If you like your birds rare, you should either undercook them or come to the Karkloof Conservation Centre to see our Southern Ground-Hornbill. Twané arrived at the office recently to find it strutting around the parking area.
She had obviously heard about the excellent hides and wanted to check them out. We followed her down the avenue whilst I (Pat Cahill) took too many shots of her.
Just outside the frame of this picture by Priscilla Maartens from the Wattled Crane Hide are several large centre pivots, which at the end of a dry winter are kept busy irrigating the fields surrounding the pan. Despite this, there are two endangered species visible. A picture she took shortly after this included some Blue Cranes! Priscilla counted up to 56 Grey-crowned Cranes,
4 Blue Cranes and 2 Wattled Cranes in one afternoon.
Working at the Conservation Centre has definite advantages. Twané was able to capture this shot of two African Fish Eagles exchanging ‘high fives’ recently.
The bird list issued free to visitors is not cast in stone and is updated when necessary. The next revision will include a previously unreported newcomer to the Valley. This Peregrine Falcon, along with a partner, recently made an appearance. Fortunately when Twané was holding a camera.
The pair were seen harassing a juvenile Jackal Buzzard on Loskop side and subsequently started chasing some lapwings as well.
Another new species officially added to the list, but not a first time sighting, is a Pied Starling. A large flock were seen feeding in the field behind the Gartmore hide amongst the cattle and raiding the feeding troughs. I photographed one in November 2010.
A lonely Samango monkey has been relaxing in the Plane trees above our Picnic Site. It has been a fun sighting for the kids, as he has been visible thanks to the bare wintry trees.
Sappi Karkloof – Dr. David Everard There have been 2 camera trap recordings of a Honey Badger in different plantations within the Karkloof region.
Dave mentioned that they have now recorded about 30 different large mammal species within the Sappi plantations in KZN, which is pretty remarkable. He regularly adds this information to the Animal Demographic Unit’s Virtual Museum, which is a wonderful way for conservation enthusiasts to contribute photographic sightings and become citizen scientists.
Some exciting news is that Sappi have discovered that there are Brown Hyena in the Karkloof. They have had several recordings in a number of places within the same plantation and Dave wonders if there is more than one or if there is one that enjoys having its photograph taken.
Another very note-worthy record, not quite from the Karkloof, is a Side-striped Jackal that was recorded near Cumberland Nature Reserve. Dave remarks that this is way out of its normal range making this information extremely valuable.
Bartersfield – Ren and Britt Stubbs
In the early morning of the 23 July 2014, Ren Stubbs had a sighting of a Serval running on his farm while surveying his land from a helicopter. That same day, in the mid-morning, Britt and Ren were driving along the dirt road towards Curry’s Post, where they had a sighting of the female Southern Ground-Hornbill.
Connemara – Mike Benson
Mike Benson sent in this excellent photograph of a Scrub Hare which he took on the 24 July 2014. They are a common species, however people rarely get a chance to photograph them due to their speedy getaway and nocturnal behaviour. They are solitary animals, but can reach high densities in many areas. Although normally associated to woodland and bush cover, they have adapted fairly well to cultivated land as well.
Mist-netting at Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson
Karin set up her nets on the 18 July 2014 and caught 40 birds, with 5 of these being re-traps. She was impressed with the birdlife that was present in winter and was thrilled to catch 2 x Black Crake in her spring traps. The photo shows the juvenile/sub-adult that was caught and ringed.
She also ringed the first Cape Canary at Gartmore since starting in 2010. Other birds that were caught included: 2 x African Stonechat, 3 x Red-billed Quelea, 3 Fan-tailed Widowbirds, 3 x Yellow-fronted Canaries, 4 x Southern Red Bishops, 5 x Levaillant’s Cisticola and 17 x Village Weavers.
As you can see, we have had sightings of the lonely female Southern Ground-Hornbill pouring in. We would like to thank you all for taking the time to let us know. The information we receive is invaluable and helps us understand her movements within the Karkloof valley.
Liesl Jewitt sent us this fun picture of her which was taken on Friday, 4 July 2014, on Mizpah Farm Retreat by Kyra Naude, a recent student horse professional volunteer. She was being followed by a group of Guinea Fowl, no doubt muttering to them about the problem of being a vulnerable species in the Karkloof with a terrible shortage of eligible males! She was spotted that same afternoon by Liesl, but was a little further from where she was in the morning.
On the afternoon of 15 July 2014, Bruce MacKenzie had a sighting of her near the Karkloof Country Club and managed to take this clear photo of her with his phone. This was extremely useful, as his phone took a GPS reading and added it to the photograph’s properties. Thumbs up for modern technology and smart phones!
Thank you to everyone who sent in pictures and stories. We’ve had surprisingly good sightings in spite of the cold weather. Digital photography has certainly added a new dimension to bird watching and makes it much easier to share your experience and to identify unknown birds when you take the images home to consult your reference books.