Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – January 2015

I apologise for the delay in issuing this edition, I had a short break down the South Coast.  We have a real pot pourri (or should I say an Irish Stew!) this month, with flowers, birds and a toad. 

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill

For several years after the Karkloof Conservation Centre opened I had the mutters because I had only once seen a Giant Kingfisher and when I did it was so camera shy I couldn’t get a good picture.  Last month a much braver bird put in an appearance and gave me the chance to take too many shots – that’s the problem with digital photography!

Giant Kingfisher

Giant Kingfisher

Twané had some great sightings in January. She managed to get a photograph of a Common Sandpiper that was a regular visitor to the distant muddy shore of the Gartmore pan.

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Twané was lucky to get this shot of a male Diderick Cuckoo feeding a female – the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach. The male fed her 3 juicy caterpillars and offered them to her with a gentle bobbing motion. They flew off into the sunset after the third one.

Diderick Cuckoo

Diderick Cuckoo

The butterfly that is photographed looks like it could be a male Window Acrea (Acrea oncaea). We would appreciate the correct ID from any Lepidopterists that might have a better idea of what it is.

Window Acrea

Window Acrea

On a recent frogging expedition by the EKZNW Kids Club, the kids found plenty of these little Painted Reed Frogs in the wetlands and mealies.

Painted Reed Frog

Painted Reed Frog

We have often had queries from visitors about the effect of the centre pivots used by local farmers for irrigating crops on the wildlife in the area and particularly on the cranes. The pictures of the Wattled Cranes and the Grey Crowned Cranes taken this month show that they do not impact the local fauna negatively.  They act as excellent perches for  raptors while they keep the rodent population under control. Centre pivots are also an extremely water efficient method of irrigation.

Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane

Wattled Crane

Wattled Crane

Denleigh – Ren and Britt Stubbs

We received some exciting news from Britt about a pair of African Grass-Owls that are nesting in their  grassland. They have seen a pair hang around before, but have finally confirmed that they have decided to breed on their farm. They have reported this sighting to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife who keep an active record of nest sites of various species.

According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the African Grass-Owl (Tyto capensis) is a habitat specialist and is mainly restricted to the open, grassy  habitats of marshes, wetlands and floodplains. It is estimated that there are less than 5000 of these birds left in southern Africa.

 The need for farmer co-operation centred on grazing densities and burning regimes, as well as alien plant control and no longer ploughing up native grassland areas no matter how small is extremely important. 

Well done Ren and Britt on a fantastic sighting and for taking on the role as custodians of your land.

Gartmore Farm – Charlie and Robyn MacGillivray

Charlie and Robyn were very excited about this pair of Lesser Striped Swallows that decided to build a nest outside their kitchen window.

Lesser Striped Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow

Lesser Striped Swallow Nest

Lesser Striped Swallow Nest

During Robyn’s monthly walk, we found a few of these beautiful Asclepias albens (Cartwheel) flowers which seemed to be a favourite amongst the group.

Asclepias albens

Asclepias albens

Karkloof Roadside – Sears from Hillcrest

Geoff and Iris Sear from Hillcrest recently drove through the Karkloof Valley and sent us the following interesting sightings.

We passed by on our way to Rietvlei a few weeks ago when we were in search of the Forest Buzzard, which we saw just past the New Hanover turn off. We couldn’t get a good photo sadly. We also saw 9 pairs of Grey Crowned Cranes in the farmlands before we passed by your centre. There were also plenty of White Storks.

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth

Richard Booth from Mbona is a regular contributor and avid photographer. He sent us a picture of a Red-winged Francolin which had read about Chicken Licken’s phobia about the sky falling on her head and was keeping a weather eye on the stratosphere just in case.

Red-winged Francolin

Red-winged Francolin

Having gone through medical school, Richard doesn’t believe the ridiculous myth about frogs giving you warts, and he bravely photographed this Guttural Toad!

Guttural Toad

Guttural Toad

The Brunsvigia undulata, a rare threatened species, was found on Mbona and is a cousin to the more widely spread Brunsvigia radulosa or Candelabra flower.

Brunsvigia undulata 2

Brunsvigia undulata

Brunsvigia undulata 1

Brunsvigia undulata

Ringing at Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson

Error correction: In the December 2014 Karkloof Sightings newsletter, we had incorrectly labelled this gorgeous Red-headed Quelea (photographed) as a “Red-headed Weaver”. Many thanks to Pam Nicol for pointing this out for us. We, Karin, Pat and Twané, will all need to go for an eye test!

Red-headed Quelea

Red-headed Quelea

Karin Nelson’s January ringing session produced 33 birds, with 8 re-trapped birds all ringed within the past 2 years, mostly African Reed-Warblers (7).  Karin read up on the Reed-Warblers and found that they spend their non-breeding time in drier vegetation, away from water. Some birds further north than KZN do move south.

At first glance, we had assumed one of the birds to be a Bronze Mannikin, however, it was too big and Karin had noticed a prominent gape. It turned out to be a ‘baby’ Pin-tailed Whydah. It was very interesting to see how similar it looked to the Mannikin.

Other birds ringed included:

  • 14 x African Reed-Warbler
  • 6 x Southern Red Bishop
  • 3 x Pin-tailed Whydah
  • 3 x Cape Weaver
  • 2 x Fan-tailed Widowbirds
  • 2 x Amethyst Sunbird.
  • 1 x Barn Swallow
  • 1 x Levaillant’s Cisticola
  • 1 x Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

Our River, Our Responsibility

A small river which is entirely ours

…and therefore entirely our responsibility

- By Adrian Flett of Rosetta/Nottingham Road Conservancy

A small but significant tributary of the Mooi River rises in the hills to the west of Nottingham Road, flows eastwards and under the R103 at the edge of the village. It feeds an extensive wetland and flows north towards Rosetta, where it again passes under the R103 and is the source of Rosetta Dam before it joins the Mooi River. This makes it a contributor to water in Midmar Dam through the Mearns Transfer pipeline and therefore a source of water for Durban and Pietermaritzburg as well as several other smaller centres.

RNR 0

We have been told that years ago the local children caught fish in this small river, which we have heard referred to as Springvale Stream and for want of another name right now, we will use that name here.

Springvale Stream faces so many challenges and impacts in its relatively short journey to the Mooi, that it is difficult to imagine a worse situation for a rural river. And although many of us pass the stream at least once a week, we are so used to what has been happening over the years that we simply accept what has and is being done. The whole catchment of the river is within the boundaries of the RNR Conservancy and offers a great opportunity – and a great challenge.

RNR1

The less disturbed riparian areas along the river have so many flowers that it makes us wonder what the original little river with its wetlands must have been like: a real wild garden! There is not much we can do about some of the impacts but we can certainly take care of what we have left and it would be gross negligence not to do so. We hope to survey sections of the stream little by little to build up a picture of the biological diversity and we will be asking for specialist help for some of this work. But in the meantime we appeal to all the community to be aware of “Our River” and the activities along its course.

The wetland contains multiple flower species and deserves a formal survey.

The wetland contains multiple flower species and deserves a formal survey.

The main stream rises in hills partially covered in plantation forestry. When it reaches Nottingham Road and the R103 it has to contend with various industrial developments and we see that “platforms” are still being made for further development out into the wetland which has colonies of kniphofia and gladiolus (probably dalenii both bright orange and brown) . Have these developments all had the go-ahead from an Environmental Impact Assessment? Surely not! Has the stream reached the stage of being written off environmentally?

RNR3

The R103 itself has had an impact on the water flow into the river but the good news is that Shea O’Connor School is a WESSA Eco School and have taken the small tributary on their school grounds seriously. The railway line of course has had a huge impact on Springvale Stream and its wetlands. We cannot change the road or the railway line but we can monitor pollution along these and remove alien invasive plants like bramble.

The stream flows immediately below the rocks which form the bank on the R103 where a truck recently broke through the Armco barrier and had to be winched back to the road. The rock hyrax colony lives in these tumbled rocks.

The stream flows immediately below the rocks which form the bank on the R103. A truck recently broke through the Armco barrier and had to be winched back to the road. The rock hyrax colony lives in these tumbled rocks.

A new and very large impact on the Springvale Stream is the building of the Springrove Dam transfer pipeline. Again, this cannot be altered but some of the activities related to the pipeline require mitigation. An immediate example is the gravel platform at the entrance to Springvale Farm just off the R103 where this gravel is eroding into a wetland area filled with wild flowers and at least one “muti” plant, Gunnera perpensa.

springrove dam

Springrove dam

Along the middle section of the stream, conservation-based farming attitudes have ensured that reedbuck may frequently be seen from the R103 in the early mornings and evenings, especially towards sundown on cool evenings. This is very satisfying and is an example of how wildlife can be encouraged even when there are adverse conditions, such as a busy road and a noisy railway line in close proximity. The little colony of rock hyrax mentioned in Newsletter One is also on an edge of this farm and is further referred to in this newsletter, where Jan was able to save the life of a member of the colony.

RNR5

The presence of wildlife, birds and flowers are such positive factors that we are sure that great results can be won from the conservation of this stream system. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to boast of a botanical beauty spot on the Midlands Meander? We look forward to bringing you more news of and reports on Springvale Stream.

CREW Fieldtrip to Stormy Hill

Article written by Kathy Milford

Six dogs of all shapes and sizes rushed out from their home at Stormy Hill, Boston to meet the wild flower enthusiasts who had arrived in search of Brunsvigia undulata. Caroline McKerrow and her dogs welcomed the nine ladies and they were soon all on their way up to Mt. Shannon driving through a maze of roads in the Mondi plantations.

Brunsvigia undulata

Brunsvigia undulata

The first stop was at a strip of grassland between the plantation and the road. There they were! Five Brunsvigia undulata, four with rich deep red flowers and the fifth going to seed.

Eulophia tenella

Eulophia tenella

The stream running through the grassland was bordered with bright orange Crocosmia potsii, dark blue Agapanthus sp and the pale Pycnostachys reticulata.

Crocosmia

Crocosmia potsii

Three enormous Eucomis comosa and a single Nerina appendiculata also bloomed on the banks. Sutera floribunda, Pentanisia angustifolia, Oxalis sp, Geranium sp and Vernonia sp were all blooming in the grassland.

Eucomis comosa

Eucomis comosa

Kniphofia angustifolia, and the strangely beautiful Habenaria dives the Death orchid, were blooming.

Habenaria dives

Habenaria dives

From there it was another drive past banks covered in hundreds of blooming Agapanthus sp and Papaver aculeatum to the next stop. There were two more Brunsvigia undulata!

Brunsvigia undulata students

Brunsvigia undulata

This area was being invaded by the ever present bramble. A beetle was busy on a Berkheya speciosa while Suvarna was happily Botanising with her students!

Berkeya speciosa

Berkeya speciosa

The excursion continued in the 4x4s through the maze of roads back to the top of Stormy Hill. Caroline’s magnificent horses were grazing between the orchids and a thousand other flowers.

Caroline and horses

Pelargonium luridum, Vernonia capensis, a Habenaria laevigata and a Kniphofia gracilis were the first flowers encountered.

Habenaria laevigata

Habenaria laevigata

A white Crassula alba was blooming next to a rock. Eulophia ovalis both the white and the yellow varieties were scattered about the entire area in their dozens.

Suvarna and Eulophia ovalis

Suvarna photographing an Eulophia ovalis

The strange looking, data deficient Schizoglossum bidens was excitedly spotted next to a rock.

Shizoglossum bidens

Shizoglossum bidens

An initial count amounted to 8 plants but as the morning progressed several more were found. A Zuluzianskya sp had its drumstick buds tightly closed in the midday sun. The graceful Alepidia amatymbica and Heliophila sp were growing together, nearby was the unusual Moraea brevistyla.

Alepidida amatymbica and Heliophila

Alepidida amatymbica and Heliophila sp.

Leonotis intermedia, Stachys kuntzei, Lotononus corymbosa, Kniphofia angustifolia, Striga sp and Berkheya speciosa and many more were all blooming.

Kniphofia angustifolia

Kniphofia angustifolia

Being completely saturated with the profusion of flowers and the view over Boston it was time to turn back.

Kniphofia on Stormy Hill ridge

Kniphofia on Stormy Hill ridge

The return walk yielded Satyrium longicauda, and a startling single specimen of possible Pterygodium magnum. The magnificent plant was over a meter tall had a spike with dozens of beautiful little delicately fringed flowers.

Pterogdium magnum

Pterogdium magnum

On the last stretch of the homeward walk, everyone had become quite blaze and simply stepped right past Scabiosa columbaria, a lonely bright Gazania krebsiana and the little carpet flower Craterocapsa tarsodes!

Rhus berries

Rhus berries

Thanks go to Caroline for being a wild flower spotter extraordinaire and for patiently sharing her excellent observations with Midlands CREW. Thanks to Alison Young for the orchid identifications.

Asparagus on Stormy hill ridge

Asparagus on Stormy Hill ridge

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – January 2015

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

Nests in Kev's vlei - look at the workmanship of the Thick Billed Weaver.

Nests in Kev’s vlei – look at the workmanship of the Thick Billed Weaver.

Brunsvigia have just begun to flower.

Brunsvigia have just begun to flower.

Barend holding a very 'live' Boomslang.

Barend holding a very ‘live’ Boomslang.

A very beautiful moth.

A very beautiful moth.

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Crasulla alba

Crasulla alba

Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Birds: Black widowfinches (males and females) seen for the first time in our garden. Redbilled Woodhoopoes, Sunbirds – amethyst and double-collared, Paradise Flycatchers, Wagtails, Sparrows, crested Eagle, Kites, Guineafowls, Storks, African Black Duck. A pair of Herons were regular visitors to our property for some time, but unfortunately the skeletal remains of one of the Herons has been found.

Heron-remains

Others: Chameleon (female). Lots of skinks – adults and juveniles. Surprisingly no snakes have been seen although they must be around.

A creepy finding – hundreds of baby spiders just emerging from their nest. Within a few minutes all the spiders had completely disappeared in amongst the foliage.

Spiders,-spiders,-spiders

A huge number of mushrooms came up in our garden in December and have since shrivelled up in the hot weather this month.

mushrooms,-mushrooms,-mushrooms

Our dogs were fascinated by the mushrooms but thankfully they didn’t eat any, and neither did we, as we’re not sure which mushrooms are poisonous.

Cola-mushroom

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

We had some strong storms this past month.

Garden and driveway getting flooded.

Garden and driveway getting flooded.

A few trees were blown over or snapped in half. We also had quite a bit of rain fall which was welcome as it’s been so dry.

Pine tree blown over on the farm.

Pine tree blown over on the farm.

Tree down, Inhlosane behind.

Tree down, Inhlosane behind.

Brave Crab that was on the lawn.

Brave Crab that was on the lawn.

Cabbage Tree and Aloe at Barrett's.

Cabbage Tree and Aloe at Barrett’s.

Natal Green Snake slithering between the pot plants

Natal Green Snake slithering between the pot plants

Dandelions with Inhlosane watching over.

Dandelions with Inhlosane watching over.

Bullfrog that was making a racket outside our dining room one evening. I think he got stage fright, as I took this picture he froze in this position and didn't make another.

Bullfrog that was making a racket outside our dining room one evening. I think he got stage fright, as I took this picture he froze in this position and didn’t make another.

Dragon Fly

Dragon Fly

Resident Swallows

Resident Swallows

Red and black locust

Red and black locust

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

So many wonderful summer flowers in the less disturbed areas. A first for me on Old Kilgobbin is Miroglossa verticillare

miraglossa verticillare

An old favourite, Eulophia clavicornis – but flowering months later than usual.

eulophia clavicornis

Lots of wild Agapanthus campanulatus

agapanthus

Exceptionally cheerful Berkheya setifera attended by beetles

berkheya setifera

Buchnera simplex (used as a love charm in traditional medicine)

buchnera simplex

Senecio – not sure of the species, possibly isatideus.

senecio sp

Aloe boylei near the famous old Dargle oak tree.

Aloe boylei

Think this must be Cephalaria, but I am not certain. There are masses of white heads of Cephalaria pungens bobbing in the grassland with Vernonia natalensis right now.

cephalaria - possibly

Hermannia depressa hides in the tall grass.

hermannia depressa

Ajuga orphrydis

Ajuga orphydis

Ajuga orphydis

Silene burchellii – the Gunpowder plant

Silene

The beautiful indigenous bramble, Rubus ludwigii seems to be particularly visible this year.

rubus ludwigii

Rare Brunsvigia undulata – dark red flowers can be seen from quite a distance in the grassland.

brunsvigia undulata jan

Zaluzianskya natalensis opens at dusk, so I was lucky to be up early enough to enjoy it before it closed again.

zaluzianskya natalensis januaryJPG

Pink splashes across the grassland right now are Watsonia densiflora.

watsonia densiflora jan

Often see this pair of Blue Cranes who pay no attention to the arguments amongst the young bulls!

blue cranes cattle

Gorgeous flash of the Yellow Bishop.

yellow widow bird

Reedbuck doe in a wetland, and many more in the hills.

reedbuck doe

Had two Barn Owls around for a while, screeching at night and flying low at dusk. A real treat. Need to get some owl boxes up soon! Plenty of tiny bats swooping about. A couple of times one came into my house and couldn’t get out.
Love all the Hadedas.

Hadeda

While I was away, Jethro took this photo of this snake in my house. I reckon an Olive House Snake. I’m delighted as it has obviously come to eat all the rats!

Olive House Snake

At the beginning of January, Dias cotonifolia were in full bloom, but they are all faded now.

dais cotonifolia

Rowan Lancaster

Some very large hail stones which came down in a storm last month…

Hail in handHail on lawnHail Damage

Marashene Lewis – Glengyle Farm

We have set up the Dargle Conservancy camera in our part of the forest near
a water stream.

Porcupine 2

It has been up for one week, and these are the best night photographs.

Bushbuck 2

During the day there has been no movement past the camera.

Bushbuck 1

We have rented the camera for 2 months and hope to capture a lot more of our forest dwellers.

Watsonia

Watsonia

Pelargonium luridum

Pelargonium luridum

Kniphofia

Kniphofia

Invasive verbena

Invasive verbena

Cephalaria pungens

Cephalaria pungens

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

Eulophia clavicornis

Eulophia clavicornis

Helichrysum

Helichrysum

Helichysum

Helichysum

Brunsvegia possibly undulata

Brunsvegia possibly undulata

Berkheya setifera

Berkheya setifera

Asclepias macropus

Asclepias macropus

Aloe cooperi

Aloe cooperi

Agapanthus

Agapanthus

Pap and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm Lidgetton

What a surprise to find on our return from holiday a 2 week old (not sure, just going by last years photos) baby blue crane.

3 week old blue crane

They had nested on a neighbouring farm as our dam had had very little water but they always faithfully return to us each year. I am not sure why, but am truly blessed by their continued presence on our farm.7 weeks old blue crane

We have had a number of birds nesting and hatching this month. Firstly the sparrows hatched out in the eaves under the roof next to our formal garden. Then the wagtails hatched out a 2nd set of babies (3) in the same jasmine creeper. The cape robin, whose picture I put in last months newsletter with nest material in her beak had made her nest in our large pot in the formal garden. She hatched out 3 babies.

2 week old cape robins

We watched them on a daily basis. At 16 days old one disappeared and the other 2 had moved out of nest and sat in the shade of the shrub in pot. The next day they disappeared. The mother was totally traumatised and her distress calls were awful to hear. She searched in the flower beds and shrubs in the formal garden with myself on hands and knees checking as well, but to no avail. No sign of them at all and haven’t seen them since.

Cape robin about to feed her 3 youngsters

The wagtails disappeared same day and they are busily hopping around the garden. Our swallows hatched out 2 youngsters who kept flying into the house and veranda doors for 2 days. Then one morning I heard the mom twittering loudly next to our bedroom window. She was hopping around the youngster, trying to encourage the baby to fly. She eventually just sat and watched it and after a few minutes it flew off. On the 3rd day we found the one baby dead outside the bedroom window. He was soaking wet from the heavy dew during the cold night. The other swallow had broken its wing and I took it to Free Me. It died a few days later.The parents are back in the nest, so probably laying once more. The sparrows have taken over the other swallows nest under the eaves.

Baby Swallow with broken wing

On the 7 January Pat saw a Serval at 7am at the end of our driveway and also a Duiker with her youngster. The Black-headed Heron has been in the garden on and off and have taken photos of him capturing a lizard and locust.

Black-headed heron with lizard Black-headed heron on takeoff

The female Amethyst Sunbird hatched out one baby beginning January. I only took photo on the 15th when he sat looking out of nest. He disappeared on the 19th January.

Female amethyst sunbird sitting on egg

Female amethyst sunbird sitting on egg

our amethyst sunbird hatchling

our amethyst sunbird hatchling

Male black sunbird

Male Amethyst Sunbird

 

We have seen a lot of jackal hunting during the day. Our dogs attacked one and he tore my dogs ear. I saw one chasing a female reedbuck early one evening along the dam wall. He gave up after awhile and turned his attention to the Blue Crane who come to the dam each evening. They craaked loudly and he ran off thank goodness.

Blue crane about 6 weeks old

Pat saw a pair of Coucals and a Knysna Lourie near the natural bush opposite our farm next to Lythwood lodge. On another day we saw 2 male Reedbuck chasing 6 females across the dam and hills. This went on for some hours, so presumably some of them were on heat. We had a male Reedbuck sleeping and grazing in our garden for a week. I got quite close to him for a photo and noticed he had a lot of bumps on his face. On checking the photo, it looks like it could be warts or ticks. Would anyone know?

Male reedbuck

We have been woken by the Natal Spurfowl at 5.30am on a number of mornings in our garden, but the minute I open the curtain to take a photo, they run into the shrubbery. Pat saw a Sparrowhawk attack a swallow midair and as it flew off clutching the bird, the other swallows frantically chased it.

Redbilled teal

Red-billed Teal

 

Until a few days ago, our dam was very low with few water fowl, but since the wonderful rains over the past few days (77mls) our dam has risen considerably and the Shelduck are back. They have been seen down at the lions river about a kilometre from us, so that’s wonderful news as they have nested here for the past 3 or 4 years.

spoonbills

African Spoonbills

 

We are just so grateful for the rain as our stream had dried up and there were problems with our borehole.

Orange throated longclaw

Cape Longclaw

 

Thanks Dr Jason Londt for the identification: “The beast goes by the name Precis octavia  – commonly called the Gaudy Commodore. This is the red summer form of the butterfly – which has a darker blue winter form. One usually sees them sunning themselves with wings outstretched on a rock or on the ground. They are pretty common and widely distributed in the eastern parts of SA – certainly common over the entire province of KZN”

Gaudy Commodore with summer red

Gaudy Commodore with summer red

 

 

Other sightings include:

Toadstool

Toadstool

Thunbergia natalansis

Thunbergia natalansis

Satyrium longicauda

Satyrium longicauda

Male malachite sunbird

Male malachite sunbird

Female malachite sunbird

Female malachite sunbird

 

 

Indigofera spicata

Indigofera spicata

 

Gem-studded puff-ball

Gem-studded puff-ball

 

Brunsvigia natalansis

Brunsvigia natalansis

 

Aloe boylei

Aloe boylei

 

Boston Wildlife Sightings – January 2015

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

Sunsets have been spectacular if the storm clouds have moved off in time.

By Christeen Grant

One midday there was a stunning view of towering thunderstorms over the Southern Drakensberg. That’s the sort of cloud that has been dumping rain here, most afternoons / evenings. Moisture haze builds up quickly in the mornings.

By Christeen Grant

The predominant flower colour has been yellow, thousands of Berkeya setifera glow in the grass around the house.

By Christeen Grant

Brilliant blue patches of Agapanthus campanulatus shine on the rocky hillsides and one of our special flowers, Brunsvigia undulata started flowering a bit earlier this January.

By Christeen Grant

Agapanthus campanulatus

It is a Threatened (Rare) species and was CREW’s (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) flower of the month.

By Christeen Grant

Brunsvigia undulata

Two species of Gladiolus, Gladiolus ecklonii in two colour variations,

By Christeen Grant

Gladiolus ecklonii

and Gladiolus sericeovillosus, graced the grasslands.

By Christeen Grant

Gladiolus sericeovillosus

A myriad of ground orchids: Eulophia hians ( = clavicornis) nutans,

By Christeen Grant

Eulophia hians ( = clavicornis) nutans

Eulophia ovalis,

By Christeen Grant

Eulophia ovalis

Eulophia tenella,

By Christeen Grant

Eulophia tenella

Eulophia zeheriana,

By Christeen Grant

Eulophia zeheriana

Satyrium cristatum,

By Christeen Grant

Satyrium cristatum

Satyrium longicauda

By Christeen Grant

Satyrium longicauda

and one I had not seen here before, Orthochilus (formally Eulophia) welwitschii though I had to do some sleuth work as it had been severely munched by a bright green cricket (visible amongst the flowers).

By Christeen Grant

Orthochilus (Eulophia) welwitschii

This is what it could have looked like as depicted in Elsa Pooley’s ‘Mountain Flowers’ field guide.

Flower Orchid Orthochilus (Eulophia) welwitschii

Moreaea brevisyla, Tephrosia purpurea, Zaluzianskya microsiphon and Zornia capensis were a few of the other flowers seen during the month.

By Christeen Grant

Moreaea brevisyla

By Christeen Grant

Tephrosia purpurea

By Christeen Grant

Zaluzianskya microsiphon

By Christeen Grant

Zornia capensis

A Black-headed Oriole often sings a liquid call from the tops of trees.

By Christeen Grant

On an evening stroll I heard and spotted several Levaillant’s Cisticolas foraging in the Bracken,

By Christeen Grant

and early in the morning the shy Bokmakierie has joined the moth smorgasbord.

By Christeen Grant

Two of the moths, I think both Slug moths evaded hungry beaks.

By Christeen Grant

By Christeen Grant

A Stick Insect found it’s way onto a kitchen towel

By Christeen Grant

and a dainty Lacewing settled in a dark corner for the day.

By Christeen Grant

Last night as twilight faded a lovely rich chocolate brown adult male Bushbuck wandered through the garden, then on down the slope in front of the house towards the orchard, browsing as he went.

David Clulow: Two wildflower outings this month in Boston

Fern

Fern

The first a camera sortie by Barbara Clulow, Crystelle Wilson and David Clulow clambering around on “Edgeware” hillside – Gordon Pascoe’s portion – where the flowers had changed from a matter of a few weeks before; all quite different to most years at this time.

Epilobium capense

Epilobium capense

The carpets of Eriosemas are still wondering whether they should flower. But we did see two Eulophia which pleased us

Eulophia

Eulophia

and only one of the Pachycarpus/Xysmalobium type, when normaly there would be many.

Schizoglossum

Schizoglossum

The second outing was at “Stormy Hill”, home of Caroline McKerrow, whose riding school made way for a visit to the hillside,

Cycnium racemosum

Cycnium racemosum

together with CREW representatives to search for the uncommon Brunsvigia undulata – with its wavy leaves.

Brunsvigia undulata

Brunsvigia undulata

Happily there were 7 plants seen and photographed together with a wealth of other plants……………..

Moreae

Moreae

Orchid

Orchid

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

Watsonia

Watsonia

Paddy and Sue Carr – Netherby

Paddy and Sue reported a charming tale of an Egyptian chick rescue – having seen the brood on the road near their house, to find shortly after, one chick being taunted by the house cat in Paddy’s study, was alarming. Removing it, Paddy set off to find the parents – and there they were with the other chicks, taking swimming lessons. Calling the chicks away at the sight of the approaching Paddy, the parents made angrily in his direction. He placed the chick on the water and, hearing the parent’s frantic calls, the youngster was soon reunited with the family.

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

At the height of summer there is a great variety of grasses maturing in the veld.

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I have no idea what their names are, but do enjoy the diversity of the plants.

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By now most birds have completed their breeding and there are many juvenile birds flopping around, demanding to be fed and learning how to cope in the big wide world.

Nightjar chicks by Peter Geldart

Nightjar chicks by Peter Geldart

A new sighting this month was a pair of Banded Martins with their chick, I don’t often find them in the district.

Banded Martin

Banded Martin

A Spectacled Weaver at the Pickle Pot was new for me, and I saw a Dusky Indigobird for the first time in a long time.

Dusky Indigobird

Dusky Indigobird

Members of the BirdLife Port Natal bird club from Durban visited on 25 January, looking at wetland birds on Gramarye,

Boston_4589_veld

where a highlight was finding a Barn Owl at the river, and then going to the forest on Boston View where a Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher took the honours.

Boston_4592_veld

It was an enjoyable outing and was suitably rounded of by two African Fish-Eagles (an adult and juvenile) circling above Gramarye before the last visitors left.

African Fish-Eagle

African Fish-Eagle

This is the SABAB2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000:

Malachite Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher

Terrestrial Brownbul, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Banded Martin, Lanner Falcon, Neddicky, Willow Warbler, Cape Glossy Starling, Black Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Wryneck,

Banded Martin

Banded Martin

South African Shelduck, African Firefinch, White Stork, Common Quail, Green Wood-Hoopoe,

White Stork

White Stork

Amur Falcon, Southern Black Tit, Red-billed Quelea, Long-tailed Widowbird, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Barratt’s Warbler, Red-winged Starling, Yellow Bishop, Forest Canary,

Red-billed Quelea

Red-billed Quelea

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Wailing Cisticola, Sombre Greenbul, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Olive-Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, Blacksmith Lapwing, Thick-billed Weaver, Pied Starling, Common Moorhen, Helmeted Guineafowl, Red-capped Lark, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Hoopoe,

African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe

African Sacred Ibis, Barn Swallow, African Black Duck, Cape Grassbird, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Bokmakierie, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Canary, Grey Crowned Crane, Black Saw-wing, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Black-headed Oriole, Greater Striped Swallow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Cape White-eye, Pin-tailed Whydah, Brimstone Canary, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Amethyst Sunbird, Village Weaver,

Amethyst Sundbird

Amethyst Sundbird

African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Cape Crow, Giant Kingfisher, Zitting Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, Yellow-billed Kite, Jackal Buzzard, Spur-winged Goose, African Pipit, African Darter, Pied Kingfisher, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, African Rail, White-throated Swallow,

White-throated Swallows

White-throated Swallows

Brown-throated Martin, Cape Longclaw, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Cape Sparrow, Cattle Egret, Cape Robin-Chat, Red-chested Flufftail, Cape Weaver, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Speckled Mousebird, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Stonechat, Diderick Cuckoo, Little Rush-Warbler, Southern Red Bishop, Dark-capped Bulbul, Drakensberg Prinia, Alpine Swift, Horus Swift, African Black Swift, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Fiscal, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Burchell’s Coucal.

Common Waxbill

Common Waxbill

Selfies with Snakes!

The newly launched Rosetta/Nottingham Road Conservancy kicked off the New Year with two great talks by renowned snake expert, Pat McKrill. They were each a great success and we look forward to inviting Pat to talk to us again in the future.  Sarah Ellis compiled this report.

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The first talk was primarily aimed at farm staff and gardeners and proved to be a real hit. We had approximately 75 locals, staff and a few school kids attend a very informative and interactive lecture under the trees at the NRLA Hall grounds which had everyone spellbound.

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Before the talk I asked Pat how good his Zulu was and he replied that when he had a live snake in his hands, he always had 100% concentration from everyone and everyone understood everything he said, even if he wasn’t 100% fluent in Zulu and how right he was!

pat and Snakes 001

Pat explained that snakes were very like us and were only interested in finding food (mostly rats and frogs), a house to live in (such as woodpiles and dark areas to hide in) and that they also spent time looking for boyfriends or girlfriends! He had a couple of harmless and slightly venomous local and exotic snakes in boxes which he held up for us all to see and he encouraged everyone to hold and touch them.

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This was something most of the audience were extremely reluctant, if not terrified, to do but by the end, quite a few people had had a turn holding and feeling a snake and had experienced their cool non-slimy skin.

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It was interesting to note that most of the older men in the audience couldn’t bring themselves to do this but that most of the younger members were happy to do so and that they all wanted to pose for cellphone photos of themselves with a snake to show their friends!

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The event even turned into a bit of a photo-shoot which was a very unexpected and positive spin-off from the talk as they delighted in talking about the “show and tell” sessions they would have later with their friends.

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Pat also demonstrated very successfully how snakes would never harm us unless they felt threatened. He released snakes onto the ground within a circle of people who stood absolutely still and they quietly slithered around looking for a gap to escape without harming anyone – an American Boa also calmly slithered over a seated lady while on its way!

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The message was loud and clear: if you see a snake, stand still and it will move off as we are too big to be considered dinner and PLEASE don’t kill it as they do an enormous amount of good eating (mostly) rats.

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After the talk at Rawdons that evening we all decided that Pat should have his own TV show – he was so entertaining and interesting with all his animated snake facts and anecdotes. We were fascinated by what he had to say and could have listened for hours – do you know that a lady snake can keep sperm for up to 4 years until she decides to “use” it? He showed us a red-lipped herald which was now full of eggs even though he had had her on her own for 3 years! This talk, which was also pleasingly attended by about 75 people, was obviously more detailed and interactive and also provided an opportunity for interested people to handle these misunderstood reptiles.

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This talk was funding by N3TC through the MCF Environmental Learning and Leadership programme.  Thank you Pat for a wonderful start to our monthly Conservancy talks!

Threatened Plant Species – Huttonaea woodii

ORCHIDACEAE Huttonaea woodii Schltr. [Vulnerable]

Huttonaea woodii II

This beautiful upright orchid is up to 300 mm tall, with a strong straight stem and two leaves. It is known from grassland on two farms in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and in Giants Castle Game Reserve. Leaves directly attached, clasping the stem up to 50 mm long. Flowers small, pale green or whitish, Petal heavily marked with reddish-purple. It is said to flower in February. Threats to this species are habitat transformation due to agriculture and forestry plantations in the Midlands.

Photograph caption: CREW

If you have seen this plant, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References:

LINDER H.P & KURZWEIL H. 1999. Orchids of Southern Africa: 297. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Von Staden, L. & Victor, J.E 2006. Huttonaea woodii Schltr. National Assessment: Red List of South Africa Plants version 2014. 1. Accessed on 2015/01/13