There has been a pair of South African Shelduck visiting the Loskop pan fairly regularly. The Grey Heron pictured here seemed to co-exist quite happily with them, but there has been a pair of Egyptian Geese who have an aversion to Shelduck and chase them off cursing and swearing at them!
The White-throated Swallows are back and have been making some home renovations in preparation for the upcoming breeding season. I had the first sighting of them on the 18 July 2014 after they returned from a short vacation.
Twané had a rare sighting of a single Pied Avocet on the Loskop Pan last month, a lifer for her, and also for the Karkloof Valley on the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2. Roberts Field Guide shows that it should not be seen in this area, but like many other birds I am sure it isn’t familiar with Roberts!
The pans are exceedingly low at the moment, so there are increased sightings of African Snipe, Black Crakes and African Rails.
Snake Saga by Pat Cahill
A couple of weeks ago I was in the office talking to Twané when she let out a gentle scream – more of surprise than alarm. When I asked “What’s wrong?” she said “Look behind you”. I was standing in front of a shelf on which the box files containing all the records of the Centre are stored. There, crawling through the hole in the spine of the file was a little Natal Green Snake.
Like the Elephants child in Just So Stories, it had a ‘satiable curiosity’ and it then dropped one shelf down to assimilate the contents of an old copy of ‘Roberts’. All this erudition gave it a severe case of brain strain and it went down onto the coffee table for some refreshment.
Twané decided that coffee is not suitable for reptiles, so she picked up the eleven foot barge pole (this is used for things that you ‘wouldn’t touch with a ten foot barge pole’) and ushered it out of the door whence it dashed off to make use of its newly acquired avian knowledge. It is to be hoped that the next edition of ‘Roberts’ will be in a format which will be easier for snakes to handle and also incorporate information on which birds are edible.
I said to Twané that I was sure there was a species called a “file” snake. She Googled it, and sure enough there is – the Cape File Snake. Ours is obviously a subspecies, as it still has all its front teeth!
Mist-netting at Gartmore Hide – Karen Nelson
Karin Nelson had a ringing session on the 13th of August, catching 32 birds in her mist-nets which is again good for winter! The following species were caught, ringed and measured that morning:-
- 1 x Red Bishop
- 2 x Levaillant’s Cisticola
- 1 x Fork-tailed Drongo
- 1 x Pied Kingfisher (photographed)
- 16 x Red-billed Quelea
- 1 x African Stonechat
- 8 x Village Weaver
- 2 x Fan-tailed Widowbirds
Seen along the River by Charlie MacGillivray
Charlie goes for many walks on the farm and delights in the many different species that he sees each day. On one occasion, he was fortunate to photograph this Water (Marsh) Mongoose along the riverbank before it noticed his presence.
These mongooses are predominantly nocturnal but also crepuscular (active in low light). They feed on crabs, amphibians and small vertebrates and live near permanent water-bodies such as rivers, streams and dams.
Loskop Farm – AJ Liebenberg (Farm Manager)
AJ managed to get this great photograph of part of the large flock of Grey Crowned Cranes congregating near the cattle. Cranes have adapted well to feeding in agricultural fields and are beneficial to farmers, as they eat insects and weed seeds found near crops. Both the Grey Crowned Cranes and the Blue Cranes have been seen dancing in the fields and pairing up for the summer.
Remember to keep a lookout for nesting cranes and report these sightings to us so that we may pass the information on to the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
Gilboa – Michael Keefer
While up at the top of Mt. Gilboa, Michael lifted a rock to look at what was hiding underneath. He came across this lovely scorpion which he mentioned he sees often in the Shawswood forest when leading a school group on an interpretive trail.
The scorpion has been identified as Opisthacanthus sp. by the Virtual Museum experts. The Virtual Museum is a great platform for members of the public to become citizen scientists. Let us know if you’re interested in contributing sightings to this and we will show you how to get involved!
Local Crane News
On the 13 August 2014, Karin Nelson and Twané saw a colour-ringed Blue Crane on Loskop Farm seen from the Wattled Crane Hide.
The bird was very far away which made it very difficult to identify the colours of the rings and which leg they were on, but we eventually managed to get the right combination.
- Right leg: Big Blue
- Left leg: Red over White over Yellow
We immediately sent the photograph and ring combination on to Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust and she confirmed that this was the Blue Crane which was ringed on Ren and Britt Stubbs’ farm in the Karkloof on the 3 February 2011. She also saw this bird in a flock of 54 Blue Cranes on a farm in Hlatikulu on the 24th April 2012.
It was very exciting to see that our locally produced Blue Crane is still doing well – let’s hope for more sightings!