Christeen Grant of Sitamani
Fire and Ice July, the first part of the month was characterized by smoky, hazy skies from fire-break burning. A cold front brought a sharp frost on 3 July, with very chilly temperatures and a few flakes of snow on the previous day.
The dry, warmer, intervening weather was changed into a snowy winter wonderland on the 25 July, much needed moisture, including rain, soaked the dry soil for a few days.
Aloe maculata have started fruiting, there are still some bright orange flowers on the hillside;
Buddleja salvifolia burst into flower after the snow;
as well as hundreds of bright yellow Gazania krebsiana;
one or two Greyia sutherlandii flowers had opened earlier, now the tree is covered in red tipped branches;
the Halleria lucida branches are dripping with flowers, the most I’ve seen in a long time;
now that the soil is damp Ledebouria ovatifolia rosette, flat leaves have tightly packed buds above them.
We have been working at rehabilitating a hillside that had a stand of pine trees growing on it. It is a very slow process, nine years since the trees came down in a tornado. Removal of the trunks and large branches came first, then regular annual burns and weeding out alien species. We are seeing indigenous pioneer species coming in. Recently we cut down and removed Acacia melanoxylon
and were happy to identify small indigenous trees that grow in a grove, Canthium (now Afrocanthium) mundianum, which will remain there.
This last month there have been several sightings of Common Reedbuck. A very fine male, with beautiful horns, regularly wanders quite close to the house. He rests in a patch of bracken, one evening he was emerging as I arrived home.
Then on a walk to the top of our property I saw three males and four females, the largest group I’ve seen together in recent years.
Down near the gate I found many small pieces of fur, possibly Vlei Rat, that had been discarded by a predator, possibly the Long-crested Eagle, as that gatepost is a frequent perch.
A pile of Porcupine droppings indicated they are still around.
A Black-headed Oriole has taken over from the Black-backed Puffback, trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. His liquid song from the verandah, where he perched in between bouts was so beautiful.
A Cape Robin-chat splashed in the verandah birdbath even though there was still snow on the ground.
A flock of Cape Weavers sunned themselves in bare branches.
The large group of Cape White-eyes are my favourite winter birds, they all keep together, moving constantly whether foraging or taking a drink and dip.
The Speckled Pigeons have multiplied, there are about six living here, roosting and nesting in the carports. I regularly hear the African Fish-Eagle calling from the valley, took a flight up over the house.
There are many Striped Skinks living among the wooden slats of an outbuilding. They enjoy the warmth of a winter sun, basking.
There are many bees and hoverflies buzzing in the few flowering plants.
I found what I think is a Wasp nest on the ground and several huge ant nests in trees.
A beautiful Painted Lady butterfly soaked up warmth from a rock on the hilltop.
Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill
We are getting quite a lot of activity at Stormy Hill Horse Trails. The buck are coming to drink at our horses’ water trough on the hill, so we have spotted a pair of Bushbuck, a Reedbuck, including a ‘teenager’ Reedbuck, and our resident Common (Grey) Duiker. We have even had a Bushbuck doe eating the rose bushes in the garden, which is great as it will save me some pruning.
We were quite excited to see a pair of Knysna Turaco (previously know as the Knysna Lourie), so I’m hoping that they have decided to nest in the area.
Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye
Birds have evolved very efficient ways to regulate their body temperature, but in winter it is hard not to think they are feeling the cold when they are sitting all huddled up like the Speckled Pigeons on the roof of a barn
or facing into the cold wind like a group of Helmeted Guineafowl
Black-headed Herons also appeared to huddle together in supporting companionship
The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Cape Weaver, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Red-winged Starling, Lanner Falcon, Rock Kestrel, Denham’s Bustard, Green Wood-hoopoe, Bokmakierie, Forest Canary, Pied Starling, Buff-streaked Chat
African Firefinch, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow
Cape Wagtail, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola
Black-shouldered Kite, Long-crested Eagle, Black-headed Heron, Cape Sparrow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-dove, Fork-tailed Drongo
Cape White-eye, Speckled Pigeon, Village Weaver (the males beginning to practise their building skills)
Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Longclaw, Yellow Bishop, Little Grebe
Drakensberg Prinia, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, White-necked Raven, African Stonechat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Canary and Southern Boubou (which appreciated having water available in the bird bath).