Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – November 2014

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Pat Cahill

Usually one visits a bird hide to watch birds, but on a visit to the Gartmore Hide last month, I found this dead fish on the boardwalk about twenty metres from the water. An authority on birds (Roberts non-field guide)  suggests that this is the result of the Kingfishers practice of beating their prey on a branch to stun it and to orient it so that it goes down the birds throat headfirst. The practice was started by Kingfishers in South America to avoid swallowing an active piranha!

1 - Nov 2014My theory though is that it was cast up by a mini tsunami caused by tectonic activity under the Karkloof. I read  recently that the Great Rift Valley is expanding, and eventually the land   between the valley and the East Coast of Africa will eventually become an island. If you extrapolate a line down from the Great Rift Valley, you will find that it passes through Gartmore, so we may perhaps one day be able to divorce ourselves from the Government’s corruption and declare the Island Republic of KZN!

I often see Pied Kingfishers at both hides with three being the maximum I have seen together. This group of females (Could this be a “Hen’s Party”) surprised me as they flew off in unison and hovered over the pan in fairly close formation returning to this perch several times before flying off .

2 - Nov 2014Canoodling Cranes on Loskop Pan! This pair of Grey Crowned Cranes was seen getting friendly on Loskop recently obeying the urges of Spring!

3 - Nov 2014When I parked my car at the path to the Gartmore Hide I saw an African Fish-Eagle perched in the tree closest to the hide. Thinking I had a chance to get really close to it, I moved slowly along the path, taking a picture every 3 metres. They really do have “eagle eyes” and this was as close as I could get!

4 - Nov 2014Anyone who has raised children knows how demanding they can be. Pity the poor avian mothers though who don’t have the convenience of bottles or dummies to pop into babies’ mouths to shut them up. This White-throated Swallow was seen at the Crowned Crane Hide on Gartmore Pan. One can imagine the chick on the left screeching “Feed ME, Feed ME”, whilst mother sticks her beak halfway down the throat of the sibling! Both of the bird hides have several swallow nests under the eaves, and there is much activity around them with parents busy feeding their offspring.

5 - Nov 2014Chick Chat – Pat Cahill

Twané feels that as Karkloof residents are an extended family, everyone should have a vicarious share in the joys of being guardians to two Robin-Chatchiks! Providing accommodation in a public bathroom for a family of Cape Robin-Chats is quite a responsibility.

When the eggs first appeared in the nest, I was worried that loo users would disturb the nest.  My fears were groundless though – whilst incubating the eggs, the parents always made a beeline for the open window as soon as anyone walked in the door.  I don’t think that many people who saw it actually realised that it was a nest, thinking that it was part of a dried arrangement from the vase with which it shares the shelf.

6 - Nov 2014Eventually balls of skin and bone and fluff emerged with eyes closed and beak permanently gaping!

7 - Nov 2014After a multitude of flights by the parents between the loo and the worm garden, their eyes eventually opened and they started looking more like chicks.  8 - Nov 2014A diet of insects seems to contain some secret growth hormone, as it seemed to be a few weeks and their feathers started forming from fluff.

9 - Nov 2014We weren’t there to witness their first flying lessons, but Twané went in one morning for their daily check-up and found the nest empty.  She heard a faint chirping coming from the rubbish bin and found a chick inside it.  Obviously the chick had decided that “litter” wasn’t the collective term just for baby pigs, but also applied to birds! It must have landed on the swing lid of the bin, which swung down, precipitating junior into the bag.

10 - Nov 2014Thank you Twané for your daring rescue.  Since then the chicks have been seen regularly around (and inside) the office, each with a parent, learning to forage for themselves.

The nest is now standing empty and management has decided  to put it on the market to be let.  It has been put into the care of Wakefields Estate Agency.  The rent is egg-otiable and includes lights and water with an en suite toilet.

11 - Nov 2014Glassworks/Old Pine Cabin – Shaun and Peta Crookes

If you have a Goldfish Pond, beware of uninvited guests who may take it as being an open buffet, like this Black-headed Heron seen fishing at the Crookes’ goldfish pond. The picture solved the mystery of where their goldfish were disappearing to. They have subsequently covered their pond with some netting to protect the remaining few.

12 - Nov 2014A highlight is this sighting the Midlands Dwarf Chameleon – it’s not always easy spotting these quirky       reptiles. Living along the edge of the indigenous Mistbelt forest certainly has its benefits. “Many chameleon species are endangered due to loss of habitat and the international pet trade. By conserving forests and woodlands, and protecting the grasslands that they need to survive in nature, we contribute to the health of entire ecosystems“(http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/madaboutc.php). Thanks Peta and Shaun for sharing this great sighting with us!

14 - Nov 2014Baboon in the Karkloof – UCL and Sappi Foresters

This male Baboon was seen on the Sappi camera trap earlier this year, after presumably being kicked out by the members of its troop and taking refuge in the tranquil forests and plantations of the Karkloof hills. Outcast baboons can be quite aggressive, and unfortunately it was killed by homestead dogs after a possible territorial dispute (not poaching). A big thank you to Edward Naidoo of UCL and Dave Everard of Sappi for supplying the photos and information.

15 - Nov 201416 - Nov 2014

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