Tag Archives: african fish eagle

Boston Wildlife Sightings – November 2015

Rob Geldart of ‘Boston View’:

Rob took these pictures of Cape Longclaw chicks hatching.

Cape Longclaw chicks

Cape Longclaw chicks

He often sees Wattled and Blue Cranes in his potato fields. On one occasion Rob and one of his sons, Michael, counted nine Blue Cranes.

Rob Speirs of ‘The Rockeries’:

Robert reports hearing a Burchell’s Coucal calling in his garden for the first time ever.

Crystelle Wilson  of ‘Gramarye’:

For the first time I can remember I heard a Greater Honeyguide, Crested Barbet and Black Cuckoo calling in my garden. It is likely that the drought is influencing the behaviour and movements of birds and it should be interesting to keep an eye out for unusual sightings.

Black-headed Heron at the Elandshoek dam

Black-headed Heron at the Elandshoek dam

Dam levels dropping dramatically have in some cases resulted in making it easier to see birds normally sheltering in reeds or emergent vegetation. They now have to cross bigger expanses of mud moving between the water’s edge and the plants. A rare sight was at 09h45 one morning finding an African Snipe resting on the mud at the dam on Elandshoek.

African Snipe

African Snipe

A picture taken at the dam on The Drift shows the difference in sizes between a Black Crake and Common Moorhen, as well as the distinguishing colour combinations to help with identification. The crake has red legs with a yellow bill and is smaller, while the moorhen has yellow legs and a mostly red bill.

Black Crake and Common Moorhen

Black Crake and Common Moorhen

The tree on the little island in the middle of this dam continues to be well used by a variety of birds

CW 5

But one morning there was only one bird on the tree: a juvenile African Fish-Eagle!

Juvenile African Fish-Eagle

Juvenile African Fish-Eagle

Another juvenile raptor that made use of the fast-food potential offered by the Cape Weaver nests on this tree was an African Harrier-Hawk

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

Rising insects over the dam provided meals for Brown-throated Martins

Brown-throated Martin

Brown-throated Martin

And for the first of the Barn Swallows I saw this season.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

A Three-banded Plover gave an obliging view of the patterning on its back as it flew across the water.

Three-banded Plover

Three-banded Plover

The Great Egret put in another few appearances

Great Egret

Great Egret

The Egyptian Goose family is growing up fast, with the goslings reaching teenager status by the end of the month.

Egyptian Geese

Egyptian Geese

Atlas sightings for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Long-crested Eagle, Purple Heron, White-necked Raven, Forest Canary

Forest Canary

Forest Canary

Red-chested Cuckoo, Sombre Greenbul, Amethyst Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, White-rumped Swift, Barratt’s Warbler, Wailing Cisticola, Yellow Bishop,

Yellow Bishop

Yellow Bishop

African Snipe, South African Shelduck, Grey Heron, Steppe Buzzard, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Crested Barbet, African Wattled Lapwing, Black-winged Lapwing, Black Crake, Red-chested Flufftail, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, African Hoopoe,

African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe

Spectacled Weaver, Great Egret, White-throated Swallow, Spotted Eagle-owl, African Fish-eagle, Three-banded Plover, Cape Crow, Speckled Pigeon, African Darter, Giant Kingfisher, Red-billed Quelea, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Jackal Buzzard, Blue Crane, Barn Swallow, African Harrier-Hawk, Cape Longclaw, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Brown-throated Martin, Cape Weaver, Blacksmith Lapwing, Bokmakierie,



Helmeted Guineafowl, White-breasted Cormorant, Little Rush-warbler, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Grassbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Black-headed Heron, Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-headed Oriole, Common Fiscal, Red-collared Widowbird,

Red-collared Widowbird

Red-collared Widowbird

African Rail, African Spoonbill, Grey Crowned Crane, Reed Cormorant, Cattle Egret, African Sacred Ibis, Pied Crow, Hadeda, African Stonechat, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Wagtail, Diderick Cuckoo, Common Waxbill, Common Quail, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye, Village Weaver, Olive Thrush, Cape Batis, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Sparrow, African Paradise-flycatcher, Southern Boubou,

Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Robin-chat, Speckled Mousebird, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black Saw-wing, Greater Striped Swallow, Green Wood-hoopoe, Greater Honeyguide, Brimstone Canary.

Brimstone Canary

Brimstone Canary

Christeen Grant of ‘Sitamani’:

On the 3 November a fall of snow covered the Drakensberg. Although we didn’t have much rain, the first proper rain fell in the last week of November.

Snow on the Drakensberg mountains

Snow on the Drakensberg mountains

There have been some spectacular cloud effects in the mornings and evenings. Despite the dry conditions many different flower species bloomed, albeit in smaller numbers and size. Orchids have not yet appeared.

Spectacular cloud effects

Spectacular cloud effects

Some of the flower species seen were: Ajuga ophrydis, Aristea woodii, Berkheya macrocephala, Haemanthus humilis subsp hirsutus, Merwilla nervosa, Moraea inclinata, Papaver aculeatum, Silene bellidioides and burchellii, Striga bilabiata, Watsonia socium and Xysmalobium involucratum.

Ajuga ophrydis

Ajuga ophrydis

Xysmalobium involucratum

Xysmalobium involucratum

Watsonia socium

Watsonia socium

Striga bilabiata

Striga bilabiata

Silene burchellii

Silene burchellii

Silene bellidioides

Silene bellidioides

Papaver aculeatum

Papaver aculeatum

Moraea inclinata

Moraea inclinata

Merwilla nervosa

Merwilla nervosa

Haemanthus humilis subsp hirsutus

Haemanthus humilis subsp hirsutus

Berkheya macrocephala

Berkheya macrocephala

Aristea woodii

Aristea woodii

There have been some interesting moths about, Slug moth Family Limacodidae, Tri-coloured Tiger and Tussock or Gypsy moth Family Lymantriidae.

Slug moth, Family Limacodidae

Slug moth, Family Limacodidae

Tri-coloured Tiger

Tri-coloured Tiger

Tussock or Gypsy moth, Family Lymantriidae

Tussock or Gypsy moth, Family Lymantriidae

A lovely Praying Mantis sunned himself on the step. Striking red Millipedes forage busily and a spider ‘home’, funnel and web sparkled after light rain. The distinctive sound of the Bladder grasshoppers echoes at night, ‘gonion, gonion’, but I haven’t seen one yet.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

The Village Weavers, (identified by Stuart McLean), are still busy building nests on the Pin oak tree. Either the females are rejecting them or they are blown down by strong winds and lie scattered over the lawn amongst the ‘pruned’ leaves.



Black-backed Jackals yip and howl in the evenings. On several mornings I’ve seen the Common Duikers and once a male Bushbuck in the evening on my way home.

Spider home

Spider home

Boston Wildlife Sightings – January 2015

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

Sunsets have been spectacular if the storm clouds have moved off in time.

By Christeen Grant

One midday there was a stunning view of towering thunderstorms over the Southern Drakensberg. That’s the sort of cloud that has been dumping rain here, most afternoons / evenings. Moisture haze builds up quickly in the mornings.

By Christeen Grant

The predominant flower colour has been yellow, thousands of Berkeya setifera glow in the grass around the house.

By Christeen Grant

Brilliant blue patches of Agapanthus campanulatus shine on the rocky hillsides and one of our special flowers, Brunsvigia undulata started flowering a bit earlier this January.

By Christeen Grant

Agapanthus campanulatus

It is a Threatened (Rare) species and was CREW’s (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) flower of the month.

By Christeen Grant

Brunsvigia undulata

Two species of Gladiolus, Gladiolus ecklonii in two colour variations,

By Christeen Grant

Gladiolus ecklonii

and Gladiolus sericeovillosus, graced the grasslands.

By Christeen Grant

Gladiolus sericeovillosus

A myriad of ground orchids: Eulophia hians ( = clavicornis) nutans,

By Christeen Grant

Eulophia hians ( = clavicornis) nutans

Eulophia ovalis,

By Christeen Grant

Eulophia ovalis

Eulophia tenella,

By Christeen Grant

Eulophia tenella

Eulophia zeheriana,

By Christeen Grant

Eulophia zeheriana

Satyrium cristatum,

By Christeen Grant

Satyrium cristatum

Satyrium longicauda

By Christeen Grant

Satyrium longicauda

and one I had not seen here before, Orthochilus (formally Eulophia) welwitschii though I had to do some sleuth work as it had been severely munched by a bright green cricket (visible amongst the flowers).

By Christeen Grant

Orthochilus (Eulophia) welwitschii

This is what it could have looked like as depicted in Elsa Pooley’s ‘Mountain Flowers’ field guide.

Flower Orchid Orthochilus (Eulophia) welwitschii

Moreaea brevisyla, Tephrosia purpurea, Zaluzianskya microsiphon and Zornia capensis were a few of the other flowers seen during the month.

By Christeen Grant

Moreaea brevisyla

By Christeen Grant

Tephrosia purpurea

By Christeen Grant

Zaluzianskya microsiphon

By Christeen Grant

Zornia capensis

A Black-headed Oriole often sings a liquid call from the tops of trees.

By Christeen Grant

On an evening stroll I heard and spotted several Levaillant’s Cisticolas foraging in the Bracken,

By Christeen Grant

and early in the morning the shy Bokmakierie has joined the moth smorgasbord.

By Christeen Grant

Two of the moths, I think both Slug moths evaded hungry beaks.

By Christeen Grant

By Christeen Grant

A Stick Insect found it’s way onto a kitchen towel

By Christeen Grant

and a dainty Lacewing settled in a dark corner for the day.

By Christeen Grant

Last night as twilight faded a lovely rich chocolate brown adult male Bushbuck wandered through the garden, then on down the slope in front of the house towards the orchard, browsing as he went.

David Clulow: Two wildflower outings this month in Boston



The first a camera sortie by Barbara Clulow, Crystelle Wilson and David Clulow clambering around on “Edgeware” hillside – Gordon Pascoe’s portion – where the flowers had changed from a matter of a few weeks before; all quite different to most years at this time.

Epilobium capense

Epilobium capense

The carpets of Eriosemas are still wondering whether they should flower. But we did see two Eulophia which pleased us



and only one of the Pachycarpus/Xysmalobium type, when normaly there would be many.



The second outing was at “Stormy Hill”, home of Caroline McKerrow, whose riding school made way for a visit to the hillside,

Cycnium racemosum

Cycnium racemosum

together with CREW representatives to search for the uncommon Brunsvigia undulata – with its wavy leaves.

Brunsvigia undulata

Brunsvigia undulata

Happily there were 7 plants seen and photographed together with a wealth of other plants……………..









Paddy and Sue Carr – Netherby

Paddy and Sue reported a charming tale of an Egyptian chick rescue – having seen the brood on the road near their house, to find shortly after, one chick being taunted by the house cat in Paddy’s study, was alarming. Removing it, Paddy set off to find the parents – and there they were with the other chicks, taking swimming lessons. Calling the chicks away at the sight of the approaching Paddy, the parents made angrily in his direction. He placed the chick on the water and, hearing the parent’s frantic calls, the youngster was soon reunited with the family.

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

At the height of summer there is a great variety of grasses maturing in the veld.


I have no idea what their names are, but do enjoy the diversity of the plants.


By now most birds have completed their breeding and there are many juvenile birds flopping around, demanding to be fed and learning how to cope in the big wide world.

Nightjar chicks by Peter Geldart

Nightjar chicks by Peter Geldart

A new sighting this month was a pair of Banded Martins with their chick, I don’t often find them in the district.

Banded Martin

Banded Martin

A Spectacled Weaver at the Pickle Pot was new for me, and I saw a Dusky Indigobird for the first time in a long time.

Dusky Indigobird

Dusky Indigobird

Members of the BirdLife Port Natal bird club from Durban visited on 25 January, looking at wetland birds on Gramarye,


where a highlight was finding a Barn Owl at the river, and then going to the forest on Boston View where a Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher took the honours.


It was an enjoyable outing and was suitably rounded of by two African Fish-Eagles (an adult and juvenile) circling above Gramarye before the last visitors left.

African Fish-Eagle

African Fish-Eagle

This is the SABAB2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000:

Malachite Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher

Terrestrial Brownbul, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Banded Martin, Lanner Falcon, Neddicky, Willow Warbler, Cape Glossy Starling, Black Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Wryneck,

Banded Martin

Banded Martin

South African Shelduck, African Firefinch, White Stork, Common Quail, Green Wood-Hoopoe,

White Stork

White Stork

Amur Falcon, Southern Black Tit, Red-billed Quelea, Long-tailed Widowbird, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Barratt’s Warbler, Red-winged Starling, Yellow Bishop, Forest Canary,

Red-billed Quelea

Red-billed Quelea

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Wailing Cisticola, Sombre Greenbul, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Olive-Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, Blacksmith Lapwing, Thick-billed Weaver, Pied Starling, Common Moorhen, Helmeted Guineafowl, Red-capped Lark, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Hoopoe,

African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe

African Sacred Ibis, Barn Swallow, African Black Duck, Cape Grassbird, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Bokmakierie, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Canary, Grey Crowned Crane, Black Saw-wing, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Black-headed Oriole, Greater Striped Swallow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Cape White-eye, Pin-tailed Whydah, Brimstone Canary, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Amethyst Sunbird, Village Weaver,

Amethyst Sundbird

Amethyst Sundbird

African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Cape Crow, Giant Kingfisher, Zitting Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, Yellow-billed Kite, Jackal Buzzard, Spur-winged Goose, African Pipit, African Darter, Pied Kingfisher, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, African Rail, White-throated Swallow,

White-throated Swallows

White-throated Swallows

Brown-throated Martin, Cape Longclaw, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Cape Sparrow, Cattle Egret, Cape Robin-Chat, Red-chested Flufftail, Cape Weaver, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Speckled Mousebird, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Stonechat, Diderick Cuckoo, Little Rush-Warbler, Southern Red Bishop, Dark-capped Bulbul, Drakensberg Prinia, Alpine Swift, Horus Swift, African Black Swift, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Fiscal, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Burchell’s Coucal.

Common Waxbill

Common Waxbill

Boston Wildlife Sightings – August

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

We have had a very dry, mild to hot August, unusually for this time of year, almost wind free. That was until the last weekend, on the 29 August it was bitterly cold with snow flurries that didn’t settle, but the Drakensberg had a dusting, glimpsed between moving clouds; then wild wind for two days.

2014 08 29 Snow

Spring flowers have been sparse. There were fewer ragged Anemone fanninii flowers on our hillside and quickly ravaged by the wind, as were Apodiolirion buchananii. Ledebouria obvatifolia have flourished, bright purple spots of colour between the rocks.

Plant Ledebouria obvatifolia

Cyrtanthus tuckii bravely fly red flags.

Plant Cyrtanthus tuckii

Pale pink confetti of Dimorphotheca jucunda daisies shine on dry ground.

Plant Dimorphotheca jucunda

One hive of activity is the winter remains of Rocket in the vegetable garden. Bees, Cape Canaries and Striped Mice feast on the flowers and seeds.

Insect Bee

Mammal Striped Mouse

Bird Cape Canaries

The Leucosidea sericera and Halleria lucida flowers also still attracted many insects, Carpenter bees, Bees, Ants and Ladybirds.

Insect Ladybird on Ouhout

Cape White-eyes, Bulbuls, Cape Robin-Chats and Southern Boubous enjoy the bird bath. A Malachite Sunbird and Red-collared Widowbirds are in the process of growing their summer plumage. Amethyst Sunbirds busily gather cobwebs for new nests. The first Yellow-billed Kite of the season joined the Long-crested Eagles and Jackal Buzzards soaring overhead.

Black-backed Jackal call in the evenings. Common Reedbuck come close to the house to feed. Sadly we found an adult Serval lying dead, with no apparent cause on the driveway early on 21 August as we drove out before dawn. When we returned the next evening all evidence of it had gone.2014 08 Frost

Barry and Kirsten Cromhout – Highland Glen

Single Cape Vulture flying above; African (Ethiopian) Snipe in a ; Denham’s Bustard.

Rory and Sue Brighton – Elandsvlei

Pair of Fish-Eagles on the dam for the last month. What a lovely cry to hear first thing every morning.

Trevor Scheepers – Lapa Lapa

While visiting at “Four Gates” farm, saw a single Southern Ground Hornbill

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen

Pair of Common Reedbuck lying outside garden fence and watching activities

David and Wizz Lawrence – The Willows

Single Grey Duiker, seen often outside garden fence in field.

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Yellow-billed Kites are often regarded as the harbingers of spring when they return from overwintering in Africa north of the equator. I saw my first YBK on 26 July near Ashburton, Pietermaritzburg, when Boston was still very much in the grip of fierce frosts. Winter birding was still slow with low numbers, but it is easier to see forest birds with less foliage on the trees. I was pleased with finding a Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler Boston_9189_Yellow-throated-Woodland-Warbler

and Swee Waxbill at Norwood forest in the Boston pentad, as well as seeing some swifts making a return.


The list for pentad 2940_3000 were: Alpine Swift, Greater Striped Swallow, Rock Martin, Terrestrial Brownbul, Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Forest Canary,


Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Olive-Pigeon, Olive Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Apalis,

Boston_9154_Yellow-breasted-Apalis Swee Waxbill, Sombre Greenbul, African Firefinch, Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-fronted Canary, Little Swift, African Black Swift, Southern Boubou, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Red-throated Wryneck, African Harrier-Hawk,


Speckled Mousebird, Black-headed Oriole, Pied Crow, Black Sparrowhawk, Jackal Buzzard, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Moorhen, African Sacred Ibis, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, South African Shelduck, House Sparrow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Fiscal, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat,


Fan-tailed Widowbird, Hamerkop, Reed Cormorant, Cape Wagtail, Cape Crow, White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Glossy Starling, Long-crested Eagle, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron,

Boston_9317_Black-headed Heron

Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Cape Sparrow, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, Drakensberg Prinia, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Bokmakierie, Cape Longclaw, Red-necked Spurfowl, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, African Rail, Olive Thrush.

In the Elandshoek pentad I saw a Secretarybird between Kia Ora and Boston View and hope that they will breed this year in the area that Rob Geldart had pointed out to me.


The list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_300: African Harrier-Hawk, Red-throated Wryneck, Red-billed Quelea, Giant Kingfisher, Black-headed Oriole, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Black Tit,


Southern Red Bishop, Red-knobbed Coot, Black Sparrowhawk, African Pipit, Red-capped Lark, Fan-tailed Widowbird, White-breasted Cormorant, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Speckled Pigeon, Amethyst Sunbird, Wattled Crane, Sombre Greenbul, Cape White-eye, Cape Batis, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat, Bokmakierie, Malachite Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Three-banded Plover,


Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Reed Cormorant, Jackal Buzzard, Brown-throated Martin, Cape Wagtail, Common Fiscal, Cape Crow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Rail, Cape Longclaw, Speckled Mousebird, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck, Olive Thrush, Blacksmith Lapwing, Grey Crowned Crane, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Hadeda Ibis, Drakensberg Prinia, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Sacred Ibis, Red-necked Spurfowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Boubou.

David Clulow, while visiting Boston on 11 August:
Between 10 am and 11 am overlooking Melrose dam


African Fish-Eagle circling overhead; Egyptian Geese; Huge flock of flying yellow-billed Ducks; Spurwing Geese; lots of African Shelduck on water; Little Grebe; Reed Cormorant; Common Moorhen; White-breasted Cormorant; Blacksmith Lapwing; Sacred Ibis; African Stonechat; Common Fiscal; African Darter.

DSCF2643African Darter

On leaving the dam: Brown-throated Martin; Yellow-billed Kite; many Pied Crows; Cape Crows; Jackal Buzzard; Cape Turtle-Dove; Hadedah Ibis; and in garden at “The Willows”: many Village Weavers; Cape Sparrow; House Sparrow; Cape Weaver; Red-billed Quelea; in silage pit -Helmetted Guineafowl.

Driving by “Kampoko”:

Three Grey Crowned Cranes feeding near R617

DSCF2677Three Grey Crowned Cranes

Question for Bostonians and well-wishers of Impendle Nature Reserve:

What will the plans for Smithfield dam, downstream the uMkomaas river from the R617, in the old Deepdale valley; and the Impendle dam upstream from the R617 have as an impact on these two places?      

Boston Wildlife Sightings – July 2014

2014 07 19 Soft winter dawn

Photo of a wintery Boston morning by Christeen Grant

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers – Lapa Lapa
Two Glossy Starlings frozen to death after minus 9 in early morning; plenty of young Helmetted Guineafowl noticed; a Grey Long-tailed Mongoose hiding in a hole on Lapa Lapa.

Christeen Grant – Sitamani
July has been mixture of warm berg winds, a light dusting of snow followed by a hard frost that burnt off all the Greyia sutherlandii buds before they had really opened, misty days and some very chilly nights.

2014 07 06 Mist

Light snow fell here on 7 July, very damp and cold, the temperature didn’t go above 2C for three days.

2014 07 07 Snowing

A Speckled Pigeon fluffed herself over the eggs she was brooding in the garage, glaring at me with a very beady eye. Her brood of two have hatched since and excited cheeps erupt whenever the parents are near.

Bird Speckled Pigeon

Buddleja salviifolia scent fills the air, all the bushes are covered with blossom.

Plant Buddleja salviifolia

Bees fly busily around the inflorescences and I discovered a tiny greyish-green weevil with a black proboscis!

Plant Buddleja salviifolia with bee and weevil

Halleria lucida are also flowering profusely, an army of ants march up the stems to the flowers.

Plant Halleria Lucida

Leucosidea sericea have just started flowering, still with yellow winter leaves below.

Plant Leucosidea sericea flower

Plant Leucosidea sericea yellow leaves

Seedheads of Agapanthus campanulatus sub. sp. patens

Plant Agapanthus campanulatus subsp patens seedhead

and a Dierama sp. blend with the mellow winter landscape.

Plant Dierama seedheads

In amongst dry branches a ‘flowering’ lichen displayed vivid orange spore.


Birds continue to be very vocal and enthusiastic around the garden, Cape White-eyes, Cape Robin-Chats, Southern Boubous, Black-backed Puffbacks, Cardinal Woodpeckers tapping dead wood in the Buddlejas, Long-crested Eagles, Jackal Buzzards and our perennial Cape Sparrow family, that now have a double story nest in the protective thorny lemon tree, to accommodate their growing numbers. Nearby is a large round Ant nest.

Insect Ant nest

One early morning I watched a Black-backed Jackal pick it’s way over the burnt grass through the rocks.

2014 07 08 Winter landscape

A very dear little Climbing Mouse has taken up residence in the kitchen. The first sign it was around was a ‘litter’ of fine ostrich feather strands, from the feather duster, on the washing machine. Good nesting material. Then one morning there it was peeping at me as it balanced on the electric cord. Some mornings it sits in the spice rack as I make coffee. One day it was being very obvious, persistently making it’s self ‘be seen’, making tiny squeaks. Philip called from the other end of the house, “Come quickly, there’s a mouse in the bath. It can’t get out!”. We made a ladder of a towel, the Climbing Mouse hopped on and out of the bath, then we shepherded it out of the window. The mouse in the kitchen was still there when I returned, then disappeared after a beady stare.

Caroline McKerrow – Stormy Hill
Three Mountain Reedbuck, one male and two female, while out horse riding on Mount Shannon.

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen
Black-headed Heron in wetland near Elands river. Black-backed Jackal, closest to the house they have ever been

Barbara and David Clulow, visiting Boston:
Cape Crow, Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Geese, Spur-wing Geese, Red-knobbed Coot, African Shelduck.

Pete and Frances Nel – Four Gates
Two Southern Ground Hornbill, A pair of Blue Cranes

Des and Noreen Muller – Fairview
Numbers of Bald ibis in the old mealie felds on Netherby

Crystelle Wilson- Gramarye

In early July David and Barbara Clulow and I visited Tillietudlem Game and Trout Lodge to do a winter birding list for the SABAP2 atlas project. The pentad joins my home pentad at Boston on the western side. As expected in winter, birding was slow, but we were pleased to see a Secretarybird which staff member Wesley Dragt told us about. He said he hadn’t seen any nests, but that same evening he phoned to tell me he had found a nest with two birds in attendance, which is very good news.


We also enjoyed watching a pair of African Fish-Eagles flying against a hillside near the dam.We managed a list of 45 in about four hours of birding. At Boston I got 71 for my home pentad over a couple of days, one of which included freezing cold weather with snow dusting the hilltops while I photographed a Malachite Kingfisher


and a Reed Cormorant at the Elandshoek dam.


Tillietudlem Pentad 2935_2955: African Stonechat, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Speckled Mousebird, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Crow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Village Weaver, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-Dove, Common Fiscal, Cape Wagtail, Speckled Pigeon, Drakensberg Prinia, Buff-streaked Chat, Jackal Buzzard, South African Shelduck, Bokmakierie, African Pipit, Cape Longclaw, Little Grebe, African Fish-Eagle,


Southern Boubou, Egyptian Goose, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Batis, Cape White-eye, Secretarybird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Red-throated Wryneck, African Firefinch,


Cape Canary, Rock Martin, Cape Rock-Thrush, Yellow-fronted Canary, Common Waxbill, Spur-winged Goose, Grey Crowned Crane, Brown-throated Martin, Hadeda Ibis, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Robin-Chat, Pied Starling, Yellow Bishop, Southern Red Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird.

The SABAP2 list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Speckled Pigeon, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, White-breasted Cormorant, African Firefinch, Reed Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Pied Crow, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, Buff-streaked Chat, Green Wood-Hoopoe, African Harrier-Hawk,


Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Hoopoe, Spur-winged Goose, Black Sparrowhawk, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black-winged Lapwing, African Sacred Ibis, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Cape Glossy Starling, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Common Waxbill, Long-crested  Eagle, African Dusky Flycatcher, Brown-throated Martin, Jackal Buzzard,


Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Speckled Mousebird, African Olive-Pigeon, Hamerkop, Cape Weaver, Red-winged Starling, Dark-capped Bulbul, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Three-banded  Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing, Village Weaver, House Sparrow, Amethyst  Sunbird,   Cape Sparrow,  Cape  Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush, Cape White-eye,  Bokmakierie,  Red-necked Spurfowl,  African Rail, Red-knobbed Coot,  Little Grebe, Cape Longclaw,


Red-capped Lark, African Pipit,  Cape  Wagtail,    Helmeted Guineafowl, South African Shelduck, African Stonechat, Southern Red Bishop, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Crow, Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black-headed Oriole, Egyptian Goose, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Fiscal, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-Dove, Hadeda.



Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2014

Simon Hayes – Hambledon

A fish eagle has been visiting our dam lately, trying rather unsuccessfully to catch a fish.

fish eagle in flight


Maybe the otter in the dam puts him off!


Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury

We have had sleepless nights this past month with our 3 barn owlets learning to fly.

barn owlet

They have been flying onto our verandah, onto our window sills, causing the alarm to go off as much as 5 times a night. After the alarm went off one night and we saw the owl on the window sill, we also saw a natal red rock rabbit in the garden hopping around. Just may be the one that lived in my formal garden for 4 months as a baby and vanished in March. Things have quietened down this past week, so it looks like the owlets are now hunting on their own. There is still an adult barn owl in the chimney which the other 2 adults keep chasing.

The hamerkop came into the garden again on an overcast day.


We have dozens of sunbirds and most of them have lost their summer colours, so have found it difficult to identify. Greater collared sunbird

greater collared sunbird

Female malachite sunbird

female malachite sunbird

Also many common stonechats and buff streaked chats.  Common Stonechat

common stonechat

Some Female African Stonechats (saxicola torquatus) – Thanks to Hugh Bulcock for identifying them as well as the Yellow-throated Petronia.

little bird

Hundreds of seed eaters on the lawn every day. Up to 16 sacred ibis on dam every day and the odd spoonbill. Gurney sugarbird

guerney sugar bird

At the beginning of june our 2 adult blue crane arrived at the dam one afternoon and mournfully cried for about ten minutes and then flew off. A few hours later one blue crane arrived and he too also gave a few mournful cries and flew off. I can only guess that mom and dad were saying a sad farewell to their baby as I have not seen them since. I miss them but they will be back next season, I am sure. Cape White-eye

cape white eye

A redthroated wryneck living in corner post in our garden. A pair of shelduck, egyptian geese, spurwing geese, plovers. Black crested eagle, jackal buzzard. Heard the cry of the fish eagle several times during the month. Cape Robin

cape robin

a Secretary Bird arrived at last for a short while and then flew off

secretary bird

Yellow-throated Petronia (gymnoris superciliaris)

bird on bare branches

Malachite sunbird in eclipse

malachite sunbird in eclipse

Black sunbird – with its tongue out!

black sunbird tongue out

Common duiker

common duiker

One morning saw a Natal red duiker standing in the middle of the road just past Endebeni farm. I stopped the car, went for my camera but it ran back into the bush. I have never seen one here before but I checked out the website and it was definitely a red duiker. Dark auburn in colour, small head and smaller in size than the common duiker.

Lots of reedbuck on the hills and in the long grass around the house. The males have been chasing a female for a couple of weeks now. They came to blows one morning. Walked towards each other, face to face, eyeball to eyeball and then the fight began. Locked horns, pushing backwards and forwards.

reedbuck fighting

One of them went down and I wondered what would happen next but he got up, they looked at each other and calmly walked off.

male reedbuck after fight

We had fun with the trail camera. Captured as many as 100 photos in 2 nights with the trail camera we hired for the month (from the Dargle Conservancy). Well worth the R100. Pat changed the camera position about every 5 days.  Some very interesting photos of the owls with the owlets practising their jumping and flapping skills before learning to fly. They have been flying for the last 2 weeks.

barn owl practicing flying

We also saw many jackal in the bush. One running up the burn at 7am one morning.

jackal albury

male bush buck,

male bush buck



and lastly a beautiful caracal which is very special.


Many male and female reedbuck on our road to the house. Strangely no images of bush pig or female bush buck were captured.

Robin Barnsley – Sanctuary

Saw a Genet up the tree late one night when I arrived home. Also saw the one-horned Bushbuck that attacked Jenny Fly a few months ago.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Have seen the Vervet Monkey’s on the corner of our farm near Barret’s Country house on quite a few occasions. This morning I saw a Reedbuck take off up the hill when putting out salt lick for our cows.

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

At present this is the only colour, even with frost on it, along the riverbed

frosted orange fruit

Bugweed (Solanum mauritianum) or what is left of it after strong frost

frosted bugweed

Don’t know the name of this weed. It flowers, seeds and is frost resistant (all in one) and no animal eats it. Can anybody out there shed some light on it?

what is this weed

Here is the most hated flower by hikers and people walking in the veld – Blackjacks!

black jacks

These tiny little flowers are flowering now and have a very pleasant sweet scent

buddleja close up

Strawflowers are hanging in as well

straw flowers are hanging in

The frost got hold of these wild melons as well.

frosted wild melons

Images from the Trail Camera:  a Small Antelope






Porcupine and Jackal


Common Male Duiker


Nikki Brighton

I spent most of the month beside the seaside, so have nothing interesting to report for Dargle. If you are interested, you can see what I saw at the beach here: https://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/east-coast-abundance-figs-flowers-and-footprints/

Keep an eye on the Dargle Facebook page for local news. Video footage of the Barn Owls captured at the Merrick’s property will be posted soon. https://www.facebook.com/dargle.kzn


Late Summer Karkloof Sightings

MARCH 2012

Karkloof Conservation Centre

March was a wonderful month at the bird hides with the warm and sunny weather. The birds were active and people rarely left here disappointed. Some even fell in love with the pesky Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese. The crane sightings were abundant with a pair of Wattled Cranes hanging around the Loskop pan in the fields. There were also groups of 7 or 8 seen at the pan. There was a sighting of a Blue Crane in the fields behind the Loskop pan and flocks of about 42 – 47 Grey Crowned Cranes on Gartmore farm near Charlie’s dairy. The bird of the year 2012 is the African Fish-Eagle who vocalized their presence so beautifully. African Marsh-Harriers as well as Long-crested Eagles were also present.

We had a playground full of chicks in the water, swimming in a row or learning how to forage. These included Red-billed Teal, Little Grebes, Common Moorhen, and Yellow-billed Ducks – as well as the geese. There were also a family of Black Crakes who were frequenting the area in front of Gartmore hide.

Some of the special birds seen were the African Rail, the African Shelduck, White-backed Ducks, a good number of Diderick’s Cuckoo, and a Yellow-billed Egret. We again had visitors say they saw the Lesser moorhen. There were also about 19 Bald Ibis foraging in the fields of Loskop farm. We had good sightings of the Giant Kingfisher. The Pied Kingfishers were amusing little kids who enjoy seeing them dive for fish.

On the Loskop pan, a Reed Cormorant caught a nice big fish, as it swam to the edge of the pan, a Grey Heron flew and attacked it, causing the cormorant to drop its food. The heron did not, however, steal the fish from it. African Darters are seen more often on the 2 pans. Black-headed Herons have been abundant and were seen in flocks of 6-9. There were also a few juveniles in the mix. A Common Fiscal was attacked by a White-throated Swallow. Barn Swallows and Lesser Striped Swallows were also present. Common Reedbuck and Reed Frogs were also seen by visitors. Other sightings include: Red-knobbed Coots, White-faced Ducks, African Stonechat, Fork-tailed Drongo, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Pin-tailed Whydah’s, Common Waxbills, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Wagtail, Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Red-collared Widowbirds, Long-tailed Widowbirds, Cape Turtle Dove,   Speckled Pigeon, Cape Crow, Blacksmith Lapwings, Pied Crow, Southern Red Bishops and Guinea Fowl.

Karen Nelson

The bird ringing went well this month. The Barn Swallows (4) were welcomed the morning with a flying show which was a perfect start to the day. I managed to ring 100 birds with 27 of these being the Barn Swallows and 35 being Red-billed Quelea. We had some specials such as a Zitting Cisticola, Yellow-fronted Canary and a Lesser Swamp-Warbler. We had Cape and Village  Weavers, African Reed-Warblers, a Little Rush-Warbler, Bronze Mannikin’s, Southern Red Bishops, Fan-tailed Widowbirds and Levaillant’s Cisticolas. A juvenile African Paradise-Flycatcher (5) was also on the list. This is the first time I have seen one at the Conservation Centre and hasn’t been sighted by visitors in quite a long time.

Lynn Morphew

This photo of a Pied Kingfisher was taken at the hides earlier this week by guests of ours – Alan & Jenny Beadle from the U.K. They had a marvelous time watching this Kingfisher catch and eat it’s Sushi. We haven’t seen anything of any consequence on the farm for a while. The cranes will come back as soon as we have combined the maize which will be within the next month. I saw 7 Grey-crowned cranes fly over earlier this morning, heading towards the vleis on the top.

Charlie MacGillivray

Charlie has been informing us of regular sightings of about 2 – 7 Wattled Cranes on his farm and on Stuart Mackenzie’s pan (Loskop pan) in the early morning and late afternoon. On Sunday, the 11 March, he saw 8 Wattled Cranes on Stuart’s pan. Later that day he saw them fly overhead from the pan towards the other side of the road.

Postman Pat

This month I decided to fill the gap with some of my favourite pictures of the month!

John Robinson

Mark & Karen Crookes who farm down the hill from Benvie on the York Road have had regular sightings of 3 adult Ground Hornbills and a chick that have been around for ± 1.5 months.  This is good news as a     follow on from the sighting of the lonely Ground Hornbill last year. Mark and Karen have also had a Wattled Crane with a large chick hang around. At Benvie the birds have quietened down generally but the pair of Cape Parrots are back on a regular    basis, both morning and evening.  The Crookes’ also report seeing them down on their property but also only 2 which I presume are the same pair.  Saw a large Lynx while walking my German shepherd and she would not approach it and knew what was good for her.  Otherwise Bushbuck are often seen.


Karkloof Conservation Centre

The bird activity during February dropped a bit and visitors to the hides did not see much besides the few common birds that reside at the 2 pans. However, the lucky few got some excellent sightings. Patience   often pays off! There were many raptors in the sky, but mainly consisted of Yellow-billed Kites and African Marsh-Harriers. There were also quite a few Amur Falcons around which were flying over the pans and  sitting on the power lines. The Grey Crowned Cranes sightings were good, but there were very few sightings of Blue and Wattled Cranes. The pair of  crownies were spotted with 1 chick by a visitor at the Gartmore hide.


On the 8 February, 19 Bald Ibis were counted on the irrigation system next to Loskop pan. This flock were seen fairly regularly throughout the month. The ducks and geese are often very amusing if you see them when they are more active. This month, Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese, Red-billed Teal, Little Grebes, Red-knobbed Coots, White-faced Ducks and Yellow-billed Ducks were all seen. One visitor said that he saw a Lesser Moorhen on the Loskop pan on the 10 February. We have been   keeping our eye open for it, but have been unsuccessful in finding it. There have also been a good number of Common Moorhens around. The Pied Kingfisher is still seen hovering over the pans catching fish. The Malachite Kingfisher has also been spotted sitting on the vegetation next to the Gartmore pan.

The White-throated Swallows and Barn Swallows have increased in numbers with plenty of juveniles and chicks present. The male and female Pin-tailed Whydah’s were seen regularly, as well as Southern Red Bishops with half breeding plumage making them look very scruffy. They were also seen in full breeding plumage. The amount of Village Weavers have also increased and have been thoroughly enjoying Charlie’s maize. Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Long-tailed Widowbirds and African Stonechats were also a common  sighting.

Visitors always seem to enjoy seeing the Black Crakes who frequently forage right in front of the hide. A Yellow-billed Egret has also been seen at the pans. Lesley Page saw flocks of White Storks catching the thermals at different times (placing them at   different heights), which looked like a tornado of White Storks which was most impressive. The Diderick Cuckoo has been seen again which makes for a nice sighting.  Purple Herons, Black-headed Herons, Reed Cormorants and African Darters were also seen.

Britt Stubbs

Our resident pair of Blue Cranes and a pair of Crowned Cranes were seen. We noticed a lot of Yellow-billed Kites and Jackal Buzzards. Ren saw a Green-backed Heron down at the river as well as a large flock of White Storks roosting on a gum tree. We have a Dabchick with 4 ducklings on our dam.

Yvonne McCurrach – The Story of  “Slinky”  the Spotted Genet

During the middle of 2011 Theo and Margie Cave (my cousin who lives at Albert Falls Dam) rehabilitated a Spotted Genet who had been abandoned by its mother. Having been wild animal rescue fundies for many years we have enjoyed seeing the results of their T.L.C. on a variety of animals and were fascinated by ‘Slinky’  the Genet. Theo asked us if we would like him to bring her to Mbona when she was ready to be reintroduced to ‘The Wilds’.  We ran this past management and in due course Slinky was delivered in a cage which we were instructed to keep her in for about a week.  Brent Scott (our security manager at the time) offered to take over from us as we were about to go away for a few days.  As a qualified game ranger he was just the right chap to take her through the period when the cage was left open but food was still put down for her every day.  Well soon after that Slinky stopped visiting and we were happy that she had become a real wild gennet.

Some 6 weeks later Willemien Verwiel found a gennet warmly tucked under the duvet in her guest room !  Next on the programme our very sociable little gennet decided to pay us a visit early one evening and    enjoyed herself chasing moths on our verandah.  She was also spotted by visitors to H 5 and by Margaret and Jacko Jackson and then to our absolute delight she arrived on the scene last week with a baby and pays regular visits in the early evenings.  Just this week she arrived on the scene and kept our 6 dinner   visitors entertained for a good 15 minutes.

We were so thrilled to get the above photo of her sitting in the basket on Ronnie Ritchie’s verandah.   Needless to say we are convinced that our dear little visitor is Slinky and that she is doing the rounds  visiting shareholders at Mbona. She obviously enjoys her home comforts and will come into the house, given half a chance,  but that is not to be encouraged as they are not the sweetest smelling creatures and we hate to think of the results if anyone went away for a few days and Slinky was locked inside their home ?  In the hope that Slinky will pay many Mbona residents a visit and will mind her manners on your verandahs.

John Robinson

Our pair of Cape Parrots have shown up again after not being around for a month or so.  Good numbers of Tambourine Doves are calling in the early morning and I saw a pair of Green Twinspots feeding in the road through the indigenous forest going from Benvie to the Howick/Rietvlei Road intersection this morning. The Amur Falcons can be seen on the power lines along the Karkloof Road near the Conservation Centre and also hawking insects over Stuart McKenzie’s pastures.

Pat Cahill – We’re not just about birds

As a photographer, I was delighted (like the glow worm who had her tail cut off!) when the Karkloof     Conservation Centre bird hides opened.  This is an ideal site to photograph birds, particularly such       beautiful species as the cranes.  Most visitors tend to associate the Karkloof Conservation area with cranes, and I have heard some express their disappointment when they haven’t seen any.  Unfortunately we can’t guarantee what birds visitors are going to see, we provide a protected area with conditions which should attract birds and most of the time there is a fair selection of water birds, waders and sundry smaller birds.  We provide well fitted hides where one can watch the birds in comfort and enjoy a picnic or braai next to the office.  What you see depends on unpredictable factors such as the weather, food availability and a host of other matters.

My time as a volunteer in Umgeni Valley introduced me to the insect world where there are also some beautiful smaller creatures.  If there are no birds to be seen, try looking at some of the insects – they form a very important part of Nature.  Without them, the insectivorous birds would starve and with them the raptors, pollination by insects provides seeds for the seed eaters.  I’m always surprised by gardeners who love butterflies but hate caterpillars!  The old saying about “Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em,  Little fleas have lesser fleas, And so ad infinitum!”  is a very poetic way of summarising the Food Chain in the environment.  I enjoy watching birds, but not to the exclusion of other creatures.  Dragon- and Damselflies are sometimes more colourful than butterflies and I have attached some pictures below taken during birdless visits to the Karkloof.  They are equipped with large eyes amazing manoeuvrability (2 pairs of wings) and their legs have a row of bristles so that they can lock around an insect.  Damselflies seem to spend most of their time waiting for their prey to arrive whilst Dragonflies are very active hunters patrolling their territory on regular flights. Try watching them for a while next time there aren’t any birds around!

Charlie MacGillivray

Charlie informed us that there was a flock of about 28 Grey Crowned Cranes that were hanging around on his fields regularly. He has also had sightings of Wattled Cranes near his dairy.

Karin Nelson

On Saturday, 18 February, Karin Nelson was leaving the Karkloof Country Club, after the Birdlife KZN      Midlands AGM, and saw a Forest Buzzard dive-bombing a Crowned Eagle which was sitting on a pylon along the way to the Karkloof Road. This is a wonderful sighting of these 2 raptors.


Karkloof Conservation Centre

There were many Common Reedbuck seen drinking at both the pans. These sightings included juveniles who were accompanied by both parents. A terrapin was seen on its usual rock at the Gartmore hide. The Crane sightings were average with about 2-6 Grey-crowned Cranes seen on the 7,8,12,14,16,20. The Wattled Cranes were scarce with a sighting of 2 on the 8th. There were plenty of White Storks seen on the fields at Loskop hide, but not as many as in January 2011. There were also sightings of Cattle Egrets and Sacred Ibis. Marsh Harriers, Long-crested Eagles and Jackal Buzzards were in their usual   abundance. There were also sightings of Steppe Buzzards.  Yellow-crowned Bishops were seen during this month again. There were also    interesting sightings of Brimstone Canaries which have not been seen in a while. Barn Swallows and White-throated Swallows were dominating the perches at the hides and there were fun sightings of the parents feeding their young.The Malachite, Brown-hooded and Pied Kingfishers were all seen this month.  Many visitors saw the Hammerkop flying, the shy Black Crakes, an African Jacana, many Black-headed herons, Purple Herons and Reed Cormorants. An African Darter was also on this months checklist.

Little Grebes, Southern Pochards, Red-billed Teal, White-faced Duck, Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese, Yellow-billed Ducks, Common Moorhen and Red-knobbed Coots were all seen swimming in the 2 pans. An African Black Duck was also seen.

Common Birds seen: African Reed-Warbler; African Stonechat; Southern Red Bishop; Pin-tailed Whydah; Cape Wagtail; Red-collared Widowbird; Fan-tailed Widowbird; Long-tailed Widowbird; Levaillant’s Cisticola; Fork-tailed Drongo; Common Fiscal; Village Weaver; Blacksmith Lapwing; and Common Waxbills.

Global Skimmer / Wandering GliderPantala flavescens

There are many different types of species from the order Odonata at the Conservation Centre. This dragonfly is quite interesting and I found the   following information from Wikipedia about it:  As its name suggests, the Globe Skimmer has a very wide distribution area, between about the 40th parallels of latitude or within the 20 °C   isotherm (areas of the world where the annual mean temperature is above 20°C). Observations suggest that they migrate from India to Africa across the Arabian Sea. It is the highest-flying dragonfly, recorded at 6,200 m in the Himalayas..It was also the first dragonfly species that settled on Bikini Atoll after the nuclear tests there.


Many years ago I attended the annual air show at Virginia in Durban North and was very surprised to hear the commentator, who must have been an SAAF Officer unused to speaking to crowds announce that “we will now see the Hercules transport plane demonstrate how it can fly backwards”.  The plane on show then proceeded to taxi backwards which it then did for a short distance with its propeller pitch reversed.  I can’t imagine anything other than a helicopter or VTOL aircraft being able to actually fly in reverse and even the latter would be limited to descent and not horizontal flight.

I have however seen a bird flying backwards!  A few years ago, I was in the Gartmore hide, and watched a male Pin-tailed Whydah in his best courting plumage with a tail at least twice his body length fly directly into a howling gale from Charlie’s maize to one of the trees where he sat for several     minutes.  I started wondering how he would cope with his tail if the wind were blowing from behind him.  He    answered my unspoken question by taking off facing into the wind and flying at a slightly slower speed and        allowing it to carry him backwards!  I consider male Pin-tailed Whydahs interesting birds – for most of the year they are cross dressers, being indistinguishable from the females, but come the breeding season they throw out their drab unisex plumage, and invest in a brand new set of black and white feathers with a bright red beak.  Their black tail    feathers grow to about three times their body length and they become extremely bossy, interfering in the lives of all their family and other birds.  They also have a strange way of hovering as if they were hanging in mid-air with their wings folded against their body.  The little fellow on the right may have been trying to impress a young female, or to chase off another male who couldn’t afford any courting clothes!

I was busy photographing these Southern Bald Ibises.  This picture was taken from the road and I moved up to the fence to get closer.  I was steadying my camera on a fence post when I accidentally touched the wire, forgetting that it was electrified.  My close up picture was a write off as I used some words to which the birds obviously objected as they took off rapidly!!  I haven’t seen Bald Ibises for some time, so it’s nice to have them around again.

Charlie MacGillivray

One fine day, Charlie was visiting us at the office and he bumped into the strangest creature. He managed to identify it as the Greater-bearded Panga-wielding Posthumous Pat. This is a common sighting at the Centre and both the bird hides.

Peter, updated us regularly on the fact that there were a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes who seemed to have chicks with them. This was later confirmed by Heidi and Xanthe of the        Wildlands Conservation Trust who saw them along the fence on their way to Bushwillow Park during the 3 Cranes Challenge preparation

Karin Nelson

Bird ringing at the Karkloof Conservation Centre bird hide got off to a great start in Jan 2012. 87 birds were caught, of which 10 were retraps.15 different species. The most prevalent birds were Red-billed Quelea, Southern Red Bishop and African Reed-warblers. Some of the other species were Village   Weavers, Cape Wagtail, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Common WaxbillMalachite Kingfishers, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Drakensberg Prinia, Amethyst Sunbird and African Stonechat.

The ‘catch’ of the day were 2 breeding male Red-headed Quelea. Fairly uncommon, unlike the  Red-billed Quelea. These were the first breeding males I have seen in 2 years of ringing at Gartmore Farm. What’s also great at this time of year are the juvenile birds! I watched an adult Southern Black Flycatcher feeding a fledgling along the roadside. Interesting thing about the Black Flycatcher is that it is often found in close proximity to the similar looking, but larger and more aggressive, Fork-tailed Drongo. They apparently chose to ‘hang-out’ near the drongo as a protective mechanism, in that  potential predators may confuse them with the aggressive drongo and leave them alone.

Mbona Enterprises

On 4th January 2012 Richard Booth from Mbona saw an Osprey over Pateric and Crested Guineafowl with chicks in Holbeck forest. The Antrobus’ from Mbona let us know about a leopard they saw crossing the tar road to Howick between the dam at Waterford and Caroline Gemmell’s (Harrow Hill) entrance whilst driving to golf in the morning. They said that there was a runner just beyond who would have bumped into this beautiful creature had she been 5 minutes earlier. There have been leopard spoor  spotted at the nearby SAPPI plantation as well as a sighting of a leopard taking down a Wildebeest at Kwawula Estate within the last 6 months. This is a wonderful sighting and we hope to have more of them.

Carolyn Goble

Zoe Goble (my grandchild) spotted 3 Wattled Cranes in the grasslands below their house this morning – Sunday 15th Jan – 2 adults and their fairly grown up chick. I think that the chick had rings on it but it was a bit far to see colour. Looked like white rings. I thought that she had seen white storks but on looking with the bino’s I saw that her sightings were correct!

Boston Wildlife January 2012

Boston View Cottages

The flowers were prolific in the grasslands. A few samples: Pachycarpus grandiflorus, Periglossum angustiflorum, Satyrium cristatum – red splashes on inflorescence.

Paddy and Sue Carr on Netherby

Five Blue Cranes near the Amanzimnyama river; one Half-collared Kingfisher at upper dam near to farmhouse

Terry and Basil Cuthbert of Jaluka Estates

a Hamerkop at our dam 2 x Secretary Birds (second sighting) in the land behind our house 4 x Night Adders (one of which was very large). Unusual here as – for the past nine years – we’ve only ever seen Rinkals and never Night Adders before.

Ian and Jenny Lawrence of Endeavour

A Thick-billed Weaver

Barbara and David Clulow of The Willows

This rain-sodden Pippistrellus capensis bat gave me a bit of a surprise when I returned home on New Year’s Eve, put my hand down to lift the gate latch, and felt something furry. Next morning he/she had discovered his/her/my error and was gone, off to enjoy 2012.

Jan 2 – Spotted Eagle-Owls calling at night; lesser Striped Swallows are active once again.

Jan 4 – overhead The Willows at midday; suggested to be a sub-adult African Fish-Eagle.

Jan 4 – Group of 16 Gladiolus dalenii on stream bank on “The Drift”

“The photo is of a ‘Common Water Scorpion’ (Laccotrephes sp.) – despite the name it is not a scorpion but a bug (Hemiptera) of the family Nepidae. Not uncommon but usually in water with the long posterior siphon sticking out of the water like a snorkel. They do fly around, usually at night, to find new ponds. They are predators and feed on a variety of things including tadpoles. Your second photo  is an antlion (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) of the genus Palpares. This group have been called ‘veld antlions’ as they fly actively in grasslands. They are often hard to photograph as they fly off when you get too near”  -ID’s and comments kindly by Dr JGH Londt

Jan 13 – Grey Crowned Crane on a nest at The Drift dam – not easily seen -well done Crystelle Wilson for spotting it. It’s Sunbird time again and this Amethyst found plenty of honey in the Agapanthus. Pity not to have managed a photo of the greyish, flecked-fronted, female, but she was far more wary and flew speedily away every time.

Jan 18 – in the half dark of evening at the Elands river, two Duikers sported on the level ground, chasing about frantically, running from side to side:

January 28 – three Grey Crowned Crane chicks hatched out at the dam, seen several times

Neil and Gail Baxter on “Mosgate”:

First clutch of Helmeted Guineafowl chicks seen on 7th January

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers on “Lapa Lapa”

Another sighting of the Monitor Lizard at the dam. Then a few days later the nGuni cattle were seen chasing across the field, in hot pursuit of the Monitor Lizard, which sought refuge in the dam.

Clutch of Yellow-billed Ducks eggs destroyed at the dam by a predator, but one of the eggs was rescued and put under a domestic Goose and hatched out – but stand-in parent and babe did not speak the same language and Goose soon lost interest. The eggs from Helmeted Guineafowl also hatched by Silky hen and three babies doing fine.

Ivanhoe farm CREW Outing on 18 January:

A combined Wildflower/ Birding Outing, which was successful in every respect – Birding totalled 74 species for the Pentad. From the Wildflowers’ point of view, three future protected Wildflower enclosures were earmarked for the future – One hillside; one wetland; one grassland strip. A visit to the Indigenous forest presented a spectacular view.

Philip and Christeen Grant of Sitamani

Bokmakerie which has taken up residence in the garden area, a pair of Barn Swallows passing through and a flock of Glossy Starlings around temporarily at the moment. Many fledglings, Cape Robin Chat, Groundscraper Thrush, Olive Thrush and Speckled Pigeons.

Seen a very dark-coloured Caracal on several evenings. Reedbuck and Duiker continue to be seen close to the house.

A stunning array of wildflowers; for me a new one for Sitamani, Tritonia disticha. As is one of a Hadeda Ibis, a pair often on the roof of the garage in the mornings.

Crystelle Wilson on Gramarye

It could have been the story of the lion lying down next to the lamb, except the role players were a silver Black-backed Jackal and a Grey Duiker. At sunrise I was watching a flock of 34 Grey-crowned Cranes and some Spur-winged Geese in a ploughed field on Netherby across the river when I noticed the little duiker emerging from the adjacent rye. Almost simultaneously the jackal also entered the field from the river vegetation on the opposite side. From the hillock where I was standing I could see their paths were diagonally parallel, several metres apart. But then the jackal lifted its head, sniffed the air and turned towards the duiker. “Here comes big trouble,” I thought. I know the rule about letting nature take its course, and that baby jackals also need feeding, but I did briefly consider creating a diversion to avoid witnessing bloodshed. Then the duiker spotted the jackal and to my total astonishment ran towards it! And for the next 10 minutes or so the two appeared to be playing, taking turns to chase each other with the cranes and geese as bemused onlookers. Eventually the jackal trotted off into the rye and the duiker continued grazing on the edge of the field before it too disappeared into the rye.

Summer is a busy time for birding. Breeding is in full swing and everywhere one can hear the calls of territorial males or of cuckoos diverting host males so the females can sneak in to nests to lay their eggs. In the garden hungry baby birds beg for food and parents scurry around to keep the supply going. Birdlists for the pentads are also much longer, as is this one for Elandshoek 2935_3000:

Cape Turtle Dove, Helmeted Guineafowl, Barn Owl, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Giant Kingfisher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Dark-capped Bulbul, Bokmakierie, Little Rush-Warbler, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Stonechat, Common Quail, Cattle Egret, Red-chested Flufftail, Black Saw-wing, Drakensberg Prinia, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck, African Rail, Egyptian Goose, Red-collared Widowbird, African Reed-Warbler, Cape Crow, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Spur-winged Goose, Brown-throated Martin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Diderick Cuckoo, Cape Grassbird, Barn Swallow, Cape Robin-Chat, Greater Striped-Swallow, Cape White-eye, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-fronted Canary, Grey Crowned Crane, African Sacred Ibis, Orange-breasted Waxbill, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Amethyst Sunbird, Common Fiscal, Cape Sparrow, Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-billed Kite, Village Weaver, Red-billed Quelea, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, African Firefinch, African Harrier-Hawk, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Cape Weaver, Common Moorhen, Cape Longclaw, Green Wood-hoopoe, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Black Sparrowhawk, Black-shouldered Kite, Amur Falcon, Common Waxbill, Neddicky, African Olive-Pigeon, Hamerkop, Southern Boubou, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Speckled Pigeon, Red-chested Cuckoo, Forest Canary, Sombre Greenbul, Black Cuckoo, Speckled Mousebird, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Long-tailed Widowbird, Wattled Crane, White-throated Swallow, Horus Swift, Common Swift, Yellow Bishop, Buff-streaked Chat,  Little Grebe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Blue Crane, House Sparrow, Olive Thrush, Barratt’s Warbler, Yellow Bishop, Yellow-crowned Bishop, African Purple Swamphen, Wood Sandpiper, Grey Crowned Crane on nest at “Virginia”, Grey Crowned Crane on nest at “The Drift”

Mike and Carol Fynn on Tillietudlem

A sighting I had yesterday of 11 Blue Swallow on the farm. Another interesting find last week was a dead Serval that had obviously been killed in a fight – probably either another Serval or a Caracal. Young Blue Wildebeest abound, with 40 at the last count. Unfortunately the young of the Blesbok, fallow and Mountain Reedbuck are again being hammered by predators – Jackal and Caracal – we will certainly have to take action before next season.

Regular sightings of resident Blue Crane, Secretary birds, Marshall Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle – surprisingly very few Amur Falcon this year.

The Boston sightings are compiled by David Clulow, a member of the Lions Club of Pietermaritzburg (Host), and has been approved by that Club as an official conservation project of the Club.