Tag Archives: FreeMe

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Gaudy commodore

Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector Butterfly (Precis archesia)

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

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

Come on junior – this is how you swim

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

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

Check this, I’m dancing on water

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

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

Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

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

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

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

Reedbuck 1 - Female reed buck either playing or fighting

Female Common Reedbuck either playing or fighting

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

Reedbuck 2 - The Chase

The Chase

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

Reedbuck 3 - The Charge

The Charge

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

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

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

Blacksmith plovers eggs

Blacksmith Lapwing eggs

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

Unknown Raptor 1

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

Unknown Raptor 2

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

Unknown Raptor 3

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

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

Skink in our study enjoying the morning sun

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

Skink eating all the dead moths from the night before

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

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

 

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

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

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

grassland view of Inhlosane

View of Inhlosane

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

disperis fanninaea

Disperis fanninaea

Leonotis intermedia and Pycnostachys reticulata are flowering in grasslands.

pycnostachys reticulata

Pycnostachys reticulata

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

desmodium repandum

Desmodium repandum

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Dew on the veld grass

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

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

Some pink Everlastings and Watsonia flowering in the veld.

 

Sunset over the Dargle

Sunset over the Dargle

Spiky Caterpillar

Spiky Caterpillar

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

Worms in deep soil
Rainforest Brown Butterfly

Rainforest Brown

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

Malvina & Evert van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

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

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

Serval 1

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

Serval 5

Serval 2

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

Serval 3

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

Serval 4

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

Fungi

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

mystery bulb

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

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

Strange Nest

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

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

Colourful Caterpillar

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

Kigelaria Africana

Wyndham Robartes – Wana Farm

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

Caterpillars

David Mann – Knowhere Farm

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

Louise Bolton – Robhaven Farm

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

Inhlosane View from the top

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

Inhlosane Panorama

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

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

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

Lizard

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – 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.