Tag Archives: crowned cranes

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – November 2014

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Pat Cahill

Usually one visits a bird hide to watch birds, but on a visit to the Gartmore Hide last month, I found this dead fish on the boardwalk about twenty metres from the water. An authority on birds (Roberts non-field guide)  suggests that this is the result of the Kingfishers practice of beating their prey on a branch to stun it and to orient it so that it goes down the birds throat headfirst. The practice was started by Kingfishers in South America to avoid swallowing an active piranha!

1 - Nov 2014My theory though is that it was cast up by a mini tsunami caused by tectonic activity under the Karkloof. I read  recently that the Great Rift Valley is expanding, and eventually the land   between the valley and the East Coast of Africa will eventually become an island. If you extrapolate a line down from the Great Rift Valley, you will find that it passes through Gartmore, so we may perhaps one day be able to divorce ourselves from the Government’s corruption and declare the Island Republic of KZN!

I often see Pied Kingfishers at both hides with three being the maximum I have seen together. This group of females (Could this be a “Hen’s Party”) surprised me as they flew off in unison and hovered over the pan in fairly close formation returning to this perch several times before flying off .

2 - Nov 2014Canoodling Cranes on Loskop Pan! This pair of Grey Crowned Cranes was seen getting friendly on Loskop recently obeying the urges of Spring!

3 - Nov 2014When I parked my car at the path to the Gartmore Hide I saw an African Fish-Eagle perched in the tree closest to the hide. Thinking I had a chance to get really close to it, I moved slowly along the path, taking a picture every 3 metres. They really do have “eagle eyes” and this was as close as I could get!

4 - Nov 2014Anyone who has raised children knows how demanding they can be. Pity the poor avian mothers though who don’t have the convenience of bottles or dummies to pop into babies’ mouths to shut them up. This White-throated Swallow was seen at the Crowned Crane Hide on Gartmore Pan. One can imagine the chick on the left screeching “Feed ME, Feed ME”, whilst mother sticks her beak halfway down the throat of the sibling! Both of the bird hides have several swallow nests under the eaves, and there is much activity around them with parents busy feeding their offspring.

5 - Nov 2014Chick Chat – Pat Cahill

Twané feels that as Karkloof residents are an extended family, everyone should have a vicarious share in the joys of being guardians to two Robin-Chatchiks! Providing accommodation in a public bathroom for a family of Cape Robin-Chats is quite a responsibility.

When the eggs first appeared in the nest, I was worried that loo users would disturb the nest.  My fears were groundless though – whilst incubating the eggs, the parents always made a beeline for the open window as soon as anyone walked in the door.  I don’t think that many people who saw it actually realised that it was a nest, thinking that it was part of a dried arrangement from the vase with which it shares the shelf.

6 - Nov 2014Eventually balls of skin and bone and fluff emerged with eyes closed and beak permanently gaping!

7 - Nov 2014After a multitude of flights by the parents between the loo and the worm garden, their eyes eventually opened and they started looking more like chicks.  8 - Nov 2014A diet of insects seems to contain some secret growth hormone, as it seemed to be a few weeks and their feathers started forming from fluff.

9 - Nov 2014We weren’t there to witness their first flying lessons, but Twané went in one morning for their daily check-up and found the nest empty.  She heard a faint chirping coming from the rubbish bin and found a chick inside it.  Obviously the chick had decided that “litter” wasn’t the collective term just for baby pigs, but also applied to birds! It must have landed on the swing lid of the bin, which swung down, precipitating junior into the bag.

10 - Nov 2014Thank you Twané for your daring rescue.  Since then the chicks have been seen regularly around (and inside) the office, each with a parent, learning to forage for themselves.

The nest is now standing empty and management has decided  to put it on the market to be let.  It has been put into the care of Wakefields Estate Agency.  The rent is egg-otiable and includes lights and water with an en suite toilet.

11 - Nov 2014Glassworks/Old Pine Cabin – Shaun and Peta Crookes

If you have a Goldfish Pond, beware of uninvited guests who may take it as being an open buffet, like this Black-headed Heron seen fishing at the Crookes’ goldfish pond. The picture solved the mystery of where their goldfish were disappearing to. They have subsequently covered their pond with some netting to protect the remaining few.

12 - Nov 2014A highlight is this sighting the Midlands Dwarf Chameleon – it’s not always easy spotting these quirky       reptiles. Living along the edge of the indigenous Mistbelt forest certainly has its benefits. “Many chameleon species are endangered due to loss of habitat and the international pet trade. By conserving forests and woodlands, and protecting the grasslands that they need to survive in nature, we contribute to the health of entire ecosystems“(http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/madaboutc.php). Thanks Peta and Shaun for sharing this great sighting with us!

14 - Nov 2014Baboon in the Karkloof – UCL and Sappi Foresters

This male Baboon was seen on the Sappi camera trap earlier this year, after presumably being kicked out by the members of its troop and taking refuge in the tranquil forests and plantations of the Karkloof hills. Outcast baboons can be quite aggressive, and unfortunately it was killed by homestead dogs after a possible territorial dispute (not poaching). A big thank you to Edward Naidoo of UCL and Dave Everard of Sappi for supplying the photos and information.

15 - Nov 201416 - Nov 2014

Boston Wildlife Sightings for September

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Lovely sighting of Cape Batis


A surprise sighting in September was a Great Egret from a distance at a small farm dam in Boston. I haven’t encountered this species during the past seven years of atlasing in the area and the data showed only three previous records for the bird.


Another bird which has been somewhat scarce was Bronze Mannikin and it was good to welcome back Dark-capped Warblers from their coastal winter sojourn. On Melrose I counted about 80 Grey Crowned Cranes in a floater flock, which hints at a good breeding season.

IMG_0594_Grey Crowned Crane

At Tillietudlem I had a great view of a Black Crake exercising its balancing skills


and on the way home saw a buck which might have been an Oribi in the plantations on Good Hope.


It was amusing to watch a Cape Sparrow doing “shadow boxing” in a window at home. This occurs when a bird defends its territory by fighting its own reflection. A student, Joel Roerig, is doing research into this phenomenon and would like people to record their observations on his website: http://shadowboxingbirds.wordpress.com/ Please make a note of the bird, type of reflective surface and if possible the GPS co-ordinates.


The SABAP2 list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Wattled Crane, African Hoopoe, Giant Kingfisher, African Black Duck, Alpine Swift, Pied Crow, Cape Glossy Starling, African Fish-Eagle, Forest Canary, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Great Egret, Three-banded Plover, Buff-streaked Chat, Jackal Buzzard, African Black Swift, Common Waxbill, House Sparrow, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Canary, Hamerkop, Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Bronze Mannikin, Cape Weaver, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Brown-throated Martin, Little Grebe, African Darter, Red necked Spurfowl,


Southern Red Bishop, Cape Longclaw, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Batis, African Harrier-Hawk, Cape Crow, Black-headed Heron, Bokmakierie, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-knobbed Coot, Fork-tailed Drongo, Yellow-billed Duck, Black-headed Oriole, Reed Cormorant, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-billed Quelea, Cape White-eye, Yellow-billed Kite, Yellow-fronted Canary, Helmeted Guineafowl, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Wagtail, White-throated Swallow, Long-crested Eagle, Drakensberg Prinia,


Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Rail, Black Saw-wing, African Sacred Ibis, African Stonechat, African Spoonbill,


Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose,


Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Fiscal, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Hadeda Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Village Weaver.

Rory and Sue Brighton – Elandsvlei

Mother Otter amd 4 young gambolling for the delight of guests at the dam; two resident Bushbuck at edge of dam; two resident African Fish-Eagles put on display of flying above dam and calling for half an hour – they ignored the attempts by Cape Crows to dive-bomb them; also Yellow-billed Ducks on dam; Cape Wagtails on lawn at edge of dam

David and Barbara Clulow during visit to Boston – on 5 September, saw Floater Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes at midday and again at 16H08 on pastures on Melrose farm, not far from farmhouse. Impossible to count accurately, but estimated at between 70 and 80 birds. Visit to Melrose dam: African Shelduck; Egyptian Geese; Spur-winged Geese; Darter; Reed Cormorant; African Stonechat; Red-knobbed Coot; Little Grebe.

Other reports – of a pair of Wattled Cranes seen by Wendy Arnott in Boston View region; two Southern Ground Hornbills seen by Wendy Arnott on Keswick; Blue Cranes heard by Crystelle Wilson north of Elvesida and Grey Crowned Cranes spotted in flight.

David and Wizz Lawrence – The Willows – huge flocks of Village Weavers at the feeder.

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

September continued to be very dry. After several promising clouds, misty days and dry thunderstorms eventually in the last few days of September we eventually had about 17mm of rain.

04 Morning mist

Fires glowing on the horizon, SAPPI and Mondi fire-fighting units on visible standby, created a taut atmosphere.

05 Promise of rain (1)

Spring flowers continued to be sparse and stunted. Moraeas are starting to produce buds and greening started almost as soon as the rain fell. Agapanthus africanus is flowering more profusely than usual damper years, the conditions must suit it better. The small patch of Helicrysum caespititium have flowered, though the mat forming plants are reduced in circumference.

Plant Helicrysum caespititium

Moths are starting to appear.

Insect Moth

I love the colour of the Red-lined Emerald Heterorachis devocata.

Insect Moth Red-lined Emerald Heterorachis devocata

A bright green flashing glow in a dark corner, turned out to be a female Glow worm. Family: Lampyridae, Genus: Luciola They have no wings or eltrya. Please excuse the grainy photo, I didn’t want to use a flash, as that would have wiped out the neon green ‘glow’!

Insect Female Glow worm

Cape White-eyes, Bulbuls, Cape Robin-Chats, Cape Sparrows, Cape Canaries, Fork-tailed Drongos,

Boston_0542_Fork-tailed Drongo

Sunbirds: Southern Collared, Amythest and a Malachite, which was still growing summer plummage and Southern Boubous were very vocal and visible around the house.  Red-collared Widowbirds are still in the process of growing their summer plumage. Long-crested Eagles, Jackal Buzzards and Black-shouldered Kites soar overhead. The Striped Swallows are back, first seen on the 29 September, swooping low with their familiar treep-treep calls. The special this month was a sighting of the Black-backed Puffback displaying its snowy white ‘puff’. He wasn’t really interested in a photo shoot, moving constantly through the branches.

Bird Black-backed Puffback 03

Pom-pom Puffback



rap style

courtship dance…

July 2005

Bird Black-backed Puffback 02

Black-backed Jackal call in the evenings. Common Reedbuck come close to the house to feed, a lovely sighting of a mature male sauntering along the fence. Duikers have completely pruned all the leaves off violets in the flower bed next to the house. The little Climbing Mouse that had taken up residence during the colder months seems to have migrated outdoors again, no sign of it inside for the past few weeks.

02 September grasses

Future development in the Boston area of the Smithfield dam. This dam is proposed for  the uMkomaas river in 15 years time – since the scoping has been done, and the impact on Boston is significant, it is a hot topic. The situation in the Deepdale valley is well known to older Bostonians and its position on the fringes of the Impendle Nature Reserve, above the old rail bridge, provides real threats, but also opportunities to encompass the dam edges in the ambit of the Reserve, so providing protection from human interference. In general, the creation of dams to provide water for human population spread is flawed, as the water inflows are uncertain, silting is enormous and the damage to the environment likely. Desalinization of sea water to provide cities with potable water is the likely future, but at present the availability of electricity for these plants is a stumbling block. When potable water becomes urgent enough a way will be found. By then the usefulness of the many KZN dams will no doubt be over, but the rivers and estuaries will have been irreparably damaged. And then there is the Impendle dam in 25 years time, which is proposed on the same river.

Pennington’s Protea: this rare Butterfly, the Capys penningtoni, is found only on Bulwer Mountain or high ridges, such as Lundy’s Hill near the uMkomaas Valley in grassland, and that only between mid-September and early November; Larval food – the buds of Protea caffra. Photo with acknowledgement, from Steve Woodhall’s comprehensive “Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa”, showing upperside and underside. Do you know of any Protea caffra trees in your area? Not to be confused with the Protea Scarlet or Russet Protea – rather similar.

penningtons protea



Boston Wildlife Sightings – August

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

We have had a very dry, mild to hot August, unusually for this time of year, almost wind free. That was until the last weekend, on the 29 August it was bitterly cold with snow flurries that didn’t settle, but the Drakensberg had a dusting, glimpsed between moving clouds; then wild wind for two days.

2014 08 29 Snow

Spring flowers have been sparse. There were fewer ragged Anemone fanninii flowers on our hillside and quickly ravaged by the wind, as were Apodiolirion buchananii. Ledebouria obvatifolia have flourished, bright purple spots of colour between the rocks.

Plant Ledebouria obvatifolia

Cyrtanthus tuckii bravely fly red flags.

Plant Cyrtanthus tuckii

Pale pink confetti of Dimorphotheca jucunda daisies shine on dry ground.

Plant Dimorphotheca jucunda

One hive of activity is the winter remains of Rocket in the vegetable garden. Bees, Cape Canaries and Striped Mice feast on the flowers and seeds.

Insect Bee

Mammal Striped Mouse

Bird Cape Canaries

The Leucosidea sericera and Halleria lucida flowers also still attracted many insects, Carpenter bees, Bees, Ants and Ladybirds.

Insect Ladybird on Ouhout

Cape White-eyes, Bulbuls, Cape Robin-Chats and Southern Boubous enjoy the bird bath. A Malachite Sunbird and Red-collared Widowbirds are in the process of growing their summer plumage. Amethyst Sunbirds busily gather cobwebs for new nests. The first Yellow-billed Kite of the season joined the Long-crested Eagles and Jackal Buzzards soaring overhead.

Black-backed Jackal call in the evenings. Common Reedbuck come close to the house to feed. Sadly we found an adult Serval lying dead, with no apparent cause on the driveway early on 21 August as we drove out before dawn. When we returned the next evening all evidence of it had gone.2014 08 Frost

Barry and Kirsten Cromhout – Highland Glen

Single Cape Vulture flying above; African (Ethiopian) Snipe in a ; Denham’s Bustard.

Rory and Sue Brighton – Elandsvlei

Pair of Fish-Eagles on the dam for the last month. What a lovely cry to hear first thing every morning.

Trevor Scheepers – Lapa Lapa

While visiting at “Four Gates” farm, saw a single Southern Ground Hornbill

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen

Pair of Common Reedbuck lying outside garden fence and watching activities

David and Wizz Lawrence – The Willows

Single Grey Duiker, seen often outside garden fence in field.

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Yellow-billed Kites are often regarded as the harbingers of spring when they return from overwintering in Africa north of the equator. I saw my first YBK on 26 July near Ashburton, Pietermaritzburg, when Boston was still very much in the grip of fierce frosts. Winter birding was still slow with low numbers, but it is easier to see forest birds with less foliage on the trees. I was pleased with finding a Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler Boston_9189_Yellow-throated-Woodland-Warbler

and Swee Waxbill at Norwood forest in the Boston pentad, as well as seeing some swifts making a return.


The list for pentad 2940_3000 were: Alpine Swift, Greater Striped Swallow, Rock Martin, Terrestrial Brownbul, Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Forest Canary,


Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Olive-Pigeon, Olive Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Apalis,

Boston_9154_Yellow-breasted-Apalis Swee Waxbill, Sombre Greenbul, African Firefinch, Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-fronted Canary, Little Swift, African Black Swift, Southern Boubou, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Red-throated Wryneck, African Harrier-Hawk,


Speckled Mousebird, Black-headed Oriole, Pied Crow, Black Sparrowhawk, Jackal Buzzard, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Moorhen, African Sacred Ibis, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, South African Shelduck, House Sparrow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Fiscal, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat,


Fan-tailed Widowbird, Hamerkop, Reed Cormorant, Cape Wagtail, Cape Crow, White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Glossy Starling, Long-crested Eagle, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron,

Boston_9317_Black-headed Heron

Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Cape Sparrow, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, Drakensberg Prinia, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Bokmakierie, Cape Longclaw, Red-necked Spurfowl, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, African Rail, Olive Thrush.

In the Elandshoek pentad I saw a Secretarybird between Kia Ora and Boston View and hope that they will breed this year in the area that Rob Geldart had pointed out to me.


The list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_300: African Harrier-Hawk, Red-throated Wryneck, Red-billed Quelea, Giant Kingfisher, Black-headed Oriole, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Black Tit,


Southern Red Bishop, Red-knobbed Coot, Black Sparrowhawk, African Pipit, Red-capped Lark, Fan-tailed Widowbird, White-breasted Cormorant, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Speckled Pigeon, Amethyst Sunbird, Wattled Crane, Sombre Greenbul, Cape White-eye, Cape Batis, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat, Bokmakierie, Malachite Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Three-banded Plover,


Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Reed Cormorant, Jackal Buzzard, Brown-throated Martin, Cape Wagtail, Common Fiscal, Cape Crow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Rail, Cape Longclaw, Speckled Mousebird, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck, Olive Thrush, Blacksmith Lapwing, Grey Crowned Crane, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Hadeda Ibis, Drakensberg Prinia, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Sacred Ibis, Red-necked Spurfowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Boubou.

David Clulow, while visiting Boston on 11 August:
Between 10 am and 11 am overlooking Melrose dam


African Fish-Eagle circling overhead; Egyptian Geese; Huge flock of flying yellow-billed Ducks; Spurwing Geese; lots of African Shelduck on water; Little Grebe; Reed Cormorant; Common Moorhen; White-breasted Cormorant; Blacksmith Lapwing; Sacred Ibis; African Stonechat; Common Fiscal; African Darter.

DSCF2643African Darter

On leaving the dam: Brown-throated Martin; Yellow-billed Kite; many Pied Crows; Cape Crows; Jackal Buzzard; Cape Turtle-Dove; Hadedah Ibis; and in garden at “The Willows”: many Village Weavers; Cape Sparrow; House Sparrow; Cape Weaver; Red-billed Quelea; in silage pit -Helmetted Guineafowl.

Driving by “Kampoko”:

Three Grey Crowned Cranes feeding near R617

DSCF2677Three Grey Crowned Cranes

Question for Bostonians and well-wishers of Impendle Nature Reserve:

What will the plans for Smithfield dam, downstream the uMkomaas river from the R617, in the old Deepdale valley; and the Impendle dam upstream from the R617 have as an impact on these two places?      

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – July

If you like your birds rare, you should either undercook them or come to the Karkloof Conservation Centre to see our Southern Ground-Hornbill. Twané arrived at the office recently to find it strutting around the parking area.


She had obviously heard about the excellent hides and wanted to check them out. We followed her down the avenue whilst I (Pat Cahill) took too many shots of her.

July Sightings 2

Just outside the frame of this picture by Priscilla Maartens from the Wattled Crane Hide are several large centre pivots, which at the end of a dry winter are kept busy irrigating the fields surrounding the pan. Despite this, there are two endangered species visible. A picture she took shortly after this included some Blue Cranes! Priscilla counted up to 56 Grey-crowned Cranes,

July Sightings 3

4 Blue Cranes and 2 Wattled Cranes in one afternoon.

July Sightings 4

Working at the Conservation Centre has definite advantages. Twané was able to capture this shot of two African Fish Eagles exchanging ‘high fives’ recently.

July Sightings 5

The bird list issued free to visitors is not cast in stone and is updated when necessary. The next revision will include a previously unreported newcomer to the Valley. This Peregrine Falcon, along with a partner, recently made an appearance. Fortunately when Twané was holding a camera.

July Sightings 6

The pair were seen harassing a juvenile Jackal Buzzard on Loskop side and subsequently started chasing some lapwings as well.

July Sightings 7

Another new species officially added to the list, but not a first time sighting, is a Pied Starling. A large flock were seen feeding in the field behind the Gartmore hide amongst the cattle and raiding the feeding troughs. I photographed one in November 2010.


A lonely Samango monkey has been relaxing in the Plane trees above our Picnic Site. It has been a fun sighting for the kids, as he has been visible thanks to the bare wintry trees.

July Sightings 9

Sappi Karkloof – Dr. David Everard  There have been 2 camera trap recordings of a Honey Badger in different plantations within the Karkloof region.

July Sightings 10

Dave mentioned that they have now recorded about 30 different large mammal species within the Sappi plantations in KZN, which is pretty remarkable. He regularly adds this information to the Animal Demographic Unit’s Virtual Museum, which is a wonderful way for conservation enthusiasts to contribute photographic sightings and become citizen scientists.

Some exciting news is that Sappi have discovered that there are Brown Hyena in the Karkloof. They have had several recordings in a number of places within the same plantation and Dave wonders if there is more than one or if there is one that enjoys having its photograph taken.

July Sightings 11

Another very note-worthy record, not quite from the Karkloof, is a Side-striped Jackal that was recorded near Cumberland Nature Reserve. Dave remarks that this is way out of its normal range making this information extremely valuable.

Bartersfield – Ren and Britt Stubbs

In the early morning of the 23 July 2014, Ren Stubbs had a sighting of a Serval running on his farm while   surveying his land from a helicopter. That same day, in the mid-morning, Britt and Ren were driving along the dirt road towards Curry’s Post, where they had a sighting of the female Southern Ground-Hornbill.

Connemara – Mike Benson

Mike Benson sent in this excellent photograph of a Scrub Hare which he took on the 24 July 2014. They are a common species, however people rarely get a chance to photograph them due to their speedy getaway and nocturnal behaviour. They are solitary animals, but can reach high densities in many areas. Although normally associated to woodland and bush cover, they have adapted fairly well to cultivated land as well.

July Sightings 12

Mist-netting at Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson

Karin set up her nets on the 18 July 2014 and caught 40 birds, with 5 of these being re-traps. She was impressed with the birdlife that was present in winter and was thrilled to catch 2 x Black Crake in her spring traps. The photo shows the juvenile/sub-adult that was caught and ringed.

July Sightings 13

She also ringed the first Cape Canary at Gartmore since starting in 2010. Other birds that were caught included: 2 x African Stonechat, 3 x Red-billed Quelea, 3 Fan-tailed Widowbirds, 3 x Yellow-fronted Canaries, 4 x Southern Red Bishops, 5 x Levaillant’s Cisticola and 17 x Village Weavers.

Ground-Hornbill News

As you can see, we have had sightings of the lonely female Southern Ground-Hornbill pouring in. We would like to thank you all for taking the time to let us know. The information we receive is invaluable and helps us understand her movements within the Karkloof valley.

Liesl Jewitt sent us this fun picture of her which was taken on Friday, 4 July 2014, on Mizpah Farm Retreat by Kyra Naude, a recent student horse professional volunteer. She was being followed by a group of Guinea Fowl, no doubt muttering to them about the problem of being a vulnerable species in the Karkloof with a terrible shortage of eligible males!  She was spotted that same afternoon by Liesl, but was a little further from where she was in the morning.

July Sightings 14

On the afternoon of 15 July 2014, Bruce MacKenzie had a sighting of her near the Karkloof Country Club and managed to take this clear photo of her with his phone. This was extremely useful, as his phone took a GPS reading and added it to the photograph’s properties. Thumbs up for modern technology and smart phones!

July Sightings 15

Thank you to everyone who sent in pictures and stories. We’ve had surprisingly good sightings in spite of the cold weather. Digital photography has certainly added a new dimension to bird watching and makes it much easier to share your experience and to identify unknown birds when you take the images home to consult your reference books.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – July

Most of the icy fingers of winter have passed us by here in the Dargle, with a few cold days appearing here and there. Lots of frosty mornings over the last month yielded some great photos from those whose fingers didn’t freeze before releasing the camera trigger button!

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

We counted 36 Eland in one herd, on our farm in the morning of 12th July. As I did not have my camera with me I do not have proof.  I did capture frost on colourful leaves.

Frost on colorful leaves at Wakecroft

Icy feet in one of the Wakecroft streams.

Icy feet in one of the Wakecroft streams.

Frozen watercress at Wakecroft stream.

Frozen watercress at Wakecroft stream.

‘Ice flowers’ in our pond

ice flowers

Tom and Lucinda Bate – Inversanda

We have seen a family of 6 bush pig on two occasions and 2 porcupines escorted us down our drive last night. Much to our relief a duiker has returned to our garden having been absent for a few months.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Once again, I have enjoyed the subtle colours, the little surprises and the birds so close to my cottage as everything struggles for survival in this dry season. The forests are topped with copper curls of the Dalberghia laden with seeds.

J dalberghia

The edges are strung with yellow Gnidia

J gnidia

and the sweet fragrance of Buddleja in full bloom. Both B. auriculata

J buddleja auriculata

and the faded mauve, B. saligna

J buddleja saligna

Under the canopy it is pretty dry, but Halleria lucida can be counted on to provide some succour for the birds.

J halleria

Winter is the nicest time to walk in the grasslands, as the animal paths are easy to follow and there are firebreaks to explore.

J cussionia firebreak

In recently burnt bits, the cheery Cyrtanthus breviflorus has already poked through the charcoal,

J cyrthanthus breviflorus

While in old grass, silvery Helichysum sparkle.

J helichrysum

Tiny pools of water reflect the husks of Themeda triandra and provide much needed moisture for wildlife.

J themeda in pool

Stone chats flit from rock to rock,

J stone chat on rock

Greyia sutherlandii are flowering already – glorious coral splashes against the blue sky.

J greyia

I do like this time of year.

J winter grass inhlosane

Benn Meadhon

Neville, Hayley and Damien van Lelyveld observed wildlife on Iain Sinclair’s property: Benn Meadhon over the weekends of 12th-13th and 19th-20 July

The weekend of the 12th had day time temperatures of 21°C with a night temp of -4°C on the Saturday night and wind speeds of around 5km/hr. the weekend of the 19th had similar weather conditions with day temps. Of 18°C and night temps of 0°C with wind speeds of approximately 45km/hr.

Oribi During both visits the Oribi were seen. On the weekend of the 12th 5 were seen and on the weekend of the 19th on the Saturday morning all 8 were seen just after sunrise.

Bush Buck During the weekend of the 12th no bush buck was seen however on the weekend of the 19th 4 were sighted by the bottom carrot fields near the Dargle River 2 does and 2 Rams. There was a distinct absence of Bush buck by the cross road but this is probably due to the felling of the Grahame forest next to your forest in which the bush buck used to live. The logging activity would also have a large effect on the bush buck that used to live in this area. We did investigate the open area in your new forest above the shed and there was evidence of recent activity in the form of sleeping areas that were visible, however no actual bush buck were seen. There was also evidence in the form of reasonably fresh bush buck scat in this area. There is also a lot of bush buck scat down near the bottom of the bottom carrot fields near the Dargle River. This is however expected due to the fairly regular sightings of Bushbuck in this area.

Reedbuck During the weekend of the 12th we saw 27 Reedbuck while during the weekend of the 19th we saw and counted 33 Reedbuck. There are a lot of very young Reedbuck and there appears to have been a breeding explosion between the Reedbuck most of the youngsters are of a similar age and all appear to be healthy and all the Reedbuck in general seem to be a lot more relaxed than previously noticed during our last few visits since the poaching episode. There has been a marked difference in their behaviour and they have seemed to have once again started to tame down and particular during the weekend of the 19th we were able to get quite close to many of them to observe them with out and undue stress caused. They would acknowledge our presence by lifting the head from grazing and then just continue to graze again. This was very pleasing to see since for the last few months we have not been able to get within a hundred metres of them before they would run for cover. Based on the comparisons of the counts made on the weekend of the 12th compared to the counts done on the weekend of 19th I would say the count of 27 to 30 reedbuck would be fairly accurate. Many of the original resident families like the ones near the cross roads and the ones that live in the vlei by the maize paddocks are still there. It was also pleasing to see how much the little one from the family that lives by the cross roads has grown up into quite a good looking young ram. Many of the Reedbuck does appear to be pregnant.

Grey duiker On the weekend of the 12th we saw 17 grey duiker however during the weekend of the 19th we only saw 5. We did however concentrate on a different area of the farm during the weekend of the 19th. Nearly every female duiker seen was pregnant, This is great news.

Marsh Mongoose During the visit of the 12th a single well fed marsh mongoose was seen by the “Y” junction. During previous visits we have only seen his tracks so it was quite a treat to actually see it during this visit. It was in a very good condition.

Bush pigs Once again there were no signs of any Bush pigs or bush pig activity anywhere on the farm.

Porcupine No porcupines were seen however there is a lot evidence of porcupine activity.

Jackals We did not see any jackals during either weekend however there is a lot of evidence of Jackal activity on the farm. During both Saturday nights there was a lot of Jackals calling. A lot of Jackal tracks are very evident all over the farm. There are still a lot of jackals following duikers, the fact that most of the female duiker that can be see appear to be pregnant. This explains why the jackals are following them.

Antbear During the weekend of the 12th we spent a lot of time walking the back Jackal paddock and where surprised to come across an ant bear hole near the boundary where the jackal paddock meets Hanbury’s maize paddock. He has also been very active according to the tracks in the area. This was an amazing find.

Blue Crane Several blue cranes were seen during both weekends.

Spurwing Geese The Spurwing geese presence on the farm has increased dramatically over the last few months to the point that during both weekend we saw a flock of about 10 birds. They seem to be roosting on the old maize paddocks.

Egyptian Geese

The Egyptian geese population on the farm has also increased over last few months which were also very pleasing. Several flocks of several geese can be seen flying around almost all day

Herons Several Herons were seen all over the farm during this weekend.

Guinea Fowl It is pleasing that the guinea fowl population has increased dramatically over the last few months. During both weekends we saw a flock of some 50 birds. This is the most we have seen in many years.

Francolin During the visit of 2th several Natal and Red Necked francolins were seen. On the 20th just as we were leaving through the Umgeni gate we had the privilege of watching a natal francolin mother with her 6 little chicks behind her cross the main tar road. The chicks were no more than about 2 inches high. This probably a once in a life time sighting. The good news however is that they are successfully breeding. Their numbers on the farm have increased over the last few years. The sighting of the Red Necked francolins was the first that we have observed on the farm.

Pigeons Although there are some pigeon around in the form of Rameron and doves there is not as much as what would be expected. Most of the pigeon are small juveniles with a distinct absence of the larger adults. This is a little concerning; however from a slightly different point of view at least they do seem to be breeding. There does not seem to be a major lack of food around for them so one can only assume that maybe te farm is being used as a breeding ground for them rather than a feeding area which must be somewhere else I the near facinity.

Owls A few owls where seen during both visits however we could not identify them accurately as they flew up before they could be identified accurately.

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

This is an old porcupine hole that is now been used by butterflies. We noticed this hole in May when we were there but didn’t have a camera with us. They are actually breeding in this hole and living in it like a cave. They were very dark blue and black in colour. Very interesting. (Note from Nikki: I have seen this phenomenon on Old Kilgobbin before – I think they are Gaudy Commodore butterflies – spectacular to watch)

gaudy commodore cave

 Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The fire breaks in Dargle (as well as the ones that got away) have turned quite a bit of the valley an ugly black. But, finally we are starting to see new life appearing and some wonderful colours in amongst the ashes of the old.

yellow daisy in burnt veld

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm

On a cold overcast day, Pat said there were 5 crowned cranes, 2 adults with 3 youngsters, on lower part of farm.  I grabbed my camera and off we went trying to find them.  They saw us coming and flew off.  For an hour we kept following them and eventually we decided to walk so as not to disturb them, but again before I could take a nice shot of them on the ground they flew off.  Just managed a few pics of them flying.

five crowned cranes in flight

Pat saw a starred robin. I decided to try photographing our Black sparrow hawks this month.  They have been using the same nest for 3 years now.  Pat had seen the female catching doves and also an egret, so we presumed there were youngsters to feed.  The task was difficult as the light was not great.  The nest is in a gum plantation. Its in the fork of a eucalyptus tree (gum) about 25 metres high.  Hit pay dirt with my first shot – mom feeding a baby.  The females are rapacious hunters and weigh about 1kg while the males are smaller and rufous coloured.

Blsck sparrow hawk feeding baby

Dad seemed to spend a lot of time guarding the nest and one afternoon, while sitting beneath the tree, I saw him bending up and down as if feeding the youngster.  Mom would sit in a tree nearby giving her “keeeu” call ending with a short “blip”. A few days later while taking pics, a 2nd youngster suddenly appeared.

.Dad spent a lot of time guarding the nest while mom was the rapacious hunterThereafter, they  seemed to enjoy peering at me from above.  On 26th July, while watching the 2 youngsters, now so grown up, first one flew off and then the other followed.

Suddenly after 2 weeks of taking snaps, discovered there was a 2nd baby!They shrieked with  delight. This was the first time I had seen them fly, so not sure how old they would be.  The nest is very deep, so this is why I never saw them when they were very young.  Not sure when they start hunting for themselves.  Will keep watching them to see what happens.These 2 youngsters grew so quickly.  Just after this snap they both flew off squealing in delight

Comment from Dr Ian Little of EWT: Just a quick clarification on Pat and Sandra Merrick’s wonderful sightings. With the Black Sparrowhawks. The Male is not rufous coloured, they were in fact looking at one of the juveniles, the male is the same colour as the female but smaller. He delivers food to the female to take to the nest and hence is not often seen at the nest.

Pat saw reedbuck mating and one morning 2 male oribi running flat out down the hill in a chase.

Checking to see if she's ready for mating.

I managed to get a few photos of the male reedbuck showing a lot of interest in a female, with her youngster standing close by, watching the action.e follows her, with youngster watching the action.

The reedbuck are now feeding off the green burn.  One evening there was our magnificent male with 2 females and 2 youngsters, and another day, captured 7 in a pasture at sunset.

The male reed buck showing lots of interest while the female becomes coy

Lots of duiker (male) around,  grazing during the day as well. Ian Little, EWT:  I would like appeal to all conservancy members who have Oribi on their properties to submit their survey forms in September, the form can be found at https://www.ewt.org.za/TGSP/oribi.html Or by request from jibam@ewt.org.za

.Male duiker early morning eating soya stova

Early one morning saw a gymnogene jumping up and down in the long grass.  He was stamping his prey but could not see what it was.

Gymnogene in long grass with prey

Broad leafed Coral tree before the frost arrived

Broad leafed Coral tree before the frost arrived

Some lovely sunsets this month with all the smoke from burns.

lovely sunsets this month

Our redthroated wryneck is still living in the hollow fence pole. Black headed Oriel

Black headed oriole

Our pair of sugar gurneys just love the bottle brush tree.  A few days ago while I was gardening, about 20 white eyes arrived in same tree. The gurneys did not like that and chased them away.  They sing all day long.  Lesser double-collared sunbird.

Lesser doublecollared sunbird.

One evening in the middle of July, while my grandsons were here, the owls starting making a big commotion on the roof.  Went on for an hour.  We have not heard or seen them since, so I guess they were having a farewell party!  I can now start cleaning the walls of our house!  A pair of orange throated longclaws appear each morning.

.Orange throated longclaw

Still a few sunbirds, chats, robins, olive thrush.  The rock pigeons are nesting once again in the chimney. Long crested eagle and jackal buzzard still around.  Heard the fish eagle.  A martial eagle flew over the house one morning.  I have a number of flowering boxes on my verandah, and this moth took advantage, feeding off the alyssum which is sweet smelling and seems to attract them.

this moth took advantage, feeding off the alyssum which is sweet smelling and seems to attract them

Remember to check the Dargle Facebook page for local news: https://www.facebook.com/dargle.kzn

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – June 2014

Karkloof Sightings are compiled by Pat Cahill.

Having spent a major portion of my life in The Wicked City (Johannesburg), it is such a pleasure to have migrated to a more pleasant environment. I now understand why birds return to the Karkloof every year! One bird which is a resident of the Karkloof Conservation Centre is Twané, who runs the office and performs many other tasks with a smile. We hope she doesn’t join the migratory avians any time soon! One advantage of her job is the amazing view from the office and the hides. The following pictures are some which she has taken recently.

For some time it seemed as if the African Fish-Eagles had abandoned the Karkloof, but now they’re back and we have been seeing a pair at the hides more regularly. 1

A Giant Kingfisher likes to perch in the taller branch at the Gartmore hide and is seen in the early mornings. 2

Black Crakes and African Snipe have become more prolific at the Gartmore hide and observant birders are assured of a sighting of both.


I have seen an otter many times in the past five years, but have never managed to capture more than an amorphous head in the distance; this Cape Clawless Otter, however, came out to greet Twané.5

All 3 Crane species have been seen daily. Usually a pair of Blue Cranes that are rather noisy and up to 47 Grey-Crowned Cranes. 6

We have had a family of 3 Wattled Cranes (2 parents and their offspring) make use of the pans at both hides. They are also seen in the surrounding fields. None have rings, so our blonde craniac, Tanya Smith, can’t positively identify them for us. You can notice how the youngster’s grey cap is starting to form.


Malcolm Robinson suggested that the Steppe Buzzard which was reported in last month’s Sightings was probably a juvenile Jackal Buzzard as the Steppe Buzzards should have left on their annual migration. We have had a lot of “teenage” Jackal Buzzards, as well as adults, around and we have not had a sighting of the Steppe Buzzard, nor any others that may have a similar resemblance. The Long-crested Eagles are also out in their droves and we have seen the African Marsh Harrier on many occasions. An African Harrier-Hawk was seen a few mornings in the field.

Karkloof Sappi MTB route – Matthew Drew

It is most gratifying to receive a fair number of sightings from locals. Matthew Drew has kindly forwarded some images supplied by Dr David Everard, Divisional Environmental Manager at Sappi Forests. Matthew is a keen cyclist and regularly rides the trails in the SAPPI plantations. Matthew has submitted a very comprehensive report, for which we are very grateful! These were taken by a camera trap on the 30km Karkloof MTB route over a 10 day period.


The camera trap was acquired by Sappi to survey what mammal species are found within plantations. Sappi’s foresters as well as the mountain bikers and trail runners who regularly access the plantations see many wildlife species.  The camera trap was specifically placed to record what was using the cycle track to move about these plantations.  David recorded the following species which are using the tracks to get about the plantations: Caracal, Serval, Black-backed Jackal, Porcupine, Bushpig, Bushbuck, Common Duiker and Common Reedbuck.


David was surprised, not only by the variety, but also by the frequency the tracks are used.  Some species were recorded every night.  Sappi has deployed cameras in a variety of sites across their plantations and have recorded about 20 species of mammals and in good numbers. This goes to show that plantations are definitely places many mammal species are able to survive in, and with healthy numbers.


My favourite pic is the one of the single Porcupine. No doubt on his way to forage somewhere, he is using the flow of the trail to gain some real momentum!


I often ride on my own through the plantations and I sometimes see between 5 – 10 antelope, and other wildlife in various parts of the Shafton and Demagtenburg areas. I have also come across a whole heap of bloody quills that must have resulted from a major fight between two Porcupine or perhaps death by a Leopard or Caracal.

Spitzkop farm – Nick and Tim Hancock

Tim Hancock had some new visitors on Spitzkop this last month – a Cape Rock-Thrush and a sweet little Malachite Kingfisher which is a delight for anyone to see.  It is always a good idea to keep a list of species that you have seen on your property. You will never know the extent of the biodiversity unless you take the time to record your sightings. Well done to the Hancocks for always keeping a keen eye out for new species to record!

Sightings at Mbona Private Nature Reserve

Peter and Ronnie Ritchie were privileged to watch this beautiful Brown-hooded Kingfisher “fish” for worms on their lawn whilst they had a lovely al fresco lunch outdoors. “Not to be outdone, he proceeded to find at least 10 juicy worms in our lawn and sat in the winter sun getting visibly fatter. He is a most appealing bird”.


Richard Booth reported that: “A Black Stork has been seen on a few occasions in the past two weeks on Mbona. Not new to our bird list, but not commonly seen”.

The Croxfords

Michael Croxford had a sightings of a Large-spotted Genet near their shed some time ago and supplied this great photo which he managed to take with his cellphone. The Large-spotted Genet has fairly large spots, usually rusty-brown in colour, and a dark brown or black-tipped tail. They are nocturnal and are certainly not fussy when it comes to food, as they feed on insects, small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds and other small mammals. It’s wonderful to know that we have such a diversity of creatures in the valley.


Ground-Hornbill news

Thank you to all who have been updating us on the whereabouts of the female Southern Ground-Hornbill. John Roff saw a Ground Hornbill flying across the Karkloof canopy tours section of forested valley early morning on 4th May this year. He also heard them calling regularly in the forest around Canopy tours. “The sounds do vary, but I don’t know if it is one or more. I think it or they are spending a bit of time near troops of Samango monkeys, as I often hear them together”.  Mike Benson managed to get a superb photograph of her when she made a visit to Connomara one day. Between Mike and Tony Matchett, we have been very well informed of her presence in this area and on this property.


How do we know it’s a lady? Notice the violet patch that breaks up the red on her neck, just below her beak. Males don’t have this patch, so their neck will be fully red.

Please keep your eyes open for her and any others that might be around and let us know about it so that we can pass this information on to the relevant people involved in the conservation of this endangered species.

Crane and Oribi Showdown

The 25 youngsters who attended the second meeting of the Beautiful Cranes Nature Club during May, had a real treat.

Picture 175

During the warm up games on the lawn, Ayanda Thwala spotted three Grey Crowned Cranes across the dam. Everyone was so excited and sharing the binoculars to get a better look.

Picture 165

Suddenly two Oribi came running towards where the cranes were. The cranes flapped their wings and would not allow the Oribi to pass them. The Oribi stood for a moment, then the cranes started to chase them! The Oribi didn’t go away, they kept running back towards the Cranes as if there was something they wanted to see! The kids were really enjoying the unusual scene and definitely understand why this place is called the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Sanctuary now.

Picture 167

“Wow, I have never seen a crane before” said Sisanda Ndlovu.

The next activity was trail interpretation. Before they set off KZNCF environmental education facilitator Nkanyiso Ndlela asked the kids what is expected to them while walking in the nature reserve. They replied – no loud noise, no running, no littering.

Picture 160

Nkanyiso writes: I advised them to look down for animal footprints/spoor and droppings/scats and also look in the sky for flying birds. As we walked, they identified things – grey crown crane, oribi, reedbuck and identified oribi scats and reed buck spoor.

Picture 170

The kids spotted a snake skin about 1m long in the grassland next to the dam. We discussed what type of snakes would be found in this grassland.

Picture 159

I asked the kids what they think the snake skin’s contribution to the environment is? They said it is waste and useless. I explained that a snake skin is actually food for insects, fertilizer for the soil, nest building material for birds and humans sometimes use snake skins for art activities.

Picture 157

Along the way the oribi scat was identified. I ask the kids what oribis eat. They knew it is grass and so I broke the scat open and we could see that it had grass in it. This provided an opportunity to talk about carnivores, herbivores and omnivores.

Picture 162

Kids loved using the binoculars to look far across the landscape. Three grey crown cranes were spotted again, foraging in the wetland with two ducks. They asked lots of questions about the different plants and birds we saw, it was good to see how curious they are about the environment.

Picture 164

After a long walk everyone felt tired, but still happy to chat about what they had liked and learnt this day. “I learnt about oribis and that they depend in grasslands to live” said Yolanda Ndlovu.  The Beautiful Cranes Nature Club was started with funds from the Midlands Conservancies Forum Environmental Learning and Leadership Project supported by N3Toll Concession.  They meet monthly at the KZN Crane Foundation headquarters in Nottingham Road.


Boston Wildlife Sightings – March 2014

Caroline McKerrow Stoney Hill one Bushbuck; one Duiker; two Common Reedbuck; one Vlei Rat; a Snake – presumed Boomslang?  This is a picture of snake inspecting the plumbing on outside of house.



Christeen Grant Sitamani I love this time of year when the heat of summer has abated; the weather settled to stunning days in golden sunshine and the mellowness of Autumn is creeping in. Many insects, including butterflies and moths, have been around. If anyone had been watching me stalk this tiny butterfly, about 25mm, over the lawn, they would have rolled around laughing! It did help though to post the photos on the Facebook group: Southern Africa Butterflies, Bugs, Bees and other small things, where Steve Woodhall gave me a possible ID: a female Common Zebra Blue, of the Leptotes genus; most likely to be Leptotes pirithous.

2014 03 Butterfly 01 Zebra Blue female

Zebra Blue female

Sharing, seeing and learning from a Facebook group is an unexpected pleasure. Excellent photos from all over Southern Africa are posted and friendly expert advice and ID’s offered, really quickly.

2014 03 Butterfly 02 Zebra Blue female Blue

Zebra Blue female Blue

Some of the other insect-life seen were: Grasshoppers;

2014 03 Insect 01



2014 03 Insect 02 Locust Heteracris

Locust Heteracris

a myriad of Beetles including some with amusing common names:

2014 03 Insect 03 Museum beetle

Museum beetle


2014 03 Insect 04 Stink bug

Stink bug


2014 03 Insect 05 Pleasing fungus beetle

Pleasing fungus beetle

and a fantastic diversity of fast moving Flies, one in particular of the Philoliche genus intrigued me!

2014 03 Insect 08 Fly Philoliche sp

Fly Philoliche sp

Three main flowers caught my eye, as they shone in numbers in the grassland: brilliant yellow swathes of Helichrysum cooperi;

2014 03 Plant 01 Helichrysum cooperi

Helichrysum cooperi

tall, graceful, Plectranthus calycinus;

2014 03 Plant 02 Plectranthus calycinus

Plectranthus calycinus

and the stunning, regal, Leonotis leonurus.

2014 03 Plant 03 Leonotis leonurus (1)

Leonotis leonurus

A variety of fungi appeared after rain, Boletus edulis growing under the Pin Oak avenue attracted Bush Pig, who literally ploughed up the earth in their eagerness to eat them!

2014 03 Fungi 01 Boletus edulis (1)

Boletus edulis

One early morning in half light I saw ‘big daddy’ Bush Pig sauntering off into the pine trees on Mount Shannon across from our gate, and on another morning driving out, really lovely sighting of the Caracal. Common Reed buck are round the house at night, resting on the hillside during the day. The Common Duiker love the Sweet Chestnuts that have fallen and can often be seen munching! Most evenings Black-backed Jackal call from the valley. An occasional visitor, the African Harrier-Hawk, swooped into the trees looking for fledglings. Dark-capped Bulbuls, Black-headed Orioles, Fork-tailed Drongos, Hadeda Ibises, Grey-headed Canaries, Cape Sparrows, Cape Robin-Chats, Southern Black Tits, Amethyst Sunbirds, Lesser Striped Swallows, Black and Red-chested Cuckoos calling, Cape White-eyes, Red-winged Starlings, Black-shouldered Kites, Jackal Buzzards, Long-crested Eagles, Rock Kestrels, Steppe Buzzards and Grey Herons, Wailing Cisticolas, Speckled Mousebirds, and Spotted Eagle Owls hooting to each other in the early morning and evenings.


Black-shouldered-Kite by Crystelle Wilson

Rob and Celia Spiers – The Rockeries  2 young Berg Adders and a young Green House Snake run over in the driveway. Cape Parrots in the Pecan Nut trees David and Barbara Clulow during a visit to Boston on 30 March; Spur-winged Geese; Red-eyed Dove; Common Fiscal; Barn Swallows, feeding and perching.  During a visit to Boston for four days from 13 March to 16 March: Grey Crowned Cranes with chicks at “The Willows; “Elandsvlei”; “Melrose” Crystelle Wilson Gramarye There are three Grey Crowned Crane families raising chicks that I came across this month. Apart from the one surviving chick (out of three hatchlings) at The Willows

Grey-Crowned-Crane_5140_The Willows

Grey-Crowned-Crane The Willows

there are two juveniles at Melrose Dam

Boston_4884_Grey-Crowned-Crane_Melrose Dam

Grey-Crowned-Crane_Melrose Dam

and next door at the dam at Boston Tea Party there is a youngster of a few weeks old.

Boston_4905__Grey-Crowned-Crane_Boston T-Party dam

Grey-Crowned-Crane_Boston T-Party dam

On the way to Howick one day I was very pleased to see a Martial Eagle near the Base Camp (Four Trees) site. This month we also said goodbye to migrants such as Barn Swallows, Amur Falcons,


Amur-Falcon female

White Storks and Steppe Buzzards.


Steppe-Buzzard imm

Fork-tailed Drongo, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Sparrow, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Cape White-eye, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Common Fiscal, African Stonechat, Black Saw-wing, Southern Red Bishop, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Crow, Zitting Cisticola, House Sparrow, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Wagtail, Cape Longclaw, White-throated Swallow, Barn Swallow, White Stork, Black-headed Heron, Cape Grassbird, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck,



Little Grebe, Egyptian Goose, Blacksmith Lapwing,



Sombre Greenbul,



Bokmakierie, Cape Weaver, Malachite Sunbird, Speckled Mousebird, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Steppe Buzzard, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Common Waxbill, Red-collared Widowbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Greater Striped-Swallow, Cape Robin-Chat, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Little Rush-Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Barn Owl, Giant Kingfisher, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Reed-Warbler, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-necked Spurfowl, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Dideric Cuckoo, African Rail, Pied Starling, Pied Crow, Brown-throated Martin, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Yellow-fronted Canary, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Amur Falcon, Long-crested Eagle, Hamerkop, Spur-winged Goose, Pied Kingfisher, African Hoopoe, Long-tailed Widowbird, South African Shelduck, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Sacred Ibis, Southern Boubou, Thick-billed Weaver, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Glossy Starling,



African Olive-Pigeon,

Boston_5292_African Olive Pigeon

African Olive Pigeon

Jackal Buzzard, Yellow Bishop, Forest Canary, Southern Double-collared Sunbird,



Speckled Pigeon, Terrestrial Brownbul. Flight of 32 Grey Crowned Cranes on 21 March.

2014 March Grey Crowned Crane (2)

Grey Crowned Cranes in flight

Dargle Wildlife Sightings September

Andrew and Susi Anderson -Lane’s End

After the recent rains, as usual, our property filled with water. Fortunately it drains once the river returns to it normal level. This has the benefit of attracting unusual critters to the property – or perhaps we are just out more to keep an eye on water levels and therefore are seeing them!.  On 21 September I saw a lovely large water mongoose foraging on Lanes End.

Walking on a neighbour’s property on 23 September I counted 16 reedbuck and saw a flock of in excess of 30 crowned cranes as well as 2 blue cranes flying overhead.

On 25 September we woke to the sound of a distressed reedbuck, it was being pursued by 2 ‘hunting dogs’ which had chased it into the uMgeni river, it clambered out  on our side and fortunately the dogs did not cross.  It escaped along the river, well be thought!  Unfortunately 3 days later our staff discovered it unconscious and badly mauled around the neck, it had to be put down.

This lovely big Natal Green snake was photographed sunning itself in the late afternoon on the riverbank.

Paul Smit – Blesberg

I have seen 6 Oribi on my property at one time.

Jethro Bronner explored iNhlosane a couple of time in September

I saw 2 Oribi, a small bright green snake and a rock python slithering into a small cave. A huge rock had dislodged and fallen down, which was a bit disconcerting. At the peak, birds of prey were flying below me.

Sipho Mbaso – Honeywood

Two big porcupines and 4 Reedbuck in the evening.

Sam Rose and Shine Murphy

We spotted 7 Eland about 200 metres from our house, making their way up our mountain.  We have a pair of Egyptian geese that regularly frequent the pond near our home.

Justin and Karin Herd – Bee Tree Farm

BIG infestation of locust Pyrgomorphidae species Phymateus cinctus.  I believe the infestation is widespread and once eggs are laid and hoppers produced, there will be much feeding and destruction of vegetation.

Eidin Griffin and Malcolm Draper – Witsend

We’ve had a pair of Eygptian geese very busy around the place- they were having an aerial argument with a disgruntled crow the other day. We were worried that the resident reedbuck were gone as we saw hunting dogs chasing one across the fields below the Hanburys at high speed but were relieved to spot three yesterday. (One of the dogs was huge and white and looked like a greyhound cross.)

I dug up a molesnake in the garden, it was unharmed and slide back under the soil swiftly. Mlungisi (who really enjoyed Pat McKrills farmworker snake talk) caught a brown house snake in the woodpile on the verandah and instead of killing, it got it into a sack and left it on the table for us…and forgot to tell us about it til the next day.  It was also unharmed and we released it further away from the house. I’ve had a lovely blackheaded oriole singing happily behind the house and seen lots (up to thirty) guinea fowl in the fields. We also found a dead baby monkey in the garden, we think an eagle that has been hovering around killed it.

Sifiso Zuma D17

I saw 2 jackals at the small dam

Sharon and Robin Barnsley

have seen Bush buck ram and doe close to our dam and others close to Portmore dam, Cape battis flycatcher, African harrier hawk, loads of Guiney fowl, 11 crowned cranes and a pair of Black storks.

Nikki Brighton

A most perculiar thing in my garden this month:

I found one of our chickens with it’s head eaten off, under the shrubs beside my fence. The next day it was dragged across the fence into my garden. The next night it disappeared and a couple of days later an egg appeared on the bed of feathers! I think some creature is using this spot to store food. This week another headless chicken appeared in the same place – partially covered over with leaves and twigs – a few days later it too was gone. Does anyone know what animal does this? It would have to be something that climbs, because my garden is porcupine and chicken proof.

Bright yellow Cyrtanthus breviflorus in wetland. Scadoxus in full flower. Disvclis repens, Helichrysum adenocarpum, Valeriana lanceolata(I think), Ledebouria ovatifolia, Nemesia, Hemizygia teucrifolia, albuca, Clausena anisata, Canthium mundianum.

3 Sept was an exciting day: saw Yellow Billed Kite, African Hoopoe, Red winged Starlings and heard Fish Eagles.

A few Cape Parrots are around. Jackal Buzzard, Bush Blackcap, Pintailed Whydah, weavers, bronze mannekins, double collared sunbird, Knysna loeries, forest canaries, francolins, Egyptian geese.

Heard: Blue Cranes, tree dassies, jackals Lots of Samango monkeys about. So many grasshoppers! They are really splendid to look at but have put paid to my kale and I fear from my broad beans.

Carl and John Bronner – Old Kilgobbin

2 Duiker, 6 Oribi, 9 Reedbuck, Bushbuck ram and doe.

Rob Mackintosh – Carlisle Farm

I have seen 7 Spurwing geese on our dam during the last few days.

Barry and Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

All the lovely new spring growth has attracted lots of bees and butterflies. Lots of bird activity too, including Sunbirds, Wagtails, Olive Thrush, Cape Robin, Cape white-eyes, Canary, Weavers, Orioles, Bulbuls, Doves, Mousebirds, Sparrows, Drongo, Hoopoes, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Crows, Southern Boubou, Cisticola, Fiscal Shrike, Crested Eagle, Grey Herons. The Scadoxus have been fabulous too.

Dennis Sokhela – Old Kilgobbin farm

3 Cape Parrots – I love those birds. I saw this snake in the driveway and took a photo of it. I named it Bongani so I don’t think it will be back! (Pat McKrill suggested that when you give a snake a name, it disappears!). I saw many reedbuck and 2 oribi.Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm

Red throated wryneck nesting in fence post. We are thrilled to have a pair of blue crane = the female is sitting about 20 metres from our dam so we can watch her progress from our house.  What a privilege.  Last Sunday saw a group of 7 blue crane on crest of hill.  Stunning sight.

A pair of wattled crane have been flying to the dam about 2 or 3 times a week.  One evening got a photo of them together with the blue crane. Last week was fortunate to see the Wattled crane swimming across the dam which I have never seen before.  We have seen the blue crane swimming on various occasions but never the wattled crane.  They had a great bathing time splashing around and then grooming for about half hour.

Few days ago saw our one and only olive thrush was hopping around at water feature in front of verandah.  I heard a squeaking noise and went to investigate.  The thrush had a small frog in its beak and was beating it on the paving!  I have never seen this behaviour from a small bird before.  I thought only raptors and snakes ate frogs!  Went to get camera but it flew off with frog dangling from its beak. Shame. Our white throated swallows are back nesting.  One arrived in our study last week.  Pat and I did a complete aerobic workout trying to get it out the double doors and windows.  I am not sure who was more exhausted after half hour, the swallow or ourselves, but it did eventually get the message and flew off.

Saw a gymnogene looking for lizards on rocks. Yellowbilled kite and jackal buzzard every day.  Have not seen secretary bird for some time. Malachite sunbirds, cape robins, wagtails, drakensberg prinias, chats.  Heard the black cuckoo in the gum trees yesterday. We see a pair of shell duck at the dam daily.

Lots of reed buck eating the green burn.  Duiker.  Porcupine coming home one evening in the driveway. Pat saw jackal running up hill at 7am.

Kevin Barnsley – Portmore and Constantia

4 Crowned Cranes in 3rd week of September are now resident again on Portmore pastureland. Now permanent resident purple heron on Constantia dam. Woolly Necked Stork brazenly using my garden for a day ignoring all human activity – must be from amberfield/glen judging by thick skinned behaviour. Black Ducks and Samango Monkeys making their annual raids on my maize laden cattle feeders in the beef paddocks. Gun shy Rameron Pigeons looking for refuge around cattle feeding stations.