Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages
David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm
Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage
Birds: Black widowfinches (males and females) seen for the first time in our garden. Redbilled Woodhoopoes, Sunbirds – amethyst and double-collared, Paradise Flycatchers, Wagtails, Sparrows, crested Eagle, Kites, Guineafowls, Storks, African Black Duck. A pair of Herons were regular visitors to our property for some time, but unfortunately the skeletal remains of one of the Herons has been found.
Others: Chameleon (female). Lots of skinks – adults and juveniles. Surprisingly no snakes have been seen although they must be around.
A creepy finding – hundreds of baby spiders just emerging from their nest. Within a few minutes all the spiders had completely disappeared in amongst the foliage.
A huge number of mushrooms came up in our garden in December and have since shrivelled up in the hot weather this month.
Our dogs were fascinated by the mushrooms but thankfully they didn’t eat any, and neither did we, as we’re not sure which mushrooms are poisonous.
Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm
We had some strong storms this past month.
A few trees were blown over or snapped in half. We also had quite a bit of rain fall which was welcome as it’s been so dry.
Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm
So many wonderful summer flowers in the less disturbed areas. A first for me on Old Kilgobbin is Miroglossa verticillare
An old favourite, Eulophia clavicornis – but flowering months later than usual.
Lots of wild Agapanthus campanulatus
Exceptionally cheerful Berkheya setifera attended by beetles
Buchnera simplex (used as a love charm in traditional medicine)
Senecio – not sure of the species, possibly isatideus.
Aloe boylei near the famous old Dargle oak tree.
Think this must be Cephalaria, but I am not certain. There are masses of white heads of Cephalaria pungens bobbing in the grassland with Vernonia natalensis right now.
Hermannia depressa hides in the tall grass.
Silene burchellii – the Gunpowder plant
The beautiful indigenous bramble, Rubus ludwigii seems to be particularly visible this year.
Rare Brunsvigia undulata – dark red flowers can be seen from quite a distance in the grassland.
Zaluzianskya natalensis opens at dusk, so I was lucky to be up early enough to enjoy it before it closed again.
Pink splashes across the grassland right now are Watsonia densiflora.
Often see this pair of Blue Cranes who pay no attention to the arguments amongst the young bulls!
Gorgeous flash of the Yellow Bishop.
Reedbuck doe in a wetland, and many more in the hills.
Had two Barn Owls around for a while, screeching at night and flying low at dusk. A real treat. Need to get some owl boxes up soon! Plenty of tiny bats swooping about. A couple of times one came into my house and couldn’t get out.
Love all the Hadedas.
While I was away, Jethro took this photo of this snake in my house. I reckon an Olive House Snake. I’m delighted as it has obviously come to eat all the rats!
At the beginning of January, Dias cotonifolia were in full bloom, but they are all faded now.
Some very large hail stones which came down in a storm last month…
Marashene Lewis – Glengyle Farm
We have set up the Dargle Conservancy camera in our part of the forest near
a water stream.
It has been up for one week, and these are the best night photographs.
During the day there has been no movement past the camera.
We have rented the camera for 2 months and hope to capture a lot more of our forest dwellers.
Pap and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm Lidgetton
What a surprise to find on our return from holiday a 2 week old (not sure, just going by last years photos) baby blue crane.
They had nested on a neighbouring farm as our dam had had very little water but they always faithfully return to us each year. I am not sure why, but am truly blessed by their continued presence on our farm.
We have had a number of birds nesting and hatching this month. Firstly the sparrows hatched out in the eaves under the roof next to our formal garden. Then the wagtails hatched out a 2nd set of babies (3) in the same jasmine creeper. The cape robin, whose picture I put in last months newsletter with nest material in her beak had made her nest in our large pot in the formal garden. She hatched out 3 babies.
We watched them on a daily basis. At 16 days old one disappeared and the other 2 had moved out of nest and sat in the shade of the shrub in pot. The next day they disappeared. The mother was totally traumatised and her distress calls were awful to hear. She searched in the flower beds and shrubs in the formal garden with myself on hands and knees checking as well, but to no avail. No sign of them at all and haven’t seen them since.
The wagtails disappeared same day and they are busily hopping around the garden. Our swallows hatched out 2 youngsters who kept flying into the house and veranda doors for 2 days. Then one morning I heard the mom twittering loudly next to our bedroom window. She was hopping around the youngster, trying to encourage the baby to fly. She eventually just sat and watched it and after a few minutes it flew off. On the 3rd day we found the one baby dead outside the bedroom window. He was soaking wet from the heavy dew during the cold night. The other swallow had broken its wing and I took it to Free Me. It died a few days later.The parents are back in the nest, so probably laying once more. The sparrows have taken over the other swallows nest under the eaves.
On the 7 January Pat saw a Serval at 7am at the end of our driveway and also a Duiker with her youngster. The Black-headed Heron has been in the garden on and off and have taken photos of him capturing a lizard and locust.
The female Amethyst Sunbird hatched out one baby beginning January. I only took photo on the 15th when he sat looking out of nest. He disappeared on the 19th January.
We have seen a lot of jackal hunting during the day. Our dogs attacked one and he tore my dogs ear. I saw one chasing a female reedbuck early one evening along the dam wall. He gave up after awhile and turned his attention to the Blue Crane who come to the dam each evening. They craaked loudly and he ran off thank goodness.
Pat saw a pair of Coucals and a Knysna Lourie near the natural bush opposite our farm next to Lythwood lodge. On another day we saw 2 male Reedbuck chasing 6 females across the dam and hills. This went on for some hours, so presumably some of them were on heat. We had a male Reedbuck sleeping and grazing in our garden for a week. I got quite close to him for a photo and noticed he had a lot of bumps on his face. On checking the photo, it looks like it could be warts or ticks. Would anyone know?
We have been woken by the Natal Spurfowl at 5.30am on a number of mornings in our garden, but the minute I open the curtain to take a photo, they run into the shrubbery. Pat saw a Sparrowhawk attack a swallow midair and as it flew off clutching the bird, the other swallows frantically chased it.
Until a few days ago, our dam was very low with few water fowl, but since the wonderful rains over the past few days (77mls) our dam has risen considerably and the Shelduck are back. They have been seen down at the lions river about a kilometre from us, so that’s wonderful news as they have nested here for the past 3 or 4 years.
We are just so grateful for the rain as our stream had dried up and there were problems with our borehole.
Thanks Dr Jason Londt for the identification: “The beast goes by the name Precis octavia – commonly called the Gaudy Commodore. This is the red summer form of the butterfly – which has a darker blue winter form. One usually sees them sunning themselves with wings outstretched on a rock or on the ground. They are pretty common and widely distributed in the eastern parts of SA – certainly common over the entire province of KZN”
Other sightings include: