Dargle Wildlife February 2012

Barry and Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Lots of moss, lichen and fungi. especially on our fallen oak tree which has fungi in many beautiful shapes, colours and sizes.

Hamerkop – 1st sighting in our garden. Steppe Buzzard, Gymnogene, Black Sunbirds, Weavers, Doves, Bulbuls, Southern Boubous, Fiscal shrikes, Wagtails, Olive Thrush, Cape Robin, Cape white-eyes, Sparrows, Drongos, Hoopoes, Burchell’s Coucal. About 15 storks and 20 egrets seen flying overhead.

Juvenile dwarf chameleon. Snakes – Red-lipped Herald and Night Adder. Increased number and variety of spiders. Found this interesting spiders nest – someone has suggested it belonged to a Pilistes spider – any know for sure? Butterflies.

Ann and Mike Weeden – River Run on Hopedale

My son was showing my grandson how to fly the radio controlled bird he received at Christmas, when we were called to witness the interaction between it and some swallows. Just as we came outside, a yellow billed kite swooped out of nowhere and sank its talons into the madly flapping toy but in the process, dropped something it had obviously been holding. While my wife Anne shrieked at the kite to drop its “prey”, my son went over to inspect what had been dropped and found a small snake on the lawn. In the meantime the shrieking had presumably had some effect, as the kite released the toy on the other side of the house down near the river. The toy was retrieved and, other for some puncture marks, was surprisingly none the worse for wear.

We have had the usual duiker, reedbuck and bushbuck sightings but sadly earlier this week a reedbuck with a broken leg crossed the river from Singisi Forest and died shortly thereafter. It had clearly been caught in a snare. We have had a pair of swallows building a nest under the eave outside our kitchen and last night at about 8.30pm the two of them spent about an hour frantically trying to get in the window, sitting on the sill pecking at the glass and even continuously flying into the window. We couldn’t see anything attempting to commandeer the nest and switching off the lights didn’t help much either. Would anyone hazard a guess as to what the problem was?

On the bird side, we have had a white stork on the grass and a spurwing goose down at the river. Have heard the calls of both the crowned and fish eagles recently. Also saw our first chameleon since we bought the property six years ago.

Carl and John Bronner – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Last week I saw a crowned crane wandering through my herd of friesian horses in the kikuyu pastures above the barn. Have never seen one so close to the house.  On my numerous outrides in the past 3 weeks I have spotted pairs of oribi in the redgrass field above the indigenous forest, seen loads of jackal droppings and on Wednesday night heard them yelping at dusk while I was sitting near the house…first time I have heard them while down in the garden, so am assuming they were really close to the forest that is the garden boundary.  John watched the biggest house snake move down the driveway…he said it was longer than a metre and about 5cm in diameter…maybe that is why the rat population is dropping!  One morning a hare came racing up from the forest pursued by horses and dashed through the middle of the farmyard (all the dogs kept snoozing). And we have had malachite sunbirds amongst all the other sunbirds at our feeder for the first time.

Dieter Rowe-Setz – Wakeford

This is a caterpillar I found in an wattle forest. Don’t know which moth will hatch from this. If anybody knows, please let me know. It is 10cm long and 2cm thick. Never seen golden spikes before.

Lovely weed with bright pink leaves down by the river, don’t know what it is.

Malvina and Evert va Breemem –  Old Furth

Oribi (on 2 occasions), Crowned Cranes next to the dam, The training flights of our resident Fish Eagles’ youngster also the young buzzard and a VERY clumsy Gymnogene. Martial Eagle, Otters in the dams, Resident Serval (who has been snacking on Egyptian Goslings, only 1 remains of 7), Water mongoose crossing the P130, Bush black cap, Next door to us the Secretary Bird is sitting firmly on her nest., Some interesting aerial arguments take place between the Yellow-billed kites and the Forest Buzzards over territry/airspace., We are also hearing the tree dassies in the indigenous forest just below the cliffs of Nhlosane.

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Louwrens – Hopedale

On one of our drives around on a gorgeous evening – we were lucky enough to see a total of 10 reedbuck (a stunning ram and three youngsters by the dam), a duiker and quite possibly an Oribi by the indigenous forest! (I am convinced, but Wayne did not get such a good view of it, as he was driving.)  We are so glad that, despite having found all the carcasses prior to our purchase of the property – there still seem to be some antelope around.

We have recently named one of the rocky outcrops Bushbuck Knoll after watching a ram marking his territory at length up there.

We have counted no less than 5 resident pairs of Little Grebe squabbling and whirring across the dam and two pairs of Red Knobbed Coot (who seem to tolerate us humans – fairly well) A couple of nesting Reed Cormorants are busy reducing the huge frog population. A flock of Common House Martins are taking their share of the insects as they swoop low over the water surface and a few have their nests in the ruined house above the dam. Grey herons, Yellow Billed Ducks and Spurwing geese are frequent visitors.  We have heard calls from Striped Fluff tails and also Spotted Eagle Owl at the dam and have seen a couple of these magnificent owls (on defunct telephone poles) on our evening drives around the Dargle.

We now also have a very fast growing family of what we believe to be African Black Duck. On one of our visits a short while ago – one of the territorial coots chased and separated the mother from her ducklings (they all hid in the reeds) – and then in a turn around – a fierce little grebe appeared and energetically chased the coot almost to the other end of the dam – (serves him right!)

A Crested Crane fairly recently did a fly past over the grasslands, calling plaintively – hopefully one day they and other crane species will pay us a visit.

As for mammal sightings – we have seen a Wild cat, and have seen several Serval and Egyptian Mongoose in the last few months. Of course, we have heard Jackal calling as there seems a more than healthy population in this area. Plenty of porcupine quills around, although we have not seen the animal itself for a while.

I saw Brunsvegia natalensis flowering in the grasslands and have seen a few small orchids. We had a braai with some friends at the dam, and were a little startled when a poor chameleon fell from quite a height from the tree under which we were seated. It lay quiet for a moment – but when I picked it up – it soon revived and I was able to place it gently in the grasslands a few meters away – where it disappeared almost instantly.  I later identified it as a Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon. Beautiful markings!

Rob Coulson and Yvonne Munk – Howick

Although we no longer live in the Dargle, but in Howick North, we love getting all the Dargle news and sightings and want to share this with you.

On February 2nd just before 13:00 hrs, a tiny ball of black fluff with a beak and two legs came wobbling onto our verandah. While we were wondering who on earth it belonged to, a large beautiful bird appeared and started to herd the ball of fluff back towards the garden. We grabbed the Roberts  Guide and to our utter amazement realised that we had a male Adult Buff Spotted Flufftail and baby right in front of our eyes.   By the time we found the camera the pair had vanished into the undergrowth beyond our driveway.  Managed to peer into the undergrowth and spotted the mom as well as another baby before they all disappeared.  We felt so privileged to have finally seen real live Flufftails right in our garden, having only ever heard their mournful call at night.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

One of the delights of late summer is watching the Knysna Loeries and Samango monkeys feast of figs right outside my window.

Birds: A pair of blue cranes flying over and heard a few other times. 4 Cormorants, yellow billed kites, pair of Yellow billed ducks, Pied Crows, a brown hooded kingfisher

Stone Chats, Jackal Buzzards, White eyes, mousebirds, Masked Weavers, Thick billed weavers, Southern Boubous, Cape Robins, Thrushes, Cape Batis, Rock Pigeons, Ring necked Doves, Grey headed Sparrows, Bulbuls, collared sunbird, amethyst sunbirds, Fork-tailed Drongo, Pin tailed Whydah, Knysna Loeries eating the figs, Hadedas, four Guinea fowl on the D17 and a Cape Eagle Owl late one evening.  swallows/swifts swooping about me and dipping into the dam

Mammals: Bushbuck on the edge of the forest, reedbuck on top of the ridge, a pair of oribi, jackals and tree dassies calling at night. Samango monkey eating the figs outside my window. Hares running in the headlights on the road.

Plants – Flowering: Kniphofia laxiflora, Crocosmai paniculata, Crocosmia aurea, Kniphofia caulescens. Nemesia sylvatica, Conostium, Watsonia densiflora, Dissotis canescens, Whalenbergia, Plectranthus elegantulus, Pavonia columella, Plectranthus laxiflorus. Fruiting: Trimeria, Kiggelaria, Rhus, Maytenus mossambicensis, Canthium mundianum

Other creatures: Lots of dragonflies – from tiny turquoise ones, big bronze ones and jewel coloured blue ones. Paper wasps. Moth bugs (cryptoflata unipunctata) – fascinating white fluff which turned into triangular white hopping/flying things. Tadpoles and green striped frogs. Masses of Stink bugs (coridius nubilis). Lots and lots of mushrooms of all shapes and sizes.

Robin and Sharon Barnsley – Sanctuary

We have had a lot of Egyptian gees and spruwing geese on the dam this year. They don’t even fly off when we go up there to fish – just move to the other side of the dam. Three  crowned cranes arrive at the dam regularly each morning and we have a duiker which appears to be sleeping tin the shrubbery of our garden.

Vaughan and Karen Koopman – Riverfront Farm

For a couple of nights last week, we heard a giant spotted eagle owl (I think it is now called veraux eagle owl?) calling from the big trees along the river. There is no mistaking the pig like grunts of the call! According to the Roberts and Sasol guide books the Dargle is out of their range, but I guess birds have wings and they do fly, so it’s not impossible. I guess he was just moving through.

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm

BIRDS: Giant kingfisher sits on dead tree next to stream and feeds on tadpoles, A fish eagle dive bombed about 30 egyptian geese sitting beside dam.  They all flew into dam – quite a sight. Yesterday we had 20 spoonbill.  Every day we have been getting about 50 egyptian and 50 spurwing geese on our dam. The secretary bird flies in every day and paces the hills.

A couple of weeks ago at midday about 30 storks arrived over the dam and had a good splashing and bathing session and then stood with their wings outstretched – they were there for about 30mins. Haven’t seen many white stork this season., Two weeks ago spotted the blue crane with a baby.  Since then seen the pair without baby – probably taken by the jackal as the cranes cry every night in the field next to house. We found a drowned duiker in our dam today.

FLOWERS: Watsonia Densiflora, Dissotis Canescens

Eidin Griffin and Malcolm Draper – Wits End

We were lucky enough to spot a fish eagle soaring over the fields last week. A pair of olive woodpeckers have been very busy up a tree in the yard. This morning Juno home for the weekend was happy tell us that he’s saw a hoopoe pottering about on the lawn and the resident  burchells couchal is still swooping from tree to tree. We’ve seen lots of owls in the evenings at least three in half a kilometre radius. Haven’t been able to identify them though.

A few weeks ago we stood frozen to the spot in the kitchen as a duiker came right up to the tree out the back door to nibble on peaches! Oh, and monkeys have occasionally come thundering past on the roof snatching grapes but seem to be more interested in Dave Fowlers mielie fields. Maybe the grapes are an appetiser…. We just heard a Blue Crane behind the house – and there has been loads of small grasshoppers zinging around in the fields!!

Derrick and Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Park

Don’t know whether you saw that lovely spectacle of 17 YBK,s  circling above us last weekend. Long time since I saw such a big group.    I thought my eyes have been playing tricks with me.  About a month ago I said to Jen that I had seen a very strange cuckoo in the garden & when I told her what I thought it was she suggested a ” little more water with it ” was appropriate. Well last weekend I saw it again & to prove to her, grabbed my camera but could not get a decent shot of it. On Monday at midday it flew right in front of us & we happened to have a guy here who was a birding guide in Botswana for 3 years & he was able to confirm that we do indeed have a dark morph Jacobin Cuckoo resident with us!!! (No extra water needed!!!) We see & hear it regularly. Bloomin porcupines in abundance but have been able to trap one of the offending marauders.

NOTE: Anyone who has ‘problem’ or injured animals on their property is welcome to contact the conservancy committee for advice.  Alternately, Free Me in Howick on 071 228 9082.

Andrew and Susi Anderson – Lane’s End

A friend of ours staying at Mount Park (19 Feb) watched 2 cape Vultures cruising along the crest of Inhlosane! Susi watched an Immature Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk) raiding weaver nests, snacking on chicks.

On the 28 Feb I wonder if anyone else saw, at about 17h30, a large quantity (20 – 30) of raptors in small groups all heading with a purpose in the same direction (towards Mpophomeni).  They were not very high and if it was just one or two I would have assumed they were Yellow Billed Kites (the right size colour and tail) but such a congregation I have never seen before so without having binos at the time I am questioning my identification.

Two natal Dwarf chameleons squashed on the Hebron Haven road.

Very interesting is that a Fulvous Whistling Duck has appeared on our duck dam.  My hobby is ducks and I have a small flock of Fulvous that I have bred that are closed ringed and pinioned.  They are not supposed to occur here so either this one has strayed out of its range or is an escape from another collection.

Gill Addison – Antheap

Two snakes this month: Ratex, who has lived on my property for years, seen here finish her dinner. A lovely bright green snake that I hope was a Natal Green snake. I saw two great big green Hawk month caterpillars looking for somewhere to pupate.    Lots of birds in the garden the usual pair of Black Crows who don’t seem to have bred this year, the Bokmakieries, a very tame Red Necked Franklin, the Jackal Buzzards, the White Storks and many more. The Crowned Cranes fly past calling at dawn but don’t often stop. I noticed Groundscraper Thrushes for the first time and they have been here for a couple of weeks now. The Hoopoe pops in from time to time. There are lots of Black Sunbirds and Mouse birds, lots of types of weavers, more Thick Billed than last year.

A big male Bush buck is visiting from the forest over the river and the Reed buck always around and the grey Duiker came for crab apples.

The chameleons are very evident around the bird feeder and seem especially bright this year.

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