Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2013

Dargle hills are striped in black and gold while raptors watch fires in the hope of an easy meal.

winter hills and dam res.

Kevin Culverwell – The Wallows

For the June sightings we have had a Verrauxs (Black) eagle on the farm that caught a feral cat & consumed it one day. Crowned crane pair nesting in the vlei between Howard Long & ourselves.Two sightings of a honey badger – very unusual.

Josie and Dieter Rowe-Setz – Wakeford

spotted on Wakecroft, a Shrike’s winter larder -stored neatly on one of the fences

Larder-1 2013

Larder-3 2013

Larder-4 2013

Larder-2 2013

Jill Hunter

Being fully retired from farming in Zimbabwe I now have the odd day when I can sit and watch nature unfolding in and around my house. At this time of year my little north facing veranda is my most popular spot to sit in the sun and watch the little creatures that share it with me.

The other day I heard a scuffle under a wooden trunk and out came a lizard with part of a wasp in its mouth. The fairly large black wasps have their hives dotted around the house under the eaves. They have never harmed me but they become over excited and will attack the gardener on a hot day. So they have been removed from above the shed door.

Three years ago I had a large luncheon party and my son (who is a man of the bush) decided we should remove the rather large hive next to the front door. I was interested how he would do it without killing them all. The evening before after sun down, he sprayed them with water from my high pressure garden tap. They all fell on the ground and because it was dark and they were very wet they were unable to fly. He then bundled them all into a plastic container with their nest and we released them a good distance from the house. It only took them about a month before they had re-established their hive in the exact same spot above the front door. How little the layman knows of the minds of these little creatures.

winter pleargonuum leaf. res. JPG

Now, the lizard was trying to kill the unfortunate wasp by turning his head from side to side and scraping it on the tiles.(The scene reminded me of the crocodiles we used to breed.) This commotion attracted another lizard and then the fight was on, as to who would have the wasp for lunch. I was unable to see which one won but one of them came into view again with the now dead wasp in his mouth and swallowed it there and then. After he disappeared into the rocks nearby, I spotted a part of the wasp left on the tiles. It was the head. I was interested to wonder why it was the head not the stinging end that he had decided not to eat.

A few days later I watched a smaller lizard literally stalking a wasp sunning itself on the tiles. He crept unnoticed to within two centimetres of the wasp, because he was obscured from the vision of the wasp by a small ledge. He slowly put one front foot on the ledge and waited a minute or more but when he lifted his other front leg the wasp spotted the predator and flew away. The hunt was fruitless that time.

My latest observation was yesterday, when I spotted a lizard with the front end of a wasp in its mouth – it seemed to be having difficulty swallowing the now dead creature. It was eating it head first with the legs hanging out of his mouth. The wasps legs appeared stuck between the lizards teeth, I sympathised with the little creature. I visualised having to catch the lizard, holding it so I could prise open its mouth and remove the wasp with a tooth pick! Fortunately it rushed around for a good three minutes and eventually I watch him swallow his lunch. But then I spotted the sting end of the wasp left behind at the spot where the whole drama had started and also a small piece of its guts. The lizard went to the lap pool for a drink and then came back to the remains and promptly completed his meal, with what, I presume, to be the tastiest part of a wasp!

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Plants in flower: Buddleja dysophylla, Buddleja auriculata, Gnidia slendens, In seed: Rhammnus prinoides, Vepris lanceolata

Birds: Southern Boubou, Thrush, Cape Robin Chat, Cape Parrots, Stone Chats, Bush black cap, Jackal Buzzard, Crowned Eagle, Collared Sunbird, Double collared sunbird, Thickbilled weaver, Heard Fish Eagle

cape robin chat RES

Mammals: common duiker,2 bush buck, 9 reedbuck (2 groups), samango monkeys Heard jackal

Lauren Taylor

This last Saturday morning, my family and I were startled awake by the sound of gunshots at 6am! Our hearts racing, my husband immediately asked “Do you think someone’s in trouble?” Not a pleasant way to wake up!! After enduring over 2 hours of continuous shot-gun noise, we realised it was a “public shoot” across the river. Another shoot a few weeks ago went on all Sunday afternoon! This seems very unreasonable!   We know that this is something that seems to happen every winter. However, most importantly, our concern is the impact that it is having on our wildlife and domestic animals? What are the “rules” regarding holding a public shoot? Do you need to inform neighbours? Our dogs were petrified; especially those that sleep out and I would have liked to have locked them up. The same applies to my horses which were galloping around the property and could have been easily injured (or shot)! The gun shot noise made fireworks seem tame!   Would this also not be classified as “public disturbance”?

In this day and age, if your neighbours are shooting whilst it’s still dark, with no notice – when do you actually know if someone truly IS in trouble?  And can you see where your bullets are ending up??

Another of our neighbours has enjoyed beautiful wattle crane and sacred ibis along their river frontage. Sadly, these have not been seen since the weekend.  We frequently see a herd of 7 reedbuck on our Lions River vlei.  We also fear that this will chase them off (if they haven’t already left).  This vlei is a wetland that is a natural sanctuary for so much wildlife that we should treasure. If they can’t live here, where to?

I don’t believe this is right! We may be zoned “agricultural” but we are surrounded by populated small holdings and it is neither safe nor in the best interests of nature to be holding public shoots without prior knowledge or consent of your neighbours!

Sadly, I think the days of “what was spotted in the Dargle?” may be challenged!

Nigel Anderson – Lane’s end Farm

I have just seen, but was too slow to photograph, a secretary bird flying over Lane’s End Farm at 14:55. It flew from Piggly Wiggly’s direction and headed south towards Midmar side.

There are also about 34 Crowned Cranes in the wetland along the Petrusstroom road.  Although they left during the shooting described above, they returned within a few hours.

Vaughan and Karen Koopman – Riverside Farm

Purple Crested Loerie, Honeyguide

Derek and Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Park

32 Cape Parrots Bushbuck with one horn

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Louwrens – Aloe Ridge

Caracal seen several times on Hopedale, causing some staff a little consternation! Several lovely Serval sightings.  Egyptian (Large Grey)  Mongoose pair doing the rounds! Black sunbirds having a feast on our lovely Aloes.

Anne & Mike Weeden at River Run

Besides the usual reedbuck and duiker sightings, which are always more plentiful during the winter months, we have spotted two serval fairly regularly over the last month as well as a caracal which was only about a 100 metres from the house. We also have a jackal which comes up to the house fence almost nightly to chat, rather loudly, to our dogs. For the first time since we arrived, we heard a porcupine calling one evening but couldn’t pick it up in the torch light.IMG_2517_4

I managed to get very close to a raptor last week when driving alongside the river and happened to have my camera with me and also photographed another one some distance off in the pines across the river. Maybe someone can identify them for me?

IMG_2529_3

IMG_2526_2

Iain Sinclair – Benn Meadhon

A very comprehensive report on the wildlife on Portion 2 of Maritzdaal written by Neville van Leyleveld who spent two nights last week-end patrolling the property.

Oribi – It is pleasing to report that there were 4 Oribi sighted over the weekend, 1 male 2 female and another very young female no bigger than a blue duiker. Finally they are breeding! Seen this was definitely the highlight of our weekend. More frequent visits to the Oribi paddock will be done to monitor the development of this youngster. Our action plan of firstly controlling poaching on the farm has clearly had positive effects if the Oribi are breeding as this is the first evidence of them breeding in the last 4 years. It is sad however that there has been a reduction in the adult population from 5 to 3 animals. We will endeavour to protect these Oribi as best as we can.

Bush Buck:  One pregnant female bush buck was sighted on the D17 on Friday night. She has regularly been sighted but this is the first time we have noticed that she is pregnant.

Reedbuck: There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Reedbuck sightings since the beginning of this year. Quite a few youngsters of varying ages can be seen some still with their parents. It is pleasing to report they are once again breeding well again. A total of 22 sighting of Reedbuck were made during the weekend. The Reedbuck are often seen feeding on the carrot field, on the oats paddock and in the vlei by the cross roads during the day. Both Reedbuck scat and tracks of varying ages can be found in these areas suggesting that they frequent these areas regularly. They are obviously feeling safe. Some seem to stay out most of the day and night in certain areas. This too leads us to believe that they are feeling safe and unthreatened. Clearly there has been a reduction in poaching activities in these areas of the farm as well.

Blue duiker: A single lone Blue duiker male was seen on the D17 on Sunday morning at about 04h00.

Grey duiker: Several grey duiker can still be seen all over the farm, particularly near the carrot and oats paddocks. Grey duiker are also been sighted in the vleis leading down from Graeme’s forests. Both Duiker scat and tracks can be found in these areas suggesting that they are frequenting these areas on a regular basis.

Bush pigs: Kean and I were “hunted” by a very large bushpig boar in the maize by Howard Long’s boundary as we were walking past the boundary fence between the oats paddock and the boundary fence. I estimate him to be about 140kg as he was about a metre tall and had a head nearly the size of a cows head. I heard the pigs in the maize eating. When I shone the torch into the area from where the noise was coming I saw him approach us in an aggressive manner grunting and clawing the dirt. I then forced him to back off, which he did very reluctantly. We then continued down onto the hay paddock just to have the same bushpig follow us and confront us again. I then forced him to back off again and we then left the area for safety reasons. He was really very aggressive and I suspect that he was protecting youngsters and I suspect that he has been hunted before. He is a potential danger for people in that area. Staff must please be warned about his presence. Although they are nocturnal creatures they have been known to protect their home domain even during the day, particularly if he is living in the maize and if young are present.

Porcupine: No Porcupine were observed, however there is a lot of evidence in the forms of scat, tracks and quills to suggest that there is porcupine activity.

Jackals: No jackals were seen or heard on Friday night or Saturday night. We did however see one loan jackal on Sunday morning around 09h30 leaving the oats area walking across the back ha paddock towards Hanbury.

Scrub Hare: An increase in scrub hare presence has been observed. Prior to this year we never saw them and only saw evidence of in the form of their fur in jackal scat. However this year things have changed. During the last three visits tom the farm this year we always see at least one mainly on the main road and this visit was no exception with one been seen crossing the road by the Oribi paddock. Since our visit I have done some very interesting research on scrub hare. Their anatomy is very different to that of other animals. They will also prefer to eat crops such as carrots in preference to their normal diet of grass and rhizomes. The increase in sightings could therefore be as a result of the carrot crops. We will keep this in mind over the next few visits to see if this is in fact true.

dried helichrysum

Blue Crane: During the weekend we observed several Blue Cranes in various place on the agriculture land. Most of them were in pairs.

Spurwing Geese: There appears to be an increase in the Spurwing goose population on the farm. A flock of eight birds was observed on their flight path from the dam across the field to the vlei behind the gum forest by the carrot and oats paddocks. Previously we only saw a single pair of them.

Egyptian Geese: There also seems to be an increase in the Egyptian geese population on the farm as o flock of 10 birds was seen on the same flight path as the Spurwing geese. We have seen both species on the large patch of water in the field behind the gum forest. They both seem to go there in the morning at around 07h00 to 08h00.

Herons: No Herons were observed on the agricultural land during this visit.

Guinea Fowl: A flock of 15 birds was sight on field below the shed on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning. It is great to see that are still around. They migrate from fields across the road each day the fields below the sheds for a feed and then go back across the road to roost.

Quail: A small flock of 10 quail was seen on the road between the oats paddocks. It was great to see them again as they were not around last year or the previous year.

Natal Francolin: A flock of 10 birds was observed in the grass on the left side of the gum forest by the carrot and ever grass fields. Previously we have seen francolins by the cross road below the shed as well as in this area. This time we didn’t see any by the cross roads, but this was probably due to the burning that took place on Friday.

Pigeons: Several pigeons were seen all over the far made up of Rameron, Speckled rock pigeon and various other dove types. The numbers are down compared to previous years but this attributed to the lack of food for them. Interestingly the size of the grey dove species has changed. Mainly small youngsters are been seen. I suspect that there is not enough food for the bigger birds which seem to move off to where there is a better food source once they get bigger?

Owls: Five barn owls were sighted over the duration of the weekend. Three of which were seen on Friday night by the cross road area probably after the vlei rats etc. after the burn. One was seen on near the top carrot field by the dead forest that has recently been felled. Another was seen in the back jackal paddock at the back of the oats.

A dead Large Common Genet was found by the cross road on the fire break between your new forest and Graeme’s forest. There was no obvious signs of it cause of death. This is the first time we have seen one of these on the farm.

Poaching: We found a sliding door cage type porcupine type trap in long grass next to the new road from the oats to the main logging road at the back of the farm. It does appear however that it has been there for some time as it was fairly rusty. It was removed, destroyed and we asked Robin to dispose of it for us. There was no other evidence of any poaching found. We will however keep on top of the poaching issue particularly since the Oribi are now breeding.

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury farm

We have seen the secretary bird several days this month. Have not seen our blue crane family but hopefully they haven’t gone too far afield. 4 spoonbill arrived at the dam on the 5th June

spoonbills in dam

2 caracal playing at 10am one morning. Have seen the jackal running in front of our house at 8am on various mornings.  Thursday and Friday last week at 8am heard the jackal howling near the stone wall.  Pat went to investigate and found a female on heat, surrounded by a group of suitors!

Seen about 15 cape parrots flying over the house at about 4pm on 3 days during June.  We are always attracted by their raucous calling. 2 new arrivals in our garden were 5 gurney sugar birds (below) and a double collared sunbird. They were seen sucking on the proteae and tecoma flowers and a few roses that weren’t frosted.

guerneys sugarbird

Also rameron pigeons eating catoniasta berries. Pied kingfisher, orange throated long claws (below) and various chats. As our dam drops (it leaks) more and more spurwing geese are spending the night. Still see the crowned and wattled crane now and then.

orange throated longclaw

A horrible incident 2 weeks ago:  We have had a barn owl nesting in our roof for 4 years now since the Bronner’s cut their pine trees down.  She has had 4 lots of 2 babies.  We have had to take 2 to Free Me with injured wings.  This time we had just made a fire in the study and the next minute the baby owl fell onto the flue.  It was dead, obviously asphyxiated.  Must have fallen down the chimney during the day.  It never made a sound poor thing.  The mother must have heard something because she screeched around the outside house verandah for ten minutes.  The other baby was sitting quietly on the gutter wondering what all the fuss was about.  2 days later we went for a walk and saw baby owl sitting on a halleria tree (wild fuschia) at the stone wall.  It sat there all day.  I was very concerned wondering if the mother had left him and that he was now starving.  He wasn’t there the next day but we heard all the fuss and noise on the roof that night when mom was feeding him, thank goodness.  They now seem to have flown away.

baby barn owl

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