Tag Archives: frogs

Mistbelt Chirping Frog

– Article written by Nick Evans of KZN Amphibian and Reptile Conservation –

In the KZN Midlands lives a tiny little frog, which few people have seen, and most members of the public have never heard of: the Mistbelt Chirping Frog (Anhydrophryne ngongoniensis).

Mistbelt Chirping Frog 3


It really is a tiny frog! Their maximum size is a measly 22mm. It’s a very pretty little frog, being a light golden brown colour, with speckles running down its back in a striped formation. It has a dark band on each side of its head.

A species in danger!

The Mistbelt Chirping Frog is currently listed as ‘Endangered’, by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It was previously listed as Critically Endangered, before survey work was carried out by herpetologist and researcher, James Harvey. He had found a few new localities, which came as great news for this species.

It only occurs in mistbelt areas in the KZN Midlands, in high altitude, moist grasslands. So it is not a widespread species at all. Unfortunately for this frog, much of its habitat has been destroyed for exotic tree plantations. Even its habitat type is considered endangered! The last few remaining areas in which this frog occurs in, are rather fragmented by these plantations, isolating populations. These mostly fall under private land, owned by forestry companies. Other threats include invasive alien plants, which take smother these grasslands, over-grazing, and incorrect burning programmes.

The few areas that are still home to this frog desperately need to be conserved, so that the world does not lose yet another species. It may be small, but it still matters. It still plays a role in a functioning environment. Fortunately, it is being monitored by the likes of James and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Mistbelt Chirping Frog 2

Did you know?

This species was only discovered and described in 1993! That was probably because of its size, and its undistinctive call, a subtle, insect-like, chirping sound.

What’s also interesting about this frog, is that they do not breed in water. Most frogs lay their eggs in water, but the Mistbelt Chirping Frog lays its eggs in leaf-litter!

Mistbelt Chirping Frog 1

Survey and photography mission

I was fortunate enough to join James Harvey recently, on some of his survey work. We went to a site near the Ixopo area where he had heard and found this species before.

We arrived in the afternoon, and conditions were perfect. There was a light drizzle, and it was misty too. The common but rarely seen Plaintive Rain Frogs were out in force, and although we did not see any, we heard dozens! Our hopes were lifted when, amongst the Rain Frog calls, we started hearing a couple of Mistbelt ‘Chirpers’! We walked down the slope where they were calling, hoping to find one. James warned me that they were extremely difficult frogs to find, and I soon learnt that he was not wrong. The long grass was so thick. Finding a frog that’s only two centimetres in length was seemingly impossible. Thankfully though, James knew a spot where it should be easier to find them, where the grass was a little shorter and slightly sparser than these thick patches we were searching in.

As we approached this particular area, we could hear a good few calling. Frogs are always easier to find at night, when they are generally more active and call from more obvious positions. However, we thought we’d have a quick try before heading back to camp for dinner, and resuming the search after dark. We were trying to track them down by their call, but as soon as you got one or two meters away, the little blighters would go silent. However, there was one that didn’t stop calling. Luck was on our side, and we spotted one quite high up in a grass tuft, calling. I scooped it up in my hands in great excitement, and called James to 100% confirm what I was holding- it was indeed a Mistbelt Chirping Frog! I was overjoyed! James was too, as despite his research work, he had only seen a handful of them. But our luck didn’t end there.

We returned to the sight that evening. We tracked down one which was calling in a tuft of grass. We were desperately trying to pinpoint its location, as it would emit a chirp every now and then. I thought it was in one place, and James thought it was in another. Their calls can confuse you like that. Eventually, we discovered we were looking in the wrong place. We thought it was calling at the base of the grass, when in fact, it had climbed around thirty centimetres up the grass clump, and was calling from there! Stunned at our luck of now finding two, we then went onto find another three in quick succession! Five endangered Mistbelt Chirping Frog, wow, just wow! We just couldn’t believe our luck! Our hard work certainly paid off!

This frog is one of the most difficult species to find that I have ever searched for. It’s been a species I have long wanted to see, and I feel privileged that my chance finally came around. We are now one of the few people that have actually seen and photographed this frog. What a special little animal.


It really is tiny!

Celebrating World Wetlands Day

Article supplied by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

World Wetlands Day, celebrated annually on 2 February, provides an opportunity to celebrate a natural resource that is critical for people, the environment, and biodiversity. Wetlands come in all shapes and forms, from estuaries along our beautiful coastlines and high altitude inland wetlands within the grasslands of Mpumalanga, to the hard working wetlands within our urban landscapes. Much of our conservation effort within the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is centred around the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands and the catchments that feed them, and we encourage you to celebrate World Wetlands Day with us.


Two of South Africa’s three crane species, the Grey Crowned and Wattled Crane, are completely dependent on wetlands for their survival – yet both are threatened with extinction. Their threatened status mirrors the loss of wetlands in our country, with an estimated 50% of wetlands completely transformed in South Africa. The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP), a partnership between the EWT and the International Crane Foundation, has used these charismatic, long-lived birds as flagships for wetland protection, restoration and management.

The ACCP’s South Africa Regional Manager, Tanya Smith, confirms that the efforts of the ACCP team and its partners have ensured the protection of nearly 100,000 ha of grasslands, wetlands and associated rivers in important catchments for people and cranes in South Africa over the past five years. The protection of the key water resources contributes to the long-term security of our water supply for millions of people in South Africa.

Wattled Cranes

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

From large charismatic cranes to the small and slippery, wetlands are home to many. Globally, amphibians are the most threatened class of vertebrate with 32.5% of species currently listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Approximately 800 species of amphibians make exclusive use of wetland habitats. Here in South Africa, a tiny frog the size of your thumbnail is found only in 25 wetlands along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Therefore, a key focal species of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP), is the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. These coastal wetlands are unique in their structure and are themselves classified as Critically Endangered. “The presence of flagship species that depend on wetlands for their survival really helps leverage support for the protection and restoration of wetlands,” says Dr Jeanne Tarrant, TAP Programme Manager. The EWT embarked on an ambitious journey to restore four of these wetlands in the Durban area through alien plant control, re-establishment of indigenous plants and assessing wetland rehabilitation needs and this year will be working towards formal protection of two of these wetlands through community stewardship models.

This year’s World Wetland Day theme is “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction” and this theme truly celebrates the services wetlands provide for us free of charge. Wetlands greatly reduce the impacts of flooding by slowing down the flow of water, and reduce the impacts of droughts by slowly releasing water to our streams and rivers. In the current drought gripping much of South Africa, the role and protection of healthy wetlands has never been more important.

silindile learning about wetlands

Slindile students learning about the importance of wetlands

The EWT is involved with several World Wetlands Day celebratory events around the country. In KwaZulu-Natal, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated at the Greater Edendale Mall wetland in Pietermaritzburg on 2 February from 10am. This is a collaboration of all partners of the KwaZulu-Natal Wetland Forum and will see over 300 children learning about and experiencing the value of wetlands. In the Eastern Cape, the EWT and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa have partnered to get our future generation’s hands dirty experiencing the wetlands of the Amathole area, where the EWT has been implementing catchment restoration work for the past three years. Lastly, in Gauteng, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated on 17 February at Tembisa Esselen Park Pan. A fun day of activities is planned, so be on the lookout for the EWT stand.

Later on in the month, you can get involved in raising awareness for our special wetland dwellers, the frogs, by joining in on a number of Leap Day for Frogs activities, including the EWT’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog on Friday, 24 February. This exciting event gets underway at 10am on the Durban beachfront promenade near uShaka Marine World. Find out more by visiting www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za or emailing JeanneT@ewt.org.za

Yellow-striped Reed Frog 1 - Nick Evans

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

You can make a difference to our wetlands all year round in a number of different ways, including:

  1. Planning a wetland clean up in your community with local schools and parents.
  2. Reducing your waste, reusing bottles and containers you would normally throw away, use reusable shopping bags and recycle! Our water resources like rivers and wetlands are heavily impacted on by litter and waste, so these small actions can make a huge difference.
  3. Reporting any illegal dumping in wetlands and rivers to your local municipality or police station.
  4. Supporting the efforts of organisations like the EWT in protecting wetlands on your behalf.

Useful resources to learn more about World Wetlands Day 2017:

Long-toed Tree Frog

– Article written by Nick Evans of KZN Amphibian and Reptile Conservation –

KwaZulu-Natal is the most diverse and species rich province, playing host to many forms of wildlife, including frogs. The KZN Midlands is particularly fortunate to be home to many of these beautiful frog species, and one such species endemic to the area is the special little Long-toed Tree Frog.


Long-toed Tree Frog photographed by Nick Evans

The Long-toed Tree Frog (Leptopelis xenodactylus) is simply adorable, cute, loveable, however you want to put it – except gross or ugly! The same can be said for the other two Tree Frog species in this province, the Natal and the Brown-backed. There’s just something about Tree Frogs though.

This frog’s most unique and interesting feature is what its name suggests: their very long toes. The back toes are especially long, making the frog look quite comical. These extraordinary toes come in handy when moving through the long grass. The Tree frog walks and hops across grass blades, and may even be seen hanging off long pieces of grass, using those long limbs.


Long-toed Tree Frog photographed by Nick Evans – Note the long toes.

The Long-toed Tree Frog is a ground-dwelling species. They live in grassy wetlands, or flooded grasslands. Here, they can be seen sitting on the ground next to the water, or as mentioned, moving through the grass, where they may be looking for a mate, or a mosquito.


Long-toed Tree Frog photographed by Nick Evans

This is an endangered species with their main threat, like all wildlife, is habitat loss and habitat degradation. It is imperative that we protect the remaining habitat and to rehabilitate wetlands and grasslands where possible. We cannot lose this precious little mosquito-muncher.

Even ranidaphobes (people who fear frogs) could not possibly cringe at the sight of these little chaps – they’re just so cute! If you ever happen to see one, be sure to take a photo and contribute to science by uploading your records to the Animal Demographic Unit’s Virtual Museum: http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_projects.php


Long-toed Tree Frog photographed by Nick Evans

I hope that you see the beauty of this frog in these photos which I took recently in Lion’s Bush Conservancy area. Happy frogging during this ‘froggy’ season!

Nick Evans


Email: nickevanskzn@gmail.com
Website: www.kznamphibianreptileconservation.com

Winter Frogs

– Article by Nick Evans of KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

Frog activity is relatively low-key during the winter months, as it’s generally too cold for any frogs to be out and about, catching insects or calling for mates.

There are, however, two frog species which may be heard during the winter months, namely the Striped Stream Frog, and Common River Frog. Both these species can be heard during the day and at night, and they both have a similar body structure, but their colour and markings allow you to easily differentiate between the two.

The Striped Stream Frog (Strongylopus fasciatus), is a pretty little frog. It has a golden-yellow colouration, with dark stripes going down the body. These agile frogs have an exceptionally long toe on each of the back feet!


Striped Stream Frog (Strongylopus fasciatus)

Striped Stream Frogs favour wetlands and open grassy ponds, or any body of water in fact. They’re not too fussy when it comes to habitat. They have a fast, high-pitched chirping sound.

The Common River Frog (Amietia quecketti), grow to be much larger than the Stream Frogs. Their colour can vary. They’re often a dark, patchy green colouration, and sometimes brown. They have a stripe running along their back. In the more brown specimens, their stripe colour varies too, between orange and yellow.


Common River Frog (Amietia quecketti)


Their back toes are more webbed than the Stream Frog. These frogs (along with the Grass Frogs, usually found in more Northern parts of S.A) could go to the animal Olympics, if there was such an event. They are incredible jumpers and powerful swimmers. You can tell they’re good at that by looking at their large, powerful legs.

Common River Frogs can be seen and heard alongside rivers and streams. They make a strange, croaking sound, followed by a few clicks!

Common River Frog

Common River Frog (Amietia quecketti)

Spring is almost upon us, and some other frogs have started to wake up after the much needed recent rains. Let’s hope we get a lot more rain in the very near future, the land desperately needs it, and those keen on frogs need it too! Once we get a bit more rain, and the temperature starts to increase, frog season will be in full-swing!



Beautiful Reed Frogs of the KZN Midlands

-By Nick Evans –

Despite ‘frog season’ slowly and sadly coming to an end, one can still go out and see some of the region’s most striking species, the Reed Frogs.

Painted Reed Frog by Nick Evans

Painted Reed Frog by Nick Evans

The Reed Frogs, amongst a few others, will still be active for about another month or two. After that, once Winter arrives, the evenings will be a lot quieter without Africa’s amphibian chorus. Most frog species only breed and are active during the rainy months (Spring/Summer). That is when the night skies are at their loudest, with hundreds of frogs serenading each other! So if you don’t get a chance to go and see them this season, get ready to see them next Spring!

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

As their name suggests, Reed Frogs spend most of their time in reed beds, where they are a key link in the food chain. They are crucial to the health of the environment, just like all other frogs. They’re predators of insects such as mosquitoes and flies, and they are preyed upon by birds, snakes and more. They’re excellent climbers of course, and during the day, they are often found sticking to people’s windows and doors, hiding away from the hot sun.

Waterlily Frog by Nick Evans

Waterlily Frog by Nick Evans

Here are three of the Reed Frog species that occur in the KZN Midlands:

1. Yellow-striped Reed Frog (Hyperolius semidiscus).
A beautiful species that is a little bit larger than the other Reed Frogs in the area. They are quite easy to identify, look out for those glorious yellow-stripes going down either side of the light green body, and for their blunt snout! You’ll often hear their croak-like call coming from dams and other bodies of water.

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

2. Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus marmoratus)
A very pretty species. Interestingly, there are three sub-species in South Africa, ranging from the Western Cape, all the way to Northern KZN and further North.
As their name implies, they look like they’ve been hand painted, their colours can be absolutely stunning! They’re not always too easy to identify, as juveniles, which are a light brown colour, often throw people off. Their call is unmistakable though, an ear-piercing, short whistling sound. Stand near a group of breeding males and feel your ears eventually start to ring!

Painted Reed Frog by Nick Evans

Painted Reed Frog by Nick Evans

3. Waterlily Frog (Hyperolius pusillis)
One of the smaller species of Reed Frogs, Waterlily Frogs are generally found on low-lying vegetation on the water. They make quite a loud insect-like chirping noise! Obviously they love waterlilies, but they also like to sit on Duckweed, an alien invasive plant that starts to cover entire ponds. Dead reeds on the surface of the water is a favourite hang-out too.
They’re very cute little frogs, which almost appear to be see through. Look out for a female that’s full of eggs, you’ll be able to see them inside of her!

Waterlily Frog by Nick Evans

Waterlily Frog by Nick Evans

A great way to spend an evening is to go ‘frogging’! Get a small group of people together, and venture off into the nearest wetland/pond (just be security conscious of course), and have a look for these beautiful frogs, and all the other interesting animals that occupy these damp areas. Your eyes will be opened to the magic of nature! All you need is a torch, gumboots, maybe a camera, and some enthusiasm, and you’ll have a wonderful time!

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

Nick Evans runs a programme called KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, a chapter of The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization. The aim of the programme is to promote awareness of these ecologically important animals, and to educate the public. For snake awareness and identification talks, or frogging evenings, please email Nick at nickevanskzn@gmail.com. With assistance for snake removals, you can contact Nick on 072 8095 806, who will put you in touch with the closest snake catcher. (Nick is based in Durban).

The Guttural Toad

Article by Nick Evans of KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

The migratory birds are back, the flowers are out and the temperatures are rising, Spring is officially here, and Summer is fast approaching! It’s a busy time of the year for wildlife, as it’s the breeding season for many animals. This is the case with frogs too.

Guttural Toad

Guttural Toad

Many of us will have noticed that the frogs are now active, by hearing their choruses in full voice every night. Some of us love listening to it, others, who have ponds outside their bedroom window, might not appreciate it as much…

In South Africa we are lucky to have such a high diversity of frog species. The KZN Midlands has some rare and endemic frogs in the area, two of which are listed as Endangered (the Long-toed Tree Frog and Mistbelt Chirping Frog). What a privilege! Frogs are the fastest disappearing group of vertebrates (animals with a backbone) in the world, so we are very lucky to have so many in the area. This is why we need to do our part to conserve these wonderful creatures.

One of the most common frogs in the area, and one which starts calling earlier than most other species, is the Guttural Toad.

Guttural Toad photographed by Richard Booth

Guttural Toad photographed by Richard Booth

Guttural Toads are often labelled ‘Bullfrogs’, because of their large appearance. Bullfrogs are a completely different family and species, which do not occur in the Midlands. Toads are not a different animal to frogs, they are just a family of frogs.

Guttural Toads are quite infamous amongst people, with many who sadly dislike them. The reason? They often take-up residence in suburban gardens, and they make a loud croaking sound throughout the night. This choir of croaking lullabies often keeps people from a peaceful nights sleep, despite their best efforts.

Recent frog evening in the Karkloof. Teaching children to love and appreciate amphibian friends.

Recent frog evening in the Karkloof. Teaching children to love and appreciate amphibian friends.

Unfortunately there are many cases where people have gone to cruel and drastic measures to get rid of this “problem”. This includes hitting the poor toads with golf clubs, shooting them with air rifles, or even pouring salt on them (which dries them up and kills them). This needs to end! If you can’t tolerate the presence of frogs, you’re going to have to get rid of your pond.

A more tolerant attitude, coupled with patience for them, may help you realise that they’re actually helping you out. Having frogs in your garden indicates that you have a healthy ecosystem in your backyard. They are a crucial link in the food chain, as they are predators and prey. Frogs keep insect numbers in check, especially the ones we don’t like so much, like flies and mosquitoes. They are also food for a whole host of animals, such as birds, snakes, and small mammals.

frack frog2

If you have a garden pond or a swimming pool, you may wake up one morning and find strings of eggs inside. Those strings of eggs belong to toads. Toads lay their eggs differently to other families of frogs, in that they lay their eggs in strings instead of clumps. If this does happen in your garden, kindly move the eggs out with the pool net, and transfer them to a nearby pond or dam. Often, most of the eggs do not hatch, due to damage from the move and chlorine. But it’s worth a try!

Let’s appreciate the toads in our gardens, and take delight in their unique calls. It’s one of the many privileges that we have living here in Africa. Wouldn’t you rather hear the ‘croaks’ of nature at night over the sounds of traffic and house parties? A lot of their habitat is being destroyed, so let them live and breed in your garden. No need to buy insecticides and poisons, let the toads and other frogs do the job for you!


Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2014

At the Dargle Conservancy AGM held recently, contributors to our monthly Wildlife Sightings were honoured.  Sue Robinson won “Most interesting sighting” for her Cape Vulture pictures on Ivanhoe; Sandra Merrick of Albury farm was recognised as the “Most enthusiastic and committed contributor”  and Dieter Setz won “Best Photo” for his sleeping bat. Everybody enjoyed the video clip compilation of the past year’s Wildlife pictures and videos – click on this link to view it online: http://animoto.com/play/40k5MovekaZT20o47z1Hkg

Brandon Powell – Bukamanzi

Iona Bate and I were having tea on my verandah when we enjoyed a rare sighting of the White Wire Tea Table Frog. It was so tiny and well-camouflaged that it was only after three cups of tea that we noticed it. If there are any keen Herpotologists out there we’d love to know what it is really called. We called it Proust, after that famous white Frog.  A week before I had seen another tiny, very beautiful tree frog on my bedroom window.20140503_110332

Thanks to frog lover Charlene Russell for providing some help with id: “Did you see it’s underbelly at all? It’s probably a Painted Reed Frog (believe it or not), the brown version. During the day, and especially as winter approaches they lose their colour and can go almost white…hard to see the patterns, and no feet to reference it by, but that’s my best guess…I like your name best though.”  Also remember comment from Megan Loftie-Eaton about exactly this? https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/dargle-wildlife-sightings-december-2013/

Ian and Sue Robinson – Ivanhoe

The Eland are a few from one of our two herds of about 50 each.


Have no idea what type of lizard this is.


Bald Ibis,



Black Shouldered Kite.


Two Oribi seen up in the hills overlooking the Furth.


Nikki Brighton Old Kilgobbin Farm

At the beginning of the month there was still quite a lot in flower, but that has changed rapidly despite the warm days. This Berkheya multijuga is now just spikey brown stalks.

r berkheya multijuga

Leonotis leonaurus is flowering spectacularly and so often in conjunction with bright yellow Senecio and Phymaspermum creating gorgeous pictures.

r leonotis and senecio

During winter, the mist-belt forests open up. The canopies let in more light and the understory shrubs are less dense. This means that some trees become more visible or easier to get close to. One such species is the Zanthoxylum capense – impossible to miss now. The Zulu name for the tree is amusing – umlungumabele which means ‘breast of a white woman’. Apparently this refers to the fact that white women settlers wore bras which made their breasts appear more pointed, unlike the local women. The Afrikaans name kleinperdepram means ‘small horse breast’.

Zanthoxylum is a member of the citrus family. The fragrant white flowers are much favoured by insects, the crushed leaves smell of lemon and shiny black seeds are rich in fragrant essential oils and have been used as perfume. Traditionally twigs were used as toothbrushes and decoctions of bark as an antibacterial mouthwash, ground roots or leaves inserted into a tooth cavity for toothache.

r knobwood 025

Senecio madagascariensis still puts on a show. The small, bright yellow flowers are clustered on branched inflorescences and are easily visible in the grass.   Senecio is a largest genus of flowering plants (2000 species worldwide) with over 300 species found in South Africa.

r senecio madagascariensis

It seeds itself prolifically – lots of fluffy windborne seeds are produced continually. Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and beetles all love this little shrub, which is common in disturbed ground. As was the case on the edges of the farmland when we did the last track and scat id workshop. Oriah was pretty as a picture in the middle of it all!

oriah and senecio

Rose and Barry Downard Oak tree cottage

Birds: Saw a Spotted Eagle Owl perched on our property signpost one evening as we returned home. Crested Eagle, Herons, Cardinal Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Hoopoes, Amethyst Sunbirds, Rock Pigeons, Sparrows, Olive Thrush, Robin, Fiscal Shrike. A lone male Redwinged Starling has been sleeping on our veranda every night for the past two to three months, and finally this week he found a mate. We have not seen any other Redwinged Starlings on our property for a couple of months.  Genet and Reedbuck seen next to the Dargle Road by the Sinclair’s farm late one evening.

Natal Green Snakes (juvenile and adult). Large adult Red-lipped Herald. Dwarf Chameleon. 4Several tiny tree frogs looking for places to shelter from the cold. A tree frog on our dewy window at sunrise.


Jeanne Tarrant from EWT comments: “I would say that both this frog, and the white one above, are juvenile Painted Reed Frogs – Hyperolius marmoratus. Quite tricky to ID as the colouring is not yet established, but the body shape, and most importantly orientation of the pupil (horizontal) is diagnostic for reed frogs. Natal Tree Frogs don’t occur that far inland, and have vertical pupils.

Many spectacular sunrises and sunsets again this month.



Mike and Anne Weeden – River Run on Hopedale

We have three swallows nests under the thatched eaves and enjoy watching their endeavours during the summer months. This year one of the pairs had very late babies. One fell out of the nest and died. The other one fluttered from the nest onto a nearby beam and got stuck. When we moved in five years ago we had a problem with starlings roosting above our table and pooping all over us. We invested in a sticky product to spread on the beams which would be unpleasant for the birds without being harmful (so we were told). Unfortunately some little birds got covered in goo and died or had to be euthanased. Only mineral turpentine removes the goo which is obviously unsuitable for birds. Mike rescued this baby who had goo on its feet and tail feathers. He spent a couple of days cleaning it and put it in a box under the nest in between. Finally he pronounced it clean and placed it on a table at the top of the steep bank down to the river. I called the frantic parents with the app on my iPad and once they swooped past the baby tried to follow. It would flutter a little way and then land in the long grass. Mike would trudge down the hill, bring it back up and start again. This went on for most of the day with every flight getting longer and faster and by evening the three were flying around together. A day or two later, all the swallows had left for the winter. We like to think that our little “late starter” made the grade!

We also had a baboon in our veggie garden – the first one we have ever seen or heard.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset panorama I took on my way back to Dargle last weekend.


Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm


One morning we took our 2 small dogs on a walk through the natural forest next to Lythwood lodge. We left our 2 large dogs at home thank goodness. 5 minutes into the walk the dachshund disappeared off the foot path. We could hear him running around in the undergrowth. 20 minutes later he sped past us, up the path and round the corner, where all hell broke loose. Barking and screeching ensued. Pat told me to get off the path (I did have my camera with me) as animal might come racing down. My thought was, a bush pig or a bush buck, attacking the dog. Pats thought, leopard! It was neither. It was 5 jackal attacking our little dog – they were out hunting at 10am. Pat shouted and screamed to “voetsak” and I joined in vocally although could not see what I was screaming at, but thought more noise the better to chase off whatever it was.

They ran off and left our poor dog with a few bites on his legs and 2 teeth marks on each testicle! Ouch! ( I do have a photo but thought it best not to put it in – some members might be squeamish, or it might have to be edited ha ha) I was just so thankful that our rottie and terrier were not there as it would have been a massacre. They hate jackal who stand yowling outside our gate every night, before the nightly hunt. Fortunately our dachie was not badly injured and all his injuries had healed after 2 weeks. It could have been so much worse.

The Reed Buck seem to be coming down from the hills – quite a few in our garden in the long grass.   The dogs flush them out in the evening – they then jump over the fence.


Reedbuck Doe

reedbuck doe

Quite a few duiker. A caracal ran in front of Pats bakkie just outside our gate last week. Our blue crane still keep coming back to the dam every couple of days, mainly in the evenings.

3 blue cranes

Grey Crowned Crane

grey crowned crane

Gurney sugar birds are back and like hiding in the bottle brush trees. They sing all day long – beautiful to hear.

guerneys surgarbird

Still lots of sunbirds, although colourless now. African hoopoes still in the wattle plantation.  Buff streaked Chats.

buff streaked chats and sunbird

Orange Throated Longclaw.

orange throated longclaw

Our baby bulbuls have left. Our barn owls are still in the roof and chimney. I am not sure how many we have at the moment. Saw 2 flying off the roof a couple of nights ago. Saw a gymnogene hopping over the rocks. Still get Spoonbills every now and then.

spoonbills and plovers

spoonbill sunset

Spectacular sunsets this past monthincredible sunset

Responses to some of last Month’s Dargle Sightings:

Josh Dovey – Regarding Dave Mann’s note on the noises in the forest, it is Baboons, we saw them last week. We are opposite Dave’s place.

Jason Londt – The frog at Copperleigh is actually a toad. The caterpillars seen at Robhaven are those of an emperor moth, and the eggs on the back of one are actually cocoons of a parasitic wasp.

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.”


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

Leap Frog

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is holding its second National Awareness Day for threatened amphibians on the 28th of February 2014 – a date now designated as Leap Day for Frogs! The day will comprise a number of events, activities and opportunities for learners, homeowners and employees to take a leap of action to save our frogs.

There are 160 frog species in South Africa, of which 30% are threatened due to habitat destruction, increasing levels of pollution in freshwater systems, disease and changes in climate.

Frog 650px wide CARLA HARDMAN

“What many South Africans don’t know is that frogs play a key role in our indigenous ecosystems because they act as both a predator of insects, some of which are disease-spreading, as well as being prey for a host of other species.  Their habitats are sources of freshwater and also assist in water filtration and flood reduction,” said Dr. Jeanne Tarrant, Manager of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (EWT-TAP).


“Frogs are also important bio-indicators due to their sensitive skins and because they inhabit both aquatic and terrestrial environments. In other words, if they are around, it means our environment is healthy.  The fact that one third of our frogs could potentially disappear is a warning sign that our natural environs are in jeopardy and that urgent conservation action is crucial.”

long toed frog (Small)

The good news is that unlike a number of other endangered species, which require global support and intervention, the protection and conservation of frogs is something in which ordinary South Africans can play a meaningful and impactful role.

tigerlily holding frog 3

Said Tarrant, “The conservation of frogs is so closely related to existing environmental management and conservation policies and practices, that it’s really just a matter of paying more attention to them.”

The awareness campaign aims to put frogs on South Africa’s conservation map by providing information on what people, businesses and government can do towards reducing their negative impact on amphibian habitats, as well as how they can create environments that are conducive to the survival of frogs.

Reed Frog in the Karkloof -  Pat Cahill

Various events will be held throughout the country focusing on threatened species including the Critically Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog from KwaZulu-Natal, the Critically Endangered Amathole Toad from the Eastern Cape and the Endangered Western Leopard Toad from the Western Cape. Jeanne will be involved in two events during the course of the day:  she will be addressing local residents of Mtunzini on the afternoon of the 28th about their area being a hotspot for Pickersgill’s Reed Frog and how they can help. That evening she will be in her local town of Kloof for a family outing including kids activities, an illustrated presentation and a guided walk in Glenholme Nature Reserve. Activities focused on the Western Leopard Toad will take place in Noordhoek, Houtbay and Stanford. In the Eastern Cape, two events will be taking place to create awareness about the Amathole Toad – the local Hogsback school will take part in a wetland clean-up and a trail run on the Amathole Trail will take place on Saturday, 1 March.

More importantly though, individuals are asked to organise their own events at home, school or the office to bring attention to and celebrate these important creatures in general. The website dedicated to the day will have plenty of information on ideas, tips on how you can help and events in your area.

window frog 3.res CROP.

For further information about the EWT-TAP and Leap Day for Frogs visit www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za  or contact Jeanne Tarrant on jeannet@ewt.org.za.

Contact:   Jeanne Tarrant
Manager: Threatened Amphibian Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 31 765 5471
Cell: +27 83 254 9563


Nomonde Mxhalisa
Communications Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600

They Are All Frogs

Last night, a barefoot and gumbooted group of frog fans gathered at the Karkloof Conservation Centre for an evening of sploshing about in mud and finding frogs. “African Bullfrogs are my favourites” said John Robbins. “In Grade R a friend brought one to school and I have liked frogs ever since.”  One of the first questions asked was what the difference between frogs and toads is. “They are all frogs” said Charlene Russell who was leading the excursion.  She explained that the confusion had arisen long ago in Britain where only two frog genera occur naturally – Rana (frogs) and Bufo (toads).  Toads are types of frogs.frogging 162 res.

Zoe Goble had been reading a book about frogs and asked about poisonous ones. All frogs secrete a toxic substance from glands on the back of their neck, but in most cases the concentration is small and they are not very poisonous. It is the brightly coloured ones found in the rainforests which are dangerous.

frogging 166 res.

Everyone was interested to hear about the Platanas (African Clawed Toads) which were used to test pregnancy until the 1960s.  Unfortunately, Platanas have a fungus on their skin which other South African frogs are immune to, but because they have been transported around the world, the fungus has spread to other frogs and is thought to have caused the decline of many populations.

We began by listening to recordings of frog calls so we’d be able to identify them more easily once in the wetland.  Frogs are more often heard than seen. None of the frogs we heard were calling “Ribbet”, because very few do. Apparently, there is a species of frog which does make that sound in the wetlands around Hollywood, so because we always hear that call in movies, we now say frogs go “Ribbet”!

frogging 165 res.

Margaret and Barry Neuborn admitted to listening to frog calls in the car, rather than music!  “We hear lots of frogs at might in Mbona because a small stream runs next to our house,” said Margaret. “Often tiny frogs sit on the outside of the window and we can see their hearts beating. ”  Charlie McGillivray lead the way around the vlei so we could hear the real frogs.   We identified six by their calls:  Bronze Caco, Painted Reed Frog, Tinker Reed Frog, Guttural Toad, Platana and Yellow Striped River Frog.

Much splashing about and shining of torches followed.

frogging 199 res.

The first frog we caught was a Guttural Toad.

frogging 173 res.

We also found a number of pretty little Painted Reed Frogs.  Their markings are completely different in different areas of the coutry which causes confusion.  They also fade in sunlight, probably as a defence against the sun. We popped what we caught into plastic bags to observe them for a while. As their skins are porous, they will absorb any substances we had on our hands and we didn’t want to harm them.

frogging res.

John held this one gently by it’s pelvis so we could all have a look before it leapt away. Zoe tried to photograph hers in the plastic bag.  The children were definitely the best at finding and catching the frogs!

FROG Zoe Goble, John Robbins, Carolyn Goble res.

We also caught a Tinker Reedfrog and a Yellow Striped River frog.  frogging 189 res.

Great fun was had by all. We headed back  for coffee in frog themed cups which Twane Clarke had created especially for the occasion, and a braai at the Nick Steele picnic site.

frogging 157 res.

A thoroughly interesting and enjoyable evening, celebrating wetlands and the special creatures which inhabit them. Thanks to Karkloof Conservancy for arranging it.  see: http://www.wwf.org.za/what_we_do/species/sa_frogs/