Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:
Summery weather, hot, humid mornings with frequent afternoon thunderstorms and much needed rain for the depleted water table. Beautiful atmospheric, moody sky-scapes and misty mornings.
A variety of flowering plants seem to enjoy this weather. Aloe boylei have been very showy and I have counted an additional four Brunsvigia undulata flowering this season.
Other flowering plants include: Crassula alba, Cumis hirsutus, Gladiolus sericeovillosus, Indigofera hilaris, Kniphofia buchananii, Lotononis foliosa bright yellow aging to orange hues, Moraea brevistyla, Pearsonia sessilifolia, Schizoglossum bidens, Sebaea natalensis and hundreds of Watsonia confusa festoon the hillsides.
The orchids have also finally started flowering. One seen for the first time here: Pterygodium magnum! It is not as tall, densely packed inflorescence or the individual flowers as large, but I’m pretty certain of the ID.
Others flowering were Eulophia hians nutans, Eulophia ovalis, Eulophia tenella, Satyrium cristatum and Satyrium longicauda.
Several interesting fungi appeared after each heavy rainfall, Boletus edulis, Clitopilus prunulus, Psathyrella candolleana that blackened with age, helping with identification and the bright red Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe rubra.
A common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra, enjoyed the damp grass one morning.
Moths are still plentiful of special interest was seeing a Wounded Emperor laying eggs one evening with wings flapping, it was still nearby the next morning. Also seen a Common Emperor moth, a Longhorn moth (Family Adelidae) and a few others, which I haven’t been able to identify.
There are many Pill millipedes around. A Bee fly possibly of the Philoliche genus fed off a Watsonia, its long proboscis probing the flowers.
A very busy False button spider, Family Theridiidae, Genus Theridion, was moving a large egg sac up over the kitchen blind. They are commonly found near sinks, basins and baths in houses, but do not have a toxic bite. Glistening spider webs draped over grass sparkle at dawn.
An immature African Stonechat perched on a Watsonia, (a curious lizard on a rock in the background), and a Speckled Pigeon posed for me on the birdbath.
Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill Horse Trails”:
CREW also came to Stormy Hill in January to look at all the lovely flowers.
On a ride to the dam I saw an African Fish-Eagle sitting on a rock while being dive bombed by the two resident Jackal Buzzards. They were really determined to get him out of their territory.
Then one Saturday, I decided on a night out at the club where Cathy and Dave’s wonderful chicken curry went down a treat. As some added excitement a Barn Owl swooped through the hall, did a lap round the bar (yes, we had to duck) and flew into the kitchen where Dave managed to catch it and it was taken outside for a ceremonial release after being inspected by the resident Boston bird expert Christelle. Don’t get that in town!
Also seen a few duiker when out on rides and unusually eight crowned cranes flying over. I normally have a pair that live round here but not eight.
To top it all, two foals were born in January.
Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:
Members of Durban’s BirdLife Port Natal came for an outing to Gramarye on 24 January. Walking towards the river, the Yellow-crowned Bishop which I saw for the first time in that area earlier in the month, confirmed its presence. What really got everyone’s attention though was a Red-collared Widow with a yellow, instead of a red collar under its throat. This could either be due to washed out colours or it can be ascribed to “Xanthochroism when there is excessive yellow pigment in feathers or the yellow replaces another colour, typically red”. Read more about Avian Oddities here: http://www.birdinfo.co.za/rarebirds/25_avian_colour_oddities.htm
Warblers, bishops and widowbirds were on good form and gave good displays, including a juvenile Levaillant’s Cisticola.
A Spotted Eagle-Owl was seen in the willow trees.
We then went to the Geldarts’ Boschberg Cottages for forest birding and once again had good sightings, including Cape Batis and Bar-throated Apalis.
The favourite was Bush Blackcap.
Earlier in the month during the heat waves “het die kraaie gegaap” – the crows not only yawned, they also dangled their wings to keep cool.
When it did rain, birds made the most of fresh water flowing into dams and in some cases it was standing room only (African Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron and African Spoonbill)
Migrants from the northern hemisphere were doing their bit to keep insects under control. There didn’t appear to be that many Amur Falcons present this year
and White Stork numbers also seems to be lower. The white streaks on the legs of this stork indicate its way of using faeces to control temperature.
With all the migrants present, the atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was well over 110 birds: Forest Canary,
Speckled Pigeon, Common Waxbill, Swee Waxbill, Red-winged Starling, African Black Duck, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Pied Starling, Pied Kingfisher,
Helmeted Guineafowl, African Snipe, Steppe Buzzard, White-throated Swallow, Barn Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow, African Rail, White-breasted Cormorant, Amethyst Sunbird, Yellow Bishop, Red-necked Spurfowl, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Firefinch, Red-throated Wryneck,
Greater Honeyguide, Brimstone Canary, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Longclaw, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Cape Weaver, Three-banded Plover, Little Grebe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, South African Shelduck (the female with a white head and the male grey)
Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Black-shouldered Kite, Olive Thrush, Black Saw-wing, African Sacred Ibis, Fork-tailed Drongo, Burchell’s Coucal, Hadeda Ibis, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, White Stork, Red-chested Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker,
Dark-backed Weaver, Chorister Robin-chat, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Yellow-billed Duck, Black Cuckoo, Hamerkop,
Buff-spotted Flufftail, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Green-backed Camaroptera, Alpine Swift, Bush Blackcap, Southern Boubou, Knysna Turaco, White-starred Robin, Olive Bush-shrike, Terrestrial Brownbul, Cardinal Woodpecker, Cape White-eye, Cape Glossy Starling,
Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Batis, Purple-crested Turaco, Barratt’s Warbler, African Hoopoe, African Black Swift, Neddicky, Wailing Cisticola, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Canary, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Reed Cormorant, Malachite Kingfisher, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,
Little Rush-warbler, Cattle Egret, Red-chested Flufftail, Cape Robin-chat, Southern Red Bishop, Zitting Cisticola (with a streaked crown),
African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Crow, Cape Grassbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Egyptian Goose and Spur-winged Goose (both trailing new families)
Village Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, Dark-capped Bulbul, African Reed-warbler, African Wattled Lapwing, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Common Fiscal, Red-billed Quelea, Grey Crowned Crane, Cape Wagtail, Black-headed Oriole
And a young Diderick Cuckoo,
The Grey Crowned Cranes once again produced three chicks. This photograph was taken on 22 January,
but two days later when the Durban bird club visited there was only one chick left, the others probably predated.
Let’s hope this one is a survivor like its sibling who safely fledged last year.