Besides being a short month, February was also a busy one in the Karkloof – the maize which stood “as high as an elephant’s eye” was harvested, so Gartmore hide is now surrounded by bare fields (filled with lots of Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese, Blacksmith Lapwings, Speckled Pigeons, Red-eyed Doves, Cape Turtle-Doves, Grey Crowned Cranes and Wattled Cranes), Karin Nelson had a bird ringing morning, and the Three Cranes Challenge saw a host of volunteers assembling to cater for the ‘maniacal‘ marathon runners.
Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill
We had a new visitor to the Gartmore pan who is now included on our bird list – a Hottentot Teal.
It was much easier photographing their relatives, the Red-billed Teals, as their bills don’t get camouflaged against the reflection of the blue sky in the water!
The local rodent, frog and reptile populations must have experience a rapid decrease in February with all the raptors that were out and perched on the centre-pivots.
These included the Amur Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kites, Steppe Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, African Marsh-Harrier and the African Fish-Eagles.
Please remember to avoid using poisons to control your rat populations and seek “raptor-friendly” options!
Other sightings included: White Stork, Cape Crow, Hadeda Ibis, African Sacred Ibis, Southern Bald Ibis, Southern Red Bishop, Barn Swallow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-collared Widowbird, Long-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal, Cape Weaver, Woolly-necked Stork, Diderick Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Hamerkop, Wattled Lapwing, African Stonechat, African Black Swift, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black Saw-wing, Dark-capped Bulbul, Village Weaver, Zitting Cisticola, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Common Fiscal, South African Shelduck, White-throated Swallow, Whiskered Tern, Common Moorhen,
White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Bronze Mannikin, Cape Wagtail, African Jacana, Common House-Martin, Common Waxbill, Red-billed Quelea, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Shoveler, Little Grebe, Lesser Striped Swallow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Levaillant’s Cisticola, White-faced Duck, Amethyst Sunbird, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-winged Lapwing, Little Rush-Warbler and Burchell’s Coucal.
It’s all about the little things – Hugh Watson
Hugh Watson, a regular visitor to the Karkloof Conservation Centre bird hides took these breathtaking photographs during his recent visit. Can you spot Wally, the yellow spider?
Spitzkop Farm – Tim Hancock
My sighting is very vague – it looked like an Eurasian Hobby – from the falcon like head and very curved back wings and thin tail (just like a big swallow) repeatedly dive bombing what appeared to be a Steppe Buzzard – too far to actually be definite.
Cricket vs.Twitching – Johnny Bouwer
On Saturday morning the 28 February, I was faced with the choice of lying in bed and watching the Kiwi’s thrash the Auzzies in the WC or head out to the rainy & wet Midlands to the Karkloof Conservation Centre.
I was rewarded with a some awesome sightings, so I believe I made the right call. At first I thought the birds were probably all snuggled up in bed watching the cricket.
These photographs are of a White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Ducks and a pair of intimate Brown-throated Martins.
The 3 Cranes Challenge – John and Linnet Crow
Friday was a day in Fairyland, after a beautiful sunrise and being situated in the forest at Karkloof Canopy Tours.
The sunlight reflecting off the wings of the butterflies and dragonflies could have been glimpses of fairies.
The Samango monkeys and Loeries (now known as a Turaco) watched the show as the competitors enjoyed the canopy tour. The floor moved as the bright yellow crabs and finches carried on with their activities.
The troll that I heard turned out not to be a troll, but Kai from the canopy tours coming to check how everything was going.
Saturday was a day of watching runners appear from and disappear back into the mist
and looking for some of the little things.
A juvenile fiscal shrike kept us company for a while.
Sunday did not show us the same spectacular sunrise as last year, but the surface of the dam displayed an incredible reflection.
The signs were there that the caracal had departed not long before we arrived.
The dam at Bushwillow Park was a welcome sight at the end of the 3 days.
Bird Ringing @ Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson
On the 11 February, Karin Nelson hosted a bird ringing day at our Conservation Centre. The day was well attended and we were pleased to see all the homeschoolers that made use of the activity as part of their studies.
There were also some visitors who were curious about how ringing impacts the birds, but were very pleased to see how gentle and competent Karin is and that the birds were so calm during the process. Karin caught a total of 75 birds with 5 of these being re-traps.
These included: 47 x Red-billed Quelea; 7 x African Reed-Warbler; 6 x Village Weavers; 4 x Southern Red Bishop; 2 x Drakensberg Prinia; 2 x Yellow-fronted Canaries; 2 x Levaillant’s Cisticola; 2 x Fan-tailed Widowbirds; 1 x Pin-tailed Whydah; 1 x Dark-capped Bulbul; and 1 x African Stonechat.
Pluviophiles in the Karkloof – Twané Clarke
“Pluviophile: (n) A lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.”
One afternoon when I noticed a build up of dark clouds, I decided to hightail it to the Gartmore hide and see what’s out and about during the rain.
Firstly, I noticed a Yellow-billed Duck wandered the pan alone,
then I saw a flock of Barn Swallows flying in the distance with two breaking away to rest on a branch,
and the last bird I saw was a lonely little White-throated Swallow.
These birds all weathered the storm and remained there the entire time. I arrived back at the office a drowned rat, but a happy one indeed!