Boston Wildlife Sightings February 2012

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers of Lapa Lapa

Three guinea fowl chicks raised by Silky hen, are growing nicely, till a Black-sparrow Hawk predated one at the door to the calf shed, where they live; now there are two. Barn Owls are once again in the roof of the overhang, above the back door to the house. Two African Spoonbills seen in the field near the house amongst the Cattle Egrets and Sacred Ibis

Grass Carp  are not indigenous, but they do a fine job, keeping dams free of undergrowth, excessive grass, sedge, restiads and reeds. Here is a photo of one which posed  recently, before being returned to join the other 6 or 7 already there:

Peter and Karen Geldart of Cocquidale

Pair of Amethyst Sunbirds have successfully raised their two chicks in the nest on the back veranda. Six Bald Ibis. Six Southern Ground Hornbills seen flying into the gum trees near the turnoff to Impendle village.

Graeme and Claire Hudson of Kia Ora

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes were nesting on the edge of the dam at “Kia Ora”; a Black-backed Jackal caught and ate one, and the other fled

Glyn and Barbara Bullock of Harmony

Feb 28th – twenty-two Grey Crowned Crane on “Harmony” in the morning

Barbara and David Clulow of  The Willows

Feb 14 – the Crane adults objected to the presence of a group of iNguni cattle. The owner grazes them on a field on The Willows. Usually they don’t get near one another, but the Cranes have been extending their range into the field where the iNgunis graze. So, I heard this anxious calling by the adults. The Cranes defended their position for two minutes, then they retreated behind the fence, where they usually hang out. Minutes after I was pleased to see the Cranes resumed feeding and their chick followed them quite normally.

Out of respect for the adult Cranes, devotedly raising their one chick, which is seen daily now, here are two photos of  the adults in the course  of their day; roosting and enjoying a favourite tit-bit, something they seem to enjoy on the aging Zantedeschia plants (Arums).

So, it was with some amazement that on 19th February for the first time, the growth of the chicks was such that, for the first time, it became apparent that there are TWO chicks. And by 25th Feb they were growing fast.

Twice at month-end, a Yellow-billed Kite interfered with chick feeding and the Cranes hid them from view; but the real drama was on 29th Feb at 5.30 pm when a Black Sparrow-Hawk settled on a post overlooking where the Crane family over-night in the wetlands. A vigorous attempt was made to drive the Sparrow-Hawk off, dive-bombing it by one Crane; when it took to the air, and circled about the Crane family, one Crane adult took to the air again and a mid-air mock battle took place, manoeuvring and wheeling to frighten off the intruder.

Spotted Eagle-Owls calling nightly

Pete and Frances Nel of Four Gates

The Grey Crowned Cranes are nesting at the dam and hopefully will raise some chicks again. Poachers on Sunday 26th in the morning on the hill to the left of the house chased a reedbuck with about 30 dogs……the reedbuck got away. Feb 28th – a lone Secretarybird at foot of Elandskop; Feb 29th – three Southern Ground Hornbills in valley near house

Gordon Pascoe of Keswick

Feb 14 – after disking on “Mosgate”, the White Storks somehow knew that there was an abundance of food.

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

wildfowers in the wetlands near the Elands river on Gramarye – Riocreuxia torulosa (Candle Vine); and also – Hebenstretia oatsii, Schizostylis coccinea, Abutilon grantii, Rumex sagottatus

“PLEASE come and rescue this bird on my lawn. It looks the size of a baby guineafowl.” This was the message my KZN Midlands neighbour received late the afternoon of 7 February from yet another neighbour, Kirsten Cromhout, who fortunately had the foresight to lock up her five dogs. We were astounded to find a baby Grey Crowned Crane confidently running around the lawn. How it managed to get separated from its parents and find its way through thickly matted vegetation far from a nesting site remains a mystery. No parents were in sight, so the chick was given a home for the night and, on advice, kept in a box in a warm, quiet place.

Tanya Smith, senior field officer of the Drakensberg Crane Conservation Project, arrived next morning to collect the baby bird, which she estimated to be barely 36 hours old. The bird was chirping vigorously. She was equally taken aback at finding such a youngster. She planned for it to be taken to the Hlatikulu Crane Sanctuary, where it can be reared with other cranes, and this is indeed what happened. She hopes to ring it and eventually release it into the wild, possibly back in Boston.

The bird was fed wheat-free Pro-Nutro (chocolate-flavoured!) for breakfast, though Tanya’s recommendation was that tinned cat food would have been better. During the first few days the parents feed their babies a high protein insect rich diet before adding seeds to the mix. In fact the Crane survived. At Hlatikulu it currently feeds on ‘Pheasant starter’, which is a starter mix for baby birds, plus meal worms.

At Hlatikulu it is known as ‘Bossy’ Boston for its demanding ways. Not many chicks will survive a night after such stress.  This one did. Finding the stray chick helped somewhat to relieve our tension about what was happening at several crane nests in the district. From being able to see birds on the nest and others standing sentry nearby, some have gone quiet in the past week. One worries about predators and other dangers. Not necessarily that they have been lost, as the parents can move around actively after a few days, leaving the original nest site. But it is marvelous how Nature times the hatching of chicks to coincide with the ripening and browning of grasses, so it is difficult to distinguish what are the heads of cranes or dead flowers, allowing them to blend in perfectly.

This Water mongoose was on the edge of a maize field on The Drift on 7th February

The SABAP2 bird atlas list for pentad 2935_3000 Elandshoek: Hadeda Ibis, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Robin-Chat, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye, Little Rush-Warbler, Cape Turtle Dove, Common Moorhen, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Cattle Egret, Cape Wagtail, Cape Crow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black Saw-wing, Cape Canary, Helmeted Guineafowl, Amethyst Sunbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Reed Cormorant, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-collared Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-billed Duck, African Stonechat, Yellow-fronted Canary, Bokmakierie, Greater Striped Swallow, Grey Crowned Crane, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Common Waxbill, Speckled Mousebird, Red-billed Quelea, African Rail, Red-chested Flufftail, Barn Swallow, Village Weaver, Common Fiscal, Cape Weaver, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Diderik Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Zitting Cisticola, Steppe Buzzard, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Yellow-billed Kite, Blue Crane, Pied Starling, House Sparrow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Amur Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Wailing Cisticola, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, African Sacred Ibis, Dark-capped Bulbul, African Reed-Warbler, Thick-billed Weaver, Malachite Kingfisher, Malachite Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul, Forest Canary, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow Bishop, Cape Longclaw, Long-tailed Widowbird, African Pipit, White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Sparrow, Cape Glossy Starling, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Olive Thrush, Black-headed Oriole, Pied Kingfisher, South African Shelduck, White-faced Duck, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Quail, African Quailfinch, Long-crested Eagle, Common Swift, Horus Swift, Neddicky, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Grassbird, Speckled Pigeon, Pale-crowned Cisticola, African Hoopoe, Terrestrial Brownbul, Olive Woodpecker, African Olive-Pigeon, Barratt’s Warbler, Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Swee Waxbill, Olive Bush-Shrike, African Harrier-Hawk, White-throated Swallow, Hamerkop, White-starred Robin.

Barry and Lilian Murphy of Vista

A very large Caracal, living on the ridge behind the house, and gradually demolishing the Crested Guineafowl chicks

Philip and Christeen Grant of Sitamani

Philip saw two Water Mongoose. The Kniphofias have been stunning, as have the Watsonia confusas.

Nigel and Tracy Murray of Trelyon

Several sightings of Grass owls; numerous occasions heard Barn Owls; often heard the Spotted Eagle-Owls; seen Spotted Thick-Knees; also Black-winged Lapwing. See Grey Crowned Cranes regularly

This summary was compiled by David Clulow, a member of the Lions Club of Pietermaritzburg (Host), and has been approved by that Club as an official conservation project of the Club.

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