Tag Archives: blue cranes

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.


Bushbuck ram


Young Bushbuck


Bushbuck fawn


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.


Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake


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,


followed by a magical sunrise a few days later.


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;


Acalypha sp.


Argyrolobium marginatum


Asclepias stellifera


Aster bakerianus


Chrysanthemoides monilifera


Clutia cordata


Convolvulus natalensis


Dierama cooperi


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;


Gymnosporia uniflora

Hebenstretia duraHelichrysum aureum;


Hebenstretia dura


Helichrysum aureum

Helichrysum caespititium and I found a new population;

Hypoxis argentea and costata;


Hypoxis argentea


Hypoxis costata

Kohautia amatymbica; two different Ledebouria sp.;


Kohautia amatymbica


Ledebouria sp.

Pentanisia prunelloides; Raphionacme hirsuta;


Pentanisia prunelloides


Raphionacme hirsuta

Senecio macrocephalus and oxyriifolius leaves;


Senecio macrocephalus


Senecio oxyriifolius

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


Stachys aethiopica


Tritonia lineata


Vernonia hirsuta


Vernonia sp (small)


Vihna vexillata

A few other observations were, Carpenter Bees;


Carpenter bee

a Drone Fly, Bee-mimic;


Drone Fly

a Marbled Emperor moth;


Marbled Emperor Moth

a Wasp nest neatly placed in a rock crevice


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!


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)


Scadoxis puniceus

and giant anemones (Anemone fanninii)


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


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.


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.


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


Blue Cranes

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


Common Waxbill

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


Egyptian Goose with goslings

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


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


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


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


Levaillant’s Cisticola

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



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


Cape Robin-chat

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


Cape Crow

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


African Paradise-flycatcher

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

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

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

r autumn 2016 reedbuck hiding

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

r autumn 2016 bird on grass 1

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

r berkheya

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

r autumn gomphocarpus seeds1

The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

r autumn 2016 boophane bulb1

Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

r autumn 2016 phymaspermum 1

A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

r autumn 2016 Aristea 1

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

autumn clutia cordata

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

r autumn 2016 twirly grass

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

r autumn shadows in pool

Michael Goddard – Steampunk Coffee

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

Indian Mynah

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

Ribbon bush (Orthosiphon labiatus)

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


Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Skaapsteker on the road

Spotted skaapsteker 1

Spotted skaapsteker 2

Nola Barrett – God’s Grace

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

Frog 1

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

Frog 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

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

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

Blue pansy


Gaudy commodore


Greenbanded swallowtail


Painted lady


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

Greater collared sunbird in eclipse


a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)


Male Malachite in eclipse


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


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


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


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


The Long-crested Eagle is still around


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


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


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



Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat


Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills


Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Gaudy commodore

Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector Butterfly (Precis archesia)

It’s been a dry month – 80 ml in total. I saw the Blue Crane juvenile flying for the first time on 27th February. We see them almost daily mostly at sunset where they wade in the dam which is dropping at an alarming rate. One hot midday I watched in fascination as it seemed the blue crane adults were trying to teach the youngster to swim.

Crane 1 - Come on junior – this is how you swim

Come on junior – this is how you swim

They were swimming all over the dam while he just stood and watched. Not too interested but he suddenly decided to start running through the shallow water in wild abandon.

Crane 2 - Check this, I’m dancing on water

Check this, I’m dancing on water

Then up and down the side of the dam, wings widespread while his parents stood and watched the antics. At one stage mom or dad started running after him. I watched for an hour before they eventually wandered off to look for some lunch. They are a very close knit family and there is a lot of touching of beaks between them. They are such incredible parents. 5th youngster they have raised now.

Crane 3 - Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

A malachite baby flew into the verandah door one day – as we had folk for lunch I did not take photos. I put him in a box for awhile and let him loose later where he flew off quite contented.

There have been dozens of moths this month and the frogs have been having a feast on the verandah. No snakes yet!

One morning while having tea on the stoep, we saw 2 Common Reedbuck fighting down at the dam.

Reedbuck 1 - Female reed buck either playing or fighting

Female Common Reedbuck either playing or fighting

We presumed they were males fighting over the females as usual. But as they parted we were surprised to see they were 2 females. A chase ensued and then another charge and more head butting and pushing.

Reedbuck 2 - The Chase

The Chase

It did not look friendly and I wondered if they were fighting over a male!!! But he was nowhere in sight. They eventually parted on friendly terms and carried on grazing. I was surprised at this behaviour between 2 females who are usually so docile.

Reedbuck 3 - The Charge

The Charge

Pat saw an African Jacana at the dam 2 days in a row, but every time I looked for him he was nowhere to be seen.

The Martial Eagle returned to the same dead gum tree a few days after the stork kill. It was a stifling day. His beak was ajar and his wings pulled away from his body. I was so thrilled to see him once again, but that was the last time. A number of raptors around.

Pat saw a black sparrow hawk eating a rat along our driveway. We went for a walk one evening around the dam and found 2 Blacksmith Lapwing eggs lying out in the open a few metres from the dam edge.

Blacksmith plovers eggs

Blacksmith Lapwing eggs

One morning I saw a strange coloured raptor on our dead tree – I went outside to get closer for a photo shoot.

Unknown Raptor 1

Then I heard another raptor making a sort of “peeeoooo” noise which went on for a few
minutes. This one was somewhere in the gum trees opposite our house. The raptor left the dead tree and flew up to the gum trees, found a perch, and he too started his “peeeoooo” calling.

Unknown Raptor 2

Then suddenly the other raptor flew in and joined him a few metres away on the same level. There was a chorus of whistling to and fro and then the one flew off and the other followed shortly after.

Unknown Raptor 3

I have no idea what raptors these are but think they are juveniles because of their light coloured eyes. They are both differently coloured yet whistled the same song. I have asked Ashley to please see if he could find someone to identify them for me. I googled juvenile steppe and jackal buzzards, and also forest buzzards, but got so confused after a few hours gave up.

The skinks (lizards) round the house have become very friendly and enjoy the morning sun in our study. They love the warmth of the sun and sit for some time on the carpet wherever the sun touches it. Strange little creatures and very social. They have now found their way into our bathroom too.

Skink in our study enjoying the morning sun

All day long they slip under the aluminium doors into the study and our bedroom which adjoins both sides of the verandah. The dogs ignore them and they run around freely looking for and eating the dead moths from the previous night and anything else that’s edible.

Skink eating all the dead moths from the night before

They always seem to know how to get out of the house which amazes me. At one stage I used to shush them out the door until I found that they definitely know their way around. Amazing.

Heard several African Fish-Eagles crying this morning over the house – they were miles up – the sky was so blue and bright that I could see nothing, but that wonderful sound lingered in the thermals – a sound that one does not forget – this is our beautiful country, Africa.


Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

The Yellow-billed Kites have gone, but the Barn Owls are back in their box in the farmyard – hope they breed successfully again. I saw just one Reedbuck doe all month and one Common Duiker. Jackal Buzzards, Cormorants, Egyptian Geese, a small brown duck, wagtails, hadedas, a Giant Kingfisher and an African Fish-Eagle watch as we enjoy the last swims of the season in a not yet full dam.

Autumn changes always seem the most obvious, and are much loved by most Midlanders – the chilly ground underfoot in the mornings, perfect afternoons and gentle light of the evenings.

grassland view of Inhlosane

View of Inhlosane

Disperis fanninaea, appears quite at home in the understory of wattle or pine woodlots. Flowers are borne on stems of up to 40cm tall, sometimes singly or in clusters of up to eight. Petals are joined to form a white helmet-shaped hood, flushed with pink speckles and rimmed in green. Dormant during winter, with new shoots emerging from the underground tuber in spring. The pollination of Disperis is interesting; it is carried out mainly by specialized oil-collecting bees, Rediviva coloratat, this is a rare phenomenon in plants. The bees collect the oil as food for their larvae. Once pollinated, the fruit capsule ripens and thousands of minute, dust-like seeds are released and dispersed by wind. As is the case with most orchids, they have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi that live in their roots – supplying them with nutrients absorbed from decaying organic matter.

disperis fanninaea

Disperis fanninaea

Leonotis intermedia and Pycnostachys reticulata are flowering in grasslands.

pycnostachys reticulata

Pycnostachys reticulata

Plectranthus laxiflorus, Hypoestes triflora, Desmondium repandum and Plectranthus dolichopodus flower on forest edges.

desmodium repandum

Desmodium repandum

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Rain has been minimal this month, sometimes we do still get a bit of dew on the grass though.

Dew on the veld grass

This grass was being burnt from the heat of the rocks, until we had a tiny bit of rainfall.

Grass burnt from the heat of the rocks before the rains arrived

Some pink Everlastings and Watsonia flowering in the veld.


Sunset over the Dargle

Sunset over the Dargle

Spiky Caterpillar

Spiky Caterpillar

Some kind of worms found whilst digging a hole in the ground, they managed to burrow quickly under everytime I turned the soil over, pretty sure they weren’t maggots

Worms in deep soil
Rainforest Brown Butterfly

Rainforest Brown

A few different kinds of fungi and mushrooms sprang up after the rains at the beginning of the month.

Malvina & Evert van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

March has been extremely busy on Old Furth Estate with multiple celebrations and hordes of visitors, so we have been battening down the hatches more than usual!

No sooner had the dust settled from the last carload of visitors than we had the call we have been waiting for from Free Me that the two Serval were on their way for release on the farm.

Serval 1

Never a dull moment here! We went over to the other side of the Furth River and released there as we know that we have Serval near our dams already and didn’t want to cause a territorial problem.

Serval 5

Serval 2

The male was released first, rather groggy after his antidote, and then the female.

Serval 3

We were very surprised that neither of them bolted, they just took their time sniffing the new territory and then gradually melted away into the surrounding vegetation.

Serval 4

On some of the walks showing everyone around we found some lovely fungi in the forest


and a really large bulb which had been disturbed – any guesses on what it could be?

mystery bulb

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

The swallows have been gathering since the 1st March. On a couple of evenings the sky over us has looked just like Mt Moreland . Literally 1000’s. Almost in competition with the Amur Falcons at Mooi River.

This extraordinary “nest” is growing out of or is stuck to a wall in the garden. The fluff looks like human hair clippings. At the top of the nest there is a white lava and below it is the brown pupa. I think we need Dr Jason Londt ‘s expertise again…

Strange Nest

Dr Jason Londt’s Response: “Many caterpillars incorporate their long hairs into their cocoons – I think that is what we see in the photo – the pupal case left behind by the emerged adult moth is frequently found inside the cocoon – or bits of it should it break up. I wouldn’t like to guess at the species that made these cocoons but maybe a Monkey Moth.”

I found this gay fellow on Grandpa’s Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

Colourful Caterpillar

The dehisced seed capsule of the Kigelaria africana and below the unopened capsules. The seeds in the capsules are very pretty, black with red flesh. The birds always beat me to it and I didn’t manage to get a photo. The Acraea butterfly breeds on this tree and at times it is crawling with caterpillars. The fruit and larvae attract a huge number of birds and there is constant activity. It is a really worthwhile tree for a larger garden. Cuckoos and Black Headed Orioles feast on the caterpillars. The doves scratch round under the tree picking up seeds, the toppies, sparrows, weavers and white eyes strip the capsules of the fruit. Thrushes and boubous too.

Kigelaria Africana

Wyndham Robartes – Wana Farm

Wyndham sent in a video of some “Processionary Worms”, here is a still from that video.


David Mann – Knowhere Farm

Rode on the bike up to the top of the farm last week with Ben (the Ridgeback) and as we got to the top a Jackal took off and Ben decided to give chase. He returned a while later looking a bit tired, obviously the Jackal gave him a good run!

Louise Bolton – Robhaven Farm

I recently took a walk up Inhlosane mountain this week and took a few pictures.

Inhlosane View from the top

The weather was perfect as we were up there by 7am. Here is a picture of the view from the top plus a panorama.

Inhlosane Panorama

There were many flowers in bloom but this one caught my eye, Crassula alba.

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

Also saw this lizard basking in the sun. Love how the shadow reveals the jagged edge of its tail.


Boston Wildlife Sightings – February 2016

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

02 Cover Mist in the valley IMG_4762

Mist in the valley

Hot summery weather continued in February, and several good periods of rain fell. On the 26 February we had a typical summer thunderstorm, wild winds, lightning and cracking thunder. However the grasses and exotic trees are already turning to autumn colours and soft mist fills the valley below us most mornings, quickly evaporating as the sun rises.

02 Cover Autumn colours IMG_4692

Autumn colours

Flowers are sparse, but here and there are surprise jewels. Berkheya setifera glow golden, though most have seeded. Gladiolus ecklonii have flowered well this year. Very dainty flowers, which I think are Golden Swans, Crocosmia masonorum sparkle!
Another orchid first sighting for me is Habenaria ciliosa, and they were out in profusion on the hillside, I counted ±40 flowering plants. Kniphofia laxiflora, Pentanisia augustifolia, Flower Stachys aethiopica and Watsonia densiflora were a few of the other flowers seen.

A couple of flowering grasses and one Mushroom also caught my eye.

Birds have been very active, particularly a Black-backed Puffback who has spent hours defending his territory, unfortunately the ‘intruder’ was his own reflection on the window panes. The Cape Robin-Chats love the birdbath on the verandah in the early evening. Most of the Village Weaver nests have fallen from the Pin Oak, though I saw what could be a juvenile inspecting a remaining nest. A pair of Malachite Sunbirds have been flitting over the hillside over the past couple of weeks.

Not as many moths around now, but I did see a Handmaiden Amata sp. which is active during the day settled on a grass seed inflorescence.

07 Insect Moth Handmaiden Amata sp IMG_4750

Handmaiden – Amata sp.

A tiny spider hung suspended in its beautiful web.

07 Spider IMG_4741


Most evenings the Black-backed Jackal yip and call. A pair of Duiker are seen regularly together at the moment, one morning they came within 10m of the kitchen door.

Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”:

In February Stormy Hill has been targeted by a African Harrier-Hawk (previously known as Gymnogene). This large bird has been hunting our smaller birds etc. which has caused a lot of upheaval as the dogs go crazy barking at it every time it comes around. I’ve also seen a couple of Common (Grey) Duiker and some Common Reedbuck. The Vervet Monkeys have visited a few times which is good. So nice to watch their antics in the trees. A smallish black snake slithered through a hole into my bedroom but I’m happy to say that I can’t find it in there now so I’m assuming he slithered back out again. At least I hope so…

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

The district put on stunning displays of fields full of Kniphofia praecox along the Elandsriver.

An unusual sighting this month was Ant-eating Chat along the road to Ncwadi. I have seen this bird in the valley below, but not on the ridge before. There was a small group of about six birds.


Ant-eating Chat

There were still a number of juvenile birds honing their balancing skills. Levaillant’s Cisticola is the one with a rufous crown, while Zitting Cisticola has a streaked crown and darker facial markings.

Youngsters that haven’t developed red bills yet were Malachite Kingfisher


Juvenile Malachite Kingfisher

And Black-headed Oriole, which also had juvenile streaking on the chest


Black-headed Oriole

Early autumn, and the Barn Swallows are beginning to congregate prior to their migration north


Barn Swallows

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Olive Thrush, African Fish-eagle, Blue Crane,


Blue Crane

Giant Kingfisher, Barn Owl, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Black Saw-wing, Purple Heron,Spotted Eagle-owl, Spectacled Weaver, Willow Warbler, Pied Kingfisher, White-rumped Swift, Brown-throated Martin, Black Crake, Red-necked Spurfowl, African Wattled Lapwing, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Sombre Greenbul, Wailing Cisticola, Southern Boubou, Red-knobbed Coot, Hamerkop, Common Waxbill, Cattle Egret, Amur Falcon, White Stork, Village Weaver, Cape Glossy Starling, Greater Honeyguide, Cape White-eye, Common Fiscal, White-throated Swallow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Common Moorhen, African Quailfinch, Cape Wagtail, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, Steppe Buzzard,

Southern Red Bishop, Cape Weaver, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-billed Kite, Amethyst Sunbird, Speckled Pigeon, Bokmakierie, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Common Quail, Drakensberg Prinia, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Cape Longclaw, South African Shelduck, Spur-winged Goose, Zitting Cisticola, Diderick Cuckoo, Great Egret, Little Grebe, African Firefinch, Red-throated Wryneck, African Hoopoe, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black-headed Heron, Greater Striped Swallow, Barn Swallow, White-breasted Cormorant, Long-crested Eagle, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Black-headed Oriole, Secretarybird, Egyptian Goose, African Stonechat, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-collared Widowbird, Speckled Mousebird, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, Cape Crow, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Little Rush-warbler, Yellow-billed Duck, African Sacred Ibis, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Dusky Flycatcher, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Harrier-Hawk.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – November 2014

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

Rain and thunderstorms in a typically Summer pattern almost every day, has resulted in a carpeting of wildflowers!

02 Cover after the storm IMG_2262

Black-backed Jackal call in the dark hours, Duiker daintily pick their way in dew laden grass in the early mornings and the family of three Common Reedbuck are often seen together near the house.

04 Cover Flower field IMG_2295

Flowers seen include: Ajuga ophrydis,

Flower Ajuga ophrydis IMG_2277

Albuca setosa,

Flower Albuca setosa IMG_2314

Aristea cognata,

Flower Aristea cognata P1010858

Aspidonepsis flava,

Flower Aspidonepsis flava IMG_2286

Aster bakerianus,

03 Cover Aster bakerianus IMG_2278

Cyphia elata,

Flower Cyphia elata P1010863

Dimorphotheca jucunda,

Flower Dimorphotheca jucunda IMG_2297

Gladiolus longicollis the sweetly scented “Honey Flower” which only opens at night and in misty conditions, is pollinated by a Hawk Moth,

Flower Gladiolus longicollis IMG_2248

an abundance of Haemanthus humilis in a rocky patch,

Flower Haemanthus humilis IMG_2302

one of my favourites Heliophila rigiuscula,

Flower Heliophila rigidiuscula IMG_2331

bright patches of Indigofera hilaris,

Flower Indigofera hilaris IMG_2298

Lotononis corymbosa,

Flower Lotononis corymbosa IMG_2334

many Merwilla nervosa flowers,

Flower Merwilla nervosa IMG_2291

the dainty Orithogalum graminifolium,

Flower Ornithogalum graminifolium P1010861

a stunning Pachycarpus natalensis,

Flower Pachycarpus natalensis P1010857

the dainty trailing Pelargonium alchemilloides

Flower Pelargonium alchemilloides IMG_2333

and Pelargonium luridum,

Flower Pelargonium luridum IMG_2281

bright red Peucedanum caffrum seed heads,

Flower Peucedanum caffrum seeds IMG_2316

many Wahlenbergia sp including cuspidata

Flower Wahlenbergia cuspidata MG_2285

and vibrantly neon orange Watsonia socium scattered on the hillside.

Flower Watsonia socium IMG_2296

Beautiful moths, these particularly caught my eye, a Bagworm on a Vernonia sp. this is the laval form of the Psychidae family of moths. Males have clear grey wings with hairy veins when they hatch, females never leave the laval bag. Once mated, most females remain in the bag, lay eggs within it and die. Insect Bagworm on Vernonia sp IMG_2325

A Slug moth,

Insect Moth Slug moth IMG_2270

Speckled / Wattle Emperor with it’s stunning pink ‘eyes’

Insect Moth Speckled Emperor P1010856

and a delightful bright coloured moth which I haven’t been able to identify, does anyone know it’s name?

Insect Moth P1010855

Red-collared Widow males are fully in their striking black courting plumage, red collars very bright, Striped Swallows in free flight sometimes swooping in and out of the house are only two of the myriad of birds around at the moment!

A lovely find of a hatched African Stonechat egg, neatly deposited out in the open away from the nest. Bird African Stonechat egg

Tiny Swee Waxbills forage for seeds in the grass,

Bird Swee Waxbill male IMG_2273

close to a Four-striped Mouse that has become very tame.

Mammal Four-striped Grass Mouse IMG_2243

Bev and Bruce Astrup – Highlands Glen

Hear African Fish-Eagle calling fairly often; Long-crested Eagles; African Harrier-Hawk; Water Mongoose often; Spur-winged Geese, Common Reedbuck on a daily basis at house


Barbara and David, visiting Gramarye, watching at birdfeeder: Pin-tailed Whydah female

DSCF3800fem Pin-tailed Whydah


DSCF3802Cape Sparrow

Delighted to hear Grey Crowned Crane calling and then seeing the female in a field at The Willows feeding near a water furrow and calling to mate, who had gone “flyabout”. From regular duetting, they appear to be preparing for the breeding season. Also at feed table were regular visits by Village Weavers.

DSCF3806Village Weaver

Greater Striped Swallows are nesting on the verandah and swooping about.

Gordon Pascoe – Keswick

Reported seeing 27 Grey Crowned Cranes flying over Keswick late in November

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

The decision I took some years ago to grow lots more indigenous plants in my garden is paying off handsomely with more bird species coming to inspect what is on offer by way of food or security for nesting purposes. A newcomer during November was Brimstone Canary who was out in the open contentedly munching on euphorbia seeds.


My previous sightings of this canary were usually near patches of forest elsewhere in the district. Brimstone is the largest of the canaries and has a heavy bill (Afrikaans name is Dikbekkanarie) and one could compare the differentiation in markings with the other two yellow canaries also found at Gramarye, the Yellow-fronted and Cape Canaries.


African Firefinch ventured out in the open, while Dark-capped Yellow Warblers, African Reed Warblers


and Little Rush Warblers continued to kick up a din along the river.


Along the Dargle Road I was pleased to spot a little band of Orange-breasted Waxbills, a species that appear to be in some trouble. It is always exciting to see a swirl of swifts moving across the sky and usually it is a challenge to identify them. Alpine Swift is the easiest because of its large size, white chin and belly and the power and speed of its flight.


It was very satisfactory to take a birder friend who wanted to see a Bush Blackcap to the Norwood forest, stopping the car and telling her it should be here somewhere, and the next moment she was calling out she’s found it.

The SABAP2 list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Yellow-throated Petronia, Greater Honeyguide, Red-chested Flufftail, Red-collared Widowbird, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Jackal Buzzard, Red-capped Lark, African Darter, Red-throated Wryneck, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Glossy Starling, African Fish-Eagle, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Southern Red Bishop,


Zitting Cisticola, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-billed Quelea, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Sparrow, House, Pied Starling, African Pipit, Pied Crow, Forest Canary, Wattled Crane, Red-winged Starling, Cape Batis, Sombre Greenbul,


Black-backed Puffback, Green-backed Camaroptera, Bar-throated Apalis, Black Cuckoo, Speckled Pigeon, Long-tailed Widowbird, Buff-streaked Chat, White-throated Swallow, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Three-banded Plover, Little Grebe, Cuckoo, Red-chested, Brown-throated Martin, Common Fiscal, Black Saw-wing, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Firefinch, Speckled Mousebird, Cattle Egret, Brimstone Canary, Neddicky, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow Bishop, Barratt’s Warbler, Yellow-billed Duck, Yellow-fronted Canary,


Black-headed Heron, African Reed-Warbler, Long-crested Eagle, Diderick Cuckoo,


Cape Grassbird, Common Quail, Bokmakierie, African Sacred Ibis, Greater Striped Swallow, African Black Duck, Common Waxbill, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Amethyst Sunbird, African Harrier-Hawk, Dark-capped Bulbul, Spur-winged Goose, African Stonechat, Red-necked Spurfowl, Egyptian Goose, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, African Rail, Cape Wagtail, Cape Longclaw, Fan-tailed Widowbird,


Burchell’s Coucal, Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Robin-Chat, African Hoopoe, Cape Canary, African Paradise-Flycatcher, African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush, Hadeda Ibis, Grey Crowned Crane, Barn Swallow.


During a visit home Matthew Murray took time out to accompany me to Impendle town to do a SABAP2 atlas list. We ticked 61 birds in about three hours, the highest total so far for this pentad.

The list for Impendle pentad 2935_2950 was: Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-billed Duck, African Rail, African Reed-Warbler, Black-headed Heron, Red-chested Flufftail, Long-tailed Widowbird, Little Rush-Warbler, Spur-winged Goose, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Waxbill, Familiar Chat, Speckled Mousebird, Common Myna, Wattled Starling,


Red-chested Cuckoo, Pied Starling, House Sparrow, African Harrier-Hawk, Cape Wagtail, Cape Turtle-Dove, Cape Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Crow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Blue Crane,


Cattle Egret, Pied Crow, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Red-collared Widowbird, Lanner Falcon, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Longclaw, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Bokmakierie, Yellow Bishop, Jackal Buzzard, African Pipit, Cape Glossy Starling, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Weaver, African Dusky Flycatcher, Levaillant’s Cisticola,


Drakensberg Prinia, African Sacred Ibis, Cape White-eye, Black Saw-wing, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, South African Shelduck, African Spoonbill, Cape Canary, Egyptian Goose, Cape Robin-Chat, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Common Fiscal, Hadeda Ibis, Greater Striped Swallow, African Stonechat.


Dargle Wildlife Sightings November 2014

Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

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

genet camera trap

Nikki Brighton  – Old Kilgobbin

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

r ranunculus

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

r porcupine

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

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

cape vultures

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

Reedbuck 2

Egyptian Goose family

Egyptian Goose Family



Spurwinged Goose

Spurwing Goose

We had some big rains with more hail this month.

Hail 2

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

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

cape robin having a dip in our rock pool

A very wet bedraggled cape robin

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

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

2 day old wagtails singing Wish you a Happy Xmas

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

our wagtails now 2 weeks

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

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

The blue cranes after another storm

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

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

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

Orange throated longclaw

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

The first time they twisted their tails together

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

They disentwined after about 2 minutes and went their separate ways

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

Lots of flowers about including Morea inclinata

Moraea inclinata

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

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

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

sunset mavela dam

The Wisdom of Cranes

Wisdom Tales – Crane Stories from Southern Africa, a book celebrating the ethos of cranes, was launched recently by the KZN Crane Foundation (KZNCF), beautifully illustrated by David Wheildon Oosthuizen.crowned crane dancing

Jenny Stipcich, lead author, said “My love affair with cranes began when I met the remarkable Ann Burke and realised how our South African cranes could be used as inspiration for learning about good values.”  David added “I am ashamed that I did not even know we had three crane species and it took an American woman (Ann) to teach me about them!”

r blue cranes dancing

Wisdom Tales fosters the proud tradition of African storytelling. Its lively stories, written for children and adults alike, reflect the embodied qualities of cranes highly valued by human cultures such as faithfulness and courage. The book also celebrates other creatures that share wetlands and grasslands with the cranes, including the cautious oribi, wise chameleon and watchful black-backed jackal.

r wisdom tales

Local authoress and educator, Jenny Stipcich and her sister, Viv Stacey, poet and spiritual teacher, combined efforts to write four of the tales. What wisdom can be learned from the Wattled Crane’s scarred face? Why do cranes live longer than most birds? What spiritual attitudes can be learned from the crisis caused by the destruction of our priceless wetlands? Author Gamalihle Sibanda’s delightful story illustrates the importance of patience and adaptation. Artist David Weildon Oosthuizen’s illustrations add vibrancy and warmth to the spirit of the stories with his inspired attention to detail.

david ann jen res

At the launch of the book at Fordoun recently, Ann (Project Manager KZNCF) said that the book was the result of long standing collective caring for these Midlands birds, since the establishment of the KZN Crane Foundation 24 years ago. “I believe this is due to recognition that cranes have lived with us for thousands of years – since we were hunters and gatherers and nowadays alongside us in human-transformed agricultural landscapes. When we spend time getting to know the cranes, we discover a deep-rooted respect for their beauty and grace and we begin to understand that cranes reflect some of our most valued human qualities –including parental nurturing and care, faithfulness, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.”

r fun at fordoun

The book was made possible through the assistance of Intrepid Printers in Pietermaritzburg and a grant from N3 Toll Concession (N3TC).

r david ann con fordoun

Andy Visser, N3TC’s Marketing Manager said, “We are privileged to be a part of this wonderful project and thrilled that by the end of this year, five hundred copies of Wisdom Tales will be distributed to local schools and environmental organisations. This resource should enhance awareness of South African children to their natural heritage and equip them with an understanding of the importance of wetlands not only for all the wild creatures, but for the fresh water they provide to human communities.”

r Andy and N3TC Board. JPG

Copies of Wisdom Tales are available for R150 at Lazy Lizard Books in the Greendale Acres Centre in Howick and at Fordoun Hotel and Spa, Nottingham Road. All proceeds from the first edition will benefit the KZN Crane Foundation.

Continuing the celebration, In ART Gallery in Nottingham Road will host the Spirit of the Crane Art Exhibition from 12 – 22 September. Hilary Grant Curie, Owner and Curator said, “When my husband and I first moved to Nottingham Road, I heard about the work of the KZNCF and their efforts to build a Nursery to rear endangered Wattled Crane chicks. I can remember flocks of Blue Cranes sharing the veld with my father’s cattle. It was a common sight and annual occurrence…. It saddens me that this is something my own children will likely never experience.”

r thami and monty

The KZNCF is currently constructing a Nursery to rear critically endangered Wattled Crane chicks for release into the wild in an effort to bolster South Africa’s remaining wild flock of 260 individuals. For the past 30 years, conservationists in North America have successfully released human-reared cranes into the wild using a technique called “costume-rearing.” This technique, consisting of human caretakers dressed in costumes and puppets, will be used to encourage young cranes to obtain skills necessary for survival in the wild. The Nursery is situated on the Bill Barnes Nature Reserve in Nottingham Road. The first chicks are expected in 2014. Proceeds from the Spirit of the Crane Art Exhibition will go towards the completion of the Nursery.

r crane nursery

The KZNCF is a non-profit conservation organisation established in 1989 to combat the causes leading to the decline of South Africa’s three crane species. The foundation is successfully fostering awareness of cranes and their dependence upon wetlands and grasslands through educational outreach and is currently preparing to rear and release Wattled Crane chicks back into the wild. The KZNCF owns and manages the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve (BBCONR) in Nottingham Road. To learn more, visit: www.kzncrane.co.za

Hand rearing a crane chick

Farming for Conservation

Britt and Rene Stubbs moved to the Karkloof valley in 1986. Britt describes the changes on their farms over the years.

Denleigh was a beef and maize farm at the time, but we developed it into a dairy farm, planting maize, soya beans, potatoes and carrots using conventional tillage methods. It soon became clear that this type of land use was leading to severe erosion, increased soil pests, proliferation of weeds on contour banks and serious wear and tear on equipment. Seventeen years ago we decided to convert to No-Till for the maize silage, cover crops and autumn pasture establishment.


The positive results have been overwhelming! We have enjoyed increased yields from healthier soils due to an increase in earthworms and a decrease in soil pests.  There have been significant fuel savings as well as reduced wear and tear on equipment. In addition to the commercial advantages of converting to No-Till we have also observed positive environmental changes: improved water quality and availability; increased food sources and cover for wildlife; the return of indicator species and reduced erosion. We now enjoy regular sightings of all three crane species on the farm and have a resident pair of Blue Cranes which have been breeding here for a number of years. We hardly ever saw cranes when we first arrived in the valley, but now, with most of the large-scale farmers having converted to No-Till, the increase in crane sightings has been significant.


We took a conscious decision not to plant trees on veld which had been granted a timber permit. Choosing instead to rehabilitate 200ha of contiguous mistbelt Themeda veld to regain its biodiversity and secure the farm’s water supply. Livestock was taken off the predominantly Aristida veld and a carefully managed burning regime was introduced. 26 years later there is a significant increase in Themeda cover and many other plant species have re-appeared. This area now hosts many wildlife species, including cranes, grass owls, Natal red rock rabbits, porcupines, ant bears, mongooses, genets, cervals, oribi, reedbuck and duiker.


Six years ago, we bought a neighbouring farm Bartersfield, also a beef farm which we have converted to dairy.  As oribi occur here, we leave one of the four veld paddocks unburnt every year to provide cover for them. We have found that if the paddocks are not burnt in regular rotation the veld becomes moribund and overgrown, which prevents the healthy regeneration of Themeda and other plant species. Late autumn block-burning (particularly after rain) has proven to be the ideal time to burn the veld. This ensures that the fire is not too hot and doesn’t damage the Themeda. Burning in spring (in the absence of early spring rains) can destroy the growing tips and seeds of the Themeda which then sets the plants back.


We have found that the reedbuck, bushbuck, duiker and, to a lesser extent, the oribi have adapted very easily to feeding on the ryegrass pastures which we have established. The quality winter forage which is available to them has resulted in year-round breeding amongst the reedbuck. The oribi still only breed on an annual basis.  We believe that the increase in jackal activity in recent years (as well as caracal and dog hunting to a much lesser extent) has had a major impact on the oribi population.

britt stubbs crane custodian

What a privilege it is to farm in harmony with the Midlands wildlife.

Charlie MacGillivray, adds: There is no doubt that in my 39 years of farming on Gartmore, the advent of No-Till farming has been one of the most gratifying experiences.

Charlie macGuillivray res.

With it has come better yields with the use of less diesel, apart from the fact that the spectrum of birdlife has expanded, and this has included the return of the Wattled Crane flocks which had been absent for many years.

Wattled2007_0114(016)Trimmed&enlarged2 (Small)

The food availability that results from following maize silage crops with a cereal “cover crops”, the build up of biomass in the soils, and the resultant micro-organisms and naturally the earthworms, has attracted many avian predators with rodent, insect and seed eaters all benefitting from there being a crop cover throughout the year. Whilst we are not organic farmers as we do use specific chemicals and fertilizers, these are carefully selected and specific to the intended purpose.

DSCF0262 (Small)

Being blessed with high soil clay contents has made it possible to draw on natures’ wonderful system, where with the organic matter build up, has enabled the more judicious applications of bought Nitrogen, according to the crop needs.  The “storage” of this highly necessary nutrient in an insoluble form (organic matter) augments the crops needs through mineralization and helps avoid acidifying the sub soils by over application of soluble “N”, which inhibits rooting depth of the maize crop limiting the water reservoir. Soil moisture is also better managed with cover crops and the presence of the organic build-up in the soils.

DSCF0097 (Small)

Our scoreboard is not only yields, but the variety of bird sightings and sustaining BIODIVERSITY, which is the recipe for sustainable agriculture. The Biodiversity status accorded us (through the KZN BIodiversity Stewardship Programme, facilitated by Midlands Conservancies Forum) merely endorses the practices that many fellow farmers also follow.  I encourage as many farmers as possible, to engage in the Stewardship programme. It is, after all, going to ensure that our custodianship provides those that follow us, a better platform from which to harness the bounty of nature whilst still being able to utilize the land and produce at high levels. This has become a compelling imperative as more people are fed from the same sized world and Water is increasingly scarce and of poor quality.

HIDEFISHEAGLE2009_0619(010) (Small)It is our privilege to share the beauty and integrity of our piece of paradise with others and the Karkloof Conservation Centre – the hides are merely the start of making possible. Whether you twitch or tweet, there is something for everyone on Gartmore!

HIDEFISHEAGLE2009_0619(007) (Small)

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.


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


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/

Dargle Wildlife Sightings February 2013

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh farm

Spotted this chameleon Right outside our gate, after one of the storms we had. It was sitting on a wattle branch in the middle of the dirt road. I moved it to the side of the road and snapped this shot. First time I’ve seen one!

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon by Ashley Crookes

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

Besides the heaviest rainfall since we are in the Dargle we only saw the following:

dieter flood

After the flood I found at least 1 chameleon every day.

dieter chameleon

I also saw a few wild flowers, don’t know what they are.

dieter flower

dieter yellow flower

Sue and Andre Hofman – Hazelmere

On Sunday morning we were amazed by the sight of a fully grown Pelican swimming in our home dam. At first glance I thought it was a very large Spurwing Goose, but rapidly changed my mind when it turned and I saw the beak. It spent about four hours with us, and did not, to the best of my knowledge, eat any of our trout. Whilst it was sitting on the rocks a Gymnogene circled it several times and then flew off to a tree to watch. I wonder what the raptor was thinking!

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The other noteworthy occurrence was a bushpig very loudly crunching on walnuts right under my son’s bedroom window.

Brookland river flood 2013 (2)

The heavy rain caused major flooding of our river, the Brookland, causing it to break its banks and go right over the top of our bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge flooding 2013.jpg

Malvina and Evert van Breemen – Old Furth

We cannot believe the amount of rain in February, it has felt like non-stop rain. Even the garden has had its own waterfalls.

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We have coined a new word for the incessant rain – delugional.

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On the wildlife side it has been quieter, mainly because everything has been under cover; apart from a wonderful sighting of Giant Kingfishers on our bottom dam and lots of chameleons, storks and a lovely sighting of a group of crowned cranes flying overhead. We have also seen a troop of 17 baboons with some enormous males.

We also had this beautiful moth, anyone know what it belongs to?

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Kathy Herrington and Wayne Lourens – Hopedale

While topping our fields last Sunday accompanied by 14 white storks – Wayne and I both saw a Pelican fly over!!  Wayne also had a good sighting of a Serval on our top farm last week. This week we saw 3 Kestrels together, perched on the defunct telephone wires, and a pair of giant Kingfishers by our lower dam.  The raptors are still making meals of our semi-tame guinea fowl – but we salvaged some eggs off the remaining female’s nest (leaving her only some of the eggs, as her last (3) hatchlings were snapped up within a couple of days!)  She did not seem to hatch any this time – but we incubated the salvaged eggs for a week, and now have 10 hungry/rather noisy chicks.  Wayne also relocated a large puff adder from next to our stallion’s stable a few weeks ago!

Rose & Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Buffspotted Flufftails – mother with two juveniles.
A young Crowned Eagle was chased away earlier this month by two crows, three geese and four hadedas who all ganged up together to see him off. On 3 March he was again chased off, this time by no less than a dozen hadedas, plus several geese, crows, drongos and other birds who definitely don’t want him around!  It’s the first time we’ve seen a Crowned Eagle over our property so it has caused quite a stir amongst the bird population!
A Burchell’s Coucal was seen at close range perched in our Chestnut tree near the house.
Swallows, Sparrows, Kites, Crested Eagle, Egrets, Amethyst Sunbirds, Doves, Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush.
Dwarf Chameleons. Red-lipped Herald. Frogs.
Lots of butterflies – Citrus Swallowtail, Gaudy Commodore, Common Diadem (male), Thorn-tree Blue, Forest White, Acrea


Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Plants: Wahlenbergia still flowering in profusion – they have been incredible this summer, Pavonia columella, Conostimum natalense, Plectranthus elegantus, Plectranthus dolichopodus, Kniphofia laxiflora, Kniphofia caulescens, Argylobium

tomentosum , Rumex sagittatus, Mentha aquatic, Impatiens hochstetteri, Isoglossa woodii, Nemesia sylvatica, Berkheya bergiana, Desmodium ricinocarpa (picture), Dissotis canescens.

desmodium cropped.res

Mammals:  bush buck, reed buck, scrub hare, samango monkeys.  Heard Tree dassies

Birds: Egyptian geese family down to 3 chicks (from 5) and now haven’t seen them for a while.  European storks, crowned Eagle, bulbul, white eye, orange thrush, mousebird, weavers, sunbirds, stone chat, swallows, malachite kingfisher, hadeda, cape robin chat, wagtail.  Heard Wood Owl.

Other creatures: guttural toad, common striped river frog, citrus swallowtail butterflies, dragonflies.

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

 Our 2 crane babies hatched out 31st January.  The 2 baby crane.  You can just see the smaller of the two on the left of the other larger one

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After 4 days, there was only one.  He is growing in leaps and bounds.  Take photos every few days.  We see them practically every day walking the hills. At 4 weeks old.

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One day, 2 other blue crane arrived.  There was lots of noise and our mom and dad flew over the dam to greet them.  Pat said he thought they had come for the christening of the baby ha ha.  There was a lot of flapping of wings and squawking and then mom and dad flew back to baby on other side of dam, and the others flew off.  Strange. The guests being greeted by mom and dad

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When I went to town a few weeks ago, I saw 3 baby bush pig on the D18 at 10am.  They looked very lost and were running up and down the road.  I tried to shush them into the bush but they wouldn’t go in.  I guess they were looking for their mother.

Last month I mentioned a samango monkey coming into the garden.  Well we got back from Pmb one day and found our rottweiler had been badly savaged by him.  He had a severed vein in his leg and huge bites on his stomach.  After a 2 hour operation (and huge expense) he is now on the mend.  Have never seen the monkey again thankfully.

I also mentioned last month that my terrier/cross had been bitten by otters.  Well we have seen them frequently in the garden again and they are Large Grey Mongeese, not otters.  We have seen them on and off on the farm for 27 years.  They used to get into our garden at Endebeni at night, and pull the heads of the chickens thru the wire and bite them off.  Next morning, a couple of headless chickens.  My alsatian also fought a couple of them and got bitten on the nose.  They are very savage creatures.   Has anyone else seen these animals?  The african people don’t even have a name for them.

Reed buck in garden. Duiker, 1 oribi running through farm as if it were being chased, Still in residence  are the swallows,  sparrows,  rock pigeons and barn owls, 1 pr shell duck, 5 baby spurwing geese, 8 baby dab chicks, 7 baby yellowbill ducks, A pair of crested crane, Black crested eagle, fish eagle, steppe buzzard, yellow billed kite, gymnogene

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