Tag Archives: eagle owls

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – August

Spring has brought a myriad of things for us all to look at. Beautiful blooms appearing on the trees as well as new leaves starting to shoot, loads of animal and bird life out and about, as well as a rain spider desperately trying to bring us all some respite after these dry few months. Here’s hoping the rain comes soon…

Brandon Powell – Bukamanzi

This month I haven’t seen anything very LARGE except for this mad rain spider (Palystes) – he hadn’t heard about us not having had any lately.  He crept out of my watering-can after I had done about ten trips with it overflowing its brim. Hopefully he’ll stick around and devour some of my jumping spiders?

rain spider

Things are looking very sad and khaki except for Jenny Stipcich’s proteas and new grass shoots struggling through the fire-breaks.

brandon's cottage

On the Conservancy’s camera I caught several clips of wonderful, leaf-munching duiker, usually alone but once in a pair. A very beautiful foxy-faced genet has also been cutting ’round the place. I’ve scrubbed down my door-steps with clove oil in the hope that one doesn’t have any melodramatic snake sightings as winter draws to its close!

brandons cottage dam

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Wild flowers that have now started popping up all over the place. Ledebouria

copperleigh ledobouria


copperleigh helichrysum

Senecio speciosus

copperleigh senecio speciosus

We also had about 16 Guinea Fowl appearing back on our farm aound the sheep camps after disappearing for a good few months. They were also calling the rain and are welcome back!

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Saw the first Yellow-billed Kite on 19 August.  Afternoon walks are a real delight where paths are mown through the tall golden grass.

winter grassland trail dargle 088

This magnificent Yellowwood on the edge of the forest can be seen for miles.

winter yellowwood

Interesting reflections in cold pools, where there is just a little water left.

J themeda in pool

N3TC brought a group of media people to visit the Midlands and we took them for a walk in the forest. Barend had them enthralled.

forest walk Barend

Anita Heyl said “I absolutely loved, loved, loved the time spent with your group! Oh, my goodness what a special piece of paradise. I do hope to visit again soon and spend proper quiet time there. If I was Winnie-the-Pooh that would most definitely have been my part of the forest.”

forest walk Penz

Our forest even made the morning news on SABC! Watch the film clip here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3yIKpWoRxs

Anne and Mike Weeden – Hopedale Farm

The other morning at around 11 o’clock we spotted an African Striped Weasel on the fire break close to the house. We walked to within about 5 metres of it and it was totally unconcerned about our presence. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me but it was definitely a weasel rather than a polecat as it had a solid white patch on top of its head and lacked the white markings under its eyes.

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Dr Amy-Leigh Shuttleworth (nee Wilson) came to the farm during the month and Pat took her to 4 burrows. Unfortunately, they all seem to be empty of aardvarks. The one we had last year has vanished perhaps due to lack of termites in the area where he dug.


Have seen a number of reed buck this month. One evening as many as ten on the burn, just driving up to my house in an area of 1km. There are always 2 males.

more reed buck

One stands some distance away and the other one mingles with the females and youngsters. These are the same 2 that were fighting some months ago. A number of male and female duiker.


Seen female oribi quite often. She seems to keep to the long grass and on occassion see her nibbling the green burn.

female oribi

Saw and heard a pair of jackal buzzards – their cry reverberated for an hour one morning. Our 2 blue crane arrived at the dry dam one morning. Haven’t seen them since. Hear them occasionally. Saw 2 yellowbilled kites for the 1st time on 10th August. Saw a pied kingfisher pick up a frog from our pond. He flew to the dead tree where he pounded it to death with his beak and then swallowed it.

pied kingfisher frog

A pair of gymnogene flew over the house early one morning. Heard a very loud peeu cry one morning – went on for ages – I eventually tracked it to the hollow pole next to the  gate where a red throated wryneck was calling for attention. This is the second one we have on the farm. The other one is in a hollow pole half way down our driveway.


Early one morning, Pat heard a freckled night jar in the trees behind the house. The siting of the month for me was seeing and photographing a spotted eagle owlet and adult – not sure if male or female, but I am sure someone will advise me.

sptted eagle owlet

Pat had been walking around the gum trees looking for the sparrowhawks when he heard a loud hooting from the ground. On investigation it looked like the owlet had fallen out the tree and one of the adults was on the ground with it and the other was hooting high above in the tree.

spotted eagle owl parents

Pat left them as had the dogs with him. The next day he again went looking for them and found the owlet in the fork of a gum tree and mom/dad nearby on the branch of a tree. Pat phoned me and told me to come post haste with my camera which I did. Got some lovely snaps. The adult was not too happy and screeched loudly, while the other one which I could not see was hooting higher up. We left them after a few minutes. When I walk down through the gum tree avenue I see one of them flying through the canopy.

.Back view of owlet

So now its egyptian geese, black sparrowhawks and spotted eagle owls flying through the canopy.

Our sparrowhawks left the nest on 26th July. A pair of egyptian geese took over straight away. Early in the mornings and late afternoons would see the sparrowhawk youngsters sitting on a dead gum tree probably waiting for their food, as saw three sitting on same tree late one afternoon. But for the past 2 weeks they have been flying around the canopy of the gums. When I walk around that area, they fly through the canopy and screech loudly. We have seen the adults fly past the house from Dargle side late in the afternoons carrying a bird. Quite large, so presumably a dove.

Dr Ian Little of the EWT Threatened Grasslands Programme commented on my sparrowhawk story last month. I was wrong about a number of things. This is his letter:

Just a quick clarification on Pat and Sandra Merrick’s wonderful sightings with the Black Sparrowhawks. The Male is not rufous coloured, they were in fact looking at one of the juveniles, the male is the same colour as the female but smaller. He delivers food to the female to take to the nest and hence is not often seen at the nest. Thanks for the great pics, now to answer your questions:

How old would you say they are now and is it possible to tell if they are male or female? They must be about 6-8 weeks now, They leave the actual nest at about 35-40 days after hatching. Juveniles are both rufous the only way to tell the sex is by their size. By 30 days they are fully grown and the males are almost half the size of the females. Your confusion is that I think your two youngsters are both females and hence same size.

Are they still being fed by the adults and how long does that go on for? They are fed by the adults for another 1-2 months so yes at this stage they are still being fed by the adults. You very seldom see both adults at the nest as the male provides most food but he will clean the food (remove feathers) away from the nest and then pass the food to the female who brings it in to feed the young.

There is also one more bit of confusion that can crop up. Black Spars (as I call them) come in two colour morphs. What you have are the standard colour morphs but adults can be pitch black with no white on the stomach and juveniles can be pure white with black flecks as opposed to the rufous colour which you have seen here. Anyway, no need to add further confusion. Basic rule of thumb, if it’s rufous it’s juvenile, if it’s Black and white it’s adult and females are almost twice the size of males.

These 2 youngsters grew so quickly.  Just after this snap they both flew off squealing in delight

Other birds we have seen include: Black headed Oriel

black headed oriel yellow eye

Common Stonechat


Drakensberg Prinia


Gurneys Sugarbird


Malachite Sunbird


Olive Thrush


Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (passer diffuses)

what bird is this

Yellow eyed Canary

yellow eyed canary

Lots of scat amongst the rocks – doe this belong to the wild or Natal Red Hare?


Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

I’ve been taking pics of this Scadoxus puniceus (I think that’s the correct species) over the last 2 weeks. It was the first one that I saw – since then, loads have popped their pretty little heads up. The dates are shown. It changed quickly over the first few days.

gilly scadoxus

Not the best pics – (with my Blackberry )That’s the best I can do!

gilly scadoxus puniceus

Learn more about Scadoxus https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/midlands-wildflower-for-august-scadoxus-puniceus/

gilly scadoxus again

I also saw a little black otter playing in the river. A few others have spotted it, but it’s the first time I have.

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

The nicest thing about August was the sight of Spring putting and end to Winter…

he nicest about August was the sighting of Spring putting an end to Winter at Wakecrof

The resident pair of Egyptian Geese are also happy about the end of winter

The resident pair of Egyptian gees are also happy about the end of Winter

A Raven also “changed his tune” sitting on the fence outside my studio window

A raven also did change his tunes sitting on the fence outside my studio window

Charles Robinson – Hebron Nguni Farm

Buck sighting was on 2nd September 2014 100metres from the main house around 9am.

Hebron Nguni Farm

Reedbuck along Petrus Stroom road, taken on cell phone.

River Bend Estate 29 Agust 2014

There is also a pair of Owls, sighted on the Hebron Nguni farm, but not photographed. They do not yet seem to have a nest,  should we put an owl nest up? Ed’s note: Come to Shane McPherson’s talk on 5 November at Tanglewood – he has just started an owl box project.

Please can you advise, we at Hebron Nguni farm have a monkey problem, who can we talk to for advice? Nikki suggests the following reading:

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Lourens – Aloe Ridge

Kathy writes: Whilst enjoying an early evening walk – I heard our ridgeback Murray excitedly barking and turned back to investigate.  There was a cacophony in on the edge of some tall grass – a growling, thumping and loud crackling noise which I had not come across before.  On getting closer I saw a very large porcupine, holding his head very low and growling/howling, whilst thumping hard with the front paws and rattling his considerable quills.  Our other dogs then appeared and our ridgeback and german/belgian shepherd withdrew circumspectly, as they have had (painful) experience with this species before!  I only had to remind our intrepid jack-russell type hound to stay back, whilst I attempted to take a slightly closer photograph of the spectacular animal using my phone, for the Dargle sightings!

I approached a couple of steps talking quietly in what I hoped would be a reassuring manner – but my ‘animal whispering’ is clearly not up to scratch, as he/she took one look at me – growled and charged – leaping forward and spinning to show off the fearsome array of very sharp quills.  Suffice it to say, I withdrew hurriedly and assured the beast that taking clear photos was not THAT important.  I, and the dogs, then continued on our perambulation and left the porcupine to its own devices.

NguNgumbane by Small Dam JPEG 1200dpi

Wayne writes:

Just after 8am on the morning of 22nd August, Kathy and I were on our way to Mount West with our two young horses for a Classical Equitation Clinic held by our German friend, when, with the horse trailer in-tow behind the Land Rover Defender (Kathy in with the 2 young horses on the dirt roads to keep them settled), right in front of me on the Hopedale main access road, was a Serval. Completely owning the roadway and parts of the verge!! Hoping Kathy was looking out of the horse trailer window, I gestured for her to look, and at the same time I grabbed my phone camera. So, while creeping along at the sedate pace that was suitable for the young horses on bumpy roads, I followed the Serval as it made its way along the roadway just ahead, not in the least bit intimidated by the looming Land Rover and horse trailer. At the same time I managed, with one hand on the wheel keeping the Defender & horse trailer on the best parts of the road, and the other setting up the camera on the mobile phone, and managed to take a few shots of the Serval as it sauntered down the roadway for about 100 metres, between 5 metres and 10 metres ahead of us. To me it seemed as though it was a sub-adult female, but that was just my intuition at the time. She playfully tapped at pieces of larger stone aggregate on the roadway along the way, and eventually found an interesting run, probably made by the resident flock of Spurfowl (formerly known as Natal Francolin), down which she disappeared from my view.

Serval 2 JPEG 1200dpi

Boston Wildlife January 2012

Boston View Cottages

The flowers were prolific in the grasslands. A few samples: Pachycarpus grandiflorus, Periglossum angustiflorum, Satyrium cristatum – red splashes on inflorescence.

Paddy and Sue Carr on Netherby

Five Blue Cranes near the Amanzimnyama river; one Half-collared Kingfisher at upper dam near to farmhouse

Terry and Basil Cuthbert of Jaluka Estates

a Hamerkop at our dam 2 x Secretary Birds (second sighting) in the land behind our house 4 x Night Adders (one of which was very large). Unusual here as – for the past nine years – we’ve only ever seen Rinkals and never Night Adders before.

Ian and Jenny Lawrence of Endeavour

A Thick-billed Weaver

Barbara and David Clulow of The Willows

This rain-sodden Pippistrellus capensis bat gave me a bit of a surprise when I returned home on New Year’s Eve, put my hand down to lift the gate latch, and felt something furry. Next morning he/she had discovered his/her/my error and was gone, off to enjoy 2012.

Jan 2 – Spotted Eagle-Owls calling at night; lesser Striped Swallows are active once again.

Jan 4 – overhead The Willows at midday; suggested to be a sub-adult African Fish-Eagle.

Jan 4 – Group of 16 Gladiolus dalenii on stream bank on “The Drift”

“The photo is of a ‘Common Water Scorpion’ (Laccotrephes sp.) – despite the name it is not a scorpion but a bug (Hemiptera) of the family Nepidae. Not uncommon but usually in water with the long posterior siphon sticking out of the water like a snorkel. They do fly around, usually at night, to find new ponds. They are predators and feed on a variety of things including tadpoles. Your second photo  is an antlion (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) of the genus Palpares. This group have been called ‘veld antlions’ as they fly actively in grasslands. They are often hard to photograph as they fly off when you get too near”  -ID’s and comments kindly by Dr JGH Londt

Jan 13 – Grey Crowned Crane on a nest at The Drift dam – not easily seen -well done Crystelle Wilson for spotting it. It’s Sunbird time again and this Amethyst found plenty of honey in the Agapanthus. Pity not to have managed a photo of the greyish, flecked-fronted, female, but she was far more wary and flew speedily away every time.

Jan 18 – in the half dark of evening at the Elands river, two Duikers sported on the level ground, chasing about frantically, running from side to side:

January 28 – three Grey Crowned Crane chicks hatched out at the dam, seen several times

Neil and Gail Baxter on “Mosgate”:

First clutch of Helmeted Guineafowl chicks seen on 7th January

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers on “Lapa Lapa”

Another sighting of the Monitor Lizard at the dam. Then a few days later the nGuni cattle were seen chasing across the field, in hot pursuit of the Monitor Lizard, which sought refuge in the dam.

Clutch of Yellow-billed Ducks eggs destroyed at the dam by a predator, but one of the eggs was rescued and put under a domestic Goose and hatched out – but stand-in parent and babe did not speak the same language and Goose soon lost interest. The eggs from Helmeted Guineafowl also hatched by Silky hen and three babies doing fine.

Ivanhoe farm CREW Outing on 18 January:

A combined Wildflower/ Birding Outing, which was successful in every respect – Birding totalled 74 species for the Pentad. From the Wildflowers’ point of view, three future protected Wildflower enclosures were earmarked for the future – One hillside; one wetland; one grassland strip. A visit to the Indigenous forest presented a spectacular view.

Philip and Christeen Grant of Sitamani

Bokmakerie which has taken up residence in the garden area, a pair of Barn Swallows passing through and a flock of Glossy Starlings around temporarily at the moment. Many fledglings, Cape Robin Chat, Groundscraper Thrush, Olive Thrush and Speckled Pigeons.

Seen a very dark-coloured Caracal on several evenings. Reedbuck and Duiker continue to be seen close to the house.

A stunning array of wildflowers; for me a new one for Sitamani, Tritonia disticha. As is one of a Hadeda Ibis, a pair often on the roof of the garage in the mornings.

Crystelle Wilson on Gramarye

It could have been the story of the lion lying down next to the lamb, except the role players were a silver Black-backed Jackal and a Grey Duiker. At sunrise I was watching a flock of 34 Grey-crowned Cranes and some Spur-winged Geese in a ploughed field on Netherby across the river when I noticed the little duiker emerging from the adjacent rye. Almost simultaneously the jackal also entered the field from the river vegetation on the opposite side. From the hillock where I was standing I could see their paths were diagonally parallel, several metres apart. But then the jackal lifted its head, sniffed the air and turned towards the duiker. “Here comes big trouble,” I thought. I know the rule about letting nature take its course, and that baby jackals also need feeding, but I did briefly consider creating a diversion to avoid witnessing bloodshed. Then the duiker spotted the jackal and to my total astonishment ran towards it! And for the next 10 minutes or so the two appeared to be playing, taking turns to chase each other with the cranes and geese as bemused onlookers. Eventually the jackal trotted off into the rye and the duiker continued grazing on the edge of the field before it too disappeared into the rye.

Summer is a busy time for birding. Breeding is in full swing and everywhere one can hear the calls of territorial males or of cuckoos diverting host males so the females can sneak in to nests to lay their eggs. In the garden hungry baby birds beg for food and parents scurry around to keep the supply going. Birdlists for the pentads are also much longer, as is this one for Elandshoek 2935_3000:

Cape Turtle Dove, Helmeted Guineafowl, Barn Owl, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Giant Kingfisher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Dark-capped Bulbul, Bokmakierie, Little Rush-Warbler, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Stonechat, Common Quail, Cattle Egret, Red-chested Flufftail, Black Saw-wing, Drakensberg Prinia, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck, African Rail, Egyptian Goose, Red-collared Widowbird, African Reed-Warbler, Cape Crow, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Spur-winged Goose, Brown-throated Martin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Diderick Cuckoo, Cape Grassbird, Barn Swallow, Cape Robin-Chat, Greater Striped-Swallow, Cape White-eye, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-fronted Canary, Grey Crowned Crane, African Sacred Ibis, Orange-breasted Waxbill, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Amethyst Sunbird, Common Fiscal, Cape Sparrow, Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-billed Kite, Village Weaver, Red-billed Quelea, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, African Firefinch, African Harrier-Hawk, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Cape Weaver, Common Moorhen, Cape Longclaw, Green Wood-hoopoe, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Black Sparrowhawk, Black-shouldered Kite, Amur Falcon, Common Waxbill, Neddicky, African Olive-Pigeon, Hamerkop, Southern Boubou, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Speckled Pigeon, Red-chested Cuckoo, Forest Canary, Sombre Greenbul, Black Cuckoo, Speckled Mousebird, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Long-tailed Widowbird, Wattled Crane, White-throated Swallow, Horus Swift, Common Swift, Yellow Bishop, Buff-streaked Chat,  Little Grebe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Blue Crane, House Sparrow, Olive Thrush, Barratt’s Warbler, Yellow Bishop, Yellow-crowned Bishop, African Purple Swamphen, Wood Sandpiper, Grey Crowned Crane on nest at “Virginia”, Grey Crowned Crane on nest at “The Drift”

Mike and Carol Fynn on Tillietudlem

A sighting I had yesterday of 11 Blue Swallow on the farm. Another interesting find last week was a dead Serval that had obviously been killed in a fight – probably either another Serval or a Caracal. Young Blue Wildebeest abound, with 40 at the last count. Unfortunately the young of the Blesbok, fallow and Mountain Reedbuck are again being hammered by predators – Jackal and Caracal – we will certainly have to take action before next season.

Regular sightings of resident Blue Crane, Secretary birds, Marshall Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle – surprisingly very few Amur Falcon this year.

The Boston sightings are compiled by David Clulow, a member of the Lions Club of Pietermaritzburg (Host), and has been approved by that Club as an official conservation project of the Club.