Dargle Wildlife Sightings for July

Mike and Ann Weedon – River Run

With grass in short supply, we have seen plenty of antelope close to the house including duiker, reedbuck and bush buck. Also a good sighting of two water mongooses on the river bank and, for the first time, a fish eagle perched in a tree overhanging the river.

Sue  Hofman – Hazelmere

Gymnogene, Fish Eagle, Forest buzzard, Hoopoe (first time ever) and some time ago a Martial Eagle trying to take my duck. Cape clawless otter (after the trout in our dam and not in the least afraid of us, rather contemptuous really) and a very somnolent puff adder.

This winter has been the first time that we have heard Jackal very close by, we think it may be because there are no permanent residents in the valley behind us anymore, and the wild has moved closer. We have heard Reedbuck at night and seen their droppings in the garden and we know that the Duiker have been visiting because someone with very small feet ate all the peas.

Our most spectacular sightings recently have been of Serval cats. On Easter Monday at 5 o’clock one the size of a large labrador wandered down our driveway, stopped, looked at us gaping in the window and wandered on into the vlei. Two weeks ago a much younger and brilliantly marked one came down the driveway twice, jumped into the long grass to catch a mouse, which it sat down and ate before ambling on. We have seen both them and civits in the past, but never for so long.

My amusing story for the fortnight concerns a Forest Buzzard. We had an Egyptian Goose war on the dam in front of the house, with my little duck swimming behind them and telling them that the dam belonged to HER, when out of the forest swooped the buzzard, it circled and then decided that the least challenging option was much smaller and quieter than the others and proceeded to swoop down on the decoy duck. It appeared to be nonplussed by the fact that it couldn’t get it out of the water and that it felt odd, circling a few times in a rather sheepish way before landing in a tree and eyeing the dam with a baffled expression.

Sipho Zuma

Nearly everyday when I go for a late afternoon run, I have seen 2 Crowned Cranes in the fields farmed by Manny Salgado.

Robin Fowler

We saw a Secretary Bird behind our cottage!

Sandra and Pat Meyrick – Albury (on the Lidgetton side of the hill)

There was lots of bird singing this morning by fork tail drongos and robins.  Must have been inspired by the lovely sunrise. Two weeks ago captured on carmera a cape vulture flying overhead for 2 days in a row. Chorister robin foraging. The orange throated longclaw come and go on the lawn. Secretary bird still around but not seen as much as last month.

Oribi grazing on firebreak turning green. A pair of duiker in our oak trees. More reed buck are coming down at night to graze on the burn. When Pat was burning breaks the other day, he saw a rat running away with 2 babies clinging to its stomach.

I am tired of the barn owls pooing and regurgitating their food on my front verandah ledge and verandah.  They are also sitting on the gutters and pooing all over my camellias.  There poo is thick and white and like concrete when it dries.  I have tried everything to keep them away.  Pat put up chicken wire – I thought that would keep them at bay as their claws might get caught in it, but no, they push it away and sit on it.  Then Pat put up a light and we thought that would do the trick, but no, came home at 8pm the other night, and there was one sitting on the ledge in the light.  I ran for my camera but he saw me and flew off.  There are half eaten rats all over the ledge and bits and pieces also get dropped down our chimney and start to decompose and smell, which we have to constantly clean.  I am afraid we will have to brick up the ledge.  Pat has made an owl box which we put on the ledge and the roof, but they were not interested.  We do not have any big trees to put the owl box in. Any ideas anybody?  I was fortunate last night in the drizzle to find my barn owl sitting on the ledge with the chicken wire that I mentioned in previous email.  Grabbed my camera and took a couple of pictures.  He seemed very interested in what I was doing and surprisingly did not fly away.  I was thrilled to get a picture of him/her at last as they have been here 3 years now and never had the opportunity to catch them on camera.

Malvina and Evert van bremem – Old Furth

Very excited to report a sighting of a Lammergeyer who was circling low over the house.

Lots of activity around the house with Chorister Robin, Black Headed Oriole, Red Throated Wryneck, Spoonbill, Pied Kingfisher, Southern Black Tit, Robins of all descriptions, Sunbirds of all descriptions and a wonderful pair of Olive Woodpeckers who clamber around in all the trees.  A lovely sighting of two Crowned Cranes one morning quite made my day.

One sighting of a male Dwarf Chameleon on the garden fence, looking rather cold and skinny.

We are hearing Nightjars every night, there seem to be about 6 areas where they now call from. Lots of Jackal activity on the farm and we think we saw a Caracal from a distance one sunset – difficult to be certain, but it was bigger than our Serval and no spots. We initially thought it was one of our Fawn Great Danes, until we did a head count and realised they were all with us at the ‘sundowner site’.

Our resident  pair of Duiker managed to run themselves into the garden fence one Saturday morning and after a huge commotion were freed. Thankfully they seem to be fine as we have seen them subsequently. Quite why this happened is still a mystery as they are here every night and surely know about the fence!

Anne and Trevor Hulley – Robhaven

We have been enjoying the fabulous sunsets looking from our house over to the “Lidgetton Hills”. The winter sun sets opposite us behind the hills. Happily the time of the sunset is getting later every day!

There have been large numbers of Spurwing Geese down on the dam and we now have a resident pair of Black Shouldered Kites. They perch in the dead trees around the farm looking for rodents. I wish I could entice them into my kitchen to find the 3 Striped Mouse that has set up home, mostly in my tumble drier!

We have regular sightings of the Scrub Hares but not of our lady Duiker. I hope she’s safe.

The Reed Buck are taking advantage of Alan’s rye grass. There is a tiny new-born and the clever Mum keeps it hidden in the grass below Alan and Angela’s house during the day while she’s grazing. She obviously knows a safe haven when she sees one.

We have seen rather a large raptor flying over Robhaven and Riverbend but have not been able to put a spot on it yet. It seems to have no defining features.  Yesterday a Fish Eagle was soaring over the garden, not too high up, when it was sent on its way by a much smaller raptor. It happened so fast we couldn’t identify the smaller bird. It may have been one of our BS Kites defending its territory.  There have been Rameron Pigeons in the garden, but not very many, unlike last year when there were 30-40 at a time.

The one thing we are missing is the sight and sound of the Crowned Cranes. Normally we have up to 40-50 around but we can’t remember when we last even heard them flying over.

Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Three duiker sighted in our orchard. Evidence of their presence elsewhere in the garden. Lots of bird activity especially after the little bit of  rain we had:  African Hoopoes, Mousebirds, Lesser double-collared sunbirds, Grey Heron, Fish Eagles, Long-crested Eagle, Southern Boubou, Cape Robin, Weavers, sparrows, crows, Cisticola aberrans (Lazy Cisticola), Rock Pigeons, Doves, Queleas.  Heard the Spotted Eagle Owl calling.

Noticed feathers floating down from one of our trees, on closer inspection discovered a Black Sparrowhawk devouring a dove. Saw two Egyptian geese (male and female) perched together on the remains of our fallen oak tree, possibly doing a mating dance with much calling and flapping of their wings.

While travelling along the Dargle and Petrus Stroom roads one evening last week, we saw two duiker, a hare, a bushbuck and a reedbuck. Sadly two days later a dead duiker was seen lying on the side of the Dargle road.

The Midlands Dwarf Chameleons have been discovered again in the garden enjoying the warmer weather. Red-lipped Herald and Natal Grass snakes and skinks have also been seen.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Seem to be many butterflies about including the Pearl Charaxes and Gaudy Commodore. Grasshoppers still around.

Plants: Buddleja in flower, Prunus Africana full of berries, Cyrtanthus bevistylis emerging in burnt grassland, Greyia sutherlandii in bud.

Birds: Egyptian geese, francolins, jackal buzzards, crowned eagles, thick billed weavers, white-eyes, sunbirds, rameron pigeons, laughing doves, mousebirds, forest canaries, cardinal woodpecker, sunbirds, rameron pigeons, laughing doves, mousebirds, forest canaries, cardinal woodpecker, cape robin, chorister robins, thrushes, oriels.

On the roadside in the evenings saw common duiker and hares. There is also a duiker hanging around quite close to the farmyard. Lots of Samango monkeys nibbling grass shoots along the forest edges. John spotted a caracal one evening in the driveway.

Enjoyed a walk up Inhlosane this month – read about it at  http://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/phils-high-altitudeattitude-picnic/  This Gaudy Commodore was photographed at the peak.

Barend and Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

One of our guests spotted a caracal hunting dassies on the edge of the forest. A couple of days later the caracal ate one of our chickens.

 Sam Rose and Shine Murphy – Rainbow Homestead

Oriah spotted what she thought was one of our dogs but it turned out to be a Brown Hyena—it was having a look-about while sitting on the ridge near our home.  We used the binocs to get a good look.

Sam was riding home from Impendle on her motorbike  and spotted a Serval just before turning onto the D710.  It sauntered across the road then into a wattle thicket—turning its head to look at me ride by.  I was so excited to see this feline so up close!

After a week of having our garden being eaten, I (Shine) increased fence heights and went out for my nightly patrol to find a duiker in the garden.  As soon as it saw my light it bolted but it got its head caught in the fence.  I got a pliers to cut it out and covered it in canvas to calm it down:  Duiker Wrestling in the garden!  I released it after a good talking-to, so hopefully will not return.

A lone Secretary Bird on the road for about 10 minutes until it got brave enough to take to the air coming right at me and over my head I could almost touch it.

Wildflower of the Month: Aloe arborescens

Common name: krantz aloe; Afrikaans: kransaalwyn; Xhosa: ikalene inkalane; Zulu: umhlabana

Mid-winter days are always brightened by bursts of bright orange aloes in full flower. The common Krantz Aloe grows well in the midlands and is often used to edge kraals in rural areas or for suburban hedges.  It grows to 2 or 3m high, the grey green toothed leaves are arranged in rosettes showing off the deep orange-red inflorescence beautifully. This species has a wide distribution from the Cape Peninsular all the way to Limpopo and Moҫambique, growing in many habitats from sea level right up to mountain tops.  The nectar rich flowers attract many kinds of birds, particularly sunbirds, and also bees.

Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth, for treating sick calves and also given to chickens to prevent them from getting sick.  Dried leaves pounded into a powder, are used traditionally as a protection against storms. The sap of the leaves is a useful first-aid treatment for burn and abrasions, containing anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties.  This Aloe is an essential component of any wildlife friendly or healing garden.

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