Tag Archives: dwarf chameleon

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon – Bradypodion thamnobates

– By Nick Evans –

The Midlands is home to a vast array of amazing animals, including many species of reptiles and amphibians. One of the most striking and beautiful of the lot is the Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates).

Howick

Photographed in Howick by Nick Evans

This gorgeous, colourful chameleon is one of many species of dwarf chameleons of the genus Bradypodion. It is actually quite large for a supposedly dwarf chameleon, and can get to a length of around 20cm (including the tail)!

Chameleons, usually, are popular amongst people and most people adore them! How can you not? They’re very cute and loveable animals, with an interesting persona. People are generally often fascinated by their many interesting features. It’s usually the oven mitt- like ‘hands and feet’ and the way they move about, or the constantly rotating eyes, that people find most interesting.

Nottingham

Photographed in Nottingham Road by Nick Evans

The way chameleons hunt is truly amazing. They move slowly through the bush, blending in with their environment very well, and move like a stick in the wind, with the eyes constantly scanning for food or threats around them. They also use their long, prehensile tail for balance. In fact they can even hang off branches while clinging to it using just the tail! Once they have spotted a tasty grasshopper, both eyes focus on the insect, and it then shoots its long, sticky tongue out which hits the insect, and acts like a suction cup. It’s an incredible sight to behold! That tongue of theirs can be as long, or even longer than their body!

Nottingham 2

Photographed in Nottingham Road by Nick Evans

Chameleons exhibit interesting behaviour. Did you know:

  • Chameleons don’t generally climb down to a pond/stream to drink. They actually drink dew or rain drops off the leaves of the shrubs that they’re on.
  • Chameleons cannot shed their tails like a gecko.
  • Like all reptiles, chameleons shed their skin. Most reptiles just leave their skin to peel off, but the chameleon will eat its shed skin! This is to supply their diet with calcium.
  • Chameleons are famous for changing colour, but this is partially a myth. If you put a chameleon on a red/blue/purple or any colour clothing, contrary to popular belief, it won’t change to that colour. Their natural colour allows them to blend in to the environment already. However, a chameleon’s colour can change to lighter or darker shades. So, for example, if a chameleon is stressed, it will become very dark.
Howick (2)

Photographed in Howick by Nick Evans

The Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon is currently listed as Vulnerable, but it is locally common in some parts of the Midlands. The reason why it is listed as Vulnerable, is due to habitat loss, which is an ongoing problem. Please remembers that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s)  are not optional, as they are required only for certain listed activities.

We consulted Gareth Mauck at Hogarty Attorneys who informed us: “According to the National Environmental Management Act’s EIA regulations (2014), certain listed activities will be subject to an EIA. There are two streams of EIA. The first and least onerous is the Basic Assessment (BA). BA is required where environmental impacts are not likely to be significant (generally listing notice 1). The second more onerous process is the Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment – This more onerous procedure is required where the activities fall under listing notice 2 and 3 and are generally significant environmental impacts.”

You can download the following documents:

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleons are also popular pets, especially overseas where they are commonly bred. These slow and crinkly friends are often collected by kids or people that think it’s a ‘cool’ animal to keep. Rather don’t do this, they are not easy animals to keep and are best left in the wild.

Rosetta

Photographed in Rosetta by Nick Evans

 

Consider yourself lucky should you find one of these remarkable reptiles in your garden. If you want to encourage them to your garden, plant indigenous plant species which will attract chameleon food! Don’t use pesticides, the chameleons will do that job for you!
The Midlands Dwarf Chameleon is definitely one of the gems of the area!

To find out what Nick does, you can visit his website: www.kznamphibianreptileconservation.com

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.

Dandelions

Had a plague of beetles arrive the one day, luckily they soon disappeared.

Beetle plague, here one day and gone the next

A large green locust came to visit.

Large green locust

And a hairy worm was playing on the lawn.

Large hairy worm

This beautiful large moth was sitting on the dog’s blanket.

Large moth on dog blanket

On one occasion I picked up a dead leaf from the hydrangea bush and found this very large yellow spider inside (Hairy Field Spider), I set him down and made my retreat!

Large yellow spider inside a Hydrangea leaf

Hairy Field Spider

One evening the dogs were going mad, so I went outside to find out the cause…

 

I found a very docile Natal Black Snake Natal black snake...1which didn’t seem at all worried about all the commotion it was causing. It slowly slithered through the grass, and went down the drain pipe.

Natal black snake...2

This beautiful Painted Reed Frog came into the kitchen one evening so I tried to take it outside. I found out it had really sticky foot pads as I struggled to get it off my hand!

Painted Reed Frog

Every evening these black beetles are attracted in their hundreds to the gate security lights

Thousands of small black beetles drawn to the security lights

A couple of coiled up Millipedes found under an old tyre.

Tightly Coiled Millipedes

And a strange bug I found, never seen one before.

Unknown bug

The wild Aloes were managing to collect some of the dew drops.

Water collecting in wild aloe leaves

Water running down the road after a big rain! Sadly it was short lived and we still needs lots more to add to the little puddles of dams in the area.

Running rain water - a welcome sight

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Farm

The dry weather continues with just enough drizzle to keep things green. The Pavetta lanceolata,  (weeping brides bush )in the garden was looking very pretty but with the intense heat and no rain, it was soon over.

Pavetta lanceolata

Pavetta lanceolata

At the beginning of December we noticed a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds in the gigantic Jochroma cyaneum ( South American ) known as blue cestrum. One of the few exotics in the garden as the sunbirds, amethyst, malachite and Southern double-collared, love it too.

Jochroma cyaneum

Jochroma cyaneum

In the 12 years we have lived on Kildaragh, we have trotted up 128 bird species. Residents, holidaymakers and daytrippers. A motley selection outside the kitchen.

3 - Birds

The rye field alongside the garden, has attracted the tiny Zitting Cisticolas, and we constantly hear their loud, high pitched call as they fly dipping over the grass. Recently, in the early of the morning, we have heard the nkonyane’s (bladder beetle) eerie call . Our children used to think that the Martians had landed and were always rather wide eyed at the sound.

Our gardener, while eating her lunch noticed an umhlangane running across the wide lawn to cover, on the other side. It must have been a confused, large , grey mongoose.

A night adder paid us a Christmas visit. Tried to gain entry to house, but I shooed him off.

Night Adder

Night Adder

The Alberta magna gives us a good display of lovely bright flowers each summer.

Alberta magna

Alberta magna

The little Eucomis humilis

Eucomis humilis

Eucomis humilis

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Autumn 2015

Barry Downard

Here’s an unusual sighting – a Praying Mantis “riding” a bicycle!

Praying Mantis fits in with the KZN Midlands lifestyle.

Praying Mantis fits in with the KZN Midlands lifestyle.

Brandon Powell

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 08

We climbed Inhlosane in a stiff autumn wind – the view of the changing colours of the landscape and fast-sailing clouds was incomparable, as was the huge eagle that flew straight over our heads as soon as we opened the first weissbier at the top…

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 07

There seemed to be beautiful, late-blooming flowers in every crevice and cranny of the mountain.

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 01 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 06 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 05 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 04 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 03 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 02

At Bukamanzi the spiders and beetles get odder and odder looking, but I’m quite fond of them now: This shy, translucent one hides under the rose leaves.

2015-05-04 Bukamanzi 01

There’s a rather mad-looking orange and black one who turned up in the kindling basket.

Scorpion Spider

Scorpion Spider

And a beetle with a back that looks like a Congolese mask.

2015-05-04 Bukamanzi 03

Otherwise it’s been the usual Reedbuck, jackal and vervet monkeys but no sign of the resident genet or duiker in while.

A new addition is the resident snake, Sir Hiss, who I trod on one afternoon on the sunny door-mat. He streaked away like molten toffee being thrown in the air, a wild line of green, as I yelled and jumped up and down on the kitchen table for a good hour. After I described him to her, Helen Booysen thought it must have been a boomslang. She would know, after finding Barend with one whirling around his head like a kite. As snakes go it was wonderful to look at but like a mad horse I still shy away stupidly from hose-pipes/dropped tea-towels/dead sticks.

Our bit of the valley has had an especially fine blaze of autumn colour and flowers:

2015-05-09 Autumn 02

And as ever it’s the details that really stay with one long after the big showy scenes have faded from memory:

2015-05-09 Autumn 01

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

I think we are extraordinarily privileged to be able to observe wildlife at close quarters – often from the comfort of our favourite chair. Over the top of my computer screen, I was able to watch this gorgeous Golden Orb Web spider for a few weeks.

Golden Orb spider

Golden Orb spider

The low sun catching the threads of the web and creating sparkles in the partial shade of the forest. Quite challenging to photograph.

Golden Orb Spider

Golden Orb Spider

After a windy day, red Halleria lucida blossoms were caught in the web creating a really festive forest decoration. She is gone now.

Spider silhouette

Spider silhouette

Just outside, Hadedas built a nest in the Kiggelaria africana tree and hatched two babies. Once again, I was able to observe them at leisure, which was a treat, although the droppings made the most awful mess on the shrubs and patio beneath. Astonishing how two big chicks managed to perch on the tiny, flimsy nest. Before the fledged, they hopped from branch to branch stretching their wings.

Hadeda chicks

Hadeda chicks

A Midlands Autumn classic is the blaze of Leonotis leonaurus across fields and along roadsides. They are particularly spectacular this year.

Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonaurus

Wild Dagga – Leonotis leonaurus

Also still in flower in the long grass is the dainty, parasitic Striga bilabiata. The pinkish mauve flowers with prominent veins are borne on hairy, plum coloured stems.

Striga bilabiata

Striga bilabiata

Veronia natalensis (I think) is also still flowering. The dark purple contrasts beautifully with the gold, bronze and russet grasses.

Veronia  natalensis

Veronia natalensis

Not so natural, but spectacular nonetheless, are the seed heads of Blackjacks (Bidens pilosa) along paths in the grassland.

Blackjacks

Blackjacks

Also in the grassland, there are lots of buck to be seen. I spotted Oribi (a group of three), Common Duiker and Reedbuck.

Beautiful Reedbuck ram

Beautiful Reedbuck ram

Relaxing in the sunshine in the middle of the road one afternoon was this beautiful Midlands Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates). I moved him out of harm’s way and took some photos. Lucky me.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Mike and Anne Weedon

With much of our grass having been cut and the weather allowing for some green growth, the numbers of Reedbuck spotted have increased somewhat in recent weeks.

Female Bushbuck

Female Bushbuck

One of our members of staff was fortunately alerted by a scuffle in the bushes on the way to work recently and, on investigating, discovered a rather exhausted Serval (Leptailurus serval) caught in a snare. Not wanting to unnecessarily alarm the poor animal, I called on Free-Me and SA Can for assistance and they both reacted immediately. With a blanket over its head, the serval was soon calmed and the snare around its rump was quickly removed. A thorough examination surprisingly revealed no injuries whatsoever and the cat was released back into the bush. Many thanks for the prompt and expert help from these two wonderful organisations.

Serval trapped in snare. Free-me and SA CAN helped to free it.

Serval trapped in snare. Free-me and SA CAN helped to free it.

David Crookes

Sunset over Mavela Dam.

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Pat and Sandra Merrick

Some lovely sightings in April and May:

White-throated Swallow chicks thrown out their nest.

White-throated Swallow chicks thrown out their nest.

Painted lady butterfly

Painted lady butterfly

Dead jackal on D17 - run over during the night.

Dead jackal on D17 – run over during the night.

This moth was on the window when I drew the curtains one morning - no idea of its identity.

This moth was on the window when I drew the curtains one morning – no idea of its identity.

These lizards are very social and run in and out the rocks while I am gardening.

These lizards are very social and run in and out the rocks while I am gardening.

Jackal buzzard

Jackal buzzard

Southern Boubou shrieking at her partner down below her

Southern Boubou shrieking at her partner down below her

Malachite sunbird in autumn colours.

Malachite sunbird in autumn colours.

I think this is a reed frog in its brown colouring.

I think this is a reed frog in its brown colouring.

Buff-streaked Chats having a bath one hot morning

Buff-streaked Chats having a bath one hot morning

Reed cormorant drying its wings after diving in and out the pond all morning eating crabs and frogs.

Reed cormorant drying its wings after diving in and out the pond all morning eating crabs and frogs.

Common baboon spider

Common baboon spider

We have had 5 female water buck on the farm this month. They seem to hide during the day in the gum trees and come out in the early evening to drink at the dam.

We have had 5 female water buck on the farm this month. They seem to hide during the day in the gum trees and come out in the early evening to drink at the dam.

Female waterbuck

Female waterbuck

An Aardvark dug this huge hole in our driveway. We filled it in but he came back several times and dug it out again. So presumably heaps of termites down this hole.

An Aardvark dug this huge hole in our driveway. We filled it in but he came back several times and dug it out again. So presumably heaps of termites down this hole.

Cattle Egrets and Reed cormorants settling down for the night.

Cattle Egrets and Reed cormorants settling down for the night.

Secretary bird showing his crown of feathers.

Secretary bird showing his crown of feathers.

African Stonechat

African Stonechat

Crowned crane on power lines at dusk - juvenile in the middle with small crown.

Crowned crane on power lines at dusk – juvenile in the middle with small crown.

We have had a pair of Blacksmith plovers sleeping in our garden each evening - they would walk around the house with their distinct tink tink sound waking me up.

We have had a pair of Blacksmith plovers sleeping in our garden each evening – they would walk around the house with their distinct tink tink sound waking me up.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2015

Charles Robinson – Ican Hebron Haven Nguni farm

Charles posted the following photographs of a snake onto Biodiversity explorer that was found on the farm early one morning. Their response was the following: “Hi Charles, you have caught a Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia) which isn’t really venomous at all.”

Non-venomous Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Non-venomous Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Here you can see why they call it the Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia).

Here you can see why they call it the Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia).

Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Herald or Red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

Jenny Fly

All our Haleria bushes are inundated with these caterpillars. Presumably they are butterfly larvae but I don’t know which. Perhaps someone can help.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Most birds won’t eat hairy or bristly caterpillars, except for cuckoos and blackheaded Orioles.
Our garden is full of cuckoos, Diedericks, Klaas’s and a Jacobin who visit us every year at this time, all feasting on these caterpillars, and those on the Kigelaria too.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Caterpillar of an Emperor moth.

Dr Jason Londt, an expert in creepy crawlies identified these caterpillars in April 2014 as those from an Emperor moth.

Brian & Marashene Lewis – Glengyle

These images were captured by the Dargle Conservancy Trophy Camera which Brian and Marashene Lewis had set up on their property. These images were just too late for last month’s Wildlife Sightings so they were included in March! Enjoy the Bushbuck “selfies”.

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Coccinia hirsuta – wild cucumber – has grown prolifically this summer. Tendrils creeping through my windows, covering paths and climbing every tree and shrub. Clearly it likes the current climatic conditions.

Coccinia hirsuta - wild cucumber

Coccinia hirsuta – wild cucumber

The cucumber-like fruit is an attractive bright orange-red fading to green at the stem end. It has creamy yellow flowers – the male flower is borne on a long stem, while the female has a short stem. The soft leaves are slightly hairy, deeply lobed and can be cooked and eaten as spinach.

Wild cucumber flower - Coccinia hirtella

Wild cucumber flower – Coccinia hirtella

In the forest, Carissa bispinosa (Forest num-num, umVusankunzi) is fruiting at the moment. The small red fruits are edible and delicious and make good jams and jellies (if you can collect enough!).

Carissa bispinosa fruit

Forest Num-num fruit – Carissa bispinosa

Bright pink Hesperantha baurii is still flowering in the grassland on sunny days (the flowers open in sunlight).

Hesperantha baurii

Hesperantha baurii

Barry & Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

These Chameleons were clinging to a security gate for some reason. About to open the gate, Rose saw the one, and put him on her hand.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Opening the gate, the other one, who must have been higher up, fell to the ground. Fascinating colours… possibly male and female?

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon - Male and Female?

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon – Male and Female?

The colourful one appears to just be finishing off shedding. Apart from these two, we haven’t seen much to get excited about this month.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – April 2014

Josh Dovey and Claire Weston – Rathmines Farm
Found this little chap in the Hydrangeas last week!ChameleonandInhlosane

David and Helen Mann – Knowhere Farm
Have been hearing some loud barking coming from the forest across the uMngeni river from their farm. Baboons perhaps? Somebody mentioned it might be Samango monkeys calling (Ed: perhaps we need to setup a trail cam there sometime?)

Nigel Anderson – Lane’s End

Nice flock of Crowned Cranes that are very common adjacent to Lanes End farm at the moment, feeding on the spilled maize.

Grey Crowned Cranes

CranesCrowned in flight

Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage
Two sightings this month of female Flufftails, possibly the Redchested Flufftails as I have heard their calls a few times recently in our garden. On both occasions she came fairly close to me, quite unconcerned by my presence as she seemed to be more focussed on foraging for food. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on hand either time to take any photos. No other unusual wildlife sightings this month, but lots of gorgeous sunrises and sunsets! The sunrise on Easter morning – the entire sky was a beautiful pink and golden colour, quite spectacular!

Sunrise-Easter-2014

David and Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm
Spectacular sunset over Mavela dam
autumn sunset over mavela dam

Pink Everlasting (Helichrysum adenocarpus)
Helichrysum adenocarpum

Senecio madagascariensis (Canary Weed)
senecio madacgascarins

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft
Saw 7 Eland at the bottom of Wakecroft towards the umngeni a few days ago And lots of autumn colours.

Saw 7 Eland at the bottom of Wakecroft towards the umngeni a few days ago And lots of autumn colours.I found this little Datura man ready to pop, the other morning

I found this little Datura man ready to pop, the other morningNoticed these 2 beetles hiding from the cold and feeding on one of the last evening primroses.

Noticed these 2 beetles hiding from the cold and feeding on one of the last evening primroses.

Evert and Malvina van Breemen – Old Furth
In April we saw a young Honey Buzzard who took up residence in the trees near our bottom dam for a while and who was very clumsy about landings, causing great consternation to the Dabchick family on the dam. The Teal seemed largely unconcerned about it. The bottom dam also saw a long residency of a Spoonbill who kept the Herons and Egyptian Geese company for a few weeks. We also had a superb sighting of a juvenile Martial Eagle in the trees alongside this dam one morning. The ever-clumsy Gymnogene is still raiding the trees around the house and down the driveway.  Spider wrapped up this moth very neatly.

jsuu_Spiderwithmoth
A jackal was run over on the P130 outside Sagewood’s gate at the end of April. The jackal have been extremely vociferous at night and have been coming down quite low from the hills surrounding us, as have the baboon and vervet monkey troops. The plague of locusts is diminishing at last and we now have large flocks of little seed birds swarming all over the grasses on the hillside next to the house. The waxbills and firefinches come into the garden areas as well, which is a delight. The Sunbirds are also still very active in the garden.
We also had a surprise visitor in the kitchen early one evening in the form of a dark upper bodied snake with a salmon pink underbelly, who was fairly relaxed about being posted into a very large tupperware and taken outside. It behaved rather like some form of constrictor – any guesses as to the uninvited guest’s identity? We did not try to introduce ourselves

Thanks for the response from Pat McKrill about the snake sighting: “No guarantees, but it fits the description of a brown water snake, Lycodonomorphus rufulus – iVuzamanzi (Zulu) – pretty common up in that area, feeding mostly on fish, tadpoles and frogs. Just an observation, but at first glance, a relaxed Mozambique spitter making its way across the lawn can look pretty similar. Caution always urged.”

Brandon Powell – Bukamanzi Cottage

Last week I saw a genet or a serval (I don’t know which, but it was long legged and spotty with pointy ears) on the D17! Update after viewing pics of both on Wikipedia: I think a Genet, the Serval looks too big.
You can also mark me down for a couple of Duiker (D17, daytime and night-time) and Petrustroom Rd (night-time, opposite David Fowler’s) and Francolin (my house, D17) although the latter have stopped their calls now but they were going mad a few weeks ago. And a hare and a jackal (D17)  Eds note: Perhaps you saw an African Wild Cat?  that’s pretty special.

Ashleigh Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Black Ants and eggs found under a rock  on the farm

black ants and eggs

lots of locusts still about

locust

mom found this tiny toad in the garden.

jsuu_DargleTinyFrogMomFoundPic22014_2

we rescued this mole from the dogs

jsuu_Mole_2

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

My favourite things this Autumn month of April have been:
The sound of thick billed weavers snacking on Celtis africana seeds
A purple heron rising elegantly from the reeds
Forest edges festooned with yellow Senecio tamoidesr senecio thamoidesVery early in the morning, tree dassies calling – (why so late in the season?) the occasional wood owl and jackals, of course
Athrixia phylicoides, Bushman’s tea – The muted mauve flowers and dark leaves felted grey underneath, blend beautifully with the rest of the faded colours in the landscaper athrixia phylicoidesThe shiny new leaves on Prunus africanus and the old ones swirling off in the breeze
Lots of Reedbuck in the occasional still-green fields
Birds feasting on Vepris lanceolata fruit
Many interesting spoor in the mud as the dam level recedes

r spoor
A lone Cape Parrot flying between forest patches – hope he finds his friends
A Bush Black Cap on a branch outside my window
Tiny bright purple Monopsis decipens flowering on forest fringes

r monopsis decipiensAll the little birds which frequent the water bowl on my veranda – furtively looking about to make sure it is safe. So many butterflies – mostly white, but some emerald swallowtails too.
Masses of Phymaspermum acerosum – Curry’s Post Weed – in full bloom
r phymaspermum

Bridgette Bolton – Robhaven Farm

caterpillar

Please can someone put to rest my curiosity, and end a debate… What on earth is this caterpillar? (in fact, is it a caterpillar???)

Does it cocoon? Does it turn into a moth or butterfly? Are those its eggs on its back?

 

 

 

Why do they suddenly drop dead at the bottom of the tree in a stinky pile?

mass of caterpillars

caterpillar wasp eggsEd’s note: Pretty sure those are the eggs of a wasp that lays them in caterpillars to hatch. Were the caterpillars on a Celtis africana tree?  Why not post them on this wonderful  facebook page and see if an insect enthusiast can help you?https://www.facebook.com/groups/Butterfliesandbugs/

Jason Londt, an expert in creepy crawlies tells us “The caterpillars are those of an emperor moth, and the eggs on the back of one are actually cocoons of a parasitic wasp”

 

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Sunset - think the birds are hadedas

Pat saw 3 jackal running around the farm mid-morning. A striped pole cat on the D 18
Buffstreaked chats spent many hours bathing in our rock pool over the past hot couple of weeks.

This buff streaked chat had a lovely bath one hot morning

Buffstreaked chat and malachite sunbird in eclipse

Common bulbul mom been feeding her 3 fully grown babies with worms. They sit just outside our kitchen on a tree branch, although I think mom is getting a bit fed up now and flies off to eat her own worms.  Common Stone Chat.

Common female stonechat

Cape Robin flew into our window

This cape robin flew into our veradah door and took ten minutes to recover before flying off

I was looking for our 3 blue crane one morning and found them in a newly planted rye grass land next to the natural bush. As I watched a jackal ran out the bush and ran towards them. Thankfully they saw him and flew off. The jackal slunk back into the bush. Our crane are still around and arrive at the dam in the evenings, hopping up and down or running up and down the edge of the dam.

Blue crane dancing at sunset

A pair of crowned crane have also been here nearly every day.

the crowned crane kept flying ahead of us and landing.  They were very curious.

They do not like the Ngunis to come and drink near them and open their wings and run forwards trying to chase them away.

I took 3 pics of crowned crane flying

One evening I took the dogs for a walk. They were prancing around the dam, jumping and running for joy. As we walked on they flew ahead of us and landed in front of us on the hill. They seemed curious and kept following. Eventually when we were about 20 metres from them they flew off.

Crowned crane dancing for joy and one unconcerned spoonbill

Saw jackal buzzard on stone wall. Reed cormorant on dead tree. He sat for a few minutes and then flew into the pond. He was on the ground for a while but could not see what he was eating as grass too long. It would have been a crab or frog.

reed cormorant

4 natal francolin live in our garden somewhere where the grass is long. They are very shy and run off when approached. A black stork arrived at the dam and stayed for 2 days.

black stork
4 white breasted crows around house area. One morning, Pat saw a pair of Stanleys Bustards on lower part of farm.

A pair of Stanleys BustardsA hamerkop arrived in the garden after a storm

This hammerkop always seems to arrive in our garden after a rain.

Wayne and Kathy Lourens – Aloe Ridge Farm

We have seen the usual Reedbuck, a duiker, Giant Mongooses etc. on Hopedale in general. Early in the month, our manager, David, found an injured raptor at his off-grid house on the top-farm. Kathy took it in to FreeMe for treatment, but here are some photos David took of it…

rufous sparrow hawk2As far as we can make out, it’s a Juvenile Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk (Accipiter rufiventris)

rufous sparrow hawk3Over Easter weekend, we camped out with our caravan (called “Kat-a-Van”) on a new site above our top-farm dam, and on Sunday morning, hosted a short visit from our neighbours, Mike & Ann Weeden & their family, to be greeted by a Fish Eagle flying over the dam, & settling into one of the trees at the old ruin site. A week prior to that, while restocking our dam, a juvenile Fish Eagle gave us a regal fly-by. Its great to see offspring from breeding pairs in the valley.

While clearing the tall grass on our new off-grid campsite, I spotted an amphibian hiding in the grass, a Striped Stream Frog (Strongylopus fasciatus), as there is a stream not far from where it was seen.

On Easter Sunday, as we were breaking camp on the top-farm, our manager, David, contacted us urgently on the cellphone, to say a large black & yellow snake was in the paddock where our breeding mares & their offspring were grazing. As the pack-up was nearly done, Kathy & I asked David to keep an eye on it, as we were leaving within 10 minutes, & would sort it out when we got down to the main Aloe Ridge farm. Kathy had her quadbike, so left ahead of me, & when I’d negotiated the 4X4 route down to Aloe Ridge as quickly as was safe while towing the off-road caravan – envisioning meanwhile that I’d be dealing with a possible M’fesi (Mozambican Spitting Cobra – Naja mossambica) or Rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus) – then collected my snake-stick from my study at a gallop, I arrived at where Kathy was standing under one of the old Pecan Nut trees, where she pointed out the well-camouflaged culprit, which, I was relieved to see, was a rather beautiful uMbalulu (Puff Adder – Bitis arietans), about 1 metre long. With Kathy’s help I carefully snared it in my snake-stick, & put it in an empty feed sack, then took it for a ride on the quadbike to the far end of the flood plain, where I released it on the fence line.

jsuu_PuffAdder_2

Going out from the farm to fetch staff in Howick after one of the holiday weekends, Kathy spotted a juvenile Serval on the D.244, about a third of the way up “Hopedale Hill”. She took a photo with her mobile phone camera, but it was not at all clear. After having both our tractors in pieces, our haymaking got off to a late start when Kathy’s tractor was rebuilt.

jsuu_WildDagga

While out baling hay, a one-legged Stork followed Kathy quite closely, hopping towards her more than once. Perhaps its injury is keeping it local when the remainder have migrated?

one legged Stork

World Wildlife Day

Today the world will celebrate the first ever World Wildlife Day. The 3rd of March was chosen by the United Nations General Assembly because it is the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international treaty that aims to ensure global trade does not threaten the survival of listed species. r milestone midlands dwarf chameleon In the KZN Midlands, we have a wide range of special fauna and flora to celebrate and care for.  These include many species listed on the IUCN Red Data List as Threatened, Endangered and Critical.  There is the Cream Spotted Mountain Snake, the Midlands Dwarf Chameleon and the Long Toed Tree Frog.  This bright green frog avoids trees and lives in grasslands and marshy areas.  It earned its name from its abnormally long fingers and toes with reduced webbing.

r long toed tree frog

The Karkloof Blue butterfly is one of the more famous 50 invertebrates in danger.  This tiny butterfly is endemic to the region and particularly rare as its grassland habitat has largely been destroyed. Dr Adrian Armstrong of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife:  “Many lycaenid butterflies such as the Karkloof Blue (Orachrysops ariadne) have mutualistic relationships with ants and each butterfly may only lay its eggs on one particular species of plant, the larval food plant (in this case Indigofera woodii). The absence of the ant or the food plant means the absence of the breeding butterfly.  These sites may be distant from one another, linked only by dispersal of adults who move between colonies to ensure their continued survival. Obviously, small colonies are prone to extinction though habitat change caused by drought, fires at the wrong time of year, or prevention of fire in vegetation that requires fire for regeneration.”

STRUIK S75 473A

Fourteen bird species are in danger, including, in the Vulnerable category:  the African Grass Owl, African Finfoot and Crowned and Blue Cranes and Southern Ground Hornbill.  The Cape Parrot and Spotted Ground Thrush are Endangered , Yellow-breasted Pipit, Blue Swallow and Wattled Crane are Critically Endangered.

r wattled crane by Karen Edwards1

Six Red Data List mammals are found in the Midlands – including the Oribi, Serval, Striped Weasel, Samango Monkey.  The Samango is endemic to the evergreen Afro-Montane forests of Southern Africa – moist forests. These forests cover less than 1% of this sub-region and are severely fragmented.  They live in troops of up to 30 members and are active during the day, resting in the tree tops at night.  They feed on a wide range of wild fruits, flowers and leaves as well as caterpillars and other insects.

samango monkey crop res.

Many plant species, including – Senecio dregeanus (below) – which has been found in Impendle and on Beacon Hill; Asclepias woodii which occurs on Beacon Hill; Alipidea amatymbica and Anemone fanniniae found at Mbona and in Impendle.

acrea butterfly.res

Only a small proportion of this diversity, however, and only 53% of priority species,  receive protection within the existing protected area network.

Judy Bell, Chair of the Midlands Conservancies Forum:  “Conservation of these species and their habitats is vital to ensure the ecosystems in which they live can continue to provide us with essential goods and services.   Human wellbeing depends on healthy ecosystems which provide many things we take for granted – clean water, fresh air, pollination, carbon storage, flood attenuation, modulation of extreme temperatures, and so much more.   The KZN Midlands is situated within a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area. It is rich in wetlands, springs, streams and the grasslands, forests and other ecosystems which form the fabric of our life-support systems or biodiversity that underpin the economy of the province.” r rocky stream impendle 175 Currently, at  least 80% of the important biodiversity lies outside formally protected areas,  on privately or communally owned land, making strategic partnerships with landowners  crucial if our natural heritage is to be conserved. The Biodiversity Stewardship Programme is a good tool for improving the conservation management of sites of biodiversity significance while  maintaining the productivity of the landscape for landowners. Proactive  partnerships and cooperative management are the key ingredients of natural  resource management and custodianship. A further aim of the programme is the creation of a  network of protected areas, linked as corridors across the landscape, in order to  improve the ability of species to adapt to climate change.  Stewardship processes identify land of  critical importance for biodiversity conservation and/or the provision of  ecosystem services, and encourage landowners to engage in  biodiversity conservation and other sustainable land use practices. r biodiversity survey

Dargle Wildlife Sightings February 2013

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh farm

Spotted this chameleon Right outside our gate, after one of the storms we had. It was sitting on a wattle branch in the middle of the dirt road. I moved it to the side of the road and snapped this shot. First time I’ve seen one!

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon by Ashley Crookes

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

Besides the heaviest rainfall since we are in the Dargle we only saw the following:

dieter flood

After the flood I found at least 1 chameleon every day.

dieter chameleon

I also saw a few wild flowers, don’t know what they are.

dieter flower

dieter yellow flower

Sue and Andre Hofman – Hazelmere

On Sunday morning we were amazed by the sight of a fully grown Pelican swimming in our home dam. At first glance I thought it was a very large Spurwing Goose, but rapidly changed my mind when it turned and I saw the beak. It spent about four hours with us, and did not, to the best of my knowledge, eat any of our trout. Whilst it was sitting on the rocks a Gymnogene circled it several times and then flew off to a tree to watch. I wonder what the raptor was thinking!

New Picture (3)

The other noteworthy occurrence was a bushpig very loudly crunching on walnuts right under my son’s bedroom window.

Brookland river flood 2013 (2)

The heavy rain caused major flooding of our river, the Brookland, causing it to break its banks and go right over the top of our bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge flooding 2013.jpg

Malvina and Evert van Breemen – Old Furth

We cannot believe the amount of rain in February, it has felt like non-stop rain. Even the garden has had its own waterfalls.

2013-02-10 17.46.24 (1)

We have coined a new word for the incessant rain – delugional.

2013-02-10 17.46.12

On the wildlife side it has been quieter, mainly because everything has been under cover; apart from a wonderful sighting of Giant Kingfishers on our bottom dam and lots of chameleons, storks and a lovely sighting of a group of crowned cranes flying overhead. We have also seen a troop of 17 baboons with some enormous males.

We also had this beautiful moth, anyone know what it belongs to?

2013-01-31 19.22.38

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Lourens – Hopedale

While topping our fields last Sunday accompanied by 14 white storks – Wayne and I both saw a Pelican fly over!!  Wayne also had a good sighting of a Serval on our top farm last week. This week we saw 3 Kestrels together, perched on the defunct telephone wires, and a pair of giant Kingfishers by our lower dam.  The raptors are still making meals of our semi-tame guinea fowl – but we salvaged some eggs off the remaining female’s nest (leaving her only some of the eggs, as her last (3) hatchlings were snapped up within a couple of days!)  She did not seem to hatch any this time – but we incubated the salvaged eggs for a week, and now have 10 hungry/rather noisy chicks.  Wayne also relocated a large puff adder from next to our stallion’s stable a few weeks ago!

Rose & Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Buffspotted Flufftails – mother with two juveniles.
A young Crowned Eagle was chased away earlier this month by two crows, three geese and four hadedas who all ganged up together to see him off. On 3 March he was again chased off, this time by no less than a dozen hadedas, plus several geese, crows, drongos and other birds who definitely don’t want him around!  It’s the first time we’ve seen a Crowned Eagle over our property so it has caused quite a stir amongst the bird population!
A Burchell’s Coucal was seen at close range perched in our Chestnut tree near the house.
Swallows, Sparrows, Kites, Crested Eagle, Egrets, Amethyst Sunbirds, Doves, Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush.
Dwarf Chameleons. Red-lipped Herald. Frogs.
Lots of butterflies – Citrus Swallowtail, Gaudy Commodore, Common Diadem (male), Thorn-tree Blue, Forest White, Acrea

swallowtail-1

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Plants: Wahlenbergia still flowering in profusion – they have been incredible this summer, Pavonia columella, Conostimum natalense, Plectranthus elegantus, Plectranthus dolichopodus, Kniphofia laxiflora, Kniphofia caulescens, Argylobium

tomentosum , Rumex sagittatus, Mentha aquatic, Impatiens hochstetteri, Isoglossa woodii, Nemesia sylvatica, Berkheya bergiana, Desmodium ricinocarpa (picture), Dissotis canescens.

desmodium cropped.res

Mammals:  bush buck, reed buck, scrub hare, samango monkeys.  Heard Tree dassies

Birds: Egyptian geese family down to 3 chicks (from 5) and now haven’t seen them for a while.  European storks, crowned Eagle, bulbul, white eye, orange thrush, mousebird, weavers, sunbirds, stone chat, swallows, malachite kingfisher, hadeda, cape robin chat, wagtail.  Heard Wood Owl.

Other creatures: guttural toad, common striped river frog, citrus swallowtail butterflies, dragonflies.

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

 Our 2 crane babies hatched out 31st January.  The 2 baby crane.  You can just see the smaller of the two on the left of the other larger one

Feb 2013 008

After 4 days, there was only one.  He is growing in leaps and bounds.  Take photos every few days.  We see them practically every day walking the hills. At 4 weeks old.

Feb 2013 054

One day, 2 other blue crane arrived.  There was lots of noise and our mom and dad flew over the dam to greet them.  Pat said he thought they had come for the christening of the baby ha ha.  There was a lot of flapping of wings and squawking and then mom and dad flew back to baby on other side of dam, and the others flew off.  Strange. The guests being greeted by mom and dad

Feb 2013 042

When I went to town a few weeks ago, I saw 3 baby bush pig on the D18 at 10am.  They looked very lost and were running up and down the road.  I tried to shush them into the bush but they wouldn’t go in.  I guess they were looking for their mother.

Last month I mentioned a samango monkey coming into the garden.  Well we got back from Pmb one day and found our rottweiler had been badly savaged by him.  He had a severed vein in his leg and huge bites on his stomach.  After a 2 hour operation (and huge expense) he is now on the mend.  Have never seen the monkey again thankfully.

I also mentioned last month that my terrier/cross had been bitten by otters.  Well we have seen them frequently in the garden again and they are Large Grey Mongeese, not otters.  We have seen them on and off on the farm for 27 years.  They used to get into our garden at Endebeni at night, and pull the heads of the chickens thru the wire and bite them off.  Next morning, a couple of headless chickens.  My alsatian also fought a couple of them and got bitten on the nose.  They are very savage creatures.   Has anyone else seen these animals?  The african people don’t even have a name for them.

Reed buck in garden. Duiker, 1 oribi running through farm as if it were being chased, Still in residence  are the swallows,  sparrows,  rock pigeons and barn owls, 1 pr shell duck, 5 baby spurwing geese, 8 baby dab chicks, 7 baby yellowbill ducks, A pair of crested crane, Black crested eagle, fish eagle, steppe buzzard, yellow billed kite, gymnogene

Feb 2013 032

Dargle Wildlife Sightings December 2012

On the few sunny days we enjoyed in the last week of December, many Dargleites took pictures of the Mngeni river. These are really beautiful and are a recommended read at http://darglelocalliving.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/the-river-runs-through-dargle/ Mike Weedon took this one to tempt you

IMG_2397_4

Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

On 7th Dec we noticed the birds in our garden were acting strangely. The mousebirds seemed very agitated and were flying around close to our house, and the black sunbirds, olive thrushes, sparrows and several other birds also seemed agitated and were all making a lot of noise. Shortly afterwards the hailstorm struck. It was the worst we’d seen and resulted in a thick layer of hail on the ground, a broken window, and our garden, fruit trees and vegetables seriously shredded. Thankfully all the birds seemed to have survived, but I imagine several nests must have been damaged by the hail.

oak cottage hail

After the storm we also discovered a baby chameleon, it’s amazing that he survived as the fuschia he was in was badly hit by the hail. No sign of any other baby chameleons nearby although being so tiny it is hard to find them.

Baby-dwarf-1LR

Also seen: Long-crested Eagle, Kite, Southern Boubou, Fiscal Shrikes, Cuckoos – Redchested, Klaas’s, African Black, and Diedericks. Lots of noisy Hadeda activity. Grey Herons, Storks, Egrets. Heard Burchell’s Coucal. A Red-lipped Herald was lying right next to my hand as I was busy working in the garden – thankfully he kept very still and I left him in peace.

Insects: Dragonflies, Damselflies, caterpillars and lots of butterflies, including the Brown-veined White, African Common White and Large Vagrant.

butterfly

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Lowrens– Aloe Ridge

Wayne and I saw 3 ground hornbill’s on the top farm early on Sat 8th – maybe they got blown off course after the massive storm the evening before!

Jethro Bronner

After a party earlier in the month, a bunch of young Dargleites headed up iNhlosane to watch the sunrise.  This produced some glorious pictures of our valley. See them all here: http://darglelocalliving.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/sunrise-from-inhlosane/

photo2.res

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm

This month we were intrigued with the birthings of 2 sets of 4 each yellow eyed canaries.  They both made nests in our standard roses.  One only 2 metres from the garage so there was lots of coming and going by ourselves, family members and dogs.  I did not think that she would successfully feed these babies being so close to the house but she did so successfully and after 16 days all 4 flew off fully grown.

Canaries 001

The other mother was further down the road and all 4 of them flew away 2 weeks ago.  I was amazed that these little babies survived first the cold days, then the heat (we put blue gum branches over the top of rose bush to try and cool them down) and then the torrential storms over the past 2 weeks.  She sat on them the only the first week and I saw her one afternoon flapping her wings over them to try and keep them cool.  When they were hot they would stretch their necks up and open their beaks.  After that she slept close by and fed them but they were alone in the nest.

Canaries 004

A few days before they flew off, a jackal buzzard must have heard their chirpings and sat for 2 days on our swing hammock waiting for a meal but it was so close to the house and the entry to the nest virtually impossible.  We were thrilled to see the 4 babies fly off one evening at 5pm on the 29th December.

Canaries 013

Saw 4 white storks today (31st) have seen very few this year.  2 and 3 here and there. Plumcoloured starling, grey lourie, diederichs cuckoo at my daughters house at Barnsley’s house, on Xmas day. Heard fish eagle.  Seen 4 blue crane at dam on several occasions and the usual pair come onto farm every few days.   Spoonbill, dab chick, spurwing. 2 Crested crane yesterday.  Our barn owls are still here, 2 prs swallows have hatched young above our bedroom windows.  Sparrows have hatched.  2 prs malachite sunbirds.  Olive thrush.  Lots of chats hopping around the stone walls and orange throated longclaws.  Black crested eagle and yellow billed kites and steppe buzzard.

Reed buck every day on hill, duiker and jackal screeching every night. For a number of days the male reed buck spent hours chasing each other across the hills. A few male samango monkeys.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Plants flowering: Pavetta cooperii, Eucomis, Impatiens hochstetteri, Sutera, Wahlenbergia, Gunnera, Cyanotis, pink Watsonia, Tulbaghia, Merwilla nervosa (below), Nemesia, Albuca setosa, Plectranthus, Oxalis, Hypoxis parvula, Eriosema salignum, Pelargonium luridum, Ajuga ophrydis, Indigofera, Senecio, Helichrysum, Argylobium tuberosum, Papaver aculeatum, Hypericum aethiopicum, Ornithogalum (poss graminifolum?), Monopsis decipiens, Aristea woodii, Lotononis pulchra, Hypxis sp,  Sophubia cana, Agapanthus caulescens, Streptocarpus, Veronia, Heliophila rigiiuscula, Hemezygia teucrifolia, Pavonia columella, Dias cotonifolia, Thunbergia natalensis

scilla nervosa 1res..Crop

Trees seeding: Vepris lanceolata, Canthium mundianum, Rhus, Clausena anisata.

Birds: forest weavers, Egyptian geese, spurwinged goose, 3 Herons, hadedas, fork tailed drongos, rock pigeon, bronze mannekins, stone chats, jackal buzzard, black African sunbirds, francolins, crowned eagle, cape robing chat, orange thrush, masked weavers, widows, mousebirds, swifts, Cardinal woodpecker, Knysna Loeries, Southern Boubou.

Heard: red chested cuckoo, Burchell’s coucal, black African cuckoo, Klaus cuckoo, Diedericks cuckoo, fish eagle

Mammals:  duiker, samango, bushbuck. Reedbuck, hares.

 Dieter Setz – Wakeford

Have to share an “only in the Dargle” story with you from New Year’s Eve. At the Party at about 11 a woman has an Asthma attack and falls over. The music gets turned off and a very concerned partner announces “Is there a Doctor or a Vet in the house”.  We need urgent help – the Dargle is very wild.

Helen and Barend Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

We have ssen some lovely flower in the forest, including this tree orchid Mysssss

Mystacidium caffrum.res.crop

and a Dargle original – Disperis fanniniae

dis crassicornis res, crop.

Also int he grassland – a ground orchid – Disa crassicornis

dis crassicornis res, crop.

and bright splashes of blue Agapanthus africanus

Agapanthus africanus.res.crop

Winterskloof Wildlife Sightings

Eileen Rasmussen and Judy Bell compiled this report of Summer in the Mist.

Could the mizzley overcast skies be carrying less moisture at last? Looking back through my rain records for the past 27 years, the four months from August through to November for this period show an average of 387 mm rain falling in our garden.  This year, it is a whopping 710 mm.  The previous highest was 2007 with 568 mm. I am told next year from February or so onwards, will be the start of another very dry spell, so we should enjoy it while it lasts.  As always where the weather is concerned, time will tell.  It certainly has been much cooler than usual and the clicking or chirping frogs, together with the noisy croakers have been quieter as well.  Usually the misty quiet is filled with a variety of clicks and chirps from our pond near the front door.  There have been a number of “hearings” of the Buff-spotted Flufftail, the notoriously noisy, but shy bird that has the haunting, hooting call usually during misty nights.  There has also been an unconfirmed hearing of the Red-chested Flufftail – the call is similar to that of the former, but the Red-chested flufftail’s hoot is less than a second in duration, while the buff-spotted’s hoot lasts for around 3 seconds.  Please listen out for this and let us know which one you hear, where and when.

The sun did manage to find its way through the cloud recently and a variety of birds were also able to enjoy the pleasant warm
sunshine. They seemed delighted to be able to splash in the shallow section of our pond, and then sit and preen themselves on overhanging branches.  A Brown-hooded Kingfisher dived into the water several times for a wash.

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The local monkeys were taking an interest in the area at a resident’s front door and they thought the troop was considering a new way into the house.  It turned out they were enjoying the resident snail population.  Now that was useful for a change!  Our free ranging chickens used to go through periods of being more interested in earth worms – perhaps this is due to the type of food naturally available at certain times.  Don’t forget “a fed monkey, is a dead monkey”, so please avoid (intentionally or otherwise) feeding them human food – take care with your rubbish bags left out on the verge, to prevent them from getting them addicted to junk food from that source too.  We have seen some wise households waiting to put their bags out on Fridays, which helps to reduce the litter spread around too.

Howard Richardson from World’s View sent in this photograph of a Natal Dwarf Chameleon which was seen in his garden in World’s View.  These creatures are deemed to be critically endangered.  They are susceptible to being munched by domestic pets, as well as snakes.  The biggest threat however, is from the development of their habitat.

worlds view chameleon

The African Paradise-Flycatchers are back – they are internal migrants, having short trips inland during winter, returning with the warmer weather. Early one morning around 3 a.m., one of our external beams was triggered by  an African Wood Owl had broken the beam and settled on the gumpole post, waiting to see if anything worthwhile was around. It seems to be a convenient height as it is about 1,2 metres high. Several birds use it during the day and a piece of sheet metal has had to be positioned to keep the beam lens clean!   These owls sing as a duet, with the male and female answering each other.  Have a look at Roberts Bird book – they show the calls in a graph form, which makes it easy to identify which owl is visiting without having to get out of bed!

The Olive Thrushes have enjoyed breakfasts of flying ants recently and with so much choice, the supply has tended to exceed demand. Our canines also enjoy the ants and snap away happily. They don’t seem to be unhappy about swallowing the wings either – it all seems to go down the hatch.

One evening around 10 p.m., our dogs were barking furiously on the steps leading up to the bank  adjacent to our driveway. They were keeping their distance, but their agitation was evident. In the torchlight, a porcupine was spotted. He or she must have come up from the lower garden. Both dogs have learnt from experience not to tangle with these prickly visitors. Soon after we got our younger dog, she made contact with one and has not forgotten her discomfort and pain and now keeps a safe distance. They are now content to alert the whole neighbourhood with their barking but make sure they do not get too close. The quilled creature was guided back towards the natural vegetation.  The odd crab has crawled along towards the back door and even a centipede was found.

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A group of Swee Waxbills recently enjoyed the seed on our uncut lawn – listen out for their calls after which they are named. Does one keep the grass cut or leave it for the birds to enjoy?  Perhaps a compromise is to cut less frequently so that they can enjoy the seed buffet. The grass is certainly is not as rampant as previous years – there has been so little sunshine to encourage growth.

A Long-crested Eagle recently had the close attention of two Fork-tailed Drongos, with much chattering and mock attacks.  I always find it amusing to see these little chaps sending bigger birds packing. While out walking recently, a Southern Black Flycatcher was heard singing,  also a “pretty georgie” (the Cuckoo), only he or she was actually a Chorister Robin-Chat, when sighted. The Chorister robins are known to be great mimics of other bird calls, so don’t be fooled – try and spot the source of the call to make sure.   The cicadas are also miffed with the weather and have not reached their intense pitch of previous summers.

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The photo shows a giant leaf of the Streptocarpus polyanthus (?) plant, which is a member of the African Violet family
growing naturally on the rock face, which is enjoying the moist conditions in the forest this season.  These plants used to be prevalent in our Mist-belt Forests but seem to have been replaced by ginger which loves the same conditions.  If you find them in your garden please let us know and cherish them, as they are special residents of our Valley.

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Has anyone recently seen Guinevere, our Crowned Eagle chick?  She is now about 15 months old and was ringed some months ago.  If you have seen her, would you be kind enough to send me an e-mail please, saying where she was seen, time of day etc.  Shaun, the student monitoring her is keen to be kept updated with sightings of her.

Derick Hull asks if anyone else has seen the Red-throated Wryneck in Winterskloof – he has!

Biodiversity Stewardship in Winterskloof:

We are keen to develop a programme to get our natural spaces (forests, grasslands, streams and wetlands) conserved.  To do this, we will be working hard to influence potential partners (such as eZemvelo KZN Wildlife, uMngeni & uMgungungdlovu Municipality) to work with us to create a biodiversity stewardship agreement for the undeveloped spaces.  We hope to get zero-rating for these, in return for keeping them free of invasive alien plants and barriers to the wildlife.  This work needs energy and champions, so if you would like to add your assistance to the team, please let us know.  We can only do this if everyone agrees and participates.  It will create linked corridors for wildlife and release more good quality water in the Dorpspruit, which is desperately needed to dilute the pollution downstream.  Our Valley is the watershed for the Dorpspruit and is thus important for the Msunduzi/Mngeni River system.  We will keep you informed of discussions, meetings and any plan we draft for comment.

Does anyone know what these tiny red mushrooms are?

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Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November

Jill Hunter 

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

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

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

window frog 3.res CROP.

Lucinda and Tom Bate – Inversanda

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

Jethro Bronner – Old Kilgobbin

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

inhlosane 3.resCROP.

Mike Crawford – Shanton

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

Star Stinkhorn mushroom

Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage 

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

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

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

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

Karin and Justin Herd – Bee Tree farm

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

Chameleon baby 121112 CROP

Malvina and Evert van Bremem – Old Furth Estate

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

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

Red Stinkhorn.crop

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

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

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

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

Sandra and Pat  Merrick  – Albury Farm

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

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

MOZAM 2012 Crane on nest

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

Blue Crane eggs

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

MOZAM 2012 Crane 005

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

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

nguni jackal CROP

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

oxalis crop.

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

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

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

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

hesperantha crop.