Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:
Hot summery weather continued in February, and several good periods of rain fell. On the 26 February we had a typical summer thunderstorm, wild winds, lightning and cracking thunder. However the grasses and exotic trees are already turning to autumn colours and soft mist fills the valley below us most mornings, quickly evaporating as the sun rises.
Flowers are sparse, but here and there are surprise jewels. Berkheya setifera glow golden, though most have seeded. Gladiolus ecklonii have flowered well this year. Very dainty flowers, which I think are Golden Swans, Crocosmia masonorum sparkle!
Another orchid first sighting for me is Habenaria ciliosa, and they were out in profusion on the hillside, I counted ±40 flowering plants. Kniphofia laxiflora, Pentanisia augustifolia, Flower Stachys aethiopica and Watsonia densiflora were a few of the other flowers seen.
A couple of flowering grasses and one Mushroom also caught my eye.
Birds have been very active, particularly a Black-backed Puffback who has spent hours defending his territory, unfortunately the ‘intruder’ was his own reflection on the window panes. The Cape Robin-Chats love the birdbath on the verandah in the early evening. Most of the Village Weaver nests have fallen from the Pin Oak, though I saw what could be a juvenile inspecting a remaining nest. A pair of Malachite Sunbirds have been flitting over the hillside over the past couple of weeks.
Not as many moths around now, but I did see a Handmaiden Amata sp. which is active during the day settled on a grass seed inflorescence.
A tiny spider hung suspended in its beautiful web.
Most evenings the Black-backed Jackal yip and call. A pair of Duiker are seen regularly together at the moment, one morning they came within 10m of the kitchen door.
Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”:
In February Stormy Hill has been targeted by a African Harrier-Hawk (previously known as Gymnogene). This large bird has been hunting our smaller birds etc. which has caused a lot of upheaval as the dogs go crazy barking at it every time it comes around. I’ve also seen a couple of Common (Grey) Duiker and some Common Reedbuck. The Vervet Monkeys have visited a few times which is good. So nice to watch their antics in the trees. A smallish black snake slithered through a hole into my bedroom but I’m happy to say that I can’t find it in there now so I’m assuming he slithered back out again. At least I hope so…
Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:
The district put on stunning displays of fields full of Kniphofia praecox along the Elandsriver.
An unusual sighting this month was Ant-eating Chat along the road to Ncwadi. I have seen this bird in the valley below, but not on the ridge before. There was a small group of about six birds.
There were still a number of juvenile birds honing their balancing skills. Levaillant’s Cisticola is the one with a rufous crown, while Zitting Cisticola has a streaked crown and darker facial markings.
Youngsters that haven’t developed red bills yet were Malachite Kingfisher
And Black-headed Oriole, which also had juvenile streaking on the chest
Early autumn, and the Barn Swallows are beginning to congregate prior to their migration north
The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Olive Thrush, African Fish-eagle, Blue Crane,
Giant Kingfisher, Barn Owl, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Black Saw-wing, Purple Heron,Spotted Eagle-owl, Spectacled Weaver, Willow Warbler, Pied Kingfisher, White-rumped Swift, Brown-throated Martin, Black Crake, Red-necked Spurfowl, African Wattled Lapwing, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Sombre Greenbul, Wailing Cisticola, Southern Boubou, Red-knobbed Coot, Hamerkop, Common Waxbill, Cattle Egret, Amur Falcon, White Stork, Village Weaver, Cape Glossy Starling, Greater Honeyguide, Cape White-eye, Common Fiscal, White-throated Swallow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Common Moorhen, African Quailfinch, Cape Wagtail, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, Steppe Buzzard,
Southern Red Bishop, Cape Weaver, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-billed Kite, Amethyst Sunbird, Speckled Pigeon, Bokmakierie, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Common Quail, Drakensberg Prinia, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Cape Longclaw, South African Shelduck, Spur-winged Goose, Zitting Cisticola, Diderick Cuckoo, Great Egret, Little Grebe, African Firefinch, Red-throated Wryneck, African Hoopoe, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black-headed Heron, Greater Striped Swallow, Barn Swallow, White-breasted Cormorant, Long-crested Eagle, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Black-headed Oriole, Secretarybird, Egyptian Goose, African Stonechat, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-collared Widowbird, Speckled Mousebird, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, Cape Crow, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Little Rush-warbler, Yellow-billed Duck, African Sacred Ibis, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Dusky Flycatcher, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Harrier-Hawk.