Tag Archives: blue crane

Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Autumn is officially here with winter trying to sneak in early and this frost we had a couple of weekends ago.

Autumn frost on leaves

A very beautiful black caterpillar with red and yellow markings on the sides and blue spines on the top.

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

Some sort of brown mantis sitting on my arm. Comment from Dr Jason Londt: “It is a mantid (family Mantidae). Don’t know the species (we have over 180 species in SA). Unfortunately I am not aware of a local specialist who could give us a species name – most of the literature on the group seems to be in French! Anyway – nice twig mimic!”

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

Flying ants inside the house which appeared after the recent rains in Dargle

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

I was moving a feed tyre out of the grass and suddenly noticed a whole family of little mice scurrying around. I managed to capture a pic of this guy before they all disappeared into the grass.

Mouse running away

A beautiful Oribi ram, spotted on our farm. The first and only time that I have ever seen one.

Oribi Ram

Not the best pic, but trying to capture a Pied Kingfisher with a cellphone camera in mid dive is a bit of a challenge!

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

I nearly stepped on this orange and black Rinkhals, and had just 3 seconds to capture this pic before he disappeared into the long grass.

Rinkhals in the grass

A very cold, wet and miserable Black-headed Heron which I drove closer and closer to in the Landrover, before it got a little jumpy and flew away.

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

The Wattled crane is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

Wattled Cranes 2

A very large Puffadder which we saw crossing the tar road near Avanol.

Puffadder

Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

I have recently been hearing an African Scops owl calling in the evenings just as it gets dark. It’s an uncommon resident in this area . A couple of nights ago, the evening started with the Scops calling and later when we went to bed we heard Jackal yelping close by. They haven’t been heard for a few months . Waking in the early hours a Spotted Eagle Owl was hooting nearby. Just as sleep had come again we were woken by the raucous call of the Natal Francolin, and finally the Fish Eagle’ s lovely call at dawn, got me out of bed. Who would live anywhere else.

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

Comment by Pat McKrill: “Your diagnosis (Spotted Skaapsteker Psammophylax tritaeniatus) is quite correct, even though those occurring further north are more spotted – as the name implies – than striped. They’re a pretty common grassland snake up your neck of the woods, and because their food preference is pretty wide-ranging, some of it is not necessarily temperature dependent – rodents, skinks – they tend to ignore the hibernation rule and hunt year-round as long as the sun is shining. The concave indentation in the individual dorsal scales is a useful diagnostic. Thanks for the pics, great!”

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were blessed this month to see 7 wattled crane on the farm for a week – they would feed on our neighbours oats during the day and arrive at the dam early evening and sometimes midday to wade around the dam which is drying up daily. We could not see any tags on their legs.

wattled crane

One morning just one appeared and walked around the vlei area for a few hours and then sat down. We got very excited as thought perhaps she was thinking of making a nest there but when the cattle arrived to drink, she changed her mind. Like the plovers eggs which never hatch out as cattle always drinking around the edges of dam where they lay.

Our yellow bill ducklings are down from ten to five in number. We also have 6 Red-billed Teal who swim with them.

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

Two pairs of South African Shelduck now. They did not have chicks this year as dam only started to fill late December. Our 3 Blue Crane have been here the entire month. The fledgling still with his parents. 5 months old now. Sometimes another pair of blue crane join them but they never stay long. 3 african grey crowned crane have been arriving at sunset. We love watching their antics – they always dance in and out the water and sometimes the spoonbill and plovers join them in wild abandon. At first the fledgling would run off when he saw his parents making fools of themselves but lately he joins in the prancing. They are the only cranes that I have not seen swimming. The wattled cranes love to swim and stick their long necks down underwater to see what they can forage. One day we had all 3 cranes visit us.

We have noticed that the crowned cranes have been chasing the blue crane away from the dam – we are not sure why this is as they both have one fledgling. Shame, the 3 of them stand on the hill looking forlornly down at the dance show.

crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 1crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 2

The gymnogene has been arriving early in the morning hunting amongst the rocks in front of the house – one morning there were 2 of them flying around.

When we woke early one cold overcast morning we found a Herald snake trying to swallow a large toad on our front verandah.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

He just could not swallow it and regurgitated it. He then lay next to it. This did not go down well with me as everyone by now knows how terrified I am of snakes. Pat put snake and frog in a box and released them at the bottom of the farm.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

Went down to the dam one hot day and saw thousands of dragonflies.

darner dragon fly

There were also a few red ones but I couldn’t get a pic of them as would not perch for long. There were also hundreds of brown ones but don’t know their name.

We saw a black shouldered kite eating a huge rat one morning on our dead tree – took him one and half hours to finish eating.

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

He kept stopping for a few minutes and would then continue to feed for awhile.

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

Found a new ant bear hole in kikuyu paddock near the dam. There was a Barn Owl on our verandah early one morning and on my approach he flew off. Not sure if this was a fledgling learning to fly. There are a couple in our chimney now which is very awkward if wanting to light a fire. A few years ago one was suffocated from the smoke and fell into the fire. It was horrible and I don’t want that happening again. A bokmakierie visited us for the first time. He sang to us for a good ten minutes. Beautiful start to the day.

There have been dozens of butterflies each day. Citrus swallowtail, Green-banded Swallowtail, Gaudy Commodore, Garden Commodore and for the first time a Blue Pansy.

 

garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

We have seen a couple of Reedbuck around the dam and in the hill behind us and a female sleeps in our garden each night in the long grass.

reedbuck in a hurry

Also a couple of duiker eating the acorns from the oak trees. Pat has seen 7 Reedbuck and one duiker eating rye grass and veld on our neighbours farm across the stone wall. On our walks in the evening we have seen signs of a Common Fiscal in the area with the surprises left along the fenceline. A small snake

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

I received a lot of comments on the identification of my raptors last month – Dr David Allan said they were European Honey Buzzards – female adult with juvenile – very rare in this area. I have not seen them again. The Steppe Buzzards have left, not seeing any Jackal Buzzards, but still see the Long-crested Eagle. Often hear the African Fish-Eagles.

André Stapelberg – Crab Apple Cottages (sent in by Helen Booysen)

The photo of the Drakensberg Prinia was taken at Whispering Waters in its usual Leucosidea-habitat.

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle

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The Three Cranes and their Landowner Custodians

Article from the KZN Crane Foundation‘s Summer Newsletter and written by Charlie MacGillivray, Chairman of the Karkloof Conservancy and KZNCF Committee Member.


"First world and hi-tech farming operations, with high input and high output (yields), can operate cheek by jowl with some of the endangered (red data) species of birds such as the Blue, Grey Crowned and the criticalled endangered Wattled Cranes" Charlie MacGillivray

For many Farmers, there is a very real sense of pride and more importantly “ownership” of the flocks of some, or in fact where fortunate, all three of these stately birds occur.

Grey Crowned Cranes on Loskop farm in the Karkloof

Grey Crowned Cranes on Loskop farm in the Karkloof

This privilege is often recognised by Custodian signs and ought to be regarded as a fulfilment of symbiotic co-existence and success.

Many farmers in the Karkloof are recognised as Crane Custodians.

Many farmers in the Karkloof are recognised as Crane Custodians.

Cranes are truly magnificent birds and beautiful to behold. They depict humour in their behaviour, grace in flight and delight in song.

Grey Crowned Cranes gossiping - By Patrick Cahill

Grey Crowned Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

Blue Cranes dancing on Colbourne farm - By John Hill

Blue Cranes dancing on Colbourne farm – By John Hill

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre - By Patrick Cahill

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

The real thrill for me and I know for many landowners fortunate (thoughtful) enough to have these graceful inhabitants, is that with a little care and courtesy, there is room for ALL of us. Our yardstick being their continued proliferation, with increasing flock sizes in as many different localities as possible.

Large flock of about 50 to 60 Grey Crowned Cranes are often seen in the Karkloof.

A large flock of about 50 to 60 Grey Crowned Cranes are often seen in the Karkloof.

The real threat and the cause of the dire dearth of the flocks of yore, is because their ideal habitats have been transformed by agricultural (and lifestyle) use and in some cases misuse. Here forestry is also seriously implicated.

This delightful picture by the learners of Gartmore Primary School depicts the 3 crane species in an agricultural environment. A common sighting for most of the children.

This delightful picture by the learners of Gartmore Primary School depicts the 3 crane species in an agricultural environment.

It is not always blatantly wilful actions, but often through ignorance by failing to ask ourselves the obvious question, “What will be the consequence if I proceed with what and how I/we do things?”

Blue Crane at the Karkloof Conservation Centre - By Patrick Cahill

Blue Crane at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

We need to be more attuned to the dependence and interdependence of ALL components of our environment to ensure the integrity of bio-diversity. More emphasis on the primary organisms of our eco-systems, and the role played in ensuring sustainability further up the “food chain”.

Ren Stubbs, a member of the Karkloof Conservancy, showing the earthworms which is No-Till farmings greatest ally.

Earthworms are No-Till farmings greatest ally.

Landowners hold the trump card in the proliferation of our precious Cranes, and it is our role to help where there is some ignorance, encourage and assist where there is uncertainty, and to exercise influence on as many people as possible, to ensure the future of our threatened populations.

Blue Cranes on Gartmore Farm

Blue Cranes on Gartmore Farm

The respective calls of the three Cranes serve as our commentary on the success of our endeavours, and should remain the highlight of any day.

A pair of Wattled Cranes with their offspring on Gartmore Farm.

A pair of Wattled Cranes with their offspring on Gartmore Farm.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – December 2014

Marashene Lewis – Glen Gyle

I took the photograph one morning from our guest bedroom upstairs. The view is looking towards the D707 as it meandered down the hill to join the D17.

marashene sunrise

Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

Came across this large snail up in the hills on Carlisle,

IMG_2084

and spotted this beautiful moth on the same walk.

IMG_2079

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Saw a Water Mongoose cross the road just before the entrance gate to the farm. Di Droste photographed this:

Rinkhals

Pat McKrill’s Comment: “Your snake is a rinkhals – looks like a juvenile with attitude. You’ll find a few colour and pattern variations around that might lead to a bit of confusion, but the basic jizz of the variegated version shown in your pic is diagnostic.”

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Another month of misty grey days. I am always alerted by the special cry of the fish eagles as they fly overhead. Seen them high in the sky at least 4 times in past month. A pair of red necked francolin woke us at 5am one morning but ran into the shrubs before I could get a picture. The secretary bird walking the hills on a few occasions and also seen flying over farm. Common Stone chats are common.

Common stonechat

Hundreds of white butterflies flew into the garden on the 30th November and there were also dozens of dragon flies on the same day, so the swallows were having a field day.

brown veined butterfly on a felicia wrightii

colourful butterfly

A handful of white stork arrived on the 1st december and they are still here in the lands. Don’t know what happened to the rest of them. All the widow birds left end of november. Only one lonely chap left.

our only red collared  widow bird left

Our 2 wagtail babies left the nest on the 27th november and decided to shelter in my miniature rose bushes in front of the house, where mom fed them for about a week, before they started venturing forth to find their own food.  wagtail baby

One afternoon they both found a worm and rushed into the roses, only to rush out again being chased by an olive thrush. She loves going in there to pick up frogs as our water feature is also there and an attraction for the frogs. They now fly around the garden and love hopping in and out of the rocks looking for insects.

2 babies on the rocks

We had 2 cape canaries laying last month. One in the standard rose and the other in a standard duranta. One lot hatched out on the 9th dec with 2 babies and the other one on the 10th dec with 2 babies. Unfortunately on the 16th dec I found that my standard roses braches were broken, and a tattered nest with no week old babies. There were no prints below the rose, so I can only presume that a gymnogene had taken them. The other 2 babies are doing fine so far except that my cat is intrigued by the cheeping.

A grey heron came to visit in the garden one morning.

Grey heron

Pat saw one of the sparrow hawks eating a bird in the pastures.  Lots of red billed Queleas around.

red billed male quelea

One afternoon a small baby jackal, still with its fluffy hair ran in front of the car and into the wattle plantation on our farm. Saw 2 duiker in a chase across the hills.

One morning saw a mother oribi and her young male son running across the hill in front of the house.

Mom and male baby oribi running across the hill

A black sunbird and his mate are building a nest which looks almost complete, on the glass shade of our verandah.

female black sunbird

The black sunbirds nest on our verandah

Every few days the Steppe buzzard comes and perches on our dead tree next to the pond.

This steppe buzzard

Saw a grey mongoose running around the D18 at midday – Don’t see them much during the day. The birds all seem very busy nesting or finding food for their young – all in a great hurry. Cape Robin in my formal garden with a whole clump of something in its beak.

cape robin with a mouthful

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Luckily a cellphone is always on hand (well, except in extreme situations when you actually really need them…) so I managed to capture a few locusts this month on the farm.

Red and Blue Grasshopper

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

I like looking up. You always see something interesting. This month, African spoonbill, Grey Heron, lots of Spurwinged Geese, Jackal Buzzards, Swallows, Cormorants, Knysna Turacos, Crowned and Blue Cranes have flown over my head. I was delighted to see a Blue Crane at ground level too.

r December blue crane

Once my gaze shifted from the sky to the earth there were so many summer delights at ground level. Only one in six plants in healthy grassland are actually grasses, perfectly illustrated by this selection.Satyrium longicauda,

December flowers Satyrium longicauda

 Kouhoutia amatymbica,

Dec kouhautia

Dipcadi viride,

December Dipcadi viride

Eulophia foliosa,

December Eulophia foliosa

Ajuga,

December flowers Ajuga

Anthericum,

December flowers anthericum

Aristea,

December flowers Aristea

Cephalaria oblongifolia,

December flowers Cephalaria oblongifolia

Cyanotis speciosa,

December flowers cyanotis

Cyphia longifolia,

December flowers Cyphia longifolia

Diclis reptans,

December flowers Diclis

Hypericum lalandii,

December flowers Hypericum lalandii

Lobelia erinus,

December flowers lobelia

Pentanisia,

December flowers pentanisia

Rhodohypoxis baurii,

December flowers rhodohypoxis

Scilla nervosa,

December flowers Scilla nervosa

Senecio (discodregeanus?),

December flowers senecio discodregeanus

Silene bellidoides,

December flowers Silene

Trachyandra,

December flowers trachyandra

Tulbaghia natalensis,

December flowers tulbahgia natalensis

Psammotropha mucronata,

December Psammotropha

Senecio oxyriifolius,

December Senecio oxy

Sisyanthus trichostomus,

December Sisyanthus trichostomus

Vernonia hirsuta,

December Vernonia hirsuta

Senecio setosa,

senecio setosa

Hermannia depressa,

Hermannia

Hypoxis parvula,

Hypoxis parvula

Zantedeschia albomaculata,

December flowers Zantedeschia

Hibiscus trionum,

Hibiscus trionum

Ledebouria,

Ledebouria

Hesperantha baurii,

Hesperantha baurii

Gerbera ambigua.

Gerbera ambigua

Two new exciting finds I never seen on the farm before were: Psorolea abottii and

summer 2015 107 - Copy

Knipophia breviflorus (if I have the id correct, that is!)

knipophia breviflora

Although this photo of Stachys aethiopica is out of focus, I had to include it – just look at those hairs on the stem. Isn’t it fun when you download your photos and discover a whole lot of interesting things you never realised were there in the field?

December flowers Stachys DOTS and HAIRS

Saw two Bushbuck, a few Common Duiker and a couple of Scrub Hares, big troops of Samango monkeys and 8 Reedbuck.

r December reedbuck group

Heard tree dassies, jackals, Wood Owls, Barn Owls, Burchell’s Coucal, Buff spotted Flufftail, African Cuckoo, Red Chested Cuckoo. Am thoroughly enjoying watching Weavers build their nests right outside my kitchen door – so fast and such enthusiasm!

r weaver building nest

There seem to be masses of insects about, pollinating everything in flower. Loved this gorgeous wasp on Vernonia.

r December wasp on Vernonia natalensis

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2014

Nigel Anderson – Lane’s End Farm

14 March – The Crowned Cranes seem to like the flooding as there is a flock of at least 20 adjacent to Lanes End Farm today.

1959683_10202294900552502_999720846_n

Flooding this month on the farm:

lanes end flood

at least the ducks are happy.

happy ducks

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Rhombic Night Adder (Causus rhombeatus)

Rhombic Night Adder (Causus rhombeatus)

 

Leonotis leonurus, also known as lion’s tail and wild dagga, is part of the Lamiaceae family.

leonotis leonaurus

Ed’s note: Common names: Wild Dagga (E), Wildedagga, Duiwelstabak (Afr), mvovo (X), utshwala-bezinyoni (Z) Derivation of Name : Leonotis = from the Greek leon meaning lion and otis meaning ear, alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion’s ear. leonurus = lion-coloured. Leonotis has become an invasive plant in Australia.

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Spotted 3 Wattled Cranes (Bugeranus carunculatus – Conservation Status Vulnerable) near some pine trees on the farm. Caught a Rhombic Night Adder, which David Crookes photographed and Pat McKrill confirmed as a female (look at the short tale) Rhombic Night Adder because of the repeating rhomboid pattern that runs along the dorsal area from head to tail (see pic above).

Robin Fowler – Corrie Lynn Farm

Had a Black-backed Jackal trying to get into my sheep just outside my garden gate! It’s now been fenced out…  Captured with the Dargle Conservancy Trail Camera.

jackal 1

jackal 2

jackal 3

 

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

I seem to be consistantly capturing locusts or grasshoppers every month, here’s a very large brown one that was on the garden paving stones.

brown grasshopper

Mike Weeden – Hopedale

Spotted this unusual bird on the lawn the other day. It had the shape of a Myna but was pure white. Anyone know what it is?

IMG_3757

Thanks to Hugh Bulcock who provided this information: “This is an Olive Thrush with Leucism”. Wikipedia provides this information: “Leucism is a condition in animals characterized by reduced pigmentation. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin. A further difference between albinism and leucism is in eye colour. Due to the lack of melanin production in both the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) and iris, albinos typically have red eyes due to the underlying blood vessels showing through. In contrast, most leucistic animals have normally coloured eyes.”

Rose and Barry Downard

Lots of butterfly activity this month, including African Monarch, Green-banded Swallowtails, Acara and Garden Acraeas, Gaudy Commodores, Common Diadems and masses of tiny Thorn-tree Blue butterflies. There have also been lots of caterpillars, cocoons and pupae.  Green-banded Swallowtail (Papilio nireus lyaeus),

Green-banded-swallowtail-LR-6

Acraea acara acara (male),

acraea-acara-male-1-LR

and a female Garden Acraea (Acraea horta) newly emerged from its pupal stage.

Acraea-1-LR

Flocks of swallows have been busily feeding in the surrounding fields, particularly at sunset, in preparation for their migration. Also seen: Guinea fowls with their young, Step Buzzard, Herons, Gymnogene. Heard: Burchell’s Coucal.

Other: Dwarf Chameleon, skinks, Natal green snake. A large Red-lipped Herald was discovered in our kitchen one evening and relocated.

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm – Lidgetton

We saw a serval running down the D18 at 9 o’clock one morning. Two porcupine running up our driveway one evening – a large and  smaller one.  Not sure if mom and dad or mom and youngster. Seen Jackal and steppe buzzards, White Stork which now seem to have flown off.

white stork

We have been inundated with black snakes on our veranda which feed on moths and frogs. The dogs killed a large one (1.5 metres) in the garage one night.

black snake

Response from Pat McKrill: “The snake is a Herald snake – Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia – (it sometimes has a red or orange upper lip). The body colour is anything from olive to dark grey, almost black and it sometimes has a white fleck pattern on the back. The head is always darker than the body – as you can see in the picture – and the underside of the snake is usually a creamy white colour.

It is a venomous rear-fanged snake, but the venom is of little consequence to man or beast. Heralds mainly eat frogs, and this is probably why you thought that they ate moths – maybe the frog was eating one when it got eaten by the snake! A classic food chain – the light attracts the insects which attract the frogs which attract the snakes – which attract your dog.

Heralds display lots of ‘attitude’ when first encountered, with lots of striking out from a defensive ‘S’ shape, with the head flattened like an adder (hence its Afrikaans nickname, Swart Adder). A lovely garden snake that calms down quite quickly and quietly goes about its business of keeping the frogs honest. They grow up to about 7- 800mm in length.”

grey crowned crane nguni cow

Grey Crowned Crown with Nguni Cow

 

On the 22nd March I saw our three and half month old Blue Crane flying for the first time.  He flew around the dam for about a minute with his parents looking on.  Since then have seen him running up and down the edge of the dam and hopping up and down.  He is such a big “boy” now.

juv blue crane flying

reedbuck and blue crane

The highlight of our month was seeing an unidentifiable white “buzzard/eagle” sitting on a rock, on the farm on 24th March.  Rushed home and grabbed the bird book but had little success with identification.  I phoned Barend Booysen as I thought it might be a juvenile Crowned Eagle but he said they did not have Crowned Eagle babies this season.  Nikki sent photos off to Shane McPherson (Crowned Eagle Research Project) who said “definitely not a Crowned Eagle but could be a Steppe Buzzard.”  I was sure it wasn’t, so sent photos to Eve Hughes who kindly forwarded them to David Allan, Curator of Birds at the Durban Natural Science Museum.  He identified the bird as a Honey Buzzard which apparently is a rare siting in this area.  We are just awaiting some other experts opinions to confirm this but David seems very sure that its a Honey Buzzard.  So we are very excited about this siting.  We saw him on 2 consecutive days and since then he has disappeared.

honey buzzard

6 Pied Starlings appeared on the lawn one morning after a big storm the night before when we had hundreds of moths hitting the windows and coming beneath the doors.  They were all over the lawn the next morning and the birds were having a feast.  The one starling was actually picking up moths and pushing them into youngsters beak.

pied starlings

Dozens of butterflies all over the place. I’m not very good at chasing them down. Some take a while to suck out the nectar while others never seem to stay still for a second.

Garden Commodore (Presis archesia archesia, summer or wet form)

Garden Commodore (Presis archesia archesia, summer or wet form)

 

Gaudy Commodore (Presis octavia sesamus, dry or winter form)

Gaudy Commodore (Presis octavia sesamus, dry or winter form)

 

vanessa cardui

Vanessa cardui (is a well-known colourful butterfly, known as the Painted Lady, or in North America as the Cosmopolitan)

 

Our wild hare has left us.  Strangely it was over the period while we were on holiday!

Our swallows still seem to be feeding young outside our study window.  The barn owls are still screeching each night.  The rock pigeons, chats, sparrows, wag tails and starlings still occupying our roof, gutters, chimney and verandah. The chats are making an awful mess on our verandah couches – they are very social birds. Have had a couple of sunbirds and swallows flying inside the house. Fortunately managed to save them from the cats and dogs.

malachite sunbird in eclipse

malachite sunbird in eclipse

Jean Cunniliffe – il Postino

Early one morning in late March, I noticed our little resident swallows and lots of others lining up on the power lines. I watched for ages as more and more gathered in a long stripe. They were fluttering and twittering as if to check “Is everyone here? Are you all ready?”. Then, as if there was a signal they all flew off at once in a v formation. It was absolutely wonderful to watch and I felt quite emotional saying goodbye to them.

Nikki Brighton Old Kilgobbin Farm

I adore autumn. Especially watching the grasslands change and forest canopy start to open up. Amongst the late flowers there are so many interesting seed heads

farm late summer seed head

This Brunsvigia has probably ‘tumbled’ away by now

farm brunsvigia seed pod

Berkheya multijuga is still flowering but this species (possibly speciosa) just has fluffy pompoms waving in the breeze

autumn seedhead

This month there have been masses of mushrooms popping up everywhere. Bright yellow cow boletus, tiny orange clusters and many more. This copper coloured one looked delicious, but I couldn’t identify it, so didn’t have it for breakfast. Anyone have an idea?

mushroom country life 003

I was sad to find this cuckoo dead on my veranda one afternoon. I could see the ‘feather print’ where it had flown into the window.

cuckoo 003

 

 

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – January 2014

Brain and Marashene Lewis – Glen Gyle

A Greater Double-Collared Sunbird (male) at our feeder

sunbird

Barend and Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

This magnificent orchid was spotted in the grassland recently.  There are 52 genera of orchid in South Africa – some of which grow in trees, but mostly they are found in grasslands. Pterygodium magnum is the largest terrestrial orchid in South Africa. Most of the 18 local species occur in the Western Cape, with four in KZN.  It is usually found in damp grassland, often growing amongst Leucosidea sericea (ouhout).  The narrow, lance shaped leaves (bracts) are borne along the stem, which can be up to 1,5m tall. The inflorescence is made up of densely packed greenish-yellow flowers with purplish-red veins and dots.  Info source: http://www.dargleconservancy.org.za/wildflowerarchive/wfa022012.php

pterygodium magnum

Also in flower – Brunsvigia natalensis.  See more about this orchid at: http://www.dargleconservancy.org.za/wildflowerarchive/wfa01a2013.php

brunsvegia natalensis

Below are also some of the first images captured on one of the Trail Cameras which the Dargle Conservancy purchased last year . The camera was placed in the forest.   Most exciting was the Blue Duiker, with her baby.

blue duiker and baby

(Philantomba monticola) is a small, forest-dwelling duiker found in  Central Africa and southern South Africa. Blue duikers stand around 35 cm tall at the shoulder and weigh 4 kg. They are the smallest of the antelope family. The blue duiker has a brown coat with a slight blue tinge – hence the name – and a white underside. A glandular slit occurs beneath both eyes, with a very slight crest between the ears. Source: Wikipedia

blue duiker

Caracal (Caracal caracal) is a wild cat that is widely distributed across Africa, central Asia and southwest Asia into India. The word caracal is derived from the Turkish words kara kulak, which means “black ear”. Source: Wikipedia

caracal

Bushbuck is the most widespread antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is found in rain forests, montane forests, forest-savanna mosaics and bush savanna forest and woodland. Source: Wikipedia

bushbuck

The Bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus) is a member of the pig family and lives in forests, woodland, riverine vegetation and reedbeds in East and Southern Africa. Bushpigs can be very aggressive, especially when they have young. They are omnivorous and their diet could include roots, crops or carrion, as well as newborn lambs. Source: Wikipedia

bush pig

Porcupines are rodents with a coat of sharp spines, or quills, that defend them from predators. They are indigenous to the Americas, Southern Asia, Europe, and Africa. Porcupines are the third largest of the rodents, behind the capybara and the beaver. It eats leaves, herbs, twigs and green plants like clover and in the winter it may eat bark. Source: Wikipedia

porcupine

Justin Herd – Bee Tree Farm

We have released this snail at St Andrews Church on Tuesday 28th.  There is a huge infestation of the “bad” non-indigenous snails (Helix apsera) in the Agapanthus next to church entrance.  I have been breeding the indigenous carnivorous snail – Natalina cafra.

Natalina cafra

We had an infestation of the bad snails, on Beetree some years ago and the Natalina ate all of them and we have none left to feed the two youngsters that I have got left – so have pinched a few of the bad ones, from St Andrews. The snail we released is an adult and large (shell diameter 5cm) – it had just finished a meal of a Helix.  It looks different from the bad snails so please warn gardeners that the snail will be roaming and gobbling up your bad ones!

Dieter Setz – Wakeford Farm

Found “this” in the grass. Looked quite disgusting. Never seen these bright orange creatures before. They look like ticks but I am sure they are not. Anybody out there who knows what these are?  Ed’s note: A wonderful bright red, often seen on dead Songololos.  Some sort of mite? Did you see how many legs they had?

red beetles

These grasshoppers are reaching maturity towards the end of January.

green black grasshoppers

Fiscal Shrike’s Larder

fiscal shrike larder

Frogs and other aquatics are having a ball. Common River frog and Guttural Toad

common river frog

guttural toad

The powder puffs (Cyanotis speciosa)  are in full bloom in 2 different colours.

cyanotis powder puffs

Wyndham and Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

We saw the most amazing thing: a Diedricks Cuckoo feeding its chick! It
was around for a couple of days, hopping around mostly on the rocks. I’m afraid
we couldn’t take any pics!

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

My sightings this month are all centred around the dam and forest where many hot summer hours have been spent.  A Spurwinged Goose casually landed beside me while I was swimming in the dam and swallows constantly dive and dip into the water. The pair of Egyptian Geese (who get very grumpy having to share the dam with me) is back, as are a couple of dabchicks (I watched one bashing a small fish on the surface of the water for ages before swallowing it), African Black Ducks (I think) and cormorants. A Wagtail has built a nest in the raft and is raising chicks.  She is quite brave, landing on the opposite corner of the raft even while my dog and I are sitting there!

summer nest wagtail raft

I’ve seen a fish eagle a few times and a guest on Old Kilgobbin saw a Crested Eagle near the dam.  There is evidence of water mongoose in the crab shells left on the on the banks where many beautifully coloured dragonflies flit amongst the Juncus and sedges.

Extra special moments have been the thousands of brown veined white butterflies fluttering by on their way East  and the full moon rising above the forest on a gorgeous summer evening.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the butterflies – read the real story here: https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/white-butterfly-migration/

r moon rise over forest

Hundreds of swallows swirl above the forest edge in the early evenings and mornings, and on 27 January I observed them gathering in numbers (at least 200) on the electricity lines.  Winter is on it’s way. After the sun sets, the bats come out.  I have heard Wood Owls and a Burchell’s Coucal, seen a pair of Brown hooded Kingfishers often and found a dead Buff Spotted Flufftail outside of my window.

buff spotted flufftail

Although the grasslands must be full of flowers, these are blooming in the shade of the forest now.  Impatiens hochtettiii

summer nest forest impatiens hochstetteri

Crocosmia aurea

summer nest forest crocosmia aurea

Plectranthus

summer nest forest plectranthus sp

Monopsis stellaroides

summer nest forest monopsis stellaroides

Disperis fanniniae

summer nest forest disperis fanniniae

Chlorophytum comosum

summer nest forest chlorophytum comosum

Robin and Tinks Fowler – Corrie Lynn Farm

This past month we have watched Cape Robins nest and raise three chicks in the ‘Tikkie Creeper’ on the side of our house, followed by a pair of Bulbuls producing two offspring in the Wisteria hanging from the eaves and then we are still watching a couple of Paradise Flycatchers feeding up another three chicks in a tree at the edge of the garden. The amazing thing to see is how these fast growing little birds manage to fit into some rather small nests, we would be busy adding on another room or two!

Our swallows have been busy building and now seem to be sitting. They’re too high up and close to the roof for us to see what’s going on inside. In the past, some of the chicks have literally fried to death under the corrugated iron, so we have constructed a “gazebo” on top of the tin to make it a bit cooler!

They seem to be a bit later than usual this year – perhaps they know something about the weather that we haven’t yet figured out?

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Found this spoor whilst setting up the Trail Camera, anyone know what it is as I ran out of time to try identify it…possibly Porcupine?  Ed’s note: what about water mongoose?  How big was it?

spoor maybe porcupine

Blue Agapanthus (probably A. campanulatus) flowering in the hills.

agapanthus

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Have had wonderful sightings for the month.  For the 1st 2 weeks a giant kingfisher arrived almost daily alerting us to his presence with loud screeching noises.  Pat saw him catch a frog and bash it to death on a tree branch. We found a heap of crab shells and scat on our wooden swing, which was his favourite perch.

giant kingfisher screeching

While out in the field Pat heard a meowing noise and investigated to find a baby spotted genet about a month old. (eyes open)  He surprised  the baby blue crane and parents one day (youngster about 3 wks old) so they got in dam and swam to island.

3 week old blue crane chick

14th Jan – the blue crane came to eat from the voermol block.

4 week old blue crane cattle lick Shortly afterwards, they walked down hill to other side where there is an underground stream with sink holes along its course.  Pat and I saw at once that there was a problem.  The adults were peering in the long grass walking around not knowing what to do.  We realized that the youngster had fallen down one of these sink holes.  Pat in the meantime ran around the house trying to find his trout net.  I told him to leave it and just get down there asap. He must have been making a noise because the Nguni herd were alerted and came running up the hill to see what all the fuss was about.  The parents valiantly tried to ward them off with their wings running bravely forwards and backwards to try and keep the herd away.

blue crane parents fend off cows

Pat got to sinkhole and gently lifted out baby crane.  I could not take photo as thought he had drowned but then Pat placed him on the ground and he took off like a bullet.  Straight past his startled parents who then proceeded to chase him up the hill.  They ran so fast I could not get a photo.  What a relief that we  happened to see this drama and save this precious baby.

pat lifting baby crane from sinkhole

15th Jan – thousands of brown veined white butterflies on their migration route from north west to south east through the garden all day.

17th Jan – Pat saw fish eagle at dam from 5.30am dive bombing the 3 yellowbill ducklings on the dam.  He kept missing as they ducked under the water.  At about 7am I saw him sitting on edge of dam checking out his options for a meal.  The plovers were hovering and screeching at him.

yellow billed duckling

Then he took off towards the ducks and landed on top of the ducklings splashing about frantically. (I lost him at this point) The parents were trying desperately to fend him off but with no luck.  He flew off with a duckling clutched in his talons with mom looking on, distraught. He took his meal to the pine tree where I photographed him last month harassing the hadedas.

fish eagle

21st – gymnogene on dead tree – dogs chased him away.

gymnogene

25th – I was alerted to a hammerkop flying round the garden with loud noises. (I thought it was the giant kingfisher) He landed on the swing (favourite perch) and I got a lovely colourful picture of him and the yellow cannas and evening primrose flowers.

Hamerkop

Have also seen a number of reed buck grazing down at the dam in the evenings.  Pat found 2 reed buck carcasses today (31st) around the dam – looks like the jackal numbers are growing!

male reedbuck

Dam sitings – 6 spoonbill, a pair of shell duck, saw the hammerkop running along edge of dam this morning.  Plovers, yellow billed duck, cormorant, spurwing, Egyptian geese, one pair with a gosling.  A pair of crested (crowned) crane every few days.

One night I nearly stood on a 1 metre long red lipped herald (snake) on our enclosed verandah.  It was cold and drizzling (I thought snakes only looked for a meal during the day and when it was hot!!) He was obviously chasing after the frogs.  Pat very kindly took him and placed him down the hill. I will admit that I am terrified of snakes.

Flowers have been wonderful. Sophubia cana

Sopubia cana

and Satyrium (possibly cristatum)

satyrium

Dargle Wildlife Sightings for July

Nigel Anderson – Lane’s End

I have two interesting sightings: a Rainforest Brown butterfly

Rainforest Brown Cassionympha cassius (11) res

and a common reedbuck.

Reedbuck resized 1

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Not too much this month, I was up in the Kruger Park last week (great sightings there!) and before that I had relatives Kynan (14) and Nicky (10) visit the farm for two weeks. Nicky played with his first frog, at 10 years old I was quite stunned he’d never played with one before!

Nicky holding his first frog.res

They helped me clean up the side of the road between the Boston turnoff and our farm entrance which is about 500m long. We managed to collect a full feed bag worth of rubbish, mainly comprised of beer bottles, coke cans etc. As you can see they weren’t too impressed with the way that people treat their country. Sadly we already had a coke can that managed to find its way onto the side of the road the next day.

Rubbish in Dargle

We also had a young Fish Eagle terrorizing the rest of the birds, ducks and geese the one day. It tried to catch a coot off the dam before dropping it, and then proceeded to fly around the area causing all the other birds to take off. One old crow obviously got tired of the ruckus and actually chased it away!

Sunset over Mavela Dam.res. JPG

Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

After much resistance, the crows have been evicted from their nest at the top of one of our plane trees by a pair of Egyptian geese who have taken over the nest.

Also seen: Long-crested Eagle, hoopoes, cape robin, house sparrows, cape sparrows, fiscal shrike, mousebirds, southern boubou, olive thrush, weavers, redeyed doves, cape turtle doves, egrets, cardinal woodpecker, bulbuls, flocks of red-billed quelea, white-eyes, storks, grey herons, black kites. Bees, carpenter bees, butterflies, caterpillars, dwarf chameleon, slender mongoose. Heard: Jackals, Fish Eagles.

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury

With July being so warm have had a number of butterflies. So strange for this time of year. Saw an otter in the dam and it bit the nose of our rottie. Our dogs killed a samango monkey yesterday. Our rottie was savaged by one earlier this year. Thank goodness we weren’t here to see this. I guess they are coming into the garden looking for food. Saw a fish eagle sitting on the top of one of our pine trees overlooking the dam. We have been inundated with thousands of grasshoppers eating our azaleas and anything else that is turning green. This is crazy weather. Our oak trees started leafing 10 days ago – a month early. We have had plenty reed buck and oribi eating the green shoots on the fire breaks.

JULY SITINGS 2013 017

In the past week we have seen a female oribi on our one boundary fence, and a male on the other boundary fence. On the 26th july took a photo of 3 oribi (2 females and one male) and 5 reed buck grazing on the hill – all in one photo!! So blessed to get that photo.

The 5 reed buck are so well camouflaged in between the rocks that they are hard to see.  The 3 oribi below..

On Saturday had the bizarre experience of watching 5 blue crane landing at the dam. There were 4 adult ones and a youngster. I watched for 2 hrs until it got dark. The 4 large ones kept running up and down the edge of the dam and then would stop and look back at the youngster. There was a lot of “craaking”.

4 cranes running along dam

The youngster would slowly follow them and then stop. I thought they were trying to wean him/her and kept expecting them to fly away and leave him behind. Could not understand why there were 4 adults involved in this behaviour. At no time did the youngster run to meet up with them. They would always run back to him and have a “craaking” session. After the sun set and it was getting dark, the 2 adults moved slightly away and the other 2 went and had a “chat” with baby

chatting to the youngster

The next morning the 3 had flown off and only 2 remained. They have been walking around the dam for 4 days now. Not sure if its our original pair or not. Sometimes one of them sits down (photo) and sometimes walks around the island area where she laid last year and lost the egg she laid there, due to water flowing into the dam and washing it away. So I have another pair to watch. Very exciting.

The pair that were left next morning.  She kept sitting down

Neville van Lelyveld – Benn Meadhon

Oribi It is very pleasing to report that baby and mother where once again sighted this last weekend. Baby and mother both appear to be doing well. Baby has increased in size relevant to month’s gap since the last count was done.

Bush Buck One male and one female where observed by the bottom carrot field in the natural forest near the Dargle river. Both appeared to be in good health. It is very unusual to see a male and a female together as they are solitary animals and only meet up to mate and then go their separate ways once the act of mating has taken place. One sincerely hopes that this pair where in the process of mating, time will tell as we will continue to monitor these two bush buck in this area to see the outcome of this observation.

Reedbuck A total of 20 sighting where made with a similar result as last month. All the youngsters seemed to fine and health. It is pleasing that they don’ seem to mind us observing them from a fairly close range and in some cases only metres away. They are obviously feeling safe. Most of the females are accompanied by a youngster of various ages. Breed ing is therefore going well. It is interesting to note that the reedbuck are now coming out as early as 16h00 in the afternoon and the odd animal can be seen during the day. This is probably due to the colder weather currently been experienced as well as that they feel safe enough to come out during these times. What is really interesting that they are coming out very shortly after the farm activity ceases.

Grey duiker Once again several grey duikers were sighted during the weekend. One thing that was very different on this weekend was that a male together with a pregnant female was sighted just off the road behind the old quarry at about 08h00 on Sunday morning. Another doe was also sighted by your cross roads forest at about 09h00. This is the first time that we have observed duiker that time of the morning. Although duiker are usually diurnal animals the ones on the farm have resorted to been nocturnal. It is well documented that this happen when they feel threatened. I assume that the ones on the farm have resorted to nocturnal feeding due to the normal farm activities. However with the diurnal sighting made his last weekend it appears as though this is changing once again. The other possibility is that Sunday morning was abnormally cold and it might just be a case of the duiker were moving back to their sleeping areas a lot later as a result of the cold weather. Antelope have been known to do this. These various theories will have to be proven out over the next few visits.

Bush pigs No bush pigs were observed this weekend. This seemed unusual as all conditions seemed ideal for them, but from my experience with these creatures is that they appear to have a mind of their own and just once you think you understand them they do something strange like not coming out on a perfect night like on this occasion. Well that is bush pigs. I love them for their intellectual brain. Doing anything with them is always a battle of wills and a case of trying to out whit them. Truly an intelligent animal.

Porcupine No Porcupine were observed, however there is a lot of evidence in the forms of scat, tracks and quills to suggest that there is porcupine activity were seen. A fair amount of new porcupine diggings were also observed.

Jackals No jackals were sighted, however based on the sheer numbers of jackals calling on the farm on Saturday night at varying times all through the night. There appears to be an increase in jackal activity on the farm. This will make sense based on the increase of calving by the antelope happening at the moment. It could also be attributed to the burning that has taken place as they are now able to see their prey such as vlei rat’s a lot easier. There also appears to be lot of cattle calving at the moment on the farm, this too will increase the jackal activity on the farm.

Blue Crane Several blue cranes were observed by the by the bottom boundary near Handbury where we spent most of Saturday.

Spurwing Geese A flock of five Spurwing geese where sighted flying overhead towards Howard Long’s by the boundary near Handbury at around 09h00 on Saturday morning. These are the only ones sighted this visit as this where we concentrated our observations this month.

Egyptian Geese A flock of eight Egyptian geese were sighted flying over head towards Howard Long’s by the boundary near Hanbury on Saturday morning around 10h00.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Lots of interesting paw and claw prints in the mud on the edges of dam and pools. Definitely water mongoose and jackal, but some biggish “cat” ones too – about the size of the palm of my hand – Caracal I expect.

Sombre bulbul, brown headed kingfisher, Fish Eagle, weavers, collared sunbird, 50 Cape Parrots, double collared sunbird, amethyst sunbird, bulbuls, chorister robin, thrush, cape robin chat, stone chat, fiscal shrike, white eyes, mouse birds, bush black cap, crows, thick billed weavers, purple heron, yellow billed ducks, Jackal Buzzard, Egyptian geese, Cardinal woodpecker, southern boubou.

Duiker, reedbuck, bushbuck, heard bush pig, scrub hare, Samangos.

Halleria, Buddleja dysophylla, Buddleja salvifolia, Jamesbritennia kraussiana, Apodolirion buchananii (pic), Cyrtanthus breviflorus, Ursinia tenuiloba

Apodolirion.res

Cranes at Dargle School

As part of the Dargle Conservancy 10 Anniversary celebrations, we sponsored a lesson on Cranes – (our logo) at Corrie Lynn School. Only three of the learners had seen cranes in the wild. After learning about the three types of cranes found in South Africa: their habitats and eating habits, how they mate for life and love to dance, they made two crowned cranes puppets. Using recycled cardboard tubing, old posters, bags and local gathered dry grass, two beautiful cranes were created and everybody went outside to try and make their cranes dance with some grace.

Crane Puppet at Dargle School

Read about the fun Corrie Lynn School children had during the holidays photographing the uMngeni River (also a Dargle Conservancy sponsored activity): http://darglelocalliving.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/budding-dargle-photographers/