Tag Archives: cape parrots

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – April, May and June 2015

White Faced Duck

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill:

When Twané gave me her personal list of sightings, she said that she had seen 14 Wattled Cranes on April the first. I thought this was her idea of an April Fool’s, but she was being serious!

Wattled Cranes

Wattled Cranes at the Loskop Pan by Twané Clarke

Pairs of Grey Crowned Cranes have been hanging around the Loskop Hide, but their nest building appears to have come to an end.

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes by Patrick Cahill

I recently saw a Natal Spurfowl (aka Natal Francolin before the taxonomists started messing with our glossaries) and several visitors have reported them during the month.

Natal Spurfowl

Natal Spurfowl by Patrick Cahill

A big thanks to the Karkloof residents who assisted with the NguniTV team to produce the excellent documentary for 50/50 on our Cranes. Congratulations to Charlie and Twané for their performance on the box. They are prepared (for a small fee) to autograph your TV sets. It will be a great loss to the Karkloof if they are tempted to forsake us for a career on the screen! Watch it here: https://youtu.be/9Cb_Tddm0ng

Many visitors have reported regular sightings of Black-winged Lapwings and Malachite Kingfishers, whilst a pair of African Jacana appear to have taken up squatters rights on the Loskop Pan. A Pied Kingfisher was spotted recently saying grace before taking the plunge to get lunch.

Let us prey. Pied Kingfisher by Patrick Cahill

Let us prey. Pied Kingfisher by Patrick Cahill

Other sightings included:

Southern Red Bishop, Dark-capped Bulbul, Forest Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-fronted Canary, Familiar Chat, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Zitting Cisticola, Red-knobbed Coot, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Cape Crow, Pied Crow, African Darter, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, White-faced Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Great Egret, Yellow-billed Egret, Common Fiscal, Southern Black Flycatcher, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Little Grebe, Helmeted Guineafowl, Hamerkop, African Marsh-Harrier, Black-headed Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, African Sacred Ibis, Hededa Ibis, Southern Bald Ibis, Giant Kingfisher, Black-shouldered Kite, African Wattled Lapwing, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, Common Moorhen, Barn Owl, African Olive Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, Three-banded Plover, Drakensberg Prinia, Red-billed Quelea, African Rail, Cape Robin-Chat, Secretarybird, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler, African Snipe, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Spoonbill, African Stonechat, White Stork, Amethyst Sunbird, Barn Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Hottentot Teal, Red-billed Teal, Cape Wagtail, Common Waxbill, Village Weaver, Pin-tailed Whydah, Fan-tailed Widowbird, and Cardinal Woodpecker.

Bird Ringing @ Mbona – Karin Nelson:

I was recently privileged to do some bird ringing in Mbona Private Nature Reserve upon invitation by Richard Booth. Forest edge birding is always very special, as you never know what you may catch. This day being no exception!

Bush Blackcap by Karin Nelson

Bush Blackcap by Karin Nelson

We caught, ringed and released 27 birds, representing 19 different species which included:
Bush Blackcap, Orange Ground-Thrush, Barratt’s Warbler, Lemon Dove, Cape Batis, Forest Canary, White-starred Robin, Swee Waxbill, Sombre Greenbul and Dark-backed Weaver.

Orange Ground Thrush by Richard Booth

Orange Ground-Thrush by Richard Booth

A great ringing morning for me with 2 species that I’d never ringed before. It was also good to meet some of the Mbona residents who came to see what bird ringing is about. We plan to have further ringing sessions, possibly once a season at Mbona.

Barats Warbler by Karin Nelson

Barratt’s Warbler by Karin Nelson

Thanks to Richard for the invite and a great morning.

Cape Batis by Richard Booth

Cape Batis by Richard Booth

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth:

The Greater Double-collared Sunbirds are in our garden where they spend much of the day feeding in the Pink Plumes (Syncolostemon densiflorus) which are in bloom, a real favourite of theirs.

by Richard Booth

Male Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Richard Booth

by Richard Booth

Female Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Richard Booth

Some happy news from Mbona is that we have a pair of Cape Parrots nesting high up in a dead eucalyptus tree on our Reserve. We first discovered them in April and were then seen regularly at the site during May.

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Mt. Gilboa Nature Reserve – Richard Booth:

During the walk at the Mount Gilboa Nature Reserve in April, which was organised by the Karkloof Conservancy and lead by Kevin McCann of the Wildlands Conservation Trust, as well as Donna Lay who is the manager of this reserve.

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

What stood out most in this grassland and wetland habitat, was a gorgeous display of these special White Nerine, Nerine pancratioides. One picture is enlarged to show a fly with a long proboscis coming in to feed and pollinate. Spoiler alert: This is the flower chosen for April in the Midlands Conservancies Forum calendar which will be on sale from September!

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Loskop Dairy Farm – AJ Liebenberg (bestuurder):

On the 16 April, AJ was fortunate enough to see a Serval catching mice or rats in the maize lands near the Polo grounds in the early hours – 00h30! He watched it jump around as it tried to pounce on the little rodents.

Common Duiker by AJ Liebenberg

Common Duiker by AJ Liebenberg

He has also been seeing a variety of buck around Loskop, which includes Common (Grey) Duiker, Common Reedbuck and a female Bushbuck that came into the garden.

Reedbuck ram by AJ Liebenberg

Reedbuck ram by AJ Liebenberg

Bushbuck doe by AJ Liebenberg

Bushbuck doe by AJ Liebenberg

Something he has been noticing more often are about 4 Warthogs in the cut maize lands near the club.

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Another interesting offering were photographs of the Black-winged Lapwings which he noticed around the farmlands, especially under the irrigation systems. There are easily over a hundred of them that gather in an area. Shortly after his sighting, Graham and Trish McGill, from Umtentweni KZN, popped into the Conservation Centre and was desperately looking to photograph some of these birds for his website.

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

AJ was quite happy for us to point out their location and allow him to get a little closer. Much to our amusement, he set up a portable bird hide under the Centre Pivot and waited patiently for them to get closer. This got all the locals driving by quite excited, as they all thought that someone was illegally hunting and immediately got on the phone to warn AJ. A good exercise to check if your neighbours are vigilant! Graham popped back to the Centre to excitedly show us his superb photographs. You can see his photos here:
SA Birding Photography

This is a great website to use when confirming the identification of a bird species.

Taking a Closer Look – Vicki Street:

Vikki, a regular visitor to our Conservation Centre, took these magnificent photographs in April of Damselflies, Ladybugs, Spiders, Flies and Butterflies. These creatures are often the food source for many of the birds that you see from our hides. At a recent talk at the KZN Midlands Bird Club meeting, David Johnson spoke about “50 ways to eat an insect”, which was not only humorous, but a wonderful insight into the many adaptations of insectivorous birds. Next time you’re birding, keep your eyes open for the little wonders.

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Wattled Crane – Andrew Cairncross:

Spent a very pleasant morning at Karkloof and was lucky enough to capture a Wattled Crane. It really is a superb place to visit.

Wattled Crane by Andrew Cairncross

Wattled Crane by Andrew Cairncross

Boston Wildlife Sightings – May 2014

Christeen Grant – Sitamani
We have had truly stunning weather during May, an Indian Summer. Brilliant blue skies and amazing dawn and sunsets.

Plant Autumn veld

Bees have been congregating wherever there has been water, puddles and even taps, as it’s been so dry. I have seen several Gaudy Commodores in the winter form, blue and black with scarlet markings. Carpenter Bees are attracted to the Polygala myrtifolia flowers in the shrubbery

Insect Carpenter Bee

and there was a lovely russet Stinkbug on our kitchen door one morning.

Insect Stinkbug

The grasses have turned into a glowing mix of autumn hues, a dried Crassula alba flower blended well into the palette.

Plant Crassula alba

Aloe maculata plants are covered in buds.

Plant Aloe maculata buds

Here and there are a few brave flowers, Nemesia caerulea,

Plant Nemesia caerulea 02

Sutera floribunda

Plant Sutera floribunda

and Senecio polyanthemoides which attracted a wide range of small beetles, and neatly camouflaged, a hungry green Praying Mantis!

Plant Senecio polyanthemoides with Praying Mantis

Early one morning just before sunrise a male Common Reedbuck sauntered down our driveway, and on a few occasions Duiker browse under the trees in the orchard.

Mammal Common Reedbuck male

There was a fresh Porcupine scraping near the house. Black-backed Jackal call most evenings.

Mammal Porcupine scraping

A persistent Rock Kestrel decided our hillside was his territory and repeatedly dive-bombed two Pied Crows until they flew off. Hadeda Ibis complacently forage around the garden.

Bird Hadeda Ibis

The Speckled Pigeons have hatched a brood very late in the season in the garage. The bared branches of the Sweet Chestnut tree near the house exposed a Dark-capped Bulbul nest. In summer they had been flitting in and out of the dense foliage.

Bird Dark-capped Bulbul nest

A Black-backed Puffback has been displaying his white ‘puff’ in the wisteria on the verandah.  In the late afternoons, a chittering flock of Cape White-eyes love exploring the Natal Bottlebrush, Greyia sutherlandii, which already has buds on it.

Bird Cape White-eyes

The Cape Glossy Starlings have visited the garden several times this month. In the grass down near our gate I’ve seen an African Hoopoe, and sunning themselves on rocks, African Stonechats.

Bird African Stonechat Female

At the moment a Drakensberg Prinia has decided that he must stake his territory and fend off his ‘reflected-image’ in the sitting room window, giving beautiful close-up sightings.

Bird Drakensberg Prinia a

Lizards can be seen soaking up the sun, in leaf litter. Including Variable Skinks

Reptile Variable Skink

and between wooden slats, a small Agama.

Reptile Agama

Caroline McKerrow – Stormy Hill

A Caracal in the forest while on a horse ride.

Barbara and David Clulow – The Willows

On 18 May saw the floater Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes walking in a long stately, slow queue on Melrose farm at 5:20 pm over a rise and down into a dip, where they could no longer be seen

Barbara took this photo of a Gymnogene along the Dargle Road

gymnogene

While driving along Dargle road, a Lanner Falcon poised for take-off from a perch on a pole

DSCF1670 (3)Lanner Falcon

And a juvenile Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk) being dive-bombed by some irritated defenders

gymnogene being divebombed

myriads of monkeys munching mielies

DSCF1657Monkeys with mealies

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

It is possible to find new sightings even after so many years of birding in the district. This month I added Red-backed Mannikin to my lists for the first time after spotting them in the forest on Norwood. Unfortunately they didn’t allow my camera lens to get too close to them as they flitted about in the foliage.

Red-backed-Mannikin

The annual Cape Parrot count was disappointing with only one confirmed sighting at Boston View, although others were heard at Impendle and on the Ridge at Inhlosane.

Boston_7606_Cape-Parrot_male

But it was good to hear and see an African Goshawk on its dawn patrol at the Ridge

Boston_7457_African-Goshawk

and finding a Long-crested Eagle on a nest on the banks of the Elands River at Boston.

Boston_7451_Long-crested-Eagle-on-nest

I spotted another buzzard with confusing plumage, very dark to be a Steppe Buzzard, and out of season, but not resembling juvenile Jackal Buzzards. Even the experts declined to call it, advising me to look the other way when I see it again!

Boston_MG_0108_mystery Buzzard

Other welcome sights were Denham’s Bustard,

Boston_7098_Denham's-Bustard

Black-winged Lapwings and the more common Blacksmith Lapwing comparing its black-and-white outfit with that of its bovine friend.

Boston_7444_Blacksmith-Lapwing

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Cape Glossy Starling, Red-throated Wryneck, Green Wood-hoopoe, Cape White-eye, Cape Sparrow, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Dark-capped Bulbul, Village Weaver, African Dusky Flycatcher, Speckled Mousebird, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Cape Robin-Chat, Fork-tailed Drongo, Common Fiscal, South African Shelduck, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-collared Widowbird, Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Goose, Common Waxbill, African Sacred Ibis, Cape Crow,

Boston_7360_Cape-Crow

African Rail, Bokmakierie, Grey Crowned Crane, Spur-winged Goose, Denham’s Bustard, Long-crested Eagle, Southern Red Bishop, Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-headed Heron, Greater Striped-Swallow, Spotted Eagle-Owl, African Pipit, Little Grebe, African Darter, Blacksmith Lapwing, Cape Longclaw, Red-knobbed Coot, Cape Weaver, Yellow-billed Duck, Common Moorhen, Cape Wagtail, Cape Canary, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Amethyst Sunbird, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Hoopoe, Pied Kingfisher, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, African Stonechat, Southern Boubou, Pied Crow, Lanner Falcon,

Boston_6989_Lanner-Falcon_web

Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Brown-throated Martin, Jackal Buzzard, Pied Starling, Reed Cormorant, African Black Duck, Cape Parrot, African Harrier-Hawk, Black-shouldered Kite, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Batis, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Black Tit, Black-headed Oriole, Red-winged Starling, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Black-backed Puffback, Thick-billed Weaver, Yellow-fronted Canary, Helmeted Guineafowl, Bar-throated Apalis, Wattled Crane.Boston_7179_Wattled-Crane

Bruce and Bev Astrup of Highland Glen watched a Lanner Falcon circling above

Cape Parrot Count: Crystelle Wilson, Barbara and David Clulow

On 17th and 18th May we counted Cape Parrots at Flemmington, at Boston View House with the huge Yellowwoods well stocked with kernels, and on the ridge below southern Inhlosane – walking up in minus 3 degrees Celsius at 6 am to overlook the magnificent indigenous forests. We heard Cape Parrots in the distance, saw one flying overhead and perching several times, but nothing like a few years ago.

lone cape parrot

 

Boston Wildlife Sightings – May

Crystelle Wilson – Sitamani

The first weekend in May the annual Cape Parrot count took place. In Boston we staked out several places, but parrots were seen at only two sites, 4 at the Impendle Nature Reserve and 19 at The Rockeries where they were feasting on pecan nuts.

cape parrots pecan

My SABAP2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 is:
Amethyst Sunbird, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Canary, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black Saw-wing, African Hoopoe, Speckled Mousebird, Cape White-eye, Green Wood-hoopoe, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Crow, Booted Eagle, Cape Wagtail, Cape Sparrow, Olive Thrush, Cape Longclaw, African Stonechat, Bokmakierie, Common Waxbill, Southern Red Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Jackal Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, Southern Boubou,

southern boubou may

Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-chested Flufftail, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Grassbird, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, African Rail, Grey Crowned Crane, Egyptian Goose, Red-billed Quelea, African Darter, African Sacred Ibis, Black-headed Oriole, Giant Kingfisher, Common Fiscal, Red-necked Spurfowl, Pied Crow, African Pipit, Spur-winged Goose, Reed Cormorant, Yellow-billed Duck,

yellow billed duck and ducklings

Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Blue Crane, Cape Weaver, Red-collared Widowbird, Black-headed Heron, African Firefinch, Helmeted Guineafowl, Common Moorhen, Black Sparrowhawk, Cape Batis, White-breasted Cormorant, Thick-billed Weaver, Little Rush-Warbler, Drakensberg Prinia, Brown-throated Martin, South African Shelduck, Sombre Greenbul, Speckled Pigeon, African Olive-Pigeon, Bar-throated Apalis, Barratt’s Warbler, Hamerkop, Long-billed Pipit,

long billed pipit

Terrestrial Brownbul, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Red-throated Wryneck, Olive Woodpecker, Cardinal Woodpecker,

Cardinal woodpecker female

Blacksmith Lapwing, Cattle Egret, Pied Starling, Cape Glossy Starling, House Sparrow, Lanner Falcon, Knysna Turaco, African Goshawk, Black-winged Lapwing, Malachite Sunbird, African Fish-Eagle,

african fish eagle

African Black Swift, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Secretarybird, Cape Parrot.

Andrew Poole of Brooklands farm: Secretary Bird on nest at “Brooklands” farm ; 4 Southern Ground Hornbill on Ncwadi road, near turnoff from R617

Ian Lawrence of Endeavour farm: Denham’s Bustards are back daily; 3 Wattled Crane (one Juvenile) and 4 Blue Crane (two Juveniles) at wetland on “Endeavour”; numbers of Bald Ibis in cut maize.

Pete Geldart of Coquidale farm: 4 Cape Parrots flying overhead; spotted Lizard

Basil and Terry Cuthbert of Juluka Estate: baby Reedbuck from up close with mother; 4 Grey Crowned Cranes (two Juveniles) daily at one of three dams on or near Juluka Estate

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers of “Lapa Lapa”: 4 Barn Owl chicks have been hatched out in loft in shed as in previous years.

Christeen Grant of Sitamani:

Sitamani winter hillside CGrant

May in general was mild and sunny, but winter chill and frosts are more frequent, a silver dusting on the lower ground in the mornings. The hillside behind our house has mellowed to gold with green Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja salviifolia bushes.

Buddleja salviifolia CGrant

Greyia sutherlandii leaves are vibrant shades of green and red, and maybe due to the warm days, flower inflorescences are starting to open.

Greyia sutherlandii 01 CGrant

Buddleja auriculata flowers are in full bloom, tiny, close packed flowers creating a showy display.

Buddleja auriculata 02 CGrant

Senecio add bright splashes
Senecio madagascariensis 02 CGrant
and Halleria lucida is still attracting insects
Halleria lucida CGrant
Rubus berries for hungry birds.
Rubus pinnatus berries CGrant

Dargle Nature Reserve – Almost There

All four landowners whose properties will form part of the Dargle Nature Reserve have completed the final documents and they have been sent to the MEC for signing.   Barend Booysen (landowner) and Gareth Boothway (MCF Biodiversity Stewardship Manager) are obviously delighted at this progress.Gareth Barend signing res.

Gareth says “The establishment of the Dargle Nature Reserve will contribute to the long term protection of the Critically Endangered Midlands Mistbelt Grassland and the Vulnerable Eastern Mistbelt Forests of the Midlands.  These vegetation types are known to contain a great diversity of plants and animals, some of which are endemic to the Midlands.  The Nature Reserve is placed with in a highly productive landscape on privately owned land, providing the ideal habitat for  a number of iconic species.  Take a walk through the forests and grasslands and you are likely to spot Oribi, one or two of the Crane species, Cape Parrot and Samango Monkey. It is fantastic to see private landowners making this invaluable contribution to conserving KZN’s biodiversity, increasing the green footprint in our country.”

butterfly on plectranthus

Many years ago the Dargle Conservancy, through the vision of Andrew Anderson,  began working towards having a large area of private land officially proclaimed as part of the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme to protect areas which contain critically important habitats. Due to changes in personnel and lack of capacity,  it has been a long road.  Unfortunately along the way, a number of landowners have pulled out,  so the original area of 2000ha has reduced to 890ha.  We are confident however that once this segment is completed, it will grow.  A number of neighbours have already expressed interest in being part of Phase 2.  Andrew comments “The future of biodiversity conservation is in the hands of the landowner. Accolades must go to the landowners who have made such a bold and forward-thinking contribution to conservation in South Africa.”  

Dargle meeting at Old Kilgobbin

Kate Robinson, whose 100 hectare property, Lemonwood, forms an integral part of the Reserve said “I am thrilled to be part of this, as I firmly believe we have a duty to take care of natural resources for future generations.  This means that no one will be able to come and build 20 cottages in this lovely patch of forest, ever.”  

aerial shots of lemonwood res.

Part of Dargle Farm, owned by Graham and Vicky Griffin, will also be protected.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In 2009, in a bold plan to strengthen the food web, 40 Rock Hyrax (Dassie) were reintroduced into an area that was once home to a thriving population on the Dargle Farm. The Dassie is the most important component of the food web that is missing from parts of the Dargle and as this is strengthened, the Conservancy hopes other rare species will return.  Since then, Graham has introduced two more groups to improve the gene pool and reports that they are often spotted, are settled and breeding.

Photos By Trail Camera

Old Kilgobbin Farm, owned by John and Carl Bronner has areas of grassland and forest and many springs and streams – important source of water for millions of downstream users.

pool in ouhout gorge crop res.

The Booysens of Kilgobbin Cottage were the first to offer regular walks in the Midlands. this programme has now grown to include 12 walks. Barend must be thanked for his commitment over many years hosting those who don’t usually have access to the countryside. The walks serve to inspire everyone to cherish biodiversity and to understand the eco-system services which these areas provide humanity. Visitors relish the opportunity to get up close to some of the special trees, which include: towering Yellowwoods, ancient Lemonwoods and majestic Prunus africana, and to marvel at the ferns and mushrooms on the forest floor.

Kilgobbin forest walk.KAREN EDWARDS RES

Chair of the Dargle Conservancy, Nikki Brighton commented. “In the Dargle we take our role as custodians of an important water catchment and some of the most vulnerable biodiversity in South Africa seriously.” 

What is the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme?  Click here to read about the MCF BSP

View of Inhlosane from waterfall -Barry Downard.RES

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November

Jill Hunter 

Jill has written the most delightful story about the wildlife she lives with. It is a bit long to include here, but a highly reccommended read on the Dargle Local Living blog.  Click on the link for the full story.

http://darglelocalliving.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/living-with-nature/

A snippet to whet your appetite: “Since both my old dogs died, I decided to live with all these creatures who actually do not need feeding at all. No vets bills, no hair in the house, no pet food to buy at vast expense, no poo on the lawn! Just a few bird droppings on the deck.” 

window frog 3.res CROP.

Lucinda and Tom Bate – Inversanda

Saw a mummy bushpig and four babies in a terrible hurry on our drive a week ago.  The first sighting of littlies for 16 years!

Jethro Bronner – Old Kilgobbin

Came across a troop of Baboons while climbing iNhlosane. Decided best to retreat.

inhlosane 3.resCROP.

Mike Crawford – Shanton

Found this amazing mushroom near the pine plantation. A Stinkhorn I believe.

Star Stinkhorn mushroom

Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage 

Our orchard is full of Helichrysum and dandelions and looks like a lovely golden meadow. The bees have made their hive in the middle of the orchard so don’t need to fly too far away. The bees have been very active during the few sunny days we’ve had, but I wonder how they are coping with the rain and what effect this will have on pollination.helichrysum setosa.jCROP

The African Hoopoes have been very busy all month feeding their babies under the eaves our roof, and it seems that the young Hoopoes have now left the nest.

We saw two male Buffspotted Flufftails in the garden near the house just a few metres from each other. Both were calling loudly and probably competing for territory.

Also seen: Paradise Flycatcher, swallows, Olive Thrush, Kite, Longcrested Eagle, Egyptian Geese, Egrets, doves etc. Heard: Burchell’s Coucal, Cape Parrots.

Karin and Justin Herd – Bee Tree farm

This is the first of our new chameleon birthings in the grassland below the house.  Only counted 7 on 12 November, normally we have 10-12 babies in the first round.

Chameleon baby 121112 CROP

Malvina and Evert van Bremem – Old Furth Estate

November continues very wet and muddy up here, with dams overflowing walls and creating huge excitement in getting in and out of our driveway! Sunshine has been at a premium so far and washing has taken over the clothes dryer which has almost permanently taken up residence next to the Esse stove in the kitchen, following the dictum of trying to tap the electricity grid as little as possible!

Even in all the wet,we have still had a spectacular showing from the aliens from outer space which have proliferated in the lawn this year. (Stag stinkhorns).

Red Stinkhorn.crop

The Spurwing geese have completely invaded the wetland and we now have about 7 in residence. They are enjoying the wet! A pair of Blue Cranes are resident on the hills surrounding the house and we hear them calling every day. We are richly blessed to be able to report the “same old” fish eagles, buzzards, kites and owls are all still seen and heard regularly. The flufftails are still calling, as are the cuckoos.

The frogs and toads are also very happy with the weather and little green river frogs have taken up residence in all the puddles on the driveway, so now we have to try to avoid puddles so that we don’t squash frogs. This makes the trip along the driveway even more hazardous than usual.

The Cape Chestnuts have burst into bloom in our indigenous forests, creating pink islands in the verdant greenery. The monkeys and baboons are back in full force and we have heard the Knysna Loeries (or whatever they are called now) calling up and down the indigenous forest below the house. The streams and waterfalls are all in full spate and the sound of rushing water surrounds us.

The dreaded porcupine is back and preying upon any arum lily it can find, especially the Zantedeschia aethiopica, not so much the little Z. albomaculata and valida. We have been overjoyed to see an increase in the Dierama and Gladioli on the farm. We hope the wonderful rain continues throughout the rest of the Summer, but could tentatively wish for the odd sunny day in between.

Sandra and Pat  Merrick  – Albury Farm

10 wattle crane flew over the house one morning making their strange rusty door hinge sounds.

My saddest of stories which broke our hearts was a pair of blue crane that had been visting all winter.  She decided to lay her 2 eggs in our vlei about 30metres from our dam.  It was wonderful.  We could watch her from our verandah thru the binocs at any time.

MOZAM 2012 Crane on nest

A few days later I walked to the dam at about 4pm – she was grazing on the hill – and there, next to her eggs was a jackal.  I chased it away but came home with a heavy heart as knew that it would return that night, which of course, it did.  Eggs gone.

Blue Crane eggs

Next day, Mom and dad stood next to the empty nest for a few hours and eventually flew off.  I was so sad to see them go and thought they would not return.  For a few days we saw them on our neighbours farm and I thought perhaps she would lay near their dam.  But lo and behold.  They were back and she was now preparing a nest on a small island a few metres inside the dam.  The day she laid her one egg, we had had a heavy rain the night before and the dam started to fill up rapidly from the streams. She frantically stuck her head in the water picking up stones and sand and placing them around her egg  trying to raise  the nest higher.  This went on all day.  We had to leave for Mozambique the next day and asked our house sitter to check on the pair of crane.  Needless to say, the nest got flooded and they flew off once more.

MOZAM 2012 Crane 005

Seen the secretary bird about 3 times.  For the first time we saw about 10 egrets arriving amongst our nguni herd.  They are always down in Lidgetton but never here.  Unfortunately they left and have not returned.  The shell duck have moved off.  7 blue crane arrived at the dam on the 28th Nov. Pat saw a blackbellied korhaan swimming in a puddle of water on our road after a storm. One sunday a stanleys bustard walked across the hill in front of our house. 3 canaries nesting in my standard roses.  2 babies fell out and died.  One left her nest and the other is sitting on 3 eggs. The wagtail hatched out one baby in my jasmine creeper., Jackal buzzard on top of cross in the mist., Red collared widow bird, 3 or 4 spoonbill permanent residents at the moment.

The jackal have been a real nuisance.  When walking one afternoon about 5pm we saw our ngunis chasing something down the hill – yes, the jackal.  It was like a game. He would run and stop and look back at them, and then the chase would start again.  What was funny was watching one of the calves chasing it, tail flying in the air.

nguni jackal CROP

I saw one male oribi and Pat saw 2 oribi at different times of the month down in front of the house.  Still lots of reed buck. Found a dead baby rabbit on my front porch and a few days later another one sleeping in my formal garden.  Have no idea how they got there.  I put him on other side of our fence and prayed he would not get taken by the jackal or the martial eagle. Male duiker

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

oxalis crop.

Plants:  Hypoxis sp (yellow), Hypoxis parvula (white), Helichrysum setosa, Nemesia, Aristea ecklonii, Dias cotonifolia, Veronia, Rhodohypoxis, Caledendron capense, Dias cotonifolia, Celtis africana, Hypericum aethipicum, Gunnera, Oxalis (above), Pentanisia prunelloides, Hesperantha (below) Zantedeschia aethiopica – aren’t the Arum filled vleis just magnificent?

Mammals: Plenty of Samangos about. A couple of tiny duiker, a big Reedbuck ram, 2 bush buck does.

Other critters: Giant snails along the forest paths.  Snake skin. White butterflies.

Birds:  Crowned Eagles, Jackal Buzzards, stone chats, weavers, Egyptian geese, orange throated long claws, francolins, Knysna loeries and all the usuals. Nothing out of the ordinary.

hesperantha crop.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings for June

Barry and Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Redbilled and African Woodhoopoes, single Redthroated Wryneck seen and heard frequently, Bronze mannekins, weavers, Fork-tailed Drongos, Olive Thrush, Southern Boubou, Cape Robin, mousebirds, Cape white-eyes, Crowned Cranes, doves, sparrows, bulbuls, fiscal shrikes, starlings, crows. Long Crested Eagle seen frequently. 20th June – saw two fish eagles and four storks flying overhead. Flock of Queleas.

Heard: Spotted Eagle Owl, Jackals.

Plants: The Knipholia, Plumbago, Freylinia and Hypoestes aristata are coming to the end of their flowering, but the Aloes and Crassula are still putting on a lovely colourful display.

Kevin and Margi Culverwell – The Wallows

Bushbuck does & a young ram on the rye grass below the house every night.

4 x Barn owl chicks in the nest box in the shed.

Spoonbills on the dam at the top of the farm

A bateleur low overhead two weeks ago( & it is not a mistaken ID!)

Half collared kingfishers on the Mngeni

A little sparrowhawk in the pecan tree looking for prey

All the normal garden birds

Helen and Barend Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

STARRED ROBIN: Barend had the privilege of this shy little bird`s companionship and interest for over an hour a couple of days ago as he finished up the installation of our Ram Pump for ” off-grid ” water  , deep in the forest  .

CAPE PARROTS:  We have heard and seen a small flock of birds overhead .

DASSIES & SAMANGO MONKEYS: Active on the forest margins and the little adolescents are a joy to watch .

CROWNED EAGLES: Soaring and calling for two days now (I am watching my Dach-Russels very carefully)

Howick Birding Club outing to forest at Kilgobbin Cottage spotted:

Apalis, Bar-throated; Batis, Cape; Batis, Chinspot; Bishop, Southern Red; Blackcap, Bush; Boubou, Southern; Brownbul, Terrestrial (Bulbul); Bulbul, Dark-capped (Blackeyed); Canary, Forest; Dove, Cape Turtle; Dove, Red-eyed; Drongo, Fork-tailed; Eagle, Long-crested;; Firefinch, African (Bluebilled); Fiscal, Common; Flycatcher, African Paradise; Greenbul,; Sombre (Bulbul); Goose, Egyptian; Goshawk, African; Ibis, Hadeda; Kingfisher, Brown-hooded; Mannikin, Bronze; Mousebird, Speckled; Myna, Common (Indian); Oriole, Black-headed; Pigeon, African Olive (Rameron); Pigeon, Speckled; Prinia, Drakensberg; Puffback, Black-backed; Quelea, Red-billed; Robin-Chat, Cape; Robin-Chat, Chorister; Saw-wing, Black; Sparrow, Cape; Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed; Stonechat, African; Sunbird, Amethyst; Sunbird, Collared; Sunbird, Greater Double-collared; Sunbird, Olive

Sunbird, Southern Double-collared (Lesser D-c) Thrush, Olive; Tit, Southern Black; Turaco; Knysna (Lourie); Wagtail, Cape; Weaver, Spectacled; Weaver, Village (Spottedbacked); White-eye, Cape; Woodpecker, Cardinal; Wryneck, Red-throated

On the dams along D17 – Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck, African Sacred Ibis, Little Grebe (Dabchick) Black-collared Barbet, Cape Grow (Black))

Andrew and Susi Anderson -Lane’s End Farm

A pair of Drakensberg Prinias that we have been watching for a couple of years (assuming they are the same ones) are back.  We have been seeing a flock of Red Billed wood-hoopoe’s regularly along the river which is new on our property.

Digging the trench for a gas line (from the biodigester) we disturbed 2 hibernating snakes, red lipped herald and brown house snake, which were unharmed and will hopefully find another suitable spot.

For many months we have been woken each morning by the call of a pair of fish eagles.  Since the leaves have fallen on the poplars across the river in the direction of Midmar we can now see the nest and the 2 adult birds, not that they have eggs or young in the nest at the moment.  It is something that the folk across the river obviously have no appreciation for because they spent the whole afternoon yesterday shooting and today there is no sign of the fish eagles, hopefully only scared off.

With winter and the harvesting of the maize we always have a serious increase in rats so it is great to see a Longcrested Eagle almost permanently around and each evening a pair of spotted eagle owls.

David and Helen Mann – Knowhere Farm

The first week of June was really cold up here.  David took this photo of the water on the Mngeni river actually starting to freeze!

Anne and Trevor Hulley – Robhaven

This month we have had a Secretary Bird on Robhaven for the first time.

The Reedbuck are back grazing on the rye grass. There is one male with magnificent horns. Thank goodness there is no hunting here!!

Last night (Friday 29th), there were 3 scrub hares running down the road together. We have seen 2 at a time, but never 3! It was a wonderful end to a good evening. They truly looked like the English Mad March Hares!

We have a pair of Natal Francolin with 2 babies who come looking for food where we used to feed the now absent Guineafowl. We miss our Guineafowl – they were such characters!

I saw Drongo chasing a small bird of prey through the garden today. It was too quick to get a positive sighting, but, by the size, I think it must have been a Black Shouldered Kite.

Otherwise it’s the usual mix of Weavers, Doves, Sparrows, Bulbuls, Wagtails, Mousebirds, Fiscal Shrikes, Crows, Geese, Moorhens, Herons and Sunbirds.

We hear the Crowned Cranes flying overhead occasionally but sadly they’re not coming down to the dam.

We haven’t seen our secretive little lady Duiker, but, judging by the garden, she’s around and nibbling the plants!

Just spotted a female Olive Woodpecker which was such a treat! There is also a flock of Green Woodhoopoes making a heck of a cackle and some Thick-billed Weavers looking for seeds in the garden.

Sharon and Robin Barnesly – Sanctuary

Crowned Crane firmly resident now on Portmore. Nice sized flock of Guinea Fowl – after last year, I thought they had all but disappeared

We were up in Underberg last weekend : (-12 degrees!!) with a 2 metre wide strip of ice about 10mm thick all around the dam we were staying at.  Interestingly we saw 2 European storks – I thought they would have migrated by now?? – global climate change perhaps?

Derek and Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Park

Found a bushbuck with a snare between horns and around the neck. Instead of  “putting it down”, my good wife persuaded to phone Free-me. To cut a long story short, Free-me organised for John Allison to come and dart the buck and remove the snare. First attempt failed and “Buck” was showing signs of deteriorating. Another attempt to catch him succeeded and John was able to remove the snare, deworm and give anti-biotics as the snare wounds were festering quite badly. “Buck” seemed to be recovering quite well but sadly died a couple of days later. The offending snare was not wire but white nylon rope.

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm

The only thing of real interest this month is the secretary bird.  Still pacing the hills every day.  My daughter walked up the hill behind us at sunset and saw him sitting in a tree on the stone wall.  Also this week his partner was with him.  Have not seen her in some time.  Not sure if they sit on eggs at this time of year.

Then on Wednesday I saw him close by just over the fence in front of our house (about 200metres away) I grabbed my camera, and guess what, he had a snake in his beak.  I could hardly hold the camera still, was so excited.  The snake appeared lifeless and then slowly started to move.  Definitely not a puff adder as long and silver.  Could be a cobra or night adder.  Quite long as could not see the head which was in the long greass.  Took a minute  to suck it up  which I could not see as he turned around.

An hour ago, at eleven o’clock, saw a jackal running up the hill behind the house.  They are obviously very hungry to be hunting during the day.  Their cries at night and just before sunrise go on for some time.

Our one legged buffstreaked chat still visits us daily.  He gets tired on one leg and lies on his tummy in the sun.

Robin and Tinks Fowler – Corrie Lynn Farm

We have a resident stork who is either too old or too young to have made the trip back to Europe.Green meadows (organically grown) attract Rietbuck & Duiker and we have spotted a Bushbuck doe and her young “teenage” fawn.

On Saturday afternoon we hear lots of loud shooting, which was very distressing. Especially as we are thoroughly enjoying the buck grazing in our fields and hope no one is shooting at them.

Willem and Colleen van Heerden – Khululeka

Orange and black wood-pecker burrowing in the grass. A huge buck running into the forest.

Sam Rose and Shine Murphy – Zuvuya

On our property a few weeks ago we had 4 Eland and today driving to Impendle we spotted 2 Secretary birds.  I spotted 2 blue crane two weeks ago in the Impendle Nature Reserve.

Rob and Carole MacIntosh – Carlisle Farm

We have seen 4 bushbuck ewes (adult) and one calf – spotted at about 18:30. A flock of about 20 Helmeted Guinea fowl.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Birds: Drakensberg prinia, forest canaries, Egyptian geese, jackal buzzards, amethyst sunbirds, collared sunbirds, white eyes, cape robin, chorister robin, southern boubou, thrush, thick billed weavers, Southern Black tit, wagtails, olive sunbird, two Cape Parrots(evening of 27 June heading west), sombre bulbuls.

Mammals; big group of Samango monkeys regularly sitting in a sunny field picking green shoots of grass (I assume).  Hares in the early evenings. Lots of bush pig activity on forest floor. Duiker.

Grasshoppers, carpenter bees, Gaudy Commodore butterflies.

Plants: buddleja, kniphophia, yellow daisy in burnt patches (above)

I was away on the wildcoast for part of the month – if you are interested in the gorgeous plants I saw there, read: http://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/plants-of-pondoland/

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Louwrens – Hopedale

We recently stocked the Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary dam, and hours after that, saw 5 grey herons seemingly queuing up on the rocks that project into the water!  Luckily this seems to have been a once off incident – otherwise there won’t be many of the fish left!

We picked many, many porcupine quills (some with blood on the end of them), along about  a kilometre of our access servitude, and eventually found the carcase – it seems like some Jackals harassed and eventually killed the poor beast.  I would guess he/she got her own back by leaving a few quills in the attackers!

A couple of lovely sightings of a very dark (almost black) serval. In the last few days we have seen Oribi, and a very recently born Reedbuck lamb with its mother and last year’s offspring. Lots of Reedbuck on the lower farm – looking for the greener grass, Bushbuck by our stream – seen midmorning. Things are busy on the dam with two new coot chicks watching out for the fisheagle – who flies around overhead, to see what it can find.

Iain Sinclair – Benn Meadhon

Weekend of game watching by Neville and Hayley van Lelyveld:

On Friday night 01/06/2012, 13 Reedbuck were sighted on the agricultural side of the farm as we walked from the sheds through the carrot field area and up to the old maize paddock area. From the maize paddock we walked across the hay paddocks behind the carrots toward the forest and then back to the sheds. We did put out Jackal bait, but no sighting was made. The bait however was taken by the jackals by the next morning.

During the day on Saturday a lot of duiker tracks were observed by the cross road area and nearly always followed by jackal. Five duiker where observed around the cross road area most of them between 04h00 and 07h00 on Saturday morning. Some Natal francolins were also observed in this area. On Saturday afternoon around 16h00 a single large adult male Bushbuck was sighted in the cross road area who, was in a spectacular condition and very good breeding specimen. We also saw a young Bushbuck male cross the road from Graeme Freese’s forest though to your forest on the other side of the road. An adult duiker male was also seen doing the same thing just prior to the young Bushbuck. On Saturday morning we took a walk up to the new tree seedlings and a lot of Rameron Pigeons were seen in this area together with a lot of Hadeda’s. We also saw a scrub hare in the forest just behind the new seedling plantation. We noticed a lot of duiker tracks around the new seedling. The duiker seemed to be showing a very keen interest in the new seedlings, with tracks almost touching a lot of the new seedlings. Duikers have been known to feed on young tree seedlings. To date there is no sign of them feeding on the seedlings. On our walk-about on Saturday there was a very distinctive absence of porcupine activity even to the point not much fresh scat was observed nor was there many quills lying around. We found this a little strange as normally there is lot of porcupine activity. This could be attributed to the amount of actual farm activity currently going on the agricultural side of the farm. On Saturday night we once again set up bait sites for Jackal in a different area were a lot of Jackal activity was seen and they once again did not show themselves, but the bait was once again taken by them by Sunday morning. This does seem to show that there are different jackals coming in from different areas and directions. On Saturday night while we were trying to observe the jackals we heard that the reedbuck were distressed and were calling continually so we aborted the jackal count and went to investigate. We walk the whole of the agricultural side of the farm and we didn’t find out what was upsetting the reedbuck, but we did see thirteen reedbuck which, is an improvement on last month’s count as last month the total count of reedbuck was around thirteen. The only difference was that this time we had walked and not driventhe area. Walking does allow you to get a lot closer to the animals and will probably be the method of choice in the future. It also seems to be less invasive for the animals.

On Sunday morning from about 04h30am we went out on the Oribi Paddock and walked it down to the bottom boundary and back again up to the gate. On the way back two Oribi were sighted. Although we physically saw only two Oribi (a male and a female), we believe that there are more and possibly all five are still there. We based this on the sightings of their sleeping areas which were always in groups of five. There are also a lot of regularly used “foot” paths up and down the paddock which we suspect are made by the Oribi as they are animal foot paths and not human foot paths. There were always a few paths running parallel to each other. This was also an indication that there are more Oribi that the two that were sighted as the small herd will normally always move around together. The sighting of the Oribi was the highlight of the weekend.

Unfortunately we did not have time to spend much time on the dairy side of the farm, but we did observe that the white geese were fighting with the Egyptian Geese and there is a distinct lack of other geese. It does appear as though the white geese are chasing off the natural indigenous birds. During the weekend we noticed a distinct absence of traditional poaching activity. No snares, traps or dog print were found. While we were trying to do the jackal count on Saturday night around 19h00 were heard a single rifle shot (± .308 or 30.06) come from the house end of the farm, the direction was evident as I heard it go through the trees in front of us. Fortunately we sitting about a third of the way up the bank and as a result we were not in any form of danger. This was the first event of this kind in the last 2 years that we experienced.  It must be noted that night hunting is a restricted activity for which a special permission must be obtained from Ezemvelo otherwise it is considered poaching. The guinea fowl population is still at thirty birds which was encouraging as this too point to a reduction in poaching activity. As a whole the amount of wildlife on the farm does seem to have stabilized and we hope that it will soon start to increase to its former glory.

Clive Shippey and Shirley Bishop – Northington

Exciting for us was the sighting of a African Hoopoe, the first in sixteen years in the Dargle! We were leaving the property by car and were brought to a stop by this bird on the ground in our path. It was in no hurry to let us pass so we had ample time to observe this beautiful creature on the ground and in a brief “butterfly like” flight.

Justin and Karin Herd – Bee Tree Farm

We see a pair of Cape Parrot, coming in every evening.  Other spottings: 3 Wood Hoopoe’s,  African Harrier Hawk (previously Gymnogene) Hammerkop taking frogs on bottom dam, 2 Crowned Cranes on Andrew Dairy meadow,  Giant Kingfisher is regular in bottom dam, what looked like 2 Wattled Cranes foraging after firebreak burn between us and Griffin.  Chameleons are now hibernating and will find any crack to hide in.

Eidin Griffin – Wits End

We have lots of mousebirds after the chinese guavas, Malcolm’s dad, Pat, spotted a paradise flycatcher. The coucal is still swopping about at the bottom of the garden. Malcolm saw a black eagle over John Mckenzie’s and I’ve been watching Fiscal shrikes working the horse paddocks. Ringneck turtle-necks coo-ing all the the time,and wrynecks calling. Lastly, while pruning the grapes I found some very plump and elderly locusts quite busy on the mating front(very slowly)…..maybe keeping warm?

Wildflower of the Month – Hypoestes aristata

Common name: Ribbon bush, Zulu name: uHlonye, Afrikaans name: Seeoogblommetjie

One of the great joys of the Midlands’ winter is sitting in the midday sun surrounded by bees and butterflies buzzing busily. The plant which is the focus of much of this activity at the moment is Hypoestes aristata. Perfect for any garden and particularly appropriate planted in a sunny spot near your lunch table. Not only is the ribbon bush a favourite with fat, shiny carpenter bees (and other bees) and flies, it is one of the preferred nectar plants of lots of butterflies – particularly the Swallowtails.  It is also host to the Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterflies and the Bush Beauty. All of which add wonderful colour to the riot of pink and purple blooms which last for many weeks from Autumn until June. Obviously, the feast attracts insectivorous birds too.  Each tubular purple flower has pretty petals which curl back to reveal darker speckles which guide the insects to the nectar. Hypoestes is fast growing (up to 1,5 a season) and self seeds easily, making it a very rewarding plant for a new garden. Best pruned back after flowering to encourage fresh, green leaves for spring. Although it flowers best in full sun, it does well in dappled shade, too. The Afrikaans name reminds us that the leaves have been traditionally used as a poultice for sore eyes.