Category Archives: KZN Midlands Wildlife

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – August 2016

Pamela Kleiman – Connington Farm

A very quiet month as far as creatures and plants go, however, being an atlasser it was great to see the start of the migrant birds coming into the area.

Early in the month I was pleased to see quite a large group of Cape Vultures near the Connington road from Rosetta. They seemed to be feeding on something small hidden under some willow trees in a small gully where they were joined by a Yellow-billed Kite and some Pied Crows.

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Cape Vulture

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Cape Vultures

There have been a lot of young Jackal Buzzards around, some of them with very confusing colour variations

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Jackal Buzzard

Down my end of the valley I usually only see Southern Red Bishops so was nice to see some Yellow Bishops for a change – still in their Winter plumage

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Yellow Bishop

Cape Longclaw one of my favourites – just love their kitten-like mewing call

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Cape Longclaw

The first signs of Spring

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Halleria lucida

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Buddleja salvifolia with its gorgeous scent

Two early migrants, Yellow-billed Kite and White-throated Swallow

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Yellow-billed Kite

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White-throated Swallow

A first record for pentad 2915_2950 was a Squacco Heron

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Squacco Heron

Egyptian Geese and Common Moorhen in amongst the water lilies

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Egyptian Geese in the foreground and Common Moorhen in the background

The male Village Weavers are suddenly in full summer plumage and looking so dapper

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Village Weaver (male)

Hlatikulu Conservancy Area by Pamela Kleiman

The mountains were looking splendid in their covering of snow earlier in the month.

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A lucky close sighting of a pair of Oribi

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Oribi (female)

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The male Oribi silhouetted against the snowy ‘berg

A few early flowers after the fire season

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I unexpectedly found this pair of Denham’s Bustards on a recently burnt hill

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Denham’s Bustard

A pair of Ground Woodpeckers flew out of holes in the road cutting as I drove past

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Ground Woodpeckers

I have come across Sentinel Rock Thrush in a few places now

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Sentinel Rock Thrush (female)

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Sentinel Rock Thrush (male)

I often see Buff-streaked Chats I the area

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Buff-streaked Chat (male)

It’s not too often I get to see a Red-throated Wryneck out in the open, let alone get a reasonable photo of one!

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Red-throated Wryneck

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Winter 2016

Nicola Storkey

I photographed these snow scenes whilst on the way to Ivanhoe Farm.

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Snow 2

Snow 3

Kilgobbin Forest

Dargle Primary learners visited Kilgobbin forest recently. Thanks Midlands Meander Education Project and WESSA Eco-Schools for facilitating the lesson of forest diversity.

Dargle Primary learners explore the forest floor.

Dargle Primary pupil makes friends with a grasshopper

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

Haven’t seen much except for a couple of Crowned Hornbills (unusual) in the garden that hung around for a few days eating the fruit of the Outeniqua Yellowwood, Podocarpus falcatus. On the 2nd August, Derek spotted his first YBK of the season in the D 17 valley. I noticed him a couple of days later. Very early.

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A snare which was found in the natural forest on our farm.

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Snow & the mayhem it produces!

Some images that were sent in of the “human wildlife”, mostly from PMB and Durban areas, on their way towards Inhlosane Mountain and Impendle. The dirt road was quite a mess afterwards with all the vehicles that got stuck and had to be pulled out by farmers and landowners by Landrover and tractors!

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Vehicles driving past Beverley

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Inhlosane had a few pockets of snow which had eventually melted after a couple of days

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Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

My dog, Missy, very proudly brought this treasure home. I think a jackal or dog may have chewed off the ends. Could anyone identify what buck this came from? Oribi or Bushbuck? [Editor’s Comment: The leg is from a Bushbuck].

Buck leg 1

Buck leg 2

Pauline Holden – Woodsong Farm

We have been so excited to have seen our resident Bushbuck (well they seem to be because we see them regularly). Two females (one seems to be older and is perhaps the Mother) and one male male. They are in different areas of the farm (which is only 25Ha)

We have also seen a Serval, as well as its scat often. We have seen loads of Otter Scat.

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

It was icy cold on the 2nd July and we lit a fire early in the day – I later found our Barn Owl sitting on the ledge on the front verandah. He flew off into the forest behind us and I haven’t seen him since. He was living in the chimney for at least 2 years. We closed the entrances on the roof of the verandah where they nested for several years, due to the mess and noise. I hope Nikki’s barn owls are nesting in the barn again this year.

We had snow for a few hours the next day and then it started to rain. We took this photo of a very wet male Common Reedbuck.

Male reed buck after heavy rain with wet coat

Common Reedbuck (male)

We had regular sightings of the Secretarybird and we were fortunate to have seen two together on one day.

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Secretarybird

On our walks in the evenings we saw a lot of Common Reedbuck on the green burns – counted 13 on a 1hr walk. Saw a half eaten Ibis near the dam – the African Harrier-Hawk had been flying about. Have seen this bird quite often and for the past few weeks he has been coming into the garden.

Gymnogene in my garden

African Harrier-Hawk

Very few raptors – just the Jackal Buzzard and Long-crested Eagle.

Jackal buzzard (I think)

Jackal Buzzard

Beginning of august I was very excited to see the female Black Sparrowhawk sitting on her nest on a few occasions.

Black sparrowhawk female sitting on nest

Black Sparrowhawk nesting

She raised 2 fledglings in same nest 2 years ago – The Egyptian Geese took it over last year which was very disappointing. On the 13th august we saw for the first time a bundle of white feathers sitting on top of the nest. Wow I was ecstatic to see this one chick.

Black sparrowhawk chick

Black Sparrowhawk chick

With the other 2 chicks 2 years ago we used to only see their heads sticking out the top of this very deep nest. It was only when they were completely feathered with their rufous feathers and sitting on the branches that I was able to take some decent pics. Then on the 27th august, just 2 weeks later, there he/she sat on top of the nest with her rufous colouring. Can’t believe they changed colour so quickly. (Picture next month)

On one very frosty morning there was a Hamerkop standing near the pond. His beak was tucked into his chest feathers. He kept lifting his feet up one at a time as if they were numb. He eventually sat down. Half hour later I asked Pat to go and see if he was sick as did not want the dogs to attack him. Thankfully he flew off and seemed fine.

Frozen Hamerkop

Hamerkop

 

We saw three Oribi graze on the hill which has turned green

3 oribi running up the hill

Oribi

 

One morning before sunrise saw a very large clumsy bird hopping on the leafless plane tree. Before I could get the camera it jumped down behind the shrubs – it definitely appeared to be a coucal – first time in the garden although have heard its call from the bush behind the house.

Sunrise

I am sure that most folk have seen the huge group of crowned crane in the vlei of the Fowlers farm at Lions river – I did stop one day and drove down the railway line and took some pics – there appeared to be about 50 of these beautiful creatures. Does anyone know if they breed on the same farm?

A few of the crowned crane at Fowlers farm Lions river

Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

The sunbirds have returned now that there are a few shrubs in flower and they all seem to have regained their summer colours. We hung some string and baubles in the same place that the Amethyst Sunbird made her nest on last year. About ten days ago she flew around the verandah and landed on the string and gave it a good looking over. She flies from door to door looking for insects every morning. On the one day she arrived with her partner. He sat on the hanging basket while she showed him the string. No building of nest has taken place but still too early for that, so we shall see if he approved of her choice.

Pat saw a female cori bustard on the green burn early one morning.
On 26th august, 8 blue crane arrived at our puddle in the dam. They were there for a few hours – 3 blue crane have spent the last few days in the puddle – I am not sure if he is a “hanger on” or the youngster from last year who has not left the fold. We shall see what happens but the puddle is drying up fast, so if no rain soon, I am sure they will look elsewhere to nest this year once again.

A pair of duiker seen close to the house –looks like the wild life are pairing up. We have seen quite a few duiker in August.

Female duiker

The Wagtails, Sparrows, and Olive Thrush all seem to be nesting in the formal garden and of course the Rock Pigeons never stop breeding.

One morning I saw a pair of Cape Robin-chats hopping around in front of the kitchen window. He then hopped onto a branch of the peach tree and starting trying to attract her attention by flicking his tail up and down very quickly – he has a beautifully coloured tail – she did not seem interested as carried on looking for worms.

Cape robin being flirtatious

Cape Robin-chat

We have a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds.

Male and female gurney sugar birds

Gurney’s Sugarbirds

Gurney sugar bird at dusk

Gurney’s Sugarbird

On a few of our walks we have seen quite a few young Common Reedbuck.

Another baby reedbuck

Female reedbuck with her youngster

Female reedbuck

One morning three Cape White-eyes appeared on same peach tree.

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Cape White-eye

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

Male Malachite Sunbird now in full color

Male malachite now in full color eating the flowering frelinias

Malachite Sunbird (male)

New moon

New moon

Not sure of this buzzard as very dark in color – taken in early august so not sure if Steppe Buzzards were around then?

Not sure of this buzzard as very dark in color – taken in early august so not sure if steppe buzzards were around then

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

This evening at about 6pm, driving on the D707, I was blessed with a wonderful sight. Just past the corner next to the Fly’s staff houses, a large Bushbuck ram stood in the middle of the road facing me. I stopped and waited for him to move. He went into the Fannin paddock, followed by his lady who had been standing near the opposite fence. Beautiful.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

This Winter because of the drought, Samango monkeys have been very hungry, which has made them very bold. They have eaten all the fruit on my lemon tree – even eating up those that they bite and drop (usually for the benefit of bush pig and buck).

Samango

I have noticed they come back the next day and then pick up the dropped fruit and eat it all. Lots of babies have just been born, so I assume they know the drought will be over soon. Certainly hope so.

Samango Monkey

Frosty mornings make for great photos. It was a real treat to come across this paw print in the ice capped mud one morning.

Muddy icy paw print

Balmy winter afternoons are heavy with the fragrance of Buddleja along forest edges.

Buddleja

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

Hello World ,  A glorious season ! Bales of hay, snow, and even some mud as I whiz over the hills in my carriages with Ntombikayise as my back-stepper . .

No humans seen ! Black fire-breaks turning green . . water flowing after some rains, with little frogs chirruping and croaking on the edges !

A sleeping Spotted Eagle Owl on the forest margin at The Old Kilgobbin Dam. . . a pair of Egyptian Geese and a Tegwaan are regulars there .

A beautifully marked Mountain Reedbuck Doe is resident just below the Dam . . she has become used to us trotting by.

Samango Monkeys counted up in the Grasslands . . 32 individuals , with four infants newly arrived .

Up on the top of Carlisle we regularly count 4 Oribi , 5 Reedbuck does and a handsome Reedbuck Ram . He tries to duck behind the old stems of Tweedie bush as we approach and remains unmoved through all of my driving .

Ntombi and I have spotted Jackal Buzzards on the Bales regularly and one on a medium -size kill . . Barend and I have spotted The Red Collared Widow Birds up and busy flirting with half-grown tails during our walks over the top in the grasslands .

Chris and I saw a Long Crested Eagle and plenty of Stone Chats along the walls .

All four Robins have been spotted up near the Oatley Hide . . and our garden with it`s fresh compost has Robins , Thrushes and Bou Bou Shrikes
scratching for and collecting yummy bugs ,

The roughly 50 kms a week that I get to roam the hills are “ Soul-Food “ Thank you for sharing your farms with our horses , Ntombi , Barend and I . . No humans seen . . Magical!!

Jenny Goddard

We found this dead otter at one of our dams this morning. No sign of injury. So sad…do you have a theory about what could have happened to him?? Not sure who else to ask!

Otter

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Early morning mist over the valley

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Worm in freshly cut wattle tree

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Large pile of droppings, I’m guessing from a reedbuck as we have seen them on numerous occasions on the farm

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A dead Oribi I found in one of our firebreaks, not sure what killed it

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Lifted a rock at the dam and found this chap trying to hide underneath

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Inhlosane rising above the ever diminishing Mavela Dam

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Little dam near Selsley Farm

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Aloes flowering on a neighbours farm

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Recovering Olive Thrush sitting in a pot after flying into the window

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A Black Sparrowhawk which was upsetting our lambs as it was flapping around on the ground in their night camp, obviously injured we took it to FreeMe in Howick for them to look after.

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Sunset

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Late afternoon sun streaming through some pine trees

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And finally a wintery scene of grassland and Inhlosane looking down on us

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Louise Ghersie – Satori Farm

A herd of Eland passing our house to the top of our farm. Beautiful sight!

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Boston Wildlife Sightings – July 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

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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.

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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.

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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;

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one or two Greyia sutherlandii flowers had opened earlier, now the tree is covered in red tipped branches;

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the Halleria lucida branches are dripping with flowers, the most I’ve seen in a long time;

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now that the soil is damp Ledebouria ovatifolia rosette, flat leaves have tightly packed buds above them.

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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.

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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.

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Male Common Reedbuck

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.

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Common Reedbuck spoor

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.

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A pile of Porcupine droppings indicated they are still around.

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Porcupine scat

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.

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Black-headed Oriole

A Cape Robin-chat splashed in the verandah birdbath even though there was still snow on the ground.

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A flock of Cape Weavers sunned themselves in bare branches.

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Cape Weavers

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.

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Cape White-eyes

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Cape White-eye

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.

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Speckled Pigeon

There are many Striped Skinks living among the wooden slats of an outbuilding. They enjoy the warmth of a winter sun, basking.

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Striped Skink

There are many bees and hoverflies buzzing in the few flowering plants.

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I found what I think is a Wasp nest on the ground and several huge ant nests in trees.

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Possible wasp nest on the ground

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Ant nest in the tree

A beautiful Painted Lady butterfly soaked up warmth from a rock on the hilltop.

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Painted Lady Butterfly

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

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Speckled Pigeons

or facing into the cold wind like a group of Helmeted Guineafowl

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Helmeted Guineafowl

Black-headed Herons also appeared to huddle together in supporting companionship

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Black-headed Heron

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

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Buff-streaked Chat

African Firefinch, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow

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House Sparrow

Cape Wagtail, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola

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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

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Fork-tailed Drongo

Cape White-eye, Speckled Pigeon, Village Weaver (the males beginning to practise their building skills)

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Village Weaver

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Longclaw, Yellow Bishop, Little Grebe

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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).

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Southern Boubou

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – July 2016

Pamela Kleiman of Connington Farm

 

 

The month started off with freezing weather and frost to the top of the Oaks the first weekend. After some lovely rain a few weeks later – we recorded 74mms – it was time to burn the veld

 

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We were surprised when the farm dogs found a very young Duiker in the farm hedge. Fortunately it managed to escape and ran into the fields where we later saw a pair of Duiker – he trying to mate and she just not interested.

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The only other mammals seen on the farm were a striped Mouse – ? Xeric four-striped Grass Mouse ?

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the occasional Reedbuck and Jackal called most early evenings

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Not too many insects around, but I did manage to capture a single African White butterfly female.

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Early in the month I took a trip to the western area of the conservancy and was happy to discover the Cape Vulture roosting site near Kamberg.

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Some of the special birds I encountered:

Drakensberg Prinia,

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Drakensberg Prinia

Southern Black Tit that was very active in the garden this month.

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Southern Black Tit

A Fork-tailed Drongo that was trying to devour a mouse it had caught – a very unusual sighting.

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Fork-tailed Drongo

During the last week of the month the Yellow-billed Egrets started appearing.

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Yellow-billed Egret

Purple Heron eyeballing a cow

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Purple Heron

A Dark-capped Bulbul discovering the suet I had just put out in my new bird feeder – available from the RNR Conservancy stand at the Rosetta Market.

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Dark-capped Bulbul

As an Atlasser based on Connington Farm in the Kamberg Conservancy, I get around to various areas in the district. I discovered the Hlatikhulu Conservancy sign the other day so have decided to add my bit. Unfortunately I am not sure of the boundaries of this conservancy, so I have only incorporated sightings near and west of the sign.

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Some of the species I saw were Jackal Buzzard, Southern Red Bishop, a group of about 10 Pin-tailed Whydahs, a distant male Mocking Cliff-chat, Sentinel Rock-thrush,

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Male Sentinel Rock-thrush

Red-capped Lark,

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Red-capped Lark

Male Anteating Chat showing his white shoulder,

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Anteating Chat

2 Secretarybirds in 2 different areas, this is a photograph of a young Secretarybird with a damaged wing,

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Young Secretarybird with a damaged wing

Pied Kingfisher,

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Pied Kingfisher

African Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Goose, Black-headed Heron, African Stonechat, Pied Starling, Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Vulture and a Barn Owl that must have died an awful death.

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Barn Owl

It had just caught a few wing feathers on the barb of a barb-wired fence and was unable to free itself.

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Barn Owl caught in a fence

As it is midwinter and very dry I look forward to Spring and Summer to discover other gems in this area.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Winter truly arrived in June and we regularly had temperatures of -6ºC in the mornings.

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A Cape Longclaw tried its best to warm up in the first weak rays of the sun at the edge of a dam

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Cape Longclaw

A sad sighting was that of a dead Spotted Eagle-Owl lying on the path to the river. We couldn’t work out why it died, but it appeared as if its neck was broken.

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Spotted Eagle-Owl lying dead on the path

Very welcome sights were that of Denham’s Bustards on a few occasions

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Denham’s Bustards

In the frost in a maize field (above) and ponderously taking to the air (below)

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Denham’s Bustard in flight

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: White-breasted Cormorant, Long-crested Eagle, Common Moorhen, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-knobbed Coot, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Brown-throated Martin, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Starling, African Stonechat, Little Grebe, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, African Spoonbill, Black-shouldered Kite (carrying out its pest control duties)

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Black-shouldered Kite

Red-winged Starling, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Common Fiscal, Spotted Eagle-owl, Green Wood-hoopoe, Red-necked Spurfowl, Olive Woodpecker, Speckled Pigeon, Cape Glossy Starling, Sombre Greenbul, Black-headed Heron, Dark-capped Bulbul,

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Dark-capped Bulbul

Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Hadeda Ibis,

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Hadeda Ibis

Southern Boubou, Helmeted Guineafowl, Olive Thrush, House Sparrow, Cape Robin-chat, Village Weaver (making the most of hospitality on offer at the feeding station)

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Village Weavers

As did the Cape White-eyes

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Cape White-eyes

Bokmakierie, Drakensberg Prinia,

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Drakensberg Prinia

Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, African Firefinch. The Grey Crowned Crane family continued with their daily routine, the youngster is still with the parents and roost with them at night.

 

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Grey Crowned Crane family

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

There were three Mountain Reedbuck on the hill. The Common (Grey) Duiker was seen a few times and the Vervet Monkey troop have been visiting. An African Fish-Eagle cruised around overhead. An African Harrier-hawk landed in one of the trees and flew off with one of our resident Weaver birds. A Common Reedbuck was seen while out on a ride. Jackals have been heard a lot with the dogs barking to let them know that they are not welcome near the house.

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

June and fire-break burning are synonymous, tracer lines burnt earlier in April hold the fire when the breaks are burnt. A damp day preceded our burn day so fortunately we had an ideal cool burn, that doesn’t damage the plant life as severely. Jackal Buzzards, Drongos, Long-crested Eagles and Cape Crows wheeled around looking for rodents displaced from their homes. The fires are dramatic, particularly in the late afternoon.

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Despite the very dry and cool conditions some of my favourite flowers found here were blooming, bright golden yellow and orange Aloe maculata on the hillside;

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Aloe maculata

snow white, delicate Buddleja dysophylla;

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Buddleja dysophylla

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Buddleja dysophylla

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Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja salvifolia buds are swelling, almost ready to bloom;

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Buddleja salvifolia

tiny, cheerful Euryops laxus have popped up in the short grass around the house; in the tracer-lines,

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Europs laxus

early Gerbera ambigua;

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Gerbera ambigua

Halleria lucida is flowering profusely and creating a magnet for birds and insects;

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Halleria lucida

a neon coloured Ipomoea bolusiana plant took advantage of the shelter along the warm east side of the house.

03 Flower Ipomoea bolusiana IMG_5926

Ipomoea bolusiana

The male Black-backed Puffback is still persistently trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. When resting he is starting to display his courtship puffback. The birdbaths are very sought after and often up to 30 Cape White-eyes splash and drink together, the shy Southern Boubou, Cape Robin-chats and Dark-capped Bulbuls take their turn in the verandah birdbath. The Fork-tailed Drongos, Olive Thrushes, Canaries and Cape Sparrows prefer the birdbath under the trees in the garden. Also seen were a flock of Common Waxbills, African Stonechats, Buff-streaked Chats, Amethyst Sunbirds, a Spotted Eagle-Owl and a Cape Batis. A Fish Eagle can be heard regularly calling from the valley.

04 Bird Black-backed Puffback IMG_5908

Black-backed Puffback (male)

The Lesser Savanna Dormice, Grahiurus kelleni, are still very much in residence, though seen less frequently, particularly in cooler weather. The young Duiker has moved off on it’s own, we still see all three around, but separately.

A few butterflies seen are what I think is a Common Hottentot male,

05 Invertebrates Butterfly Common Hottentot male IMG_6002

Common Hottentot (male)

and a Geranium Bronze, Cacyreus marshalli.

05 Invertebrates Butterfly Geranium Bronze Cacyreus marshalli IMG_6003

Geranium Bronze

An unusual Katydid perched on the backstep.

05 Invertebrates Katydid IMG_5913

Kaytid

A spider I hadn’t seen before and rescued from the bath, was identified as a Funnel web wolf spider, Family Lycosidae.

05 Invertebrates Spider Funnel-web Spider of Agelenidae Fam Funnel web wolf spider Family Lycosidae P1070424

Funnel web wolf spider

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

All wildlife seems to be hibernating and as per usual, the Red-lipped Heralds are snugly coiled in the wood pile. We noticed 2 Common Reedbuck on our property – an unusual sighting these days! Good to see. They ran off onto Iain Sinclair’s farm.

Interesting birds have been seen in the garden: Green Wood Hoopoe, Wryneck, Oriole, Golden Tailed Woodpecker, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite and Amethyst Sunbirds. A small flock of about 20 Helmeted Guineafowl scratch round in our pastures with numerous young. With the drought, it has been a good breeding season for them. We regularly see Black-winged Lapwings flying over on their food seeking missions.

In the veld we have noticed Natal Spurfowl, Cape Longclaw, and have heard the Common Quail with their gentle call.

An old Aloe arborescens, the Krantz aloe, that grows on one of our hill slopes is particularly beautiful this year. If you are frustrated with your garden in this season of drought, here’s what to plant!

Aloe tree

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Spotted a Secretarybird whilst driving past Selsley farm. We also spotted one on Knowhere farm earlier in the month whilst moving some cattle.

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

Snake
Pat McKrill, Snake Country: “I’d go with your i.d. Ashley – Spotted Skaapsteker – although it’s not that clear. There’s a slim possibility of it being a Short-snouted Sand snake (grass snake, whip snake – I wish they’d make their minds up!) but we’d need a better pic. Still some activity on the warmer days. Yay.”

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

A very quiet month. At the beginning of June we saw the Black Sparrowhawks hunting and eating pigeons every couple of days. We saw the female at the old familiar nest in the gum trees. She was either adding more material to the nest or feeding young we thought. Well that’s the last we have seen of them, so no idea what happened. With the dry dam we have seen no waterbirds – the crane have disappeared. Only hear the Jackal occasionally.

Black-backed jackal

Black-backed Jackal

We see the secretary bird and gymnogene now and then.

Secretarybird

Secretarybird

The odd Common (Grey) Duiker seen during the day. We saw a very small Reedbuck on one of our walks. When I drove around the farm today I saw 4 Common Reedbuck sitting in the pine trees away from the wind. Two were young females and 2 were young rams.

Sunrise

Sunrise

There are still a number of sunbirds about, feeding off the aloes and proteas.

Malachite male sunbird in eclipse

Malachite Sunbird (non-breeding male)

I think this could be a female malachite or juvenile sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

Greater double-collared sunbird in bush

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

I think this is a amythest male or female in eclipse or juvenile – not sure

Amethyst Sunbird

In the past few weeks about a dozen Weavers arrive at about 9am and descend upon the aloes in front of the house.

Weavers en masse

They have been destructive in the defoliation of the aloes – they pull off a petal,

Weaver pulled off aloe petal

place it beneath a foot, and suck out the nectar and then drop them on the ground.

Weaver holding aloe with her foot

They are also feeding off the tecomas,

Weavers eating the tecoma flowers

bottle brushes and pig ears.

Weaver feeding from pigs ear flowers

I think they are the non-breeding Masked Weavers but am sure someone will be able to identify them for me? So we only see the sunbirds very briefly as they get chased away by the weavers which is rather sad.

Weaver sitting on aloes

Another surprise is that the Sparrows are collecting feathers and going into their nest under the eaves of the house.

Sparrow carrying feather

Surely they are not thinking of breeding now? Perhaps they are just making it warmer!

Southern Boubou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs.

Southern bou bou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs

Southern Boubou

Well that’s all there is to report this month. It would be wonderful to get some rain or snow soon.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

While I hear Spotted Eagle Owls and Wood Owls at night, I never come across the Barn Owls that moved into the owl box in the shed earlier this year. I do hope they have not eaten a poisoned rat. As last month, Jackal calls are still very scarce. Where are they? Very early one morning I met a big Porcupine while out walking and have come across lots of quills on various paths. I wonder, do they shed them more during Winter?

I found a Samango monkey skin and skeleton in the grassland,

winter monkey skin

and this dead Scrubhare beside the road.

winter dead hare

Not a lot in flower, but these little yellow daisies are so cheerful! The hairy, maroon coloured stems should have made it easy to identify, but I can’t find it.

yellow winter daisy

An unusually coloured Leonotis leonarus blooms beside the D707.

winter pale  leonotis

Grassland streams have stopped trickling altogether. Planted aloes are looking splendid.

winter aloe

David Schneiderman – Carlisle Farm

We went out on our farm Carlisle yesterday and we found 2 Waterbuck and 2 Reedbuck.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The water is still receding in Mavela Dam. The ducks, geese and other wildlife are walking through the mud and making little trails.

Mavela dam is very low and ducks and geese are leaving spoor in the mud

A very cold frog I found in one of the water troughs – aren’t they supposed to be hibernating?!

A very cold frog I found in the water trough - aren't they meant to be hibernating

Whilst doing our mandatory firebreaks with the neighbours, I quickly snapped a few pics of the aloes in the area

Aloes that were photographed on neighbours farm whilst we were doing mandatory firebreaks

Aloe 1

Aloe 2

Some burnt aloes, I’m sure by next year they will be looking beautiful once again.

Aloe in fire

Burnt aloes

Fires in the Dargle with Inhlosane watching from a distance

Firebreaks with Inhlosane in the background

We had a very cold weekend this past week, with bits of snow and sleet falling. Sunday morning we woke up to lots of ice on the edges of the dam, and beautiful little icicles forming and coming up through the mud.

Ice 008

Ice 009

Ice 011

Ice 014

Ice 016

Ice 006

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Pamela Ellenberger Kleiman

Being new to the district I hope to be able to contribute sightings occasionally from the Kamberg Conservancy.

A view from the D450 across the hill where 2 farmers regularly put out carcasses for the Vultures. As an atlasser I have seen a group of up to 40+ individuals flying in the area.

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During the first 2 weeks of May I was privileged to see a large flock of Southern Bald Ibis in 4 different areas, the main one along the D450

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I see this pair of Grey Crowned Cranes regularly along our valley which has a series of farm dams in it.

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I love the name Groundscraper Thrush. The only time I have seen them they have been calling from the top of the tallest trees!

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Red-throated Wryneck, a permanent visitor to my garden.

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During May the Black-headed Oriole was often in the garden. Now in June I no longer hear it.

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African Harrier-hawk is often seen in the Oak trees along our valley much to the annoyance of many of the small birds.

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Just a picture of a Long-crested Eagle giving the eye to two Hadedas.

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On the 23rd May there were still White Storks around despite the fact that we had already had a few mornings of quite heavy frost.

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Hottentot Teal that were a new atlas recording for our area.

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On the road to Fairview farm I recorded 2 pairs and 2 individual Secretarybirds last week.

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Buff-streaked Chat. This is a Species I am delighted to be finding more and more often in our area.

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There is an ever present flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks on ponds on one of our dairy farms.

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Another new atlas recording – rather a bad shot, unfortunately of a Black Crake on Connington’s small dam.

IMG_1449

This Denham’s Bustard was also another new atlas recording which I saw along the main road to Kamberg.

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It is such a pleasure to have a pair of Lanner Falcons on Connington. They give me the occasional fly-past.

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High up on grass veld last week I was surprised to find 6 Wattled Crane – such beautiful creatures.

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A very skittish and unexpected visitor to my garden on Connington this week was a Black Sparrowhawk, only just managed this record shot before it flew off.

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Great to be back in the country and be able to see Duiker wandering across the fields in front of my cottage.

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June 21st. Full moon breaking through the cloud.

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Boston Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

May has been a Furry-beasties, Ferns and Fungi month. A light overnight snowfall dusted the mountains on the 1st May.

02 Cover Snow IMG_5368

Winter chill, fairly frequent frosts, not much rain but a few damp days and in between smoky sunsets from tracer-line burning.

02 Cover Smoky sunsets IMG_5408

Cool winter skies with beautiful prefrontal cirrus cloud effects. The grass and ground are very dry for this time of year, and the water table is very low.

02 Cover Prefrontal cirrus cloud IMG_5431

At last I have managed to take a photo of the very dear Lesser Savanna Dormouse, one of two in residence… albeit with a cell phone and not a good one, I just hoped I’d captured it in the dark… It had found an unopened packet of peanuts and raisins, tore a hole in the packet and was delightedly eating, making contented chirpy noises at about two in the morning… I know they will have to be relocated, just haven’t the heart to turf them out into winter. All foodstuff has to be carefully put away otherwise it is nibbled.

03 Animals Lesser Savanna Dormouse IMG_2212

The Lesser Savanna Dormouse, Grahiurus kelleni, is only 14cm in length, 6cm of that being the tail. They are definitely nocturnal in habit, extremely agile climbers, scampering up and down furniture and curtains. They eat insects, plant material, seeds and in a house love fruit, bread, cake and almost anything they can find. They are frequently found in association with man-made structures. According to literature local species are supposed to hibernate, or become less active in winter. No one told these two!

The Duiker family, Bushpig and Vervet Monkeys all enjoy the fallen Pin Oak acorns along the driveway.

03 Animals Duiker IMG_5398

Birds flock to the birdbath on the verandah and the one in the garden, often needing a refill by early afternoon. I spotted a juvenile Black-headed Oriole, with dark flecks on his yellow breast. Cape Crows; Dark-capped Bulbuls; Cape Robin-chats; Cape White-eyes; Black-backed Puffbacks; Speckled Pigeons; Amethyst Sunbirds; African Stonechats and the call of a Fish Eagle from the valley. A small nest was exposed when the leaves turned and fell from the Japanese Maple tree.

03 Bird nest IMG_5447

Very interesting Fungi were spotted after a sprinkle of rain and misty conditions. I observed the unfurling of two different fungi; Blusher, Amanita rubescens and The Miller, Clitopilus prunulus; also seen were a False Earth-star and an unidentified, 20mm high mushroom.

04 Fungi Blusher Amanita rubescens IMG_5445

Blusher – Amanita rubescens

04 Fungi Blusher Amanita rubescens IMG_5410

Blusher – Amanita rubescens

04 Fungi The Miller Clitopilus prunulus IMG_2216

The Miller – Clitopilus prunulus

04 Fungi The Miller Clitopilus prunulus IMG_5417

The Miller – Clitopilus prunulus

04 Fungi False Earth-star  IMG_5377

False Earth-Star

04 Fungi IMG_5412

Unidentified fungi

The Fern Allies species Lycoodium clavatum had many strobili, cone-like structures that bear the spores. Two ferns seen, though browning off quickly in the dry weather, were; Cheilanthes involuta var. obscura and Mohria nudiuscula.

05 Fern Allies Lycoodium clavatum  IMG_5425

Lycoodium clavatum

05 Fern Cheilanthes involuta var obscura IMG_5430

Cheilanthes involuta var. obscura

05 Fern Mohria nudiuscula IMG_5426

Mohria nudiuscula

Almost all the flowers are over, all that remains are the dried bracts like those of the Berkheya setifera; or seeds of Plectranthus calycina;

06 Berkheya setifera IMG_5420

Berkheya setifera

06 Plectranthus calycina seeds IMG_5419

Plectranthus calycina

there are however a few hardy ones still flowering, Senecio madagascariensis and Stachys aethiopica.

06 Senecio madagascariensis IMG_5438

Senecio madagascariensis

06 Stachys aethiopica IMG_5433

Stachys aethiopica

A few of the insects seen were: the tiny Common Blue butterfly; Giant Carpenter Bees; a tiny Grasshopper; Green Vegetable Bug, Nezara viridula; an unidentified Moth; very busy Paper wasps, Polistes fastidiotus; and a very small Twig wilter sp.

07 Insects Common Blue butterfly IMG_545807 Insects Giant Carpenter Bee Xylocopa flavorufa IMG_545507 Insects Grasshopper IMG_545607 Insects Green Vegetable Bug Nezara viridula IMG_540507 Insects Moth IMG_545007 Insects Paper wasps Polistes fastidiotus IMG_537307 Insects Twig wilter sp P1070316

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Once again my time in Boston was limited this month. While out birding, it was special to come across a bushbuck doe delicately walking on the side of the road.

image1

The drought continues to bite, which means that any time spent at the edge of dwindling dams are guaranteed to provide sightings of birds. The Red-knobbed Coot chicks are growing up

image2

And the African Spoonbill was on its post as usual

image3

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: White-breasted Cormorant, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Secretarybird, African Fish-eagle, Grey Crowned Crane, Reed Cormorant, Cape Glossy Starling, Speckled Mousebird, Common Moorhen,

image4

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Long-crested Eagle, Olive Thrush, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, House Sparrow, Helmeted Guineafowl, Village Weaver, Cape Wagtail, Cape White-eye, African Firefinch, African Stonechat, Common Fiscal, Greater Honeyguide, Red-knobbed Coot, White-necked Raven, Bokmakierie, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Malachite Kingfisher,

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South African Shelduck, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, African Sacred Ibis,

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Little Grebe, Jackal Buzzard (juvenile),

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Black-headed Heron, Cape Robin-chat, Cape Canary, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Boubou,

image8

Common Waxbill, Hadeda Ibis, Pied Crow, Red-necked Spurfowl, Yellow-billed Duck,

image9

Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Crow, Southern Double-collared Sunbird.

image10

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

I do love ‘butterfly season’ in Dargle! My garden seems to be constantly on the move, with spots of colour flashing between Hypoestes, Kniphofia, Senecio, Polygala and Leonotis.

Things are a bit quieter in the hills. Has anyone else noticed that there are seldom jackal calling at night? I still hear owls, but no jackal. Have seen a few groups of reedbuck – about 8 in total, during my grassland walks and one bushbuck.

r autumn 2016 reedbuck hiding

A couple of times I have come across Jackal Buzzards sitting quietly on hay bales waiting for a snack to show itself in the newly shorn fields. Unsure who this little brown fellow is in the tall grass?

r autumn 2016 bird on grass 1

I adore the subdued colours of this season. Lots of orange Leonotis leonaurus and the last of the Berkheya flowers

r berkheya

Most of the Gomphocarpus physocarpus pods have popped releasing their fairy seeds to float away.

r autumn gomphocarpus seeds1

The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

r autumn 2016 boophane bulb1

Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

r autumn 2016 phymaspermum 1

A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

r autumn 2016 Aristea 1

Clutia cordata, the grassland clutia, which grows to about 70 cm tall. The plants are single sex. Tiny pale green male and female flowers on separate plants clustered along the stalks.

autumn clutia cordata

Loved this twirled grass – anyone know which variety it is?

r autumn 2016 twirly grass

Shadows in the very scarce pools of water are spectacular. How on earth are animals to survive this winter when the streams have already stopped trickling?

r autumn shadows in pool

Michael Goddard – Steampunk Coffee

Not sure if these little guys have been spotted this far inland but this morning I saw this pair. Common myna (Acridotheres tristis), sometimes spelled mynah, also sometimes known as “Indian myna”

Indian Mynah

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

At the beginning of the month we had Gurney’s Sugarbird in the garden revelling in the abundant blooms of the Leonotis. However they disappeared after a day or so. Probably off to the locally grown proteas, that they much prefer. A Greater Honeyguide was calling in the garden a couple of weeks ago. His unmistakable call of ” vic – tor ” rang out clearly, but I was unable to find him. Another uncommon sight for Kildaragh was a Purple Heron at our little dam. We have recorded one there before,but that was a few years ago. Below is the ribbon bush. Orthosiphon labiatus, a very worthwhile plant for the indigenous garden and the bees love it.

Ribbon bush (Orthosiphon labiatus)

Can anyone out there help me with the identification of the plant below? I know it is African and that it is perhaps a Halleria elliptica (E. Cape), which grows to about 2m. However I am not convinced that it is…
Comment by Nikki Brighton: Looks exotic. Pretty sure it is not indigenous.

Unknown

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Skaapsteker on the road

Spotted skaapsteker 1

Spotted skaapsteker 2

Nola Barrett – God’s Grace

I took this picture of this minute little frog on the inside of my veranda window (~ a Painted Reed frog perhaps? Ash)

Frog 1

Then we put him in the garden. The frog is about 2 – 3 cms long but he jumps very far , over a meter maybe almost 2 metres. My gardener says he’s been on the window about 2 weeks. You’ll have to look closely to see him in the garden.

Frog 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The 3 Wattled Crane have been regular visitors on our farm over the past couple of months now, here are a few pics of them with the Grey Crowned Cranes making an appearance too.

Wattled Cranes 1Wattled Cranes 2Wattled Cranes 3Wattled Cranes 4Wattled Cranes 5

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We have been away for most of May. All these photos were taken in April. Our dam is now just a puddle, so no more crane and water birds unfortunately.
There were dozens of butterflies this year.

Blue pansy

1

Gaudy commodore

2

Greenbanded swallowtail

3

Painted lady

4

The sunbirds were showing their eclipse colours. We have quite a number of sunbirds, now feeding off the proteas and aloes.

Greater collared sunbird in eclipse

5

a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)

6

Male Malachite in eclipse

7

An arum lily frog was hiding amongst the pot plants for a couple of days during the cold weather.

8

Our skinks have disappeared now. Have a photo of the skin of one of them who was shedding his skin in our study. He was actually pulling off the skin of his legs with his mouth. He ran under the couch, hence only pic of body skin left on carpet.

9

Have not seen our Blue Crane for 6 weeks now but early one morning, beginning of may, woke to see 8 Grey Crowned Crane and 3 Wattled Crane at the dam. They flew off at sunrise.

10

The Wattled Crane swam around the dam for a while foraging with their long necks. The dam was quite shallow at this stage.

11

The Long-crested Eagle is still around

12

The African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) arrives on the farm at about 07:30 on most days hopping around the rocks. With the lizards (skinks) which seem to have vanished around the house, he must be eating mice and rats.

13

Pat saw a pair of Oribi running through the farm. There are still a few Reedbuck and Duiker around.

14

At about 10pm one night the dogs started barking, (in that special way when something is amiss) and we went out to find a huge porcupine around our pond area next to the stone wall. He was trying to hide behind a tree to get away from the dogs. We put the animals away and tried to shush the porcupine out the gate, but he was having none of it and proceeded to try and climb the stone wall. This ended with him falling down, and nearly on top of Pat. He raced off with speed and we could not find him after that. He must have come through the culvert as our whole garden has bonnox fencing to keep the animals from encountering our dogs and prevent them from destroying my garden.

Bokmakierie

15

Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat

16

Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills

Untitled

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Autumn is officially here with winter trying to sneak in early and this frost we had a couple of weekends ago.

Autumn frost on leaves

A very beautiful black caterpillar with red and yellow markings on the sides and blue spines on the top.

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

Some sort of brown mantis sitting on my arm. Comment from Dr Jason Londt: “It is a mantid (family Mantidae). Don’t know the species (we have over 180 species in SA). Unfortunately I am not aware of a local specialist who could give us a species name – most of the literature on the group seems to be in French! Anyway – nice twig mimic!”

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

Flying ants inside the house which appeared after the recent rains in Dargle

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

I was moving a feed tyre out of the grass and suddenly noticed a whole family of little mice scurrying around. I managed to capture a pic of this guy before they all disappeared into the grass.

Mouse running away

A beautiful Oribi ram, spotted on our farm. The first and only time that I have ever seen one.

Oribi Ram

Not the best pic, but trying to capture a Pied Kingfisher with a cellphone camera in mid dive is a bit of a challenge!

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

I nearly stepped on this orange and black Rinkhals, and had just 3 seconds to capture this pic before he disappeared into the long grass.

Rinkhals in the grass

A very cold, wet and miserable Black-headed Heron which I drove closer and closer to in the Landrover, before it got a little jumpy and flew away.

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

The Wattled crane is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

Wattled Cranes 2

A very large Puffadder which we saw crossing the tar road near Avanol.

Puffadder

Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

I have recently been hearing an African Scops owl calling in the evenings just as it gets dark. It’s an uncommon resident in this area . A couple of nights ago, the evening started with the Scops calling and later when we went to bed we heard Jackal yelping close by. They haven’t been heard for a few months . Waking in the early hours a Spotted Eagle Owl was hooting nearby. Just as sleep had come again we were woken by the raucous call of the Natal Francolin, and finally the Fish Eagle’ s lovely call at dawn, got me out of bed. Who would live anywhere else.

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

Comment by Pat McKrill: “Your diagnosis (Spotted Skaapsteker Psammophylax tritaeniatus) is quite correct, even though those occurring further north are more spotted – as the name implies – than striped. They’re a pretty common grassland snake up your neck of the woods, and because their food preference is pretty wide-ranging, some of it is not necessarily temperature dependent – rodents, skinks – they tend to ignore the hibernation rule and hunt year-round as long as the sun is shining. The concave indentation in the individual dorsal scales is a useful diagnostic. Thanks for the pics, great!”

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were blessed this month to see 7 wattled crane on the farm for a week – they would feed on our neighbours oats during the day and arrive at the dam early evening and sometimes midday to wade around the dam which is drying up daily. We could not see any tags on their legs.

wattled crane

One morning just one appeared and walked around the vlei area for a few hours and then sat down. We got very excited as thought perhaps she was thinking of making a nest there but when the cattle arrived to drink, she changed her mind. Like the plovers eggs which never hatch out as cattle always drinking around the edges of dam where they lay.

Our yellow bill ducklings are down from ten to five in number. We also have 6 Red-billed Teal who swim with them.

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

Two pairs of South African Shelduck now. They did not have chicks this year as dam only started to fill late December. Our 3 Blue Crane have been here the entire month. The fledgling still with his parents. 5 months old now. Sometimes another pair of blue crane join them but they never stay long. 3 african grey crowned crane have been arriving at sunset. We love watching their antics – they always dance in and out the water and sometimes the spoonbill and plovers join them in wild abandon. At first the fledgling would run off when he saw his parents making fools of themselves but lately he joins in the prancing. They are the only cranes that I have not seen swimming. The wattled cranes love to swim and stick their long necks down underwater to see what they can forage. One day we had all 3 cranes visit us.

We have noticed that the crowned cranes have been chasing the blue crane away from the dam – we are not sure why this is as they both have one fledgling. Shame, the 3 of them stand on the hill looking forlornly down at the dance show.

crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 1crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 2

The gymnogene has been arriving early in the morning hunting amongst the rocks in front of the house – one morning there were 2 of them flying around.

When we woke early one cold overcast morning we found a Herald snake trying to swallow a large toad on our front verandah.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

He just could not swallow it and regurgitated it. He then lay next to it. This did not go down well with me as everyone by now knows how terrified I am of snakes. Pat put snake and frog in a box and released them at the bottom of the farm.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

Went down to the dam one hot day and saw thousands of dragonflies.

darner dragon fly

There were also a few red ones but I couldn’t get a pic of them as would not perch for long. There were also hundreds of brown ones but don’t know their name.

We saw a black shouldered kite eating a huge rat one morning on our dead tree – took him one and half hours to finish eating.

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

He kept stopping for a few minutes and would then continue to feed for awhile.

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

Found a new ant bear hole in kikuyu paddock near the dam. There was a Barn Owl on our verandah early one morning and on my approach he flew off. Not sure if this was a fledgling learning to fly. There are a couple in our chimney now which is very awkward if wanting to light a fire. A few years ago one was suffocated from the smoke and fell into the fire. It was horrible and I don’t want that happening again. A bokmakierie visited us for the first time. He sang to us for a good ten minutes. Beautiful start to the day.

There have been dozens of butterflies each day. Citrus swallowtail, Green-banded Swallowtail, Gaudy Commodore, Garden Commodore and for the first time a Blue Pansy.

 

garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

We have seen a couple of Reedbuck around the dam and in the hill behind us and a female sleeps in our garden each night in the long grass.

reedbuck in a hurry

Also a couple of duiker eating the acorns from the oak trees. Pat has seen 7 Reedbuck and one duiker eating rye grass and veld on our neighbours farm across the stone wall. On our walks in the evening we have seen signs of a Common Fiscal in the area with the surprises left along the fenceline. A small snake

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

I received a lot of comments on the identification of my raptors last month – Dr David Allan said they were European Honey Buzzards – female adult with juvenile – very rare in this area. I have not seen them again. The Steppe Buzzards have left, not seeing any Jackal Buzzards, but still see the Long-crested Eagle. Often hear the African Fish-Eagles.

André Stapelberg – Crab Apple Cottages (sent in by Helen Booysen)

The photo of the Drakensberg Prinia was taken at Whispering Waters in its usual Leucosidea-habitat.

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle