Boston Wildlife Sightings – April 2015

Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

This April has seen cool days, more rain than last year and sprinkling of snow on the top of the Drakensberg. The colours are turning gold with a reddish tinge to the grasses.

Grass IMG_3044

The loveliest sighting was early one evening just before sunset, literally meters from the house. A Common Reedbuck female lifted her drowsy head as she woke from the tall grass she’d been sleeping in for the day. We watched her for about fifteen minutes as she got up, stretched and grazed before moving off. Although the flies were bothering her she seemed to be in good health.

Female Common Reedbuck

Female Common Reedbuck

Revealed in the Sand Olive tree in the garden was the beautifully constructed nest of an Olive Thrush. Held in place by slender branches it had withstood the storm winds of summer. I had noticed the parents feeding a young fledgling a couple of months ago, but not noticed the nest.

Olive Thrush nest

Olive Thrush nest

Quite a few flowers caught my eye, Alectra sessiliflora which is a parasitic plant on grasses,

Alectra sessiliflora

Alectra sessiliflora

Chrysanthemoides monilifera with berries, Helichrysum glomeratum, Hibiscus trionum or Bladder Hibiscus,

Chrysanthemoides monilifera

Chrysanthemoides monilifera

Helichrysum glomeratum

Helichrysum glomeratum

Hibiscus trionum, also known as the bladder flower.

Hibiscus trionum, also known as the bladder flower.

Leonotis leonurus one of my favourites at this time of year and always reminds me of my friend Jayne,

The gorgeous Leonotis leonurus

The gorgeous Leonotis leonurus

Otholobuim polystictum a legume shrub,

Otholobuim polystictum

Otholobuim polystictum

Plectranthus spicatus tall inflorescences abuzz with insects,

Plectranthus spicatus

Plectranthus spicatus

Polygala hottentotta, Sutera floribunda and then several fruits and remains of seedheads; Agapanths campanulatus, Berkheya setifera, Pachycarpus sp. and Schizoglossum bidens Subsp bidens.

Polygala hottentotta

Polygala hottentotta

Sutera floribunda

Sutera floribunda

Agapanths campanulatus seedhead

Agapanthus campanulatus seedhead

Berkheya setifera seedheads

Berkheya setifera seedheads

Pachycarpus sp fruit

Pachycarpus sp fruit

Schizoglossum bidens Subsp bidens fruit

Schizoglossum bidens Subsp bidens fruit

As the colours become more subdued several ferns, Cheilanthes capensis, Mohria rigida, Pellaea calomelanos var calomelanos and what are known as a fern allies Club Moss Lycopodium clavatum caught my eye.

Cheilanthes capensis - Fern

Cheilanthes capensis – Fern

Mohria rigida - Fern

Mohria rigida – Fern

Pellaea calomelanos var calomelanos

Pellaea calomelanos var calomelanos

Club Moss - Lycopodium clavatum - Fern allies

Club Moss – Lycopodium clavatum – Fern allies

I saw a Mottled Veld Antlion out in the tall grass, fluttering in erratic fight.

Mottled Veld Antlion - Palpares caffer

Mottled Veld Antlion – Palpares caffer

Moths are still about and I loved a dainty, rather crumpled one with splashes of colour on whitish wings.

Moth

Moth

Gaudy Commodores and what I think are either Blues or Hairtail butterflies flit around.

Gaudy Commodore butterfly

Gaudy Commodore butterfly

Butterfly is possibly a a Blue or Hairtail

Butterfly is possibly a a Blue or Hairtail

The caterpillars of the Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor Bunaea alcinoe are munching the leaves of the Tree Fuchsias Halleria lucida.

Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor caterpillar -  Bunaea alcinoe

Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor caterpillar – Bunaea alcinoe

Tiny Museum beetles Anthrenus verbasci no larger than 2mm and Common Dotted Fruit Chafer Cyrtothyrea marginalis were spotted in the flowers.

Museum beetles - Anthrenus verbasci

Museum beetles – Anthrenus verbasci

Common Dotted Fruit Chafer - Cyrtothyrea marginalis

Common Dotted Fruit Chafer – Cyrtothyrea marginalis

Two new Mushrooms appeared after wet weather, an Amanita sp. and a group growing closely together which might be Sulfur Tuft Hypholoma sp..

Fungi Amanita

Fungi Amanita

Fungi Sulfur Tuft Hypholoma sp.

Fungi Sulfur Tuft Hypholoma sp.

Snakes are on the move, getting ready for winter hibernation. I spotted this Olive House Snake Lycodonmorphus inorantus, which had a skink shaped bulge in the middle of it’s body, moving across the lawn to longer grass.

Olive House Snake - Lycodonmorphus inorantus

Olive House Snake – Lycodonmorphus inorantus

Then while wandering over the rocky hillside found a discarded snakeskin, possibly from a Rhinkhals.

Snake skin - possibly Rinkhals

Snake skin – possibly Rinkhals

David Clulow

“Our highlight was the Cape Parrot Count occasion………..not because of our tally of Parrots because we saw NONE – for the first time ever – a sad record of diminishing numbers. But our Pinetown visitors, Hennie Jordaan and his young son, Declan, who has a superb ear for bird calls, joined us for the occasion, and they saw what were for them several lifers. Including the Rufous-chested SparrowHawk, being possibly the most unexpected – that on the same weekend as a Black Sparrow-hawk. Both Hennie and Declan are quick on the draw when it comes to their cameras and they obtained some superb shots.

017

They staked out the former favourite Parrot yellowwoods, while Barbara Clulow, Crystelle Wilson and I climbed the challenging pathway to the vast spread of indigenous forests, below the southern iNhlosane, where the views are spectacular, despite the rising mist of early morning. Warming tea and rusks in these high hills is something we’ll miss if the Parrot count fades.

020

We also had a good sighting of a Spotted Eagle-Owl on the way home in the semi-dark the previous evening.

Birding in Boston was as always superb, and Crystelle’s sightings below for the month gives an idea. The Cranes remain a great pleasure, and the known nesting sites are great fun to observe. The parents must be pleased, as are we, that at least one chick has resulted from each nest, which is quite an achievement with the proximity of all the Mongoose, Jackals and other scavengers, which do not have the same wish to see the chicks fly as we do.
The ringed juvenile on ‘The Willows’, in the wetland alongside the Elands river, is flying and spends the day with its parents, feeding, but at night they all return to the nesting site near a pan, tuck it up for the night , then the parents fly to ‘Highland Glen’ nearby to roost for the night, above the chilling temperatures that have been experienced recently – down to minus 2 a few mornings. Each morning the parents fetch the youngster, calling as they do so, and set off again to ‘The Drift’ for breakfast. The floater flock, down to about twenty now, is overnighting on ‘Harmony’ farm, is seen often as they seek out new areas to feed.

013

The Melrose dam is as rewarding as ever, lots of waterbirds, and other groups on the banks. The Spurwinged Geese are particularly numerous, but Yellow-billed Ducks, Common Moorhen, Red-billed Teal, Little Grebe, Egyptian Geese, Red-knobbed Coot, African Shelduck, both Darters, Cormorant are common; and Blacksmith Plover, Pied Kingfisher, Bokmakierie, Sacred Ibis and oodles of others, plus Vervet Monkeys in numbers that are far too numerous to allow for a balanced breeding programme for birds. Also the usual Buzzards and Long-Crested Eagle, the latter with a youngster on ‘Gramarye’ which they are trying to teach to feed itself – it never stops plaintively pleading for food. The Wattled Cranes, resident on ‘Boston View’ farm , which breed at the Glandrishok pan, are regularly reported by Rob Geldart and the Jordaans saw them flying over with this last season’s juvenile still in tow.

024

A wonderful visit to the Norwood forest followed to show Hennie and Declan our other forest birds and it was most rewarding – Woodpeckers, Sunbirds, Canaries, Apalis, Batis, Bulbuls, Greenbuls, Orioles, Robin-Chats – endless opportunities to test your hearing skills.”

An adjusted version, altering the Spotted Eagle-Owl to a Spotted one ———- too many Speckled pigeons in the Ambers.

Gramarye – Crystelle Wilson

The annual Cape Parrot count took place on the weekend of 18-19 April. We were stationed on Nhlosane Ridge and enjoyed looking at the forest and views over the valley.

View during the Cape Parrot count

View during the Cape Parrot count

Sadly no parrots were seen in the Boston area and all the outing did was to confirm that autumn has arrived with its colder temperatures. As did the Leonotus leonorus blazing in full colour across the hillsides.

Leonotus leonorus

Leonotus leonorus

Autumn means that migrants have left and while looking through my pictures for the month I was struck by the colour scheme of the birds: very autumnal as well with browns, oranges and black and white dominating. None better to illustrate this than the African Stonechat.

African Stonechat

African Stonechat

The lists of birds are also becoming shorter. These were the birds seen in the Boston area: Cape White-eye,

Cape White-eye

Cape White-eye

Amur Falcon, Bokmakierie, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Banded Martin, Cape Longclaw, Barn Owl, African Darter, African Firefinch, Sombre Greenbul, Red-winged Starling, Pied Starling, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, White-throated Swallow, Malachite Sunbird, Jackal Buzzard, Little Grebe, Three-banded Plover, Speckled Pigeon, Pied Crow, African Quailfinch, Cape Canary, Spotted Eagle-Owl, African Sacred Ibis,

African Sacred Ibis

African Sacred Ibis

Cape Glossy Starling, Barn Swallow, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck, Common Waxbill, Village Weaver, Cape Weaver, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola,

Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant’s Cisticola

Little Rush-Warbler, Red-billed Quelea, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Grassbird, Red-necked Spurfowl, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-throated Wryneck, Black-headed Oriole, African Hoopoe,

African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe

Green Wood-Hoopoe, Southern Boubou,

Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Speckled Mousebird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Greater Striped Swallow,

Greater Striped Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

Spur-winged Goose, African Dusky Flycatcher, Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Robin-Chat, South African Shelduck,

South African Shelduck

South African Shelduck

Black-winged Lapwing (their distinctive calls reveal the presence of the flock while flying high overhead)

Black-winged Lapwing

Black-winged Lapwing

Egyptian Goose, Black-headed Heron, Cape Crow, Cape Wagtail, Pin-tailed Whydah, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Olive Thrush, Grey Crowned Crane, African Paradise-Flycatcher.

African Black Duck is notoriously shy and it was great to at least get a lens on a pair swimming near the bridge across the Elands River

African Black Duck on the Elands River

African Black Duck on the Elands River

I was very pleased to find another Grey Crowned Crane chick at the dam on The Drift, seen in the early morning mist with its parents.

Grey Crowned Crane chick with parents

Grey Crowned Crane chick with parents

But the sad news is that by early May there was no further sightings of this chick and we assume it must have been predated. But the one at The Willows and Gramarye ringed earlier this year is doing well and beginning to fly strongly with the parents.

Grey Crowned Crane chick learnt to fly

Grey Crowned Crane chick learnt to fly

It was also good to see a number of young Helmeted Guineafowls amongst adult birds.

Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

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One thought on “Boston Wildlife Sightings – April 2015

  1. David

    Many thanks for sharing these lovely photos and wildlife incidents. It must give a lot of pleasure to record them, but the pleasure of being able to see them too is also delightful

    Like

    Reply

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