dam early evening and sometimes midday to wade around the dam which is drying up daily. We could not see any tags on their legs.

wattled crane

One morning just one appeared and walked around the vlei area for a few hours and then sat down. We got very excited as thought perhaps she was thinking of making a nest there but when the cattle arrived to drink, she changed her mind. Like the plovers eggs which never hatch out as cattle always drinking around the edges of dam where they lay.

Our yellow bill ducklings are down from ten to five in number. We also have 6 Red-billed Teal who swim with them.

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

Two pairs of South African Shelduck now. They did not have chicks this year as dam only started to fill late December. Our 3 Blue Crane have been here the entire month. The fledgling still with his parents. 5 months old now. Sometimes another pair of blue crane join them but they never stay long. 3 african grey crowned crane have been arriving at sunset. We love watching their antics – they always dance in and out the water and sometimes the spoonbill and plovers join them in wild abandon. At first the fledgling would run off when he saw his parents making fools of themselves but lately he joins in the prancing. They are the only cranes that I have not seen swimming. The wattled cranes love to swim and stick their long necks down underwater to see what they can forage. One day we had all 3 cranes visit us.

We have noticed that the crowned cranes have been chasing the blue crane away from the dam – we are not sure why this is as they both have one fledgling. Shame, the 3 of them stand on the hill looking forlornly down at the dance show.

crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 1crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 2

The gymnogene has been arriving early in the morning hunting amongst the rocks in front of the house – one morning there were 2 of them flying around.

When we woke early one cold overcast morning we found a Herald snake trying to swallow a large toad on our front verandah.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

He just could not swallow it and regurgitated it. He then lay next to it. This did not go down well with me as everyone by now knows how terrified I am of snakes. Pat put snake and frog in a box and released them at the bottom of the farm.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

Went down to the dam one hot day and saw thousands of dragonflies.

darner dragon fly

There were also a few red ones but I couldn’t get a pic of them as would not perch for long. There were also hundreds of brown ones but don’t know their name.

We saw a black shouldered kite eating a huge rat one morning on our dead tree – took him one and half hours to finish eating.

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

He kept stopping for a few minutes and would then continue to feed for awhile.

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

Found a new ant bear hole in kikuyu paddock near the dam. There was a Barn Owl on our verandah early one morning and on my approach he flew off. Not sure if this was a fledgling learning to fly. There are a couple in our chimney now which is very awkward if wanting to light a fire. A few years ago one was suffocated from the smoke and fell into the fire. It was horrible and I don’t want that happening again. A bokmakierie visited us for the first time. He sang to us for a good ten minutes. Beautiful start to the day.

There have been dozens of butterflies each day. Citrus swallowtail, Green-banded Swallowtail, Gaudy Commodore, Garden Commodore and for the first time a Blue Pansy.

 

garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

We have seen a couple of Reedbuck around the dam and in the hill behind us and a female sleeps in our garden each night in the long grass.

reedbuck in a hurry

Also a couple of duiker eating the acorns from the oak trees. Pat has seen 7 Reedbuck and one duiker eating rye grass and veld on our neighbours farm across the stone wall. On our walks in the evening we have seen signs of a Common Fiscal in the area with the surprises left along the fenceline. A small snake

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

I received a lot of comments on the identification of my raptors last month – Dr David Allan said they were European Honey Buzzards – female adult with juvenile – very rare in this area. I have not seen them again. The Steppe Buzzards have left, not seeing any Jackal Buzzards, but still see the Long-crested Eagle. Often hear the African Fish-Eagles.

André Stapelberg – Crab Apple Cottages (sent in by Helen Booysen)

The photo of the Drakensberg Prinia was taken at Whispering Waters in its usual Leucosidea-habitat.

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle