Threatened Plant Species – Clivia gardenii

AMARYLLIDACEAE: Major Garden’s Clivia – Clivia gardenii [Vulnerable]

The Major Garden’s Clivia was named after Major Robert Garden who was a soldier and naturalist stationed in KZN from 1848 to 1853.

These plants are usually between 800 and 1300 mm in height and are known from Ngome Forest to KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. It is harvested for traditional medicine use, which poses a major threat to this magnificent species.

Clivia gardenii by Sthembile Zondi

Clivia gardenii by Sthembile Zondi

The 10 to 12 bright green leaves are in a compact clump at the base. The leaves are long and than, 25–60 mm wide and 350–900 mm long, narrowing to a sharp point.

Individual flowers are often organised into a larger group or cluster, termed an inflorescence.The inflorescence stalk is 300–450 mm long and the flower stalk 25–40 mm long. The hanging flowers are tubular, with 10–25 flowers per umbel (a common point from where the stalks arise similar to an umbrella). The colour of the flowers vary from yellow to brownish red, usually orange-red with green tips, curved and not drooping.

These Clivia flower from May–July each year. Their fruits are berries, longer than broad, one or two-seeded, ripening the following winter after about 12–15 months.

Clivia gardenii by Sthembile Zondi

Clivia gardenii by Sthembile Zondi

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

Reference: SCHEEPERS, G. 2011. Clivia gardenii adopted from Hooker, W.J. (1856) The Clivia Society. Accessed on 2014-08-02.

We Adore Pink Dyke Swarms

The Karoo basin was once the site of an inland sea at a time in the earth’s history when all landmasses were joined in a single supercontinent known as Pangea. The Permian period (200 – 300 million years ago) ended with the most extensive extinction event recorded in paleontology – 90% of marine species and 70% of land organisms became extinct. These organisms would have sunk to the bottom of the sea, been covered in silt and mud, and then decayed anaerobically, eventually forming the fossil fuels we extract today.

FRACK 02

It is important to understand that the Karoo basin is far more extensive than the area we refer to now as the Karoo and includes all of Lesotho, almost the whole of Free State, and large parts of the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Karoo basin’s sea was deepest (and therefore has the thickest deposits of fossils) between Graaff Reinet and Somerset East, thinning out completely in KwaZulu Natal at the Mvoti River. Over time these deposits formed what is now referred to as the Ecca geological group, comprising shale and sandstone formations. There are three main types of Ecca shale – Vryheid, Volksrust and Pietermaritzburg shale – in the KZN Midlands.

Map large - Dyke Swarms

In the KZN Midlands there is also a lot of dolerite. Dolerite flowed from volcanoes forcing its way through cracks in other types of rock. It appears as sills (horizontal), and dykes (vertical) intrusions. Dykes are present in such numbers in the Berg and around Nottingham Road that they are referred to as Dyke Swarms (shown on geological maps as bright pink or red lines). Dolerite is a known preferential pathway for liquids.

f3

In the KZN Midlands and Berg foothills, technical cooperation permits have been issued to companies interested in extracting the natural gas that may be trapped in the shale, using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or more commonly, fracking. Sand, water and chemicals are pumped into a well under pressure, which creates cracks in the rock, releasing the gas. The presence of Dolerite, however, makes drilling more difficult and less profitable, as well as increasing the risk of groundwater pollution and the movement of water from the fracking area.

FRACK 01

In order to verify the amount of shale gas present in the Midlands and its viability as an energy source, further exploration will need to take place in the form of test wells. Test wells are drilled through rock layers containing sub-surface and deep aquifers of groundwater as the companies search for the shale rock that may hold shale gas. Although the wells are encased in sophisticated layers of concrete, there is concern about the concrete failing and the fracking chemicals escaping into groundwater.

FRACK 05 rs

In the Karoo situation, accounts of the South African state owned company Soekor’s drilling efforts in the 1960’s, indicate that drilling fluid travelled for many kilometres from one well – probably along a dolerite fault.

f7

This surely means that in order to protect our ground- and surface- water that the KZN Midlands shale should not be mined or prospected? Remember that groundwater is recharged from the surface water and eventually flows to the surface naturally, ‘daylighting’ into springs and seeps. If our groundwater is contaminated, then not only will it affect those using groundwater from boreholes, but also the rest of us who use water from the streams, rivers and dams into which it ultimately flows. The Midlands Conservancies Forum believes the precautionary principle should be invoked, as the risk is too high.

water factories 04

The shale in KZN is located in a relatively narrow layer, which means that yields will be low and thus not profitable. The presence of these Dolerite dykes should also deter prospectors, but we need to remain alert.

Swarming Dykes

Please make sure you are well informed: http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/prpagefracking.php

Making Sense of Roadkill

Roadkill is a widespread issue. Wendy Collinson of the Endangered Wildlife Trust shares some interesting information discovered by the EWT’s roadkill research team in the Pilanesberg National Park. Well done to all involved.


 

STRONG DATA FROM LATEST ROADKILL SURVEY

Surveys of wild animals killed by passing traffic (roadkill) have produced strong data and several recommendations. This is according to Bridgestone, which sponsored the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) recent investigations into the issue of roadkill in the Pilanesberg National Park.

The surveys, conducted by the EWT between 21 October and 23 November 2014, consisted of on-site investigation of roadkill as well as questionnaires completed by 302 visitors to the park. Of the 120 roadkill observed by the roadkill research team, 62 were amphibians, 27 were reptiles, 20 were birds, ten were mammals and one was not identifiable.

DSCN2203

Vehicle numbers were monitored by the use of traffic counting devices. However, the roadkill research team soon discovered that elephants had taken a liking to the devices and damaged them. Drawing on previous research which has shown that elephants dislike the smell of chilli pepper, the team then applied a daily coating of chilli pepper and oil onto the counters. The traffic counting devices were then protected from further damage.

One of the most interesting aspects of the project was the role of speed in contributing to roadkill. “More than 95% of respondents to the questionnaire survey believe that speed is the sole cause of roadkill. Our aim was to investigate this issue in more detail,” said the EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project Executant, Wendy Collinson.

DSCN2212

Compliance with park speed limits was found to be reasonably high, with 72% of the 6,981 vehicles monitored driving at or below the speed limits. “We postulated that roadkills were likely to occur because drivers were either unaware of their surroundings or travelling too fast to be able to avoid collisions. To investigate these factors we monitored a sample of 201 vehicles and nearly 70% of the drivers were observed to not be looking at the road, but rather scanning the bush for wildlife”, said Collinson. “This suggests that many roadkills in national parks happen because of the expectation that animals are to be found in the habitat alongside the road, rather than on the road itself”, she added.

The same sample of vehicles was used to investigate the role of speed in determining rates of roadkill. The research team placed three fake animals on the road, and recorded how many times each roadkill was hit (for a total possible hit count of 603 roadkill). We also recorded how fast each vehicle was driving, assigning them to three speed categories of <20km/hr, 21-40km/hr and >40km/hr. We found no significant difference between hit rates of drivers in each of the speed categories, with approximately 50% of drivers hitting the fake roadkill across the board.

“From our survey, it seems that observation levels of the driver, rather than the speed of the vehicle, is the key factor in preventing roadkills,” Collinson commented. “One of our recommendations from the latest roadkill survey is that a driver awareness campaign be launched in parks to make drivers more aware of animals on the roads themselves,” Collinson commented.

DSCN2356

Collinson also said she was concerned about the low awareness levels of roadkills among park visitors. “Of the 284 respondents who had visited a park previously, only 2.8% had noticed roadkill, with 6.3% noticing a roadkill on their current visit,” she explained.

Steven Dell, Pilanesberg National Park’s Field Ecologist remarked, “despite the use of road signs both at the park gates and within the park as well as efforts to raise public awareness of roadkill, roadkill still occurs. This project was extremely beneficial to the park as it has assisted in identifying the cause for roadkill and will enable us to focus our future public awareness efforts.”

Bridgestone PR Manager, Desirée van Niekerk, said the results of the latest roadkill survey had proved as fascinating as ever. “Bridgestone has been involved with the roadkill project for three years now, and we applaud Wendy and her team’s contribution to both road safety and wildlife protection,” she said. “We hope these latest findings will soon be used to improve the quality of the experience of park visitors and safeguard the animals in these protected areas,” she concluded.

DSCN2364

The next stage of the project will shortly commence in Addo Elephant National Park.

The EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project in Pilanesberg was supported by Bridgestone SA, Arrow Bulk Logistics, Pilanesberg National Park, Copenhagen Zoo, Mikros Traffic Monitoring and Africa:Live.

For further information please contact Wendy Collinson on wendyc@ewt.org.za

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2015

Charles Robinson – Ican Hebron Haven Nguni farm

Charles posted the following photographs of a snake onto Biodiversity explorer that was found on the farm early one morning. Their response was the following: “Hi Charles, you have caught a Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia) which isn’t really venomous at all.”

Non-venomous Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Non-venomous Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Here you can see why they call it the Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia).

Here you can see why they call it the Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia).

Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Jenny Fly

All our Haleria bushes are inundated with these caterpillars. Presumably they are butterfly larvae but I don’t know which. Perhaps someone can help.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Most birds won’t eat hairy or bristly caterpillars, except for cuckoos and blackheaded Orioles.
Our garden is full of cuckoos, Diedericks, Klaas’s and a Jacobin who visit us every year at this time, all feasting on these caterpillars, and those on the Kigelaria too.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Dr Jason Londt, an expert in creepy crawlies identified these caterpillars in April 2014 as those from an Emperor moth.

Brian & Marashene Lewis – Glengyle

These images were captured by the Dargle Conservancy Trophy Camera which Brian and Marashene Lewis had set up on their property. These images were just too late for last month’s Wildlife Sightings so they were included in March! Enjoy the Bushbuck “selfies”.

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Coccinia hirsuta – wild cucumber – has grown prolifically this summer. Tendrils creeping through my windows, covering paths and climbing every tree and shrub. Clearly it likes the current climatic conditions.

Coccinia hirsuta - wild cucumber

Coccinia hirsuta – wild cucumber

The cucumber-like fruit is an attractive bright orange-red fading to green at the stem end. It has creamy yellow flowers – the male flower is borne on a long stem, while the female has a short stem. The soft leaves are slightly hairy, deeply lobed and can be cooked and eaten as spinach.

Wild cucumber flower - Coccinia hirtella

Wild cucumber flower – Coccinia hirtella

In the forest, Carissa bispinosa (Forest num-num, umVusankunzi) is fruiting at the moment. The small red fruits are edible and delicious and make good jams and jellies (if you can collect enough!).

Carissa bispinosa fruit

Forest Num-num fruit – Carissa bispinosa

Bright pink Hesperantha baurii is still flowering in the grassland on sunny days (the flowers open in sunlight).

Hesperantha baurii

Hesperantha baurii

Barry & Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

These Chameleons were clinging to a security gate for some reason. About to open the gate, Rose saw the one, and put him on her hand.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Opening the gate, the other one, who must have been higher up, fell to the ground. Fascinating colours… possibly male and female?

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon - Male and Female?

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon – Male and Female?

The colourful one appears to just be finishing off shedding. Apart from these two, we haven’t seen much to get excited about this month.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Boston Wildlife Sightings – March 2015

Crystelle Wilson: Gramarye

ONE morning a reedbuck spent several minutes running backwards and forwards on a hillside with what can only be described as pure joy of life.

CW 1

A joyful Common Reedbuck

On the birding front, an exciting lifer for me was a Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk. The way to tell this bird apart from juvenile Black Sparrowhawks, which can also show rufous colouration on the chest, is that they have yellow eyes and not red like the Black Sparrowhawk.

CW 2

Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk in flight

CW 3

Notice the diagnostic yellow eyes of the Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk which sets it apart from it’s close relative the Black Sparrowhawk which has red eyes.

At the end of the breeding season there are many juvenile birds around. The plumage of these birds, especially raptors, can be very different from those of the adults. The trick is to look at the shape of the bird, rather than the colour of its feathers. One such individual flying overhead had me very puzzled, and it was only by looking at my photographs that I could identify it as an African Harrier-Hawk, messily dressed like the gawky teenager it was.

CW 4

African Harrier-Hawk in flight.

The juveniles of common birds such Common Fiscal can also be confusing.

Juvenile Common Fiscal

Juvenile Common Fiscal

Another exciting sighting was a pair of Wattled Cranes opposite the Mount Park Guestfarm near the Everglades Hotel. Tanya Smith of EWT’s crane project tells me that that was a traditional breeding site for the birds and she was very pleased to hear that they have been spotted again in the area.

CW 7

Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust searching for a crane chick

Tanya managed to successfully ring the surviving Grey Crowned Crane chick that was hatched at The Willows/Gramarye this season.

Surviving Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane chick trying to keep a low profile to avoid potential danger.

The SABAB2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Red-winged Starling, African Olive-Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, African Harrier-Hawk, Amur Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard, Malachite Sunbird, Malachite Kingfisher, Red-collared Widowbird, Sombre Greenbul, Banded Martin, (with its tell-tale white eyebrows and long wings)

CW 8

A gorgeous Banded Martin shows off its white eyebrow

Blacksmith Lapwing, Cape Grassbird, South African Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck, Neddicky, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Brown-throated Martin, Common Waxbill, Black-headed Heron, Long-crested Eagle,

CW 9

The Long-crested Eagle is a KZN Midlands favourite!

Purple Heron, African Reed-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, African Snipe, Zitting Cisticola, Black-headed Oriole, Red-throated Wryneck, African Paradise-Flycatcher, White-throated Swallow, African Rail, Black Sparrowhawk, Pied Kingfisher, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Cape Longclaw, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black Saw-wing, Cape Wagtail, Three-banded Plover,

CW 10

A Three-banded Plover on the waters edge

Speckled Mousebird, Barn Owl, Greater Striped Swallow, Amethyst Sunbird, Olive Thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye, Yellow-fronted Canary, Spur-winged Goose, Drakensberg Prinia, African Stonechat, Egyptian Goose, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Cape Crow, Bokmakierie, African Darter, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, African Sacred Ibis, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Diderick Cuckoo, Village Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Common Fiscal, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Grey Crowned Crane, Barn Swallow, Lanner Falcon.

CW 11

Lanner Falcon

Derek Hurlstone-Jones: The Rockeries

The iconic African Fish-Eagle was seen overhead while driving along R617 at the Elands river.

Bruce and Bev Astrup: Highland Glen
A pair of Greater Striped Swallow nested under the eaves where they successfully raised their young.

Glyn Bullock: Harmony
Floater flock of approximately 40 Grey Crowned Cranes were seen regularly on “Harmony”. Highest number noted being 51.

David Clulow visiting on 11 March:
Long-tailed Widowbird at “Seven Streams” T-junction; White Stork on 29 March; Mousebirds at Elands river.

Piet Nel and his son, Willem: Twin Rowan:
Besides seeing the parents of the surviving chick from the pan on The Willows, while they were feeding on “Gramarye”, we saw three Grey Crowned Cranes near the upper fence line on The Willows, with five chicks running and hiding in the tall grass.

Grey Crowned Crane chick on “The Willows”:
An unsuccessful attempt to ring the surviving chick being reared on The Willows on 11 March – because the chick, after being clearly spotted, did its belly crawl into the long grass, after which it lay ‘doggo’ and could not be found; but on 16 March, Tanya Smith of the African Crane Conservation Trust was successful, and the chick was suitably caught, ringed and then set free again.

Caroline McKerrow: Stormy Hill
March was a quiet month, but the highlight was a sighting of two Bushbuck.

David and Wizz Lawrence: The Willows
Three Grey Crowned Cranes flying overhead.

An unusual incident occurred when soot from the fireplace was being irritatingly released. The reason became apparent, when a Barn Owl flew out from the hearth, and into the kitchen, where Wizz caught it and set it free whereupon it flew immediately towards “Gramarye”. The Owl appeared thin, hungry and thirsty – apparently having been in the chimney for some while before it eventually managed to get past the draft release lever.

Rob Geldart: Boston View and Watershed
The usual pair of Wattled Cranes from the pan on “Myrtle Grove” together with their chick, now well grown. African Fish-Eagles are seen fairly often.

Christeen Grant: Sitamani
March is the month when a touch of autumn creeps in, the grass is starting to turn gold, a crispness in the air, but still storm clouds on the horizon. March is also the month of Moths and Mushrooms and there have been many!

01 Cover IMG_2922

A delightful Striped Stream Frog Strongylopus fasciatus sprang across the grass this morning outside the kitchen door, then obligingly waited for me to fetch my camera for a photo shoot! The house is about 150m from the nearest stream, so perhaps it is looking for a winter hibernation spot.

Amphibian Striped Stream Frog Strongylopus fasciatus IMG_2990

Striped Stream Frog – Strongylopus fasciatus

The Speckled Pigeons were most indignant when the planks that supported their nest were moved after their fledgling had flown. Happily they approve of the new arrangement and have already almost reared their youngest juvenile.

Bird Speckled Pigeon juvenile IMG_2977

Speckled Pigeon juvenile

Three flowers caught my eye, a first identification of Berkheya echinacea, also seen Helichrysum cooperi and the delicately elegant Hesperantha baurii.

Flower Berkheya echinacea IMG_2971

Berkheya echinacea

Helichrysum cooperi

Helichrysum cooperi

Hesperantha baurii

Hesperantha baurii

Some interesting insects in and around the house, the Mottled Veld Antlion flew in one evening,

Mottled Veld Antlion

Mottled Veld Antlion

I know where their larvae pits are in dry sandy soil.

Mottled Veld Antlion larvae pits

Mottled Veld Antlion larvae pits

The excerpt from Q&A Insects and Spiders of southern Africa (pub Struik 1993 S. Matthews, illustr. C. Grant) describes the larvae feeding habits.

Insect Antlion Struik

The excerpt from Q&A Insects and Spiders of southern Africa (pub Struik 1993 S. Matthews, illustr. C. Grant)

Cockroaches of the Hostilia sp.

Insect Cockroach Hostilia sp IMG_2987

Cockroach: Hostilia sp.

Insect Cockroach Hostilia sp P1030295

Cockroach: Hostilia sp

and this lovely Preying Mantis were also seen.

Common Mantid sp.

Common Mantid sp.

Many varied size, colour and shaped moths have settled for daytime rest. Some I haven’t been able to identify, if anyone can help I would be most grateful! Clouds of small dark moths flutter beneath the trees during the day, I think they are the daytime Handmaiden Amata sp..

Handmaiden Amata sp.

Handmaiden Amata sp.

Others include Plated Footman Sozusa scutellata, Pretoria Red Lines Cyana pretoriea and six more moths.

Plated Footman - Sozusa scutellata

Plated Footman – Sozusa scutellata

Pretoria Red Lines - Cyana pretoriea

Pretoria Red Lines – Cyana pretoriea

Insect Moth IMG_2986

Unidentified moth (1)

Insect Moth IMG_2985

Unidentified moth (2)

Insect Moth IMG_2983

Unidentified moth (3)

Insect Moth IMG_2969

Unidentified moth (4)

Insect Moth IMG_2968

Unidentified moth (5)

Insect Moth IMG_2961

Unidentified moth (6)

After each showery day multitudes of fungi appear, (I haven’t managed to identify all of them); Bolete or Cep, Blusher Amanita rubescens, Earth-star, Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria, Cinnabar Bracket Pycnoporus sanguineus and two more.

Bolete or Cep

Bolete or Cep

Fungi Blusher Amanita rubescens IMG_2941

Blusher – Amanita rubescens

Earth-star

Earth-star

Fly Agaric - Amanita muscaria

Fly Agaric – Amanita muscaria

Tropical Cinnabar Bracket - Pycnoporus sanguineus

Tropical Cinnabar Bracket – Pycnoporus sanguineus

Fungi IMG_2956

Unidentified Fungi (1)

Fungi IMG_2952

Unidentified Fungi (2)

Cape Serotine bats Pipistrellus capensis flit at dusk and dawn. Common Reedbuck come to the greener grass near the house to graze at night. Duiker pick their way through the long grass and almost every evening the Black-backed Jackal call.

Threatened Plant Species – Senecio dregeanus

ASTERACEAE: Senecio dregeanus [Vulnerable]

Perennial herb with flowering stem up to 1m tall, single not in clusters and simple. It is found in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and southern KwaZulu-Natal coastal areas, from Greytown to Umdoni Park.

Senecio dregeanus Stirling Mar 2011

Senecio dregeanus

Leaves egg-shaped and gradually narrowing to a point at the leaf tip, leathery, bracts narrow to narrowly egg-shaped, embracing the stem. Heads arranged around, few to many on long surrounded with bracts, peduncles more or less flat-top arranged.

Senecio dregeanus_Midmar2

Senecio dregeanus

Involucre bell-shaped, bracts about 20, a little longer than the disc flowers, with the scent, heavily rowed by small bracts around the base of the calyx. Rays long, spreading, purple, disc purple. It flowers in March to April.

Senecio dregeanus_Midmar

Senecio dregeanus

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

References
HILLIARD O.M. &BURTT. 1985. Notes from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 42(2): 171−225.

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – February 2015

Besides being a short month, February was also a busy one in the Karkloof – the maize which stood “as high as an elephant’s eye” was harvested, so Gartmore hide is now surrounded by bare fields (filled with lots of Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese, Blacksmith Lapwings, Speckled Pigeons, Red-eyed Doves, Cape Turtle-Doves, Grey Crowned Cranes and Wattled Cranes), Karin Nelson had a bird ringing morning, and the Three Cranes Challenge saw a host of volunteers assembling to cater for the ‘maniacal‘ marathon runners.

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill

We had a new visitor to the Gartmore pan who is now included on our bird list – a Hottentot Teal.

Hottentot Teal

Hottentot Teal

It was much easier photographing their relatives, the Red-billed Teals, as their bills don’t get camouflaged against the reflection of the blue sky in the water!

Red-billed Teal

Red-billed Teal

The local rodent, frog and reptile populations must have experience a rapid decrease in February with all the raptors that were out and perched on the centre-pivots.

Amur Falcon

Amur Falcon

These included the Amur Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kites, Steppe Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, African Marsh-Harrier and the African Fish-Eagles.

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Please remember to avoid using poisons to control your rat populations and seek “raptor-friendly” options!

Other sightings included: White Stork, Cape Crow, Hadeda Ibis, African Sacred Ibis, Southern Bald Ibis, Southern Red Bishop, Barn Swallow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-collared Widowbird, Long-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal, Cape Weaver, Woolly-necked Stork, Diderick Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Hamerkop, Wattled Lapwing, African Stonechat, African Black Swift, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black Saw-wing, Dark-capped Bulbul, Village Weaver, Zitting Cisticola, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Common Fiscal, South African Shelduck, White-throated Swallow, Whiskered Tern, Common Moorhen,

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Bronze Mannikin, Cape Wagtail, African Jacana, Common House-Martin, Common Waxbill, Red-billed Quelea, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Shoveler, Little Grebe, Lesser Striped Swallow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Levaillant’s Cisticola, White-faced Duck, Amethyst Sunbird, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-winged Lapwing, Little Rush-Warbler and Burchell’s Coucal.

African Jacana

African Jacana

It’s all about the little things – Hugh Watson

Hugh Watson, a regular visitor to the Karkloof Conservation Centre bird hides took these breathtaking photographs during his recent visit. Can you spot Wally, the yellow spider?

KK Feb 7 KK Feb 10 KK Feb 9 KK Feb 8

Spitzkop Farm – Tim Hancock

My sighting is very vague – it looked like an Eurasian Hobby – from the falcon like head and very curved back wings and thin tail (just like a big swallow) repeatedly dive bombing what appeared to be a Steppe Buzzard – too far to actually be definite.

Cricket vs.Twitching – Johnny Bouwer

On Saturday morning the 28 February, I was faced with the choice of lying in bed and watching the Kiwi’s thrash the Auzzies in the WC or head out to the rainy & wet Midlands to the Karkloof Conservation Centre.

KK Feb 14

I was rewarded with a some awesome sightings, so I believe I made the right call. At first I thought the birds were probably all snuggled up in bed watching the cricket.

KK Feb 13

White-throated Swallow

KK Feb 11

Pied Kingfisher

These photographs are of a White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Ducks and a pair of intimate Brown-throated Martins.

KK Feb 12

Yellow-billed Ducks

KK Feb 18

Brown-throated Martins

The 3 Cranes Challenge – John and Linnet Crow

Friday was a day in Fairyland, after a beautiful sunrise and being situated in the forest at Karkloof Canopy Tours.

KK Feb 19

The sunlight reflecting off the wings of the butterflies and dragonflies could have been glimpses of fairies.

KK Feb 20

The Samango monkeys and Loeries (now known as a Turaco) watched the show as the competitors enjoyed the canopy tour. The floor moved as the bright yellow crabs and finches carried on with their activities.

KK Feb 21

The troll that I heard turned out not to be a troll, but Kai from the canopy tours coming to check how everything was going.

Saturday was a day of watching runners appear from and disappear back into the mist

KK Feb 22

and looking for some of the little things.

KK Feb 24

A juvenile fiscal shrike kept us company for a while.

KK Feb 25

Sunday did not show us the same spectacular sunrise as last year, but the surface of the dam displayed an incredible reflection.

KK Feb 28

The signs were there that the caracal had departed not long before we arrived.

KK Feb 29

The dam at Bushwillow Park was a welcome sight at the end of the 3 days.

KK Feb 30

Bird Ringing @ Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson

On the 11 February, Karin Nelson hosted a bird ringing day at our Conservation Centre. The day was well attended and we were pleased to see all the homeschoolers that made use of the activity as part of their studies.

Village Weaver waiting to be collected. The netting gently captures the bird. Qualified bird-ringers know all the tricks so that they may safely remove the bird without any injury. Photograph by Richard Booth.

There were also some visitors who were curious about how ringing impacts the birds, but were very pleased to see how gentle and competent Karin is and that the birds were so calm during the process. Karin caught a total of 75 birds with 5 of these being re-traps.

Red-billed Quelea being measured by qualified bird-ringer, Karin Nelson. Photograph by Richard Booth.

These included: 47 x Red-billed Quelea; 7 x African Reed-Warbler; 6 x Village Weavers; 4 x Southern Red Bishop; 2 x Drakensberg Prinia; 2 x Yellow-fronted Canaries; 2 x Levaillant’s Cisticola; 2 x Fan-tailed Widowbirds; 1 x Pin-tailed Whydah; 1 x Dark-capped Bulbul; and 1 x African Stonechat.

Pluviophiles in the Karkloof – Twané Clarke

“Pluviophile: (n) A lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.”

One afternoon when I noticed a build up of dark clouds, I decided to hightail it to the Gartmore hide and see what’s out and about during the rain.

KK Feb 33

Firstly, I noticed a Yellow-billed Duck wandered the pan alone,

KK Feb 34

Yellow-billed Duck

then I saw a flock of Barn Swallows flying in the distance with two breaking away to rest on a branch,

KK Feb 35

Barn Swallows

and the last bird I saw was a lonely little White-throated Swallow.

KK Feb 36

White-throated Swallow

These birds all weathered the storm and remained there the entire time. I arrived back at the office a drowned rat, but a happy one indeed!