Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill
Sightings have improved recently, with a group of African Spoonbills unconcernedly sharing their bath in the Gartmore Pan with some cows. Twané said the cattle, despite their size advantage, were more concerned about the presence of the birds.
Two infrequent visitors on the Gartmore pan were the Great Egret which Twané saw recently and the Giant Kingfisher which landed on the rock in front of me.
We are having daily sightings of African Rails, Black Crake and African Snipe. We have also been seeing the Drakensberg Prinia and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow more often. Two Long-crested Eagles were seen flying in unison and gave a shrieking call for a few minutes. The avenue of trees are dominated by a combination of Fork-tailed Drongos and Southern Black Flycatchers who are feeding on all the delicious insects.
Snake Saga – Part 2
Twané showed great foresight when she labelled last month’s “Snake Saga” Part 1. She obviously had a feeling that it wasn’t yet over, so here is Part 2! She was working on her laptop reading through Part 1 when she suddenly became aware of a pair of eyes watching her from just above the screen. As she is now quite used to its presence, she grabbed a camera and photographed it.
It was obviously not satisfied with the information it had gleaned from Roberts’ Birds on its last visit, so it sought out a slightly more recent edition.
Having heard about Pat McKrill’s reputation as an authority on snakes it then perused his excellent book on the subject – ‘Getting to know the Neighbours’. As it appears to have decided that the Conservation Centre is a friendly place, I think it deserves a name so that it may be put onto the payroll! We’re unsure of its sex, so I’d like to propose an asexual name like Percyvera!
Karkloof Babies – Patrick Cahill
I am not sure where baby birds come from, when I was a kid the stork delivery epitomised current belief to be replaced later by the gooseberry bush hypothesis. Whichever is correct, the delivery service has been working overtime recently.
AJ Liebenberg, a manager on Loskop Farm, sent in this picture of a family of Egyptian Geese seen on Loskop Pan. Though most despise this bird, one cannot help falling in love with the goslings who have complete faith in their parents and follow closely.
Twané has seen plenty of Blacksmith Lapwing chicks on the shores of the Loskop Pan. They are hard so spot and photograph, as they are far away and blend in very well with the vegetation.
Perhaps the highlight of the recent deliveries has been the arrival of a Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl chick on Gartmore virtually in Charlie’s back yard. I managed to capture this photo of Wol and Wollet in the late afternoon. They are nocturnal and primarily hunt at night and their diet consists of mammals up to the size of Vervet monkeys, a variety of birds such as Secretarybirds, ducks, raptors, and they also eat reptiles, frogs, fish and arthropods.
Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth
An immature Martial Eagle perched on a dead tree, giving a clear, excellent view. We occasionally see Martial here, but not often.
A Black Sparrowhawk flying across our lake carrying a bird the size of a dabchick (Little Grebe). It sat on the road in front of me to recover from exertion before flying into a tree. Can’t be sure what its prey was, but very likely a dabchick as it was taken over water. We have a pair of Egyptian geese with goslings but they are on a different dam.
A Striped Flufftail was heard calling in the grassland on “little Mbona” hill, a new one for our bird list, and gives us three flufftails with the Buff-spotted and Red-chested. The call was exactly as described in Roberts and continued for some time.
Mist-netting at Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson
Thursday 25th September was windy and not an ideal day for ringing. Billowing nets are more visible to the birds and thus capture numbers lower. We did still catch and ring 13 birds. A small flock of Yellow-fronted Canaries were the favourites of the morning.
The following species were caught, ringed and measured :
- 4 x Yellow-fronted Canary
- 4 x Red-billed Quelea
- 2 x Southern Red Bishop
- 2 x Levaillant’s Cisticola
- 1 x African Stonechat
Raptor Ringing Day – Karin Nelson
The 2nd Raptor Ringing Day was held on Saturday the 13th September 2014, where 4 teams, with 4 participants per team took part. Each team had a qualified ringer, a falconer, a raptor expert/handler/researcher and a trainee/enthusiast. Our team was made up of Ben Hoffman (Raptor Rescue), Stuart Pringle (Falconer), Brent Coverdale (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) and myself, Karin Nelson (Ringer).
Each team had one baited Balchatri Trap and were given a route to drive to find and trap the raptors. Our team randomly selected the Richmond area. The day was in part to collect valuable data for Lorinda Hart, who is working on a Jackal Buzzard project as her Post-doctoral Research at UKZN. All Jackal Buzzards caught were ringed, measured, weighed, bloods taken, and photographed to collect data for the project. In total 11 raptors were caught by the four teams.
The topic of Lorinda’s project is the Population relatedness and colour variation of Jackal Buzzards. Only 3.5% of bird species demonstrate plumage polymorphism (variation in feather colour) within a population of same age and sex. Birds of prey have a relatively high incidence of plumage polymorphism. Jackal Buzzards vary in their colour morphs throughout southern Africa . Up to seven plumage categories have been identified in the eastern Karoo with colours and patterns varying in the face, chest, back, eye, and tail of individuals .
You can contribute to the project by sending colour images of Jackal Buzzards and relevant GPS co-ordinates to Lorinda at firstname.lastname@example.org. This information will be useful to add to the database of colour variation for the area. Please note that both front and back profiles are required. This photographed Jackal Buzzard was taken by one of the four teams in the Karkloof. Stuart MacKenzie’s cattle and the beautiful Loskop mountain can be seen in the background.
Part III of Percyvera – in booklet form! Authored by Twane and co authored with Nikki – entertaining dialogue will certainly help ‘de-mythtify’ fears of snakes…add a poem or two … I can’t t wait to introduce it to all green flag Schools!
So much to enjoy – excellent as ever. I was particularly impressed by the photo of the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl.with chick. But that is not to forget all the other fascinating photos, which bring the Sightings to life