Karkloof Wildlife Sightings for June and July

Karkloof Conservation Centre

The Reedbuck have been very regular sightings during the winter months with some beautiful large rams as the centre of attention. Kai Schulz from the Karkloof Canopy Tour informed us of a particularly magnificent ram that was in the fields east of the Conservation Centre one Sunday morning.

Watermongooseshave also been seen at the pans and Postman Pat saw 2 of them on a Saturday morning. He managed to get a photograph of one of them. Otters have also been a highlight at the hides and Charlie had found a spot near the pump-house with a family of Bushbuck living there.

The African Spoonbills returned and made themselves at home on Gartmore pan. We had Bald Ibis here (11 on the 8 June and a some lonely ones seen in July), African Sacred Ibis and our trusted alarm clocks, Hadeda Ibis.

There was a Great Egret seen in July. The Reed Cormorants were sunning themselves with the odd African Darter spending its time catching fish. A lonely Grey Heron was around with the Black-headed Herons following the firebreaks and burns. A Hamerkopwas also flying around quite often.

There was a juvenile African Fish Eagle seen fairly often around the 2 pans. An African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) was seen in the fields hunting for food. The Cranes were regular sightings here. We had 6 Blue Cranesflying around and sometimes splitting up into pairs. There were about 40 Grey Crowned Cranes with 1 juvenile in the flock.

A pair of Wattled Cranes were regular visitors with 8 seen on Loskop Farm on the 13 July. Stewart MacLachlan took a photo of them flying off. Two of them had colour rings, but we couldn’t see the combinations for identification 

Some specials were African Shelducks, African Snipes, Twany-flanked Prinia African Wattled Lapwings Common Quail, Wood Sandpipers and Common Sandpipers.Others Yellow-billed Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese White-faced Ducks, Red-billed Teal, Black Crake,Three-banded Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwings, Crowned Lapwing, African Rails, Pied Kingfishers, African Stonechats, Common Fiscal, Cape Wagtails, Levaillant’s cisticolas, Zitting Cisticolas, Fork-tailed Drongos and Village Weavers.

Charlie McGillivray – Gartmore Farm

We have burnt the vlei and the surrounds of the dam as it is many years since it was done. The main wetland/vlei has not been burnt for 20 years and is vey moribund. Hopefully this will make the Crane nesting easier and it will be interesting to see if the bird life and variety change. Being such a dry year, it has been easy to effect this burn. A guest made the following comment shortly after the burn: “What an awesome spot! Burning the vlei has encouraged many birds – what a delight”

Postman Pat – volunteer at Karkloof Conservation Centre  One Saturday morning, besides three Reedbuck on Loskop and an otter on Gartmore, there was a bit of excitement by the Gartmore hide. I saw two Blacksmith Lapwings chasing a fairly large brown bird which I thought was a raptor, but when it landed just in front of the hide I saw it was a Hamerkop.

If you have seen a Hamerkop’s nest, I am sure you were impressed by its size. My old edition of Roberts describes it as “Huge oven-shaped mass of sticks, reeds, weeds and debris, including manmade artifacts….” I came across a list of the contents of a Hamerkop nest which fell out of a tree in Bulawayo. It puts Honest George to shame!

1 pan brush , 1 broken cassette tape, 1 glove, 1 plastic dish, 1 plastic cup, 2 peacock feathers, chicken feathers, 2 socks, rabbit fur, 45 rags, 4 mielie cobs, 1 piece of glass, 4 bits of wire, 1 plastic comb, 1 pair of underpants, 1 typewriter ribbon, 1 piece of leather belt, 4 stockings, 2 pieces of tin, 2 pieces of foam rubber, 7 pieces of hosepipe, 9 pieces electrical conduit, 6 pieces of asbestos roofing, 11 bones, 12 pieces of sandpaper, 4 pieces of insulation tape, 10 plastic bags, 6 lengths of insulated wire, Pieces of paper, 56 scraps of tinfoil and 6 bicycle tyres. I’m not surprised it fell down – it sounds as if it was built by an RDP entrepreneur!

Nick and Tim Hancock – Spitzkop

I saw a young Klaas’s Cuckoo – think it was young and not a mature female as it looked quite fluffy – and not so much green on the back. The book says it leaves in February! The photograph is of a that Caracal quite frequently comes into the garden.

To our surprise, the Honesty Box” at the Karkloof Conservation Centre has it’s very own security guard installed in it. We were wondering why the box was so efficient and working so well. Our little friend not only secures the box, but welcomes the guests too – not to everyone’s delight though! Thanks City Locksmiths, Richard Myhill and Kip Preston for your fine work at solving the problem. Our Natal Green Snake is doing a wonderful job and has made itself at home!

Karin Nelson – Mist netting

In June, Karin ringed 13 birds: 3 Fan-tailed Windowbirds, 2 African Stonechats, 2 Levailant’s Cisticolas, 1 Red-billed Quelea,1 Malachite Kingfisher, 1 Zitting Cisticola, 1 Southern Red Bishop,1 African Pipit and 1 Black Crake (13) were caught.

In July, Karin ringed 20 birds: 9 Levailant’s Cisticolas, 4 Village Weavers, 3 Fan-tailed Windowbirds, 2 African Stonechats, 1 Red-billed Quelea and 1 Drakensberg Prinia were caught. The birds caught during June and July dropped dramatically due to the absence of the crops which provide a cover for the nets

“Pitta Pilgrimage” Karin and Craig Nelson will be giving a talk at WESSA’s Goldfields Centre on Wednesday, 15 August 2012, about their tour in Zimbabwe to find the African Pitta. Registration starts from 5:30 pm with a cost of R10pp for BirdLife members and R15pp for all others who are interested.

Wendy and Bundy Shaw – Shawswood

While walking in the forest, Michael spotted Samango monkeys (about 8 of them) in the trees. Every time he tried to get a good look at them, they would hide behind the trees. There is also a resident Grey Duiker that is seen frequently along the driveway into Shawswood farm.

Shawswood Farm have just opened up an Environmental Education Centre as well as a hiking trail to the bottom of the Grey Mares Tail waterfall. If you feel energetic and would like to spend some time in the forest for a hike, please have a look at their website by clicking on the link below. It is well worth a visit and costs R20 pp. http://www.shawswood.co.za  082 780 1461 (Bundy) or 076 712 0674 (Michael)

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