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Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were away for half of November but on our return we were thrilled to find we had had a lot of rain and our dam was full at last and everywhere so green. Quite a change from the Cape.

One morning to our astonishment, a young male reedbuck wandered through the garden quite happily. Thank goodness the dogs were elsewhere.

male-reedbuck-wandering-through-our-garden

We have woken up for the past few weeks to Reedbuck eating the long grass in our garden.

male-and-female-reedbuck-in-garden

A porcupine got into the garden one night and dug up a heap of cannas – there was a fight with the dogs and as usual the dogs came off second best being stabbed with quills.

porcupine-got-into-my-cannas-one-night

The gymnogene has been terrorising the birds in the garden who have made nests in the trees. Caught a lovely picture of him perched on my bottle brush tree.

gymnogene-perched-on-my-bottle-brush-tree

A pair of wattle crane arrived at the dam and stayed for a week.

pair-of-wattled-crane-tag-on-wattled-crane-white-on-one-leg-and-green-and-blue-on-the-other

The one has tags on its legs which I had sent to the KZN Crane Foundation for identification.

wattled-crane-with-tags

Response from Tanya Smith, African Crane Conservation Program: “It is so great to get this resighting, this bird is definitely of breeding age and is perhaps looking for wetland area to set up a new territory. The combination of rings (Green/Blue on the left leg and large white on the right leg) is of a bird we caught and colour ringed at the end of August 2011 on a farm just outside Nottingham Road (on the Fort Nottingham Road), from a farm called Shawlands. Therefore this bird is about 5.5 years old.”

The pair of blue crane come and go and do not seem to have made a nest yet. We also have a number of oribi running around – the past 2 days we have seen a pair of males.

There were 5 Grey Crowned Cranes that arrived at the dam one morning.

4-crowned-crane-at-the-dam

We also have African Spoonbill,

3-spoonbill-in-a-row

dozens of Yellow-billed Duck, White-faced Duck,

white-faced-whistling-duck

Little Grebe (where do these waterbirds come from as the dam was empty for months??), Red-billed Teal, Spur-winged Geese and a pair of Egyptian Geese with 5 young who are now about a month old.

We have been inundated with Puff Adders once again – one next to our soak pit eating a frog and the dogs killed an enormous one in our driveway – our rottie proceeded to eat it – we are always concerned that the dogs will pierce the poison sac while eating these snakes – on the same day Pat saw some children from Kazimula school walking down the D18 carrying a dead puffie.

The Steppe Buzzard, and Jackal Buzzard often sit on our dead tree next to the pond waiting for a juicy meal now that our ponds are full.

The Long-crested Eagle is often seen perched on one of the poles along the D18.

black-crested-eagle-always-around

Two White Storks arrived on the farm a week ago. We have a number of Sunbirds flitting around the garden now that the summer flowers are in bloom.  Saw this female Amethyst Sunbird feeding off Wygelia flowers.

female-amythest-sunbird-feeding-off-wygelia-flowers

The White-throated Swallows that made their nest on our verandah lampshade have hatched out 4 chicks who are now about ten days old. We have to clean up a heap of poop each morning. The other swallows nest outside the bedroom window fell down during a severe wind.

i-think-there-are-4-white-throated-swallow-chicks-in-their-mud-nest-on-verandah

In the past few days a pair of Greater Striped Swallows have arrived and make a huge chirping noise before perching on the hanging basket where they groom themselves. This is about 4pm each day. They are very tame and do not mind my running around and taking photos of them thru the glass doors. We have not had them here before.

lesser-striped-swallow-perching-on-balustrade

The Cape White-eyes have been stealing the coir from my hanging baskets.

a-pair-of-cape-white-eyes-pulling-coir-from-hanging-basket-to-make-their-nest

The Red-chested Cuckoo (piet-my-vrou) sometimes sings for hours. Hope it finds a mate soon.

Drakensberg Prinia

drakensberg-prinia

Anthericum, possibly angulicaule (Thanks Nikki Brighton)

anthericum-possibly-angulicaule-thanks-nikki-brighton

Gladiolus longicollis

gladiolus-longicollis

Senecio bupleuroides (yellow starwort)

senecio-bupleuroides-yellow-starwort

Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Rinkhals which has been roaming around the garden for a while.

a-large-rinkals-which-has-been-roaming-around-the-garden-for-a-while

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

Our small dam at it lowest this year. Only 2 puddles left for the fish. Quite a few died but some fortunately survived.

our-small-dam-at-it-lowest-this-year-only-2-puddles-left-for-the-fish-quite-a-few-died-but-some-fortunately-survived

Since the rains we have had recently, things have improved.

since-the-rains-we-have-had-recently-things-have-improved

The Christmas herald! We have a little patch of Christmas Bells on Kildaragh. They are fast disappearing though. As children we would pick bunches for the Christmas table. Now we look in excitement when we see just one.

the-christmas-herald-we-have-a-little-patch-of-christmas-bells-on-kildaragh-they-are-fast-disappearing-though-as-children-we-would-pick-bunches-for-the-christmas-table

Clausena anisata, Perdepis or Horsewood. A neat, small tree for the bird garden. Some Swallowtail butterflies breed on this tree.

clausena-anisata-a-neat-small-tree-for-the-bird-garden-some-swallowtail-butterflies-breed-on-this-tree

A close up of the leaves, which have a very unpleasant smell, when they are crushed. The prolific fruit is visible.

clausena-anisata-or-horeswood-a-close-up-of-the-leaves-which-have-a-very-unpleasant-smell-when-they-are-crushed-the-prolific-fruit-is-visible

The Pom – Pom tree (Dais cotinifolia). This is an especially large specimen on our property. It was probably planted years ago by June Fannin who planted many trees here but never lived on the property. These trees grow well in the Midlands as is seen along the Main Road in Howick. Always a wonderful show.

the-pom-pom-tree-dais-cotinifolia-this-is-an-especially-large-specimen-on-our-property

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Such a treat to have the grassland streams flowing again.

r-waterfall

I adore the cool early mornings and frequently wander about at dawn. Seldom have my camera or phone with me, but fortunately did on this day.

r-dawn-bird

Every year I say the same thing, but as this interests me every year, it is worth repeating: Isn’t it fascinating how a patch of grassland that you can be very familiar with suddenly produces an abundance of flowers that you have not noticed much before? Clearly, rainfall and temperature patterns have an enormous influence (never mind grazing and burning) on which plants flower best when. This spring I have particularly noticed Arum lilies thriving, lots of Striga bilabiata, dainty white Kniphofia and more recently lots of Christmas bells – Sandersonia aurantiaca.

r-sandersonia-aurantiaca

The Cape Chestnut (Calodendron capense) hasn’t been as spectacular as usual – the leaves appeared at the same time as the pink flowers. Someone told me that Scilla nervosa has been amazing this year, but I have not noticed that where I walk. Anyway – a few floral treasures to share:

Plenty of pale blue Thunbergia natalensis in shady areas

r-thunbergia-natalensis

Asclepias gibba – in Lesotho all parts of this plant are eaten. Flowers like sweets, bulbs straight out of the ground and the leaves cooked with other greens.

r-asclepias-gibba

Asclepias albens – always a spectacular find

r-asclepias-alba

Pachycarpus natalensis – love the two kinds of ant and the beetle lurking in the flower!

r-pachycarpus-natalensis

Aster bakerianus

r-aster-bakerianus

Kniphofia – most likely breviflora

r-kniphofia-poss-breviflora

Vernonia hirsuta with attendant fly

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Hypericum lalandii – the tiny indigenous Hypericum, not the invasive shrub.

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Alepidea natalensis

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Ajuga ophrydis – Bugle plant

r-ajuga-ophrydis

Cyperus spharocephalus

r-cyperus-sphaerocephalus

Dierama luteoalbidium

r-dierama-luteoalbidum

Morea possible inclinata

r-morea-poss-inclinata

Pentanisia prunelloides

r-pentanisia-prunelloides

Sisyanthus trichostomus – the Hairy Grass-Flower. I think I may have found Sisyanthus fanniniae too, but the photo is dreadful, so I can’t be sure.

r-sisyranthus-trichostomus

I have never come across this pale Gladiolus before. Not sure what the species is but possibly serica as the stems are really hairy.

r-gladiolus-poss-sericeovillosus

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Continuing on from last month’s dead things, here is a tiny baby Skink which I found next to the dog’s water bowl

a-tiny-dead-baby-skink

I first thought that this might be the larder of a Fiscal Shrike, but I’m sure something larger like a raptor must have eaten something and left the gizzards on this pole

somethings-leftover-lunch

A juvenile Fiscal Shrike which was stuck in the water tank

juvenile-fiscal-shrike-stuck-in-water-tank

A pretty tame Black-backed Jackal that had been lying in the long grass in one of our sheep day camps, sometimes terrible creatures for us farmers but still beautiful to look at. This one was only about 20m away, taken with my cellphone. I managed to herd it around into the purple flowers for a more visually appealing shot!

black-backed-jackal

Some cracks in the mud of Mavela Dam, hopefully it’ll be full again by the end of summer! Still waiting for a big rain.

cracks-in-the-mud-of-the-dam

“Working for Water” did a very good job cutting and helping to clear some invasive alien wattle trees on our farm. Hopefully I’ll be able to take a photograph of this corner one day and it will be bugweed and wattle free!

dargle-impendle-road-with-wattles-that-have-been-cut-by-working-for-water-1dargle-impendle-road-with-wattles-that-have-been-cut-by-working-for-water-2

Couple of beetles fighting over a mate

beetles-mating-in-the-grass

2 large Rhino Beetles

large-rhino-beetles

A large fern next to a small pond in the veld

large-fern-next-to-one-of-the-water-pools

The Rinkhals have been doing the rounds on Copperleigh recently.

large-rinkhals-crossed-the-road-into-our-sheep-camp

I’m not sure if this is a fly or a bee as I’ve never seen one before, but the colour was very striking on the brown fur of this cow

strange-bug-not-sure-if-fly-or-bee-on-one-of-our-cows

Reedbuck Doe

reedbuck-doe-on-the-new-green-veld-grass

Reedbuck Ram

reedbuck-ram-standing-next-to-little-dam

A spider in its dewey web on the ground

I took the dogs for a walk through the veld one Sunday, and took the following images, this is a panoramic view of Inhlosane in the distance

panoramic-view-of-inhlosane-overlooking-the-grassland

Very happy to have running streams

stream-running-through-the-veld

Red hot pokers

red-hot-pokers-next-to-stream

Pink Wildflowers

pink-wildflower

Arum Lily

veld-arum-lily

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Welcome to the October Dargle Wildlife Sightings! With the spring we finally saw some much needed rain falling on the dry parched earth, the grass and other plants are definitely improving all the time. Dams are still very low as we haven’t had much running water yet, so those of us who are farmers are still waiting patiently for some more big storms to arrive.

This month we have an interesting collection of images that have been sent in. Bushbuck have been spotted in the hills, snakes having a snack on the run and some odd looking plants that were found out in the veld – so please enjoy and remember to always carry your cellphone with you, why? Well then you always have a camera nearby to capture that interesting something to share with the rest of us! Happy reading.

Garry & Camilla Barlow

Our Mountain Reed Buck came down from the high hills and gave birth to a new fawn, I have attached a picture of her with it…

mountain-reedbuck-and-fawn

Also some flowers that are now in bloom:

aster-bakerianus

Aster bakerianus

indigofera-family-not-sure-of-species

Indigofera sp.

cycnium-racemosum

Cycnium racemosum

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Everyday when I do my rounds in the area and check up on our livestock, I’ll usually come across some interesting finds. You can usually spot one or two Porcupine quills lying around, but on this occasion I found a whole pile of them.

a-handfull-of-porcupine-quills

A couple of locusts on the paving

a-pair-of-locusts

I was moving some old tiles under one of the trees when I spotted this very fine looking black spider sitting between two of them.

black-spider

Mavela Dam is still very low, hoping the two little streams start to pick up a little bit so that they can start running properly into the dam again.

mavela-dam-very-low

I then had a couple of weeks where I found lots of dead wildlife lying around, starting with this African Harrier-hawk (previously known as a Gymnogene)

dead-gymnogene

Dead male Reedbuck

dead-male-reedbuck

We seem to have a bit of an infestation of these rats on the farm. I really wish the owls, jackal and other other raptors would do their job and start catching some! Not sure what happened to this one though, was just lying out in the open on top of the hill.

dead-rat

A dead Skink

dead-skink

…and a soon to be dead frog! This Natal Green Snake decided it needed a good meal, although I think it really did bite off a little more than it could chew! This frog was about 4 times as big as the snakes head!

natal-green-snake-with-frog-in-its-mouth-1

We were all taking pictures of it in the garden before it decided to move off deeper into the bushes to have it’s snack in peace.

natal-green-snake-with-frog-in-its-mouth-2

I heard some commotion coming from next door so went to investigate to see what was upsetting the dog. Clearly Trinny did not appreciate the large toad swimming in her water bowl!

trinny-chasing-a-frog-in-her-water-bowl

And finally, I was walking through the veld one day and happened upon this very strange looking plant which I have never seen before…according to Nikki Brighton it is a Star Stinkhorn mushroom!

strange-red-plant-in-veld

We also spotted 4 blue crane on the far side of Mavela Dam one day, as well as one Oribi on the farm.

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We have had good light rains this month although the dam is only quarter full due to little runoff. There have been many sunbirds around due to the many flowering bottlebrush trees in the garden. On a cold drizzly day when the bottlebrushes were dripping wet, I captured dozens of Cape White-eyes,

cape-white-eye

Dark-capped Bulbuls,

dark-capped-bulbul

Gurney’s Sugarbirds

gurney-sugar-bird

and sunbirds feeding off the flowers.

The male and female Amethyst Sunbirds have been visiting the verandah – she keeps sitting on the rope chain that she built on last year but nothing has developed as yet.

male-and-female-amythest-sunbirds

One morning the male malachite sunbird sat on the wrought iron balustrade and was then joined by a female Amethyst Sunbird – he checked her out but showed no interest – it was then I noticed that there was a spot of yellow on his side.

male-malachite-and-femaile-amythest-sunbirds-on-verandah

His breeding colours – I got very excited as have only seen these yellow pectoral tufts once before about 7 years ago in this garden. I was very determined to get a picture of this remarkable colouring which only appears for a few seconds. I took a few photos here and there but not great. Then on another miz day I spied him on the bottle brush tree (which is right outside my bedroom window) and thought I would take a few pics once again. Suddenly the female malachite sunbird appeared above him and quick as a wink he puffed out his chest, his beautiful yellow pectoral tufts appeared.

male-malachite-with-yellow-pectoral-tufts

He turned his head up to look at her. It was so quick, I only got 2 pics, but amazing, virtually unseen pics I think according to the internet pictures. Out of the hundreds of pictures that I perused, I only saw one malachite sunbird with a spot of yellow on his side. I hope you enjoy this special picture – I am blown away by it.

I still see the fledgling Black Sparrowhawk in the gum trees –I am sure he is still being fed by his mother.

There are a number of oribi on the farm – the one that stands out is ”one horn” – he appears with either another male or a female or sometimes on his own. I wonder how he lost that horn?

one-horn-oribi-and-female-grazing

There have been 2 male Reedbuck careering around the hills chasing each other, all in the name of a fair damsel who appeared to be on heat. I have a lovely pic of the action and the female shying off before the males. The victor eventually went off up the hill with his maiden.

reedbuck-chase

Pat took a lovely picture of our Blue Crane one morning in the garden – they have never been this close to the house – unfortunately the second one was over the rise. With the dam filling up they have appeared quite often but as we have cattle grazing in this camp, I feel sure they will nest elsewhere where it will be quieter and more peaceful and safe.

blue-crane-in-our-garden

The Cape Wagtails have produced one fledgling in the jasmine creeper once more.

fledgeling-cape-wagtail

They have been feeding it – it usually hides in the miniature roses and mom and dad run in there with a wriggly worm – a few days ago mom and fledgling arrived on the balustrade – mom had a worm and was about to feed the youngster when a forked tail drongo attacked her, she dropped the worm and the drongo picked up his prize and flew off.

We have a steppe buzzard who flies around but I just cannot get a good picture of him – also a few jackal buzzard and crested black eagles. A lonely black stork and 13 crested crane flew over the farm one day. Pat saw the steppe buzzard and the crested eagle eating prey on the side of the D18 road.

I saw a Forest Canary

forest-canary

and a Cape Canary eating merrily from my miniature white chrysanthemums.

cape-canary

I thought they did this because there are sometimes “nunus” on these daisies, but not this time – not sure why they actually eat these flowers.

Dozens of white eyes fly through the garden each day and they have now found the rock pool – captured a picture of a very wet bedraggled Cape White-eye after a bath.

wet-bedraggled-white-eye-after-swim

Have never seen these birds bathing before – its usually the robins, thrushes, sparrows and bulbuls.

A few days ago after an afternoon storm, I was driving along the D18, where thousands of flying ants were emerging from their holes. There were dozens of monkeys and pigeons scooping them up. The children at Jabula school were running around capturing them with butterfly nets.

The Red-collared Widowbirds have been eating the grass on the lawn for the past month

red-collared-whydah-male

and I have seen a couple of Yellow Bishops amongst them for the first time.

yellow-rumped-widow-bird-male

Yellow Bishop

Our pair of White-throated Swallows are back and have built a mud nest on top of the glass lamp shade on the front verandah. They make an awful mess with mud everywhere and sometimes it falls off and they start over. They sleep on top of the lampshade each night and 2 Rock Pigeons keep them company sitting on the ledge.

white-throated-swallows-mud-nest

Fire lily

fire-lily

Pair of Spur-winged Geese viewing their surrounds

pair-of-spurwing-viewing-their-surrounds

Reedbuck hidden in bush behind Oribi

reedbuck-hidden-in-bush-behind-oribi

Sunset – storm building

sunset-storm-building

I pray the rain continues in the next month.

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

A magnificent puffball in the Kilgobbin Forest

a-magnificent-puffball-in-kilgobbin-forest

There was a large mouthful taken out of this one…

there-was-a-large-mouthful-taken-out-of-this-one

Large field mushroom

large-field-mushroom

The tumbling stream on the top of Carlisle in the grasslands

the-tumbling-stream-on-the-top-of-carlisle-in-the-grasslands

Harebells or Dierama up in the Carlisle Grasslands

harebells-or-dierama-up-in-the-carlisle-grasslands

We also spotted a pair of Wattled Cranes up in the grasslands, with very healthy glossy plumage. An Oribi junior with her mum and our old companion, the adult Reedbuck Ram. We also saw the big dark Bushbuck Ram on our forest margin up adjoining Carl`s haylands.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

Windy day…My Mobile did its best… Wildflowers and an unknown bug pictured on our walk over the hills:

bug

Leonotus in the hills

leonotus-in-the-hills-1

wildflowers-1

wildflowers-2

wildflowers-3

Granny’s Bonnet orchids

granny-s-bonnet-orchids

Carnivorous Snail on D707

carnivorous-snail-on-d707

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Welcome to the Snake farm. I have been expecting it – the hot days this month. On Monday my maid went out to sit outside next to the rockery – 12.30 – that’s when they emerge from the rockery – a metre long cobra. I told her not to sit there anymore. Then on Thursday Pat was doing a block burn in front of the house. The one labourer was putting out the fire with the fire hose when a puff adder shot between his legs and slithered down the hill at speed. Who said puffies move slowly. I’m afraid the other huge puff adder got burnt in the fire. I am now wondering how many more snakes are around the garden.

Our Black Sparrowhawk chick revealed his rufous feathers on the 27th august. A few days later I saw him sitting on a branch high up in one of the gum trees (6th sept). After that I saw him only on a few occasions when I whistled – then he would fly out from one of the trees and whistle back. I have not seen them since beginning of September but Pat sees them occasionally.

fledgeling-black-sparrowhawk-2-weeks-after-being-a-ball-of-white-feathers

There have been lots of Reedbuck around. One day there were 4 adult females and 4 youngsters together,

female-reedbuck-with-youngsteryoung-reedbuck-male

and for the first time we have had 2 sets of oribi on the farm – 3 males and 3 females – the one male only has one horn. (I did fill in and send off the Oribi survey form) We see them almost daily.

3-oribi-hiding-behind-bushes-on-a-very-windy-day

At the beginning of September a buzzard arrived and sat on the dead tree for about an hour – it has been identified as a juvenile Jackal Buzzard. Thanks to the Birdlife KZN Midlands Club for their assistance in this identification.

i-think-this-is-a-juvenile-honey-buzzard-going-by-the-honey-buzzard-pics-i-sent-in-earlier-this-year

The Burchell’s Coucal keeps evading my camera – flew past the house with large worm in its beak and went straight into the shrubbery once more where I think it may be nesting.
One very windy night there was a scratching on our bedroom door while I was reading. This glass door leads onto the verandah. I was a bit nervous about opening the curtain but was surprised to find that it was a Speckled Mousebird who had probably been blown out of the trees. Pat placed it in a box and released him next morning.

juvenile-speckled-mousebird

Our 2 Blue Cranes are back on the farm and wade in the puddle of a dam each evening. On the 14th sept 20 crowned crane flew over the farm flying west. A porcupine was trying to get into the garden by digging a huge hole at the farm gate – the dogs would stand and bark at it but he took no notice – he did get in the one night and dug up a lot of my dietes bulbs. Pat attached more wire to the bottom of the gate which seems to have worked. Still hear the howling of the jackal at night – my dogs love to howl along with them – gets very rowdy at times.

The swallows arrived ten days ago and once again are trying to make a nest on the glass light bowl at front verandah. I have left the light on which seems to have deterred them, but not sure where they have gone now. The sparrows are busy making nests under the eaves at all corners of the house and the wagtails are once more nesting in the jasmine creeper. The rock pigeons are nesting in the one chimney. We occasionally hear the Barn Owl when he clonks onto the roof of the study where we watch TV or sometimes on the bedroom roof late at night where he busily eats his prey. We are not sure if he/she is still in the study chimney. We think she may be living in the forest behind the house.
We are thankful for the rain this past month. Just pray we get a good season this year.

Male Amethyst sunbird

amythest-male-sunbird

Female White-bellied Sunbird

female-malachite-sunbird-i-think

 

Long-crested Eagle

black-crested-eagle

Male Southern masked weaver building a nest

male-southern-masked-weaver-building-a-nest

Red-billed Quelea (non-breeding males)

red-billed-non-breeding-males

Scadoxus puniceus

scadoxus-puniceus

Evert van Breemen – Old Furth

I have a vague memory of you asking for snow pictures some months back.
Herewith my belated reply.

snow-on-the-berg

Detail of picture:

The closest part of the Berg is some 70 kms away and I estimate we are seeing
about 100 km of snow along the range which varies from 2.5 to 3.3 km in height. The picture is taken from a mast which is at 1.6 km altitude

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Winter 2016

Nicola Storkey

I photographed these snow scenes whilst on the way to Ivanhoe Farm.

Snow 1

Snow 2

Snow 3

Kilgobbin Forest

Dargle Primary learners visited Kilgobbin forest recently. Thanks Midlands Meander Education Project and WESSA Eco-Schools for facilitating the lesson of forest diversity.

Dargle Primary learners explore the forest floor.

Dargle Primary pupil makes friends with a grasshopper

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

Haven’t seen much except for a couple of Crowned Hornbills (unusual) in the garden that hung around for a few days eating the fruit of the Outeniqua Yellowwood, Podocarpus falcatus. On the 2nd August, Derek spotted his first YBK of the season in the D 17 valley. I noticed him a couple of days later. Very early.

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A snare which was found in the natural forest on our farm.

Snare

Snow & the mayhem it produces!

Some images that were sent in of the “human wildlife”, mostly from PMB and Durban areas, on their way towards Inhlosane Mountain and Impendle. The dirt road was quite a mess afterwards with all the vehicles that got stuck and had to be pulled out by farmers and landowners by Landrover and tractors!

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Vehicles driving past Beverley

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Inhlosane had a few pockets of snow which had eventually melted after a couple of days

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Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

My dog, Missy, very proudly brought this treasure home. I think a jackal or dog may have chewed off the ends. Could anyone identify what buck this came from? Oribi or Bushbuck? [Editor’s Comment: The leg is from a Bushbuck].

Buck leg 1

Buck leg 2

Pauline Holden – Woodsong Farm

We have been so excited to have seen our resident Bushbuck (well they seem to be because we see them regularly). Two females (one seems to be older and is perhaps the Mother) and one male male. They are in different areas of the farm (which is only 25Ha)

We have also seen a Serval, as well as its scat often. We have seen loads of Otter Scat.

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

It was icy cold on the 2nd July and we lit a fire early in the day – I later found our Barn Owl sitting on the ledge on the front verandah. He flew off into the forest behind us and I haven’t seen him since. He was living in the chimney for at least 2 years. We closed the entrances on the roof of the verandah where they nested for several years, due to the mess and noise. I hope Nikki’s barn owls are nesting in the barn again this year.

We had snow for a few hours the next day and then it started to rain. We took this photo of a very wet male Common Reedbuck.

Male reed buck after heavy rain with wet coat

Common Reedbuck (male)

We had regular sightings of the Secretarybird and we were fortunate to have seen two together on one day.

Secretary bird

Secretarybird

On our walks in the evenings we saw a lot of Common Reedbuck on the green burns – counted 13 on a 1hr walk. Saw a half eaten Ibis near the dam – the African Harrier-Hawk had been flying about. Have seen this bird quite often and for the past few weeks he has been coming into the garden.

Gymnogene in my garden

African Harrier-Hawk

Very few raptors – just the Jackal Buzzard and Long-crested Eagle.

Jackal buzzard (I think)

Jackal Buzzard

Beginning of august I was very excited to see the female Black Sparrowhawk sitting on her nest on a few occasions.

Black sparrowhawk female sitting on nest

Black Sparrowhawk nesting

She raised 2 fledglings in same nest 2 years ago – The Egyptian Geese took it over last year which was very disappointing. On the 13th august we saw for the first time a bundle of white feathers sitting on top of the nest. Wow I was ecstatic to see this one chick.

Black sparrowhawk chick

Black Sparrowhawk chick

With the other 2 chicks 2 years ago we used to only see their heads sticking out the top of this very deep nest. It was only when they were completely feathered with their rufous feathers and sitting on the branches that I was able to take some decent pics. Then on the 27th august, just 2 weeks later, there he/she sat on top of the nest with her rufous colouring. Can’t believe they changed colour so quickly. (Picture next month)

On one very frosty morning there was a Hamerkop standing near the pond. His beak was tucked into his chest feathers. He kept lifting his feet up one at a time as if they were numb. He eventually sat down. Half hour later I asked Pat to go and see if he was sick as did not want the dogs to attack him. Thankfully he flew off and seemed fine.

Frozen Hamerkop

Hamerkop

 

We saw three Oribi graze on the hill which has turned green

3 oribi running up the hill

Oribi

 

One morning before sunrise saw a very large clumsy bird hopping on the leafless plane tree. Before I could get the camera it jumped down behind the shrubs – it definitely appeared to be a coucal – first time in the garden although have heard its call from the bush behind the house.

Sunrise

I am sure that most folk have seen the huge group of crowned crane in the vlei of the Fowlers farm at Lions river – I did stop one day and drove down the railway line and took some pics – there appeared to be about 50 of these beautiful creatures. Does anyone know if they breed on the same farm?

A few of the crowned crane at Fowlers farm Lions river

Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

The sunbirds have returned now that there are a few shrubs in flower and they all seem to have regained their summer colours. We hung some string and baubles in the same place that the Amethyst Sunbird made her nest on last year. About ten days ago she flew around the verandah and landed on the string and gave it a good looking over. She flies from door to door looking for insects every morning. On the one day she arrived with her partner. He sat on the hanging basket while she showed him the string. No building of nest has taken place but still too early for that, so we shall see if he approved of her choice.

Pat saw a female cori bustard on the green burn early one morning.
On 26th august, 8 blue crane arrived at our puddle in the dam. They were there for a few hours – 3 blue crane have spent the last few days in the puddle – I am not sure if he is a “hanger on” or the youngster from last year who has not left the fold. We shall see what happens but the puddle is drying up fast, so if no rain soon, I am sure they will look elsewhere to nest this year once again.

A pair of duiker seen close to the house –looks like the wild life are pairing up. We have seen quite a few duiker in August.

Female duiker

The Wagtails, Sparrows, and Olive Thrush all seem to be nesting in the formal garden and of course the Rock Pigeons never stop breeding.

One morning I saw a pair of Cape Robin-chats hopping around in front of the kitchen window. He then hopped onto a branch of the peach tree and starting trying to attract her attention by flicking his tail up and down very quickly – he has a beautifully coloured tail – she did not seem interested as carried on looking for worms.

Cape robin being flirtatious

Cape Robin-chat

We have a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds.

Male and female gurney sugar birds

Gurney’s Sugarbirds

Gurney sugar bird at dusk

Gurney’s Sugarbird

On a few of our walks we have seen quite a few young Common Reedbuck.

Another baby reedbuck

Female reedbuck with her youngster

Female reedbuck

One morning three Cape White-eyes appeared on same peach tree.

Yellow white eye

Cape White-eye

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

Male Malachite Sunbird now in full color

Male malachite now in full color eating the flowering frelinias

Malachite Sunbird (male)

New moon

New moon

Not sure of this buzzard as very dark in color – taken in early august so not sure if Steppe Buzzards were around then?

Not sure of this buzzard as very dark in color – taken in early august so not sure if steppe buzzards were around then

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

This evening at about 6pm, driving on the D707, I was blessed with a wonderful sight. Just past the corner next to the Fly’s staff houses, a large Bushbuck ram stood in the middle of the road facing me. I stopped and waited for him to move. He went into the Fannin paddock, followed by his lady who had been standing near the opposite fence. Beautiful.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

This Winter because of the drought, Samango monkeys have been very hungry, which has made them very bold. They have eaten all the fruit on my lemon tree – even eating up those that they bite and drop (usually for the benefit of bush pig and buck).

Samango

I have noticed they come back the next day and then pick up the dropped fruit and eat it all. Lots of babies have just been born, so I assume they know the drought will be over soon. Certainly hope so.

Samango Monkey

Frosty mornings make for great photos. It was a real treat to come across this paw print in the ice capped mud one morning.

Muddy icy paw print

Balmy winter afternoons are heavy with the fragrance of Buddleja along forest edges.

Buddleja

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

Hello World ,  A glorious season ! Bales of hay, snow, and even some mud as I whiz over the hills in my carriages with Ntombikayise as my back-stepper . .

No humans seen ! Black fire-breaks turning green . . water flowing after some rains, with little frogs chirruping and croaking on the edges !

A sleeping Spotted Eagle Owl on the forest margin at The Old Kilgobbin Dam. . . a pair of Egyptian Geese and a Tegwaan are regulars there .

A beautifully marked Mountain Reedbuck Doe is resident just below the Dam . . she has become used to us trotting by.

Samango Monkeys counted up in the Grasslands . . 32 individuals , with four infants newly arrived .

Up on the top of Carlisle we regularly count 4 Oribi , 5 Reedbuck does and a handsome Reedbuck Ram . He tries to duck behind the old stems of Tweedie bush as we approach and remains unmoved through all of my driving .

Ntombi and I have spotted Jackal Buzzards on the Bales regularly and one on a medium -size kill . . Barend and I have spotted The Red Collared Widow Birds up and busy flirting with half-grown tails during our walks over the top in the grasslands .

Chris and I saw a Long Crested Eagle and plenty of Stone Chats along the walls .

All four Robins have been spotted up near the Oatley Hide . . and our garden with it`s fresh compost has Robins , Thrushes and Bou Bou Shrikes
scratching for and collecting yummy bugs ,

The roughly 50 kms a week that I get to roam the hills are “ Soul-Food “ Thank you for sharing your farms with our horses , Ntombi , Barend and I . . No humans seen . . Magical!!

Jenny Goddard

We found this dead otter at one of our dams this morning. No sign of injury. So sad…do you have a theory about what could have happened to him?? Not sure who else to ask!

Otter

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Early morning mist over the valley

Ash 1

Worm in freshly cut wattle tree

Ash 2

Large pile of droppings, I’m guessing from a reedbuck as we have seen them on numerous occasions on the farm

Ash 3

A dead Oribi I found in one of our firebreaks, not sure what killed it

Ash 4

Lifted a rock at the dam and found this chap trying to hide underneath

Ash 5

Inhlosane rising above the ever diminishing Mavela Dam

Ash 6

Little dam near Selsley Farm

Ash 7

Aloes flowering on a neighbours farm

Ash 8

Ash 9

Ash 10

Recovering Olive Thrush sitting in a pot after flying into the window

Ash 11

A Black Sparrowhawk which was upsetting our lambs as it was flapping around on the ground in their night camp, obviously injured we took it to FreeMe in Howick for them to look after.

Ash 12

Sunset

Ash 13

Late afternoon sun streaming through some pine trees

Ash 14

And finally a wintery scene of grassland and Inhlosane looking down on us

Ash 15

Louise Ghersie – Satori Farm

A herd of Eland passing our house to the top of our farm. Beautiful sight!

Eland on Satori Farm.jpg

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

All wildlife seems to be hibernating and as per usual, the Red-lipped Heralds are snugly coiled in the wood pile. We noticed 2 Common Reedbuck on our property – an unusual sighting these days! Good to see. They ran off onto Iain Sinclair’s farm.

Interesting birds have been seen in the garden: Green Wood Hoopoe, Wryneck, Oriole, Golden Tailed Woodpecker, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite and Amethyst Sunbirds. A small flock of about 20 Helmeted Guineafowl scratch round in our pastures with numerous young. With the drought, it has been a good breeding season for them. We regularly see Black-winged Lapwings flying over on their food seeking missions.

In the veld we have noticed Natal Spurfowl, Cape Longclaw, and have heard the Common Quail with their gentle call.

An old Aloe arborescens, the Krantz aloe, that grows on one of our hill slopes is particularly beautiful this year. If you are frustrated with your garden in this season of drought, here’s what to plant!

Aloe tree

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Spotted a Secretarybird whilst driving past Selsley farm. We also spotted one on Knowhere farm earlier in the month whilst moving some cattle.

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

Snake
Pat McKrill, Snake Country: “I’d go with your i.d. Ashley – Spotted Skaapsteker – although it’s not that clear. There’s a slim possibility of it being a Short-snouted Sand snake (grass snake, whip snake – I wish they’d make their minds up!) but we’d need a better pic. Still some activity on the warmer days. Yay.”

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

A very quiet month. At the beginning of June we saw the Black Sparrowhawks hunting and eating pigeons every couple of days. We saw the female at the old familiar nest in the gum trees. She was either adding more material to the nest or feeding young we thought. Well that’s the last we have seen of them, so no idea what happened. With the dry dam we have seen no waterbirds – the crane have disappeared. Only hear the Jackal occasionally.

Black-backed jackal

Black-backed Jackal

We see the secretary bird and gymnogene now and then.

Secretarybird

Secretarybird

The odd Common (Grey) Duiker seen during the day. We saw a very small Reedbuck on one of our walks. When I drove around the farm today I saw 4 Common Reedbuck sitting in the pine trees away from the wind. Two were young females and 2 were young rams.

Sunrise

Sunrise

There are still a number of sunbirds about, feeding off the aloes and proteas.

Malachite male sunbird in eclipse

Malachite Sunbird (non-breeding male)

I think this could be a female malachite or juvenile sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

Greater double-collared sunbird in bush

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

I think this is a amythest male or female in eclipse or juvenile – not sure

Amethyst Sunbird

In the past few weeks about a dozen Weavers arrive at about 9am and descend upon the aloes in front of the house.

Weavers en masse

They have been destructive in the defoliation of the aloes – they pull off a petal,

Weaver pulled off aloe petal

place it beneath a foot, and suck out the nectar and then drop them on the ground.

Weaver holding aloe with her foot

They are also feeding off the tecomas,

Weavers eating the tecoma flowers

bottle brushes and pig ears.

Weaver feeding from pigs ear flowers

I think they are the non-breeding Masked Weavers but am sure someone will be able to identify them for me? So we only see the sunbirds very briefly as they get chased away by the weavers which is rather sad.

Weaver sitting on aloes

Another surprise is that the Sparrows are collecting feathers and going into their nest under the eaves of the house.

Sparrow carrying feather

Surely they are not thinking of breeding now? Perhaps they are just making it warmer!

Southern Boubou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs.

Southern bou bou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs

Southern Boubou

Well that’s all there is to report this month. It would be wonderful to get some rain or snow soon.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

While I hear Spotted Eagle Owls and Wood Owls at night, I never come across the Barn Owls that moved into the owl box in the shed earlier this year. I do hope they have not eaten a poisoned rat. As last month, Jackal calls are still very scarce. Where are they? Very early one morning I met a big Porcupine while out walking and have come across lots of quills on various paths. I wonder, do they shed them more during Winter?

I found a Samango monkey skin and skeleton in the grassland,

winter monkey skin

and this dead Scrubhare beside the road.

winter dead hare

Not a lot in flower, but these little yellow daisies are so cheerful! The hairy, maroon coloured stems should have made it easy to identify, but I can’t find it.

yellow winter daisy

An unusually coloured Leonotis leonarus blooms beside the D707.

winter pale  leonotis

Grassland streams have stopped trickling altogether. Planted aloes are looking splendid.

winter aloe

David Schneiderman – Carlisle Farm

We went out on our farm Carlisle yesterday and we found 2 Waterbuck and 2 Reedbuck.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The water is still receding in Mavela Dam. The ducks, geese and other wildlife are walking through the mud and making little trails.

Mavela dam is very low and ducks and geese are leaving spoor in the mud

A very cold frog I found in one of the water troughs – aren’t they supposed to be hibernating?!

A very cold frog I found in the water trough - aren't they meant to be hibernating

Whilst doing our mandatory firebreaks with the neighbours, I quickly snapped a few pics of the aloes in the area

Aloes that were photographed on neighbours farm whilst we were doing mandatory firebreaks

Aloe 1

Aloe 2

Some burnt aloes, I’m sure by next year they will be looking beautiful once again.

Aloe in fire

Burnt aloes

Fires in the Dargle with Inhlosane watching from a distance

Firebreaks with Inhlosane in the background

We had a very cold weekend this past week, with bits of snow and sleet falling. Sunday morning we woke up to lots of ice on the edges of the dam, and beautiful little icicles forming and coming up through the mud.

Ice 008

Ice 009

Ice 011

Ice 014

Ice 016

Ice 006

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

3

Painted lady

4

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

5

a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)

6

Male Malachite in eclipse

7

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

8

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.

9

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.

10

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

11

The Long-crested Eagle is still around

12

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.

13

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

14

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

15

Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat

16

Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills

Untitled

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

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Gaudy commodore

Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector Butterfly (Precis archesia)

It’s been a dry month – 80 ml in total. I saw the Blue Crane juvenile flying for the first time on 27th February. We see them almost daily mostly at sunset where they wade in the dam which is dropping at an alarming rate. One hot midday I watched in fascination as it seemed the blue crane adults were trying to teach the youngster to swim.

Crane 1 - Come on junior – this is how you swim

Come on junior – this is how you swim

They were swimming all over the dam while he just stood and watched. Not too interested but he suddenly decided to start running through the shallow water in wild abandon.

Crane 2 - Check this, I’m dancing on water

Check this, I’m dancing on water

Then up and down the side of the dam, wings widespread while his parents stood and watched the antics. At one stage mom or dad started running after him. I watched for an hour before they eventually wandered off to look for some lunch. They are a very close knit family and there is a lot of touching of beaks between them. They are such incredible parents. 5th youngster they have raised now.

Crane 3 - Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

A malachite baby flew into the verandah door one day – as we had folk for lunch I did not take photos. I put him in a box for awhile and let him loose later where he flew off quite contented.

There have been dozens of moths this month and the frogs have been having a feast on the verandah. No snakes yet!

One morning while having tea on the stoep, we saw 2 Common Reedbuck fighting down at the dam.

Reedbuck 1 - Female reed buck either playing or fighting

Female Common Reedbuck either playing or fighting

We presumed they were males fighting over the females as usual. But as they parted we were surprised to see they were 2 females. A chase ensued and then another charge and more head butting and pushing.

Reedbuck 2 - The Chase

The Chase

It did not look friendly and I wondered if they were fighting over a male!!! But he was nowhere in sight. They eventually parted on friendly terms and carried on grazing. I was surprised at this behaviour between 2 females who are usually so docile.

Reedbuck 3 - The Charge

The Charge

Pat saw an African Jacana at the dam 2 days in a row, but every time I looked for him he was nowhere to be seen.

The Martial Eagle returned to the same dead gum tree a few days after the stork kill. It was a stifling day. His beak was ajar and his wings pulled away from his body. I was so thrilled to see him once again, but that was the last time. A number of raptors around.

Pat saw a black sparrow hawk eating a rat along our driveway. We went for a walk one evening around the dam and found 2 Blacksmith Lapwing eggs lying out in the open a few metres from the dam edge.

Blacksmith plovers eggs

Blacksmith Lapwing eggs

One morning I saw a strange coloured raptor on our dead tree – I went outside to get closer for a photo shoot.

Unknown Raptor 1

Then I heard another raptor making a sort of “peeeoooo” noise which went on for a few
minutes. This one was somewhere in the gum trees opposite our house. The raptor left the dead tree and flew up to the gum trees, found a perch, and he too started his “peeeoooo” calling.

Unknown Raptor 2

Then suddenly the other raptor flew in and joined him a few metres away on the same level. There was a chorus of whistling to and fro and then the one flew off and the other followed shortly after.

Unknown Raptor 3

I have no idea what raptors these are but think they are juveniles because of their light coloured eyes. They are both differently coloured yet whistled the same song. I have asked Ashley to please see if he could find someone to identify them for me. I googled juvenile steppe and jackal buzzards, and also forest buzzards, but got so confused after a few hours gave up.

The skinks (lizards) round the house have become very friendly and enjoy the morning sun in our study. They love the warmth of the sun and sit for some time on the carpet wherever the sun touches it. Strange little creatures and very social. They have now found their way into our bathroom too.

Skink in our study enjoying the morning sun

All day long they slip under the aluminium doors into the study and our bedroom which adjoins both sides of the verandah. The dogs ignore them and they run around freely looking for and eating the dead moths from the previous night and anything else that’s edible.

Skink eating all the dead moths from the night before

They always seem to know how to get out of the house which amazes me. At one stage I used to shush them out the door until I found that they definitely know their way around. Amazing.

Heard several African Fish-Eagles crying this morning over the house – they were miles up – the sky was so blue and bright that I could see nothing, but that wonderful sound lingered in the thermals – a sound that one does not forget – this is our beautiful country, Africa.

 

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

The Yellow-billed Kites have gone, but the Barn Owls are back in their box in the farmyard – hope they breed successfully again. I saw just one Reedbuck doe all month and one Common Duiker. Jackal Buzzards, Cormorants, Egyptian Geese, a small brown duck, wagtails, hadedas, a Giant Kingfisher and an African Fish-Eagle watch as we enjoy the last swims of the season in a not yet full dam.

Autumn changes always seem the most obvious, and are much loved by most Midlanders – the chilly ground underfoot in the mornings, perfect afternoons and gentle light of the evenings.

grassland view of Inhlosane

View of Inhlosane

Disperis fanninaea, appears quite at home in the understory of wattle or pine woodlots. Flowers are borne on stems of up to 40cm tall, sometimes singly or in clusters of up to eight. Petals are joined to form a white helmet-shaped hood, flushed with pink speckles and rimmed in green. Dormant during winter, with new shoots emerging from the underground tuber in spring. The pollination of Disperis is interesting; it is carried out mainly by specialized oil-collecting bees, Rediviva coloratat, this is a rare phenomenon in plants. The bees collect the oil as food for their larvae. Once pollinated, the fruit capsule ripens and thousands of minute, dust-like seeds are released and dispersed by wind. As is the case with most orchids, they have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi that live in their roots – supplying them with nutrients absorbed from decaying organic matter.

disperis fanninaea

Disperis fanninaea

Leonotis intermedia and Pycnostachys reticulata are flowering in grasslands.

pycnostachys reticulata

Pycnostachys reticulata

Plectranthus laxiflorus, Hypoestes triflora, Desmondium repandum and Plectranthus dolichopodus flower on forest edges.

desmodium repandum

Desmodium repandum

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Rain has been minimal this month, sometimes we do still get a bit of dew on the grass though.

Dew on the veld grass

This grass was being burnt from the heat of the rocks, until we had a tiny bit of rainfall.

Grass burnt from the heat of the rocks before the rains arrived

Some pink Everlastings and Watsonia flowering in the veld.

 

Sunset over the Dargle

Sunset over the Dargle

Spiky Caterpillar

Spiky Caterpillar

Some kind of worms found whilst digging a hole in the ground, they managed to burrow quickly under everytime I turned the soil over, pretty sure they weren’t maggots

Worms in deep soil
Rainforest Brown Butterfly

Rainforest Brown

A few different kinds of fungi and mushrooms sprang up after the rains at the beginning of the month.

Malvina & Evert van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

March has been extremely busy on Old Furth Estate with multiple celebrations and hordes of visitors, so we have been battening down the hatches more than usual!

No sooner had the dust settled from the last carload of visitors than we had the call we have been waiting for from Free Me that the two Serval were on their way for release on the farm.

Serval 1

Never a dull moment here! We went over to the other side of the Furth River and released there as we know that we have Serval near our dams already and didn’t want to cause a territorial problem.

Serval 5

Serval 2

The male was released first, rather groggy after his antidote, and then the female.

Serval 3

We were very surprised that neither of them bolted, they just took their time sniffing the new territory and then gradually melted away into the surrounding vegetation.

Serval 4

On some of the walks showing everyone around we found some lovely fungi in the forest

Fungi

and a really large bulb which had been disturbed – any guesses on what it could be?

mystery bulb

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

The swallows have been gathering since the 1st March. On a couple of evenings the sky over us has looked just like Mt Moreland . Literally 1000’s. Almost in competition with the Amur Falcons at Mooi River.

This extraordinary “nest” is growing out of or is stuck to a wall in the garden. The fluff looks like human hair clippings. At the top of the nest there is a white lava and below it is the brown pupa. I think we need Dr Jason Londt ‘s expertise again…

Strange Nest

Dr Jason Londt’s Response: “Many caterpillars incorporate their long hairs into their cocoons – I think that is what we see in the photo – the pupal case left behind by the emerged adult moth is frequently found inside the cocoon – or bits of it should it break up. I wouldn’t like to guess at the species that made these cocoons but maybe a Monkey Moth.”

I found this gay fellow on Grandpa’s Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

Colourful Caterpillar

The dehisced seed capsule of the Kigelaria africana and below the unopened capsules. The seeds in the capsules are very pretty, black with red flesh. The birds always beat me to it and I didn’t manage to get a photo. The Acraea butterfly breeds on this tree and at times it is crawling with caterpillars. The fruit and larvae attract a huge number of birds and there is constant activity. It is a really worthwhile tree for a larger garden. Cuckoos and Black Headed Orioles feast on the caterpillars. The doves scratch round under the tree picking up seeds, the toppies, sparrows, weavers and white eyes strip the capsules of the fruit. Thrushes and boubous too.

Kigelaria Africana

Wyndham Robartes – Wana Farm

Wyndham sent in a video of some “Processionary Worms”, here is a still from that video.

Caterpillars

David Mann – Knowhere Farm

Rode on the bike up to the top of the farm last week with Ben (the Ridgeback) and as we got to the top a Jackal took off and Ben decided to give chase. He returned a while later looking a bit tired, obviously the Jackal gave him a good run!

Louise Bolton – Robhaven Farm

I recently took a walk up Inhlosane mountain this week and took a few pictures.

Inhlosane View from the top

The weather was perfect as we were up there by 7am. Here is a picture of the view from the top plus a panorama.

Inhlosane Panorama

There were many flowers in bloom but this one caught my eye, Crassula alba.

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

Also saw this lizard basking in the sun. Love how the shadow reveals the jagged edge of its tail.

Lizard

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – January 2016

Louis Bolton – Robhaven Farm

A new contributor, hopefully Louis will send us pics on a regular basis… the first is an image of some White-throated Swallows sitting on a mailbox – perhaps the newly appointed CEO of The Post Office will make use of them?

White-throated Swallows

White-throated Swallows

White-throated Swallow

White-throated Swallow

White-throated Swallow

White-throated Swallow

The spider was taken at Misty Meadows School up the D17

An Orb Spider

An Orb Spider

The panorama was from Crab Apple Church bench

Panorama from Crab Apple

Panorama from Crab Apple

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

Found this “Stinkhorn” Mushroom by pure luck and had my camera. I never saw the early stages of this mushroom, only when it is red and stinks.

Stinkhorn Mushroom

Stinkhorn Mushroom

It sure is mushroom season now after the welcome rain, must say it has not stopped since I am back.

It sure is mushroom season now after the welcome rain, must say it has not stopped since I am back.

Had to catch these buggers, as they were running away, must be from the “speedy” variety.

Had to catch these buggers, as they were running away, must be from the speedy variety

The Locusts are also out in full force on Wakecroft.

The Locusts are also out in full force on Wakecroft

They sure don’t mind what they eat, this one I found on my rosemary bush.

They sure don`t mind what they eat, this one I found on my rosemary bush

One of our cabbage trees is beginning to bloom.

Cabbage Tree

Cabbage Tree

Two’s a party

2 is a party

Emperor Moth (Aurivillius fuscus) Also paid me a visit.

Emperor Moth (Aurivillius fuscus)

Emperor Moth (Aurivillius fuscus)

Malvina van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

2016 started off with a lovely experience for me – I had to drop our youngest daughter off in Petrusstroom early on New Year’s Day, so on the return journey I was looking out for the pair of Crowned Cranes who frequent the little dam next door to Colmonel. They had crossed the road and were keeping company with a few Storks and as I slowed down to have a good look, I was treated to the special sight of them doing a delightful courtship dance!

Since the Cranes are by far one of my favourite birds, I was quite delighted to see this.

Grey Crowned Cranes dancing

Grey Crowned Cranes dancing

On the same morning, we also had a mass visitation of Spoonbills at our nearly dry bottom dam – I have never seen so many here! The quality of these pics is really poor but I only had my phone 😦

Spoonbills flying over dry dam

Spoonbills flying over dry dam

Then one Saturday afternoon, we came in at our gate house and saw what we thought was a plastic bag flapping on the wind, hooked onto our fence. We very quickly realised it was a bird! We found a young Jackal Buzzard had obviously misjudged and had hooked itself on the fence by its upper wing. We wrapped it in a cardigan and got it into a big box for transportation to Free Me. They then sent it on to Raptor Rescue who examined the wing and sadly had to euthanase her as the tendon and flesh were too badly damaged. We were very sad, but hope to be able to do our bit in the future as a raptor release site and with that in mind, we will build a rehabilitation area for future releases.

Young injured Jackal Buzzard

Young injured Jackal Buzzard

We are also very excited with the new forest trail which our enthusiastic and energetic youngsters have started working on, watch this space and follow us on Facebook to see the progress: https://www.facebook.com/Old-Furth-Estate-507001752673713/

Forest Trail

Forest Trail

Kevin Barnsley – Constantia, D17

Obviously rich veld and pasture lands attract these awesome birds.
For me they represent an awesome indicator species due to their insatiable appetite for all the little chaps (rodents, snakes, insects, frogs etc) that should be pursuing life down in the undergrowth of this habitat.

Of course mowing a pristine block of veld is going to expose these poor creatures, especially during the summer months. My suggestion to other hay cutting farmers and contractors is to sacrifice some yield by pitching your mowers up a little, in order to leave a little more foliage behind during the summer months. This not only gives the little chaps I’m referring to, some cover and a better chance, but also leaves some of the plants solar panels behind for them to be able to bounce back a little before winter, or even give you a better second cut of the season.
In late autumn one might be able to cut a bit lower, as the affected parties have mostly headed for deeper cover underground for the winter to escape the cold and ravages of fires etc. Of course a short cut at this time does expose the soil for the long winter, but is probably less harmful than fire, however any fire will be far less intense in such cut lands.

White Stork

White Stork

Belinda and Pierre Oosthuizen – Hambledon Farm

We have a small bat I found on our veranda floor this morning. I didn’t want my dogs to kill it so we placed it in a box and will release it tonight. Will update u how it goes. We have seen some huge rabbit’s but don’t know what kind and weren’t fast enough with the camera. We have owls too. And spotted 8 deer (Ed: “Reedbuck perhaps?”) on the short drive from the farm to the turn by the Zenex and Everything shop 2 nights ago. Have heard the jackles call the other night as well.

This is the unfortunate adder we couldn’t save the gardener from killing.

Dead Puff Adder

Dead Puff Adder

We spotted this snake near our stables, which went into the haystack. It’s about 1.2m long. We thought at first that it may have been a Mamba, however, Pat McKrill (the Snake Man) responded with the following identification: “A beautiful Olive House snake. No venom, no problem, not aggressive.”

Olive House Snake

Olive House Snake

Sue & Derek Millier – Buxtons Cottage on Beaconfield Farm

This duiker arrives at dusk and dawn most days to eat the acorns which the
vervet monkeys drop while foraging in our large oak tree.

Common (Grey) Duiker

Common (Grey) Duiker

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Well our new year started with a bang – we have had 234 ml of rain this month – wonderful.

Waterfall flowing for 1st time this week

Waterfall flowing for 1st time this week

After having an empty dam and stream, it is now running well and the dam is filling up, much to the delight of the cows and water fowl.

Storm building

Storm building

Wed 27th was not a great day as we had 2 huge hail storms with gale force winds, slicing through my garden. No electricity for 7 hours and pressure pump hit and Pat was knocked back while closing the garage door, but he’s fine. Just a slightly burnt finger thank the good Lord. The good news was we got 38 ml of rain as well. What a blessing it has been in these dry months.

A Hamerkop arrived on our swing looking for another frog but unfortunately our stream and dam were empty at this stage.

A hammerkop looking for another frog in the stream

A hammerkop looking for another frog in the stream

Late one afternoon through the mist, we saw a Woolly-necked Stork sitting on our transformer pole. Once the mist cleared he flew off.

Woolly-necked Stork

Woolly-necked Stork

Our juvenile White-throated Swallows were still returning to their nest each evening on the verandah a month after flying off. Then one morning the nest lay in a heap on the verandah slipping off the glass lampshade that it had been attached to. The one juvenile did appear on our front verandah one afternoon during a big storm. The 2 of them weren’t crazy about getting wet.

Juvenile White-throated Swallow sheltering from the storm

Juvenile White-throated Swallow sheltering from the storm

The Sunbirds have been plentiful this month with lots of shrubs and flowers to feed off. Here the male Amethyst Sunbird:

Amethyst Sunbird (male)

Amethyst Sunbird (male)

Female Amethyst Sunbird

Amethyst Sunbird (female)

Amethyst Sunbird (female)

Double-collared Sunbird

Double-collared Sunbird

Double-collared Sunbird

Female Malachite Sunbird

Female Malachite Sunbird

Female Malachite Sunbird

Male Malachite Sunbird

Malachite Sunbird (male)

Malachite Sunbird (male)

The steppe buzzard has been visiting regularly as has the Gymnogene:

African Harrier-Hawk (previously know as a Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (previously know as a Gymnogene)

Our most exciting sighting was seeing our Blue Crane with a chick about 2 months old. They arrived mid month when the dam was just starting to fill up but as there was little grass for them (being so short from the drought and eaten by 300 animals) to feed off they vanished shortly thereafter. They do reappear about once a week to wade in the dam. Another pair have also arrived on the farm but no chick.

Mama Blue Crane with her Juvenile

Mama Blue Crane with her Juvenile

We have seen reedbuck every day but not in the numbers that we used to see, which is rather sad.

Common Reedbuck (male)

Common Reedbuck (male)

Also just one Duiker this month. Pat saw a male Oribi on 2 consecutive days near our gum trees. He has also seen a black saw winged swallow down the bottom of the farm on a few occasions. A male samango monkey has been running around and on some days I could drive right past him sitting on a pole and he would just stare at me.

For the first time we had a Long-tailed Widowbird on our lawn eating along with the Sparrows.

Long-tailed Widowbird (male)

Long-tailed Widowbird (male)

Female Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver (female)

Cape Weaver (female)

Olive Thrush and female Malachite Sunbird

Olive Thrush and female Malachite Sunbird

Olive Thrush and female Malachite Sunbird

Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Just two small sightings: A dying locust resting on top of our owl, perhaps it had been injured, or affected by crop spraying in the area.

Owl-and-Locust

The recently shed skin of a skink.

skink-skin-1

Hayley & Neville van Lelyveld – Benn Meadhon Farm

Oribi
Only four of the original 9 animals were seen. A single male Oribi was seen across the road, more or less opposite the normal oribi paddock. The second herd of 5 animals that used to be above the maize field have all but disappeared.

Reedbuck
Only 4 females were seen out of a previous average count of 20 animals. Once again as per our October visit no males were observed.

Other antelope/Jackal
No other antelope species were seen at all. There has been a very steady decline in wildlife on the farm. No Jackals were seen or heard during this visit.

Other mammal species
No porcupine were observed, however I have been informed by Iain that 19 have been trapped and destroyed by Mannie since our visit in October. We were also informed that 2 Jackals were also trapped and destroyed since our October visit.

Bird life
It was very pleasing to see that the geese on the dam have been breeding; both the Egyptian and the Spurwing geese as there are quite a few goslings of both species on the dam.

General
Over the last past few months we have encountered unwanted people on the farm (in August we encountered a dog IPO club using the farm as tracking grounds. When we confronted them as we always do and as per Iain’s request to confront any strangers on the farm to find out why they are there, we were told that Mannie Delgardo, the land owner, had given them permission to use his farm. Once we informed them that Mannie was not the farm owner they were very surprised.

On Monday the 28th December from around 08h00 until around 11h00 we noticed a small white aircraft (sesna size) flying very low over the area across the road over the natural bush near Lemonwood constantly. We thought nothing of it at the time. Later however due to circumstances it became all too clear as to what the low flying air craft was doing as I believe that it was scouting the wildlife within the natural bush area on that side of the farm and the surrounding farms including Graham Freese’s forest as it circled over that area as well.

Later, Iain informed me that Mannie and his new partner, Clint, have insisted that we leave the farm with immediate effect as they have a problem with our presence on the farm. I firmly believe that this objection to us being on the farm was due to our February 2015 report. We immediately packed up and left the farm.
As Hayley and I are no longer permitted to be on Iain’s farm we can no longer monitor the wildlife on the farm and on the surrounding farms. However, the unexplained radical drops in wildlife on Iain’s farm has now become abundantly clear with this development. Unfortunately the actions of this group of people is well known by Ezemvelo, EWT and people like Robin Barnsley, the probable results of which will result in a major threat to the rest of the wildlife in the greater Dargle Valley area if this situation is allowed to continue. Hayley and I, not been allowed on Iain’s farm anymore does not mean that our involvement with the Dargle conservancy has to come to an end, but rather it will just be a little more challenging, however we will still continue to do our very best to support the Dargle Conservancy as much as possible with all their conservation projects and courses that I still intend to do. It does however affect our Oribi project with EWT as I believe that the few animals left now have no chance of survival and this greatly disturbs Hayley and I particularly since “Baby Girl” was due to give birth during November 2015. The success of this will now never be known. This project was in particular very close to our hearts and it is very painful for Hayley and I to see it totally destroyed in this way. It is very painful for us both to just leave behind 9 years of work and have it all destroyed in a matter of days.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Continuing with my “macro” images that I’ve been capturing the past few months, had some really interesting little critter sightings in January, starting with this beautiful green caterpillar

1

and again from behind…

2

I found the carapace of one of these bugs last month, this one was still alive and crawling around the natural bush on the farm

3

This poor Watsonia densiflora was being chewed to pieces

4

Whilst this Dragonfly was struggling to fly with a wonky wing

5

I came home late from Quiz Night at il Postino and had this magnificent Rhino beetle to greet me as I was closing the gate

6

The locusts were ‘busy’ this month, though not too many seen

7

Spiders were making works of art in the early hours before the dew came

8

Had a couple of different types of fungi appearing this month, this white one with some spires on top

9

and this orange one growing on an old dead Eucalyptus tree

10

A Giant Kingfisher came to visit us once

11

and to end off, a pic of the clouds coming over Inhlosane

12

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Farm

More snakes . There have been so many this summer. Natal green snake, just off the veranda.

Natal green snake, just off the veranda.

Natal green snake, just off the veranda.

A slug eater on our driveway.

A slug eater on our driveway.

A slug eater on our driveway.

The beautiful little Erythrina humeana, which is very happy in the Midlands if in a protected spot. The sunbirds love it.

Erythrina humeana

Erythrina humeana

Balloon milkweed or Hairy balls – Ghomphocarpus physocarpus. Host to the African Monarch butterfly. The little prinias and apalis ferret around in it. The sunbirds enjoy the freshly opened flowers and the fluff on the seed is used to line nests of many birds (although it is also poisonous).

Balloon milkweed, hairy balls - Ghomphocarpus physocarpus

Balloon milkweed, hairy balls – Ghomphocarpus physocarpus

While weeding I came across what I thought was a type of fungus that looked like goose down. Then these THINGS started WALKING and they JUMPED (about 20 cm high). Response from Dr Jason Londt : “It’s a plant sucking bug (Hemiptera) – I have the name Orthezia insignis – but I’m no expert on these beasts. They are usually considered pests – but I have never seen a lot of damage caused by them (but may not have the necessary experience).”

Orthezia insignis

Orthezia insignis

the bush looks totally dead.

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Then it slowly comes back to life. It is obviously host to these beetles and they have this incredible symbiotic relationship.

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

 

Senecio

Senecio

Late afternoon

Late afternoon

Kniphofia

Kniphofia

Helichrysum setosa

Helichrysum setosa

Grewia occidentalis

Grewia occidentalis

Gerbera

Gerbera

damp Crocosmia

damp Crocosmia

Aritea

Aritea

Allophylus dreageanus

Allophylus dreageanus

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – December 2015

Malvina van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

December has seen increasing competition for the puddles remaining in our dams and we have seen numerous Herons, African Spoonbills, Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese, Hamerkops, Teal, Yellow-billed Ducks, African Black Ducks, loads of raptors, disconsolate African Fish-Eagles, Sacred Ibis and even Grey Crowned Cranes visiting the ever-shrinking pools. The dam closest to the house is now completely dry and only has a mud puddle to show for the tiny amounts of rain we have received so far. Most of our little streams are dry and the stream which feeds the house is still just managing to keep going. We are deeply grateful for that! The Furth River is so low it is just threading its way between the rocks. We are also deeply grateful that at least our livestock has grass to graze on thanks to the little bit of rain – unlike areas in the rest of SA where there is just spectacularly nothing. I recently travelled to Joburg and there was a howling dust storm all the way from Harrismith to Joburg. Heaven knows where that part of the Free State went….

Chameleons (Natal Dwarf) thankfully are still bountiful and I am gleefully awaiting the tiny babies who will appear all over the garden. The hot days have delivered numerous little brown grass snakes of varying sizes who have required rescue from our cats.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

The Cicadas have been loving the heat and we found one emerging from its casing inside the house in late November, after the sightings had been listed.

Cicada (superfamily of insects in the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha)

Cicada (superfamily of insects in the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha)

Thousands of baby Praying Mantis have been hatching as well.

We had a lovely visit from the Knysna Loeries (or Turaco), who have increased their flock from two to five. What a delight to just catch the flash of their beautiful plumage as they explore the indigenous forest along the stream bed near the house! Various Flycatchers and Sunbirds have been very active in and around the garden and the Paradise Flycatchers are often seen flitting upstream to where the waterfall should be running (but is not) near the house – they must have a nest there again this year.

On returning from a recent road trip to Gauteng, we were welcomed back to the Midlands by the most spectacular sight of thousands of Amur Falcons (previously known as Eastern Red-Footed Kestrels) arriving in Mooi River at sunset, seeking a roost for the night in the big London Plane trees near the Spar. I could not have asked for a better welcome home! Hopefully they will decimate the huge swarms of locusts we have been having in the garden now that they have arrived.

Amur Falcons

Amur Falcons

Wishing everyone in our wonderful Valley all the very best for an excellent 2016, hopefully we will get some rain next year!

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

HAPPY 2016 EVERYONE!

BIRDS
The junior Crowned Crane and its parents went away for a few days and then they were back without jnr. Did they deliver him/her to its mate? They seem to have made two paddocks their home territory. I see them every day.
The village weavers have been entertaining in their tree right in front of the veranda. Many nests on the ground testify to frustrated hens not being ready to mate. Broken egg-shells tell of success and busy-ness. I’ve noticed the Drongo checking out the possibilities of a meal, as does the resident Fiscal Shrike.
The entrance porch is home now to a pair of house martins (I think). One flew into the cottage to the delight of my old cat who could do nothing but chatter. It was evening so I switched off the inside lights and it soon found its way out.

MOTHS
Never have I seen such a variety of insects as those that invade any lighted room in my cottage!

 

Metarctica lateritia

Metarctica lateritia

Does anyone know the ID of this brown moth?

Does anyone know the ID of this brown moth?

GUTTURAL TOAD
The insects invite predators so of course I have had to remove frogs from the cottage. At last I remembered to photograph one: the flash in the bucket has given the toad an unusual colour but its patterns show quite clearly. The cross on its back is reminiscent of the cross on a donkey’s back, but I don’t think there’s any linking the toad to that legend!

Guttural Toad

Guttural Toad

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

The first pic is where I was walking with Inhlosane in the back. I have never seen the grass that short before and only very few flowers very low down to the ground before.

Inhlosane

Inhlosane

This purple flower was almost not visible at all.

2

This yellow flower I have seen many a times before, but this time very low to the ground and not many about.

3

Purple flower next to a fern, also not taller than 15cm in height.

4

Dung Beatle busy rolling his food store for the next generation.

5

Evening primrose normally well over 1 meter tall, this one 20cm high.

6

Never seen this before on the side of an eroded path.

7

This green friend was very happy where he was

8

Normally these Beatles are also 10x bigger. Must have been the lack of rain this year that stunned all growth up here in the upper dargle.

9

Nicole Schafer – Woodcroft Farm, Lidgetton

A large Bushbuck ram seen on Woodcroft farm, photographed from a distance

Bushbuck

Bushbuck

Brunsvigia photographed in the Mbona Private Nature Reserve

Mbona Nature Reserve - Brunsvigia 2

And here a little closer…

Mbona Nature Reserve - Brunsvigia

Charles Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Common Slug Eater (Thanks Pat McKrill for the identification!)

Common Slug Eater

Common Slug Eater

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Black and orange locust

Black & Orange Locust

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Black scorpion seen near the MTN tower on the top of the farm

Black Scorpion

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Our 2 wagtail babies hatched on a day of 38 degrees (1st dec) The 2 white throated baby swallows on the front verandah decided it was just too hot and decided to also get out of the nest and sit on top of it

White-throated Swallow sitting outside his mud nest

White-throated Swallow sitting outside his mud nest

They kept sitting on lampshade for a few days and then across to the ledge a metre away for a few hours where mom kept encouraging them to get out there and fly. Eventually on the 7th December they flew out and sat on gutter where mom and dad fed them for a few hours (they were born 23rd November approx.)

Mommy swallow flying in to feed the 2 young that had just left the nest

Mommy swallow flying in to feed the 2 young that had just left the nest

They then joined the parents and flew off into the blue skies – they returned to the mud nest each evening for 2 weeks thereafter and then we went on holiday. They were not here on our return.

I was very excited to watch the growth and feeding of the wagtail young on our verandah.

Cape Wagtail

Cape Wagtail

Both parents so diligent feeding non stop till late evening

Pair of Cape Wagtails feeding their young

Pair of Cape Wagtails feeding their young

Then on the 10th December I went out to see them and they were lying dead beneath their nest. One half eaten and very little left of the other one

Remains of dead wagtail babies

Remains of dead wagtail babies

I was absolutely devastated. I cannot understand what is happening with this pair of wagtails. First she laid 2 eggs in the jasmine creeper in spring and never sat on them. Then she made a nest in the other creeper and the 2 young just disappeared on the tenth day too. Then they came and built on the verandah in my pot plant and again death – but why and who would eat them? A few days later they decided to start building again on the verandah but this time in my maidenhair fern. That was an absolute no no. Removed the fern. They now have built another nest in the jasmine creeper but so high that I cannot see anything but see the pair of adults flitting in and out.

On the other side of the verandah the female Amethyst Sunbird started feeding her young at the beginning of December. On the 10th dec I saw one sunbird peeking its head out the nest and tweeting loudly for its food.

Only room for one sunbird at a time to stick its head out of nest

Only room for one sunbird at a time to stick its head out of nest

Poor mama was working overtime because he screamed all day long – then 2 days later suddenly another head appeared behind the front head battling to get the front position, but no room.

2 juvenile Amethyst Sunbirds

2 juvenile Amethyst Sunbirds

No wonder mom was working so hard. Dad arrived now and then to check out the progress of the young. On the 15th dec both babies left the nest at lunch time and sat on the hanging basket for awhile.

2 juvenile Amethyst Sunbirds leaving the nest for the first time

2 juvenile Amethyst Sunbirds leaving the nest for the first time

Unfortunately I was not here to see this magic emergence but fortunately my husband was, and took a few pics. Thereafter mom fed both of them in the bottlebrush tree and fuschia bushes outside my bedroom. I could not see them but could hear them and saw mom popping in and out. I was just so thrilled to know that at least the swallow and sunbird babes had survived.

There are at least 4 sets of sparrows being fed by mom on the lawn at the moment. Two have 3 each, one has one and the other one has 2, so they too have done well considering this is their 2nd batch this season.
A pair of starlings have been feeding young in the one chimney and rock pigeons feeding in the other chimney.

What was very special this year was seeing one juvenile Red-throated Wryneck emerge from its nest in the hollow pole next to the gate in front of our house.

Juvenile and adult Red-throated Wryneck

Juvenile and adult Red-throated Wryneck

The female has sat there and called for about 3 seasons now and no young ever seemed to come from this. This juvenile sat on top of the pole for a few days before eventually flying off with mom.

Juvenile Red-throated Wryneck testing his wings before flying off with mom

Juvenile Red-throated Wryneck testing his wings before flying off with mom

Another first for us was having a pair of black cuckoo calling in the trees around the house. Probably because our trees have grown large (we have been here nearly 8 years)
An olive thrush has been digging up our ground cover in the formal garden looking for grubs and worms and is nesting in one of the standard drassina bushes.

One afternoon, 2 Cape Longclaws were giving vent to their feelings for hours while sitting in the proteas.

Couple of Cape Longclaws

Couple of Cape Longclaws

I have only seen 2 juvenile Cape Robin-Chats this season.

Juvenile Cape Robin-Chat

Juvenile Cape Robin-Chat

Have only seen 16 white stork in our lands. Pat saw an oribi running through farm and also a Martial Eagle. Our gardener sadly killed another Red-lipped Herald on the verandah (~perhaps the gardener needs to attend a Snake Talk with Pat McKrill?! – Ash). Our house sitter saw a genet at 7pm walking along the stone wall behind the house.

A pair of Natal Spurfowl walked down our driveway one morning.

Natal Spurfowl

Natal Spurfowl

Another first for us was the female Buff-streaked Chat nesting under the eaves of the house. Could not see the nest but they kept flying in and out. One precious baby came of this mating.

Juvenile male Buff-streaked Chat

Juvenile male Buff-streaked Chat

One morning I heard a commotion out the front and saw dad chasing his son around the rockery – poor little guy was terrified and screeching his head off.

Adult father Buff-streaked Chat chasing his juvenile son away – little chap hiding behind rockery

Adult father Buff-streaked Chat chasing his juvenile son away – little chap hiding behind rockery

Dad eventually left. Juvenile male buff streaked chat resting on rock after being chased by dad…

Juvenile male Buff-streaked Chat resting on rock after being chased by dad

Juvenile male Buff-streaked Chat resting on rock after being chased by dad

Ingrid if you are reading this, I have about 12 photos for you if you are still interested, as you told me last year that there was only 1 picture on the internet of a juvenile and then the one I took last year. Now I have some lovely ones of him which I will post next month or contact me should you need the photos.

I think this may be a juvenile Malachite Sunbird?

I think this may be a juvenile malachite sunbird

Eidin Griffin

Spotted lots of these giant African land snails on the D16 between Corrie Lynn and the river. Saw them around the same time last year too. I was in and out of the car a couple of times moving them so they wouldn’t get squashed by traffic. Must ask the Corrie Lynn school kids to make a ‘Beware of the Snails’ sign 🙂

Snail

Barend & Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

The Carnivorous snail on the right is busy having a dinner of Agate Snail in Kilgobbin Forest…

Untitled

Carl Bronner – Old Kilgobbin Farm

I was riding with a friend up on our main hayfield last week and we saw two huge black birds with red faces. When we got home and checked in the Roberts’ bird book, we found out that they were ground hornbills! Quite rare in our area. We didn’t get too close as we had dogs with us, and the birds marched along the edge of the field and then disappeared into the forest.

Ashley’s Response: Thanks Carl! That is a rare and a great find. Southern Ground-Hornbills are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ throughout Africa by the IUCN, but within South Africa they have been classified as ‘Endangered’, as their numbers outside of formally protected areas are still declining. If you have a moment and can possibly provide additional info such as exact location and GPS coordinates, please go to the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project website:

http://www.ground-hornbill.org.za/

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

American brambles (declared Invasive Alien Plants) are a terrible curse that we are battling to get rid of on the farm, but after 3 years we are almost winning the battle. The berries are delicious though…I will miss them!

American Bramble Berries

American Bramble Berries

The dandelions are certainly popping up all over the countryside.