Tag Archives: bushbuck

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2015

Charles Robinson – Ican Hebron Haven Nguni farm

Charles posted the following photographs of a snake onto Biodiversity explorer that was found on the farm early one morning. Their response was the following: “Hi Charles, you have caught a Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia) which isn’t really venomous at all.”

Non-venomous Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Non-venomous Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Here you can see why they call it the Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia).

Here you can see why they call it the Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia).

Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Jenny Fly

All our Haleria bushes are inundated with these caterpillars. Presumably they are butterfly larvae but I don’t know which. Perhaps someone can help.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Most birds won’t eat hairy or bristly caterpillars, except for cuckoos and blackheaded Orioles.
Our garden is full of cuckoos, Diedericks, Klaas’s and a Jacobin who visit us every year at this time, all feasting on these caterpillars, and those on the Kigelaria too.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Dr Jason Londt, an expert in creepy crawlies identified these caterpillars in April 2014 as those from an Emperor moth.

Brian & Marashene Lewis – Glengyle

These images were captured by the Dargle Conservancy Trophy Camera which Brian and Marashene Lewis had set up on their property. These images were just too late for last month’s Wildlife Sightings so they were included in March! Enjoy the Bushbuck “selfies”.

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Coccinia hirsuta – wild cucumber – has grown prolifically this summer. Tendrils creeping through my windows, covering paths and climbing every tree and shrub. Clearly it likes the current climatic conditions.

Coccinia hirsuta - wild cucumber

Coccinia hirsuta – wild cucumber

The cucumber-like fruit is an attractive bright orange-red fading to green at the stem end. It has creamy yellow flowers – the male flower is borne on a long stem, while the female has a short stem. The soft leaves are slightly hairy, deeply lobed and can be cooked and eaten as spinach.

Wild cucumber flower - Coccinia hirtella

Wild cucumber flower – Coccinia hirtella

In the forest, Carissa bispinosa (Forest num-num, umVusankunzi) is fruiting at the moment. The small red fruits are edible and delicious and make good jams and jellies (if you can collect enough!).

Carissa bispinosa fruit

Forest Num-num fruit – Carissa bispinosa

Bright pink Hesperantha baurii is still flowering in the grassland on sunny days (the flowers open in sunlight).

Hesperantha baurii

Hesperantha baurii

Barry & Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

These Chameleons were clinging to a security gate for some reason. About to open the gate, Rose saw the one, and put him on her hand.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Opening the gate, the other one, who must have been higher up, fell to the ground. Fascinating colours… possibly male and female?

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon - Male and Female?

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon – Male and Female?

The colourful one appears to just be finishing off shedding. Apart from these two, we haven’t seen much to get excited about this month.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – October 2014

Rob Mackintosh – Carlisle Farm

We had a mature bushbuck doe killed on the farm early this morning by a big cat, I have a feeling due to signs of the struggle it may have been a cape leopard. We have positively identified leopard spoor on the forest roads.

Bushbuck mature female (2)

The bite marks on the neck, show the strangulation trait of a leopard suffocating prey. The carcass is still fresh and will be gone by the morning, due to the jackals.

Bushbuck mature female (3)

The results of the autopsy on the carcass of the bushbuck “the bite marks and meat consumption, are very indicative of a leopard kill – but because the bites on the skull were not examined in detail, there is no proof that the bushbuck was killed by leopard”  We have quite regular kills here, every 2 – 4 weeks up on the forest margins, even adult reedbuck, (Redunca arundinum) although similar in size and mass to bushbuck.

Bushbuck mature female (4)

Amanda Jones of African Small Cat Research commented: This is a fully grown adult bushbuck so not sure if a caracal would take one down but you never know. I have found a reference that says caracal can take up to adult bushbuck ewes, so we can’t rule out caracal.  If anyone has a trail camera nearby next time a kill is found, great idea to put it near the carcass, as the cat may come back at night.

I can’t see on the pics the teeth marks too clearly.  There should be two sets of bite marks from the upper and lower canines either on the windpipe or on the spine. For Caracal average width between the teeth marks is 29mm between the upper set and 23mm between the lower set and for Leopard 45mm / 35mm.

Bushbuck mature female (1)

Simon and Debbie Hayes – Hambledon

I found this snake on our lawn which the dogs had unfortunately killed. I couldn’t identify it.

red lipped herald

(Ashley: A search on the internet turned up this webpage so I believe it is a Herald snake or Red-lipped snake: http://academic.sun.ac.za/capeherp/cederberg/snakesherald.htm)

red lipped snake

This fallen lemon attracted a swarm of bees.

bees on lemon

Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

The hot dry weather last month attracted much bird activity around our bird bath, with sparrows, weavers, cape robins, mousebirds, white-eyes, orioles, bulbuls, drongos and lots of olive thrushes all trying to claim the bath for themselves. Due to the demand for the bird bath, we set up a couple more baths around the garden which needed topping up regularly due to water evaporation and splashing birds.

There was a great commotion one day with much hadeda squawking, and on investigation, we saw at least 16 hadedas flying overhead and circling our jacaranda tree where a gymnogene was perched. A pair of crows joined in but were more intent on chasing everyone away from their nest in a tree nearby. Eventually the gymnogene flew off with a squadron of hadedas in hot pursuit behind him!

Hadeda squadron with Gymnogene

After the heavy rain and hail recently, we discovered two dead female blackheaded orioles. They did not appear to be injured, so the extreme weather may have been too much for them. A couple of male orioles have since been heard calling loudly.


Other birds seen: Black sparrowhawk (melanistic form), herons, egrets, Fish Eagles, yellowbilled kite, guineafowls, amethyst and doublecollared sunbirds, wagtails, prinias, southern boubou, rameron pigeons, doves, fiscal shrike, swifts and swallows. A pair of Paradise Flycatchers have also been flying about the garden and are our favourite birds to watch. Heard: Redchested Cuckoo, Burchell’s Coucal.  Also seen: Butterflies and moths – including Silver-striped Hawk Moth (Hippotion celerio)

Silver-striped Hawk Moth

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The Spurwing Geese were feeling very brave one morning, they were all right next to the house, checking the reflections of themselves out in the veranda glass doors. I captured a few shots before they all took off onto the dam.

Spurwing Single

Earlier in the month I was taking some salt lick out for the cows, and I was about to dump a bag of it into one of their tyres when I saw this little guy perched on the inside. He’d managed to get in alright, there was a bramble growing next to the tyre but then he couldn’t get out so I took his mugshot and then gave a helping hand. Not sure if it’s a shrew or mouse?


The porcupine is obviously out and about as well – left his calling card…

Porcupine Quill

This is what the farm looked like after the massive hail storm, sadly we lost two sheep from the cold and wet.

copperleigh hail

Our driveway with all the hail. Inhlosane is in the background, can’t see it hidden behind the mist and rain clouds.

copperleigh hail and sheep

Patrick and Sandra Merrick – Albury farm

This has not been a great month for photography due to howling winds, grey and misty days. Pat saw a pair of Natal red rock rabbits in garden one night. The large grey mongoose is back swimming in the ponds and my rottie had another fight with it and came off second best. The mongoose bit through the nail and top of his paw. He is a warrior in the water and our rottie hates water.

We have seen the secretary bird on numerous occasions.

The secretary bird landing on top of hillaria tree.

For 3 days he arrived every evening and landed on a Halleria lucida tree about 200 metres down the valley. He would jump up and down flapping his wings for about a minute and then disappear into the tree. We found this behaviour very strange and went down the next morning to see if there was a nest inside the tree but could find nothing.

The flapping of wings starts

A pair of gymnogene flew over the house and I got a pic of one flying off the dead tree.


The wagtails hatched out one egg in our jasmine creeper but youngster died, probably the heavy rain last week and cold. They are now building another nest in the other jasmine creeper.

Wagtail eggs.

The red throated wry neck is still calling for a mate standing next to the hollow gate post. I said last month that the seed eaters eating on the lawn were red shouldered widows, but now that their wings have grown, their colouring has changed, so they are actually redcollared widows.

.Redcollared widows

On the day of the big hail storm our 2 blue crane landed close to the house and I got some nice pics. Now that there is a puddle in the dam they come almost every evening to wade. When I and the dogs walked past them one evening, they came towards us with wings held up halfway, crawked loudly for awhile and then proceeded to hop, skip and jump around with wings held high. They were only 10metres from us and I like to think they were greeting us and saying “here we are again waiting for the dam to fill so that we can lay our eggs once again”.

Our blue crane just after the big storm

Have seen male and female duiker together and separately and still a lot of reed buck.

Male and female reed buck.

One morning while I was in the bedroom I spied the Southern bou bou racing across the lawn. The next second she had a snake in her beak. (It was the day of the big storm) About 30cm long and 1.5cm thick. It was in a tight coil and thrashing about, so could not see the head which she had in her beak. Silver belly and grey on top.  The black flycatcher tried to get in on the action but she was having none of it. I suddenly realised that I was supposed to be photographing this but camera in kitchen and by the time I got back she had hopped into the shrubs and was busy pecking at it. As I had to go out I did not venture into the bushes to have a look but when I got back home, went and checked, but nothing left.

Southern boubou.

Heart breaking day for us. On 19th October we found a dead male oribi. He had stumpy horns and 2 lower teeth, so presumably a youngster. The ngunis were standing over his body and I thought that they had attacked him, but on investigation found that there was a large hole in the back side, and that was all that had been eaten making us wonder if the ngunis had chased the animal away. Our immediate thought was jackal but was told that they usually eat the stomach first, so we now think it may have been a caracal. We went to check the body again on Monday morning, there was nothing left! I must say we were stunned. What could have taken or eaten an entire buck including the skeleton?

Precious male oribi

Neville van Leyleveld comments: “This Oribi kill is definitely by Caracal. The feeding pattern is the tell-tale as they always only eat about a kg of the meat from the rump or from the soft inner of the rear legs. As far as the rest of the carcass that was eaten is concerned – that would have been jackal and probably bush pig.”

We still see our female oribi every few days thank goodness. We had never seen this male oribi before.

We still see our female oribi every few days thank goodness.  We had never seen this male oribi before..

Cape Robin

Cape robin

Black Sunbird

Black sunbird.

Drakensberg Prinia

Drakensberg prinia

Lesser double collared Sunbird

Lesser double collared sunbird I think.

Guerneys Sugarbird

.Gurneys sugar bird

Malachite Sunbird

Malachite sunbird again

Red faced Mousebird

Red faced mousebird

Yellow eyed Canary

yellow eyed canary.

This Cape White eye was chased into the window. I retrieved it and put it on the windowsill in the sun to warm up and recover. It flew off after ten minutes thankfully.

This cape white was chased into the window.  I retrieved it and put it on the windowsill in the sun to warm up and recover.  It flew off after ten minutes thankfully.

Veronia oligocephala


Eriosema distinctum

Eriosema distinctum

Pentanisia prunelloides

Pentanisia prunelloides

Brandon Powell – Bukamanzi Cottage

The swallows are back and fixing up their nest in the cottage’s eaves.

swallow under eaves

They love to take it in turns to fly into the sitting room and preen in front of the spotty old mirror there (does anyone know why they do this?) although they’ve yet to perch on the bedposts again like they sometimes did last year, which was a real Brothers Grimm moment.

swallows on ped post

We had a magnificent fire-break evening on the D17 – the flames sometimes two storeys high and reflected wonderfully in the dam.

firebreak culamanzi

Thankfully the rains followed and things are greening up again.

culamanzi greening up

Isn’t this the most beautiful time of year? Look at these photos taken this month only two weeks apart, each week getting greener.

getting greener

greener culamanzi

I’m keeping a lookout for the resident genet (I haven’t seen him in a while) and for the Paradise Flycatcher that swooped over my head last weekend – the first one I’ve seen on this side of the Dargle.

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

Did not see many animals on Wakecroft the past month but mushrooms are a welcome sight. Here we have the Pamaeolus Papilionaceus

Did not see many animals on Wakecroft the past month but Mushtooms are a welcome sight. Here we have the Panaeolus Papilionaceus or Cracked Mottl Gill

Found these Coprinus plicatilis or Japanese Umbrella

I also found these Coprinus plicatilis or Japanese Umbrella

This Field Mushroom is on the menu almost every day now.

This Field Mushroom is almost every day now on the menue.

Some of the invading plants are in full bloom like the American Bramble

ome of the invading plants are in full bloom like here the American Brambul

The Wattle is also in full bloom

The Wattle is also in full bloom

The Crow talks to me every morning

And the Crow is talking to me every morning

The Fly catcher is enjoying the abundance of flies and rests in between on my fence outside my window.

The Fly catcher is enjoying the abundance of flyes around and rests inbetween on my fence outside my window.

The Locusts are everywhere. This one did not make it across the road.


Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

Lovely wildflowers spotted on my drives across the hills, including Raphionacme hirstua

Raphionacme hirsuta

Graderia scabra

graderia scabra

Helichrysum ecklonis

helichrysum ecklonis

More summer flowers in the Asclepias Family



These photos below were taken by one of our guests, Marzena Banasiak, at Crab Apple Cottages.samango

Rafiki the Samango and junior eating blossoms

samamngo eating blossomssamamngo againsamango 1

Kat Herrington – Aloe Ridge Huge hailstorm in the valley


Jethro Bronner spotted these Dassies on Inhlosane during the Dargle Conservancy Spring Hike.



Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

So much activity this month – porcupines eating my arum lily and sorrel roots, rabbits running around (love the early light glowing through their pink ears), samango monkeys with babies clinging to their tummies

r samango with baby

seriously noisy tree dassies at night, two Oribi bounding across the hills, Bushbuck, plenty of Duiker and Reedbuck.

r reedbuck male

My garden is awash with White Eyes. Other busy birds include swee waxbills, drongos, mousebirds, Drakensberg Prinia, Thrushes, Choristor and Cape Robins, Southern Boubous and Spurfowl. Heard the first African Black Cuckoo of 24 October, joining the chorus of the Red Chested and Klaas’s cukoos. Stone Chats follow me on my walks.

r stone chat

Saw 2 Blue Cranes flying overhead a couple of times, African Harrier Hawk, Jackal Buzzards, YB Kites,  Crowned Eagle and a raptor I couldn’t identify. Hear Burchells Coucal early mornings and Wood Owls at night. Watched this little wagtail splash in a puddle for ages.

r wagtail spring dargle 127

Grasslands coming alive with flowers. Natal Crocus, Nemesia, Watsonia, Helichrysum, Cyrtanthus (fire lilies), Kohautia, Monopsis, Clerodendrum hirsutum, Tulbaghia

r tulbaghia spring oct 2014 035

Ledebouria, Raphionacme, Acalypha, Limosella, Pentanisia, Hypoxis, Hermizygia, Lots and lots of beautiful mushrooms (feasting on the field ones, but treat others with respect) r spring mushroom oct 2014Frogs are active now, quite deafening at night.  This little Night Adder didn’t make it through the fires.

r burnt night adder in grassland

Remember: The public is invited to continue to submit roadkill data and photographs. Participants should specify the location of the roadkill (preferably GPS co-ordinates), try to identify the species seen and record the date on which it was seen.    Recorded roadkill sightings and photographs can be sent to roads@ewt.org.za and via the EWT’s Road Watch South Africa smartphone app which can be downloaded on http://www.prismsw.com/roadwatch/android/RoadWatchSouthAfrica.apk. The South African iTunes store also offers a facility to download the EWT’s Road Watch app for iPhone users. Additional information is available on www.ewt.org.za.      Three members of the public who accurately record and submit the most roadkill sightings between 1 November 2014 and 31 January 2015 will win prizes.    Prizes up for grabs include:

  • Two Desert Fox 5L fuel cells, two Halogen spot light sets, and a set of off-road tyres, (Courtesy of Bike Gear);
  • Two Zeus zs2100B helmets, five P1 lubes and five tyre repair kits, (Courtesy of FG Enterprises)

Spring in Rosetta and Notties

A new Conservancy is being fledged in the area of KZN bounded by the Mooi River system on the north western side, the N3 in the north east, the road between Nottingham Road and the N3, and the Nottingham Road/Loteni Road. It is an area rich in grasslands, wetlands and water courses – the natural home of the serval – logo of the Rosetta Nottingham Road Conservancy.

Recently much interesting wildlife has been observed in the area, including Woolly-necked Storks who pop into Greenfields Butchery in the middle of Notties for snacks!

Chris had a Grey Duiker visit  her garden and has seen many sacred ibis on the wall of the dam in the background.

duiker in garden

Besides an array of splendid spring flowers, Sarah reported seeing helmeted guineafowl, longtailed widow birds, yellow-billed kites, the freshly-shed skin of a puffadder and stunning Scadoxus.

On the edge of the R103 between Nottingham Road and Rosetta is a small rock outcrop where Penny spotted dassies (rock hyrax) last year. Recently she has glimpsed one and wonders if anyone else seen them? Will they be affected by all the construction in the area with the building of the pipeline? Should we consider asking EKZN Wildlife to move them to a safer spot? Are there other colonies in our conservancy?


Cyrtanthus (below)  and Hypoxis (above) are in flower on the road verges.


Adrian reports: We have a bushbuck doe who is a fairly frequent visitor to the garden (although now that the rain has arrived and leaves are growing everywhere she has less need to come). A really close look through binoculars showed a very large number of engorged blue ticks on her neck where she cannot easily scratch them off. This made us think about the losses of ox peckers through agricultural dipping practices and how our wildlife has to suffer the consequences of blood-sucking parasites. Wonder if there has been any research into this and whether antelope and other animals now have a greater prevalence of tick-borne diseases? Or does their natural immunity still protect them?

bush buck doe ticks

The same doe is usually accompanied by a lamb, no longer suckling but browsing like its mother. Intriguingly, there are sometimes two lambs of very similar size. We wonder whether this is in fact also her offspring and did she have twins? But then, when the second lamb is not visible, is it just down in the bush out of sight or where is it? Bushbuck have quite a short gestation period (only about eight months), so it is possible for them to have two lambs in a calendar year. There is no great size difference between these two.  We caught a male Bushbuck on camera too.

bush buck ram

Our camera trap has also captured a Black backed Jackal,


A Long Crested Eagle

long crested eagle

A little porcupine


Reedbuck doe

reed buck doe

and Reedbuck ram

reedbuck ram

A Grey Duiker

grey duiker

and a Serval.


A public Launch Meeting for the Conservancy is to be held at 1700 on Friday 14th November 2014 at Rawdons Hotel. This will provide an opportunity for residents of the area to hear about the activities and aims of the Conservancy, to offer their names for membership and to stand as ‘champions’ for their selected conservation activity.

Tracks and Scats

‘We will follow the animals’ read the invitation to the Dargle Conservancy’s Track and Scat ID workshop held recently. This is exactly what we did, although we didn’t have to venture far from the farm tracks to see all sorts of interesting things. “Well, the animals like a road to walk along too” laughed Hayley van Leylyveld, who led the excursion along with her husband, Neville.

tracks and scats dargle 074

We learnt so many fascinating facts from the couple who spend one weekend a month observing wild animals in Dargle. They have been witness to some remarkable things – like a duiker giving birth right in front of them. If you are respectful and quiet and wear camouflage colours, reckons Neville, you’ll be amazed at how close you can get.

tracks and scats dargle 045

First find was Reedbuck droppings and prints. Apparently Reedbuck mate for life. Unlike Bushbuck, who are solitary and have different partners, whom they meet by chance.


The scat of the bushbuck was quite different to reedbuck (below) – compressed rather than pellets.


Neville told us “If one comes across a bush buck male, it is best to treat him with great respect as they are known to be very aggressive. They are the only antelope that have been known to attack rather than flee from danger. It is best not to do anything that they might conceive as a threat such as sudden movement, shouting or approaching them without regard to the safe zone they have around them. For example when he is feeding and he raises his head and looks at you, you are too close and you are presenting a threat to him. In such a situation it is best not to make eye to eye contact with him but rather keep a wary eye on him and move backwards until he starts feeding again and them make your way out of his domain into safety. They can very easily kill a human. It is always best to remember that you are invading their home and therefore you must always give the wildlife the respect that they deserve. Bush buck are particularly dangerous when wounded.”


Another fascinating fact is that Bushbuck are dependent on monkeys as they can only reach the fruit on trees to a certain height.  It is the task of the monkeys to drop the fruit that is out of their reach which then falls to the ground for them to eat.  So killing all the monkeys in an area will negatively affect the bush buck population.

We came across quite a few ‘nests’ in the long grass where animals had been lying – this one was just perfect for Kei to curl up in out of the cold.

tracks and scats dargle 014

There was plenty of duiker activity including a few carrots on the edges of the fields that had been nibbled. “I often get farmers bemoaning the fact that they lose so much of their crop to wildlife but in reality it is seldom much.”


Unless a sounder of bush pigs discover your mielie field, that is. Neville told us that bush pig don’t like the smell of cabbages so an easy (eco-friendly) deterrent is to plant rows of cabbages all around your fields.

Neville adds: “Bush pigs, although mainly nocturnal, must be treated with great respect. They are powerful and aggressive creatures, particularly the boars when they have piglets around them.  They are the sounder protectors. A bush pig can very easily kill a human and is regarded by those in the know as dangerous game. It is always good policy to avoid known bush pig areas at night. They are masters of stealth and can suddenly appear without any warning. This is one reason why being able to identify animal track and scat is so important as it can often save you from a dangerous encounter with wildlife. It makes you much more aware of what potentially is in which area.”


We could see areas where bush pigs had made messy paths through the reeds.


We learnt how to tell how big the animal is from the distance between the back and front prints, ie the length of the animals stride in relation to his size.


How to judge how fresh the print was and in which direction the animal was moving.


We saw evidence of jackal including one obviously following closely behind a duiker. “Jackals always tend to follow the pregnant doe’s when they are due to give birth. Somehow they know when the duiker doe is due.” Neville told us. This is something that they have observed over a long period of time during their work on this farm. Sifting through the jackal scats, we could see exactly what they had been eating – mostly scrub hares, with no evidence at all of lambs or calves of which they are so often accused of eating.


We learnt that the indiscriminate shooting of Jackals in large numbers actually does not work as a method to protect livestock.  In fact it can actually make the problem worse, as Jackals will merely increase their breeding to fill in the missing animals. This is done by the pack leader male breeding with the ‘reserve’ females that normally he would not breed with. In such cases it has been known for Jackal females that are not pregnant to bring in milk and to help feed the newborn litter so that instead of only some of the pups surviving they will all survive!  It is normal for only four out of a litter of six to survive under usual circumstances. As in all natural ecosystems only the strongest survive, however when their numbers are threatened they ensure their own survival by increasing the survival rate of the pups.

Neville: “A well-documented way of controlling Jackals is to shoot only the communicator – that is the one who finds the food source. By doing so the communication link is broken back to the rest of the pack. This also prevents the attempted wiping out of the Jackals as only one individual been destroyed rather than trying destroy them all. This is a much more conservation minded method, and  more effective than just indiscriminate slaughter.  In actual fact,  Jackals are scavengers who clean up bush rather than hunters of domestic stock. On this farm they are currently only feeding on vlei rats and scrub hare which form part of their normal diet. This can clearly be seen from the scat they leave behind. Looking at old scat as well as fresh scat gives you an indication of what the jackals have been eating over a long period.”

tracks and scats dargle 033

Jackal activity is greatest during the first quarter of the moon. There is little about on full moon nights as it is too bright making it difficult for predators to stay out of sight. The wind also has a major effect on wildlife. If the wind is below about 3km/hr the prey animals battle to pick up the scent of the predators and if the wind is too strong, say over 10km/hr the prey animals once again battle hear and smell the predators. The lack of prey animals therefore also affects the presence of the predators. They all lie low until the weather conditions become more favourable. This has been noticed every time by Neville and Hayley when they are out in the Dargle area on their monthly visits.


It was fun to find that porcupine had been around the evening before. Their scat revealing the very varied diets they have – seeds and crabs and all sorts of things. Porcupine feed on a very similar diet to that of Bush pigs,  including carrion, vegetable, rhizomes and tubers – basically almost anything that they can find.porcupineTheir only defence mechanism is their quills which they will ram into whatever tries to attack them. They always go into their hole forward so that they cannot be removed easily. We were amazed to learn that porcupine can weigh up to 24 kgs!


We spotted quite a few caracal tracks. Once again Neville was a mine of interesting information.  Caracal can kill animals of Reedbuck size easily. After they have made the kill they will only eat about 1kg of meat from the rump and the rest of the carcass is left. Sometimes they will drag it into cover, but rarely come back to feed on it the next night. Feeding on an old kill is normally only done when food is very scarce. Jackals are normally found on these kills doing what they do best as scavengers. Often they are spotted at the old kill and are wrongly accused for being response able for the kill. Caracal is strictly nocturnal and lives in a wide variety of habitats, except desert type regions. They prefer open plains and areas around vleis. They can sometimes be seen just before day break or shortly after dark. Although a good tree climber, Caracal mainly hunts on the ground. It has the ability to hide its self very well whilst resting during the day and if startled it can become very aggressive and very dangerous as it will instantly go into defence mode. Its natural reaction will be to protect its self, so they are not to be under estimated. Common prey animals are duiker, steenbok, grysbok, bushbuck does, sheep lambs, dassies, monkeys, spring hares, guinea fowl, francolin and other ground living birds. Caracal are not dependent on water.


Its tracks are absent of claw marks if walking. When it is running or walking on soft or slippery ground such as mud the claw marks are visible as its claws are retractable as are most cats.

The edges of the farmland were seriously transformed with invasive alien plants lining the river banks. The indigenous pioneer Senecio madagascariensis took advantage of the disturbed earth creating a pretty picture with Oriah in the middle.

tracks and scats dargle 059

Some brave Kniphofias and Hebenstretia were flowering in the mess of invasives.


On our way back through the wetland area we came across mongoose prints, clearly made since we had passed earlier.


Although we didn’t see any animals, there are likely plenty just lying low while the humans potter about noisily.

tracks and scats dargle 078

The next Track and Scat workshop takes place on 14 June in Dargle. Once again a donation of R20 for the SA CAN Anti-Poaching programme will be requested.

A night walk planned is around the 6th or 13th September depending on animal numbers. Call Neville to book your spot – 0829737052. Neville and Hayley are also available to conduct wildlife surveys on your property, chat to them about rates if you are interested. valleyview@telkomsa.net


A sincere thank you to the landowner Iain Sinclair for allowing us to use his farm. Photos by Nicole Schafer and Nikki Brighton

Boston October 2013 Wildlife Sightings

Crystelle Wilson Gramarye:  A sight to enjoy at present is the sheets of Watsonia flowers on Mount Edgeware.


The most exciting bird I found this month was a Little Bittern. A member of the heron family it is a generally uncommon bird occurring in wetland sites in bulrushes, reeds or emergent vegetation in shallow water. I saw it at a dam in marshlands in a timber plantation where I also watched an amazing spectacle when a Yellow-billed Kite dove into the dam like a Fish-Eagle and emerged triumphant with something in its claws. When I check my photographs later I saw it looked like a bullfrog, which was confirmed as a prey item by Roberts Birds of Southern Africa.

Boston birds_3847_Yellow-billed Kite

Another special sighting was a Whiskered Tern sitting on a jetty at my neighbour’s little dam. Migrant birds like the cuckoos and warblers are returning and the bishops and widows are nearly fully changed into their breeding colours for summer.

While out birding early in the morning I had close encounters with reedbuck


and bushbuck.

Boston _3918_bushbuck

The bird list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 topped 100 this month: African Paradise-Flycatcher, Cape Robin-Chat, Village Weaver, Cape White-eye, Cape Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Dark-capped Bulbul, Speckled Mousebird, Common Waxbill, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Black Saw-wing, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Helmeted Guineafowl, Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, African Hoopoe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Reed Cormorant, African Stonechat, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Little Rush-Warbler,African Reed-Warbler, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Sacred Ibis, Cape Wagtail, White-throated Swallow, South African Shelduck, Drakensberg Prinia, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Grassbird, Greater Striped-Swallow, Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Grey Crowned Crane, Blue Crane, Bokmakierie, African Firefinch, Cape Crow, Cape Canary, Black-headed Oriole, Common Myna, Common Fiscal, African Pipit, Cape Longclaw, Red-necked Spurfowl,

Boston birds_4366_Red-necked Spurfowl

Orange-breasted Waxbill, Common Quail, Brown-throated Martin, Southern Red Bishop, African Marsh-Harrier, White-breasted Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, African Darter, Cape Weaver, Common Moorhen, Banded Martin, African Rail, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-collared Widowbird,

Boston birds_4486_Red-collared Widow

Red-billed Quelea, Red-chested Flufftail, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Zitting Cisticola, Speckled Pigeon, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Diderick Cuckoo, Cape Glossy Starling, Grey Heron, Yellow-fronted Canary, Yellow  Bishop, Forest Canary, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul, Long-crested Eagle, Black-headed Heron, Blue Crane, Yellow-throated Warbler, Terrestrial Brownbul, Red-chested Cuckoo, Jackal Buzzard, Long-tailed Widowbird,

Boston birds_3734_Long-tailed Widow

Three-banded Plover,

Three-banded Plover_1551

Amethyst Sunbird, Olive Thrush, Pied Crow, Cattle Egret, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, House Sparrow, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Yellow-throated Petronia, Common Swift, African Black Swift,  African Harrier-Hawk, Barratt’s Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, African Goshawk, Southern Black Tit, Cape Batis, Red-throated Wryneck.

Bruce and Bev Astrup of Highland Glen:

Lone Secretary bird in the grass off Dargle road near R617. Greater striped swallows, Jackal Buzzard, heard Spotted Eagle Owl hooting at night.  Reedbuck ram and does on the river bank just below the house.  Four blue cranes, across the Elands River on Netherby, pair of Grey Crowned Cranes in the newly disked field on Netherby.

David and Wizz Lawrence at The Willows: Boubou Shrike; Village Weavers building nests in tall Deodar Pine in driveway; several are either falling to the ground or being rejected and dismantled

David Clulow at Melrose dam for 15 minutes in strong breeze: African Shelducks; Yellow-billed Ducks; Spur-winged Geese; Egyptian Geese; Red-knobbed Coots; Reed Cormorant; Blacksmith Lapwing; Red-billed Teal;

Pete and Frances Nel at Four Gates: On 8 October, two Secretarybirds up on the hills; pair of Grey Crowned Cranes which raised a chick last season, still have it in their company and all three appear regularly.

Neil Baxter from Mosgate writes on 11 October: In a little while the Watsonias on Edgeware hill will be magnificent – like a sweeping veld fire – they can be seen from below, from the village of Boston and catch the eye with their blooms.

Derek Hurlstone-Jones of The Rockeries: African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) flying around the garden, checking out the Weavers nests for future reference; African Hoopoe flying around the Boston Country Club, probably with a nest or plans for one.

General Comments from various sources: Poaching with dogs and some poachers  using guns to decimate the buck; brazen attitudes if accosted.

Christeen Grant on Sitamani:

The summer rains and weather pattern have arrived. Many misty,  wet days and afternoon thunder storms.  Several early morning encounters with Duiker and Reedbuck around the house. But this October, for the first time since we have been living at Sitamani, the shy Mountain Reedbuck didn’t pass through  as in previous years. A small group of about four usually spend a few days on our rocky hillside in October.

Having been away in the  mountains on several multi-day trips it’s been difficult getting out to photograph the flowers. The dry spring has had a marked effect on  the numbers and size of the flowers, but have observed amongst  others these stalwarts: Alepidea natalensis,

2013 10 Alepidea natalensis CGrant

Kniphofia bracystachya,

2013 10 Kniphofia bracystachya CGrant

Lobelia flaccida,

2013 10 Lobelia flaccida CGrant

Lotononis corymbosa,

2013 10 Lotononis corymbosa CGrant

Pentanisia prunelloides

2013 10 Pentanisia prunelloides CGrant

and one of my favourites Sisyranthus tricostomus.

2013 10 Sisyranthus trichostomus CGrant

Many moths, gobbled up by a flock of varied birds outside our kitchen door every morning. Small grasshopper hoppers newly hatched scatter in all directions as you walk through the grass. The loud screech of the male Bladder Grasshoppers can be heard most days. Red-collared Widowbirds, Common Waxbills, Dark-capped Bulbuls,  Black-headed Orioles, Fork-tailed Drongos, Hadeda Ibises,  Grey-headed Canaries, Cape Sparrows, Southern Black Tits,  Malachite and Amethyst Sunbirds, Lesser Striped Swallows arrived  back here on the 6 October and on the 31 October I finally heard the distinctive summer call, ‘Piet-my-vrou’, the Red-chested Cuckoo was back.