Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”: This June we’ve experienced swings in temperature, from hot berg wind days
to icy frosts and damp overcast or misty days, with four snow falls visible on the Drakensberg.
The days after the cold fronts have gone through sparkle with clarity and golden colour.
Added to the atmospherics is the constant smoke from firebreak burning.
This has resulted in some stunning dawn and sunset colour. Very few flowers, even for June, as it’s been dry and frost burns back tender buds.
There have been some interesting birds around. A lone White Stork foraged in dry grass, missed the flight to northern summer. An African Harrier-Hawk swooped low amongst the trees, bombed by Drongos as they chased it off. In the indigenous shrubbery tapping could be heard, a Cardinal Woodpecker. Not far off two Black-crowned Tchagras flitted through the branches, I have only seen them here once before, over ten years ago.
Amethyst and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds are still here. A Long-crested Eagle sits sentry on Eskom poles. At night the familiar sound of Spotted Eagle-Owls calling. My favourite small birds, Cape White-eyes, love the small birdbath on the verandah, bathing several times a day.
A stunning Duster moth, Pingasa abyssiniaria rested on the windowpane. One of their larvae foods is Cabbage Trees.
A tiny spider caught a ladybird and spent most of the morning binding it to place in its web.
Near the garage shallow trenches have been ploughed up by Bushpig. I didn’t see them this time, but have in the past.
Other excavators have been very busy pushing up mounds of earth creating wonderful replenishing top soil for the lawn. When we dug our well many years ago, a Cape Mole-rat Georychus capensis, fell in and drowned.
This interested biologists as the main populations are found in the Western Cape, with very small remnant populations near Giant’s Castle, in small areas of Lesotho and Mpumalanga. Dr. Peter Taylor brought Professor Nigel Bennett here hoping to observe live animals.
They didn’t succeed, but did find an unexpected small Mole-rat usually found in Lesotho, Crytomys mahalia.
We also have Common or African Mole-rats Cryptomys hottentotus here.
Apart from the Mole-rats, Tigger our cat once caught a Hottentot Golden Mole Amblysomus hottentotus.
So there is a subterranean hive of activity. Please excuse some of the photos, they were taken with a small camera!
(Photo and map images also from ‘Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa’ C&T Stuart pub Struik, ‘The Mammal Guide of Southern Africa’ B Cillie’ pub Briza and ‘Sani Pass Mammals’ poster illustrated C Grant pub WESSA Sani Wildlife.) Rob and Celia Speirs of “The Rockeries”: On Montshonga dam, we saw an African Jacana and a Squacco Heron. We also saw Little Grebe; Three-banded Plover; Sacred Ibis; Cape Wagtail; Pied Crows; Reed Cormorant; Blacksmith Lapwing; Black-winged Lapwing; Pied Kingfisher; Pygmy Kingfisher; and eight Cape Parrots which were harried by a Pied Crow and departed. The usual Yellow-billed Ducks and Egyptian Geese were around. Peter and Karen Geldart of “Cocquidale”: Regular visitors were six Southern Ground-Hornbills. David and Wizz Lawrence of “The Willows”: Nightly call of the Spotted Eagle-Owl; splendid male Reedbuck in wetlands. Bruce and Bev Astrup of “Highland Glen”: Oodles of Egyptian Geese in the tall surrounding trees and also Spur-winged Geese; plus Spotted Eagle-Owl heard calling. Barbara and David Clulow, visiting on 25th June: Family group of three Grey Crowned Cranes over “Netherby”, circled and settled to feed in old maize lands. Rob and Gail Geldart on “Boston View” and “Watershed”: Small herd of Eland; a Waterbuck, Common Reedbuck; a notable increase in the numbers of Mountain Reedbuck; two Oribi; Blesbuck, which never stay put, Grey Duiker and Bushbuck. Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”: I’ve seen a small herd of five Mountain Reedbuck. Also a Common Reedbuck and, while out horse-riding, I’ve been pleased to see an Otter swimming in a dam. The Porcupine seem to be quite active as I’ve come across quite a few quills in various locations out and about. There has been the resident Grey Duiker in the home paddocks and I’ve seen her a couple of times. The troop of Vervet Monkeys has visited a few times – they seem especially to lounge in the trees and watch me if I’m doing some training with one of the young horses. I also had a sad case of finding a dead Little Sparrowhawk. I think it may have flown into a window as it had broken it’s neck. I have lots of other Sparrows, nesting around my house, so that may be the reason. I’ve some African Hoopoe birds, eating on the grass at the moment too. Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”: In mid-winter it is only the hardy residents still hanging around and getting a bird list of 60 – 70 is hard work. A welcome sight was Black-winged Lapwings, making use of their preferred short grassland habitat.
It is easier to spot the gaudy Malachite Kingfisher against the pale, frost-bleached landscape of browns and yellows,
but you have to look twice to make sure the brown shape huddled on a rock is a Hamerkop and not a Hadeda.
In winter when you spot a raptor on a pole you can be fairly certain it will be a Jackal Buzzard
And the wires are also sometimes used by Rock Kestrels.
The list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Sombre Greenbul, Brown-throated Martin, Black-headed Heron, Green Wood-hoopoe, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Black Sparrowhawk, Natal Spurfowl, Cape Longclaw, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Robin-chat, Red-necked Spurfowl, Spotted Eagle-owl, Cape Glossy Starling, Cape Weaver, Southern Red Bishop (in winter plumage),
Red-throated Wryneck, Drakensberg Prinia, Amethyst Sunbird, Pied Starling,
Levaillant’s Cisticola, Three-banded Plover, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-shouldered Kite, Cape Sparrow, Village Weaver, Southern Boubou, Cape White-eye, South African Shelduck, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Bokmakierie, Pied Kingfisher,
Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Grebe, African Pipit, Red-capped Lark, Spectacled Weaver, Black-headed Oriole, African Rail, African Stonechat, Cape Grassbird, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Sacred Ibis, Common Waxbill, African Spoonbill, Common Fiscal, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Cape Wagtail, Grey Crowned Crane, Hadeda Ibis, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Crow, Fork-tailed Drongo, Long-crested Eagle, Speckled Pigeon. Also providing a splash of colour is Yellow-fronted Canary,
While it was nice to find a little posse of Bronze Mannikins near the Boston garage.