Tag Archives: biodiversity

Boston Wildlife Sightings – August 2016

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We saw quite a bit at Stormy Hill this August. The Bushbuck pair were visiting, as well as the Reedbuck. The resident Duiker is wandering around.


Resident Duiker wandering around

A vlei rat was helping itself to some horse food leavings at the stables.


Vlei rat

The Village Weavers and the Hadedas are building nests in the bird tree.


Village Weaver working hard on his nest to impress the female.

We went on a ride and saw a huge bird at the dam which we think was a lammergeier (it’s the only bird that fits the sighting in our bird book.) I’ve also included some photos of our resident Jackal Buzzards.


Jackal Buzzard


Jackal Buzzard

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

There is concern about the status of Secretarybirds in South Africa, which has been uplisted from Near-threatened to Vulnerable. This is due to factors such as habitat loss and collisions with fences and power lines. BirdLife South Africa has a special research project on these birds which can be followed at https://www.facebook.com/secretarybirdconservation. It is always a highlight to spot them in the field, and especially in an agricultural setting where they appear to adapt to their surroundings.



Equally pleasing was catching sight of a Wattled Crane, a long distance away from the camera.


Wattled Crane

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Cape Glossy Starling, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Natal Spurfowl, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Red-necked Spurfowl, Spur-winged Goose, African Firefinch, Cape Wagtail,


Cape Wagtail

Black-headed Oriole, Southern Boubou, African Wattled Lapwing, African Spoonbill, Grey Crowned Crane, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Cape Longclaw,


Cape Longclaw

Olive Thrush, Red-billed Teal, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Southern Red Bishop, Red-capped Lark, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Robin-Chat, Three-banded Plover,


Three-banded Plover

Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-Dove, Jackal Buzzard, House Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, African Stonechat, Pied Starling, Cape Weaver, Drakensberg Prinia, Brown-throated Martin, Long-crested Eagle,


Long-crested Eagle

White-breasted Cormorant, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck (the male has a grey head and females black and white)


South African Shelduck

African Sacred Ibis, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Duck,


Yellow-billed Duck

Buff-streaked Chat,


Buff-streaked Chat (male)

Bokmakierie, Hadeda Ibis, Black-headed Heron, Wattled Crane, Village Weaver, Red-eyed Dove, Common Fiscal, Cape White-eye, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Speckled Mousebird,


Speckled Mousbirds

Sombre Greenbul, Amethyst Sunbird, Hamerkop, Secretarybird, Malachite Kingfisher


Malachite Kingfisher

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

Scattered bones and new life in August. Is anyone else missing the gusty winds usually prevalent during August?


We experienced mainly mild temperatures, apart from a couple of cold fronts that brought in some wonderful rain, between there were clear blue skies, spectacular sunrises and new green grass started covering the hillsides.


After the rain new life in popped up almost overnight. Dried out Moss, Selaginella dregei, greened up;


Selaginella dregei

Bracken Pteridium aquilinum and Tree Fern Cyathea dregei fronds started unfurling.


Pteridium aquilinum


Cyathea dregei

Colourful spots appeared in the new grass, Apodolirion buchananii one of my favourite first spring flowers,


Apodolirion buchananii

Dimorphotheca jucunda, Graderia scabra, Green-tipped Fire Lily, Cyrtanthus tuckii vibrantly red, Ledebouria ovatifolia, Nemesia caerulea and Ursinia tenuiloba.


Dimorphotheca jacunda


Dimorphotheca jacunda


Graderia scabra


Cyrtanthus tuckii


Ledebouria ovatifolia


Nemesia caerulea


Ursinia tenuiloba

A few dried out seed heads of Themeda triandra interspersed in unburnt areas.


Themeda triandra

Masses of Buddleja salviifolia flowers scent the air,


Buddleja salviifolia

new leaves of the Cabbage Trees, Cussonia paniculata wave like a feather dusters on long trunks


Cussonia paniculata

and the delicate yellow Ouhout, Leucosidea sericea flowers are attracting hover flies, bees and birds.


Leucosidea sericea


Leucosidea sericea

I found a few huge Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris after the rain.


Agaricus campestris

Revealed in burnt off areas were two sets of scattered bones. I think the skull is of a Porcupine and the other set was a small antelope, probably a Duiker. As there seemed to be little disturbance of the bones I think they died of natural causes.


Porcupine skull


Remains possibly of a Duiker

The Common Reedbuck are still keeping close to the house and one evening a female and male casually picked their way grazing as they moved.


Common Reedbuck (female)


Common Reedbuck (male)

An exciting find was a pile of what I’m sure was relatively fresh Eland droppings.


Eland droppings

The Village Weavers are back at the Pin Oak in the garden and one male was very busy starting to build a nest. Black-headed Orioles, Black-backed Puffbacks, Cape Robin-chats, Fork-tailed Drongos, Cape White-eyes, Speckled Pigeons and Southern Boubous are some of the birds I’ve seen round the house and at the birdbaths. The Fish Eagle I hear regularly calling from the valley.


Male Village Weaver building a nest


Male Village Weaver building a nest

On my way home one day I spotted a tiny, ±2mm Crab spider, Family Thomisidae on the road. Unusual for me as I’d never seen a black one before, the ones I normally see are yellow, green or pink.


Crab Spider

On Mt. Shannon, Mondi Plantation, Philip came across a very weak Long-crested Eagle on the ground, it had a ring on one leg. On investigation he discovered that it had been ringed by Lindy Jane Thompson, as an adult bird, on the 25th March 2015, on the Boston-Dargle Road. When he returned it had gone, leaving no trace.


Long-crested Eagle

On another day we saw a pair of South African Shelducks, Yellow-billed Ducks and a Reed Cormorant on the dam as we walked past.


Three Yellow-billed ducks in the foreground, two South African Shelduck in the middle (male and female), and a Reed Cormorant in the background.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Winter 2016

Nicola Storkey

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

Snow 1

Snow 2

Snow 3

Kilgobbin Forest

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

Dargle Primary learners explore the forest floor.

Dargle Primary pupil makes friends with a grasshopper

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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


Snow & the mayhem it produces!

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


Vehicles driving past Beverley



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







Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

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

Buck leg 1

Buck leg 2

Pauline Holden – Woodsong Farm

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

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

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

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

Male reed buck after heavy rain with wet coat

Common Reedbuck (male)

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

Secretary bird


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

Gymnogene in my garden

African Harrier-Hawk

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

Jackal buzzard (I think)

Jackal Buzzard

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

Black sparrowhawk female sitting on nest

Black Sparrowhawk nesting

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

Black sparrowhawk chick

Black Sparrowhawk chick

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

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

Frozen Hamerkop



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

3 oribi running up the hill



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


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

A few of the crowned crane at Fowlers farm Lions river

Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

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

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

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

Female duiker

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

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

Cape robin being flirtatious

Cape Robin-chat

We have a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds.

Male and female gurney sugar birds

Gurney’s Sugarbirds

Gurney sugar bird at dusk

Gurney’s Sugarbird

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

Another baby reedbuck

Female reedbuck with her youngster

Female reedbuck

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

Yellow white eye

Cape White-eye

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

Male Malachite Sunbird now in full color

Male malachite now in full color eating the flowering frelinias

Malachite Sunbird (male)

New moon

New moon

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

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

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

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


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

Samango Monkey

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

Muddy icy paw print

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


Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Goddard

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


Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Early morning mist over the valley

Ash 1

Worm in freshly cut wattle tree

Ash 2

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

Ash 3

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

Ash 4

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

Ash 5

Inhlosane rising above the ever diminishing Mavela Dam

Ash 6

Little dam near Selsley Farm

Ash 7

Aloes flowering on a neighbours farm

Ash 8

Ash 9

Ash 10

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

Ash 11

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

Ash 12


Ash 13

Late afternoon sun streaming through some pine trees

Ash 14

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

Ash 15

Louise Ghersie – Satori Farm

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

Eland on Satori Farm.jpg

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

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

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

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

Aloe tree

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

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

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

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

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

Black-backed jackal

Black-backed Jackal

We see the secretary bird and gymnogene now and then.



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



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

Malachite male sunbird in eclipse

Malachite Sunbird (non-breeding male)

I think this could be a female malachite or juvenile sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

Greater double-collared sunbird in bush

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

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

Amethyst Sunbird

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

Weavers en masse

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

Weaver pulled off aloe petal

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

Weaver holding aloe with her foot

They are also feeding off the tecomas,

Weavers eating the tecoma flowers

bottle brushes and pig ears.

Weaver feeding from pigs ear flowers

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

Weaver sitting on aloes

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

Sparrow carrying feather

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

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

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

Southern Boubou

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

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

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

winter monkey skin

and this dead Scrubhare beside the road.

winter dead hare

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

yellow winter daisy

An unusually coloured Leonotis leonarus blooms beside the D707.

winter pale  leonotis

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

winter aloe

David Schneiderman – Carlisle Farm

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

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aloe 1

Aloe 2

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

Aloe in fire

Burnt aloes

Fires in the Dargle with Inhlosane watching from a distance

Firebreaks with Inhlosane in the background

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

Ice 008

Ice 009

Ice 011

Ice 014

Ice 016

Ice 006

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

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

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

r autumn 2016 reedbuck hiding

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

r autumn 2016 bird on grass 1

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

r berkheya

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

r autumn gomphocarpus seeds1

The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

r autumn 2016 boophane bulb1

Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

r autumn 2016 phymaspermum 1

A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

r autumn 2016 Aristea 1

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

autumn clutia cordata

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

r autumn 2016 twirly grass

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

r autumn shadows in pool

Michael Goddard – Steampunk Coffee

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

Indian Mynah

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

Ribbon bush (Orthosiphon labiatus)

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


Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Skaapsteker on the road

Spotted skaapsteker 1

Spotted skaapsteker 2

Nola Barrett – God’s Grace

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

Frog 1

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

Frog 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

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

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

Blue pansy


Gaudy commodore


Greenbanded swallowtail


Painted lady


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

Greater collared sunbird in eclipse


a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)


Male Malachite in eclipse


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


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


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


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


The Long-crested Eagle is still around


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


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


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



Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat


Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills


Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

Boston Wildlife Sightings – February 2015

Sitamani – Christeen Grant

As I’ve been away for most of February I have concentrated on the beautiful moths that settle outside the kitchen door most evenings.

Moth Mopane Moth Imbrasia belina

Mopane Moth Imbrasia belina

Some I haven’t been able to identify, if anyone can help I would be most grateful! Eggar Moth sp Family Lasiocampidae, Golden Plusia Trichoplusia orichalcea, Hawk Moth sp Family Sphingidae, Mopane Moth Imbrasia belina, Tri-coloured Tiger Rhodogastria amasis, Two-phase Emerald Rhadinomphax divincta,

Moth Two-phase Emerald Rhadinomphax divincta

Two-phase Emerald Rhadinomphax divincta

Moth Tri-coloured Tiger Rhodogastria amasis

Tri-coloured Tiger Rhodogastria amasis

Moth Hawk Moth sp Family Sphingidae

Hawk Moth sp Family Sphingidae

Moth Golden Plusia Trichoplusia orichalcea

Golden Plusia Trichoplusia orichalcea

Moth Eggar Moth sp family Lasiocampidae

Eggar Moth sp family Lasiocampidae

plus four with no name….

Moth P1020356 Moth P1020354 Moth P1020353 Moth P1020352

The two main flowers out this month have been Watsonia densiflora and Kniphofia augustifolia.

Watsonia densiflora

Watsonia densiflora

Kniphofia augustifolia

Kniphofia augustifolia

We have experienced strong winds in February just before thunderstorms and sadly a beautiful Amethyst Sunbird nest was blown out of a tree.

Bird Amethyst Sunbird nest P1030067

Then I spotted a Spectacled Weaver nest only partially completed, obviously the female’s exacting standards hadn’t been met.

Bird Spectacled Weaver nest P1030066

There have been some very beautiful sunrises and one evening a perfectly clear sky just after sunset with the evening star shining bright.

Cover photo Sunrise P1020687


Cover photo Sunset with an evening star P1020615

Sunset with an evening star

Gramarye – Crystelle Wilson

Several pairs of Grey Crowned Cranes appear to have bred successfully this summer. I saw chicks with their parents at at least four sites in the district.


Grey Crowned Cranes with chicks

The pair on The Willows and Gramarye produced three chicks, but two must have been predated as by the end of the month there was only one still with the adults.


Grey Crowned Crane with remaining chick

Talking about cranes, it has been a delight to see floater flocks of Grey Crowned Cranes numbering about 20 flying between Harmony and Netherby farms at dawn and dusk.


Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

An uncommon visitor this month at the dam on The Drift was a Purple Heron.


Purple Heron

While driving to the Geldart’s cottages on Boston View a heard a loud click coming from trees right next to the car and managed to snap a picture of an African Goshawk before it disappeared from view.


African Goshawk

Birding was good in February, with most migrants still present, like the Barn Swallows who will be leaving for Europe soon.


Barn Swallows

The SABAB2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Wing-snapping Cisticola, Purple Heron, African Hoopoe, Red-winged Starling, Steppe Buzzard,


Steppe Buzzard

Terrestrial Brownbul, Barratt’s Warbler, African Olive-Pigeon, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Pale-crowned Cisticola, African Goshawk, Thick-billed Weaver, Pied Kingfisher, Blacksmith Lapwing, Malachite Kingfisher, Wailing Cisticola, Amur Falcon, African Firefinch, Neddicky, Drakensberg Prinia, Pied Starling, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Longclaw, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Crow, Cape Canary, White Stork, Black Saw-wing, Diderick Cuckoo, African Black Duck, Common Waxbill, Cape Grassbird, Black-headed Oriole, Little Rush-Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,


Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Moorhen, Common, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Weaver, African Darter,


African Darter

Red-collared Widowbird, Bokmakierie, Cormorant, (you can tell the cormorants apart by the colour of their eyes) White-breasted Cormorant (green eye)


White-breasted Cormorant

Reed Cormorant (red eye)


Reed Cormorant

Greater Striped Swallow, African Pipit, Egyptian Goose,


Egyptian Geese

African Reed-Warbler, Southern Boubou, Brown-throated Martin, Black-headed Heron, Jackal Buzzard, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Village Weaver, Pin-tailed Whydah, Olive Thrush, Giant Kingfisher, Speckled Pigeon, House Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Red-throated Wryneck


Red-throated Wryneck

Common Fiscal, Burchell’s Coucal, African Dusky Flycatcher, Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Cape Robin-Chat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Grey Crowned Crane, Cape White-eye, Red-necked Spurfowl, Yellow-fronted Canary, Barn Swallow, Cattle Egret


Cattle Egret

Zitting Cisticola, African Stonechat, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Wagtail.

Stormy Hill Horse Trails – Caroline McKerrow

Two sightings of serval cat. One in the forest where I ride and one on the road near Everglades hotel. Both of them jumped into the bushes and disappeared when I got near. Mountain reedbuck in the forest and Vervet monkeys at my stables.


The following is an account I put on my facebook page on 12 February. I was driving towards town in the morning and as I came through the forest near Mafagatini, I saw a jackal come out of the forest onto the grass. The poor thing had its whole head stuck in a two litre plastic bottle of maas. It couldn’t see where it was going and trotted around in circles. I pulled over and jumped out of the car and made my way quietly over to it. It had fallen down and got back up again resuming its circular path, and as it came by me I grabbed the maas bottle handle. So, now I’d got the jackal and I started to ease off the bottle. I think it realised what was happening and started pulling against me as the bottle was working its way up its neck towards its ears. The jackal had been trying to get at the maas and bitten a hole in the plastic and then got stuck in there once it had put its head through. Then the ears came through and the jackal was free. It took one look at me, it’s eyes widened in shock and fear from having a human so close. It turned tail and ran back into the forest. What a lovely animal to see up close and I came away happy that I’d saved it from a long and painful death. What a start to the morning.

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

Pea Pyramid, Chicken Tractor, Yellowwood Inspiration

The Mpophomeni Conservation Group arranged a visit for supporters to the Khula Shanti Sanctuary and Food Garden in Boston recently. Thanks to the Global Green Grants Fund and N3TC for sponsoring the inspiring day.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 077 - Copy

Carol Segal reports: We were given the most glorious sunshine day to enjoy the splendour of Khula Shanti Sanctuary. A group of 15 beautiful beings arrived at the Pickle Pot Café. We introduced our staff and our dogs.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 098 - Copy

We refreshed ourselves with fresh spring water, infused with lavender flowers, mint and orange slices and munched on just baked carrot and banana bread.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 082 - Copy

All systems charged, walking shoes on and time to explore the forest. The forest walk was an enlightening success, the feedback at the end of the day revealed that this was a first time experience for many of our visitors.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 158

We had the opportunity to observe and talk about biodiversity, planting in guilds, forest mulch, eco-systems, habitats and conservation. The abundance of Podacarpus trees in the Khula Shanti Forest sparked discussions on national trees, animals and flowers. The idea of a national tree was new knowledge for some visitors, and many took to spotting all the Podacarpus along the walk.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 124 - Copy

Deep in the heart of the forest is a solid, cool rock face – time to touch energy as well as observe example of the use of rocks in nature and how we can integrate them into food garden design. The moss and lichen growing on these rocks provided classic photographic material and also more discussions around habitat and biodiversity. As well as the unanswerable question. “how do trees grow out of rocks?”

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 162 - Copy

Our precious finds for the day were some fresh samples of duiker droppings, porcupine droppings, as well as a magnificent feather which we are almost certain belonged to an owl.

Ntombenhle shared some valuable insights on bugweed removal and the problems of alien invaders in our natural forests. Carol comments “she bubbles energy and optimism which was contagious for the group.” Tutu loved learning about the importance of rocks in the garden and left inspired to rehabilitate the eMashingeni forest at the top of the Mpophomeni valley.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 172 - Copy

We took the walk slowly and allowed individuals to absorb and receive what was required from nature as it was apparent that for many the experience was fresh and new. Moses said “I grew up in Jozi, so today, walking in a forest was a whole new experience for me. I have never done that before. Walk and listen and look at the forest. It was good. This is a new era for me, I am blessed to have met MCG.”

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 191 - Copy

The forest walk is a fairly steep incline for some, so many were pleased to see the cheerful welcome of the bright and happy floral food forest garden. We spent the first 10 minutes of our time in the garden, walking around silently, observing feeling the Khula Shanti Food Gardens.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 275 - CopyWe then opened discussions around what new knowledge could be taken from the food gardens. The cucumber and pea pyramid, the chicken tractor, rock pathways, circular beds, companion planting, Vermiculture, compost making, comfrey tinctures, mulch and tea trees are only a few of the discussions we shared.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 237 - Copy

“It is important to have a place to sit in your garden. To enjoy the work you do, and to watch the work of little things.“ said Ntombenhle

phone pics 079

Skhumbuso dug his hands into the compost heap and filled them with rich moist compost teaming with red wriggler worms. Everyone was pleased to hear that goat and horse manure is fantastic for the compost heap.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 225 - Copy

Nqobile was most impressed by the idea of worm wee. “I still don’t believe what I saw. The chicken tractor, the indigenous forest. This is the first time I have seen these things and it is wonderful.” The Khula Shanti Chicken tractors were the source of much curiosity and questioning. “I’m going to try this at home” she said.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 254 - Copy

It was encouraging to observe the contagious enthusiasm and tangible inspiration while people were browsing, grazing, sniffing and tasting the sensory explosion of the food garden. Questions around seed saving, seed-plug propagation, succession planting were answered. Gertrude liked the idea of using old cans to grow plants in “Tomorrow I am going to collect all the scrap around my place to use.” she said.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 265 - Copy

The day still in full bloom, we sat down and chatted about marketing strategies for food gardens, how and where to sell organic veg. Carol demonstrated her food box scheme and shared ideas, obstacles and visions her experience. Ntombenhle made some notes about Marketing their produce:

  • Tell people what you have to sell
  • They will order what they need
  • Wash the veg and pack nicely in a box
  • Pack different things together
  • Make a name tag for that person, make it pretty
  • Make sure you add R20 so you can make some money
  • Start small
  • Sell to weddings, tuck shops, neighbours, schools

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 341 - Copy

We divided ourselves into two groups to pack 2 food box orders – went back up to the garden to select, pick, wash and prepare the orders. This was a fun and hands on activity which could be further expanded in the future. For many visitors new learnings were – variety of vegetables and herbs, presentation of vegetables before selling them, pricing and packing, where to sell and who to sell to.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 337 - Copy

When discussing the possibilities of starting a food box scheme, Carol shared the obstacles she has faced and also reminded the group of the importance of co-operatives as well as the danger of over-promising and under-delivering. We shared ideas around how to successfully start a business and start small rather than big to ensure a steady supply as well as to be reliable in quality as well as quantity of produce. The food box packing demonstration was well received, everyone participated and much was learnt, including how to pick and eat peas before packing them.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 328

Finally, time to feast. We shared briefly about nutrition and the importance of eating foods from our gardens and raw food first.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 372 - Copy

The idea of salads and salad sandwiches, for lunch was not received with glee by all visitors. Carol did overhear the request “Is there any peanut butter and bread to eat?”

phone pics 082

However, the majority of participants tucked into the lunch with gusto and enjoyed the harvest from the garden. Kwenza commented “That kind of juice food we ate was delicious and healthy. Now we know about organic gardening.” Stembile added “I really enjoyed eating the lunch; my taste-buds are still dancing”

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 383 - Copy

We closed our day with a feedback session on what new learnings had been received and where people would like to go to from here.

Some comments made in the feedback session were:

“I never thought you could plant flowers in a vegetable garden”

“I am so surprised how clean this place is, I have never been to a place like this, where there is no litter”

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 397 - Copy

Ntombenhle was delighted ”This workshop helped the group to know and understand what we are trying to do on the community garden site. They now have a good picture of what is going on. I am glad that we are not alone anymore.”

World View is Worth Conserving

Paul de Jager, a keen botanist who spends many hours wandering in the grasslands and natural areas of the World’s View Conservancy, has set down some impressions on the ecological status and conservation significance of a portion of the Worlds View Conservancy, based on ten brief visits he has made to the area since 13 October 2013. His observations are based on the area eastward from the telecommunications tower, centred on the Crags, and extending down to the Old Howick Road. He reports as follows: My overall impression as an ecologist is that the area studied is of great conservation value, comprising a remarkably intact eco-system of a habitat type (primarily mist-belt grassland), which is now very rare, with an impressive diversity of both plant and animal life. The latter includes a wide range of insects, as well as vertebrates, ranging from small lizards to birds and larger mammals including antelope. WVC - extensive grassland This diversity is all the more remarkable for being supported by a remarkably small area of land not planted to forestry, crops, or destroyed by road or building construction. Please understand that many plants can only be accurately identified while in flower, and not all plants can be expected to flower every year – many will only flower after a fire, for instance – so only after visiting an area throughout a year and over several years, could one get a very thorough idea of what occurs there. So I have made a very limited sample so far. Nevertheless, I have been struck by the biodiversity of this area – on most visits I have seen something in flower, which I did not see before. It is very significant I believe, that while these notes are based on a very small sample of this biodiversity (and further limited to plants) I have already noted the plant species treated by the late Rob Scott-Shaw in his book: Rare and Threatened Plants of UKZN (1999). This is already a good result, in terms of motivation for conserving the fauna and flora of this area, and I am confident that greater familiarity with it will yield a far longer such list, possibly including some items classified as having a more highly threatened status than the ones detailed below, as well as an ever-lengthening comprehensive plant list. As it happens the Hilton Daisy, may also occur in the area I have looked at – I have seen plants of what may be this species, but can only confirm their identity after seeing them in flower (there is a large colony further down-slope in Queen Elizabeth Park, so this seems likely), only 0.3% of the grassland of Moist Midlands Mist belt is formally protected and only approximately 1% remains in a near-pristine state. The threats to this vegetation type are agriculture and forestry, and these threats are increasing. So, the habitat type surrounding the Crags is severely threatened. Species recorded by myself and their status according to Scott-Shaw is: Begonia geranioides – lower risk, near threatened OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Kniphofia buchananii – lower risk, least concern kniphofia-buchananii1 Sandersonia aurantiaca – low risk; conservation dependent sandersonia-aurantiaca1 Dierama pallidum – vulnerable dierama-pallidum1 Scott-Shaw further commented that the threats pertaining to Sandersonia are that moist grasslands of Eastern KwaZulu Natal have largely been lost to agriculture and forestry, and that very few protected areas occur in this habitat. Likewise, regarding Dierama pallidum: grassland has been transformed by forestry, agriculture and urban expansion, which have severely reduced the extent and quality of suitable habitat. So, there is a recurring theme here and plants are threatened to varying degrees, with extinction as the extreme possibility, because they were perhaps rare to start with, having high habitat specificity, and their habitat has been destroyed in many areas, leading to local extirpation (i.e. being wiped out). Moving on from an attempt to assess what we have here to consider the likely threats and possible management priorities. Besides the possibility of further hitherto undisturbed habitat being built on, there are the more immediate threats to the habitat. Evident to me are the invasion of wild areas by alien plant species including both unmanaged species and seedlings of the eucalyptus and Australian acacias, used in forestry plantations. WVC - Ketelfontein Station wall from early 1900's (1) Also poaching; be it the hunting of animals by subsistence -orientated or sport hunters or the collection of plant and plant roots by people wishing to supply to muthi trade. Exotic plants, unrelated to the forestry industry do seem to me to prove a significant current threat in this area. Wild Ginger is particularly prevalent in this section of forest adjacent to the former rail bed and lantana is also a problem here. If funding can be accessed, some effort to physically remove or chemically control such weeds would be a good thing. In order to make optimal long term use of such an investment in effort it is important to ensure that weeds are killed outright and not merely cut down only to re-sprout and require a further investment in effort in the future. This is not always easy in the case of wild ginger the complete removal of the plants rhizome and its subsequent destruction by physical means (burning/cooling/ crushing/mincing etc.), may be the only way and with many woody species, cut stumps need to be timeously treated with a paint on herbicide or eco-plugs of herbicide inserted immediately after cutting. Whilst Lilium Formosanum is a highly visible invasive weed, which I know some people are making an effort to control, I would not prioritise its control, but rather advocate the dedication of scarce resources towards efforts to deal with species such as those already mentioned, as it does not seem to me to pose the same threat of modifying the structure of the habitat in the same way, being of insufficiently large stature to do so. The existence of densely planted and fecund stands of exotic trees (in the shape of forestry plantations) immediately adjacent to the wild area must always pose an ongoing threat in the form of a massive and endlessly renewed seed source, which spontaneously generates large seedlings easily able to colonise wild areas, changing vegetation structure and ground water dynamics. Would that our forestry industry could become one based on sterile (i.e. non seed bearing trees) These legal aliens will have to be dealt with continuously. I believe that such efforts are being made – the felling of the tall seedling gums, which, until recently, featured so prominently on the skyline above the Crags, is evidence of this. However, I believe it is important to note that many of these gums were in fact, multi-stemmed coppice growths emerging from stumps which had evidently been cut down some years before and not killed outright. I saw no evidence of efforts to kill the stumps this time either, and I saw stumps some days after they had been cut. As far as I know the herbicide needs to be applied immediately after cutting, so it seems likely that this work will be to be duplicated again when the stumps have sprouted, which is a waste of resources which could always be better deployed to deal with other problems. There also seem to be some conflict between forestation activities and optimal practices regarding catchment conservation (i.e. the avoidance of drainage lines and water-courses when planting timber crops) and possibly also encroachment on the hitherto undisturbed wild areas. WVC grassland (2) (fabled Hilton Daisy in there somewhere) A clearer demarcation of wild areas as strictly no-go areas in terms of plantations would be very useful in this regard. Also, for both the control of existing invasive plants (including forestry crops) and advice and legal assistance regarding appropriate practices in terms of catchment protection, a useful person to get in touch with is Jacky Zuma. He is now based at Cedara and is The Project Manager: Invasive Alien Species Programme and he works for the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development of KZN. His contact details are as follows: cell: 0798953636; landline: 033 355 9345; fax: 033 355 9334; email: phillip.zuma@kzndae.gov.za; website: http://agriculture.kzntl.gov.za. As I understand it, Jacky has it within his power to assist landowners and users with advice, and to some extent with chemicals and manpower in the control of aliens, as well as having access to the legal machinery to compel compliance with current legal standards. He has, I believe, a good deal of hands-on experience, with the background in the practical fieldwork aspect of this work and has catchments rehabilitation and conservation as one of his priorities. Regarding poaching, as far as the flora are concerned, the most significant threat to this area would be the harvesting of plants and plant parts for the muthi trade. The area studied is extremely rich in geophytes (plants with bulbs or similar underground storage organs and growth suds) as well as woody species of likely interest to the muthi trade. I observed several instances of heavy bush harvesting from Rauvolfia caffra (quinine trees) though these did not appear to be of very recent date. Image On the other hand the area supports a very large population of Boophone disticha, which tends to be regarded as an indicator of habitat health in terms of muthi-collecting impact. Furthermore, the presence in the area, though not in large numbers of Eucomis autumnalis subsp. clavata is also a positive sign. Scott-Shaw notes that this species is a sought after medicinal plant, which has been critically over-exploited over most of its range, becoming very rare and extirpated in many areas, particularly in the Midlands and coastal areas. Given that the WVC is located in an increasingly urban area the existence of a large number of potential muthi collectors and consumers nearby, mean that this threat must be taken seriously and policing efforts maintained. WVC - Erythrina Rotundifolia and Cussonia sp Returning to the subject of long-term threats to the maintenance of diversity of the fauna and flora of this area. It is, however sobering this may be, worth remembering that effective conservation of biological diversity only makes sense on a geological timescale; i.e. millions of years, so in terms of the very brief period which anyone of our lives represents, this effectively translates into forever! The converse of the fact that extinction is permanent, is the fact that in order for their constituent species to be able to continue to adjust and evolve, eco-systems need to be maintained as intact as possible for ever and a day. The greater the area of a given habitat type that can be preserved relatively intact – with a diversity of types of life-forms alive and functioning – the greater the chance of that habitat type and its constituent species, being able to contribute to the range of species which will be able to endure in the future, over millions of years. Bearing this in mind, the future of mist-belt grassland and the species which comprise it, is not looking bright, because there is so little left. So the grassland areas within the WVC are really important; though they are small in area they are rich in species including rare and endangered ones. Any natural area located adjacent to or within a city is particularly threatened as cities sprawl and Pietermaritzburg is sprawling fast, with Hilton becoming something of a commuter suburb. Over time, land values are likely to rise and it is not inconceivable that sometime in the future, land that is now land for forestry plantations will come to be seen as potential “real-estate” and it, and adjacent land, might become grist to that industries mill, under the guise, so euphorically referred to as “development”. One should perhaps guard against any temptation to be over-optimistic about the power of human laws to protect organisms and habitat. The current plight of the Rhinos springs to mind and of more pertinent, the fact that only a few years ago, part of Queen Elizabeth Park, not just a nature reserve but also located close to the Head Office of the Provinces conservation organ, was de-proclaimed and converted into real estate, thus ending its possible contribution to maintenance of the biodiversity. However, having uttered these threats it would still seem to me a good thing if parts of the WVC could acquire some sort of official or legal status as a wild life preserve. A glorious pipe dream! “What if the WVC is able to raise funds from inter-alia, the wealthy citizens of Hilton and purchase, or by whatever means, acquire, title to the land which I have been studying, and establish “The Crags” Nature Reserve.” Less ambitiously, it would seem to be that a clarification and demarcation, i.e.; survey with clearly visible markers of the areas within the WVC dedicated to nature conservation and therefore off limits to forestry activities would be very useful. It needs to be drawn to the attention of those that control this land that it has significance in terms of conservation of biodiversity, given that the bottom line is always relevant in debates about land-use, the question arises as to whether it can be made to pay for its upkeep or even yield revenues. Amenity areas can be argued as fulfilling a necessary function within a city, even if they do not yield income, whilst a well-maintained and productive catchment can be argued for in terms of actual Rand value of water production and flood amelioration. Natural areas stand head and shoulders above forestry plantations and developed environments in terms of both water quality and yield and flood amelioration. Durban’s D. Moss network of nature reserves is something worth investigating and perhaps emulating partially. Worlds View viewpoint looking back In conclusion, I would not claim to have answers to all the issues and questions I have raised but I do emphatically believe that the area I have looked at, especially the Crags, is well worth working to conserve. I am impressed with what has evidently been done already to keep it looking as good as it does. I congratulate you and your colleagues for your work in achieving this. Any work you do for the WVC is worth doing! I will continue to pursue my interest in the flora of this area and hopefully look at other areas within the WVC as my limited time and energy budget will allow and hope that my efforts will be of further use to the Conservancy. learn more about World’s View at:


People vs Biodiversity

This article first appeared in the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Rhino Club Newsletter.

Most, if not all, of the environmental progress we’ve made in the past 40 years could be undone in the next 40 by the sheer size and resource demands of our ever-growing, all-consuming population. The threat is very real.

zebra city

This year a national park was de-registered(lost its legal status) in Mexico to provide food and water to a growing local population; the U.S. government announced it will cease reintroducing wolves to new areas because there are too many people; and record numbers of endangered manatees, red wolves, gray wolves and panthers were killed in the U.S. by cars, boats, snow mobiles and guns. The historic recovery of these and many more imperilled species is being reversed by too many people consuming too much and crowding out wildlife habitat.

r scilla cows

Last week the Cabot Institute hosted a debate for BBC Radio 4’s Shared Planet programme, asking whether we can better manage resources to live within our planet’s means, or whether there are simply too many of us to co-exist with wildlife. Fred Pearce, science and environment writer, was one of the panellists. He argued that nature is dynamic and with better management of the resources we already have, we can reduce our consumption and live within the planet’s ability to recover.

Kierán Suckling, Executive Director of the Centre for Biological Diversity in Arizona, had a more pessimistic view. He believes that the human population is going to rise to a level far greater than the planet can sustain, and if we do not control our population level we will not be able to prevent ecological destruction on a global scale.

r kwampumuza

We are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. The 2012 Living Planet Report by the WWF estimated that we lost 28% of global biodiversity between 1970 and 2008. Fred took a more holistic view, that while of course we have a huge effect on the natural environment and should try and minimise damage, nature is resilient and will fight back. Foxes invading urban environments, weeds in a garden and rainforests’ ability to regrow in 15 years show that nature isn’t as fragile as we think. Animals and plants that depend on very specific environments are likely to be more at risk than more generalist species however and Kieran argued that we have an “ethical responsibility” to keep all remaining species alive.

r vine snake
Every day around 870 million people do not get enough food. How can we hope to feed a predicted 9.6 billion people by 2050 whilst growing food more sustainably? Suckling described how industrial agricultural practices are highly damaging to the environment, for example pesticides which probably have a severe impact on bees. He argued that organic farms are unlikely to provide enough food for the growing population. Globally, 19% of forests are protected, but rising demand for fuel and agricultural land means we are losing 80,000 acres of rainforest each day and probably 50,000 species of animals and plants every year. The good news, Pearce said, is that that we already produce enough food to feed the predicted 9 billion people, although we waste enough for 3 billion. Recent reports showed that 15 million tonnes of food is thrown away in the UK each year. He argued that we should be encouraged by the notion that “we can reduce our footprint just by being more economical”. The real challenge is how to make people understand that food waste is both socially and environmentally unethical.
Fred mentioned that overall women are having half the number of children that their mothers had. This is in part thanks to medical advances, meaning that most children will survive to adulthood so fewer births are needed to build a family. It is also an education success story. Both the panellists agreed that “when education and freedom levels rise, the population starts to grow more slowly”. Opportunities for women to educate themselves will be critical in changing gender stereotypes and reducing the numbers of unwanted pregnancies. This is good news for human rights as well as managing our growing population’s impact on the environment.

r van reenen women with picks
The debate ventured into the ethical question of whether animals and the environment should have same right to live as humans. Does sustainable living have to be an “us versus them” question? Fred took a humanist view, but argued that we as a species need the services that nature provides. Kieran argued that we must not simply steal the most resources we can get away with, but live sustainably with other species.

Where do you stand on this issue? Are you prepared to structure your life around sustainable living or do you believe that it’s a problem for future generations. Must your children and their descendants inherit a world where the loss of resources threatens humanity’s very existence?

How many Oribi are left?

This report was compiled by Dr Ian T. Little & Jiba F. Magwaza. Photos by Ian Little.

The Oribi (Ourebia ourebi) is a highly specialized antelope inhabiting African temperate grasslands. The Oribi is a small antelope with a similar size and appearance to a steenbok and a shoulder height nearly reaching 60cm. Males are differentiated from females by having horns (straight horns that curve slightly forward) and being slightly bigger than females.


In South Africa, their numbers are thought to have declined in recent years based on the reported rate of illegal hunting, and they now exist in only a few formally protected areas, with the bulk of their population occurring on privately-owned land. The Oribi is a useful flagship species for highlighting the value of and threats to grasslands. Only 2.4% of South Africa’s grasslands are formally conserved and over 60% have already been irreversibly transformed. The ever increasing threat from expanding mining operations throughout the biome is likely to increase the amount of irreversibly transformed habitat significantly in the near future. Grasslands are the water and food production centres of the country and also one of the key centres of urban development. It is crucial that we protect the remaining natural grasslands.

For this reason the Endangered Wildlife Trust and a number of partners have been working consistently over the years in order to sustain and manage existing populations and to curb and reduce the impacts of known threats to the species.

The 2013 Oribi Survey, which started in the beginning of September and ended in October marks the third year of consecutive annual surveys of this endangered species. It was good to see more people supporting the survey in 2013 and this increase in participation shows hope for Oribi and the mission going forward will be to encourage more effective conservation efforts through increased awareness and collaboration.

The Oribi Survey is one of the initiatives run by the Oribi Working Group to monitor this endangered antelope across South Africa. The Oribi Working Group, which consists of members from the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), NCT Forestry Cooperative Limited, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), is committed to the conservation of Oribi, whether on protected land or private land.


After sending out forms via emails, calling landowners and the publication of Oribi Survey articles in the media, a total of 219 replies were received and the results follow below.

A total of 2932 Oribi were counted in South Africa and the following numbers were counted in the various provinces:

  • 1429 in KZN
  • 1 in Gauteng
  • 8 in Limpopo
  • 337 in Mpumalanga
  • 1155 in Eastern Cape
  • 2 in Free State

From the 219 returns, 92 were from KwaZulu-Natal, 37 from Mpumalanga, 2 from Gauteng, 1 from the Free State, 1 from Limpopo and 83 from Eastern Cape (please note some returns are combined into regions or districts).


From the 2013 census returns, the common threats facing Oribi were shown to be snaring, organized dog hunting, stray dogs, illegal shooting, jackal and habitat loss.

graph sommon percieved threats to oribi

If nothing is done about it, the numbers of this species will continue to decline. Habitat quality, habitat management and protection from poaching determine Oribi densities, which can range from one Oribi per 30ha to one per 8ha. An increase in reported illegal hunting with dogs over the past five years is of particular concern and it is important to note that while reporting rates of illegal hunting with dogs was high in 2000 to 2005 recent illegal hunting is in the form of large organized gambling syndicates which are considerably more destructive than the local sport or food hunting of the past. The exaggerated spike in reporting of this form of hunting is considered a real increase but may be enhanced as a result of the increased effort into addressing this issue. Either way it is significant concern for this species and many others.


Survey Issues

One common problem faced by participants in the survey is not being able to determine the gender of the Oribi and the fact that they hide makes it difficult to count them. For this reason we have not included the gender in the results of the survey. Oribi almost always occur in groups of 2-5 animals with one male per group.

Graph comparison to other years oribi

An Increase?

The results of the 2013 survey show a considerable increase in Oribi numbers and a consistent population growth since 2007. This result needs to be considered carefully and is unlikely an indication of an actual population growth but rather a consistent improvement in survey effort and improved counting methods. It is also important to note that a number of protected areas within KZN have been included in this survey and were not included in previous years. The 2013 survey showed a total of nearly 3000 Oribi actually counted which suggests that the overall population could be considerably higher than previously thought.

Thank You

The Oribi Working Group would like to thank all the participants for taking part and for their time to complete and return the survey. It is because of these people that we are able to access information to save the Oribi as this information helps us understand more about the threats and location of the threats faced by the Oribi throughout South Africa.

A big thank you again to all who forwarded and spread the word of the 2013 Oribi survey, it is highly appreciated. We are optimistic that in 2014’s Oribi Survey we will reach more people with an increase in number of survey returns.

Picture1 oribi