Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye
AT the beginning of the month it was great to host Dieter Oschadleus, the director of SAFRING, the South African Bird Ringing Unit. He put up mist nets in the wetland on Gramarye with the hope of catching weavers and widowbirds which are his special field of research.
In summer the place is alive with Fan-tailed and Red-collared Widows and Southern Red Bishops at their nests, but by now they were flocking and spending their time together feeding and flying to roosting sites at dawn and dusk. Frustratingly the majority of birds managed to evade the nets, but Dieter was still satisfied with his haul of 14 birds. These were: 1 African Stonechat, 1 Lesser Swamp Warbler, 1 African Reed Warbler, 2 Levaillant’s Cisticola, 3 Village Weaver, 4 Red-billed Quelea, 1 Southern Red Bishop and 1 Fan-tailed Widow.
When a bird has flown into the net, he removes it and place it in a cloth bag until it can be processed. Detailed measurements are taken and the bird is weighed on a tiny scale the size of a cellphone before being released.
The birds weighed between 7 and 36 grams. A surprising discovery was finding a tick on the African Reed Warbler. Dieter removed it and placed it in surgical spirits to hand over to someone else who is doing research on ticks.
There were two unusual records this month. One was finding a Black Harrier working the grassland adjoining the Dargle road near Fairview, flying low, backwards and forwards in typical harrier fashion and clearly showing the diagnostic white rump.
Then I was surprised to hear Spectacled Weavers calling in my garden. I saw them for the first time in the district earlier this year building a nest at the Pickle Pot, and now they’ve paid me a visit as well.
It was good seeing a Lanner Falcon doing its job as a pest control officer,
while juvenile raptor plumages once again demonstrated its potential to confuse: at first glance it looked like a Cape Vulture flying overhead, but any lingering doubt was removed when the distinctive call of African Fish-Eagle sounded clearly.
Denham’s Bustard was seen on Four Gates during a very enjoyable walk to the cascades on the Elands River.
On the rocks we saw prolific otter scat as well as a pair of recently hatched agama lizards.
The SABAP2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Greater Honeyguide, Denham’s Bustard, Olive Thrush, Black-backed Puffback, Cape Batis, Yellow Bishop, Red-winged Starling, African Spoonbill, African Fish-Eagle, Red-throated Wryneck, Red-billed Quelea, Fan-tailed Widowbird, White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Grassbird, Spectacled Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Spotted Eagle-Owl, African Hoopoe, Black Harrier, Drakensberg Prinia, White-throated Swallow, Brown-throated Martin, Common Moorhen, Pied Kingfisher, Reed Cormorant,
Yellow-billed Duck, Three-banded Plover, Jackal Buzzard, African Olive-pigeon, Sombre Greenbul, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Glossy Starling, Southern Boubou, Village Weaver, Cape Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Speckled Pigeon, Red-necked Spurfowl, African Pipit, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Darter, Black-headed Heron, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-capped Lark, Hamerkop, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Common Fiscal, Egyptian Goose, Fork-tailed Drongo, Spur-winged Goose, Grey Crowned Crane, Black Sparrowhawk, Cape Crow, African Stonechat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Helmeted Guineafowl, African Sacred Ibis, Bokmakierie, South African Shelduck, African Rail, Green Wood-hoopoe, Common Waxbill, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Wagtail, Cape Robin-chat, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Canary, Amethyst Sunbird, Black-headed Oriole, Greater Striped Swallow.
The Grey Crowned Cranes raising their one surviving juvenile has been an education. At 16h55, as I set out for the walk, I heard them calling from the dam and went haring around the corner to the paddock. They were walking next to the dam, feeding. Junior found a stick amusing and picked it up, dropped it and picked it up again. Then the parents began dancing, and tried to include him too. He’s not quite as adept yet, but did his best. At 17h13 they all three took off and flew across the river and landed in the green field below the pivot on Netherby. At 17h23 they returned and the parents settled in the tree on the dam, but junior flew around the tree a few times and then disappeared. I couldn’t see where it went.
Barry Cromhout of “Highland Glen”
African Fish-Eagle near “Elandsvlei”; Black Ducks on dam at “Highland Glen” with four chicks; Grey Crowned Crane on dead tree on “The Willows”.
David and Barbara Clulow, visiting from 29 May to 31st
30 Grey Crowned Cranes on a pasture at Melrose; four Denham’s Bustards, walking in stubble maize lands on Netherby; Black-headed Herons on The Drift dam; Blacksmith Lapwing on The Drift; masses of Cape Crows; garden birds galore; Duiker on The Drift; Reedbuck on The Willows; Stonechats, Hadeda Ibis and Fiscals; Sacred Ibis; Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese; Red-knobbed Coot.
Frances Nel on “Four Gates”
Four Southern Ground-Hornbills on two occasions.
Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant
May this year has been a long extension of autumn, an “Indian Summer”; clear, cool days with cloudless blue skies. We’ve had virtually no rain at all and as it’s been dry also not had the usual frost by mid-May. Underneath the yellow gold grass seed heads the leaves are still green.
I have been away most of May so haven’t explored far from the house to see which plants are flowering. Every winter I look forward to the showy snowy-white candyfloss flowers of the Buddleja auriculata.
The bright yellow Senecio polyanthemoides shine on the edge of the lawn
and star like Euryops laxa pop up between fallen leaves.
An insect buzz in the Halleria lucida trees signals the opening of the bright red flowers growing straight off woody branches without stalks.
Aloe maculata buds are starting to open up.
Birds are relishing the two birdbaths. One is on our verandah and late one afternoon I spotted a Cape Batis flitting up into the branches overhead. A courting couple of Black-backed Puffbacks were in display mode. The Afrikaans name Sneeubal aptly describes the pompom white ball of feathers on the male’s back. Three Buff-streaked Chats sat sunning on hillside rocks, a bit far off for a good photo.
The Speckled Pigeons are rearing yet another brood, two downy heads peep over the nest in the garage. The parents take well-deserved rests on the roof.
In the orchard bared branches reveal an arboreal Ants nest and Lichens.
Many Bees and Hoverflies zoom into the few flowering plants. Not many moths about at the moment.
A beautiful male Reedbuck is often seen grazing near the house in the early mornings and evenings. Two duiker, three Reedbuck and a Black-backed Jackal were on the driveway one evening when I returned home.