Darge Wildlife Sightings – November

Some very interesting sightings and stories last month in the rain soaked Dargle.

Simon Hayes – Hambledon My son spotted this Red-lipped snake (I think) on our lawn whilst he was on our trampoline. We tried to shush it away but it got a bit aggressive so we left it alone. Then it came towards our house over the lawn so I picked it up with a hockey stick and took it to the bottom of the garden.

Our favourite ‘Snake Man’ Pat McKrill confirmed: “It’s a Herald snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia) – often referred to as a ‘Red-lipped snake’ – and it was first brought to the attention of the world by the EP Herald Newspaper, hence the name. They do get a bit ‘touchy’ but are not anything to worry about – unless you’re a frog!”

red lipped herald snake

Tom and Lucinda Bate – Inversanda Much to our excitement we appear to have a resident Southern Ground Hornbill.  Tom and Emily spotted the hornbill in a field near our staff village and our Nduna Sphiwe says he has seen it frequently. We last saw ground hornbills on the farm 15 years ago when a resident pair were forever breaking the window panes in the dairy, presumably looking at their own reflection in the glass.  Very sadly they disappeared overnight and we feared they had been killed for muti.

Conservancy comment:  If you ever spot a Southern Ground Hornbill, please contact the “Mabula Ground Hornbill Project” and provide them with as many details as possible for their records in helping to conserve this iconic bird which is considered internationally as “Vulnerable” and “Endangered” within South Africa www.ground-hornbill.org.za

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple The Cabbage Tree on the D17 extension has recovered! It was damaged by fire during the winter.

cabbage tree D17

Milkweed flowers (most probably Xysmalobium involucratum)  in the mist at the top of the Schneidermans.

xysmalobium involucratum

Sandersonia aurantiaca – also known as Christmas bells, golden lily of the valley or the Chinese lantern lily.

sandersonia aurantiaca

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Park – Recounts being attacked by a Bushbuck recently I was picking Waratahs in a field some distance from the house. I had avoided taking the dogs with me as two old bushbuck rams had overwintered in that very field. They moved off if anyone went near, and were never threatening. I hadn’t been there long when two of the dogs found me, looking very pleased with themselves. My attention wandered from the dogs and shortly thereafter I heard a crashing through the tall, thick rows of Waratahs.  I ran to the commotion. The dogs had put up old One Horn . He was trying to escape through the fence and the dogs were nipping at his hooves. They hadn’t injured him and I called them off. They came to stand behind me and we were a few metres from the ram. He eyed me, and before I was aware of what was to happen, he charged and knocked me flying, turned around and gored me in my thigh. It all happened very quickly, and my first thought was to get out of the Waratahs as nobody would find me. I tried walking but saw black spots, so sat on my bottom and somehow propelled myself out backwards…I was hoping to attract someones attention, when I realised I had my phone in my pocket (unusual ) and was able to call Derek. Helen our neighbour came to help, I was loaded up and taken to hospital. All is well again. One Horn has disappeared and hasn’t been seen around for a few weeks.   The moral of the story is, beware of Bushbuck, they can be aggressive, especially if there are dogs around. I find mobile phones very intrusive, but they are useful at times!

Neville van Lelyveld provides some background on Bushbuck behaviour: The reported incident  about the bush buck is quite normal behaviour for them. It is something that very few people seem to know about them. They are the only antelope species that will attack instead of running away. Great care should always be taken when it is known that bush buck are in the area. Always try to avoid them or if you come across them do not look at them in a threating manner that is in a manner that they would deem as threating. Rather look down and back away thereby removing the threat. They have been known to kill humans and predators, etc. if threatened or wounded.  Just a general rule when walking in the bush is to respect the fact that you are in the wildlife domain and generally they will often try to protect their domain. It is often a case of not what you perceive as a threat but rather what the animal perceives as a threat. Caracal can also be a formidable creature if disturbed or threatened. So beware of them too.  Please also be aware of bush pigs particularly the main boar as he is responsible for the little ones. He will defend them at all costs. People die every year due to encounters with bush pigs. It is often said that they have strength of a buffalo with the attitude of a Leopard. Believe it – this is no over exaggeration, anyone who has had an encounter with them would agree.

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury farm While in the garden one morning, I heard a noise in the dam in front of the house and saw our dogs (they were with Pat who was counting cattle) chasing a jackal.  The jackal was screaming desperately.  He kept running around the dam with the dogs trying to keep up. The nguni calves heard the commotion and decided to join in the chase.  Round and round they all went for half an hour.  My dogs eventually gave up the chase from sheer exhaustion and the wily jackal ran off.  I am not sure why he just kept going around the dam instead of running away.  On another morning one of our nguni cows gave birth on the hill.  The jackal was sitting waiting for a chance to get at the afterbirth or the calf itself but mom was sitting close to the calf, so after a drink from the rock pool (photo) the jackal ran off. The giant grey mongoose has been running through our garden and saw a pair running across the D 18. Our gardener killed a puffadder while brush cutting around the garden. For severaI months a tree frog has been living in my syngonium pot plant on the verandah. May be an arum lily frog.

November 2013 sitings 010

One crested crane in the dam.

November 2013 sitings 014

A number of blue crane at the beginning of the month, but they now all seem to be sitting on nests I think, as there is one lonely chap wandering around.

November 2013 sitings crane

Pat saw a Southern Pochard at the dam Buffy pipit next to pot in garden.

November 2013 sitings 037

For 4 days we had a cape canary pulling out the hanging basket fibre on the verandah.  She was very tame and allowed me within a few metres of her to take photographs.  On several occasions she brought her partner along to show him that she was indeed “working”.

November 2013 sitings 033

A pair of swallows trying to build a nest on top of our verandah light.  It has fallen off 3 times now.

November 2013 sitings 008

Kathy and Wayne Lourens – Aloe Ridge Farm If October was an eventful month, November was quite the opposite ….. very few “unusual” sightings happened. We have seen the usual Reedbuck, a Duiker, Giant Mongooses etc. on Hopedale in general. While out walking early in November, Kathy had a glimpse of what may well have been an Oribi on the floodplain alongside the uMngeni River, but it was a fleeting glimpse and cannot be confirmed.  The Pygmy Geese on the Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary main dam left late in the month, after we took Katavan, the Jurgens Explorer II caravan, back up to the old house site, ready for our occasional overnight getaways … maybe they objected to two-leggeds as neighbours. Something that cannot wait for December sightings – on Friday 6th right after dropping non-duty staff off in Howick, we saw 2 chaps walking between Tanglewood Country House and Andrew & Nikki Early’s log-dump site, carrying a dead Oribi between them.  Just as I was looking to turn at Brett Andrew’s driveway, a Ballid Security vehicle came out of Tanglewood driveway, so I flashed him down and we told him about the incident. He reported that they’d already seen the 2 guys with the antelope carcass, questioned them, and were taken to a spot where the Oribi had apparently been run down by a vehicle. Ballid officers then let them go. Our question: Is possession of a carcass of an endangered species killed in this manner also a criminal offence? Perhaps a Conservancy member can shed some light?

Conservancy Response:  It is illegal to be in possession of the carcass no matter how it died.  The law is very specific on this issue. Late Friday night Gareth Boothway, Biodiversity Stewardship Manager for the Midlands Conservancies Forum, spotted a taxi with dogs in it opposite the Lion’s River Club – might be related. Incidents of this nature should be reported to:

  • Sushie Mahadave – head of the Lions River Honorary Officers 084 580 4237 or admin@geozone.co.za
  •  Rob Faure – Ezemvelo District Conservation Officer faurer@kznwildlife.com or 084 953 4938
  •  Samson Phakathi – Oribi Working Group EWT Threatened Grasslands Programme samsonp@ewt.org.za or 083 799 1916
  • SA-CAN 086 167 2226

Kevin Culverwell – The Wallows For the first time in 25 years we have Pied Wagtails on the farm (a group of 3). Ground Hornbills & a Secretary bird seen for the first time in a long time. The Half collared kingfishers are breeding on the uMngeni.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm I’ve been testing out one of the Dargle Conservancy’s new Trail Cameras on our farm for the past few weeks. Unfortunately I’ve only manage to capture our livestock walking past, the dogs and employees! Hopefully something interesting comes along soon.  We had an injured (what I think is) Spotted Eagle-Owl come hopping into our garden. It stayed long enough for a couple of photos, I haven’t seen it again and it’s been about a week now.

spotted eagle owl

Gymnogene or African Harrier-Hawk, eating its kill in the tree of our front garden – possibly a Weaver.


Earlier in the month I encountered a large number of flying ants when I stopped next to the road to inspect the fence. The Swallows were having a great time catching them!

flying ants

A Cabbage Tree growing on top of the ridge on our farm, with the Dargle/Impendle road in the distance.

cabbage tree

Nikki Brighton Old Kilgobbin Farm Spotted a Giant Mongoose which was a real treat. The Buff Spotted Flufftail has begun calling in the mist.  Lots in flower, including clumps of fragrant Hemizygia teucifolia,

r hemizygia teucrifolia

and Eriosema distinctum

r spring eriosema orange

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