Karkloof Conservation Centre
We had regular sightings of up to 86 different bird species at the Karkloof Conservation Centre and nearby farmlands visible from the road. The winter months had surprisingly better lists than spring!
View from the Crowned Crane Hide in Winter
On the 21st August, Karin Nelson reported a sighting of the first Steppe Buzzard of the season in the Karkloof as she was travelling back from her visit to Benvie Gardens. On the 2nd September, we had our first sighting of the Yellow-billed Kite here at the Centre. It’s always exciting to see the migrants return, understanding that many of them have endured a tough journey.
The Wattled Crane Hide was full of life as the sun rose to greet the day. By the time the light was good enough for a photo, the Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes had already flown off. These three Wattled Cranes stayed around for a little while though.
We have had great sightings of all three crane species (a perk of having them breed in the area), which is something members of the Karkloof Conservancy can be proud of, as this indicates suitable wetland and grassland habitat allowing a healthy environment.
The Wattled Cranes were extremely active and even gave us a rendition of the “Can-Can” dance.
We must not be complacent though, as there are a number of threats we face, which can be of detriment to these stately birds, as well as other fauna and flora. Threats include but are not limited to drainage of wetlands (no matter how big or small), fracking, developments that put pressure on an already sensitive environment, and not to forget the dreaded N3 Bypass.
A typical winter scene with Wattled Cranes amongst the White-faced Ducks in the foreground and a Common Reedbuck grazing in the background.
Adam Riley, of Rockjumper Birding Tours, brought visitors to the hides on the 15 December, who were thrilled to see 4 Wattled Cranes at the Loskop pan. Two of the birds had rings and stayed there for the remainder of the day looking a lot like a couple. The one on the far left is Mbeche’s sibling (Mbeche is our adopted Wattled Crane that was collected in the Karkloof as a second egg after being abandoned) and the one next to our charmer is its assumed partner that was colour ringed as a chick by Brent Coverdale and Tanya Smith in October 2013 at Impendle Nature Reserve. This is the first re-sighting of the Impendle bird since it fledged.
Wattled Cranes by Adam Riley
Other sightings included: African Black Duck; African Black Swift; African Darter; African Fish-Eagle; African Hoopoe; African Jacana; African Marsh-Harrier; African Olive-Pigeon; African Pipit; African Sacred Ibis; African Snipe; African Spoonbill;
African Stonechat; African Wattled Lapwing; Amethyst Sunbird; Black Crake; Black-headed Heron; Black-shouldered Kite; Blacksmith Lapwing; Black-winged Lapwing; Blue Crane; Brown-throated Martin; Buff-streaked Chat; Burchell’s Coucal; Cape Canary; Cape Crow; Cape Robin-chat; Cape Shoveler; Cape Turtle-dove; Cape Wagtail; Cardinal Woodpecker; Common Fiscal; Crowned Lapwing; Crowned Lapwing; Dark-capped Bulbul; Drakensberg Prinia; Egyptian Goose; Fan-tailed Widowbird; Forest Buzzard; Fork-tailed Drongo; Giant Kingfisher; Green Wood-Hoopoe; Grey Crowned Crane; Grey Heron; Hadeda Ibis; Hamerkop; Helmeted Guineafowl; Hottentot Teal; Jackal Buzzard;
A Jackal Buzzard caught some rodent salad.
Lanner Falcon; Levaillant’s Cisticola; Little Grebe; Little Swift; Long-crested Eagle;
Long-tailed Widowbird; Malachite Kingfisher; Natal Spurfowl; Olive Thrush; Olive Woodpecker; Osprey;
This Osprey was seen daily. This sighting was out of season for inland distribution.
Pied Crow; Pied Kingfisher; Pied Starling; Pin-tailed Whydah; Purple Heron; Red-billed Quelea; Red-billed Teal; Red-eyed Dove; Reed Cormorant; South African Shelduck; Southern Black Flycatcher; Southern Boubou; Southern Grey-headed Sparrow; Southern Red Bishop; Speckled Mousebird; Speckled Pigeon; Spur-winged Goose; Village Weaver; White-breasted Cormorant; White-throated Swallow; Wood Sandpiper; Yellow-billed Duck; and Yellow-fronted Canary.
Orange Ground-Thrush Project @ Benvie – Karin Nelson
Under the guidance and supervision of Prof. Colleen Downs of UKZN, I have started an exciting project on the Orange Ground-Thrush. These birds are uncommon residents of the KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Forests. These forests are classified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, IBA’s, as they have important bird, tree and flowering plant species.
Orange Ground-Thrush by Karin Nelson
Benvie lies within these Mistbelt Forests, hosting a healthy population of Orange Ground-Thrush. With the support and enthusiasm of John and Jenny Robinson of Benvie, I have started catching and colour-ringing some thrushes.
The engraved colour ring used to identify the birds from a distance using binoculars or photographs
I have also taken blood samples which will be analysed by UKZN staff for genetics, relatedness, population and sex. In the future, we will also be assessing breeding biology to determine factors such as nest success, fidelity, sites used, and threats.
Bird Ringing @ Gartmore – Karin Nelson
Winter proves to be a difficult time to do bird ringing at the Gartmore hide, as the mealies have been turned into silage, causing the mist nets to be fairly exposed. Karin was, however, grateful that a large flock of Red-billed Quelea did not fly into her nets. Despite the slow morning, she managed to catch 10 birds, with 3 of these being re-traps:
- 4 Levaillant’s Cisticola
- 2 Southern Red Bishop
- 2 African Stonechat
- 1 Cape Robin Chat
- 1 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
Karin also managed to list 43 different species during the morning, which includes this Giant Kingfisher which was a highlight to the day.
Giant Kingfisher by Karin Nelson
Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth
An Orange-breasted Bush Shrike which we have had in our garden at Mbona. They are not on our bird list and have never heard them calling here. SABAP2 does show this is the edge of their range, but probably more down towards Albert Falls dam. I saw this little one outside our bedroom window and then again one week later when he flew into a window stunning himself. Fortunately not too bad, but we were able to pick him up for a photo shoot before he/she flew away. Beautiful colours!
Orange-breasted Bush Shrike by Richard Booth
I’ve included a picture of one of the lovely orchids that grow in our COOL forest: Polystachya pubescens.
Polystachya pubescens, an orchids that grow in the cool forest at Mbona
“Twitching bug” bites the Campbell’s – Lisa Campbell
The Campbell family are becoming real bird watchers of late, and they were very excited about a “lifer” for them and for their garden.
Groundscraper Thrush photographed by Lisa Campbell
This Groundscraper Thrush had the Campbell paparazzi snap its good side for the rest of the community to enjoy. Well done and we look forward to future contributions!
Crane Custodian – Tony Matchett (Agric. Manager of Benson Farming)
There is no better reward for a crane custodian than stumbling upon a Wattled Crane chick that has been smartly hidden by its parents.
Wattled Crane chick playing “hide-and-go-seek” in the veld.
Tony luckily had his camera on hand and took a few photos before he left promptly, limiting the stress levels of the birds, and allowing the chick and parents to reunite. This was attempt number two for the pair of Wattled cranes this last breeding season, as they unfortunately lost their first chick. Let’s hope we see this one flying amongst the 311 others.
The Wattled Crane parents feeding in the burnt veld.
Tony took this photograph which represents part of the floater flock of about 50 Grey Crowned Cranes (they couldn’t all fit in the frame!) that were enjoying the safe lands that are provided by the Benson family.
Part of a flock of 50 Grey Crowned Cranes with a Common Reedbuck in the background.
This flock were seen daily for almost 2 months and spent the whole day there, only splitting up to find a place to roost for the night. A Common Reedbuck seemed to enjoyed their company, while grazing on the lush cover crop planted as part of the no-till farming technique which plays a significant role in preventing soil erosion.
Grey Crowned Cranes are the only cranes that can perch in trees.
Capturing the Moments – Chris and Ingy Larkin
Chris and Ingy managed to capture these gorgeous photographs during their visit to the bird hides.
Purple Heron well camouflaged. Photographed by Chris Larkin
African Snipe on the cold and frosty vegetation. Photographed by Chris Larkin
Levaillant’s Cisticola in flight. Photographed by Ingy Larkin
Grey Crowned Crane in flight. Photographed by Chris Larkin
Ingy Larkin photographed this White-breasted Cormorant with a fairly large fish in its beak.
Chris Larkin photographed this special sighting of the Osprey emerging out of the water with a meal fit for a king.
White-breasted Cormorant and an African Darter having a squabble. Chris Larkin captured this typical book club scene.
Grey Crowned Crane puffed out after a bath. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.
Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.