Nigel Anderson – Lane’s End Farm
14 March – The Crowned Cranes seem to like the flooding as there is a flock of at least 20 adjacent to Lanes End Farm today.
Flooding this month on the farm:
at least the ducks are happy.
David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm
Leonotis leonurus, also known as lion’s tail and wild dagga, is part of the Lamiaceae family.
Ed’s note: Common names: Wild Dagga (E), Wildedagga, Duiwelstabak (Afr), mvovo (X), utshwala-bezinyoni (Z) Derivation of Name : Leonotis = from the Greek leon meaning lion and otis meaning ear, alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion’s ear. leonurus = lion-coloured. Leonotis has become an invasive plant in Australia.
Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm
Spotted 3 Wattled Cranes (Bugeranus carunculatus – Conservation Status Vulnerable) near some pine trees on the farm. Caught a Rhombic Night Adder, which David Crookes photographed and Pat McKrill confirmed as a female (look at the short tale) Rhombic Night Adder because of the repeating rhomboid pattern that runs along the dorsal area from head to tail (see pic above).
Robin Fowler – Corrie Lynn Farm
Had a Black-backed Jackal trying to get into my sheep just outside my garden gate! It’s now been fenced out… Captured with the Dargle Conservancy Trail Camera.
Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm
I seem to be consistantly capturing locusts or grasshoppers every month, here’s a very large brown one that was on the garden paving stones.
Mike Weeden – Hopedale
Spotted this unusual bird on the lawn the other day. It had the shape of a Myna but was pure white. Anyone know what it is?
Thanks to Hugh Bulcock who provided this information: “This is an Olive Thrush with Leucism”. Wikipedia provides this information: “Leucism is a condition in animals characterized by reduced pigmentation. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin. A further difference between albinism and leucism is in eye colour. Due to the lack of melanin production in both the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) and iris, albinos typically have red eyes due to the underlying blood vessels showing through. In contrast, most leucistic animals have normally coloured eyes.”
Rose and Barry Downard
Lots of butterfly activity this month, including African Monarch, Green-banded Swallowtails, Acara and Garden Acraeas, Gaudy Commodores, Common Diadems and masses of tiny Thorn-tree Blue butterflies. There have also been lots of caterpillars, cocoons and pupae. Green-banded Swallowtail (Papilio nireus lyaeus),
Acraea acara acara (male),
and a female Garden Acraea (Acraea horta) newly emerged from its pupal stage.
Flocks of swallows have been busily feeding in the surrounding fields, particularly at sunset, in preparation for their migration. Also seen: Guinea fowls with their young, Step Buzzard, Herons, Gymnogene. Heard: Burchell’s Coucal.
Other: Dwarf Chameleon, skinks, Natal green snake. A large Red-lipped Herald was discovered in our kitchen one evening and relocated.
Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm – Lidgetton
We saw a serval running down the D18 at 9 o’clock one morning. Two porcupine running up our driveway one evening – a large and smaller one. Not sure if mom and dad or mom and youngster. Seen Jackal and steppe buzzards, White Stork which now seem to have flown off.
We have been inundated with black snakes on our veranda which feed on moths and frogs. The dogs killed a large one (1.5 metres) in the garage one night.
Response from Pat McKrill: “The snake is a Herald snake – Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia – (it sometimes has a red or orange upper lip). The body colour is anything from olive to dark grey, almost black and it sometimes has a white fleck pattern on the back. The head is always darker than the body – as you can see in the picture – and the underside of the snake is usually a creamy white colour.
It is a venomous rear-fanged snake, but the venom is of little consequence to man or beast. Heralds mainly eat frogs, and this is probably why you thought that they ate moths – maybe the frog was eating one when it got eaten by the snake! A classic food chain – the light attracts the insects which attract the frogs which attract the snakes – which attract your dog.
Heralds display lots of ‘attitude’ when first encountered, with lots of striking out from a defensive ‘S’ shape, with the head flattened like an adder (hence its Afrikaans nickname, Swart Adder). A lovely garden snake that calms down quite quickly and quietly goes about its business of keeping the frogs honest. They grow up to about 7- 800mm in length.”
On the 22nd March I saw our three and half month old Blue Crane flying for the first time. He flew around the dam for about a minute with his parents looking on. Since then have seen him running up and down the edge of the dam and hopping up and down. He is such a big “boy” now.
The highlight of our month was seeing an unidentifiable white “buzzard/eagle” sitting on a rock, on the farm on 24th March. Rushed home and grabbed the bird book but had little success with identification. I phoned Barend Booysen as I thought it might be a juvenile Crowned Eagle but he said they did not have Crowned Eagle babies this season. Nikki sent photos off to Shane McPherson (Crowned Eagle Research Project) who said “definitely not a Crowned Eagle but could be a Steppe Buzzard.” I was sure it wasn’t, so sent photos to Eve Hughes who kindly forwarded them to David Allan, Curator of Birds at the Durban Natural Science Museum. He identified the bird as a Honey Buzzard which apparently is a rare siting in this area. We are just awaiting some other experts opinions to confirm this but David seems very sure that its a Honey Buzzard. So we are very excited about this siting. We saw him on 2 consecutive days and since then he has disappeared.
6 Pied Starlings appeared on the lawn one morning after a big storm the night before when we had hundreds of moths hitting the windows and coming beneath the doors. They were all over the lawn the next morning and the birds were having a feast. The one starling was actually picking up moths and pushing them into youngsters beak.
Dozens of butterflies all over the place. I’m not very good at chasing them down. Some take a while to suck out the nectar while others never seem to stay still for a second.
Our wild hare has left us. Strangely it was over the period while we were on holiday!
Our swallows still seem to be feeding young outside our study window. The barn owls are still screeching each night. The rock pigeons, chats, sparrows, wag tails and starlings still occupying our roof, gutters, chimney and verandah. The chats are making an awful mess on our verandah couches – they are very social birds. Have had a couple of sunbirds and swallows flying inside the house. Fortunately managed to save them from the cats and dogs.
Jean Cunniliffe – il Postino
Early one morning in late March, I noticed our little resident swallows and lots of others lining up on the power lines. I watched for ages as more and more gathered in a long stripe. They were fluttering and twittering as if to check “Is everyone here? Are you all ready?”. Then, as if there was a signal they all flew off at once in a v formation. It was absolutely wonderful to watch and I felt quite emotional saying goodbye to them.
Nikki Brighton Old Kilgobbin Farm
I adore autumn. Especially watching the grasslands change and forest canopy start to open up. Amongst the late flowers there are so many interesting seed heads
This Brunsvigia has probably ‘tumbled’ away by now
Berkheya multijuga is still flowering but this species (possibly speciosa) just has fluffy pompoms waving in the breeze
This month there have been masses of mushrooms popping up everywhere. Bright yellow cow boletus, tiny orange clusters and many more. This copper coloured one looked delicious, but I couldn’t identify it, so didn’t have it for breakfast. Anyone have an idea?
I was sad to find this cuckoo dead on my veranda one afternoon. I could see the ‘feather print’ where it had flown into the window.
Wonderful variety of Nature’s beautiful offerings; with reminders of the hazards ever present. We are busy putting stickers of raptors on windows to warn birds to steer clear