Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May

Ann and Trevor Hulley – Robhaven

There are plenty of scrub hares in the garden and a shy female grey duiker (photo taken earlier this season) has started feeding on what’s left of the garden after the hail and frost. The reed buck have not started feeding on Alan’s rye grass so there must still be plenty of feed around for them.

Lots of bird activity around the farm this month. Apart from all the usual doves, weavers and sparrows, the rock pigeons have been very active in the nesting boxes. Early mornings are punctuated by the sound of their feet pattering across the iron roof! Also plenty of redwing and Cape glossy starlings, bulbuls, cattle egrets, fiscal shrikes and sacred ibis. No bald ibis unfortunately. There’s a huge flock of resident mousebirds that sits on a fence outside the office window. They remind me of old-fashioned clothes pegs!

Our family of guinea fowl disappeared into the wilds in April, but have been replaced by a family of Natal francolins – parents and 3 chicks – but not at all tame like the guinea fowls.  I have seen several black shouldered kites sitting on the remnants of the telephone wires and we’ve been lucky enough to have the fish eagles from Laurie Bischoff’s flying overhead and calling to each other.

Down at the dam there are Egyptian geese with goslings, some spurwings and the inevitable moorhens.

On Friday we were treated to 23 crowned cranes flying over our house and calling. Such a wonderful sight and sound! They looked like they were heading from the Dargle to Midmar.

On Friday night as we went out we saw a spotted eagle owl on the Petrusstroom road. It had been busy with some prey in the verge when we disturbed it. On the way home we saw a water mongoose crossing the road.

Robin and Sharon – Sanctuary

Crowned crane still in residence on Portmore. Good to see a small flock of guinea Fowl (12) on Sanctuary – they seem to have been absent for a while. We have seen a Gymnogene about and Rock Pigeons are nesting in our roof. Other wise all quiet.

Ian Sinclair – Benn Meadhon

(Observed by his sister in law and her husband over a weekend)

As requested, we checked the whole farm early this morning and there was no evidence of poaching or poachers. We did how ever see a pair of Reedbuck on the dam side grazing with a very small baby hidden in the longer grass. The baby was really tiny and barely viable. This was about 05h30 this morning. They were on the far side of the rye grass near the river and trees. During the weekend ± 14 reedbuck, ±6 duiker, ± 4 bush buck (2 male and 2 female)  were sighted on Friday night. Six of the reedbuck were sighted around the dam area, the most we have ever sighted in the area. A pair of bush buck were also sighted at the base of the hill near the rye grass just out of the natural forest. The other pair of bush buck by the forest on your left going up the hill from the old dip area. We saw them again on Saturday night opposite the road going through this forest on your left. A count was again conducted on Saturday night with a similar result. A lot of raptors such as owls, jackal buzzard, black eagle, etc. were also sight. This morning we checked up on the  food put out on Saturday night for the jackals and found that it had all been eaten leaving only the odd feather. A lot of jackal scat was present on the road, and therefore it can safely be assumed that it was eaten by the jackals. As far as the jackal observation is concerned animals such as scrub hares, vlei rat, etc. form part of the normal diets of jackals.

Sandra and Pat Meyrick

Sitings every day of the secretary bird traipsing around the hills poking in the rocks for lizards and rats.

Last week at 7am I saw what I thought was a small spotted genet crossing dirt road into long grass – it had a long bushy tail and markings on its back.  When I stopped the car to check it out it was sitting in the long grass looking at me.  It had a round light sandy brown face with enormous eyes and pointed ears – the one ear had 2 black markings with brown thru the centre and the other ear was plain brown.  When I got out of the car to have a better look, it slunk off into the trees.  I think it must be a cross between genet and african wild cat if thats possible, or wild cat and domestic, except it was fairly large – 3 times size of a normal cat.

Pied kingfisher and giant kingfisher at our pond near house. 3 african hoopoe come into garden daily (first time since we moved in 4yrs ago)  they nest in wattle plantation 1km away.  Spend about 20mins before flying off. 5 spoonbill in dam, plover 5 african shell duck flew over house, sometimes in dam.  First time we have seen a blackwinged stilt at dam. Seen before at Kruger and Botswana. Samango monkeycame down hilland sat on front gate before disappearing into the trees.

Katie Robinson – Lemonwood

As I was driving home the other night a jet black mongoose type animal ran out and up the drive in front of my car before exiting at great speed.  It had very thick fur and an enormously bushy tail – water mongoose?  I have seen a female reedbuck on several occasions just after dark in the drive, she is very relaxed and never ceases to amaze me how she can jump over the fence from a standstill with the grace of a ballerina.

Gill Addison – Antheap

Yes! I had a beautiful single Bald Ibis who came and spent three weeks on Antheap only leaving with the arrival of the cold weather last week.

Also seen at Antheap: in addition to the resident pied Starling were two glossy Starlings and a Redwing Starling. Two Hoopoes, the Bald Ibis and lots of Hadedas, the Egyptian Geese.

A big otter, a porcupine, the Reedbuck and the resident Grey Duiker’s finally brought this year’s youngster for mielies at the fence. A white tailed Mongoose is worrying the chickens, a lone Vervet Monkey is coming regularly to run around on the tin roof, the Jackals are all around, I’ve seen the Spotted Eagle owls and I heard a Wood Owl I think early this morning. A few Black Sunbirds have stayed behind. Residents are House sparrows and Grey headed Sparrows and many Weavers and a pair of Black Crows. Can’t hear any frogs from the wetland but a sleepy brown toad came into the house yesterday.  I have heard the Fish Eagle a couple of times and the Crowned Cranes as they fly along the valley.

Corrie Lynn Farm

  • Flock of 20 spurwinged geese grazing in the pastures
  • Huge bushbuck ram
  • African hoopoe
  • Jackal trotting down the road at 8am one morning
  • Family of 4 duiker
  • Pair of crowned cranes
  • A very large olive house snake that had been injured and was moving very slowly

Nikki Brighton

Plants flowering: Halleria lucida, Leonotis leonaurus, Gnidia spldens, Prunus africanus (see info below) Kniphfia linearifolia, Senecio tamoides, Jamesbrittenia breviflora, Phymaspermum acerosum, Senecio floribunda, Buddleja Saligna, Budleja auriculata, Buddleja dysophylla, Polygala virgata.

Mammals: duiker, reedbuck, Samango monkeys (still seem to be some tiny ones), hares. Heard – tree dassies

Birds: thick billed weavers, bronze mannekins, forest weavers, fork tailed drongo, hadeda, stone chat, amethyst sunbirds, collared sunbirds, white faced ducks, Southern bou bou, Thrush, Cape Robin, White eyes, Jackal Buzzard, Weavers, Forest canaries, golden Oriel. Heard – blue cranes, fish eagle,

Carpenter bees on Hypoestes, lots of bees in Halleria, green and pink grasshoppers

Really beautiful little Red lipped Herald basking in the sunshine. According to my friend Pat McKrill: The Herald (or Red-Lipped Herald) is a common resident that hangs around the home and eats mainly guttural toads, terrestrial frogs and the odd gecko. It sometimes puts up a bit of a ‘hissy fit’ when first encountered, flattens its head and strikes out at the aggressor – typical Herald ‘jizz’. The Afrikaans sometimes refer to it as the Swart Adder.  The red lip is not always there, nor are the spots, but the head is always darker than the rest of the body, and the under side is always lighter than the upper side. Venomous but not dangerous to animals or humans. Great garden companions.

Clive and Norma Griffin – The Chestnuts

Clive saw a single Bald Ibis down near the Umgeni last week.  Otherwise nothing very exciting – the porcupine again very active in my garden – poor arums!

Wildflower of the Month – Prunus Africana

Common names: red stinkwood, bitter almond; Afrikaans: rooistinkhout; Zulu: Inyazangoma-elimnyama, umdumezulu; Xhosa: uMkakase

Just when most trees around us have lost all their leaves, the Prunus Africana sprouts a whole lot of shiny, new ones.  They are particularly spectacular as the rising sun catches their under sides and turns the tree in to a magical, sparkling thing of coppers and bronzes and gold.

Unfortunately, Prunus africana is rare and endangered these days. Mostly due to the medicinal value of the bark which results in ringbarking. Many indigenous nurseries are trying very hard to propagate plants to ensure its survival.

In KwaZulu-Natal Prunus africana is protected and the Dargle mist-belt forests are home to some magnificent specimens of these large, evergreen trees. The dark green glossy leaves have shallowly serrated margins, pinkish petioles, and smell faintly of almonds when crushed. The almost insignificant white flowers are scented and followed by small reddish-brown berries which the birds love.

Traditionally, in Southern Africa, the bark is used to treat chest pains, while in Europe, extracts from the rind of the fruit have been used for the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy and bark extracts in patented hair tonics (Hutchings et al, 1996). This tree is also reputed to be very poisonous.

World Environment Day – 5 June

 World Environment Day aims to personalise environmental issues – so that world citizens realise that it is our responsibility to take care of the environment, and become actively involved in making lifestyle choices and changes to support sustainable and equitable development.

 It is a day to commit to new greening actions.  The theme for WED 2012 is Green Economy: Does it include you?

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