Most of the icy fingers of winter have passed us by here in the Dargle, with a few cold days appearing here and there. Lots of frosty mornings over the last month yielded some great photos from those whose fingers didn’t freeze before releasing the camera trigger button!
Dieter Setz – Wakecroft
We counted 36 Eland in one herd, on our farm in the morning of 12th July. As I did not have my camera with me I do not have proof. I did capture frost on colourful leaves.
Icy feet in one of the Wakecroft streams.
Frozen watercress at Wakecroft stream.
‘Ice flowers’ in our pond
Tom and Lucinda Bate – Inversanda
We have seen a family of 6 bush pig on two occasions and 2 porcupines escorted us down our drive last night. Much to our relief a duiker has returned to our garden having been absent for a few months.
Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm
Once again, I have enjoyed the subtle colours, the little surprises and the birds so close to my cottage as everything struggles for survival in this dry season. The forests are topped with copper curls of the Dalberghia laden with seeds.
The edges are strung with yellow Gnidia
and the sweet fragrance of Buddleja in full bloom. Both B. auriculata
and the faded mauve, B. saligna
Under the canopy it is pretty dry, but Halleria lucida can be counted on to provide some succour for the birds.
Winter is the nicest time to walk in the grasslands, as the animal paths are easy to follow and there are firebreaks to explore.
In recently burnt bits, the cheery Cyrtanthus breviflorus has already poked through the charcoal,
While in old grass, silvery Helichysum sparkle.
Tiny pools of water reflect the husks of Themeda triandra and provide much needed moisture for wildlife.
Stone chats flit from rock to rock,
Greyia sutherlandii are flowering already – glorious coral splashes against the blue sky.
I do like this time of year.
Neville, Hayley and Damien van Lelyveld observed wildlife on Iain Sinclair’s property: Benn Meadhon over the weekends of 12th-13th and 19th-20 July
The weekend of the 12th had day time temperatures of 21°C with a night temp of -4°C on the Saturday night and wind speeds of around 5km/hr. the weekend of the 19th had similar weather conditions with day temps. Of 18°C and night temps of 0°C with wind speeds of approximately 45km/hr.
Oribi During both visits the Oribi were seen. On the weekend of the 12th 5 were seen and on the weekend of the 19th on the Saturday morning all 8 were seen just after sunrise.
Bush Buck During the weekend of the 12th no bush buck was seen however on the weekend of the 19th 4 were sighted by the bottom carrot fields near the Dargle River 2 does and 2 Rams. There was a distinct absence of Bush buck by the cross road but this is probably due to the felling of the Grahame forest next to your forest in which the bush buck used to live. The logging activity would also have a large effect on the bush buck that used to live in this area. We did investigate the open area in your new forest above the shed and there was evidence of recent activity in the form of sleeping areas that were visible, however no actual bush buck were seen. There was also evidence in the form of reasonably fresh bush buck scat in this area. There is also a lot of bush buck scat down near the bottom of the bottom carrot fields near the Dargle River. This is however expected due to the fairly regular sightings of Bushbuck in this area.
Reedbuck During the weekend of the 12th we saw 27 Reedbuck while during the weekend of the 19th we saw and counted 33 Reedbuck. There are a lot of very young Reedbuck and there appears to have been a breeding explosion between the Reedbuck most of the youngsters are of a similar age and all appear to be healthy and all the Reedbuck in general seem to be a lot more relaxed than previously noticed during our last few visits since the poaching episode. There has been a marked difference in their behaviour and they have seemed to have once again started to tame down and particular during the weekend of the 19th we were able to get quite close to many of them to observe them with out and undue stress caused. They would acknowledge our presence by lifting the head from grazing and then just continue to graze again. This was very pleasing to see since for the last few months we have not been able to get within a hundred metres of them before they would run for cover. Based on the comparisons of the counts made on the weekend of the 12th compared to the counts done on the weekend of 19th I would say the count of 27 to 30 reedbuck would be fairly accurate. Many of the original resident families like the ones near the cross roads and the ones that live in the vlei by the maize paddocks are still there. It was also pleasing to see how much the little one from the family that lives by the cross roads has grown up into quite a good looking young ram. Many of the Reedbuck does appear to be pregnant.
Grey duiker On the weekend of the 12th we saw 17 grey duiker however during the weekend of the 19th we only saw 5. We did however concentrate on a different area of the farm during the weekend of the 19th. Nearly every female duiker seen was pregnant, This is great news.
Marsh Mongoose During the visit of the 12th a single well fed marsh mongoose was seen by the “Y” junction. During previous visits we have only seen his tracks so it was quite a treat to actually see it during this visit. It was in a very good condition.
Bush pigs Once again there were no signs of any Bush pigs or bush pig activity anywhere on the farm.
Porcupine No porcupines were seen however there is a lot evidence of porcupine activity.
Jackals We did not see any jackals during either weekend however there is a lot of evidence of Jackal activity on the farm. During both Saturday nights there was a lot of Jackals calling. A lot of Jackal tracks are very evident all over the farm. There are still a lot of jackals following duikers, the fact that most of the female duiker that can be see appear to be pregnant. This explains why the jackals are following them.
Antbear During the weekend of the 12th we spent a lot of time walking the back Jackal paddock and where surprised to come across an ant bear hole near the boundary where the jackal paddock meets Hanbury’s maize paddock. He has also been very active according to the tracks in the area. This was an amazing find.
Blue Crane Several blue cranes were seen during both weekends.
Spurwing Geese The Spurwing geese presence on the farm has increased dramatically over the last few months to the point that during both weekend we saw a flock of about 10 birds. They seem to be roosting on the old maize paddocks.
The Egyptian geese population on the farm has also increased over last few months which were also very pleasing. Several flocks of several geese can be seen flying around almost all day
Herons Several Herons were seen all over the farm during this weekend.
Guinea Fowl It is pleasing that the guinea fowl population has increased dramatically over the last few months. During both weekends we saw a flock of some 50 birds. This is the most we have seen in many years.
Francolin During the visit of 2th several Natal and Red Necked francolins were seen. On the 20th just as we were leaving through the Umgeni gate we had the privilege of watching a natal francolin mother with her 6 little chicks behind her cross the main tar road. The chicks were no more than about 2 inches high. This probably a once in a life time sighting. The good news however is that they are successfully breeding. Their numbers on the farm have increased over the last few years. The sighting of the Red Necked francolins was the first that we have observed on the farm.
Pigeons Although there are some pigeon around in the form of Rameron and doves there is not as much as what would be expected. Most of the pigeon are small juveniles with a distinct absence of the larger adults. This is a little concerning; however from a slightly different point of view at least they do seem to be breeding. There does not seem to be a major lack of food around for them so one can only assume that maybe te farm is being used as a breeding ground for them rather than a feeding area which must be somewhere else I the near facinity.
Owls A few owls where seen during both visits however we could not identify them accurately as they flew up before they could be identified accurately.
Once again several jackal buzzards and crown eagles were seen and an overall increase in raptors was seen. A large population of swallows were seen almost everywhere on the farm.
This is an old porcupine hole that is now been used by butterflies. We noticed this hole in May when we were there but didn’t have a camera with us. They are actually breeding in this hole and living in it like a cave. They were very dark blue and black in colour. Very interesting. (Note from Nikki: I have seen this phenomenon on Old Kilgobbin before – I think they are Gaudy Commodore butterflies – spectacular to watch)
Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm
The fire breaks in Dargle (as well as the ones that got away) have turned quite a bit of the valley an ugly black. But, finally we are starting to see new life appearing and some wonderful colours in amongst the ashes of the old.
Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm
On a cold overcast day, Pat said there were 5 crowned cranes, 2 adults with 3 youngsters, on lower part of farm. I grabbed my camera and off we went trying to find them. They saw us coming and flew off. For an hour we kept following them and eventually we decided to walk so as not to disturb them, but again before I could take a nice shot of them on the ground they flew off. Just managed a few pics of them flying.
Pat saw a starred robin. I decided to try photographing our Black sparrow hawks this month. They have been using the same nest for 3 years now. Pat had seen the female catching doves and also an egret, so we presumed there were youngsters to feed. The task was difficult as the light was not great. The nest is in a gum plantation. Its in the fork of a eucalyptus tree (gum) about 25 metres high. Hit pay dirt with my first shot – mom feeding a baby. The females are rapacious hunters and weigh about 1kg while the males are smaller and rufous coloured.
Dad seemed to spend a lot of time guarding the nest and one afternoon, while sitting beneath the tree, I saw him bending up and down as if feeding the youngster. Mom would sit in a tree nearby giving her “keeeu” call ending with a short “blip”. A few days later while taking pics, a 2nd youngster suddenly appeared.
Thereafter, they seemed to enjoy peering at me from above. On 26th July, while watching the 2 youngsters, now so grown up, first one flew off and then the other followed.
They shrieked with delight. This was the first time I had seen them fly, so not sure how old they would be. The nest is very deep, so this is why I never saw them when they were very young. Not sure when they start hunting for themselves. Will keep watching them to see what happens.
Comment from Dr Ian Little of EWT: Just a quick clarification on Pat and Sandra Merrick’s wonderful sightings. With the Black Sparrowhawks. The Male is not rufous coloured, they were in fact looking at one of the juveniles, the male is the same colour as the female but smaller. He delivers food to the female to take to the nest and hence is not often seen at the nest.
Pat saw reedbuck mating and one morning 2 male oribi running flat out down the hill in a chase.
I managed to get a few photos of the male reedbuck showing a lot of interest in a female, with her youngster standing close by, watching the action.
The reedbuck are now feeding off the green burn. One evening there was our magnificent male with 2 females and 2 youngsters, and another day, captured 7 in a pasture at sunset.
Lots of duiker (male) around, grazing during the day as well. Ian Little, EWT: I would like appeal to all conservancy members who have Oribi on their properties to submit their survey forms in September, the form can be found at https://www.ewt.org.za/TGSP/oribi.html Or by request from email@example.com
Early one morning saw a gymnogene jumping up and down in the long grass. He was stamping his prey but could not see what it was.
Broad leafed Coral tree before the frost arrived
Some lovely sunsets this month with all the smoke from burns.
Our redthroated wryneck is still living in the hollow fence pole. Black headed Oriel
Our pair of sugar gurneys just love the bottle brush tree. A few days ago while I was gardening, about 20 white eyes arrived in same tree. The gurneys did not like that and chased them away. They sing all day long. Lesser double-collared sunbird.
One evening in the middle of July, while my grandsons were here, the owls starting making a big commotion on the roof. Went on for an hour. We have not heard or seen them since, so I guess they were having a farewell party! I can now start cleaning the walls of our house! A pair of orange throated longclaws appear each morning.
Still a few sunbirds, chats, robins, olive thrush. The rock pigeons are nesting once again in the chimney. Long crested eagle and jackal buzzard still around. Heard the fish eagle. A martial eagle flew over the house one morning. I have a number of flowering boxes on my verandah, and this moth took advantage, feeding off the alyssum which is sweet smelling and seems to attract them.
Remember to check the Dargle Facebook page for local news: https://www.facebook.com/dargle.kzn