Dargle Wildlife Sightings for June

Barry and Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Redbilled and African Woodhoopoes, single Redthroated Wryneck seen and heard frequently, Bronze mannekins, weavers, Fork-tailed Drongos, Olive Thrush, Southern Boubou, Cape Robin, mousebirds, Cape white-eyes, Crowned Cranes, doves, sparrows, bulbuls, fiscal shrikes, starlings, crows. Long Crested Eagle seen frequently. 20th June – saw two fish eagles and four storks flying overhead. Flock of Queleas.

Heard: Spotted Eagle Owl, Jackals.

Plants: The Knipholia, Plumbago, Freylinia and Hypoestes aristata are coming to the end of their flowering, but the Aloes and Crassula are still putting on a lovely colourful display.

Kevin and Margi Culverwell – The Wallows

Bushbuck does & a young ram on the rye grass below the house every night.

4 x Barn owl chicks in the nest box in the shed.

Spoonbills on the dam at the top of the farm

A bateleur low overhead two weeks ago( & it is not a mistaken ID!)

Half collared kingfishers on the Mngeni

A little sparrowhawk in the pecan tree looking for prey

All the normal garden birds

Helen and Barend Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

STARRED ROBIN: Barend had the privilege of this shy little bird`s companionship and interest for over an hour a couple of days ago as he finished up the installation of our Ram Pump for ” off-grid ” water  , deep in the forest  .

CAPE PARROTS:  We have heard and seen a small flock of birds overhead .

DASSIES & SAMANGO MONKEYS: Active on the forest margins and the little adolescents are a joy to watch .

CROWNED EAGLES: Soaring and calling for two days now (I am watching my Dach-Russels very carefully)

Howick Birding Club outing to forest at Kilgobbin Cottage spotted:

Apalis, Bar-throated; Batis, Cape; Batis, Chinspot; Bishop, Southern Red; Blackcap, Bush; Boubou, Southern; Brownbul, Terrestrial (Bulbul); Bulbul, Dark-capped (Blackeyed); Canary, Forest; Dove, Cape Turtle; Dove, Red-eyed; Drongo, Fork-tailed; Eagle, Long-crested;; Firefinch, African (Bluebilled); Fiscal, Common; Flycatcher, African Paradise; Greenbul,; Sombre (Bulbul); Goose, Egyptian; Goshawk, African; Ibis, Hadeda; Kingfisher, Brown-hooded; Mannikin, Bronze; Mousebird, Speckled; Myna, Common (Indian); Oriole, Black-headed; Pigeon, African Olive (Rameron); Pigeon, Speckled; Prinia, Drakensberg; Puffback, Black-backed; Quelea, Red-billed; Robin-Chat, Cape; Robin-Chat, Chorister; Saw-wing, Black; Sparrow, Cape; Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed; Stonechat, African; Sunbird, Amethyst; Sunbird, Collared; Sunbird, Greater Double-collared; Sunbird, Olive

Sunbird, Southern Double-collared (Lesser D-c) Thrush, Olive; Tit, Southern Black; Turaco; Knysna (Lourie); Wagtail, Cape; Weaver, Spectacled; Weaver, Village (Spottedbacked); White-eye, Cape; Woodpecker, Cardinal; Wryneck, Red-throated

On the dams along D17 – Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck, African Sacred Ibis, Little Grebe (Dabchick) Black-collared Barbet, Cape Grow (Black))

Andrew and Susi Anderson -Lane’s End Farm

A pair of Drakensberg Prinias that we have been watching for a couple of years (assuming they are the same ones) are back.  We have been seeing a flock of Red Billed wood-hoopoe’s regularly along the river which is new on our property.

Digging the trench for a gas line (from the biodigester) we disturbed 2 hibernating snakes, red lipped herald and brown house snake, which were unharmed and will hopefully find another suitable spot.

For many months we have been woken each morning by the call of a pair of fish eagles.  Since the leaves have fallen on the poplars across the river in the direction of Midmar we can now see the nest and the 2 adult birds, not that they have eggs or young in the nest at the moment.  It is something that the folk across the river obviously have no appreciation for because they spent the whole afternoon yesterday shooting and today there is no sign of the fish eagles, hopefully only scared off.

With winter and the harvesting of the maize we always have a serious increase in rats so it is great to see a Longcrested Eagle almost permanently around and each evening a pair of spotted eagle owls.

David and Helen Mann – Knowhere Farm

The first week of June was really cold up here.  David took this photo of the water on the Mngeni river actually starting to freeze!

Anne and Trevor Hulley – Robhaven

This month we have had a Secretary Bird on Robhaven for the first time.

The Reedbuck are back grazing on the rye grass. There is one male with magnificent horns. Thank goodness there is no hunting here!!

Last night (Friday 29th), there were 3 scrub hares running down the road together. We have seen 2 at a time, but never 3! It was a wonderful end to a good evening. They truly looked like the English Mad March Hares!

We have a pair of Natal Francolin with 2 babies who come looking for food where we used to feed the now absent Guineafowl. We miss our Guineafowl – they were such characters!

I saw Drongo chasing a small bird of prey through the garden today. It was too quick to get a positive sighting, but, by the size, I think it must have been a Black Shouldered Kite.

Otherwise it’s the usual mix of Weavers, Doves, Sparrows, Bulbuls, Wagtails, Mousebirds, Fiscal Shrikes, Crows, Geese, Moorhens, Herons and Sunbirds.

We hear the Crowned Cranes flying overhead occasionally but sadly they’re not coming down to the dam.

We haven’t seen our secretive little lady Duiker, but, judging by the garden, she’s around and nibbling the plants!

Just spotted a female Olive Woodpecker which was such a treat! There is also a flock of Green Woodhoopoes making a heck of a cackle and some Thick-billed Weavers looking for seeds in the garden.

Sharon and Robin Barnesly – Sanctuary

Crowned Crane firmly resident now on Portmore. Nice sized flock of Guinea Fowl – after last year, I thought they had all but disappeared

We were up in Underberg last weekend : (-12 degrees!!) with a 2 metre wide strip of ice about 10mm thick all around the dam we were staying at.  Interestingly we saw 2 European storks – I thought they would have migrated by now?? – global climate change perhaps?

Derek and Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Park

Found a bushbuck with a snare between horns and around the neck. Instead of  “putting it down”, my good wife persuaded to phone Free-me. To cut a long story short, Free-me organised for John Allison to come and dart the buck and remove the snare. First attempt failed and “Buck” was showing signs of deteriorating. Another attempt to catch him succeeded and John was able to remove the snare, deworm and give anti-biotics as the snare wounds were festering quite badly. “Buck” seemed to be recovering quite well but sadly died a couple of days later. The offending snare was not wire but white nylon rope.

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm

The only thing of real interest this month is the secretary bird.  Still pacing the hills every day.  My daughter walked up the hill behind us at sunset and saw him sitting in a tree on the stone wall.  Also this week his partner was with him.  Have not seen her in some time.  Not sure if they sit on eggs at this time of year.

Then on Wednesday I saw him close by just over the fence in front of our house (about 200metres away) I grabbed my camera, and guess what, he had a snake in his beak.  I could hardly hold the camera still, was so excited.  The snake appeared lifeless and then slowly started to move.  Definitely not a puff adder as long and silver.  Could be a cobra or night adder.  Quite long as could not see the head which was in the long greass.  Took a minute  to suck it up  which I could not see as he turned around.

An hour ago, at eleven o’clock, saw a jackal running up the hill behind the house.  They are obviously very hungry to be hunting during the day.  Their cries at night and just before sunrise go on for some time.

Our one legged buffstreaked chat still visits us daily.  He gets tired on one leg and lies on his tummy in the sun.

Robin and Tinks Fowler – Corrie Lynn Farm

We have a resident stork who is either too old or too young to have made the trip back to Europe.Green meadows (organically grown) attract Rietbuck & Duiker and we have spotted a Bushbuck doe and her young “teenage” fawn.

On Saturday afternoon we hear lots of loud shooting, which was very distressing. Especially as we are thoroughly enjoying the buck grazing in our fields and hope no one is shooting at them.

Willem and Colleen van Heerden – Khululeka

Orange and black wood-pecker burrowing in the grass. A huge buck running into the forest.

Sam Rose and Shine Murphy – Zuvuya

On our property a few weeks ago we had 4 Eland and today driving to Impendle we spotted 2 Secretary birds.  I spotted 2 blue crane two weeks ago in the Impendle Nature Reserve.

Rob and Carole MacIntosh – Carlisle Farm

We have seen 4 bushbuck ewes (adult) and one calf – spotted at about 18:30. A flock of about 20 Helmeted Guinea fowl.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Birds: Drakensberg prinia, forest canaries, Egyptian geese, jackal buzzards, amethyst sunbirds, collared sunbirds, white eyes, cape robin, chorister robin, southern boubou, thrush, thick billed weavers, Southern Black tit, wagtails, olive sunbird, two Cape Parrots(evening of 27 June heading west), sombre bulbuls.

Mammals; big group of Samango monkeys regularly sitting in a sunny field picking green shoots of grass (I assume).  Hares in the early evenings. Lots of bush pig activity on forest floor. Duiker.

Grasshoppers, carpenter bees, Gaudy Commodore butterflies.

Plants: buddleja, kniphophia, yellow daisy in burnt patches (above)

I was away on the wildcoast for part of the month – if you are interested in the gorgeous plants I saw there, read: http://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/plants-of-pondoland/

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Louwrens – Hopedale

We recently stocked the Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary dam, and hours after that, saw 5 grey herons seemingly queuing up on the rocks that project into the water!  Luckily this seems to have been a once off incident – otherwise there won’t be many of the fish left!

We picked many, many porcupine quills (some with blood on the end of them), along about  a kilometre of our access servitude, and eventually found the carcase – it seems like some Jackals harassed and eventually killed the poor beast.  I would guess he/she got her own back by leaving a few quills in the attackers!

A couple of lovely sightings of a very dark (almost black) serval. In the last few days we have seen Oribi, and a very recently born Reedbuck lamb with its mother and last year’s offspring. Lots of Reedbuck on the lower farm – looking for the greener grass, Bushbuck by our stream – seen midmorning. Things are busy on the dam with two new coot chicks watching out for the fisheagle – who flies around overhead, to see what it can find.

Iain Sinclair – Benn Meadhon

Weekend of game watching by Neville and Hayley van Lelyveld:

On Friday night 01/06/2012, 13 Reedbuck were sighted on the agricultural side of the farm as we walked from the sheds through the carrot field area and up to the old maize paddock area. From the maize paddock we walked across the hay paddocks behind the carrots toward the forest and then back to the sheds. We did put out Jackal bait, but no sighting was made. The bait however was taken by the jackals by the next morning.

During the day on Saturday a lot of duiker tracks were observed by the cross road area and nearly always followed by jackal. Five duiker where observed around the cross road area most of them between 04h00 and 07h00 on Saturday morning. Some Natal francolins were also observed in this area. On Saturday afternoon around 16h00 a single large adult male Bushbuck was sighted in the cross road area who, was in a spectacular condition and very good breeding specimen. We also saw a young Bushbuck male cross the road from Graeme Freese’s forest though to your forest on the other side of the road. An adult duiker male was also seen doing the same thing just prior to the young Bushbuck. On Saturday morning we took a walk up to the new tree seedlings and a lot of Rameron Pigeons were seen in this area together with a lot of Hadeda’s. We also saw a scrub hare in the forest just behind the new seedling plantation. We noticed a lot of duiker tracks around the new seedling. The duiker seemed to be showing a very keen interest in the new seedlings, with tracks almost touching a lot of the new seedlings. Duikers have been known to feed on young tree seedlings. To date there is no sign of them feeding on the seedlings. On our walk-about on Saturday there was a very distinctive absence of porcupine activity even to the point not much fresh scat was observed nor was there many quills lying around. We found this a little strange as normally there is lot of porcupine activity. This could be attributed to the amount of actual farm activity currently going on the agricultural side of the farm. On Saturday night we once again set up bait sites for Jackal in a different area were a lot of Jackal activity was seen and they once again did not show themselves, but the bait was once again taken by them by Sunday morning. This does seem to show that there are different jackals coming in from different areas and directions. On Saturday night while we were trying to observe the jackals we heard that the reedbuck were distressed and were calling continually so we aborted the jackal count and went to investigate. We walk the whole of the agricultural side of the farm and we didn’t find out what was upsetting the reedbuck, but we did see thirteen reedbuck which, is an improvement on last month’s count as last month the total count of reedbuck was around thirteen. The only difference was that this time we had walked and not driventhe area. Walking does allow you to get a lot closer to the animals and will probably be the method of choice in the future. It also seems to be less invasive for the animals.

On Sunday morning from about 04h30am we went out on the Oribi Paddock and walked it down to the bottom boundary and back again up to the gate. On the way back two Oribi were sighted. Although we physically saw only two Oribi (a male and a female), we believe that there are more and possibly all five are still there. We based this on the sightings of their sleeping areas which were always in groups of five. There are also a lot of regularly used “foot” paths up and down the paddock which we suspect are made by the Oribi as they are animal foot paths and not human foot paths. There were always a few paths running parallel to each other. This was also an indication that there are more Oribi that the two that were sighted as the small herd will normally always move around together. The sighting of the Oribi was the highlight of the weekend.

Unfortunately we did not have time to spend much time on the dairy side of the farm, but we did observe that the white geese were fighting with the Egyptian Geese and there is a distinct lack of other geese. It does appear as though the white geese are chasing off the natural indigenous birds. During the weekend we noticed a distinct absence of traditional poaching activity. No snares, traps or dog print were found. While we were trying to do the jackal count on Saturday night around 19h00 were heard a single rifle shot (± .308 or 30.06) come from the house end of the farm, the direction was evident as I heard it go through the trees in front of us. Fortunately we sitting about a third of the way up the bank and as a result we were not in any form of danger. This was the first event of this kind in the last 2 years that we experienced.  It must be noted that night hunting is a restricted activity for which a special permission must be obtained from Ezemvelo otherwise it is considered poaching. The guinea fowl population is still at thirty birds which was encouraging as this too point to a reduction in poaching activity. As a whole the amount of wildlife on the farm does seem to have stabilized and we hope that it will soon start to increase to its former glory.

Clive Shippey and Shirley Bishop – Northington

Exciting for us was the sighting of a African Hoopoe, the first in sixteen years in the Dargle! We were leaving the property by car and were brought to a stop by this bird on the ground in our path. It was in no hurry to let us pass so we had ample time to observe this beautiful creature on the ground and in a brief “butterfly like” flight.

Justin and Karin Herd – Bee Tree Farm

We see a pair of Cape Parrot, coming in every evening.  Other spottings: 3 Wood Hoopoe’s,  African Harrier Hawk (previously Gymnogene) Hammerkop taking frogs on bottom dam, 2 Crowned Cranes on Andrew Dairy meadow,  Giant Kingfisher is regular in bottom dam, what looked like 2 Wattled Cranes foraging after firebreak burn between us and Griffin.  Chameleons are now hibernating and will find any crack to hide in.

Eidin Griffin – Wits End

We have lots of mousebirds after the chinese guavas, Malcolm’s dad, Pat, spotted a paradise flycatcher. The coucal is still swopping about at the bottom of the garden. Malcolm saw a black eagle over John Mckenzie’s and I’ve been watching Fiscal shrikes working the horse paddocks. Ringneck turtle-necks coo-ing all the the time,and wrynecks calling. Lastly, while pruning the grapes I found some very plump and elderly locusts quite busy on the mating front(very slowly)…..maybe keeping warm?

Wildflower of the Month – Hypoestes aristata

Common name: Ribbon bush, Zulu name: uHlonye, Afrikaans name: Seeoogblommetjie

One of the great joys of the Midlands’ winter is sitting in the midday sun surrounded by bees and butterflies buzzing busily. The plant which is the focus of much of this activity at the moment is Hypoestes aristata. Perfect for any garden and particularly appropriate planted in a sunny spot near your lunch table. Not only is the ribbon bush a favourite with fat, shiny carpenter bees (and other bees) and flies, it is one of the preferred nectar plants of lots of butterflies – particularly the Swallowtails.  It is also host to the Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterflies and the Bush Beauty. All of which add wonderful colour to the riot of pink and purple blooms which last for many weeks from Autumn until June. Obviously, the feast attracts insectivorous birds too.  Each tubular purple flower has pretty petals which curl back to reveal darker speckles which guide the insects to the nectar. Hypoestes is fast growing (up to 1,5 a season) and self seeds easily, making it a very rewarding plant for a new garden. Best pruned back after flowering to encourage fresh, green leaves for spring. Although it flowers best in full sun, it does well in dappled shade, too. The Afrikaans name reminds us that the leaves have been traditionally used as a poultice for sore eyes.

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