Tag Archives: birds

Kamberg & Hlatikulu Sightings – January 2017

Kamberg January 2017 – By Pam Kleiman

I enjoyed watching numerous White Storks around the district

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White Stork

The first of the Common Moorhen chicks seen on the small dam on Connington farm

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Common Moorhen

A little Dark-capped Yellow Warbler drying off after a bath

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Long-crested Eagle. I have yet to discover where these birds nest.

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Long-crested Eagle

IMG 7585 Great excitement as I drove out from the farm on the 10th. Sitting on the Escom wires were three Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. This is a bird rarely seen in the KZN Midlands.

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Blue-cheaked Bee-eater

A Spotted Flycatcher I saw purely by chance as it darted out of dense foliage to catch an insect

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Spotted Flycatcher

A rather intense stare from a Cape Weaver

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Cape Weaver

IMG 7962 This month I started seeing Amur Falcons around the area. Amazing to think that these small birds migrate all the way from northern China every year

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Amur Falcon

IMG 7970 A male Southern Red Bishop showing off his beautiful Summer plumage

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Southern Red Bishop (male)

A few butterflies in the garden

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Small patches of the beautiful Hesperantha coccinea seen along the banks of a crystal clear stream.

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Hesperantha coccinea

Hlatikulu Conservancy January 2017 – By Pam Kleiman

On my rounds recording the birds for SABAP2 I so enjoy being able to take photos of what I see in order to share them on this forum. I do hope you enjoy rambling with me!

Bar-throated Apalis, a species I only ever see in one spot along the road from Mooi River to Hlatikulu

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Bar-throated Apalis

An unexpected find in a swampy area covered in tall grasses – Cuckoo Finch

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Cuckoo Finch

A little bird that has coined the nickname “Bumble-bee bird” for obvious reasons. A male Yellow-crowned Bishop

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Yellow-crowned Bishop (male)

I was rather surprised to find a pair of Ostriches along the road to the Crane sanctuary.

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Ostrich (male and female)

Western Osprey another favourite species seen occasionally on our dams in Summer

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Western Osprey

A short parade by a Red-necked Spurfowl on the road in front of my vehicle

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Red-necked Spurfowl

A small group of young Cape Longclaws were fluffed-up against the wind on a high, grassy slope

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Cape Longclaw

I don’t see too many mammals on my travels, but do see the occasional Dassie / Rock hyrax

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Dassie / Rock Hyrax

Brunsvigia natalensis – a solitary plant at the side of the road

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Brunsvigia natalensis

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Brunsvigia natalensis

A summer flowering aloe just past it’s prime

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Aloe

One of the few orchids I have seen this month. I think this is Satyrium longicauda

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Satyrium longicauda

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Satyrium longicauda

Vlei Orchid – ? Satyrium hallackii

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Vlei Orchid – ? Satyrium hallackii

Boston Wildlife Sightings – Summer 2016

November 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

November has had the first typically summer rainfall pattern in three years. Hot humid haze days, interspersed with misty cool ones, regular thunderstorm activity and glorious rain. Finally our well has some water in it, the first time since May. Wildflowers particularly have responded and the hillside is covered in a neon orange wash of Watsonia socium.

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Watsonia socium

Some of the spectacular array of flowers are: Adjuga ophrydis; Albuca pachychlamys; Asclepias albens, these amazing flower heads droop downwards, hiding the vivid lime green and pink flowers;

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Adjuga ophrydis

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Albuca pachychlamys

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Asclepias albens

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Asclepias albens

Aspidonepsis flava with Crab spider; Berkheya macrocephala;

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Aspidonepsis flava with a well camouflaged crab spider

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Berkheya macrocephala

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Berkheya macrocephala

Chlorophytum cooperi; Cyanotis speciosa; Cyphia elata; Dierama latifolium; Helichrysum pallidum; Hermannia woodii; Indigofera hilaris, bright pink clumps in the grass;

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Chlorophytum cooperi

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Cyanotis speciosa

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Cyphia elata

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Dierama latifolium

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Helichrysum pallidum

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Hermannia woodii

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Indigofera hilaris

another different Ledebouria sp; delicate Lobelia erinus; hundreds of Merwilla nervosa; Pachycarpus natalensis; Scabiosa columbaria; Searsia discolor;

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Ledebouria sp.

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Lobelia erinus

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Merwilla nervosa

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Merwilla nervosa

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Pachycarpus natalensis

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Scabiosa columbaria

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Searsia discolor

two species of Silene, Silene bellidoides and Silene burchellii;

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Silene bellidoides

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Silene bellidoides

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Silene burchellii

Sisyranthus trichostomus; Trachyandra asperata; Wahlenbergia cuspidata;

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Sisyranthus trichostomus

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Trachyandra asperata

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Wahlenbergia cuspidata

I finally have a name for this beautiful Watsonia via a Facebook group: Flora of southern Africa, Watsonia meriana

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Watsonia meriana

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Watsonia meriana

and Xysmalobium parviflorum.

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Xysmalobium parviflorum

I managed to get a photo of a Spectacled Weaver on a nest in the Plane Tree. The Spectacled Weavers don’t seem to strip off the leaves in the vicinity of their nests as the Village Weavers do; perhaps they seek camouflage rather than being able to see their predators approach. The Striped Swallows have returned over a month later than usual. Red-collared Widows are now in full courting plumage and a large flock roams over the seeding grass. A Long-crested Eagle perches regularly on the Eskom post. The Southern Boubou’s are a delight with their varying call and quiet movements on the lawn and in shrubbery. A Bokmakierie pair are frequently heard and seen in the Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja thicket that has grown up behind the house.

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Spectacled Weaver

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Spectacled Weaver nest

With the rainfall, fungi pop up regularly. A Horse Mushroom and Star Stinkhorn with a millipede are two of them.

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Horse mushroom, Agaricus arvensis

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Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe ruba, with a millipede

Butterflies are starting to be seen more frequently. I watched an African Common White butterfly feeding in Vernonia natalensis.

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African Common White butterfly on Vernonia natalensis

Bagworm larvae, of the Psyshidae Family of moths, on Vernonia hirsuta.

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Bagworm on Vernonia hirsuta

Insects, like these Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys, are nibbling many flowers and buds.

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Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys

Finally a delight on the lawn one morning, a Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra!

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Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra

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Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra

November 2016 on Stormy Hill – Caroline McKerrow

I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.

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All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Speckled Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.

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December 2016 on Gramarye – Crystelle Wilson

On a trip to a Zululand game reserve in November we were lucky enough to see cheetahs. Back at Boston I was just as excited seeing a Serval on an early morning walk down to the river.

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Serval

The breeding season was in full swing and juvenile birds were everywhere to be seen. At the river two Levaillant’s Cisticola fledglings tried to balance on the same stalk

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

And in the garden African Paradise Flycatcher parents were industriously feeding their newly fledged chicks

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African Paradise Flycatcher

On the kitchen verandah there was a near tragedy when part of the nest of the Greater Striped Swallows collapsed on Christmas Day, leaving the three chicks exposed inside. Fortunately they were about to fledge and within a few days were flying strongly with the parents.

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Greater Striped Swallows

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Greater Striped Swallows

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,

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Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Amethyst Sunbird, Common Moorhen, Hamerkop, Three-banded Plover, Wailing Cisticola, Blacksmith Lapwing, Speckled Mousebird,

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Speckled Mousebirds

African Spoonbill, Black-headed Oriole, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Lazy Cisticola, Neddicky, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Canary

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Yellow-fronted Canary

Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Barn Swallow,

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Barn Swallow

Yellow-billed Kite, Little Grebe, White-backed Duck,

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White-backed Duck

Cape Wagtail, Black Crake, Cape Weaver, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Crow, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola,

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Zitting Cisticola

Fork-tailed Drongo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Burchell’s Coucal, White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Cape Glossy Starling,

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Cape Glossy Starling

African Hoopoe, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, Egyptian Goose, Cape Canary (well camouflaged in the summer grass)

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Cape Canary

Red-chested Flufftail, Grey Crowned Crane,

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Grey Crowned Crane

Cape Longclaw, Common Waxbill, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cattle Egret, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Bokmakierie, Village Weaver,

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Village Weaver

Southern Fiscal, Brown-throated Martin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Quail, Southern Red Bishop,

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Southern Red Bishop

Drakensberg Prinia,

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Drakensberg Prinia

Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird,

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Fan-tailed Widowbird

Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Rush-warbler, African Reed-warbler, African Stonechat, Long-crested Eagle, Hadeda Ibis, Cardinal Woodpecker

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Cardinal Woodpecker

Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Pin-tailed Whydah

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Pin-tailed Whydah

Red-eyed Dove,

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Red-eyed Dove

Cape Turtle-dove, Southern Boubou, Greater Striped Swallow, Cape White-eye, Diderick Cuckoo

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Diderick Cuckoo

December 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

Sultry hot days with thunderstorms have produced a vivid green landscape, however there has not been enough rain to raise the water table significantly; although there is water in the well it is a fraction of what is usually there in December.

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Summer solstice

Clouds obscured the full moon rise; however early the next morning it was visible through scudding clouds.

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Summer solstice was a glorious day, ending in a beautiful sunset. Already many grasses are seeded, the red tinge of Themeda triandra softening the green.

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Themeda triandra

There are still many wildflowers in bloom, some that I saw were: Agapanthus campanulatus; Aristea woodii; Berkheya setifera; Clutia monticola fruit;

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Agapanthus campanulatus

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Aristea woodii

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Berkheya setifera

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Clutia monticola

Craterocapsa tarsodes, which I usually associate with the mountains grows here too on rocky clay patches;

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Craterocapsa tarsodes

Dipcadi viride; Epilobium capense seeds; Gladiolus ecklonii; Haemanthus humilis; Lobelia erinus;

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Dipcadi viride

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Epilobium capense

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Gladiolus ecklonii

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Haemanthus humilis

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Lobelia erinus

four orchids, Eulophia hians var. nutans; Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii; Eulophia zeyheriana and Satyrium longicauda;

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Eulophia hians ver. nutans

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Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii

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Eulophia zeyheriana

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Satyrium longicauda

Papaver aculeatum; Pelargonium luridum; Rubus ludwigii; Senecio subrubriflorus; Strigia bilabiata and Zantedeschia albomaculata.

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Papaver aculeatum

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Pelargonium luridum

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Rubus ludwigii

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Senecia subrubriflorus

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Strigia bilabiata

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

 

An unusual fungi was growing in stone gravel.

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In the lush foliage I found some delightful insects: two Bee Fly species, a Foam Grasshopper and a lucky sighting of a Giant Forest Cicada!

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Bee Fly

 

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Bee Fly

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Foam Grasshopper

 

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Giant Forest Cicada

Most mornings the birds find the night flying moths before I do, but I did see a few, including the wings of a Wounded Emperor, Neobunaeopsis arabella; then a rather spectacular first for me, a day flying moth, a Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp. which at first I thought must be a butterfly!

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Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.

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Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.

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Wings of an Emperor moth, Neobunaeopsis arabella

After a misty night I saw a water-beaded spider web.

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Long-crested Eagles catch thermals between waiting and watching patiently from perches.

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Two discarded eggshells, one from a Spectacled Weaver and the second from a Village Weaver prove that some of the nests were acceptable.

The Striped Swallows have selected a new site to build a nest, I hope this one works out. A pair of Cape Wagtails have recently taken up residence in the garden. Occasionally I hear Spotted Eagle-Owls calling at dusk and dawn.

One morning I discovered a newly excavated Antbear hole, as it was in the middle of the driveway we had to fill it in.

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Sadly I will have to live-trap and relocate the Lesser Savanna Dormice that have taken up residence in the house; a hole in a carpet, wooly slippers and clothing where they have selected bedding material, and they devour any food left out… Drawers are their favoured places to make nests. I love their chirrups as they move through the house and occasional sightings as they scurry across the floor and furniture.

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Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were away for half of November but on our return we were thrilled to find we had had a lot of rain and our dam was full at last and everywhere so green. Quite a change from the Cape.

One morning to our astonishment, a young male reedbuck wandered through the garden quite happily. Thank goodness the dogs were elsewhere.

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We have woken up for the past few weeks to Reedbuck eating the long grass in our garden.

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A porcupine got into the garden one night and dug up a heap of cannas – there was a fight with the dogs and as usual the dogs came off second best being stabbed with quills.

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The gymnogene has been terrorising the birds in the garden who have made nests in the trees. Caught a lovely picture of him perched on my bottle brush tree.

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A pair of wattle crane arrived at the dam and stayed for a week.

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The one has tags on its legs which I had sent to the KZN Crane Foundation for identification.

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Response from Tanya Smith, African Crane Conservation Program: “It is so great to get this resighting, this bird is definitely of breeding age and is perhaps looking for wetland area to set up a new territory. The combination of rings (Green/Blue on the left leg and large white on the right leg) is of a bird we caught and colour ringed at the end of August 2011 on a farm just outside Nottingham Road (on the Fort Nottingham Road), from a farm called Shawlands. Therefore this bird is about 5.5 years old.”

The pair of blue crane come and go and do not seem to have made a nest yet. We also have a number of oribi running around – the past 2 days we have seen a pair of males.

There were 5 Grey Crowned Cranes that arrived at the dam one morning.

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We also have African Spoonbill,

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dozens of Yellow-billed Duck, White-faced Duck,

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Little Grebe (where do these waterbirds come from as the dam was empty for months??), Red-billed Teal, Spur-winged Geese and a pair of Egyptian Geese with 5 young who are now about a month old.

We have been inundated with Puff Adders once again – one next to our soak pit eating a frog and the dogs killed an enormous one in our driveway – our rottie proceeded to eat it – we are always concerned that the dogs will pierce the poison sac while eating these snakes – on the same day Pat saw some children from Kazimula school walking down the D18 carrying a dead puffie.

The Steppe Buzzard, and Jackal Buzzard often sit on our dead tree next to the pond waiting for a juicy meal now that our ponds are full.

The Long-crested Eagle is often seen perched on one of the poles along the D18.

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Two White Storks arrived on the farm a week ago. We have a number of Sunbirds flitting around the garden now that the summer flowers are in bloom.  Saw this female Amethyst Sunbird feeding off Wygelia flowers.

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The White-throated Swallows that made their nest on our verandah lampshade have hatched out 4 chicks who are now about ten days old. We have to clean up a heap of poop each morning. The other swallows nest outside the bedroom window fell down during a severe wind.

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In the past few days a pair of Greater Striped Swallows have arrived and make a huge chirping noise before perching on the hanging basket where they groom themselves. This is about 4pm each day. They are very tame and do not mind my running around and taking photos of them thru the glass doors. We have not had them here before.

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The Cape White-eyes have been stealing the coir from my hanging baskets.

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The Red-chested Cuckoo (piet-my-vrou) sometimes sings for hours. Hope it finds a mate soon.

Drakensberg Prinia

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Anthericum, possibly angulicaule (Thanks Nikki Brighton)

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Gladiolus longicollis

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Senecio bupleuroides (yellow starwort)

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Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Rinkhals which has been roaming around the garden for a while.

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Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

Our small dam at it lowest this year. Only 2 puddles left for the fish. Quite a few died but some fortunately survived.

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Since the rains we have had recently, things have improved.

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The Christmas herald! We have a little patch of Christmas Bells on Kildaragh. They are fast disappearing though. As children we would pick bunches for the Christmas table. Now we look in excitement when we see just one.

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Clausena anisata, Perdepis or Horsewood. A neat, small tree for the bird garden. Some Swallowtail butterflies breed on this tree.

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A close up of the leaves, which have a very unpleasant smell, when they are crushed. The prolific fruit is visible.

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The Pom – Pom tree (Dais cotinifolia). This is an especially large specimen on our property. It was probably planted years ago by June Fannin who planted many trees here but never lived on the property. These trees grow well in the Midlands as is seen along the Main Road in Howick. Always a wonderful show.

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Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Such a treat to have the grassland streams flowing again.

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I adore the cool early mornings and frequently wander about at dawn. Seldom have my camera or phone with me, but fortunately did on this day.

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Every year I say the same thing, but as this interests me every year, it is worth repeating: Isn’t it fascinating how a patch of grassland that you can be very familiar with suddenly produces an abundance of flowers that you have not noticed much before? Clearly, rainfall and temperature patterns have an enormous influence (never mind grazing and burning) on which plants flower best when. This spring I have particularly noticed Arum lilies thriving, lots of Striga bilabiata, dainty white Kniphofia and more recently lots of Christmas bells – Sandersonia aurantiaca.

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The Cape Chestnut (Calodendron capense) hasn’t been as spectacular as usual – the leaves appeared at the same time as the pink flowers. Someone told me that Scilla nervosa has been amazing this year, but I have not noticed that where I walk. Anyway – a few floral treasures to share:

Plenty of pale blue Thunbergia natalensis in shady areas

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Asclepias gibba – in Lesotho all parts of this plant are eaten. Flowers like sweets, bulbs straight out of the ground and the leaves cooked with other greens.

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Asclepias albens – always a spectacular find

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Pachycarpus natalensis – love the two kinds of ant and the beetle lurking in the flower!

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Aster bakerianus

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Kniphofia – most likely breviflora

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Vernonia hirsuta with attendant fly

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Hypericum lalandii – the tiny indigenous Hypericum, not the invasive shrub.

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Alepidea natalensis

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Ajuga ophrydis – Bugle plant

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Cyperus spharocephalus

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Dierama luteoalbidium

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Morea possible inclinata

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Pentanisia prunelloides

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Sisyanthus trichostomus – the Hairy Grass-Flower. I think I may have found Sisyanthus fanniniae too, but the photo is dreadful, so I can’t be sure.

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I have never come across this pale Gladiolus before. Not sure what the species is but possibly serica as the stems are really hairy.

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Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Continuing on from last month’s dead things, here is a tiny baby Skink which I found next to the dog’s water bowl

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I first thought that this might be the larder of a Fiscal Shrike, but I’m sure something larger like a raptor must have eaten something and left the gizzards on this pole

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A juvenile Fiscal Shrike which was stuck in the water tank

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A pretty tame Black-backed Jackal that had been lying in the long grass in one of our sheep day camps, sometimes terrible creatures for us farmers but still beautiful to look at. This one was only about 20m away, taken with my cellphone. I managed to herd it around into the purple flowers for a more visually appealing shot!

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Some cracks in the mud of Mavela Dam, hopefully it’ll be full again by the end of summer! Still waiting for a big rain.

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“Working for Water” did a very good job cutting and helping to clear some invasive alien wattle trees on our farm. Hopefully I’ll be able to take a photograph of this corner one day and it will be bugweed and wattle free!

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Couple of beetles fighting over a mate

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2 large Rhino Beetles

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A large fern next to a small pond in the veld

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The Rinkhals have been doing the rounds on Copperleigh recently.

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I’m not sure if this is a fly or a bee as I’ve never seen one before, but the colour was very striking on the brown fur of this cow

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Reedbuck Doe

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Reedbuck Ram

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A spider in its dewey web on the ground

I took the dogs for a walk through the veld one Sunday, and took the following images, this is a panoramic view of Inhlosane in the distance

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Very happy to have running streams

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Red hot pokers

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Pink Wildflowers

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Arum Lily

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Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Submissions by Pamela Kleiman of Connington Farm

KAMBERG

Although most days were still pretty chilly, it was good to get out and see how the veld had greened up, to see the Spring flowers starting and to see some of the migrant birds returning

A view looking down the D450 valley

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I enjoyed seeing the first of the Spring flowers. In low lying wet areas there were sheets of Tulbachia natalensis

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Tulbachia natalensis

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Tulbachia natalensis

Dierama sp.

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A small farm dam covered in pink water lilies

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I was focusing on a flight of different swallows one day when I noticed one that was flying very slowly. I zoomed in on it only to discover it was a Bearded Vulture flying very high over my cottage on Connington farm!

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Bearded Vulture

Some of the other special birds I managed to photograph were :-

The first pair of Pin-tailed Whydahs I had seen for the season

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Pin-tailed Whydah (male and female)

A Secretarybird very close to home

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Secretarybird

On a very cold and damp morning there were 4 young Southern Bald Ibis sitting in a tree

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Southern Bald Ibis (young)

 

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Southern Bald Ibis (young)

This African Harrier-hawk landed right next to the road as I drove past

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African Harrier-hawk (Gymnogene)

Two Red-necked Spurfowl came out of a swampy area – a first for me in KZN

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Red-necked Spurfowl

HLATIKULU

Not an awful lot to report for this area, but it was good to see the Banded Martin had returned and to see a couple of African Bald Ibis close to the side of the road in the Hlatikulu reserve.

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Banded Martin

Southern Bald Ibis – I was interested to see the comparison of the adults and the young birds (shown in the Kamberg report above)

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Southern Bald Ibis (adult)

 

 

Field mushrooms

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Ajuga ophrydis

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Boston Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We have had quite a lot of activity over September. Some good, some bad.

We saw a large mongoose with dark colouration run across the road on our way out one day. Possibly either a Large Grey Mongoose or a Water (Marsh) Mongoose?

The Common (Grey) Duiker is a regular visitor and then we had a wonderful sighting with the small Bushbuck herd. We saw the ram, a doe and fawn and another male (could this be last years baby?) all together.

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Bushbuck ram

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Young Bushbuck

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Bushbuck fawn

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Bushbuck doe and fawn

We were so chuffed, then about two weeks later we had a tragedy. The dogs kept barking towards nextdoors indigenous forest so we went to look. After pushing through the American Brambles, we came across what we think was the baby Bushbuck caught in a snare. We couldn’t be sure as it had got quite badly decomposed so was not too easy to identify. We think that the dogs were picking up the scent by that time as it did smell a bit. Such a shame. We have seen two of the bushbuck again but not the baby.

The Hadeda Ibis and Village Weaver birds are busy nesting in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons seem to be nesting everywhere and the Red-winged Starlings are in the shed. I’ve seen the resident African Paradise Flycatcher too.

We were building some better steps over the balcony wall for Pisch man who is Stormy Hill’s elderly cat when we came across the Red-lipped Herald snake in a concrete block at the base of the old steps. So now we know where he lives! We’ve named him Harry and he seems quite content living in the cat steps. Maybe he’s waiting for them to drop a mouse or two.

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Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake

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Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

September Spring has been wonderful, mostly warm days, a few thunderstorms and a surprise snowfall on the eighteenth,

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followed by a magical sunrise a few days later.

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Many flowers have sprung up through the greening grass, though the water table is still very low. Amongst those seen, Acalypha sp.; Argyrolobium marginatum; Asclepias stellifera; Aster bakerianus; Chrysanthemoides monilifera; Clutia cordata; Convolvulus natalensis; Dierama cooperi; Eriosema salignum;

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Acalypha sp.

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Argyrolobium marginatum

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Asclepias stellifera

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Aster bakerianus

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Chrysanthemoides monilifera

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Clutia cordata

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Convolvulus natalensis

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Dierama cooperi

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Eriosema salignum

Eulophia hians var. hians with an exciting sighting of an ant like insect, probably the pollinator with pollinaria stuck to it’s back;

Eulophia hians var. inaequalis;

Gerbera ambigua;

Gymnosporia uniflora, Dwarf Spikethorn, a first for me;

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Gymnosporia uniflora

Hebenstretia duraHelichrysum aureum;

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Hebenstretia dura

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Helichrysum aureum

Helichrysum caespititium and I found a new population;

Hypoxis argentea and costata;

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Hypoxis argentea

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Hypoxis costata

Kohautia amatymbica; two different Ledebouria sp.;

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Kohautia amatymbica

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Ledebouria sp.

Pentanisia prunelloides; Raphionacme hirsuta;

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Pentanisia prunelloides

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Raphionacme hirsuta

Senecio macrocephalus and oxyriifolius leaves;

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Senecio macrocephalus

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Senecio oxyriifolius

Stachys aethiopica; Thesium pallidum; Tritonia lineata; Tulbaghia leucantha; Vernonia hirsuta and another smaller sp.; plus Vihna vexillata.

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Stachys aethiopica

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Tritonia lineata

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Vernonia hirsuta

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Vernonia sp (small)

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Vihna vexillata

A few other observations were, Carpenter Bees;

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Carpenter bee

a Drone Fly, Bee-mimic;

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Drone Fly

a Marbled Emperor moth;

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Marbled Emperor Moth

a Wasp nest neatly placed in a rock crevice

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Wasp nest

and finally I nearly stepped on a rather large Puff Adder sunning himself near his hole… He slid inside it as I tried to take a quick photo, not in good focus!

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Puff Adder

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Welcome spring rain generated fresh growth on the hillsides and while out birding, I was pleased to see a snake lily (Scadoxus puniceus)

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Scadoxis puniceus

and giant anemones (Anemone fanninii)

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Anemone fanninii

Spring is also the time of year when many birds respond to the urge to reproduce. For some time I have been keeping an eye on a large nest in trees along the Elands River on the Dargle Road. It might have originally belonged to Long-crested Eagles, but has also been used by Egyptian Geese and this season by a Jackal Buzzard. The first picture show the raptor on the nest on 2 September

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Jackal Buzzard

The second picture was taken on 24 September and there appears to be a fledgling in the nest. The adult was sitting on a tree nearby.

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Jackal Buzzard fledgling

Jackal Buzzards seem to be doing very well in the district, with a number of immature birds in a variety of plumages showing up all over. The picture of one of them in flight shows the bird is in the process of moulting, and donning yet another variation in colouration.

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Jackal Buzzard in flight

Another highlight was seeing four Blue Cranes flying over the Geldarts’ newly proclaimed Boschberg Nature Reserve, with another two on the ground below them

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Blue Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Pipit, Pied Starling, Common Waxbill

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Common Waxbill

Wailing Cisticola, Lanner Falcon, Egyptian Goose (already boasting a clutch of goslings)

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Egyptian Goose with goslings

Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Grey Heron

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Grey Heron

Malachite Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown-throated Martin, Lesser Swamp-warbler, Three-banded Plover, Red-knobbed Coot, Spur-winged Goose, South African Shelduck

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South African Shelduck

White-throated Swallow, Black-headed Heron, Common Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Greater Striped Swallow, African Fish-Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, African Firefinch, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Brimstone Canary

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Brimstone Canary

African Stonechat, Cape Wagtail, African Black Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Longclaw, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Long-crested Eagle, Bokmakierie, Cape Glossy Starling, Red-throated Wryneck, Bar-throated Apalis, African Hoopoe, Levaillant’s Cisticola

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

Common Moorhen, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape White-eye, Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebird, Hamerkop

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Hamerkop

Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher, Hadeda Ibis, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Robin-chat

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Cape Robin-chat

Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, House Sparrow, Village Weaver, Cape Canary, Cape Crow

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Cape Crow

Cape Sparrow, (and a welcome back to migrants) Black Saw-wing and African Paradise-flycatcher

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African Paradise-flycatcher

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Pamela Kleiman – Connington Farm

Despite the still very chilly weather it was lovely to see the trees and veld starting to get green. The occasional migrant bird returned to the area and a few veld flowers were to be seen

A flush of new green leaves

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Some of the birds seen this month

A large flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks was still to be seen on some dairy ponds

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Black-winged Lapwing

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Adult Grey Crowned Crane with a youngster

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Hadeda Ibis preparing a nest

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Young Harrier-Hawk in my garden

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Female African Paradise-flycatcher arrived about mid month

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Male Long-tailed Widowbird  showing off his summer plumaged

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White-throated Swallow – another newly arrived migrant

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I was very lucky to get a shot of this Black Crake right out in the open

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Spring is in the air – a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes doing a mating dance

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Green Wood-hoopoe

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Found this dear little Dark-capped Yellow Warbler near our farm dam

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The first of the butterflies.

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A few veld flowers – quite scarce in the dairy farming areas

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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.

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Resident Duiker wandering around

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

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Vlei rat

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

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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.

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Jackal Buzzard

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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.

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Secretarybird

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

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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,

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Cape Wagtail

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

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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,

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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,

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Long-crested Eagle

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

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South African Shelduck

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

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Yellow-billed Duck

Buff-streaked Chat,

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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,

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Speckled Mousbirds

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

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Malachite Kingfisher

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

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

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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.

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

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Selaginella dregei

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

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Pteridium aquilinum

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Cyathea dregei

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

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Apodolirion buchananii

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

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Dimorphotheca jacunda

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Dimorphotheca jacunda

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Graderia scabra

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Cyrtanthus tuckii

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Ledebouria ovatifolia

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Nemesia caerulea

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Ursinia tenuiloba

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

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Themeda triandra

Masses of Buddleja salviifolia flowers scent the air,

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Buddleja salviifolia

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

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Cussonia paniculata

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

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Leucosidea sericea

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Leucosidea sericea

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

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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.

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Porcupine skull

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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.

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Common Reedbuck (female)

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Common Reedbuck (male)

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

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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.

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Male Village Weaver building a nest

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – August 2016

Pamela Kleiman – Connington Farm

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

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

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Cape Vulture

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Cape Vultures

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

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Jackal Buzzard

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

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Yellow Bishop

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

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Cape Longclaw

The first signs of Spring

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Halleria lucida

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Buddleja salvifolia with its gorgeous scent

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

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Yellow-billed Kite

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White-throated Swallow

A first record for pentad 2915_2950 was a Squacco Heron

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Squacco Heron

Egyptian Geese and Common Moorhen in amongst the water lilies

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Egyptian Geese in the foreground and Common Moorhen in the background

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

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Village Weaver (male)

Hlatikulu Conservancy Area by Pamela Kleiman

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

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A lucky close sighting of a pair of Oribi

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Oribi (female)

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The male Oribi silhouetted against the snowy ‘berg

A few early flowers after the fire season

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

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Denham’s Bustard

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

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Ground Woodpeckers

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

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Sentinel Rock Thrush (female)

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Sentinel Rock Thrush (male)

I often see Buff-streaked Chats I the area

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Buff-streaked Chat (male)

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

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Red-throated Wryneck

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Winter 2016

Nicola Storkey

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

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.

Snare

Snow & the mayhem it produces!

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

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Vehicles driving past Beverley

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

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Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

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

Buck leg 1

Buck leg 2

Pauline Holden – Woodsong Farm

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

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

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

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

Male reed buck after heavy rain with wet coat

Common Reedbuck (male)

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

Secretary bird

Secretarybird

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

Gymnogene in my garden

African Harrier-Hawk

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

Jackal buzzard (I think)

Jackal Buzzard

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

Black sparrowhawk female sitting on nest

Black Sparrowhawk nesting

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

Black sparrowhawk chick

Black Sparrowhawk chick

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

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

Frozen Hamerkop

Hamerkop

 

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

3 oribi running up the hill

Oribi

 

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

Sunrise

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

A few of the crowned crane at Fowlers farm Lions river

Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

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

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

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

Female duiker

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

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

Cape robin being flirtatious

Cape Robin-chat

We have a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds.

Male and female gurney sugar birds

Gurney’s Sugarbirds

Gurney sugar bird at dusk

Gurney’s Sugarbird

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

Another baby reedbuck

Female reedbuck with her youngster

Female reedbuck

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

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).

Samango

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

Samango Monkey

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

Muddy icy paw print

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

Buddleja

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Goddard

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

Otter

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Early morning mist over the valley

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Worm in freshly cut wattle tree

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

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

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

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Inhlosane rising above the ever diminishing Mavela Dam

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Little dam near Selsley Farm

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Aloes flowering on a neighbours farm

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

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

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Sunset

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Late afternoon sun streaming through some pine trees

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

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Louise Ghersie – Satori Farm

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

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Boston Wildlife Sightings – July 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

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Fire and Ice July, the first part of the month was characterized by smoky, hazy skies from fire-break burning. A cold front brought a sharp frost on 3 July, with very chilly temperatures and a few flakes of snow on the previous day.

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The dry, warmer, intervening weather was changed into a snowy winter wonderland on the 25 July, much needed moisture, including rain, soaked the dry soil for a few days.

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Aloe maculata have started fruiting, there are still some bright orange flowers on the hillside;

Buddleja salvifolia burst into flower after the snow;

as well as hundreds of bright yellow Gazania krebsiana;

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

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

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

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We have been working at rehabilitating a hillside that had a stand of pine trees growing on it. It is a very slow process, nine years since the trees came down in a tornado. Removal of the trunks and large branches came first, then regular annual burns and weeding out alien species. We are seeing indigenous pioneer species coming in. Recently we cut down and removed Acacia melanoxylon

and were happy to identify small indigenous trees that grow in a grove, Canthium (now Afrocanthium) mundianum, which will remain there.

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This last month there have been several sightings of Common Reedbuck. A very fine male, with beautiful horns, regularly wanders quite close to the house. He rests in a patch of bracken, one evening he was emerging as I arrived home.

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Male Common Reedbuck

Then on a walk to the top of our property I saw three males and four females, the largest group I’ve seen together in recent years.

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Common Reedbuck spoor

Down near the gate I found many small pieces of fur, possibly Vlei Rat, that had been discarded by a predator, possibly the Long-crested Eagle, as that gatepost is a frequent perch.

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A pile of Porcupine droppings indicated they are still around.

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Porcupine scat

A Black-headed Oriole has taken over from the Black-backed Puffback, trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. His liquid song from the verandah, where he perched in between bouts was so beautiful.

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Black-headed Oriole

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

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A flock of Cape Weavers sunned themselves in bare branches.

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Cape Weavers

The large group of Cape White-eyes are my favourite winter birds, they all keep together, moving constantly whether foraging or taking a drink and dip.

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Cape White-eyes

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Cape White-eye

The Speckled Pigeons have multiplied, there are about six living here, roosting and nesting in the carports. I regularly hear the African Fish-Eagle calling from the valley, took a flight up over the house.

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Speckled Pigeon

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

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Striped Skink

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

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

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Possible wasp nest on the ground

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Ant nest in the tree

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

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Painted Lady Butterfly

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We are getting quite a lot of activity at Stormy Hill Horse Trails. The buck are coming to drink at our horses’ water trough on the hill, so we have spotted a pair of Bushbuck, a Reedbuck, including a ‘teenager’ Reedbuck, and our resident Common (Grey) Duiker. We have even had a Bushbuck doe eating the rose bushes in the garden, which is great as it will save me some pruning.

We were quite excited to see a pair of Knysna Turaco (previously know as the Knysna Lourie), so I’m hoping that they have decided to nest in the area.

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Birds have evolved very efficient ways to regulate their body temperature, but in winter it is hard not to think they are feeling the cold when they are sitting all huddled up like the Speckled Pigeons on the roof of a barn

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Speckled Pigeons

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

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Helmeted Guineafowl

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

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Black-headed Heron

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Cape Weaver, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Red-winged Starling, Lanner Falcon, Rock Kestrel, Denham’s Bustard, Green Wood-hoopoe, Bokmakierie, Forest Canary, Pied Starling, Buff-streaked Chat

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Buff-streaked Chat

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

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House Sparrow

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

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

Black-shouldered Kite, Long-crested Eagle, Black-headed Heron, Cape Sparrow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-dove, Fork-tailed Drongo

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Fork-tailed Drongo

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

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Village Weaver

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