Tag Archives: butterflies

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Pamela Kleiman – Connington Farm

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

A flush of new green leaves

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Some of the birds seen this month

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

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Black-winged Lapwing

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Adult Grey Crowned Crane with a youngster

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Hadeda Ibis preparing a nest

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Young Harrier-Hawk in my garden

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Female African Paradise-flycatcher arrived about mid month

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Male Long-tailed Widowbird  showing off his summer plumaged

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White-throated Swallow – another newly arrived migrant

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

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

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Green Wood-hoopoe

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

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The first of the butterflies.

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

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Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Autumn frost on leaves

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

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

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

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

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

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

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

Mouse running away

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

Oribi Ram

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

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

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

Rinkhals in the grass

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

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

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

Wattled Cranes 2

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

Puffadder

Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

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

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

wattled crane

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

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

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

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

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

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

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

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

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

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

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

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

darner dragon fly

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

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

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

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

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

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

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

 

garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

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

reedbuck in a hurry

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

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

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

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

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

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle

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

Fungi

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.

Caterpillars

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.

Lizard

Boston Wildlife Sightings – December 2015

Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”:

In November, I saw two large grey mongooses or it could be one that I saw one twice as it was in the same area on both days. A jackal ran across my path when I was out riding. Two bushbuck were grazing when taking a trail ride. A couple of mountain reedbuck, and then at home I saw a Common Reedbuck and Duiker

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

Breeding season is in full swing. A necklace of Southern Red Bishops paints a picture of colonial harmony,

Southern Red Bishop

Southern Red Bishop

but there are a lot of territorial disputes between males

Male Southern Red Bishop

Male Southern Red Bishop

All these activities are keenly observed by Diderick Cuckoos for the slightest opportunity to slip into a nest and deposit an egg

Dideric Cuckoo

Dideric Cuckoo

Another parasitic species, a Dusky Indigobird, put in a surprise appearance on my kitchen stoep on Christmas morning. I haven’t seen them around for some time and this one was probably checking out the presence of African Firefinches.

Dusky Indigobird

Dusky Indigobird

A disaster though, on the same morning, was when I found that part of the nest of the Greater Swallows had broken off and an empty egg was lying on the stoep below.

CW5 - Egg of Greater Striped Swallow

Despite the dry conditions and shortage of suitable mud, the parents wasted no time to begin fixing the damage

Greater Striped Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

I was delighted to notice that one chick seemed to have survived in the nest. During the days following, the parents were kept busy alternating between feeding their offspring and repairing the nest

Surviving chick of Greater Striped Swallow

Surviving chick of Greater Striped Swallow

Breeding success for other species meant there are a number of fledglings flopping around in the vegetation, trying out their balancing acts, like Levaillant’s Cisticola

Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant’s Cisticola

And Amethyst Sunbird sitting pretty

Amethyst Sunbird

Amethyst Sunbird

And African Stonechat testing its vocal skills

African Stonechat

African Stonechat

I was very pleased to find a posse of Orange-breasted Waxbills feeding on a path. By standing very still, they came quite close and allowed themselves to be photographed.

Orange-breasted Waxbill

Orange-breasted Waxbill

SABAP2 atlas sightings for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: White-throated Swallow, Cape Robin-chat, African Sacred Ibis, Brown-throated Martin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-headed Oriole, Red-knobbed Coot, Pied Starling, Brimstone Canary, African Firefinch, Barn Owl, Natal Spurfowl, African Black Duck, Cape Grassbird, African Rail, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, Common Waxbill, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Wailing Cisticola, Cape Longclaw, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Bar-throated Apalis, Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Sombre Greenbul, Wattled Crane, African Wattled Lapwing, Red-billed Teal, African Snipe, South African Shelduck, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Reed Cormorant, Three-banded Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing, Barn Swallow, Little Grebe, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, African Darter, White-breasted Cormorant, Yellow-billed Kite,

Yellow-billed Kite

Yellow-billed Kite

Drakensberg Prinia, African Stonechat, African Reed-warbler, Little Rush-warbler, Red-chested Flufftail, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Crow, Common Quail, Burchell’s Coucal, Pied Kingfisher, Red-billed Quelea, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape White-eye, Speckled Mousebird, Black Saw-wing, Amethyst Sunbird, Green Wood-hoopoe, Black-headed Heron, Bokmakierie, Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Village Weaver,

Village Weaver

Village Weaver

Cape Weaver, Zitting Cisticola, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Fiscal, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Dusky Flycatcher, Olive Thrush, African Hoopoe, Southern Boubou, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Diderick Cuckoo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Greater Striped Swallow, Hadeda Ibis, Long-crested Eagle, Cattle Egret, Grey Crowned Crane, (cutting a lonely figure in a dam drying out)

Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane

African Spoonbill, Dusky Indigobird, African Fish-Eagle

African Fish-Eagle

African Fish-Eagle

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

At last rain, thunderstorms, misty mornings and damp overcast days.

After the storm

After the storm

Although it seems too late for most of the indigenous flowering plants, flower numbers are way down compared to most Decembers, many of the wide variety are represented. The insect world however has come alive, particularly moths.

There were two first sightings for Sitamani, both have the common name ‘maiden’ although not the same genus, African Maiden Moth, Family Thyretidae and Cool Maiden, Amata kuhlweini.

African Maiden Moth, Family Thyretidae

African Maiden Moth, Family Thyretidae

Cool Maiden, Amata kuhlweini

Cool Maiden, Amata kuhlweini

Then many more of which I only have three ID’s, Marbled Emperor; a stunning red moth Metarctica lateritia and Plum Slug, Latoia lastistriga which is quite apt as the caterpillars eat plums and we have an orchard of them!

Marbled Emperor

Marbled Emperor

Metarctica lateritia

Metarctica lateritia

Plum Slug Latoia lastistriga

Plum Slug Latoia lastistriga

02 Moth P1050939 02 Moth IMG_1422 02 Moth P1050942 02 Moth P1050945 02 Moth P1050946

Other insects include butterflies, Common Meadow Blue, Cupidopsis cissus cissus and a Pirate, Catacroptera cloane cloane this was a first sighting here.

Common Meadow Blue, Cupidopsis cissus cissus

Common Meadow Blue, Cupidopsis cissus cissus

Pirate Catacroptera, cloane cloane

Pirate Catacroptera, cloane cloane

Bees are plentiful in the indigenous brambles and any other flower they can find.

Bee

Bee

Then I wrote last month: “The distinctive sound of the Bladder grasshoppers echoes at night, ‘gonion, gonion’, but I haven’t seen one yet”, and one appeared!

Bladder grasshopper

Bladder grasshopper

A gorgeous Blister Beetle, a shy Mottled Veld Antlion, a Praying mantis that pretended to be a stick insect and an interesting small wasp of the Enicospilus genus which lays its eggs in Cut Worms.

 Blister beetle on Cyanotis speciosa

Blister beetle on Cyanotis speciosa

Mottled Veld Antlion

Mottled Veld Antlion

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

Wasp of Enicospilus genus

Wasp of Enicospilus genus

The Village Weavers are still busy building, but one female is happy, she laid an egg now hatched and both parents are frantically feeding the demanding vocal chick! Other birds that attracted my attention was a Cape Longclaw, four Greater Striped Swallows and a disconsolately damp Red-throated Widow on top of a tree in the damp drizzle!

Village Weaver male

Village Weaver male

Village Weaver egg

Village Weaver egg

Greater Striped Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

04 Bird Cape Longclaw IMG_4493

Red-collared Widowbird

Red-collared Widowbird

Flower species seen were: Agapanthus campanulatus, Asclepias albens, Berkheya speciosa, Commelina africana, Cynaotis speciosa,

Agapanthus campanulatus

Agapanthus campanulatus

Asclepias albens

Asclepias albens

Berkheya speciosa

Berkheya speciosa

Commelina africana

Commelina africana

Cynaotis speciosa

Cynaotis speciosa

both green and orange Dipcadi viride,

Dipcadi viride

Dipcadi viride

Dipcadi viride orange form

Dipcadi viride orange for

Dipcadi viride seeds

Dipcadi viride seeds

Gadiolus ecklonii, another first sighting just a single plant, Eulophia calanthoides, Eulophia ovalis, Eulophia zeheriana,

Gadiolus ecklonii

Gadiolus ecklonii

Orchid, Eulophia calanthoides

Orchid, Eulophia calanthoides

Orchid Eulophia ovalis

Orchid Eulophia ovalis

Orchid, Eulophia zeheriana

Orchid, Eulophia zeheriana

then an exception that is flowering profusely, some colonies of between 10-15 plants plus individuals scattered around, Orthochilus foliosus, Pachycarpus natalensis, Pelargonium luridum, Spotted-leaved Arum Zantedeschia albomaculata, Tephrosia purpurea, Watsonia confusa, Zornia capensis and fruiting Searsea discolour.

Orchid, Orthochilus foliosus

Orchid, Orthochilus foliosus

Pachycarpus natalensis

Pachycarpus natalensis

Pelargonium luridum

Pelargonium luridum

Spotted-leaved Arum Zantedeschia albomaculata

Spotted-leaved Arum Zantedeschia albomaculata

Tephrosia purpurea

Tephrosia purpurea

Watsonia confusa

Watsonia confusa

Zornia capensis

Zornia capensis

Searsea discolour

Searsea discolour

Black-backed Jackals yip and howl in the evenings. A male and female Common Duiker are regular visitors in the early morning and evening and have been enjoying the bounty of fallen plums!

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – February 2015

Oak Tree Cottage – Barry Downard

Chameleon

Chameleon

Saw this chameleon making his way across the lawn... unusually dark colours, but looks like he's just shed his skin.

Saw this chameleon making his way across the lawn… unusually dark colours, but looks like he’s just shed his skin.

And an interesting shot of a mantis and his shadow.

And an interesting shot of a mantis and his shadow.

Jenny Fly

The first photo is of Collared Earth Stars growing in the leaf mould of a yellowwood

Collared Earth Stars

Collared Earth Stars

and the other two of unknown fungi.

Fungi 1

Fungi 1

Fungi 2

Fungi 2

Albury Farm – Pat and Sandra Merrick

While I was deheading flowers 3 weeks ago nearly stood on a puff adder. It did disappear into shrubbery thank goodness but have not done much gardening since. At least we had good rain afterwards. We have had 150mm rain for the month.

Rainbow over garden one morning after storm.

Rainbow over garden one morning after storm.

The Juvenile Blue Crane is doing well and now 3 months old. Still not flying.

Our young blue crane is now two and half months old

Juvenile Blue Crane

 

Dozens of chats are back. Swallows and sparrows nesting once more. The barn owls are still in chimney. Hundreds of toadstools after the rains especially around the oak trees. Pat saw spotted eagle owl on D18 and then again one evening.

Beautiful sunset evening.

Beautiful sunset evening.

He also saw a baby reedbuck under a bug tree one morning while spraying. It ran off. Five Grey Crowned Crane have visited the dam. They nest on our neighbour’s farm and rear 2 to 3 juveniles each year. They have been there for the 30 years that we have lived on the farm. The problem about rearing the young is that there are a couple of water monitors in the dam which seem to eat the young.

Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant’s Cisticola

Little grebe, egyptian geese and yellow bill duck have all reared youngsters. Black sunbird (male in flight) female built another nest on glass shade on verandah and she is now sitting. Male pops in and out feeding her.

♂ Amethyst Sunbird in flight

♂ Amethyst Sunbird in flight

The Jackals are still seen during the day. Two Reedbuck carcasses found at the dam. Not sure if they died of natural causes or were attacked and eaten. Still see many reed buck and duiker. Heard ground woodpecker.

Male malachite sunbird

♂ Malachite Sunbird

Female malachite sunbird on kniphofia

♀ Malachite Sunbird on Kniphofia

 

Ten days ago we saw that the aardvark had dug an enormous hole in the side of the hill opposite our house. We called Amy Wilson, who does research on these animals, and she came and set up 3 camera traps. She will be collecting them next week, so hopefully we may be able to show you some footage next month.

White Stork roosting in gum tree.

White Stork roosting in gum tree.

We have had a number of crabs running around. 2 on our verandah and…

Not sure what kind of crab this is

Unidentified Crab

 

… a Steppe Buzzard eating one in our driveway. He took about 5 minutes to devour it but only ate the innards as the shell was left. The Steppe and Jackal Buzzard visit us every few days. They are eating frogs and crabs in our small pools.

Steppe buzzard eating a crab

Steppe buzzard eating a crab

One night the dogs were barking for hours. Pat eventually went out to have a look and found that they had cornered a giant grey mongoose in the stream. A fight ensued and they killed it but not before giving my rottie a severe bite on his face. Fortunately they have had their rabies vaccinations.

Many butterflies in the garden. Took hours of patience to photograph them as they flit around so quickly.

Garden Commodore

Garden Commodore

Common Diadem

Common Diadem

Common Diadem - Hard to believe this is same butterfly with wings closed

Common Diadem – Hard to believe this is same butterfly with wings closed.

 

Citrus Swallowtail (Papilio demodocus)

Citrus Swallowtail (Papilio demodocus)

Unidentified Butterfly

Unidentified Butterfly – flits around very quickly, pale yellow with strange markings on wings with little circles here and there…

My most exciting news is that a month after the cape robins vanished from their nest (last months newsletter) I saw them in the garden one morning sitting on the water spray. They had caught an earthworm and mom was close by watching the antics. They do not look like robins yet. They are brown/grey with mottled chests and reddish tails. I have taken many pics of them swimming in the rock pool each morning.

Juvenile Cape Robin-Chat

Juvenile Cape Robin-Chat

There is also another cape robin still feeding her youngster. I never realised that birds continue to feed and nurture their young for a number of weeks after leaving the nest.

Mom Cape Robin-Chat still feeding juvenile after 6 weeks.

Mom Cape Robin-Chat still feeding juvenile after 6 weeks.

There is also a juvenile (I think) Southern Boubou making use of the rock pool.

Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou

Some wildflowers seen this month:

Impatiens hochstetteri

Impatiens hochstetteri

Crocosmia aurea

Crocosmia aurea

argyrolobium tomentosum (velvety yellow bush pea)

Argyrolobium tomentosum (velvety yellow bush pea)

Bergonia sutherlandii

Bergonia sutherlandii

 

Not sure what these orange fungus things are that grow on broken down trees are called = found in forest

Not sure what these orange fungus things are that grow on broken down trees are called – found in forest

 

Hopedale Farm – Mike & Ann Weeden

Mike and Ann rented the Dargle Conservancy trophy camera from November 2014 up until January this year and thought that they hadn’t captured anything. I managed to locate 1 video of a Reedbuck doe which is available on the “Dargle” Facebook page. I made a screen capture so you can see an image of it.

Reedbuck doe

Reedbuck doe

Copperleigh Farm – Ashley Crookes

Not a good month for the poor snakes, found a few dead ones.

Dead Puffadder killed by dog

Dead Puffadder killed by dog.

Squashed snake (Night Adder I think) and frog on road

Squashed snake (Night Adder I think) and frog on road.

 

Ethan found a dead Red-lipped Herald snake

Ethan found a dead Red-lipped Herald snake.

 

We also had a nice thunderstorm this afternoon (Saturday). Unfortunately we all got caught on top of the hill and were soaked through by the time we got home, but there was a brilliant rainbow afterwards.

Brilliant rainbow after storm

Brilliant rainbow after storm

 

I’ve also been using the DC Trophy camera for a couple of weeks now and managed to capture some of the Yellow-billed ducks and Spurwing geese we have around our little island on Mavela Dam.

Sunset after storm over Mavela Dam

Sunset after storm over Mavela Dam.

 

Egyptian Geese on lawn

Egyptian Geese

 

Will get videos onto the Dargle Facebook page soon. We also had a Barn Owl flying through our shed this past week while we were working with the sheep which was quite exciting.

Frog in shed

Frog in shed

 

Natal Green Snake on the paving.

Natal Green Snake on paving 1

Close up…

Natal Green Snake on paving 2

…and then climbing up into the roof!

Natal Green Snake climbing into roof

Other sightings:

Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector (Precis archesia)

Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector (Precis archesia)

Mushroom gills

Mushroom gills

Toadstool

Toadstool

Kniphofia caulescens - Red Hot Poker

Kniphofia caulescens – Red Hot Poker

 

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – December 2014

Marashene Lewis – Glen Gyle

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

marashene sunrise

Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

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

IMG_2084

and spotted this beautiful moth on the same walk.

IMG_2079

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

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

Rinkhals

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

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

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

Common stonechat

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

brown veined butterfly on a felicia wrightii

colourful butterfly

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

our only red collared  widow bird left

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

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

2 babies on the rocks

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

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

Grey heron

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

red billed male quelea

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

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

Mom and male baby oribi running across the hill

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

female black sunbird

The black sunbirds nest on our verandah

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

This steppe buzzard

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

cape robin with a mouthful

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Red and Blue Grasshopper

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

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

r December blue crane

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

December flowers Satyrium longicauda

 Kouhoutia amatymbica,

Dec kouhautia

Dipcadi viride,

December Dipcadi viride

Eulophia foliosa,

December Eulophia foliosa

Ajuga,

December flowers Ajuga

Anthericum,

December flowers anthericum

Aristea,

December flowers Aristea

Cephalaria oblongifolia,

December flowers Cephalaria oblongifolia

Cyanotis speciosa,

December flowers cyanotis

Cyphia longifolia,

December flowers Cyphia longifolia

Diclis reptans,

December flowers Diclis

Hypericum lalandii,

December flowers Hypericum lalandii

Lobelia erinus,

December flowers lobelia

Pentanisia,

December flowers pentanisia

Rhodohypoxis baurii,

December flowers rhodohypoxis

Scilla nervosa,

December flowers Scilla nervosa

Senecio (discodregeanus?),

December flowers senecio discodregeanus

Silene bellidoides,

December flowers Silene

Trachyandra,

December flowers trachyandra

Tulbaghia natalensis,

December flowers tulbahgia natalensis

Psammotropha mucronata,

December Psammotropha

Senecio oxyriifolius,

December Senecio oxy

Sisyanthus trichostomus,

December Sisyanthus trichostomus

Vernonia hirsuta,

December Vernonia hirsuta

Senecio setosa,

senecio setosa

Hermannia depressa,

Hermannia

Hypoxis parvula,

Hypoxis parvula

Zantedeschia albomaculata,

December flowers Zantedeschia

Hibiscus trionum,

Hibiscus trionum

Ledebouria,

Ledebouria

Hesperantha baurii,

Hesperantha baurii

Gerbera ambigua.

Gerbera ambigua

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

summer 2015 107 - Copy

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

knipophia breviflora

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

December flowers Stachys DOTS and HAIRS

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

r December reedbuck group

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

r weaver building nest

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

r December wasp on Vernonia natalensis

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – September

We’ve had a very dry autumn, winter and spring this year in Dargle, but thankfully this weekend brought a few millimetres of rain that  helped to settle the dust.  Remember we are custodians of the water catchment that millions of people rely on. Besides not using water wastefully, we also need to ensure that water in our care is unpolluted and riparian areas are free of invasive plants – to allow wildlife access, as well as improve the quality and quantity of the flow.  With little snow, our ground water supplies have not been replenished either.  Robin Fowler, who keeps seasonal records going back many years, provided these interesting figures comparing 2013 (first column) and 2014

  • June                    21     0
  • July                      1.5    3
  • August             21.5    8
  • September       7.5     10.5 (only 1mm recorded before this weekend’s rain!)
  • Winter total 51.5     21.5
  • 11 year average (September to August) = 951.5mm
  • 2013/14 = 946.5mm
  • Wettest year = 2004/5   1271mm
  • Driest year = 2006/7      718mm

Katie Robinson – Lemonwood

Oh how I love living in Africa. This was one of those moments which will remain with me forever. Siyabonga brought me a ‘pigeon’ in a box the other morning. He told me that he had seen it being chased by an eagle (I wasn’t there, so have no idea which variety) and flew into the kitchen window. I peered into the box and immediately recognised this frantic creature jumping up and down trying to get out as the elusive Narina trogan. So thrilling as I have only ever seen it once before. I carefully picked it up and felt that unmistakable terrified heartbeat.

IMG-20140910-WA004

I wanted to just check that there was nothing broken.   In a matter of seconds, he had calmed down and I was able to examine his wings and legs. He started to sort of purr/coo at me and despite my hand being completely open, he sat there for nearly 5 minutes! Maybe it was just vanity ‘cos one of my staff had time to go and get his phone and take the pictures. When the photo shoot was over, he flew back into the forest where he belongs, seemingly completely unharmed. What a magic moment.

27 Sept Would you Adam and Eve it! I rescued the second Narina trogan which failed a suicide flight into my daughter’s bedroom window this morning! What are the chances of 2 such elusive birds needing help in as many weeks?  This one seemed much younger as the colours were not quite all there and it was smaller. It stayed with me for quite a long time and then I put it on a branch in a deep bit of the garden where it remained for a further 20 minutes until flying off into the forest. Wow!

narina trogon

I seem to be having a very exciting couple of days. Yesterday I heard the Samangos going absolutely crazy at the end of my garden, they were screaming like banshees! As I turned around to see what was going on a huge Martial eagle flew out of the forest, swerved around towards me and sliently flew past about 20 metres away. it is only when they are that close that you fully appreciate the sheer size of these birds! Thank goodness there was not a baby Samango hanging from its talons. Wow!

Kathy Herringytn and Wayne Lourens – Aloe Ridge Farm

Being a hot September, reptiles came out quite early, and one afternoon, while repairing electrical outlets that serve our pressure-booster water pump and the new “coldroom” container, I came face-to-face with a boomslang of about 750mm, which had come to the water pump to drink – there’s a minor water leak there that no amount of clamping has been able to stop completely. We stared at each other for a few seconds, before it made its way over the cut-back granadilla stems, to the bushy areas on the other side of the dividing wall.

On the subject of reptiles, Kat & I spent a short time at the old house ruin overlooking the Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary dam, and were thrilled to see that the Natal Spotted Green Bush snakes that are resident in the ruin, are thriving and growing. I first saw two shed skins, each of about 500mm in length, and then 2 of the 3 known residents showed themselves, one with just a few coils, the other with its whole length along the top of the northern wall of the ruin.

Kat visited the Aloe Ridge indigenous forest on Sunday 14th, and saw ten Bushbuck in the forest, and a whole lot of Reedbuck on the grasslands around the fringes of the forest. She also heard the wild pigs fairly close by, but didn’t see them in that dense part of the forest.

It seems we’re managing the remaining KZN Midlands Mistbelt Grasslands to the satisfaction of the buck species resident on Greater Hopedale, as the Blesbuck and Reedbuck are congregating on the short-mowed grasslands and the wider firebreak we burned this year – down the watercourse feeding the main dam (the first burn of the area since 2008’s runaway fire that started higher up in the Dargle and raced across Upper Hopedale in about 10 minutes, under Berg wind conditions). On Saturday, we saw the Blesbuck grazing on the new growth on the firebreak, near a group of 3 Reedbuck, with a further 3 “reedies” not far away. The Blesbuck have been decimated by poaching over the last few years (mainly on Hopedale Portions 1 & 2), and less than half of the herd of 15 that were resident when I joined Kat on Aloe Ridge 4 years ago, remain. Similarly, the Reedbuck population has been affected by poaching on Hopedale 2 and around the fringes of Hopedale. Since buying Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary from Andrew Nash 3 years ago, we have established a presence on that part of Hopedale, confronted dog hunters on Aloe Ridge hill, and removed numerous snares along the Umngeni floodplain, all of which have almost eliminated poaching on our own 2 portions of Hopedale.

Due to jackals hunting in packs having taken half of our 2013/2014 season’s Nguni calves, we now bring cows that are due to calve up into the sheep-fenced pastures just below the house on Aloe Ridge. About 10 days ago, we were woken at 2am by a cow, and, on checking, we saw that it was getting ready to calve. Feeling confident that our calving management plan was good, we went back to bed, & were woken again just before 4am with a jackal sounding off. I sprang out of bed, grabbed the spotlight torch, and saw that the beast was disappearing down the roadway. It had been in the roadway between the house and the field that the cows were in, and the cow we’d seen earlier had just calved. Since then, we’ve had 2 more calves born in that same field, but the jackal hasn’t returned, and it must have told the rest of the bunch that it had a close shave, as no others have showed up at calving time either.

Our Belgian Shepherd, Kelly has taken over the role of watchdog, and, about a week ago, at about 2 in the morning, she gave 4 sharp barks. When I went out to investigate, she sat bravely on the veranda while I scanned the area with my torch. Hearing a rustling, I shifted the torch beam in that direction …. right onto one of the biggest porcupines I’ve ever seen!! It was quite relaxed, with its “mohawk” quill-line intact. It wandered around for a few minutes before getting out of torch-beam range below our sand arena. Kelly’s braveness in staying on the veranda while I followed the porcupine across the lawn is a result of her having run full-tilt into one in the dark driveway a few years ago.

On Friday afternoon, Kat persuaded me that, since we’d worked through Heritage Day with our staff (who then had Friday off), we should take a belated Public Holiday and go to Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary dam for some fishing. Sitting on the boat (Kat-a-Splash), we noticed some juvenile Grebes swimming & diving not far away. Eventually, one came quite close to the boat, & I tried to get a photo with my mobile phone camera – at times like this I regret not having a good camera any more!!! Also, a solitary waterfowl that looked almost like a Pygmy Goose, flew in and did a perfect touchdown on the dam, before paddling over to the exposed rocks to sit and preen, and call. We used our “far-eyes” (binoculars) to get a closer look, and then, that evening, pulled out the ‘birder books for amateurs’ to look up what we’d seen. It turns out it was a South African Shelduck.

Nikki Brighton Old Kilgobbin Farm

Beside the dam seems the most sensible place to be in the hot, dry weather.

r dam locust

Along the edges here is evidence of plenty of visitors at cooler times of the day.

r dam spoor

Obviously, there are lots of hungry creatures about, so getting your legs stuck in the mud is a risky business.

r dam bones

On the exposed damp banks there are masses of tiny white flowers – Limosella longiflora.

r limosella longiflora

I have heard the so called “rainbird” – Burchell’s Coucal – calling lately along with Blue Cranes, Bar-throated Apalis and Crowned Eagles. Heard the first Klaas’s Cuckoo on 27 September, Piet-my-Vrou won’t be far behind!  Lots of birds are seeking succour in the relative cool and damp of the garden. Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Batis and Chorister Robins are my favourites. Tree dassies are making a huge racket at night. Samango monkeys are making the most of the fresh green leaves on the Celtis trees.

r samango celtis

This fellow enjoys the abundant fruit on my lemon tree.

r samango lemon

There are flowers in the grassland – especially in protected rocky areas. I have spotted Rabdiosella, Teucrium, Bekheya, Helichrysum, Nemesia as well as the delightful Acalypha penduncularis which has male and female flowers on different plants. These are male.

r Acalypha

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm

A new visitor to our garden this month is a Southern black flycatcher.

Southern black flycatcher

A pair of pied crows are making a nest in a pine tree. They have been carrying grass for a couple of weeks now and fly from the Dargle side, so I wonder if its some special kind of thatch/grass. On 2 occasions 5 crowned cranes have arrived in the dry dam and have not stayed very long when no water was found. Once saw 2 blue crane on the farm but have heard them quite often. Seen the female oribi on a few occasions mostly in the long grass but once on the green burn.

Female oribi

Our pair of white throated swallows arrived on the 5th Sept and are looking to build a nest on top of the verandah light again. Our sparrow hawks still occupy the canopy of gum trees. Still see them sitting on the dead gum logs in the early mornings. Saw the one eating something on the log a few days ago. Not sure if they are feeding themselves or not as have not seen the adults.

White throated swallow

Many reed buck around still and quite a few youngsters.

Male reedbuck

Malachite, black and greater half collared sunbirds have returned. The malachite is the perfect model as loves his photo being taken.

Malachite sunbird

Not so the half collared which flits all over the place and never sits still for a minute. The gurney sugar birds are also very accommodating with photos.

Gurney sugarbird feeding on warratah flowers.

Caught the one with a hornet or wasp in its beak, beating it on the branch of flowering peach tree. Took a while but eventually swallowed it. Never knew sunbirds ate insects but have seen them doing so lately in competition with the drongos and flycatcher.

Gurney sugar bird with a hornet or wasp

I have been listening to the cry of the southern boubou lately and decided that I would track it down. Unfortunately the pair of them live in a dense thicket of cassia bushes, so I sat one morning waiting for the special moment when they would appear. One eventually hopped around the branches – first got a tail, then a face and that was it. I know they are solitary and elusive so I was determined that one day it would happen and it did. Watching the Springbok/All Black rugby match one Saturday morning got too much for my nerves, so took the camera out to the verandah and stood looking for a few minutes. Saw a movement in the bushes and took a few photos. Thought it was the olive thrush. It was only when I checked out the pics after the rugby match that I howled with delight, my Southern Boubou at last. I was at a friends house looking out of her sliding doors late one afternoon, when I saw several Southern boubous hopping around her lawn quite happily, socially mixing with the olive thrushes, and I had no camera with me. I will take it with me next week when I revisit and hope to see them once again.

Southern Bou bou.

The cape wagtail is nesting once more in the jasmine creeper but no eggs as yet. Male red shouldered widow is getting new feathers.

Starting to develop their tails =  male red shouldered widow

Pat and I checked the two hollow poles where the redthroated wrynecks hop in and out of. No eggs there either. She is still calling lustily, probably looking for a mate. The barn owls have still not returned. The jackal are still very active at night. The secretary bird flew over the farm this morning but landed out of view unfortunately. Pat saw it striding out on the other side of the dam. Due to the hot weather at the beginning of the month, saw a number of beautiful butterflies and some very bedraggled and torn ones too.

colourful butterfly

bedraggled butterfly

Butterfly

butterflies love the freylinia flowers

An African hoopoe also visited the garden on morning. They have nested in the wattle plantation for years, so seldom see them here.

African hoopoe

Scilla flowering in the rocky grasslandScilla natalensis

and this Morea – might it be albicuspa?

Morea

Neville van Lelyveld on  Iain Sinclair’s – Benn Meadhon Farm

Oribi During weekend of the 5th we observed 5 Oribi in the usual Oribi paddock. This is fairly normal as occasionally some of them stay on Howard’s property and don’t come across. On the weekend of the 8th we observed all 8 Oribi in the normal paddock, however on the Saturday night of the 9th we also observed another 6 Obri on the hay Paddock at the back of the maize fields on the plains above the valley that leads down to the Umgeni River. This is the first time that we had observed this “new” group of Orbi. It was the high light of our visits this month. Where they came from remains a mystery to us but we are delighted to have them on the farm as they could possibly improve the gene pool of the Oribi on the farm. This now brings the total Oribi population on the farm to 14 with 2 groups one of 8 animals and one of 6 animals. All the animals in both groups appear to be in an excellent condition.

Bush Buck During this month’s visits a total of approximately 20 bush buck where sighted with an even balance of male and female. This is good news. All the animals seen both male and female are in good condition. Reedbuck During our July and August visits we observed an average of 30 Reedbuck. During our September visits we have only observed an average of 7 to 9 Reedbuck. The animals are surprisingly in a very good condition. Grey duiker Once again there were 14 duiker sighted during each of the September visits.  The duiker population seems to be stable at this time and they appear to be in a very good condition. Most of the does seen seem to be pregnant.

Vervet Monkey A small troop of 5 animals were sighted in the Valley near the Umgeni River. This troop has been there for a while now and it is great to see them again on the farm as the bush buck is dependent on them particularly during this dry period. Porcupine A very large ± 20kg porcupine was seen on the night of the 13th Jackals There was a lot jackal activity during both weekends of our September visits. Jackals were seen every evening during our September visits. Antbear Once again we saw the Ant bear hole in the back jackal / hay paddock. There appears to be a second ant bear hole down on the plains down by the Umgeni River. This was very exciting to see and to possibly have the second ant bear around on the farm. We will continue to monitor these holes and hopefully see both of them at some time.

Blue Crane Several blue cranes were seen during both weekends. Spurwing Geese Over last few visits we have noticed that this year there has been a dramatic increase in the Spurwing goose population. A flock of 10 geese is not uncommon now. It is very nice to see that their numbers have finally increased. Egyptian Geese The Egyptian geese population on the farm has also increased over the last few months which was also very pleasing. Several flocks of geese can be seen flying around almost all day. Herons Several Herons were seen all over the farm during this month’s visits. Guinea Fowl It is pleasing that the guinea fowl population has increased dramatically over the last few months. During both weekends we saw a flock of some 50 birds. This is the most we have seen in many years. Their population seems to be stable at this stage with a similar number of birds counted during the visits last month. Grass Owl During both visits this month we had the amazing privilege to see a grass owl as these are endangered. Francolin During this month’s visit no Francolin were seen, but many were heard. This is not uncommon as they do tend to stick to forested/wooded areas and are masters of camouflage. Pigeons There appears to be a reduction in the number of pigeons and doves around at the moment, but this is probably normal considering that the maize crops have all been harvested now and there is a clear reduction in food around for them. Owls A few barn owls were seen near the top end of the cross road forests. As a whole the owl population does seem to be on the increase at the moment. Olive Thrush There are a lot of olive thrushes around on the farm at present.

Once again several jackal buzzards and crown eagles were seen and an overall increase in raptors was seen. A large population of swallows were seen almost everywhere on the farm.