Tag Archives: cranes

Celebrating World Wetlands Day

Article supplied by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

World Wetlands Day, celebrated annually on 2 February, provides an opportunity to celebrate a natural resource that is critical for people, the environment, and biodiversity. Wetlands come in all shapes and forms, from estuaries along our beautiful coastlines and high altitude inland wetlands within the grasslands of Mpumalanga, to the hard working wetlands within our urban landscapes. Much of our conservation effort within the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is centred around the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands and the catchments that feed them, and we encourage you to celebrate World Wetlands Day with us.

wetlands-day

Two of South Africa’s three crane species, the Grey Crowned and Wattled Crane, are completely dependent on wetlands for their survival – yet both are threatened with extinction. Their threatened status mirrors the loss of wetlands in our country, with an estimated 50% of wetlands completely transformed in South Africa. The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP), a partnership between the EWT and the International Crane Foundation, has used these charismatic, long-lived birds as flagships for wetland protection, restoration and management.

The ACCP’s South Africa Regional Manager, Tanya Smith, confirms that the efforts of the ACCP team and its partners have ensured the protection of nearly 100,000 ha of grasslands, wetlands and associated rivers in important catchments for people and cranes in South Africa over the past five years. The protection of the key water resources contributes to the long-term security of our water supply for millions of people in South Africa.

Wattled Cranes

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

From large charismatic cranes to the small and slippery, wetlands are home to many. Globally, amphibians are the most threatened class of vertebrate with 32.5% of species currently listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Approximately 800 species of amphibians make exclusive use of wetland habitats. Here in South Africa, a tiny frog the size of your thumbnail is found only in 25 wetlands along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Therefore, a key focal species of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP), is the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. These coastal wetlands are unique in their structure and are themselves classified as Critically Endangered. “The presence of flagship species that depend on wetlands for their survival really helps leverage support for the protection and restoration of wetlands,” says Dr Jeanne Tarrant, TAP Programme Manager. The EWT embarked on an ambitious journey to restore four of these wetlands in the Durban area through alien plant control, re-establishment of indigenous plants and assessing wetland rehabilitation needs and this year will be working towards formal protection of two of these wetlands through community stewardship models.

This year’s World Wetland Day theme is “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction” and this theme truly celebrates the services wetlands provide for us free of charge. Wetlands greatly reduce the impacts of flooding by slowing down the flow of water, and reduce the impacts of droughts by slowly releasing water to our streams and rivers. In the current drought gripping much of South Africa, the role and protection of healthy wetlands has never been more important.

silindile learning about wetlands

Slindile students learning about the importance of wetlands

The EWT is involved with several World Wetlands Day celebratory events around the country. In KwaZulu-Natal, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated at the Greater Edendale Mall wetland in Pietermaritzburg on 2 February from 10am. This is a collaboration of all partners of the KwaZulu-Natal Wetland Forum and will see over 300 children learning about and experiencing the value of wetlands. In the Eastern Cape, the EWT and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa have partnered to get our future generation’s hands dirty experiencing the wetlands of the Amathole area, where the EWT has been implementing catchment restoration work for the past three years. Lastly, in Gauteng, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated on 17 February at Tembisa Esselen Park Pan. A fun day of activities is planned, so be on the lookout for the EWT stand.

Later on in the month, you can get involved in raising awareness for our special wetland dwellers, the frogs, by joining in on a number of Leap Day for Frogs activities, including the EWT’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog on Friday, 24 February. This exciting event gets underway at 10am on the Durban beachfront promenade near uShaka Marine World. Find out more by visiting www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za or emailing JeanneT@ewt.org.za

Yellow-striped Reed Frog 1 - Nick Evans

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

You can make a difference to our wetlands all year round in a number of different ways, including:

  1. Planning a wetland clean up in your community with local schools and parents.
  2. Reducing your waste, reusing bottles and containers you would normally throw away, use reusable shopping bags and recycle! Our water resources like rivers and wetlands are heavily impacted on by litter and waste, so these small actions can make a huge difference.
  3. Reporting any illegal dumping in wetlands and rivers to your local municipality or police station.
  4. Supporting the efforts of organisations like the EWT in protecting wetlands on your behalf.

Useful resources to learn more about World Wetlands Day 2017:

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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 – May 2016

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

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

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

r autumn 2016 reedbuck hiding

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

r autumn 2016 bird on grass 1

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

r berkheya

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

r autumn gomphocarpus seeds1

The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

r autumn 2016 boophane bulb1

Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

r autumn 2016 phymaspermum 1

A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

r autumn 2016 Aristea 1

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

autumn clutia cordata

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

r autumn 2016 twirly grass

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

r autumn shadows in pool

Michael Goddard – Steampunk Coffee

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

Indian Mynah

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

Ribbon bush (Orthosiphon labiatus)

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

Unknown

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Skaapsteker on the road

Spotted skaapsteker 1

Spotted skaapsteker 2

Nola Barrett – God’s Grace

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

Frog 1

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

Frog 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

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

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

Blue pansy

1

Gaudy commodore

2

Greenbanded swallowtail

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Painted lady

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

Greater collared sunbird in eclipse

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a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)

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Male Malachite in eclipse

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

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

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

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

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The Long-crested Eagle is still around

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

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

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

Bokmakierie

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Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat

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Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills

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Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

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

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – July, August and September 2015

Jul, Aug, Sep 2015 header

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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 Spoonbill

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.

A Jackal Buzzard caught some rodent salad.

Lanner Falcon; Levaillant’s Cisticola; Little Grebe; Little Swift; Long-crested Eagle;

Long-crested Eagle

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Purple Heron well camouflaged. Photographed by Chris Larkin

African Snipe on the cold and frosty vegetation. 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

Levaillant’s Cisticola in flight. Photographed by Ingy Larkin

Grey Crowned Crane in flight. Photographed by Chris 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.

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.

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.

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.

Grey Crowned Crane puffed out after a bath. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – October 2015

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”

This month’s Sitamani Sightings are dedicated to remembering my friend Prof. David Clulow. He shared my love of nature and was always supportive of these sightings, usually the first to comment on the Midlands Conservancy Forum blog each month and often emailed to share his delight. Some of my best memories of Dave were botanizing on hillsides in bright sunshine, examining the colourful array of flowers on display. May you rest in peace Dave, your enthusiasm for life in all its forms will long be remembered.

Green desert

Green desert

A green desert best describes this October. Usually the rains have started, spring greens ripen into a lush growing vibrancy. This year, however, is dry and drought conditions are even harder in other parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Showers brought promising rainbows only to be dried in hot winds that followed.

02a Cover Rainbow IMG_1158

In the evening of 29 October I spotted a very unusual bee-type insect on a window sill. Craig Peter, Assistant Prof. at Rhodes University identified it for me, saying that the insect itself wasn’t special, but the fact that it had two bright yellow pollinaria attached to it’s head was. The Large Leaf-cutting Bee, Megachile cinta, is a known pollinator of Eulophia streptopetala. A fruitless search for the orchid ensued, however, these bees are capable of flying great distances, so perhaps in Boston there is a Eulophia streptopetala in flower! (pg. 246 in ‘A Field Guide to Wild Flowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region’ Elsa Pooley, pub. Natal Flora Publications Trust) At the CREW Summer Rainfall Workshop in November 2014 at Highover, a very interesting talk “The Sex Life of Plants” by Steve Johnson, described the process and we saw a Eulophia streptopetala flowering there!

Large Leaf-cutting Bee Megachile cinta with pollinaria

Large Leaf-cutting Bee Megachile cinta with pollinaria

Insect life is buzzing, the annual migration of Brown-veined White, Belenois aurota aurota, butterflies started on the 11 October, but in very small numbers and so far I’ve only seen about 150 individuals.

Brown-veined White Butterfly - Belenois aurota aurota

Brown-veined White Butterfly – Belenois aurota aurota

Gaudy Commadores, Precis octavia sesamus, are now in their orange and black summer form. Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, obligingly posed for me sipping nectar from Vernonia hirsuta. Grasshoppers flik-flack in the grass as you walk through.

Gaudy Commadore - Precis octavia sesamus

Gaudy Commadore – Precis octavia sesamus

 Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui on Vernonia hirsuta

Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui on Vernonia hirsuta

Grasshopper - Canantops humeralis

Grasshopper – Canantops humeralis

Nymph of a Foam grasshopper

Nymph of a Foam grasshopper

A most interesting and very small Hemerobiidae, Brown Lacewing perched on the sink.

 Hemerobiidae - Brown lacewing

Hemerobiidae – Brown lacewing

Then if anyone knows which insect could have made this beautiful felted home on a narrow leaf I would be grateful!

Insect home - any help on an ID would be great

Insect home – any help on an ID would be great

Attached to a flower was this Bagworm, a moth larvae, Family Psychidae.

Bagworm Family - Psychidae

Bagworm Family – Psychidae

Several moths were seen, Cherry Spot, Diaphone eumela, Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor, Bunaea alcinoe, an Emperor sp. and Tri-coloured Tiger, Rhodogastria amasis, caterpillar known as a Wooly Bear.

 Cherry Spot - Diaphone eumela

Cherry Spot – Diaphone eumela

Tri-coloured Tiger caterpillar

Tri-coloured Tiger caterpillar

The Red-Chested Cuckoo, Piet-my-Vrou, was first heard on the 19 October. The Lesser Striped Swallows were much later in arriving this year, first seen on the 29 October instead of the beginning of the month. The Olive Thrush is a perennial around the house, though very camera shy.

Olive Thrush

Olive Thrush

A delight is the colony of weavers that have decided to nest in the Pin Oak near the garage. I’m not sure if they are Village or Southern Masked Weavers. It is the first time they are building in such numbers. Much stripping of new leaves, then very showy construction of the nests. The strong winds keep ripping the nests off the branches, and persistently the males start all over again…

 Village Weaver

Village Weaver

Although the size and numbers of flowers is way down, the variety sparkles: Argyrolobium sp., Asclepias albens & humilis, Clutia cordata, Cyphia elata, Delosperma hirtum, Dierama cooperi, latifolium & pictum, Eriosema kraussianum, Graderia scabra, Hebenstretia comosa & dura, Hirpicium armeroides, Hypoxis iridifolia, Indigofera hilaris, Kniphofia bracystachya, Ledebouria cooperi, Lotononis corymbosa, Monopsis decipiens, Pentanisia prunelloides, Raphionacme hirsuta, Stachys aethiopica, Trachyandra asperata, Vernonia hirsuta, natalensis & a Vernonia sp., and Xysmalobium parviflorum.

Argyrolobium sp

Argyrolobium sp

Xysmalobium parviflorum

Xysmalobium parviflorum

Vernonia natalensis

Vernonia natalensis

Trachyandra asperata

Trachyandra asperata

Stachys aethiopica

Stachys aethiopica

Monopsis decipiens

Monopsis decipiens

Lotononis corymbosa

Lotononis corymbosa

Ledebouria cooperi

Ledebouria cooperi

Indigofera hilaris

Indigofera hilaris

Hebenstretia dura

Hebenstretia dura

Dierama pictum

Dierama pictum

Cyphia elata

Cyphia elata

Clutia cordata

Clutia cordata

Asclepias humilis

Asclepias humilis

Asclepias albens

Asclepias albens

Grasses are seeding very quickly, though the leaves aren’t growing to cover the soil yet. As I left early one morning a duiker played hide-and-seek along the driveway of Pin Oaks.

Grass

Grass

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”

ON several mornings this month we saw a duiker at the dam on The Drift.

Common (Grey) Duiker

Common (Grey) Duiker

A new visitor to my garden was a Cardinal Woodpecker, tapping away in the buddleia outside the bathroom window.

Cardinal Woodpecker

Cardinal Woodpecker

In the wetland a newcomer was a pair of Wattled Lapwings, which I haven’t seen there for some years.

Wattled Lapwing

Wattled Lapwing

The surviving Grey Crowned Crane juvenile that was ringed in March appears to have finally left its natal area and gone off to join the floater flock in the district. The parents is spending a lot of time at the nesting site on The Willows and might be getting ready to breed again. We call one of the pair “Danglefoot”, because of a leg always hanging oddly in flight, and which enable us to identify the pair as “ours”.

Grey Crowned cranes coming in to land at the nesting site where they successfully raised one of three chicks this year.

Grey Crowned cranes coming in to land at the nesting site where they successfully raised one of three chicks this year.

Grey Crowned Cranes

Grey Crowned Cranes

I’ve seen two pairs of Blue Cranes flying over Gramarye and often hear them calling in the early morning. The good news is that the pair of Blue Cranes on Endeavour seems to be breeding. I saw one of them feeding while the other was presumably on the nest.

Blue Crane

Blue Crane

The willow tree in the dam on Elvesida where the cranes roosted overnight during winter had now been taken over by at least two pairs of African Spoonbills

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000:
Jackal Buzzard, Great Egret, African Reed-warbler, Cardinal Woodpecker, Diderick Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Pied Crow, Secretarybird, Neddicky, Yellow-billed Kite, Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle in flight

Long-crested Eagle in flight

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Black Cuckoo, Sombre Greenbul, Lesser Swamp-warbler, Red-billed Teal, Three-banded Plover, South African Shelduck, Blacksmith Lapwing, Grey Heron, White-throated Swallow, Speckled Pigeon, African Harrier-Hawk, House Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, White-rumped Swift, Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Canary, Village Weaver, Bokmakierie, Helmeted Guineafowl, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Red-knobbed Coot, Giant Kingfisher, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose with chicks

Egyptian Goose with chicks

Egyptian Goose with chicks

Cape Weaver in full breeding colour

Cape Weaver in breeding plumage

Cape Weaver in breeding plumage

White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Sparrow, Reed Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Yellow-billed Duck,
African Darter, African Rail, Brown-throated Martin, Red-collared Widowbird, Red-billed Quelea,
African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Common Quail, Common Fiscal, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Paradise-flycatcher,

African Paradise-Flycatcher

African Paradise-Flycatcher

Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-headed Oriole, Southern Boubou, Black-headed Heron, Pin-tailed Whydah (change into breeding colours nearly completed, tail needs some work)

Pin-tailed Whydah

Pin-tailed Whydah

Southern Red Bishop changing into its wedding outfit is a crazy mix of colours

Southern Red Bishop

Southern Red Bishop

Cape Longclaw, Cape Crow, African Hoopoe, Cape Grassbird, Cape Robin-Chat, Drakensberg Prinia, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Little Rush-warbler, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Stonechat, Cape Wagtail, Greater Striped Swallow, Black Saw-wing, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Dark-capped Bulbul, Speckled Mousebird (cooling off on a hot day)

Speckled Mousebirds cooling off on a hot summers day

Speckled Mousebirds cooling off on a hot summers day

Olive Thrush

Olive Thrush

Olive Thrush

David Clulow – Inspirational Environmental Champion

David Clulow: 02.10.37 to 28.10.2015

By Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

“Where did you see that? What day was that, and what time? How many were there . . .?”

David clambering in the rocks on Sitamani

David clambering in the rocks on Sitamani

Over the years Boston residents have learned that it was not good enough simply to mention an interesting sighting in passing to David, especially when it came to all three crane species and Southern Ground-Hornbills.

During the 20 years or so that the Clulows lived in Boston they took an active part in community life and David was a leader in the Conservancy since its inception.

There has been a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes nesting in the pan adjacent to the Elands River on The Willows for many years. He began monitoring their breeding, which he recorded for the African Crane Conservation Programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), as well as other crane sightings in the district. In 2011, his efforts were acknowledged when he was made a crane custodian.

2015 Grey Crowned Crane family hatched on The Willows

2015 Grey Crowned Crane family hatched on The Willows

In February 2012 David called to say their neighbour on the other side wanted him to come and look at a strange bird on her lawn. When we got there, we found a day-old crane chick, which had somehow made its way from the nesting site through thick vegetation into the garden. David took the chick home overnight, feeding it ProNutro (chocolate flavour!). Tanya Smith of the EWT collected the bird the next morning and “Bossy-Boston” is now living at the Hlatikulu Crane Centre.

Tanya Smith and Bossy

Tanya Smith and Bossy

It was David’s idea to extend the listing of sightings on a monthly basis to all fauna and flora– an idea that was later adopted by the Midlands Conservancies Forum. When the Boston Conservancy ceased to operate on a formal basis in about 2008, David began compiling a list of sightings which he distributed to the locals. He would keep an ear out at gatherings at the Country Club or elsewhere for any interesting snippets. We firmly believe that David’s gentle badgering of people for their observations had led to an increased interest in the environment and a greater awareness of the need for the conservation of special areas.

Twané Clarke of the Karkloof Conservancy said: “David was an inspiration to all who had the delight in meeting him. His Boston Sightings newsletter was a monthly highlight to our inbox, and his dedication certainly paid off by encouraging other Conservancies to start taking inventory of what they were seeing too. These monthly sighting contributions are now being enjoyed by thousands of people in over 136 different countries worldwide. He was a team player and embraced the concept of Conservancies working together and motivating each other. We will miss him and his cheerful encouragement, but his legacy will live on.”

CREW: Barbara, Christeen and David in Impendle

CREW: Barbara, Christeen and David in Impendle

After retiring for the second time (first as a professor of accountancy, and then from dairy farming) he and Barbara spent more time pursuing their interest in wildflowers, and many happy hours were spent in the veld looking at plants and recording them for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW).

Isabel Johnson of the Botanical Society of S.A. said: “He was a special person. I will always remember how much fun we had looking for special plants at Edgeware, Impendle, Mount Ashley and so many other places. His great patience and good humour when I dragged him off on immensely boring grassland surveys. He was a fantastic ecological spy and gave us many helpful early warnings of what was happening in the Boston community and district. His monthly species reports have been an inspiration to a number of conservancies. David’s contributions to conservation were of huge value and will always be valued. I will miss him.

David and Barbara on Mt Edgeware in Boston

David and Barbara on Mt Edgeware in Boston

He began accompanying me on outings to do atlasing for the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) and soon became hooked on birding. The Clulows and I had several adventures while exploring the areas between Boston and Bulwer, one involving a flat tyre which might be better not to repeat here. There are still a few pentads with a lack of data that we were planning to tackle soon. I don’t relish the prospect of doing it on my own. We also took part in the annual Cape Parrot count in the Boston area for the University of KZN. Sadly, on the last two counts we did, there were no parrots to report.

Cape Parrot count Nhlosane Ridge 2013

Cape Parrot count iNhlosane Ridge 2013

On a personal level I treasure the friendship between the Clulow and Wilson families over many years as neighbours. We received support and encouragement in many ways. I admired David’s enthusiasm for life, strong belief in justice and sharp sense of humour. He will be sorely missed.

Notice:
David Arthur Clulow, 2.10.37 to 28.10.2015. Husband of Barbara, father of Alistair and Megan, Suzie and Jared, much loved gramps of Noah, Fynn, Hannah and Nathan, brother of Jean and Sheila, passed away peacefully.
Memorial service at Gramarye, Farm 309 on the Everglades Rd, Boston, at 14h00 on Thursday 5 November. Open house at Clulow home in Amber Ridge on 11 November, 10h30 – 16h00.
In lieu of flowers suggest donations to the Endangered Wildlife Trust.