What a month! From snowfalls to scorching winds and all sorts in between. Fortunately, the classic Midlands Spring Mizzle has now arrived.
Robin and Tinks Fowler – Corrie Lynn Farm
Yellow billed kites and swallows back on 19 August!
Susi and Andrew Anderson – Lane’s End FarmNigel Anderson saw three spotted necked otters in the Mngeni river at Lane’s End on 16 August. It was quite dark but he definitely saw spots on one which turned towards him.
Malvina and Evert van Bremem – Old Furth Estate
I nearly fell off the dam wall the other day in surprise when we startled an Abdim’s Stork on the bottom dam. I haven’t seen one in a good 15 years and the last time was up in Gauteng!
The Spoonbills have been coming and going and with the really heavy snowfalls up here our house waterfall has been rejuvenated and is splashing away merrily, re-filling the dams which were getting very low.
As the snow began melting, we discovered a deceased Bushbuck male at the bottom of the garden without a mark on him, so the cold must have killed him. There seem to have been quite a few deaths on the outskirts of the farm as our dogs have brought home a number of “interesting bits” to show us. Yuck.
Fortunately our Shire horses and Ngunis had the good sense to seek deep shelter in the trees down near the river during the worst of the cold and they all coped surprisingly well with the extra rations we battled so hard to get through to them; molasses meal and loads of extra hay bales. We got interestingly stuck in the snow when going out to check on them – the snow packed into sheets of ice where we had driven previously and the only thing that worked was to dig away all the ice so that we could get back. Definitely a labour of love, especially since once we got the bakkie moving, Evert just kept going and I walked all the way home in driving snow and gale force wind.
We have also had a wonderful sighting of a young Snake Eagle whose ungainly flights and much vocal displeasure at being hungry and blown inside out were rather amusing. There is a new juvenile Gymnogene who is practising crash landings in the trees along the driveway.
Several adult dwarf chameleons have been spotted since the snow; I was delighted to see that they had survived. Pre snowfall, we had a wonderful fly-by from the Secretary Bird after we had done some block burning, I assume it was checking for fried take-aways. I have also noticed that Mrs Secretary Bird is now back on her nest next door.
Thankfully we were spared from the major fire which happened on Saturday 25th August and which was driven by gale-force winds, apparently originating on Rathmor, which then swept through Brigadoon and SLM, up to God’s Grace and jumped the main road to spread to Avenol, Jabulani and Mavela, but the neighbourhood mobilised and by that night it was mostly under control. Scary stuff and some near tragic consequences, with a tractor and tanker plunging into a gorge and the fire coming perilously close to homesteads. In all the dashing around, I noticed that a Golden Mole had been run over on the Everglades road and then later that same night was fortunate to just miss running over a creature which looked rather like a mole close to Beverley. The Vervet monkeys are relishing the new greenery in the fields near Colmonell and are a frequent hazard when they dash over the road.
Our Red-throated Wrynecks are still very vocal and active in the trees around the homestead and we still have loads of Robins of all descriptions. During the snow we did our best to assist the birds, putting out bags of suet, sunbird feeders, seed and soaked dog cubes. It was interesting to see how many birds came to feed off this smorgasbord. The Prinia and buff streaked chat are also seen frequently and I was delighted to see some Firefinches in the garden just after the snow had melted away.
The Shrikes are busily pinning their rather grisly barbed wire larders full of the locusts which have emerged in large numbers – hopefully they can reduce the population somewhat.
Kevin and Margi Culverwell – The Wallows
I saw my first YBK on 9/8/2012! I always see one on the 9th of August. I have seen quite a number since then in Dargle. We have a group of 6 Spoonbills that look as though they may start nesting on our farm, which will be a first. Lots of Bushbuck & Duiker.
Sipho Mabaso – HoneyWood
There are 4 reedbuck eating the green grass and many rabbits in the evenings. There are 2 cranes in the field.
Tom and Lucinda Bate – Inversanda
Dead Spurwinged goose – killed by Eskom power lines, and turned into a pie. Read the Goose Saga at http://darglelocalliving.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/goose-pie/
During the mini sass workshop help in the Mngeni River on Inversanda, participants found: minnow mayflies, stout crawlers, planeria worms, caddisfly eggs, water pennys, water beetles and fly larvae. For the whole story see: http://umngeniriverwalk.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/back-to-the-river/
Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage
As we were driving along the D666 road on 8/8, a Fish Eagle flew overhead and dropped its prey on the road. The prey turned out to be the head of either a duiker or a reedbuck. (I didn’t want to look too closely!)
A Cape Robin has been a regular visitor inside our house, possibly searching for food or shelter, but seems quite at home. Cape Parrot, Grey Herons, Black Sparrowhawk, Oriel, Hamerkop, Prinias, thickbilled, masked and spectacled Weavers, Bronze Mannikins. Barthroated Apalis, Pied Starling, Wagtails, Hoopoes, Sunbirds etc. We found a dead Hadeda in the garden – interesting in that this was the first time we have ever seen a dead Hadeda in the 21 years we’ve been here, despite their large size and abundance. There were no Eskom powerlines nearby and she appeared to have simply died peacefully of old age. No, we didn’t turn her into a pie!
The garden has woken up from its winter rest and is a blaze of colour again with lots of plants and shrubs in flower, including clivias, proteas, freylinia and scadoxis. The bees and butterflies are very active.
Sue and Andre Hofman – Hazlemere
In terms of spring the frogs have started a muted chorus and the first few swallows have taken up residence. The finches are building noisily over the river and our first Natal Green Grass snake was taken by a Blue Heron on the bank of the dam. Interesting sightings have been Cape Canaries, Hoopoe and the tiny littleseed birds I have always known as rooi suissies. We have spotted the martial eagles over the hillside, Gymnogene and fisheagle (who is far too interested in our fish) as well as our duck catching buzzard. To our delight we have spotted Reedbuck on several occasions. Long may spring continue!
Eidin Griffin and Malcolm Draper – Wits End
Well, we might not have been the first to see a yellowed kite but we witnessed quite a sight when one swooped right down about 10m in front of us in the garden the other day to pick a long and useful looking twig… at first we thought it was a snake but then we looked at each other and said Ah ha! Nest building!
Lots of wildlife around especially as there have been so many fires so the buck are lacking refuge. Saw the pair of resident Reedbuck the other day about a 1km from the house, a duiker right behind the house and the very beautiful pair of bushbuck on the road in daylight just by Corrie Lynn. At the Dargle primary school last week in the middle of lesson on rhinos we excitedly spotted a gymnogene being dive bombed by what looked like a crow. We found this very interesting sunbird nest.
Helen and Barend Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage
Kites abound as do the gazllions of froggies. First kite spotted on 27 August. Samango monkeys all around. The Corrie Lynn school fieldtrip to the forest saw Loeries and a Bushbuck. Read about it at: https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/mist-belt-forest-morning/ Scadoxus in flower in the rocky forest slopes.
Carl Bronner – Old Kilgobbin Farm
Jeth and I saw a jackal buzzard with a metre long dark grey snake up near the dam
Gilly, Wyndham and Tammy Robartes – Wana Farm
Tammy and I saw a yellow-billed kite last weekend (25th). And yes, only last night I was thinking how lovely the frogs sounded! Wyndham also spotted a Puffback – 1st time we’ve seen one here.
Howard and Cheryl Long – Craigdarroch
Two European Stocks never left this winter. The swallows were back on Tuesday 28th.
John and Sandra McKenzie – Triple Creek
Swallows were back on Thursday 23rd, spent Friday recovering and were out foraging on Saturday.
Sandra & Pat Merrick – Albury Farm – Lidgetton side of the hills
We saw the yellow billed kite about 2 weeks ago. Lots of longcrested eagles on poles. Blue cranes almost every day. After the snow, our stream started running into the dam and in one morning had 2 wattled crane, the blue crane and the crested crane. We have a black sparrowhawk nesting in top of blue gum tree in avenue of gums. Our barn owls flew off for 3 weeks and then returned. Am not sure why except that there are a lot of gerbils around which my cats are always bringing into the house. Nice siting of black shouldered kite, jackal buzzards, robins and seed birds and fork tailed drongo and secretary bird all in snow.
Whats exciting for me this year is that we have one olive thrush. There were plenty at our other house at Endebeni as had lots of trees and shrubs, but this one runs all over the lawn in the open surprisingly. The usual wagtails and chats and orange throated longclaw and 2 pairs of malachite sunbirds and plovers. Gymnogene hops from rock to rock looking for lizards and rats. Spurwing geese on frozen dam and 4 spoonbill.
We see oribi now and then and an average of about 10 reed buck every day on the “burn” We have a pair of duiker which spend a lot of time eating acorns under the oak trees. Saw a red lipped herald and green house snake at my daughters house on the D17.
Gill Addison – Antheap
First chameleon out on 30th. Gymnogene about and a little falcoln has eaten some of my baby chickens. Bald Ibis back for a few days – a solitary guy who pops in when the weather is good.
Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm
Heard Wood Owls, lots of frogs clicking and one bullfrog, jackals.
Mammals: 7 reed buck, 2 dead reedbuck carcasses near the dam, common duiker, hare, dassie sunning itself, lots and lots of Samamango monkeys on forest edges, striped mouse.
Birds: Bush black cap, pair of Crowned Eagles, Egyptian Geese, amethyst sunbirds, fork tailed drongos, Drakensberg prinia, stone chat, thick billed weavers, mousebirds, masked weavers, sombre bulbul, bulbul, white eyes, bronze mannekins, pin tailed wydahs (in transition), many Chorister Robins, Cape Robins and Thrushes, laughing doves, rock pigeons, francolins, guinea fowl, heron, jackal buzzards, ring necked doves, collared sunbirds, loeries, first swallow on 24th
Other creatures: Lots of grasshoppers about, gaudy commodore and other butterflies, found lots of porcupine quills.
Plants: Cyrtanthus breviflorus, Morea stricta, Nemesia denticulata, Ursinia, Scadoxus bulbs bursting through, Ledebouria, In seed: Prunus Africana, kniphophias.
Colleen van Heerden – Khululeka
Fish Eagles at play just before noon. Woodpecker- Orange, Black, White – playing around the trees. Robins are all over the place. A huge buck with horns running about.
Vonnie Munk and Rob Coulson – Howick and Hastings Farm
The froggie chorus is deafening this evening, they started 2 days ago. The small Clicking frogs started last week already. This is in Howick North side top of Eridene road. Our neighbours have a large fish pond and we have a small water feature with small pond.
A pair of Blue Cranes sighted on Hastings Farm yesterday, 30 August. On Monday: Blue Cranes , Crowned Cranes and Wattled Cranes all seen at Hastings Farms, upper Dargle. They all nest up there. Spring is here!
I live in Howick Curry Post Road and saw the yellow billed kite passing our house on the 28th and a day or two before that we saw one in Balgowan. On top of it about a month ago we saw a secretary bird in Balgowan, taking off right in front of our car and then circling over us for a while before taking off. Fantastic.
The Annual Oribi Survey takes place this month. Please record and report all your observations of these animals. https://www.ewt.org.za/WHATWEDO/OurProgrammes/ThreatenedGrasslandSpeciesProgramme/OurProjects.aspx