Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – April

Karkloof Conservation Centre

When I arrived at work one morning, I heard an unfamiliar bird call and looked to see what it could be. To my surprise, it was an African Paradise-Flycatcher. It was singing so beautifully with a whistling “tswee-tswitty-tswee-tswitty-ter” (as described in the Sasol Photographic Birds of S.A. Book). This was a great follow on sighting to Karin Nelson ringing a juvenile in March. The Wattled Cranes were a treat this month. There were between 2 and 8 that were seen very regularly, for long periods, foraging in the newly cut fields which were harvested for silage. Charlie reported that the Grey-crowned Cranes were seen in flocks of between 32 and 42. We had excellent sightings of about 50 Bald Ibis which were having a great time bullying the Hadedas. I saw a Bald Ibis squash in amongst a flock of about 10 Hadedas that were sitting on the dead tree in front of the hide. It then started pecking at the 2 Hadedas on either side of it, fighting for some space, causing these 2 Hadedas to fly away. The BirdLife South Africa’s Bird of the Year 2012 visited us this month – the majestic Fish Eagle. Very few can resist the goose-bumps when hearing the call of this raptor.

We have had a pair of African Shelducks sitting on the pans all day, as well as a family of Red-billed Teals who were going about their daily routines. The Giant Kingfisher made it’s appearance once again, with the African Rails and Blake Crakes busy in the thick sedge. We had good sightings of the Southern Pochard as well as flocks of about 10 Wattled Lapwings. The African Spoonbill made a visit after not seeing any for a few months.

We had a few visitors say that they had seen a pair of Lesser Moorhens on several occasions. We had good sightings of Yellow-billed Egrets, African Sacred Ibis and Drakensberg Prinia. The Pied Kingfishers never fail to put on a show and the African Darter numbers increased. We also had visitors say that they had seen a Red-headed Quelea. The Jackal Buzzards could be heard from the sky on many occasions. Common Reedbuck were seen drinking from the pans. Other sightings include: Red-knobbed Coots, White-faced Ducks, Yellow-billed Ducks, Common Moorhen, Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese, Little Grebes, African Stonechat, Fork-tailed Drongo, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Common Waxbills, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Wagtail, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eye Dove, Cape Robin, Cape Crows, Blacksmith Lapwings, Southern Red Bishops, Common Fiscal, Reed Cormorants, Grey Herons and Black-headed Herons.

The reptiles became more active around the Conservation Centre during April. There was quite a large Red-lipped Herald that sailed slowly along the concrete path from the garden to a gap behind the SAPPI TreeRoutes signboard. Our resident Natal Green Snake (or at least one of our many) made a few appearances near the step where I nearly stepped on the poor creature/s a few times. One day I also came across a lizard that I watched catching a cricket. It held onto it’s food for dear life while the cricket was trying a few Kung-fu moves.

John Robinson – Benvie Farm

We had a very bad incident at Benvie of hunting dogs chasing down, cornering and killing a large Bushbuck ram in the middle of the night in the garden at Benvie. I was not able to count the dogs but by the time I got to the scene the dogs had worn it down and were eating it alive while it was still standing. The bushbuck was found dead 20 metres from the site where I disturbed the dogs, subsequently shooting 1 and finding one 3 days later still alive not far from the scene but having been punctured by the bushbuck which I also put down. The reports from the staff are that dogs are being seen pretty regularly.

On a more positive note we have 3 Cape Parrots back – we have not seen more than 2 since October 2011. There is a Lanner Falcon which seems to be resident in the large dead gum tree next to the road between Bundy and William Shaw’s entrance. I see it most morning sunning itself on my way into Pmb. Here is a picture of the pair of Wattled Cranes with juvenile, which are seen on Mark & Caryn Crooke’s land. You can see the discoloration on its head where the grey cap is busy forming. Tanya Smith of EWT is aware of this pair and mentioned that they were unable to colour ring the chick.

Britt and Rene Stubbs – Denleigh and Bartersfield Farm

We are seeing more Oribi again (about 9), including a new addition. There is a pair of Blue Cranes at Bartersfield. Otherwise, plenty of Common Reedbuck and geese on the stooling rye grass!

Tim Hancock – Karkloof Nature Reserve

I didn’t see anything exciting this past month. Sadly, I noticed that there were practically no White Storks this summer! I saw a Spotted Ground Thrush up at the top of a tree instead of on the ground. I had fairly frequent sightings of Thick-billed Weavers, but can’t find where they are nesting – I took an injured youngster to “Free Me”. There are always huge flocks of Common Waxbills and we have up to 5 Bushbuck around the house. We had a beautiful fat Puff Adder sunning itself in the road the other day.

ROADKILLS ARE SUCH A BUZZ -KILL

On the 20 April 2012, a Jackal Buzzard was sadly taken down by the most vicious predator – a vehicle – in the early morning. This beautiful raptor was lying in the middle of the road a distance away from a pile of feathers and some broken bakkie parts. Please make sure you drive responsibly in the Karkloof area, as there are many raptors, owls, duiker, reedbuck etc., that may be on the road.

An update on Mbeche – Johannesburg Zoo

Mbeche, our locally produced and adopted Wattled Crane, is doing well at the Johannesburg Zoo and is learning a lot of useful things from his surrogate mother. She teaches him all the life lessons that a Wattled Crane needs to know. He is currently looking like a scraggly teenager as you can see in the picture, but will soon become a handsome fellow who will have all the ladies flapping their wings. The breeding season for cranes is coming up, so please be on the lookout for any nesting pairs and report it to Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust on tanyas@ewt.org.za or visit their website www.ewt.org.za.

POACHING ALERT

Please be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. poaching seems to have increased dramatically. Rob Parker noticed a Red Hilux Bakkie with a canopy driving on the Karkloof Road which was packed with big white hunting dogs. The number plate was NP824472. About 2 weeks later he saw 8 men with dogs up at Grey Mares Tail, finding out from locals that they entered a Red Hilux on departure back to Howick. If you witness any poaching activity or even slightly suspect any suspicious activity in the Karkloof, please feel free to contact Andrew Solomon on 071 640 9950. We would also appreciate it if you could let us know as well via email so that we can follow up on all the poaching that is happening and make sure that this problem is sorted out – conservancy@karkloof.co.za

DON’T FORGET TO COLLECT VALUABLE INFORMATION SUCH AS NUMBER PLATES, CAR MAKE, COLOUR, ETC.

The Karkloof Blue Butterfly Season

The Karkloof Blue Butterfly is a rare and beautiful insect found in few tiny colonies, one being in the Karkloof. This butterfly was discovered in the late 1800’s in a little valley off the main Karkloof river above the Karkloof Falls. It can be seen in late March and early April every year when the numbers spike due to emerging after spending an entire year as a larva. Photos by Clive Curtis

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