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

Boston Wildlife Sightings – April 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani:

02 Cover 01 Sunrise IMG_1974

Sunrise, Sunset, the most beautiful and varied skies. Golden grass and sunlit days. Unfortunately the very late summer rain was not enough to replenish the water table, already our well is down to late winter levels.

02 Cover 02 Sunset  IMG_5327

My most exciting sighting was an unusually dark coloured, juvenile, Puff Adder. At first I thought it might be a Berg Adder, due to its colour and length.

03 Reptile Puff Adder IMG_535403 Reptile Puff Adder IMG_5363

The flower of this season is Leonotis leonurus, bright orange swaths splash the hillsides. Other autumn flowers seen were Alectra sessiliflora, Sutera floribunda and Wahlenbergia appressifolia. What I always think of as thatching grass and is used for that purpose locally, Cymbopogon validus, Giant Turpentine Grass, has responded to the dry season well, and flowering profusely. A Fungi that looks just like a stone caught my eye, Rhizopogon luteolus, Pale Brown False Truffle.

Birds are very active, amongst those seen during April were Buff-streaked Chats sunning on rocks in the early evening; Cape Crows; Dark-capped Bulbuls catching early morning sun on tree tops; the liquid call of Black-headed Orioles in flight; Cape White-eyes; Black-backed Puffbacks; Speckled Pigeons; Amethyst Sunbirds; African Stonechats and an African Harrier-Hawk.

06 Birds Buff-streaked Chats IMG_533506 Birds Cape Crow IMG_508402 Cover 03  IMG_534206 Birds Dark-capped Bulbul IMG_5065

Some interesting insects, a Shield Bug species Aspongopus nubilis; two different flies of the Tababidae Family; a Lunate Ladybird larvae, Cheilomenes lunata; and a Robber Fly, Alcimus tristrigatus eating a Blowfly of the Chrysomya genus. Just one moth, not identified.

Most evenings the Black-backed Jackal yip and call. A Duiker mum and her young one are seen regularly, one early morning the young one frolicked and feint charged his mother. The Dormouse is still around, one morning I woke up to see it watching me with very beady eyes, making chirripy noises. A lovely Serval sat at the side of the road in the early predawn light as I drove by.

Wayne Muller of The Drift:

I was surprised one morning to see a Red-necked Spurfowl surrounded by what I at first thought were Common Quail, except they were far too small. I then realised they were newly hatched spurfowl chicks.

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye:

Due to circumstances I had limited time at Boston during April, but did manage to do one bird atlas list with 68 species. The Pin-tailed Whydah has lost its long tail feathers, and with it some attitude.

image1

The Southern Red Bishops also looked much less assertive without their breeding colours and perching on the abundant weeds bordering the fields.

image2

Strutting its stuff in the stubble remaining in the maize fields after harvesting was a Cape Crow

image3

When I looked at my pictures of a Lanner Falcon, I was once again struck by the power and size of its eyes and claws in relation to the rest of the body

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The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: African Darter, Red-collared Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Pied Crow, Greater Honeyguide, African Hoopoe, Red-necked Spurfowl, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Jackal Buzzard, African Spoonbill,

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Cape White-eye, Black-headed Oriole, Common Waxbill, Common Moorhen, Cape Longclaw, Brown-throated Martin, Bokmakierie, Speckled Pigeon, Spectacled Weaver, African Wattled Lapwing, Barn Owl, Village Weaver, White-breasted Cormorant, Spur-winged Goose

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Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-chested Flufftail, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Long-crested Eagle, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Cape Wagtail, Olive Thrush, Greater Striped Swallow, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Crow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Reed Cormorant, South African Shelduck, Red-knobbed Coot (with a youngster in tow)

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Pied Kingfisher, Drakensberg Prinia, Purple Heron,

image8

Black-headed Heron

image9

Yellow-billed Duck, Little Grebe

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African Sacred Ibis, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Egyptian Goose, Hadeda Ibis, Common Fiscal, Lanner Falcon, Red-billed Quelea, Red-winged Starling, Amethyst Sunbird, Red-eyed Dove, Black-backed Puffback, Southern Boubou, Cape Robin-Chat

image11

Sombre Greenbul, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Turtle-dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Stonechat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Grey Crowned Crane – the juvenile at Gramarye is now flying strongly with its parents when they come home to roost at night.

image12

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon – Bradypodion thamnobates

– By Nick Evans –

The Midlands is home to a vast array of amazing animals, including many species of reptiles and amphibians. One of the most striking and beautiful of the lot is the Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates).

Howick

Photographed in Howick by Nick Evans

This gorgeous, colourful chameleon is one of many species of dwarf chameleons of the genus Bradypodion. It is actually quite large for a supposedly dwarf chameleon, and can get to a length of around 20cm (including the tail)!

Chameleons, usually, are popular amongst people and most people adore them! How can you not? They’re very cute and loveable animals, with an interesting persona. People are generally often fascinated by their many interesting features. It’s usually the oven mitt- like ‘hands and feet’ and the way they move about, or the constantly rotating eyes, that people find most interesting.

Nottingham

Photographed in Nottingham Road by Nick Evans

The way chameleons hunt is truly amazing. They move slowly through the bush, blending in with their environment very well, and move like a stick in the wind, with the eyes constantly scanning for food or threats around them. They also use their long, prehensile tail for balance. In fact they can even hang off branches while clinging to it using just the tail! Once they have spotted a tasty grasshopper, both eyes focus on the insect, and it then shoots its long, sticky tongue out which hits the insect, and acts like a suction cup. It’s an incredible sight to behold! That tongue of theirs can be as long, or even longer than their body!

Nottingham 2

Photographed in Nottingham Road by Nick Evans

Chameleons exhibit interesting behaviour. Did you know:

  • Chameleons don’t generally climb down to a pond/stream to drink. They actually drink dew or rain drops off the leaves of the shrubs that they’re on.
  • Chameleons cannot shed their tails like a gecko.
  • Like all reptiles, chameleons shed their skin. Most reptiles just leave their skin to peel off, but the chameleon will eat its shed skin! This is to supply their diet with calcium.
  • Chameleons are famous for changing colour, but this is partially a myth. If you put a chameleon on a red/blue/purple or any colour clothing, contrary to popular belief, it won’t change to that colour. Their natural colour allows them to blend in to the environment already. However, a chameleon’s colour can change to lighter or darker shades. So, for example, if a chameleon is stressed, it will become very dark.
Howick (2)

Photographed in Howick by Nick Evans

The Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon is currently listed as Vulnerable, but it is locally common in some parts of the Midlands. The reason why it is listed as Vulnerable, is due to habitat loss, which is an ongoing problem. Please remembers that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s)  are not optional, as they are required only for certain listed activities.

We consulted Gareth Mauck at Hogarty Attorneys who informed us: “According to the National Environmental Management Act’s EIA regulations (2014), certain listed activities will be subject to an EIA. There are two streams of EIA. The first and least onerous is the Basic Assessment (BA). BA is required where environmental impacts are not likely to be significant (generally listing notice 1). The second more onerous process is the Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment – This more onerous procedure is required where the activities fall under listing notice 2 and 3 and are generally significant environmental impacts.”

You can download the following documents:

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleons are also popular pets, especially overseas where they are commonly bred. These slow and crinkly friends are often collected by kids or people that think it’s a ‘cool’ animal to keep. Rather don’t do this, they are not easy animals to keep and are best left in the wild.

Rosetta

Photographed in Rosetta by Nick Evans

 

Consider yourself lucky should you find one of these remarkable reptiles in your garden. If you want to encourage them to your garden, plant indigenous plant species which will attract chameleon food! Don’t use pesticides, the chameleons will do that job for you!
The Midlands Dwarf Chameleon is definitely one of the gems of the area!

To find out what Nick does, you can visit his website: www.kznamphibianreptileconservation.com

Boston Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye:

A GROUP of Grey Crowned Cranes made good use of a pivot at Elandshoek farm, demonstrating their perching skills.

image1

And it is very pleasing that the resident pair on The Willows, Gramarye and Elvesida has once again managed to raise one youngster. The surviving chick is making good progress. The parents were taking extra safety precautions by sleeping on a little island in a dam at night.

image2image3

I love the nests of Thick-billed Weavers, very beautiful, and woven with great skill

image4

and it was good to spot the inhabitants as well

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A female was visiting a stand of Leonotus elsewhere

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The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 also included: African Black Swift, African Wattled Lapwing, Village Weaver, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, Grey Heron, South African Shelduck, Steppe Buzzard,

image7

Southern Boubou, Common Quail, Red-necked Spurfowl, Bokmakierie, Diderick Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher,

image8

African Hoopoe, African Firefinch, Red-throated Wryneck, African Darter, Spur-winged Goose, Amethyst Sunbird,

image9

Brown-throated Martin, Cape Robin-chat, Hadeda Ibis, African Sacred Ibis, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Black Saw-wing, Greater Striped Swallow, African Paradise-flycatcher, Speckled Mousebird, Zitting Cisticola, Cape Crow, Speckled Pigeon, Malachite Kingfisher, Cape Grassbird,

image10

African Olive-Pigeons and Pied Starlings forming strange bedfellows on overhead wires

image11

Black-headed Heron, White-throated Swallow, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Pied Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Duck, Little Grebe, Common Waxbill, Blacksmith Lapwing, Southern Red Bishop, Three-banded Plover,

image12

Egyptian Goose, Cape Longclaw, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Long-crested Eagle, Wailing Cisticola, Common Fiscal,

image13

The last of the Amur Falcons before migration, both male and female

image14image15

Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-billed Quelea, Red-collared Widowbird, Cape Canary, Pin-tailed Whydah, Barn Swallow, African Stonechat, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-winged Starling, Dark-capped Bulbul, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-eyed Dove, Cape White-eye, Sombre Greenbul, and Cape Wagtail.

image16

Christeen Grant of Sitamani:

There has been a mellowness of autumn creeping in, in milder days between very hot ones, cool mornings and golden tones in the grasses. Beautiful light effects at dawn and sunset.

02 Cover b IMG_4832

Flowers are almost over for the season subtle shades of autumn grass make a perfect foil for silhouetted flowering grasses. However bright yellow Berkheya Echinacea and Helichrysum cooperi shine and it’s also the season for Hesperantha baurii and masses of Plectranthus calycina.

03 Flower Berkheya echinacea IMG_4821

Berkheya echinacea

03 Flower Berkheya echinacea IMG_4822

Berkheya echinacea

03 Flower Helichrysum cooperi IMG_4816

Helichrysum cooperi

03 Flower Hesperantha baurii IMG_4824

Hesperantha baurii

03 Flower Plectranthus calycina IMG_4819

Plectranthus calycina

For the first time I saw what I think is a Drakensberg Crag Lizard, it was very wary; also at a distance, so not a perfectly sharp photo.

04 Reptile Drakensberg Crag Lizard Pseudocordylus melanotus subviridis IMG_4820

A lovely Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly found it’s way inside and I managed to get a couple of photos before setting it free.

05 Insects & Spiders Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly  IMG_478305 Insects & Spiders Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly IMG_4776

One of my favourite insects, the Mottled Veld Antlion, settled in the grass near the house one morning.

05 Insects & Spiders Mottled Veld Antlion IMG_4769

A sparkling dew beaded spider web after rain caught my attention.

05 Insects & Spiders dew beaded spider web IMG_4799

A pair of Malachite Sunbirds flitted busily over the hillside for a couple of weeks. Cape White-eyes, Cape Robin-Chats and the Black-backed Puffback have been enjoying the verandah birdbath. The Village Weavers have dispersed, abandoning their summer nests. A Long-crested Eagle has used the Eskom poles as a vantage point. Several times after an absence I’ve heard the Spotted Eagle Owl hooting.

Most evenings the Black-backed Jackal yip and call. A pair of Duiker are still seen regularly along the drive and in the garden. A Doormouse had a narrow escape, somehow it had fallen into the toilet bowl during the night. I managed to rescue it in the morning and set it free outside. However for a while there was evidence in nibbled fruit and moth wings, that it had come back inside again.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Gaudy commodore

Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector Butterfly (Precis archesia)

It’s been a dry month – 80 ml in total. I saw the Blue Crane juvenile flying for the first time on 27th February. We see them almost daily mostly at sunset where they wade in the dam which is dropping at an alarming rate. One hot midday I watched in fascination as it seemed the blue crane adults were trying to teach the youngster to swim.

Crane 1 - Come on junior – this is how you swim

Come on junior – this is how you swim

They were swimming all over the dam while he just stood and watched. Not too interested but he suddenly decided to start running through the shallow water in wild abandon.

Crane 2 - Check this, I’m dancing on water

Check this, I’m dancing on water

Then up and down the side of the dam, wings widespread while his parents stood and watched the antics. At one stage mom or dad started running after him. I watched for an hour before they eventually wandered off to look for some lunch. They are a very close knit family and there is a lot of touching of beaks between them. They are such incredible parents. 5th youngster they have raised now.

Crane 3 - Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

A malachite baby flew into the verandah door one day – as we had folk for lunch I did not take photos. I put him in a box for awhile and let him loose later where he flew off quite contented.

There have been dozens of moths this month and the frogs have been having a feast on the verandah. No snakes yet!

One morning while having tea on the stoep, we saw 2 Common Reedbuck fighting down at the dam.

Reedbuck 1 - Female reed buck either playing or fighting

Female Common Reedbuck either playing or fighting

We presumed they were males fighting over the females as usual. But as they parted we were surprised to see they were 2 females. A chase ensued and then another charge and more head butting and pushing.

Reedbuck 2 - The Chase

The Chase

It did not look friendly and I wondered if they were fighting over a male!!! But he was nowhere in sight. They eventually parted on friendly terms and carried on grazing. I was surprised at this behaviour between 2 females who are usually so docile.

Reedbuck 3 - The Charge

The Charge

Pat saw an African Jacana at the dam 2 days in a row, but every time I looked for him he was nowhere to be seen.

The Martial Eagle returned to the same dead gum tree a few days after the stork kill. It was a stifling day. His beak was ajar and his wings pulled away from his body. I was so thrilled to see him once again, but that was the last time. A number of raptors around.

Pat saw a black sparrow hawk eating a rat along our driveway. We went for a walk one evening around the dam and found 2 Blacksmith Lapwing eggs lying out in the open a few metres from the dam edge.

Blacksmith plovers eggs

Blacksmith Lapwing eggs

One morning I saw a strange coloured raptor on our dead tree – I went outside to get closer for a photo shoot.

Unknown Raptor 1

Then I heard another raptor making a sort of “peeeoooo” noise which went on for a few
minutes. This one was somewhere in the gum trees opposite our house. The raptor left the dead tree and flew up to the gum trees, found a perch, and he too started his “peeeoooo” calling.

Unknown Raptor 2

Then suddenly the other raptor flew in and joined him a few metres away on the same level. There was a chorus of whistling to and fro and then the one flew off and the other followed shortly after.

Unknown Raptor 3

I have no idea what raptors these are but think they are juveniles because of their light coloured eyes. They are both differently coloured yet whistled the same song. I have asked Ashley to please see if he could find someone to identify them for me. I googled juvenile steppe and jackal buzzards, and also forest buzzards, but got so confused after a few hours gave up.

The skinks (lizards) round the house have become very friendly and enjoy the morning sun in our study. They love the warmth of the sun and sit for some time on the carpet wherever the sun touches it. Strange little creatures and very social. They have now found their way into our bathroom too.

Skink in our study enjoying the morning sun

All day long they slip under the aluminium doors into the study and our bedroom which adjoins both sides of the verandah. The dogs ignore them and they run around freely looking for and eating the dead moths from the previous night and anything else that’s edible.

Skink eating all the dead moths from the night before

They always seem to know how to get out of the house which amazes me. At one stage I used to shush them out the door until I found that they definitely know their way around. Amazing.

Heard several African Fish-Eagles crying this morning over the house – they were miles up – the sky was so blue and bright that I could see nothing, but that wonderful sound lingered in the thermals – a sound that one does not forget – this is our beautiful country, Africa.

 

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

The Yellow-billed Kites have gone, but the Barn Owls are back in their box in the farmyard – hope they breed successfully again. I saw just one Reedbuck doe all month and one Common Duiker. Jackal Buzzards, Cormorants, Egyptian Geese, a small brown duck, wagtails, hadedas, a Giant Kingfisher and an African Fish-Eagle watch as we enjoy the last swims of the season in a not yet full dam.

Autumn changes always seem the most obvious, and are much loved by most Midlanders – the chilly ground underfoot in the mornings, perfect afternoons and gentle light of the evenings.

grassland view of Inhlosane

View of Inhlosane

Disperis fanninaea, appears quite at home in the understory of wattle or pine woodlots. Flowers are borne on stems of up to 40cm tall, sometimes singly or in clusters of up to eight. Petals are joined to form a white helmet-shaped hood, flushed with pink speckles and rimmed in green. Dormant during winter, with new shoots emerging from the underground tuber in spring. The pollination of Disperis is interesting; it is carried out mainly by specialized oil-collecting bees, Rediviva coloratat, this is a rare phenomenon in plants. The bees collect the oil as food for their larvae. Once pollinated, the fruit capsule ripens and thousands of minute, dust-like seeds are released and dispersed by wind. As is the case with most orchids, they have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi that live in their roots – supplying them with nutrients absorbed from decaying organic matter.

disperis fanninaea

Disperis fanninaea

Leonotis intermedia and Pycnostachys reticulata are flowering in grasslands.

pycnostachys reticulata

Pycnostachys reticulata

Plectranthus laxiflorus, Hypoestes triflora, Desmondium repandum and Plectranthus dolichopodus flower on forest edges.

desmodium repandum

Desmodium repandum

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Rain has been minimal this month, sometimes we do still get a bit of dew on the grass though.

Dew on the veld grass

This grass was being burnt from the heat of the rocks, until we had a tiny bit of rainfall.

Grass burnt from the heat of the rocks before the rains arrived

Some pink Everlastings and Watsonia flowering in the veld.

 

Sunset over the Dargle

Sunset over the Dargle

Spiky Caterpillar

Spiky Caterpillar

Some kind of worms found whilst digging a hole in the ground, they managed to burrow quickly under everytime I turned the soil over, pretty sure they weren’t maggots

Worms in deep soil
Rainforest Brown Butterfly

Rainforest Brown

A few different kinds of fungi and mushrooms sprang up after the rains at the beginning of the month.

Malvina & Evert van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

March has been extremely busy on Old Furth Estate with multiple celebrations and hordes of visitors, so we have been battening down the hatches more than usual!

No sooner had the dust settled from the last carload of visitors than we had the call we have been waiting for from Free Me that the two Serval were on their way for release on the farm.

Serval 1

Never a dull moment here! We went over to the other side of the Furth River and released there as we know that we have Serval near our dams already and didn’t want to cause a territorial problem.

Serval 5

Serval 2

The male was released first, rather groggy after his antidote, and then the female.

Serval 3

We were very surprised that neither of them bolted, they just took their time sniffing the new territory and then gradually melted away into the surrounding vegetation.

Serval 4

On some of the walks showing everyone around we found some lovely fungi in the forest

Fungi

and a really large bulb which had been disturbed – any guesses on what it could be?

mystery bulb

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

The swallows have been gathering since the 1st March. On a couple of evenings the sky over us has looked just like Mt Moreland . Literally 1000’s. Almost in competition with the Amur Falcons at Mooi River.

This extraordinary “nest” is growing out of or is stuck to a wall in the garden. The fluff looks like human hair clippings. At the top of the nest there is a white lava and below it is the brown pupa. I think we need Dr Jason Londt ‘s expertise again…

Strange Nest

Dr Jason Londt’s Response: “Many caterpillars incorporate their long hairs into their cocoons – I think that is what we see in the photo – the pupal case left behind by the emerged adult moth is frequently found inside the cocoon – or bits of it should it break up. I wouldn’t like to guess at the species that made these cocoons but maybe a Monkey Moth.”

I found this gay fellow on Grandpa’s Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

Colourful Caterpillar

The dehisced seed capsule of the Kigelaria africana and below the unopened capsules. The seeds in the capsules are very pretty, black with red flesh. The birds always beat me to it and I didn’t manage to get a photo. The Acraea butterfly breeds on this tree and at times it is crawling with caterpillars. The fruit and larvae attract a huge number of birds and there is constant activity. It is a really worthwhile tree for a larger garden. Cuckoos and Black Headed Orioles feast on the caterpillars. The doves scratch round under the tree picking up seeds, the toppies, sparrows, weavers and white eyes strip the capsules of the fruit. Thrushes and boubous too.

Kigelaria Africana

Wyndham Robartes – Wana Farm

Wyndham sent in a video of some “Processionary Worms”, here is a still from that video.

Caterpillars

David Mann – Knowhere Farm

Rode on the bike up to the top of the farm last week with Ben (the Ridgeback) and as we got to the top a Jackal took off and Ben decided to give chase. He returned a while later looking a bit tired, obviously the Jackal gave him a good run!

Louise Bolton – Robhaven Farm

I recently took a walk up Inhlosane mountain this week and took a few pictures.

Inhlosane View from the top

The weather was perfect as we were up there by 7am. Here is a picture of the view from the top plus a panorama.

Inhlosane Panorama

There were many flowers in bloom but this one caught my eye, Crassula alba.

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

Also saw this lizard basking in the sun. Love how the shadow reveals the jagged edge of its tail.

Lizard

NEMBA Regulations: They Affect Us All!

MCF hosted a very successful workshop on NEMBA (National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act) and its regulations at Michaelhouse recently, with Chris Birkett of Enviroworx as the speaker. This forms part of the MCF’s Invasive Alien Plant (IAP) Clearing Project, which is funded by N3 Toll Concession.

A synopsis of the presentation presented by Chris is given below. For more information, contact Enviroworx directly: Chris Birkett (082 391 4402), Mike Patrick (082 418 2104) or email admin@enviroworx.co.za

NEMBA Workshop at Michaelhouse 2

Does NEMBA apply to me?

NEMBA applies to all landowners. Protected areas and state owned land have to have management plans in place, while sellers of property have to provide a declaration of listed species present before transfer occurs. (See downloads below for “NEMBA 1 August 2014 – Regulations“)

What are listed species?

There are 379 plant species listed, but not all of these have to be removed. Four categories of species are defined, but one species may fall into several of these categories depending on location.

  • Category 1a: must be removed. These are generally species which have proved problematic elsewhere in the world, and the intention is to eradicate them before they become a problem in South Africa.
  • Category 1b: must be controlled to prevent spread. This is the biggest category, and includes most well-known invasive species such as Bugweed and Lantana.
  • Category 2: This category covers plantations with invasive potential. Permits are issued for plants to be grown in a particular area. If they spread, they are moved into category 1b.
  • Category 3: This is a list of new species that could become a problem. The presence of species on this list is recorded so that spread can be monitored. One example is the Mulberry.

(See downloads below for “NEMBA Lists – 1 August 2014“)

Ayanda with alien specimens herbarium res.

What is the difference between a Declaration and a Notice?

Declaration: This is required when property is being sold. It is a list of the species present on that property, and their abundance. The seller must provide a copy to both the buyer, and to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). DEA use declarations to map the area, so that they can monitor the problem potential and decide when to require removal of a particular species. If a category 1a species is present, this must be removed before the property is sold.

Notice: These are issued by DEA inspectors after visiting a property and deciding that certain species need to be controlled. (If a seller doesn’t issue a declaration to a buyer, and a DEA inspector subsequently visits the property and serves a notice, the buyer can hold the seller liable for clearing costs.) Notices give a timeframe for replying, creating a control plan, and effecting removal.

What is the difference between Management Plans and Control Plans?

Management Plans list the species present, and how these will be controlled over a period of time. Management plans are not required for property of <5 hectares.

Control Plans are required in terms of a Notice issued by a DEA inspector. They list the process and the herbicides that will be used to remove and destroy the IAPs present. Category 1a species cannot be removed from the property, but must be destroyed in situ. (See downloads below for “NEMBA Guidelines for Control Plans“)

How does this affect the Property market?

Estate agents and conveyancers have an obligation to make sellers aware of the legislation. If a Declaration shows a major problem with IAPs on the property, the buyer could ask for a reduction in price for the amount that it will cost to do the necessary clearing. The seller therefore needs to be aware of the liability of having IAPs on their property.

Can this legislation be enforced?

NEMBA is a national Act, and therefore overrides both provincial acts and municipal bylaws. The Deeds Office is not responsible for enforcing the legislation. However, attorneys need to ensure that the necessary Declarations are completed to comply with the law.

How does this affect complexes (sectional title schemes)?

Declarations for property that is part of a sectional title scheme must also cover both common property, and exclusive use areas.

NEMBA Workshop at Michaelhouse 1

Can I do my own declaration?

As the legislation stands, you can do your own declaration. However, both DEA and attorneys prefer to employ a specialist to reduce the possibility of landing up in trouble.

When should a declaration be done?

It is preferable to do a declaration just prior to transfer, because IAPs grow so fast. It is important to record the date on which the declaration was compiled, for the same reason.

Do the municipalities have management plans?

Currently, neither Umngeni nor Umgungundlovu Municipalities have management plans in place. However, they are working on these.

What services are provided by Enviroworx?

Enviroworx specialise in declarations, but can also provide management/control plans if required. Declarations identify the IAP species present, the abundance of each, and the category they fall into.

A covering letter is also provided, listing any other information that could be of relevance to the purchaser, eg. the presence of a state-owned servitude crossing the land. On small properties, the data provided will be more comprehensive than for large farms, as data for the latter is extrapolated from transepts of representative samples.

Useful downloads:

Threatened Plant Species – Nerine pancratioides

AMARYLLIDACEAE: Nerine pancratioides [Near Threatened]

Nerine pancratioides, commonly referred to as the White Nerine, is a plant that grows up to 600 mm long. It was previously observed in parts of the Midlands, south-western KZN as well as in north-eastern Lesotho. This gorgeous flower is also featured in the Midlands Conservancies Forum 2016 Wildflowers Calendar.

RB

Nerine pancratioides photographed in the Karkloof by Richard Booth

Habitat loss and destruction has caused a significant decline in the species population size in several of its localities, and in some instances even resulting in extinction. Deterioration of wetlands in the form of overgrazing, invasive alien plant infestation and damming are major concerns for the population’s survival.

Nerine pancratioides

Nerine pancratioides photographed by CREW

The plant grows in moist areas with acidic soils, on banks of streams, in grassy depressions and in seepage areas on steep hillsides. The flowers appear between March and April and are known to respond well after fires have occurred.

Nerine pollinator

Nerine pancratioides photographed in the Karkloof by Richard Booth

The leaves grow to 300 mm long, are narrow, round at base and almost flattened towards the top. The stalk is robust growing to 600 mm long. The sheathing bracts are narrowly egg-shaped with sharp tips. The pedicels are densely covered with hairs, 300−450 mm long. The inflorescence is umbel, 10−20. Tepals are ± 25 mm and white.

Nerine pancratioides seed

Nerine pancratioides photographed by CREW

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

REFERENCES:

  • Baker, J.G. 1896. Amaryllideae. In: W.T. Thiselton-Dyer (ed). Flora Capensis VI (Haemodoraceae to Liliaceae):171-246. L. Reeve & Co., London.
  • Craib, C. 2004. Nerine pancratioides. Degradation of grassland habitats by exotic plantations are threatening the beautiful white Nerine with extinction. Veld & Flora 90:105-107
  • Mtshali, H. & von Staden, L. 2015. Nerine pancratioides Baker. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2016/03/16
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.