Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2015

 

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm:

Sadly November was another extremely dry month for those of us living here in the Dargle, and indeed, South Africa as a whole. I believe that it is prudent that we as custodians of the earth need to do our part to conserve water during this time of drought. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but if some of you would like some ideas as to how to conserve water, click on the link below to go to a website giving you some hints and tips, which you could also pass on to employees or people in your place of work and help us all to conserve our precious water:

http://forloveofwater.co.za/facts-tips/water-saving-tips/

Mavela dam is getting quite low now, the ducks and other water birds generally just wade in the water around the little island, and on one occasion I woke up and these 3 Spoonbill were busy wading in the shallow water.

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

Later, some of the Cormorants had been swimming around the dam before they came back to land to catch a tan.

Cormorants sunning themselves

Cormorants sunning themselves

The Grey Heron was trying to outdo the Cormorants by tanning on the other side of the dam!

Grey Heron sunning itself

Grey Heron sunning itself

Not a very sharp picture of the African harrier-hawk (or Gymnogene), but he was rushing from one weaver nest to the next and I just managed to capture this image

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

…before he was after the ‘take aways’ in the willow tree next door

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

The Greater Striped Swallow (Cecropis cucullata) is feeding lots of noisy babies outside my office window

Greater Striped Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

We had a new arrival this month, the Greater double-collared sunbird. I spent last Sunday afternoon trying to get close ups of his magnificent colours

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

From the front, a very red chest

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

All natural nectar!

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

The Cape Weaver is a bit of a menace to the other birds in the garden

Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver

as he believes the water bottle belongs to him!

Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver

One Sunday we had some friends join us for lunch, and were treated to the Grey Heron catching a frog in the dam in front of us

Grey Heron with a frog

Grey Heron with a frog

…before it took off with it’s prize!

Grey Heron taking off with frog

Grey Heron taking off with frog

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin:

Asclepias sp.

Asclepias sp.

Kniphofia breviflora

Kniphofia breviflora

Hibiscus sp.

Hibiscus sp.

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Chapel:

Amethyst Sunbirds’ little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Amethyst Sunbirds` little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Amethyst Sunbirds` little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Brian & Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle:

Some of the images from the trail camera this month.

Bushbuck

Bushbuck

Porcupine

Porcupine

Bushbuck

Bushbuck

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm:

The African sunbird completed her nest on 27th Oct.

Sunbird sitting

Sunbird sitting

She then got together with male for a week and then presumably started laying her egg(s)? She started sitting on the 12th November and it looks like youngster may have hatched today 1st Dec as she is flitting in and out of nest. That’s on the right hand side on verandah.

Feeding on my fuchias

Feeding on my fuchias

On left side of verandah, right in corner next to our study, a pair of wagtails decided they wanted to build in my pot plant.

A pair of wagtails building nest in pot plant on verandah

A pair of wagtails building nest in pot plant on verandah

As both doors from dining room and study lead onto verandah at that point, I thought this would not be a good idea as too much interference from humans and dogs coming and going. Removed potplant for 3 days and she moved off but when I put it back again, she was back again and in 4 days, the 2 of them had finished their nest. What a feat. Even in the drizzle they continued building, not like the sunbird who did not.

1 wagtail egg

1 wagtail egg

Wagtails finished building on the 10th November and laid one egg on 17th, 18th and 19th nov. The one egg was cracked so she threw that out. She started sitting and babies hatched on 30th November. Very exciting.

Wagtail sitting

Wagtail sitting

Our lives have been turned upside down, as we cannot sit on the verandah with our tea while admiring the view, as both sunbird and wagtail get very agitated wanting to come in –they are both very nervous about movement on the verandah and also inside the house, so curtains stay closed and also doors, which is a nuisance when one wants to get some air into the house, being so hot. I have had to take all my photos of the wagtail through glass doors, so not good pics due to reflection.

On the other verandah out front, the swallows hatched out about 12 days ago and every morning a huge amount of poo has to be washed off the verandah. The parents are very aggressive and dive bomb anyone who goes out there, especially when I need to water the formal garden – because of this, my groundcover has died. Yesterday saw 2 little faces peeping over the nest and today the one is sitting on top of the nest.

We have had a number of raptors around here lately sitting on our dead trees around dry ponds searching for food.

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

2 baby robins flew off at 16 days old – I have not seen them again. Still a lot of reedbuck around.

Female Common Reedbuck in garden

Female Common Reedbuck in garden

They come out in the evenings and a number of them have been jumping over the fence and coming into the garden to graze as our grass is long and lush now.

Male Common Reedbuck grazing in our garden one evening

Male Common Reedbuck grazing in our garden one evening

Young male Common Reedbuck

Young male Common Reedbuck

I saw a Pin-tailed Whydah trying to chase a female chat off its perch on the dead tree. The chat held her position while the pintail fluttered up and down trying to intimidate her. He eventually gave up.

We have about 10 baby sparrows flying around. I have noticed sometimes that when the mother feeds them on the grass, the male comes along and chases them away. Not sure if he is jealous of all the attention that mom is giving them or telling them to go find their own grub!

Baby Sparrows

Baby Sparrows

Strangely this year, the Buff-streaked chats nested under the eaves. They usually nest up in the hills inside the rocks. Got pic of dad with food.

Buff-streaked Chat

Buff-streaked Chat

Nice to see that some of the male birds do get involved in the rearing of the young. The male sunbird puts in an appearance every now and then and sits on the balustrade twittering at his partner in the nest.

Saw thousands of flying ants for 3 hours one afternoon while visiting on the D18 road.
Seen quite a few bush buck and samango monkeys and duiker on D18 and a duiker in our garden this morning. He must have got in yesterday while gate was left open. We chased him out.

The male malachite sunbird came and sat on balustrade and fluttered his feathers showing his yellow mating feathers and tweeted loudly trying to attract the female but she never arrived.

Male Malachite Sunbird

Male Malachite Sunbird

Saw a gymnogene being chased by a fork-tailed drongo – he then flew into the gum trees and terrorised the birds there for a few minutes before flying out again to once more being chased by drongo.

A Hamerkop flew into garden next to pond (the only one which has some water) and caught a frog

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

He hammered the poor thing to death before swallowing it.

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Farm:

The garden has abundant Midlands bird life and the list is very similar to Sandra’s so I won’t repeat it. This weekend, the last in November, we heard a pair of yellow billed kites calling. These birds are usually silent, so it was wonderful to hear and see them flying above our house, swooping and turning in their intra pair interaction.

It is sad to see the dearth of so many Reedbuck on the hills around us. As others have noted, the numbers are right down. We can only speculate as to the cause – blue tongue? hunting dogs?

The Tree Hyraxes in the Dargle Forest above us have been very noisy these last few nights, with their snorting, screaming calls. We were told many years ago by the old farmers that they heralded the rain! Hopefully there is some truth in this!

Finally a fun photo to end off. The thick billed weavers continually raid Scruffy Parrots seed dish. Here is a male doing just that.

Thickbilled Weaver

Thickbilled Weaver

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage, D17:

Pat McKrill responding to Wendy’s Snake Sighting Below:

“Yup, it’s a Night Adder – with attitude as always. But once they’ve told you who’s in charge, they calm down and continue with the task at hand – whatever it was. Aside from colour and any additional markings, the arrow on the head is diagnostic. I am a firm believer that Night adders are our most even tempered snakes and are quite comical to watch as they continue after all the bluster of hissing and mock striking, to bustle about their work, secure in the knowledge that the aggressor now knows where he/she stands. Thanks for this, and on the assumption that it wasn’t bopped on the head after the photo shoot, well done to your member.”

Night Adder

Night Adder

The other evening I came around a bend about 500m from home and a beautiful Bushbuck ram was in the road. The next day I came around the same corner at about 17h00 with the sun behind me and saw an animal in the road: long legs, the size of an Africanus dog, thin, yellow fur and deeper yellow spots, cat-like face and black tufts of hair on the tips of the ears. I thought serval but the colour was wrong, also the ears. Then lynx or caracal. It disappeared into the long grass and the small birds followed it for a way. The ‘bobbejaan’ spiders are invading! Three in the house and one on the verandah. I need to be rescued! Have identified three cuckoos by their calls: Red-chested Cuckoo, Dideric Cuckoo and Klaas’ Cuckoo.

On Thursday I heard the gardener calling in isiZulu. After a time I realised I was being called. She was stabbing at what looked like a cornucopia shell. I asked her to bring it to me and then I realised she was saying it’s a snake. I didn’t believe until she fearfully put the ’shell’ in my hand. It was a small light brown snake with a white belly. Its head was hidden inside and only a couple of mm of tail stuck out the narrow end. I estimated the coil to be about 2,5cm long. The gardener was inclined to think it was a baby and the mother/father had left it on the ground while it took to the trees to escape her gardening. I asked her to throw it into grassland beyond the garden fence. Any idea what it could have been? I never thought of a photo while I was holding it.

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One thought on “Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2015

  1. Meriel mitchell

    Enjoyed your wildlife observations and comments for November. think the sunbirds sparkled the most! Hope you have all had some rain since this report.

    Like

    Reply

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