The lack of rain in September saw the levels of both the Gartmore and Loskop pans dropping drastically. I (Pat Cahill) didn’t realise just how shallow the Gartmore Pan was until I saw a Grey Heron standing ankle deep in the middle of it!
Despite the unfavourable weather, there have been a good number of sightings. If you thought an Avocet was a missile used in the Falklands War, think again! Since Twané’s initial sighting of the Pied Avocet, it was been noted by two separate visitors, both on 12 October at the Gartmore hide.
You don’t necessarily have to visit the hides to spot birds, anyone visiting the toilet at the Conservation Centre might have heard strange noises – close inspection of the shelf by the door would have shown that a Cape Robin Chat was busy making her nest behind the vase on the shelf, in which she proceeded to lay two eggs. Follow this story in the November issue!
There are two new sighting to the Conservation Centre. These are the Black Cuckoo seen by Twané and the Southern Double-collared Sunbird seen and photographed by the Larkins (Chris and Ingy) from Mali who regularly visit the hides. If we could persuade Stuart Mackenzie to plant honeysuckle instead of maize, we might see more Sunbirds! It might even have a profitable spin-off by having his cows produce naturally sweetened milk!
We have recently had the use of the Midlands Conservancies Forum’s camera trap which has captured some interesting close-ups of Black Crake
and African Snipe who are normally very camera shy.
Other species recorded during October: Grey Crowned Cranes, Blue Cranes and Wattled Cranes. Great Egret, Cattled Egret, Little Egret, and Black-headed Heron. Yellow-billed Kites, Long-crested Eagles, Jackal Buzzard and an African Marsh Harrier. Groundscraper Thrush, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfishers, Southern Black Tit, Cape White-eye, Cape Crow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Teal, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Little Rush Warbler, Drakensberg Prinia, Yellow-billed Duck, Three-banded Plover, Yellow-fronted Canary and African Rails.
Plenty of Common Reedbuck have been seen in the wetlands at both hides.
Percyvera 111 – attack of the Robyn (not McGillivray)
In a sequel to the snake saga, Twané recently saw Percyvera (or one of his/her relatives) slithering across the step by the office door. Although it was headed away from the toilet where our Resident Cape Robin Chat (RCRC) had built her nest, RCRC is a bit of a birdbrain or has a general aversion to snakes and started dive-bombing it! Twané has developed a soft spot for Percyvera and was able to rescue it from the ‘Snake Eagle’ in disguise.
Percyvera was in the process of ecdysis, a term that Pat McKrill uses in his book, “Getting to know the neighbours”, to describe the process of a snake shedding its old skin. You can see in the picture how Percyvera’s eyes are milky and the usual green colouration is replaced by a dull grey/blue/green colour. This is a typical sign of ecdysis which lasts about 10 days.
Mist netting at Gartmore Hide – Karen Nelson
Monday 27th October dawned bright, clear and seemed an ideal ringing day. After erecting the first few nets, I realised the day was not so perfect. A wind had picked up that had me anchoring all the poles to prevent them from blowing over! The wind was possibly a blessing in disguise because I looked up to see a huge flock of Southern Red Bishop rise up from the newly planted mealie field and fly straight into my nets.
As the wind was causing the nets to billow quite badly, the majority of the flock managed to be blown out of the nets. So instead of having to extract 100+ bishops I was left with 37! More than enough on what turned out to be a very windy day not suited to bird ringing!
The following species were caught, ringed and measured that morning:
- 37 x Southern Red Bishop (♂photographed during transitional stage of obtaining bright red breeding plumage.)
- 1 x Levaillant’s Cisticola
- 2 x Red-billed Quelea
- 2 x Village Weaver
Denleigh Farm – Ren and Britt Stubbs
Britt reported her sighting of a small flock of Swee Waxbills on their farm. They have a soft, high-pitched ’swie swie sweeeeeuu’ song, hence their appropriate name. The regular pair of Blue Cranes have been seen daily, but there have been no signs of nesting yet.
AJ Liebenberg, Farm manager on Loskop, notified us of a very large and complex structure of holes, which are well utilised, and asked if we could set up the camera trap to see who the occupants are. We were delighted to see that it was home to a fairly large family of Porcupines who manage to co-exist without losing any eyes in the process.
About 10 minutes before we collected the camera trap (at about 09h20), a Large Grey Mongoose visited the one hole hoping to find some small vertebrates such as rodents to eat, but instead landed in a terrifying display of sharp spines, and left seconds later.
Along the Road – Adam Riley
Adam Riley, Managing Director of Rockjumper Birding Tours, took this superb photograph of a Common Cuckoo (formerly European Cuckoo) on the 2 October 2014 along the Karkloof Road, where the tar meets the dirt.
This birds species claim to fame is its association with the well-known cuckoo clock that features a mechanical bird and is fitted with bellows and pipes that imitate the call of the Common Cuckoo. We always appreciate feedback from expert birders who spend time bird watching in our beautiful Karkloof Valley.
SAPPI – Bernie Herbst
There was great excitement within the Sappi Plantations in the Karkloof when an African Buffalo bull ‘escaped’ from Game Valley and decided to check out the #1 ranked mountain biking trails in South Africa. He liked them so much that he stuck around for quite some time.
Katina Saville reported that this Buffalo chased them in their car along their driveway, making town trips a daily nightmare! He has been safely returned to his home with a heavy fine for not having a membership board and failing to register as a day visitor at the Karkloof Country Club (home of the Karkloof Mtb Club).
Another sighting within in the Sappi Plantations was this Rhombic Night Adder hiding in the shade of the rock. Pat McKrill describes this snake as “a forager that eats amphibians, mainly toads, and the common name is to some extent a misnomer, as it’s known to look for food at any time of the day or night”.
It’s always great to receive sightings from our local Sappi foresters. A big thank you to Bernie Herbst for sending us these excellent photographs.