Tag Archives: african spoonbill

Dargle Wildlife Sightings November 2014

Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

The Dargle Conservancy Camera Trap captured some amazing videos on Wana Farm recently including a Vervet Monkey troop, Porcupine, Duiker, Genet, Mongoose and more. To view them go to the Dargle Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dargle.kzn 

genet camera trap

Nikki Brighton  – Old Kilgobbin

River banks are a picture at the moment with masses of Ranunculus multifidus in flower. One of the Zulu names of this pretty little plant gives us a clue about where it likes to grow. Xhaphozi is the word for wetland.

r ranunculus

Despite repeated attempts to Porcupine proof my fence, I often wake to the crunch, crunch of a bulb feast outside my window. I have no crocosmia or arums left and he has also munched on the roots of Dietes bucheriana and a few Tulbaghia. I snapped this pic as he was destroying the very last clump of arums. Oh well, everything will grow again and porcupines can’t really pop into Woolies.

r porcupine

We’ve had lots of truly beautiful days this month, perfect for long walks in the hills before the grass gets too long. One afternoon a seriously spotty Serval bounded past me with her stripey tail flying. Terribly exciting. This is one of my favourite views of Inhlosane – with an enormous Yellowwood tree on the edge of a forest patch in the foreground.r yellowwod and inhlosane

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A cow died on the farm and the Cape Vultures came to visit.

cape vultures

A little while ago we had a family of four Reedbuck grazing next to our shed.

Reedbuck 2

Egyptian Goose family

Egyptian Goose Family



Spurwinged Goose

Spurwing Goose

We had some big rains with more hail this month.

Hail 2

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

It has been a month of cold drizzly grey days and towards the latter part, severe thunder storms bringing hail. Four pied starlings arrived one cold drizzly morning. A cape robin also decided this was a great day for a swim.

cape robin having a dip in our rock pool

A very wet bedraggled cape robin

We picked buckets of mushrooms and huge i’kowes. Driving home on the D18 one afternoon came across a kilometre of flying ants and a jackal buzzard chomping his way through hundreds on the road. Their wings were not fully grown. One very windy morning watched a jackal buzzard flying low over our pond for a few minutes. He eventually plunged in and came up with a frog and flew off with it.

At 6.20pm on 13th November, nine crowned crane arrived at our dam. The light was not good enough for a photo. Two wagtail babies born in our jasmine creeper. I wondered if these would survive with the cold weather.

2 day old wagtails singing Wish you a Happy Xmas

I took a photo this morning – 3 weeks old – they have survived through heavy rain, hail and cold weather.

our wagtails now 2 weeks

One warm morning I almost stood on a green natal bush snake sunning itself on the steps. The porpupine have been getting in under our bonnox fence and have eaten 2 tree ferns and an azalea, which are supposedly poisonous to animals. Our wryneck eventually found a partner and they are nesting in the hollow pole down our driveway. One morning as I drove into our garden a steppe buzzard flew in front of the car with a snake wriggling in its claws. It was half metre – black and silver. Another day a grey heron flew past me with a rat.

Our blue cranes are nesting on neighbouring farm. The male flies over our house almost daily, and craaks loudly and goes and wades in the dam. One morning mom joined him, had a few words and then flew off again. I wonder what she told him, as shortly afterward he flew off in the same direction she had gone.

The blue cranes after another storm

The cape canary has a nest in my standard rose, with 4 eggs. There are at least 3 steppe buzzards on the farm this year. The gymnogene was hunting in the rocks early one morning in front of the house. Our barn owls are back and nesting in the chimney now, as we closed up the cavity where they were nesting before on top of the verandah. The swallows are nesting in 3 different places around the house – one on top of the glass light shade on the verandah. The sparrows have nests in the gutters. The rock pigeons are nesting in another chimney. A male red bishop has joined a flock of red collared widow birds that live on our lawn.

This southern red bishop male has joined the group of red collared widow birds.  The one on the far left looks like a transitional male southern red bishop

Heard red chested cuckoo near the house today. Also heard the fish eagle on several occasions and Orange throated Longclaw.

Orange throated longclaw

Drinking a cup of tea after lunch one Saturday two weeks ago, I was looking out the kitchen window when I saw a frog hopping slowly across the lawn. Alarm bells rang and I started searching for the snake. 5 metres away was a night adder, but instead of chasing the frog it was heading in the opposite direction. I couldn’t understand this until I saw another night adder sliding out of my shrubbery. They slowly slid towards each other and I was not sure what was going to happen. I grabbed my camera, shouted to my husband who was having a nap, jumped on top of the kitchen counter and started to take pictures.

The first time they twisted their tails together

They slowly entwined around each other for about a minute and then joined their tails and lay still for a short while, then the sliding around each other started again and they encircled their tails for a second time. This all took about 2 minutes. They slowly disengaged themselves and went their separate ways. I presumed that they had been mating. Although this was very exciting to observe, I am terrified of snakes and don’t do much gardening at the moment.

They disentwined after about 2 minutes and went their separate ways

The jackals ate half a calf as mother was trying to give birth one night. It was a large calf and Pat had to pull it out next morning. The mother was very traumatised and could not stand. We injected her, fed her, all to no avail, so had to put her down I’m afraid.

Lots of flowers about including Morea inclinata

Moraea inclinata

I think this is a type of jasmine. (ed’s note: Rhodohypoxis baurii I think)I think this is a type of Jasminum

Pat McKrill comments: Looks like the Merricks have more fun than a barrel full of monkeys! The night adder pics are great, please tell Sandra that there’s no need to worry about gardening, as she’s already seen, the snakes have other things to do in the garden at this time of the year – attacking gardeners is not on the schedule. The resultant kids (probably about a dozen) from the two minutes of eye-watering ecstasy will move on when they hatch, like will-o-the-wisps. The only things that might need to worry would be the frogs.

David Crookes  – Copperleigh Farm Sunset over Mavela Dam, Inhlosane on the left.

sunset mavela dam

Boston Wildlife Sightings for September

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Lovely sighting of Cape Batis


A surprise sighting in September was a Great Egret from a distance at a small farm dam in Boston. I haven’t encountered this species during the past seven years of atlasing in the area and the data showed only three previous records for the bird.


Another bird which has been somewhat scarce was Bronze Mannikin and it was good to welcome back Dark-capped Warblers from their coastal winter sojourn. On Melrose I counted about 80 Grey Crowned Cranes in a floater flock, which hints at a good breeding season.

IMG_0594_Grey Crowned Crane

At Tillietudlem I had a great view of a Black Crake exercising its balancing skills


and on the way home saw a buck which might have been an Oribi in the plantations on Good Hope.


It was amusing to watch a Cape Sparrow doing “shadow boxing” in a window at home. This occurs when a bird defends its territory by fighting its own reflection. A student, Joel Roerig, is doing research into this phenomenon and would like people to record their observations on his website: http://shadowboxingbirds.wordpress.com/ Please make a note of the bird, type of reflective surface and if possible the GPS co-ordinates.


The SABAP2 list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Wattled Crane, African Hoopoe, Giant Kingfisher, African Black Duck, Alpine Swift, Pied Crow, Cape Glossy Starling, African Fish-Eagle, Forest Canary, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Great Egret, Three-banded Plover, Buff-streaked Chat, Jackal Buzzard, African Black Swift, Common Waxbill, House Sparrow, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Canary, Hamerkop, Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Bronze Mannikin, Cape Weaver, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Brown-throated Martin, Little Grebe, African Darter, Red necked Spurfowl,


Southern Red Bishop, Cape Longclaw, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Batis, African Harrier-Hawk, Cape Crow, Black-headed Heron, Bokmakierie, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-knobbed Coot, Fork-tailed Drongo, Yellow-billed Duck, Black-headed Oriole, Reed Cormorant, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-billed Quelea, Cape White-eye, Yellow-billed Kite, Yellow-fronted Canary, Helmeted Guineafowl, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Wagtail, White-throated Swallow, Long-crested Eagle, Drakensberg Prinia,


Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Rail, Black Saw-wing, African Sacred Ibis, African Stonechat, African Spoonbill,


Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose,


Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Fiscal, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Hadeda Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Village Weaver.

Rory and Sue Brighton – Elandsvlei

Mother Otter amd 4 young gambolling for the delight of guests at the dam; two resident Bushbuck at edge of dam; two resident African Fish-Eagles put on display of flying above dam and calling for half an hour – they ignored the attempts by Cape Crows to dive-bomb them; also Yellow-billed Ducks on dam; Cape Wagtails on lawn at edge of dam

David and Barbara Clulow during visit to Boston – on 5 September, saw Floater Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes at midday and again at 16H08 on pastures on Melrose farm, not far from farmhouse. Impossible to count accurately, but estimated at between 70 and 80 birds. Visit to Melrose dam: African Shelduck; Egyptian Geese; Spur-winged Geese; Darter; Reed Cormorant; African Stonechat; Red-knobbed Coot; Little Grebe.

Other reports – of a pair of Wattled Cranes seen by Wendy Arnott in Boston View region; two Southern Ground Hornbills seen by Wendy Arnott on Keswick; Blue Cranes heard by Crystelle Wilson north of Elvesida and Grey Crowned Cranes spotted in flight.

David and Wizz Lawrence – The Willows – huge flocks of Village Weavers at the feeder.

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

September continued to be very dry. After several promising clouds, misty days and dry thunderstorms eventually in the last few days of September we eventually had about 17mm of rain.

04 Morning mist

Fires glowing on the horizon, SAPPI and Mondi fire-fighting units on visible standby, created a taut atmosphere.

05 Promise of rain (1)

Spring flowers continued to be sparse and stunted. Moraeas are starting to produce buds and greening started almost as soon as the rain fell. Agapanthus africanus is flowering more profusely than usual damper years, the conditions must suit it better. The small patch of Helicrysum caespititium have flowered, though the mat forming plants are reduced in circumference.

Plant Helicrysum caespititium

Moths are starting to appear.

Insect Moth

I love the colour of the Red-lined Emerald Heterorachis devocata.

Insect Moth Red-lined Emerald Heterorachis devocata

A bright green flashing glow in a dark corner, turned out to be a female Glow worm. Family: Lampyridae, Genus: Luciola They have no wings or eltrya. Please excuse the grainy photo, I didn’t want to use a flash, as that would have wiped out the neon green ‘glow’!

Insect Female Glow worm

Cape White-eyes, Bulbuls, Cape Robin-Chats, Cape Sparrows, Cape Canaries, Fork-tailed Drongos,

Boston_0542_Fork-tailed Drongo

Sunbirds: Southern Collared, Amythest and a Malachite, which was still growing summer plummage and Southern Boubous were very vocal and visible around the house.  Red-collared Widowbirds are still in the process of growing their summer plumage. Long-crested Eagles, Jackal Buzzards and Black-shouldered Kites soar overhead. The Striped Swallows are back, first seen on the 29 September, swooping low with their familiar treep-treep calls. The special this month was a sighting of the Black-backed Puffback displaying its snowy white ‘puff’. He wasn’t really interested in a photo shoot, moving constantly through the branches.

Bird Black-backed Puffback 03

Pom-pom Puffback



rap style

courtship dance…

July 2005

Bird Black-backed Puffback 02

Black-backed Jackal call in the evenings. Common Reedbuck come close to the house to feed, a lovely sighting of a mature male sauntering along the fence. Duikers have completely pruned all the leaves off violets in the flower bed next to the house. The little Climbing Mouse that had taken up residence during the colder months seems to have migrated outdoors again, no sign of it inside for the past few weeks.

02 September grasses

Future development in the Boston area of the Smithfield dam. This dam is proposed for  the uMkomaas river in 15 years time – since the scoping has been done, and the impact on Boston is significant, it is a hot topic. The situation in the Deepdale valley is well known to older Bostonians and its position on the fringes of the Impendle Nature Reserve, above the old rail bridge, provides real threats, but also opportunities to encompass the dam edges in the ambit of the Reserve, so providing protection from human interference. In general, the creation of dams to provide water for human population spread is flawed, as the water inflows are uncertain, silting is enormous and the damage to the environment likely. Desalinization of sea water to provide cities with potable water is the likely future, but at present the availability of electricity for these plants is a stumbling block. When potable water becomes urgent enough a way will be found. By then the usefulness of the many KZN dams will no doubt be over, but the rivers and estuaries will have been irreparably damaged. And then there is the Impendle dam in 25 years time, which is proposed on the same river.

Pennington’s Protea: this rare Butterfly, the Capys penningtoni, is found only on Bulwer Mountain or high ridges, such as Lundy’s Hill near the uMkomaas Valley in grassland, and that only between mid-September and early November; Larval food – the buds of Protea caffra. Photo with acknowledgement, from Steve Woodhall’s comprehensive “Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa”, showing upperside and underside. Do you know of any Protea caffra trees in your area? Not to be confused with the Protea Scarlet or Russet Protea – rather similar.

penningtons protea



Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2014

At the Dargle Conservancy AGM held recently, contributors to our monthly Wildlife Sightings were honoured.  Sue Robinson won “Most interesting sighting” for her Cape Vulture pictures on Ivanhoe; Sandra Merrick of Albury farm was recognised as the “Most enthusiastic and committed contributor”  and Dieter Setz won “Best Photo” for his sleeping bat. Everybody enjoyed the video clip compilation of the past year’s Wildlife pictures and videos – click on this link to view it online: http://animoto.com/play/40k5MovekaZT20o47z1Hkg

Brandon Powell – Bukamanzi

Iona Bate and I were having tea on my verandah when we enjoyed a rare sighting of the White Wire Tea Table Frog. It was so tiny and well-camouflaged that it was only after three cups of tea that we noticed it. If there are any keen Herpotologists out there we’d love to know what it is really called. We called it Proust, after that famous white Frog.  A week before I had seen another tiny, very beautiful tree frog on my bedroom window.20140503_110332

Thanks to frog lover Charlene Russell for providing some help with id: “Did you see it’s underbelly at all? It’s probably a Painted Reed Frog (believe it or not), the brown version. During the day, and especially as winter approaches they lose their colour and can go almost white…hard to see the patterns, and no feet to reference it by, but that’s my best guess…I like your name best though.”  Also remember comment from Megan Loftie-Eaton about exactly this? https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/dargle-wildlife-sightings-december-2013/

Ian and Sue Robinson – Ivanhoe

The Eland are a few from one of our two herds of about 50 each.


Have no idea what type of lizard this is.


Bald Ibis,



Black Shouldered Kite.


Two Oribi seen up in the hills overlooking the Furth.


Nikki Brighton Old Kilgobbin Farm

At the beginning of the month there was still quite a lot in flower, but that has changed rapidly despite the warm days. This Berkheya multijuga is now just spikey brown stalks.

r berkheya multijuga

Leonotis leonaurus is flowering spectacularly and so often in conjunction with bright yellow Senecio and Phymaspermum creating gorgeous pictures.

r leonotis and senecio

During winter, the mist-belt forests open up. The canopies let in more light and the understory shrubs are less dense. This means that some trees become more visible or easier to get close to. One such species is the Zanthoxylum capense – impossible to miss now. The Zulu name for the tree is amusing – umlungumabele which means ‘breast of a white woman’. Apparently this refers to the fact that white women settlers wore bras which made their breasts appear more pointed, unlike the local women. The Afrikaans name kleinperdepram means ‘small horse breast’.

Zanthoxylum is a member of the citrus family. The fragrant white flowers are much favoured by insects, the crushed leaves smell of lemon and shiny black seeds are rich in fragrant essential oils and have been used as perfume. Traditionally twigs were used as toothbrushes and decoctions of bark as an antibacterial mouthwash, ground roots or leaves inserted into a tooth cavity for toothache.

r knobwood 025

Senecio madagascariensis still puts on a show. The small, bright yellow flowers are clustered on branched inflorescences and are easily visible in the grass.   Senecio is a largest genus of flowering plants (2000 species worldwide) with over 300 species found in South Africa.

r senecio madagascariensis

It seeds itself prolifically – lots of fluffy windborne seeds are produced continually. Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and beetles all love this little shrub, which is common in disturbed ground. As was the case on the edges of the farmland when we did the last track and scat id workshop. Oriah was pretty as a picture in the middle of it all!

oriah and senecio

Rose and Barry Downard Oak tree cottage

Birds: Saw a Spotted Eagle Owl perched on our property signpost one evening as we returned home. Crested Eagle, Herons, Cardinal Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Hoopoes, Amethyst Sunbirds, Rock Pigeons, Sparrows, Olive Thrush, Robin, Fiscal Shrike. A lone male Redwinged Starling has been sleeping on our veranda every night for the past two to three months, and finally this week he found a mate. We have not seen any other Redwinged Starlings on our property for a couple of months.  Genet and Reedbuck seen next to the Dargle Road by the Sinclair’s farm late one evening.

Natal Green Snakes (juvenile and adult). Large adult Red-lipped Herald. Dwarf Chameleon. 4Several tiny tree frogs looking for places to shelter from the cold. A tree frog on our dewy window at sunrise.


Jeanne Tarrant from EWT comments: “I would say that both this frog, and the white one above, are juvenile Painted Reed Frogs – Hyperolius marmoratus. Quite tricky to ID as the colouring is not yet established, but the body shape, and most importantly orientation of the pupil (horizontal) is diagnostic for reed frogs. Natal Tree Frogs don’t occur that far inland, and have vertical pupils.

Many spectacular sunrises and sunsets again this month.



Mike and Anne Weeden – River Run on Hopedale

We have three swallows nests under the thatched eaves and enjoy watching their endeavours during the summer months. This year one of the pairs had very late babies. One fell out of the nest and died. The other one fluttered from the nest onto a nearby beam and got stuck. When we moved in five years ago we had a problem with starlings roosting above our table and pooping all over us. We invested in a sticky product to spread on the beams which would be unpleasant for the birds without being harmful (so we were told). Unfortunately some little birds got covered in goo and died or had to be euthanased. Only mineral turpentine removes the goo which is obviously unsuitable for birds. Mike rescued this baby who had goo on its feet and tail feathers. He spent a couple of days cleaning it and put it in a box under the nest in between. Finally he pronounced it clean and placed it on a table at the top of the steep bank down to the river. I called the frantic parents with the app on my iPad and once they swooped past the baby tried to follow. It would flutter a little way and then land in the long grass. Mike would trudge down the hill, bring it back up and start again. This went on for most of the day with every flight getting longer and faster and by evening the three were flying around together. A day or two later, all the swallows had left for the winter. We like to think that our little “late starter” made the grade!

We also had a baboon in our veggie garden – the first one we have ever seen or heard.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset panorama I took on my way back to Dargle last weekend.


Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm


One morning we took our 2 small dogs on a walk through the natural forest next to Lythwood lodge. We left our 2 large dogs at home thank goodness. 5 minutes into the walk the dachshund disappeared off the foot path. We could hear him running around in the undergrowth. 20 minutes later he sped past us, up the path and round the corner, where all hell broke loose. Barking and screeching ensued. Pat told me to get off the path (I did have my camera with me) as animal might come racing down. My thought was, a bush pig or a bush buck, attacking the dog. Pats thought, leopard! It was neither. It was 5 jackal attacking our little dog – they were out hunting at 10am. Pat shouted and screamed to “voetsak” and I joined in vocally although could not see what I was screaming at, but thought more noise the better to chase off whatever it was.

They ran off and left our poor dog with a few bites on his legs and 2 teeth marks on each testicle! Ouch! ( I do have a photo but thought it best not to put it in – some members might be squeamish, or it might have to be edited ha ha) I was just so thankful that our rottie and terrier were not there as it would have been a massacre. They hate jackal who stand yowling outside our gate every night, before the nightly hunt. Fortunately our dachie was not badly injured and all his injuries had healed after 2 weeks. It could have been so much worse.

The Reed Buck seem to be coming down from the hills – quite a few in our garden in the long grass.   The dogs flush them out in the evening – they then jump over the fence.


Reedbuck Doe

reedbuck doe

Quite a few duiker. A caracal ran in front of Pats bakkie just outside our gate last week. Our blue crane still keep coming back to the dam every couple of days, mainly in the evenings.

3 blue cranes

Grey Crowned Crane

grey crowned crane

Gurney sugar birds are back and like hiding in the bottle brush trees. They sing all day long – beautiful to hear.

guerneys surgarbird

Still lots of sunbirds, although colourless now. African hoopoes still in the wattle plantation.  Buff streaked Chats.

buff streaked chats and sunbird

Orange Throated Longclaw.

orange throated longclaw

Our baby bulbuls have left. Our barn owls are still in the roof and chimney. I am not sure how many we have at the moment. Saw 2 flying off the roof a couple of nights ago. Saw a gymnogene hopping over the rocks. Still get Spoonbills every now and then.

spoonbills and plovers

spoonbill sunset

Spectacular sunsets this past monthincredible sunset

Responses to some of last Month’s Dargle Sightings:

Josh Dovey – Regarding Dave Mann’s note on the noises in the forest, it is Baboons, we saw them last week. We are opposite Dave’s place.

Jason Londt – The frog at Copperleigh is actually a toad. The caterpillars seen at Robhaven are those of an emperor moth, and the eggs on the back of one are actually cocoons of a parasitic wasp.

Boston Wildlife Sightings for August

6 August  – snow in Boston (and far and wide). It takes a lot of determination to survive in nature. On the Edgeware hill under snow in early August, there lived Bushbuck, Reedbuck, Duiker, Serval, birds galore, indigenous trees, wildflowers, butterfly pupas, Agama, Porcupine, Snakes galore – if they are tough enough they survive. Then on 14 August a fire swept the hill, removing all old grasses, food and shelter for some. But come the end of August, the green grasses were showing through. These two Blue Cranes, and a Spur-winged Goose, foraging for feed on the edge of the Netherby snow-line on 8 August:Derek Hurlstone-Jones of “The Rockeries”:

Five Grey Crowned Cranes on The Rockeries, across the R617 on northern side in pastures, walking down to the dam in course of the day. The family is thought to include the three juveniles which they raised. This group is seen quite often. Green Wood-Hoopoe in the garden at The Rockeries.

Rob and Celia Speirs of “The Rockeries”:

Fiery-necked Nightjar heard on the hill behind the house in early hours of 2 August

Neil and Gail Baxter of “Mosgate”:

5 August – Yellow-billed Kite at dam about 17h00. An early arrival for summer – poor bird, did not expect snow on 7 August.

12 August – Secretarybird (Sagitarius serpentarius – because they eat snakes).

Denis Field of “Shamba Yetu”:

African Hoopoe

Barbara and David Clulow of “The Willows”:

4 August – watched from garden through binocs, seeing three Long-tailed Mongoose sporting alongside a dry stream on “Netherby”

10 August – Long-crested Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite; group of more than 6 Denham’s Bustards walking about in rye on Netherby.

11 August – a Scrub Hare, racing our car along the Dargle road, near Highland Glen

19 August – As I watched from our bedroom window, a melee of birds appeared in the sky: there were two Sacred Ibis, an African Spoonbill, and a Blacksmith Lapwing; and they appeared to be chasing a Black-headed Heron, all diving and swerving in the air. They all landed safely at the pan, amidst some bird noise, and were promptly joined on the ground by hordes, really hordes, of Helmeted Guineafowl, which had been there all morning, two Egyptian Geese and several other Blacksmith Lapwings. The Helmeted Guineafowl all swarmed one side. A posse of Hadedah Ibis appeared from the other side and walked amongst them. Gradually they all left, leaving the African Spoonbill in isolated splendour, head turned away from the wind.

Lone Vervet Monkey seen daily in bare Basket Willow trees alongside the Elands River…..bad news for nests with eggs in them. Beware to Long-crested Eagle, Grey Crowned Cranes and others which are known to nest in these areas.

A pair of Cape Sparrows are building a nest in a bush at the house, while a pair of Hadedahs have hatched a chick high in an Oak tree nearby.

24 August – Pair of Blue Cranes still spending daylight on Netherby and flying north to Elandshoek for the night.

17 August at 14h30 – an icy cold wind was blowing when a Raptor landed on the dead tree outside our window, allowing for a series of photos before leaving; the first opinions revolved around an African Osprey because of the black on its head; but the authoritative view came from the Curator of Birds, Durban Natural Science Museum, David Allan, who kindly assisted. He wrote: “It’s a juvenile African Fish Eagle. It’s at the age when they most resemble Ospreys, but note the much heavier, stockier build, stouter beak and dark (not yellow) eye.”

26 August – a Jackal Buzzard perched on the dead tree outside the window. The colouring on its back was most attractive.

Some evenings, a Scrub Hare bursts out of the grass on The Willows and happily escapes into Gramarye grasses before our dogs get themselves into chase mode. Pair of Blue Cranes have been seen on Netherby throughout August and still appearing on the 29th. Pair of Grey Crowned Cranes – always a pleasure when they visit The Willows. By end of August, two nests ready for use: Cape Sparrow and Hadedah Ibis.

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers of “Lapa Lapa”:

Brood of Egyptian Geese’s goslings now reduced to two; while walking in the veld, saw a long-legged speckled bird in a water course, possibly a Ruff. A raptor attacked & killed a Helmeted Guineafowl, which was too large to carry, so dinner was taken on the spot.

Barry and Kirsten Cromhout of “Highland Glen”:

A goshawk killed a dove for food; two African Spoonbills at the small dam near the Elands River

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

WHEN it is cold, competition at the feeding stations become fierce. And sometimes flying can be gravity defying for birds.

Red-billed Queleas and Village Weaver;

and a Yellow Bishop launching itself in the air

The SABAP2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad is: Cape Crow, Yellow-billed Kite, Long-crested Eagle, Village Weaver, Cape Sparrow, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Common Fiscal, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Grey Crowned Crane, African Stonechat, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Wagtail, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Helmeted Guineafowl, Dark-capped Bulbul, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye, Giant Kingfisher, Speckled Mousebird, Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush, Cape Robin-Chat, Red-billed Quelea, Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Glossy Starling, African Firefinch, African Sacred Ibis, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-headed Heron, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Duck, Little Grebe, Brown-throated Martin, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Longclaw, Yellow Bishop, Pied Crow, Long-tailed Widowbird, Red-throated Wryneck, African Spoonbill, Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-shouldered Kite, South African Shelduck, Southern Red Bishop, African Black Duck, Common Waxbill, Cape Grassbird, Bokmakierie, African Darter, Cape Weaver, Common Moorhen, White-breasted Cormorant, Black Sparrowhawk, Amethyst Sunbird, Reed Cormorant.

And in the garden at Gramarye, a frog.

Pete and Frances Nel of “Four Gates”:

Saw the African Spoonbill on Wednesday 29th at the little dam at 3.45 pm; And still there when I came back from Boston at 5 pm.

Rob and Gail Geldart of “Boston View” and “Watershed”:

I haven’t been around the tops much so haven’t seen the Wattled Crane of late. I’m excited to say though that I had 5 Cape Vulture visiting a cow carcass! Other interesting visitors are 2 Eland bulls, grazing my pastures at night and retreating to the mountain by day.

Post script on 1 Sept – I’m pleased to report I have seen the Wattled Crane at the Myrtle Grove (Glandrishok) swamp. One seems to be on the nest and the other foraging a little way off.

Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”:

The Eskom lines going up the hill snapped in the snow. I found a beautiful Mountain Reedbuck ram dead by the side of the fence separating me from “Forest Dew” (on the “Forest Dew” side but up against the fence.) I had a good look at it and there wasn’t a mark on it, no snares, no cuts, nothing and then I realised what must have happened. I assume that when the power lines snapped and the lines fell into the snow that the Mountain Reedbuck must have got electrocuted. I was very lucky as all the horses and the two cows were over by the stables and I’ve been keeping all the dogs inside because of the cold. It could have wiped them all out.

Then when I was feeding the horses 4 buck came into the paddock at the top of the terraces and then made their way over to the trees. There were three adults and a small one who was having to jump through the snow to keep up. They looked about the size of Duiker but weren’t. I checked in my book and they were Oribi. I watched them for a long time from the back of the house through the binoculars. Very chuffed. I’ve also seen Duiker, Reedbuck and a Bushbuck this month.

Philip and Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

August was the month of extremes, hot sunny days, mist and snow. We had about 30 cms of snow over two days, Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8, and it resulted in us being snow bound without electricity for five days. Birds and animals were hungry and seeking shelter. A young Reedbuck spent one night sheltering in the tractor garage and was very reluctant to move off the next morning, instead nibbled on grass near the building, that had been exposed as the snow started to melt.

The resident Cape Robin-Chat was busy foraging from first light. Speckled Pigeon parents were hard pressed to keep their brood on top of the water tanks, fed.

Then once the snow had melted and the days warmed, Spring really started to settle in. Yellow-Billed Kites were seen overhead, grass started greening on the burnt slopes and the trees in the garden sent out tiny green leaves. Mousebirds have been feasting on the swollen Wisteria buds over the verandah. Ouhout, Leucosidea sericea burst forth with the best flower display in years, joining the last of the Buddleja salvifolia and the Halleria lucida that continues to bloom. Fresh white Apodolirion buchananii flowers have appeared ‘star-like’ in the burnt areas and Moraea leaves promise flowers in the coming weeks.

Graham and Claire, Emma and Megan Hudson of “Kia Ora”:

Five Blue Cranes in the grassland on Sunday 1 September; also two Grey Crowned Cranes at dam.

Tommy Cooper at “Elvesida”:

Two Common Reedbuck, leaping across the Dargle road; one Scrub Hare; Hadedahs; Long-crested Eagles, building a nest in the gum trees on “Elvesida”; two Grey Crowned Cranes; Puffadder on ridge between Grant’s and Murphy’s in the road

Boston Wildlife Sightings for July

Wonderful full moon rising in Boston on 3 July.

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers of “Lapa Lapa”:

July 6 – a V-formation of 18 Grey Crowned Cranes flew overhead towards Netherby, with another 10 Grey Crowned Cranes right behind.  July, 5 Egyptian Geese goslings on the dam; and a Black-headed Oriole.

Nigel and Tracy Murray of “Trelyon”:

Eight  Spotted Thick-Knees near the workshop

Ian and Jenny Lawrence of “Endeavour”:

Pin-tailed Wydah; three Denham’s Bustards on 21 July; Spoonbill; Black Crake; Bald Ibis in the stubble maize. Two White-breasted Cormorants, flying at dam near Pickle Pot

Terry and Basil Cuthbert on “Jaluka Estate”:

Two Secretarybirds

Carol and Tyron Segal on “Gaylands”:

Bushbuck; Reedbuck; one Duiker often about house; two Grey Crowned Cranes at Virginia dam

Barbara and David Clulow of “The Willows”:
Yellow-Billed Ducks making ripples

Between 70 and 80 Spur-winged Geese fly over The Willows to the west as of an evening, out of the chill Elands River valley, where they have been feeding in the stubble maizelands..

During daytime, a Long-crested Eagle, hunting from a tree at the river; and a Black-shouldered Kite, hovering above the ground, watching for movement

July 8 – early morning in drizzle and mist, an African Spoonbill visited the pan

Also Green Wood-Hoopoes; several Black-headed Herons; Hadedas; Fiscal Shrike; lots of Village Weavers; numerous Grey-headed Sparrows and Red-billed Queleas; a few Speckled Mousebirds; Fork-tailed Drongo; rarely Cape Sparrows and House Sparrows; Cape Wagtail;    a Southern Boubou; Jackal Buzzard; Common Waxbills; a Glossy Starling; Cape White-eye.

At The Drift dam, a Pied Kingfisher; Little Grebes; Spur-winged Geese; Stone Chat. Common Moorhen and lots of Red-knobbed Coots are at Melrose dam.  Village Weaver winter feast on The Willows.

July 21 – a special sighting occurred in The Willows garden, when a Drakensberg Prinia made an appearance – not usually seen in Boston: Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Robin-Chat

Numbers of Common Reedbuck; an occasional Duiker; Pied and Cape Crows; Speckled Pigeon.

July 25th till 31st – near the Elandsriver on “Netherby”, a pair of Blue Cranes every day, either in stubble maize or on rye grass..

Bruce and Bev Astrup of “Highland Glen”:

A Scrub Hare shot out from amongst the cattle where they were eating Sweetfeed

George Edlmann of “Parkside”:

Knysna Turaco are back. Saw an otter in Glen Lancasters’s dam next door. It was fascinating watching it sinuously slide into the water wih hardly a ripple, occasionally shaking the water off its head before the next dive. During the 5 or so minutes I watched, it seemed to have a fruitless search for food

Gavin and Amanda Phoenix of “Trinity”:

We are in complete awe of the visitations of the numbers of buck which visit “Trinity” to  feast on the plants in our garden every night. Although we are grateful for their presence and the opportunity for them to find “snacks” to eat – it is difficult to do any planting in preparation for the summer gardens at present. Every flower bed that was planted with new stocks from the nursery in the past week has been obliterated, if not protected by some screening. All the new citrus trees are particular targets for them, obviously being a very healthy inclusion in their “diet”.

From the barking between the males we believe most of the visitors are Bushbuck but have spotted others also, in particular a mother and her foal during the day with ‘spotties’ on the hind quarters?

Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”:

This month I’ve seen a Bushbuck on my place three times and a Duiker once. Out riding I’ve seen Reedbuck, a Duiker, a Jackal and a Bushbuck. I was also very suprised to see a Serval, being the first one I’ve ever seen.

Pete and Karen Geldart of “Coquidale”:

Two Secretarybirds in grasslands at approx. 29 38.5s  29 55.5e on boundary with “Essex” farm. Heard Wrynecks; saw plenty of Helmetted Guineafowl, and Speckled Mousebirds

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

Winter birding does have its challenges, the cold and absence of the migrant birds, but it was great to see about a dozen Denham’s Bustards on Netherby, as well as a pair of Blue Cranes. Plus a Secretarybird, walking swiftly up the hill on Netherby.

The SABAP2 list for the Elandshoek pentad is: Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, South African Shelduck, Red-necked Spurfowl, Blue Crane, Helmeted Guineafowl, Cape Longclaw, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Boubou, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Wagtail, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Black-headed Heron, Hadeda Ibis, Southern Red Bishop, African Sacred Ibis, Cape Crow,Grey Crowned Crane, Drakensberg Prinia, African Stonechat, Long-crested Eagle, Red-collared Widowbird, African Black Duck, Cape Grassbird, Cape Robin-Chat, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Bokmakierie,Cape White-eye, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Speckled Mousebird, Red-billed Quelea, Village Weaver, Common Fiscal, Amethyst Sunbird, Red-chested Flufftail, Pied Crow, Fork-tailed Drongo, Blacksmith Lapwing, Denham’s Bustard, Lanner Falcon, Common Waxbill, Black-headed Oriole, Pied Starling, Rock Dove, House Sparrow, African Black Swift, Three-banded Plover, Reed Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-fronted Canary, Sombre Greenbul, African Harrier-Hawk,  Forest Canary, African Pipit,  Chorister Robin-Chat.

Pete and Frances Nel of “Four Gates”:

The four Grey Crowned Cranes are still seen near the westerly dam

Update on ‘Bossy Boston’ from Tanya Smith of Endangered Wildlands Trust: Drakensberg Crane Foundation:

“I went last week to fit colour rings to Bossy Boston and he/she is looking like a scraggly teenager. He is flying freely and joins up with the local flock every now and again but still regularly comes back to the centre for food etc. He has unfortunately become very habituated to people and this is due to the fact that he was found so young and raised on his own and not with another crane chick. Due to his habituation we have decided not to do a ‘hard’ release which would involve transporting him to a flock far away from the centre and releasing him into the flock, we are rather hoping he will one day stay with the resident flock in the area and re-wild (this is called soft release). I have attached a photo of Bossy with his new colour rings.”

Overlooking “Melrose” dam: typical sightings

25 July – sunny day: lots of Egyptian Geese and Red-knobbed Coots on water; Little Grebe; Red-billed Teale; Yellow-billed Duck; Spur-winged Geese; Blackmith Lapwing; pair of Grey Crowned Crane; Common Reedbuck; African Darter; Shelduck.

Recipients of Boston Sightings often write kind comments and tell of their own Sightings where they live:  Swallows and Foxes in France; Moths in Kent; garden birds in Estcourt; Tui birds in New Zealand; Snow in Namibia, and more recently in Kathu, and an African Fish-Eagle, then four Woolly-necked Storks, in Pietermaritzburg. These are delightful to hear about, often with photos to illustrate, but outside of the Boston geographical area. A recent submission shown below may be regarded as both Boston and universal:

Ewen and Betty Duncan from Howick:

Do yourself a favour and look at the Heavenly Bodies on display each morning. You will need to get up between 4.30 and 6.00 in the morning and look due East. You will see SIRUS in CANIS MAJOR slightly south of where the SUN arises, normally the brightest star in the heavens but outshone by its neighbours for the present. To the left (northwards) you will see BETELGEUSE in the constellation of ORION more or less slightly where the SUN will rise later, unless you are in the Northern hemisphere. To the left again, is VENUS, a planet, but certainly the “star” of this show and the brightest that I have ever seen it. Further left again is another planet JUPITER with ALDABARAN slightly to it’s right all in the Constellation of TAURUS. Still further left is the group of stars the SEVEN SISTERS or their astronomical name the PLEIADIES, the Constellation of TAURUS

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – April

Karkloof Conservation Centre

When I arrived at work one morning, I heard an unfamiliar bird call and looked to see what it could be. To my surprise, it was an African Paradise-Flycatcher. It was singing so beautifully with a whistling “tswee-tswitty-tswee-tswitty-ter” (as described in the Sasol Photographic Birds of S.A. Book). This was a great follow on sighting to Karin Nelson ringing a juvenile in March. The Wattled Cranes were a treat this month. There were between 2 and 8 that were seen very regularly, for long periods, foraging in the newly cut fields which were harvested for silage. Charlie reported that the Grey-crowned Cranes were seen in flocks of between 32 and 42. We had excellent sightings of about 50 Bald Ibis which were having a great time bullying the Hadedas. I saw a Bald Ibis squash in amongst a flock of about 10 Hadedas that were sitting on the dead tree in front of the hide. It then started pecking at the 2 Hadedas on either side of it, fighting for some space, causing these 2 Hadedas to fly away. The BirdLife South Africa’s Bird of the Year 2012 visited us this month – the majestic Fish Eagle. Very few can resist the goose-bumps when hearing the call of this raptor.

We have had a pair of African Shelducks sitting on the pans all day, as well as a family of Red-billed Teals who were going about their daily routines. The Giant Kingfisher made it’s appearance once again, with the African Rails and Blake Crakes busy in the thick sedge. We had good sightings of the Southern Pochard as well as flocks of about 10 Wattled Lapwings. The African Spoonbill made a visit after not seeing any for a few months.

We had a few visitors say that they had seen a pair of Lesser Moorhens on several occasions. We had good sightings of Yellow-billed Egrets, African Sacred Ibis and Drakensberg Prinia. The Pied Kingfishers never fail to put on a show and the African Darter numbers increased. We also had visitors say that they had seen a Red-headed Quelea. The Jackal Buzzards could be heard from the sky on many occasions. Common Reedbuck were seen drinking from the pans. Other sightings include: Red-knobbed Coots, White-faced Ducks, Yellow-billed Ducks, Common Moorhen, Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese, Little Grebes, African Stonechat, Fork-tailed Drongo, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Common Waxbills, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Wagtail, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eye Dove, Cape Robin, Cape Crows, Blacksmith Lapwings, Southern Red Bishops, Common Fiscal, Reed Cormorants, Grey Herons and Black-headed Herons.

The reptiles became more active around the Conservation Centre during April. There was quite a large Red-lipped Herald that sailed slowly along the concrete path from the garden to a gap behind the SAPPI TreeRoutes signboard. Our resident Natal Green Snake (or at least one of our many) made a few appearances near the step where I nearly stepped on the poor creature/s a few times. One day I also came across a lizard that I watched catching a cricket. It held onto it’s food for dear life while the cricket was trying a few Kung-fu moves.

John Robinson – Benvie Farm

We had a very bad incident at Benvie of hunting dogs chasing down, cornering and killing a large Bushbuck ram in the middle of the night in the garden at Benvie. I was not able to count the dogs but by the time I got to the scene the dogs had worn it down and were eating it alive while it was still standing. The bushbuck was found dead 20 metres from the site where I disturbed the dogs, subsequently shooting 1 and finding one 3 days later still alive not far from the scene but having been punctured by the bushbuck which I also put down. The reports from the staff are that dogs are being seen pretty regularly.

On a more positive note we have 3 Cape Parrots back – we have not seen more than 2 since October 2011. There is a Lanner Falcon which seems to be resident in the large dead gum tree next to the road between Bundy and William Shaw’s entrance. I see it most morning sunning itself on my way into Pmb. Here is a picture of the pair of Wattled Cranes with juvenile, which are seen on Mark & Caryn Crooke’s land. You can see the discoloration on its head where the grey cap is busy forming. Tanya Smith of EWT is aware of this pair and mentioned that they were unable to colour ring the chick.

Britt and Rene Stubbs – Denleigh and Bartersfield Farm

We are seeing more Oribi again (about 9), including a new addition. There is a pair of Blue Cranes at Bartersfield. Otherwise, plenty of Common Reedbuck and geese on the stooling rye grass!

Tim Hancock – Karkloof Nature Reserve

I didn’t see anything exciting this past month. Sadly, I noticed that there were practically no White Storks this summer! I saw a Spotted Ground Thrush up at the top of a tree instead of on the ground. I had fairly frequent sightings of Thick-billed Weavers, but can’t find where they are nesting – I took an injured youngster to “Free Me”. There are always huge flocks of Common Waxbills and we have up to 5 Bushbuck around the house. We had a beautiful fat Puff Adder sunning itself in the road the other day.


On the 20 April 2012, a Jackal Buzzard was sadly taken down by the most vicious predator – a vehicle – in the early morning. This beautiful raptor was lying in the middle of the road a distance away from a pile of feathers and some broken bakkie parts. Please make sure you drive responsibly in the Karkloof area, as there are many raptors, owls, duiker, reedbuck etc., that may be on the road.

An update on Mbeche – Johannesburg Zoo

Mbeche, our locally produced and adopted Wattled Crane, is doing well at the Johannesburg Zoo and is learning a lot of useful things from his surrogate mother. She teaches him all the life lessons that a Wattled Crane needs to know. He is currently looking like a scraggly teenager as you can see in the picture, but will soon become a handsome fellow who will have all the ladies flapping their wings. The breeding season for cranes is coming up, so please be on the lookout for any nesting pairs and report it to Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust on tanyas@ewt.org.za or visit their website www.ewt.org.za.


Please be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. poaching seems to have increased dramatically. Rob Parker noticed a Red Hilux Bakkie with a canopy driving on the Karkloof Road which was packed with big white hunting dogs. The number plate was NP824472. About 2 weeks later he saw 8 men with dogs up at Grey Mares Tail, finding out from locals that they entered a Red Hilux on departure back to Howick. If you witness any poaching activity or even slightly suspect any suspicious activity in the Karkloof, please feel free to contact Andrew Solomon on 071 640 9950. We would also appreciate it if you could let us know as well via email so that we can follow up on all the poaching that is happening and make sure that this problem is sorted out – conservancy@karkloof.co.za


The Karkloof Blue Butterfly Season

The Karkloof Blue Butterfly is a rare and beautiful insect found in few tiny colonies, one being in the Karkloof. This butterfly was discovered in the late 1800’s in a little valley off the main Karkloof river above the Karkloof Falls. It can be seen in late March and early April every year when the numbers spike due to emerging after spending an entire year as a larva. Photos by Clive Curtis