Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – June 2014

Karkloof Sightings are compiled by Pat Cahill.

Having spent a major portion of my life in The Wicked City (Johannesburg), it is such a pleasure to have migrated to a more pleasant environment. I now understand why birds return to the Karkloof every year! One bird which is a resident of the Karkloof Conservation Centre is Twané, who runs the office and performs many other tasks with a smile. We hope she doesn’t join the migratory avians any time soon! One advantage of her job is the amazing view from the office and the hides. The following pictures are some which she has taken recently.

For some time it seemed as if the African Fish-Eagles had abandoned the Karkloof, but now they’re back and we have been seeing a pair at the hides more regularly. 1

A Giant Kingfisher likes to perch in the taller branch at the Gartmore hide and is seen in the early mornings. 2

Black Crakes and African Snipe have become more prolific at the Gartmore hide and observant birders are assured of a sighting of both.

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I have seen an otter many times in the past five years, but have never managed to capture more than an amorphous head in the distance; this Cape Clawless Otter, however, came out to greet Twané.5

All 3 Crane species have been seen daily. Usually a pair of Blue Cranes that are rather noisy and up to 47 Grey-Crowned Cranes. 6

We have had a family of 3 Wattled Cranes (2 parents and their offspring) make use of the pans at both hides. They are also seen in the surrounding fields. None have rings, so our blonde craniac, Tanya Smith, can’t positively identify them for us. You can notice how the youngster’s grey cap is starting to form.

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Malcolm Robinson suggested that the Steppe Buzzard which was reported in last month’s Sightings was probably a juvenile Jackal Buzzard as the Steppe Buzzards should have left on their annual migration. We have had a lot of “teenage” Jackal Buzzards, as well as adults, around and we have not had a sighting of the Steppe Buzzard, nor any others that may have a similar resemblance. The Long-crested Eagles are also out in their droves and we have seen the African Marsh Harrier on many occasions. An African Harrier-Hawk was seen a few mornings in the field.

Karkloof Sappi MTB route – Matthew Drew

It is most gratifying to receive a fair number of sightings from locals. Matthew Drew has kindly forwarded some images supplied by Dr David Everard, Divisional Environmental Manager at Sappi Forests. Matthew is a keen cyclist and regularly rides the trails in the SAPPI plantations. Matthew has submitted a very comprehensive report, for which we are very grateful! These were taken by a camera trap on the 30km Karkloof MTB route over a 10 day period.

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The camera trap was acquired by Sappi to survey what mammal species are found within plantations. Sappi’s foresters as well as the mountain bikers and trail runners who regularly access the plantations see many wildlife species.  The camera trap was specifically placed to record what was using the cycle track to move about these plantations.  David recorded the following species which are using the tracks to get about the plantations: Caracal, Serval, Black-backed Jackal, Porcupine, Bushpig, Bushbuck, Common Duiker and Common Reedbuck.

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David was surprised, not only by the variety, but also by the frequency the tracks are used.  Some species were recorded every night.  Sappi has deployed cameras in a variety of sites across their plantations and have recorded about 20 species of mammals and in good numbers. This goes to show that plantations are definitely places many mammal species are able to survive in, and with healthy numbers.

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My favourite pic is the one of the single Porcupine. No doubt on his way to forage somewhere, he is using the flow of the trail to gain some real momentum!

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I often ride on my own through the plantations and I sometimes see between 5 – 10 antelope, and other wildlife in various parts of the Shafton and Demagtenburg areas. I have also come across a whole heap of bloody quills that must have resulted from a major fight between two Porcupine or perhaps death by a Leopard or Caracal.

Spitzkop farm – Nick and Tim Hancock

Tim Hancock had some new visitors on Spitzkop this last month – a Cape Rock-Thrush and a sweet little Malachite Kingfisher which is a delight for anyone to see.  It is always a good idea to keep a list of species that you have seen on your property. You will never know the extent of the biodiversity unless you take the time to record your sightings. Well done to the Hancocks for always keeping a keen eye out for new species to record!

Sightings at Mbona Private Nature Reserve

Peter and Ronnie Ritchie were privileged to watch this beautiful Brown-hooded Kingfisher “fish” for worms on their lawn whilst they had a lovely al fresco lunch outdoors. “Not to be outdone, he proceeded to find at least 10 juicy worms in our lawn and sat in the winter sun getting visibly fatter. He is a most appealing bird”.

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Richard Booth reported that: “A Black Stork has been seen on a few occasions in the past two weeks on Mbona. Not new to our bird list, but not commonly seen”.

The Croxfords

Michael Croxford had a sightings of a Large-spotted Genet near their shed some time ago and supplied this great photo which he managed to take with his cellphone. The Large-spotted Genet has fairly large spots, usually rusty-brown in colour, and a dark brown or black-tipped tail. They are nocturnal and are certainly not fussy when it comes to food, as they feed on insects, small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds and other small mammals. It’s wonderful to know that we have such a diversity of creatures in the valley.

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Ground-Hornbill news

Thank you to all who have been updating us on the whereabouts of the female Southern Ground-Hornbill. John Roff saw a Ground Hornbill flying across the Karkloof canopy tours section of forested valley early morning on 4th May this year. He also heard them calling regularly in the forest around Canopy tours. “The sounds do vary, but I don’t know if it is one or more. I think it or they are spending a bit of time near troops of Samango monkeys, as I often hear them together”.  Mike Benson managed to get a superb photograph of her when she made a visit to Connomara one day. Between Mike and Tony Matchett, we have been very well informed of her presence in this area and on this property.

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How do we know it’s a lady? Notice the violet patch that breaks up the red on her neck, just below her beak. Males don’t have this patch, so their neck will be fully red.

Please keep your eyes open for her and any others that might be around and let us know about it so that we can pass this information on to the relevant people involved in the conservation of this endangered species.

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