Crystelle Wilson: Gramarye
ONE morning a reedbuck spent several minutes running backwards and forwards on a hillside with what can only be described as pure joy of life.
On the birding front, an exciting lifer for me was a Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk. The way to tell this bird apart from juvenile Black Sparrowhawks, which can also show rufous colouration on the chest, is that they have yellow eyes and not red like the Black Sparrowhawk.
At the end of the breeding season there are many juvenile birds around. The plumage of these birds, especially raptors, can be very different from those of the adults. The trick is to look at the shape of the bird, rather than the colour of its feathers. One such individual flying overhead had me very puzzled, and it was only by looking at my photographs that I could identify it as an African Harrier-Hawk, messily dressed like the gawky teenager it was.
The juveniles of common birds such Common Fiscal can also be confusing.
Another exciting sighting was a pair of Wattled Cranes opposite the Mount Park Guestfarm near the Everglades Hotel. Tanya Smith of EWT’s crane project tells me that that was a traditional breeding site for the birds and she was very pleased to hear that they have been spotted again in the area.
Tanya managed to successfully ring the surviving Grey Crowned Crane chick that was hatched at The Willows/Gramarye this season.
The SABAB2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Red-winged Starling, African Olive-Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, African Harrier-Hawk, Amur Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard, Malachite Sunbird, Malachite Kingfisher, Red-collared Widowbird, Sombre Greenbul, Banded Martin, (with its tell-tale white eyebrows and long wings)
Blacksmith Lapwing, Cape Grassbird, South African Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck, Neddicky, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Brown-throated Martin, Common Waxbill, Black-headed Heron, Long-crested Eagle,
Purple Heron, African Reed-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, African Snipe, Zitting Cisticola, Black-headed Oriole, Red-throated Wryneck, African Paradise-Flycatcher, White-throated Swallow, African Rail, Black Sparrowhawk, Pied Kingfisher, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Cape Longclaw, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black Saw-wing, Cape Wagtail, Three-banded Plover,
Speckled Mousebird, Barn Owl, Greater Striped Swallow, Amethyst Sunbird, Olive Thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye, Yellow-fronted Canary, Spur-winged Goose, Drakensberg Prinia, African Stonechat, Egyptian Goose, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Cape Crow, Bokmakierie, African Darter, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, African Sacred Ibis, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Diderick Cuckoo, Village Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Common Fiscal, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Grey Crowned Crane, Barn Swallow, Lanner Falcon.
Derek Hurlstone-Jones: The Rockeries
The iconic African Fish-Eagle was seen overhead while driving along R617 at the Elands river.
Bruce and Bev Astrup: Highland Glen
A pair of Greater Striped Swallow nested under the eaves where they successfully raised their young.
Glyn Bullock: Harmony
Floater flock of approximately 40 Grey Crowned Cranes were seen regularly on “Harmony”. Highest number noted being 51.
David Clulow visiting on 11 March:
Long-tailed Widowbird at “Seven Streams” T-junction; White Stork on 29 March; Mousebirds at Elands river.
Piet Nel and his son, Willem: Twin Rowan:
Besides seeing the parents of the surviving chick from the pan on The Willows, while they were feeding on “Gramarye”, we saw three Grey Crowned Cranes near the upper fence line on The Willows, with five chicks running and hiding in the tall grass.
Grey Crowned Crane chick on “The Willows”:
An unsuccessful attempt to ring the surviving chick being reared on The Willows on 11 March – because the chick, after being clearly spotted, did its belly crawl into the long grass, after which it lay ‘doggo’ and could not be found; but on 16 March, Tanya Smith of the African Crane Conservation Trust was successful, and the chick was suitably caught, ringed and then set free again.
Caroline McKerrow: Stormy Hill
March was a quiet month, but the highlight was a sighting of two Bushbuck.
David and Wizz Lawrence: The Willows
Three Grey Crowned Cranes flying overhead.
An unusual incident occurred when soot from the fireplace was being irritatingly released. The reason became apparent, when a Barn Owl flew out from the hearth, and into the kitchen, where Wizz caught it and set it free whereupon it flew immediately towards “Gramarye”. The Owl appeared thin, hungry and thirsty – apparently having been in the chimney for some while before it eventually managed to get past the draft release lever.
Rob Geldart: Boston View and Watershed
The usual pair of Wattled Cranes from the pan on “Myrtle Grove” together with their chick, now well grown. African Fish-Eagles are seen fairly often.
Christeen Grant: Sitamani
March is the month when a touch of autumn creeps in, the grass is starting to turn gold, a crispness in the air, but still storm clouds on the horizon. March is also the month of Moths and Mushrooms and there have been many!
A delightful Striped Stream Frog Strongylopus fasciatus sprang across the grass this morning outside the kitchen door, then obligingly waited for me to fetch my camera for a photo shoot! The house is about 150m from the nearest stream, so perhaps it is looking for a winter hibernation spot.
The Speckled Pigeons were most indignant when the planks that supported their nest were moved after their fledgling had flown. Happily they approve of the new arrangement and have already almost reared their youngest juvenile.
Three flowers caught my eye, a first identification of Berkheya echinacea, also seen Helichrysum cooperi and the delicately elegant Hesperantha baurii.
Some interesting insects in and around the house, the Mottled Veld Antlion flew in one evening,
I know where their larvae pits are in dry sandy soil.
The excerpt from Q&A Insects and Spiders of southern Africa (pub Struik 1993 S. Matthews, illustr. C. Grant) describes the larvae feeding habits.
Cockroaches of the Hostilia sp.
and this lovely Preying Mantis were also seen.
Many varied size, colour and shaped moths have settled for daytime rest. Some I haven’t been able to identify, if anyone can help I would be most grateful! Clouds of small dark moths flutter beneath the trees during the day, I think they are the daytime Handmaiden Amata sp..
Others include Plated Footman Sozusa scutellata, Pretoria Red Lines Cyana pretoriea and six more moths.
After each showery day multitudes of fungi appear, (I haven’t managed to identify all of them); Bolete or Cep, Blusher Amanita rubescens, Earth-star, Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria, Cinnabar Bracket Pycnoporus sanguineus and two more.
Cape Serotine bats Pipistrellus capensis flit at dusk and dawn. Common Reedbuck come to the greener grass near the house to graze at night. Duiker pick their way through the long grass and almost every evening the Black-backed Jackal call.