Tag Archives: grey crowned cranes

Boston Wildlife Sightings – Summer 2016

November 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

November has had the first typically summer rainfall pattern in three years. Hot humid haze days, interspersed with misty cool ones, regular thunderstorm activity and glorious rain. Finally our well has some water in it, the first time since May. Wildflowers particularly have responded and the hillside is covered in a neon orange wash of Watsonia socium.


Watsonia socium

Some of the spectacular array of flowers are: Adjuga ophrydis; Albuca pachychlamys; Asclepias albens, these amazing flower heads droop downwards, hiding the vivid lime green and pink flowers;


Adjuga ophrydis


Albuca pachychlamys


Asclepias albens


Asclepias albens

Aspidonepsis flava with Crab spider; Berkheya macrocephala;


Aspidonepsis flava with a well camouflaged crab spider


Berkheya macrocephala


Berkheya macrocephala

Chlorophytum cooperi; Cyanotis speciosa; Cyphia elata; Dierama latifolium; Helichrysum pallidum; Hermannia woodii; Indigofera hilaris, bright pink clumps in the grass;


Chlorophytum cooperi


Cyanotis speciosa


Cyphia elata


Dierama latifolium


Helichrysum pallidum


Hermannia woodii


Indigofera hilaris

another different Ledebouria sp; delicate Lobelia erinus; hundreds of Merwilla nervosa; Pachycarpus natalensis; Scabiosa columbaria; Searsia discolor;


Ledebouria sp.


Lobelia erinus


Merwilla nervosa


Merwilla nervosa


Pachycarpus natalensis


Scabiosa columbaria


Searsia discolor

two species of Silene, Silene bellidoides and Silene burchellii;


Silene bellidoides


Silene bellidoides


Silene burchellii

Sisyranthus trichostomus; Trachyandra asperata; Wahlenbergia cuspidata;


Sisyranthus trichostomus


Trachyandra asperata


Wahlenbergia cuspidata

I finally have a name for this beautiful Watsonia via a Facebook group: Flora of southern Africa, Watsonia meriana


Watsonia meriana


Watsonia meriana

and Xysmalobium parviflorum.


Xysmalobium parviflorum

I managed to get a photo of a Spectacled Weaver on a nest in the Plane Tree. The Spectacled Weavers don’t seem to strip off the leaves in the vicinity of their nests as the Village Weavers do; perhaps they seek camouflage rather than being able to see their predators approach. The Striped Swallows have returned over a month later than usual. Red-collared Widows are now in full courting plumage and a large flock roams over the seeding grass. A Long-crested Eagle perches regularly on the Eskom post. The Southern Boubou’s are a delight with their varying call and quiet movements on the lawn and in shrubbery. A Bokmakierie pair are frequently heard and seen in the Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja thicket that has grown up behind the house.


Spectacled Weaver


Spectacled Weaver nest

With the rainfall, fungi pop up regularly. A Horse Mushroom and Star Stinkhorn with a millipede are two of them.


Horse mushroom, Agaricus arvensis


Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe ruba, with a millipede

Butterflies are starting to be seen more frequently. I watched an African Common White butterfly feeding in Vernonia natalensis.


African Common White butterfly on Vernonia natalensis

Bagworm larvae, of the Psyshidae Family of moths, on Vernonia hirsuta.


Bagworm on Vernonia hirsuta

Insects, like these Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys, are nibbling many flowers and buds.


Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys

Finally a delight on the lawn one morning, a Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra!


Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra


Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra

November 2016 on Stormy Hill – Caroline McKerrow

I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.


All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Speckled Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.


December 2016 on Gramarye – Crystelle Wilson

On a trip to a Zululand game reserve in November we were lucky enough to see cheetahs. Back at Boston I was just as excited seeing a Serval on an early morning walk down to the river.



The breeding season was in full swing and juvenile birds were everywhere to be seen. At the river two Levaillant’s Cisticola fledglings tried to balance on the same stalk


Levaillant’s Cisticola

And in the garden African Paradise Flycatcher parents were industriously feeding their newly fledged chicks


African Paradise Flycatcher

On the kitchen verandah there was a near tragedy when part of the nest of the Greater Striped Swallows collapsed on Christmas Day, leaving the three chicks exposed inside. Fortunately they were about to fledge and within a few days were flying strongly with the parents.


Greater Striped Swallows


Greater Striped Swallows

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,


Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Amethyst Sunbird, Common Moorhen, Hamerkop, Three-banded Plover, Wailing Cisticola, Blacksmith Lapwing, Speckled Mousebird,


Speckled Mousebirds

African Spoonbill, Black-headed Oriole, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Lazy Cisticola, Neddicky, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Canary


Yellow-fronted Canary

Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Barn Swallow,


Barn Swallow

Yellow-billed Kite, Little Grebe, White-backed Duck,


White-backed Duck

Cape Wagtail, Black Crake, Cape Weaver, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Crow, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola,


Zitting Cisticola

Fork-tailed Drongo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Burchell’s Coucal, White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Cape Glossy Starling,


Cape Glossy Starling

African Hoopoe, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, Egyptian Goose, Cape Canary (well camouflaged in the summer grass)


Cape Canary

Red-chested Flufftail, Grey Crowned Crane,


Grey Crowned Crane

Cape Longclaw, Common Waxbill, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cattle Egret, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Bokmakierie, Village Weaver,


Village Weaver

Southern Fiscal, Brown-throated Martin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Quail, Southern Red Bishop,


Southern Red Bishop

Drakensberg Prinia,


Drakensberg Prinia

Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird,


Fan-tailed Widowbird

Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Rush-warbler, African Reed-warbler, African Stonechat, Long-crested Eagle, Hadeda Ibis, Cardinal Woodpecker


Cardinal Woodpecker

Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Pin-tailed Whydah


Pin-tailed Whydah

Red-eyed Dove,


Red-eyed Dove

Cape Turtle-dove, Southern Boubou, Greater Striped Swallow, Cape White-eye, Diderick Cuckoo


Diderick Cuckoo

December 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

Sultry hot days with thunderstorms have produced a vivid green landscape, however there has not been enough rain to raise the water table significantly; although there is water in the well it is a fraction of what is usually there in December.


Summer solstice

Clouds obscured the full moon rise; however early the next morning it was visible through scudding clouds.


Summer solstice was a glorious day, ending in a beautiful sunset. Already many grasses are seeded, the red tinge of Themeda triandra softening the green.


Themeda triandra

There are still many wildflowers in bloom, some that I saw were: Agapanthus campanulatus; Aristea woodii; Berkheya setifera; Clutia monticola fruit;


Agapanthus campanulatus


Aristea woodii


Berkheya setifera


Clutia monticola

Craterocapsa tarsodes, which I usually associate with the mountains grows here too on rocky clay patches;


Craterocapsa tarsodes

Dipcadi viride; Epilobium capense seeds; Gladiolus ecklonii; Haemanthus humilis; Lobelia erinus;


Dipcadi viride


Epilobium capense


Gladiolus ecklonii


Haemanthus humilis


Lobelia erinus

four orchids, Eulophia hians var. nutans; Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii; Eulophia zeyheriana and Satyrium longicauda;


Eulophia hians ver. nutans


Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii


Eulophia zeyheriana


Satyrium longicauda

Papaver aculeatum; Pelargonium luridum; Rubus ludwigii; Senecio subrubriflorus; Strigia bilabiata and Zantedeschia albomaculata.


Papaver aculeatum


Pelargonium luridum


Rubus ludwigii


Senecia subrubriflorus


Strigia bilabiata


Zantedeschia albomaculata


Zantedeschia albomaculata


An unusual fungi was growing in stone gravel.


In the lush foliage I found some delightful insects: two Bee Fly species, a Foam Grasshopper and a lucky sighting of a Giant Forest Cicada!


Bee Fly



Bee Fly


Foam Grasshopper



Giant Forest Cicada

Most mornings the birds find the night flying moths before I do, but I did see a few, including the wings of a Wounded Emperor, Neobunaeopsis arabella; then a rather spectacular first for me, a day flying moth, a Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp. which at first I thought must be a butterfly!



Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.


Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.


Wings of an Emperor moth, Neobunaeopsis arabella

After a misty night I saw a water-beaded spider web.


Long-crested Eagles catch thermals between waiting and watching patiently from perches.


Two discarded eggshells, one from a Spectacled Weaver and the second from a Village Weaver prove that some of the nests were acceptable.

The Striped Swallows have selected a new site to build a nest, I hope this one works out. A pair of Cape Wagtails have recently taken up residence in the garden. Occasionally I hear Spotted Eagle-Owls calling at dusk and dawn.

One morning I discovered a newly excavated Antbear hole, as it was in the middle of the driveway we had to fill it in.


Sadly I will have to live-trap and relocate the Lesser Savanna Dormice that have taken up residence in the house; a hole in a carpet, wooly slippers and clothing where they have selected bedding material, and they devour any food left out… Drawers are their favoured places to make nests. I love their chirrups as they move through the house and occasional sightings as they scurry across the floor and furniture.


Boston Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

October has been a busy month, not much time at home to explore, so few sightings. There was a final snowfall at the beginning of the month, then the weather settled into a summer pattern, regular thunderstorms, rain and misty days between hot ones.


One misty day a pair of Common Reedbuck ventured close to the house, unhurriedly grazing as the passed by. I had several close-up encounters on different predawn mornings with individual Reedbuck.





The moist conditions have produced many flowers, they sparkled at me as I passed by. The few I managed to find time to photograph were Asparagus africanus, Monopsis decipiens and Oxalis smithiana.


Asparagus africanus


Monopsis decipiens


Oxalis smithiana

A tiny Lacewing sp. perched on the kitchen towel.



There have been several lovely moths including these two, an Emerald sp. and one unidentified.


Moth – Emerald sp.


Unidentified moth (suggestions welcome)

Tiny Dunce Caps, Conocybe tenera; popped up in the lawn after rain as did a False Earth-star.


Tiny Dunce Caps – Conocybe tenera


False Earth-star

The Village Weavers have been very busy in the Pin Oak and in an adjacent Plane Tree Spectacled Weavers have built a few nests. The Piet-my-Vrou, Red-chested Cuckoo finally started calling on the 19 October. I also saw an African Harrier-Hawk flying by.

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.


All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.


Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

The onset at last of the rainy season is so welcome, that one doesn’t mind days of grey, mizzling weather – which is no good for taking great photographs. It also doesn’t put a damper on the excitement of seeing a pair of Wattled Cranes looming large right next to the road.


Wattled Cranes

And it is always pleasing to see Grey Crowned Cranes, there were a group of six on The Drift one morning, flying off north


Grey Crowned Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Red-capped Lark, African Dusky Flycatcher, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Great Egret, African Darter, Greater Striped Swallow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Grassbird, African Reed-warbler


African Reed-Warbler

Red-necked Spurfowl, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler


Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Burchell’s Coucal, Bokmakierie, Cape Sparrow, Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Mousebird, African Paradise-flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, , African Hoopoe, Pin-tailed Whydah, Olive Thrush, Spur-winged Goose


Spur-winged Goose

Lanner Falcon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Cattle Egret (closely roosting overnight near the dam)


Cattle Egret

Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant (also at the dam on a tree in the island where it was perching room only)


White-breasted Cormorant

Cape Longclaw, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Crow, Cape Robin-chat, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Pipit,


African Pipit

Red-collared Widowbird, Village Weaver, White-throated Swallow, Cape Weaver


Cape Weaver

Brown-throated Martin, Southern Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Little Grebe, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, African Spoonbill (taking a break from feeding)


African Spoonbill

Common Waxbill, Cape Turtle-dove, Pied Starling, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-chested Cuckoo, Helmeted Guineafowl, Amethyst Sunbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Double-collared, Sunbird, African Stonechat, Cape Canary, Cape White-eye, African Fish-eagle


African Fish-Eagle

Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Boubou, Forest Canary, Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Goose (the gosling turning into gangling teenagers)


Egyptian Geese

Red-knobbed Coots were feeding three newly-hatched chicks


Red-knobbed Coot

Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck


Yellow-billed Duck

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Pamela Kleiman – Connington Farm

Despite the still very chilly weather it was lovely to see the trees and veld starting to get green. The occasional migrant bird returned to the area and a few veld flowers were to be seen

A flush of new green leaves


Some of the birds seen this month

A large flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks was still to be seen on some dairy ponds


Black-winged Lapwing


Adult Grey Crowned Crane with a youngster


Hadeda Ibis preparing a nest


Young Harrier-Hawk in my garden


Female African Paradise-flycatcher arrived about mid month


Male Long-tailed Widowbird  showing off his summer plumaged


White-throated Swallow – another newly arrived migrant


I was very lucky to get a shot of this Black Crake right out in the open


Spring is in the air – a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes doing a mating dance


Green Wood-hoopoe


Found this dear little Dark-capped Yellow Warbler near our farm dam


The first of the butterflies.



A few veld flowers – quite scarce in the dairy farming areas




Boston Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Winter truly arrived in June and we regularly had temperatures of -6ºC in the mornings.


A Cape Longclaw tried its best to warm up in the first weak rays of the sun at the edge of a dam


Cape Longclaw

A sad sighting was that of a dead Spotted Eagle-Owl lying on the path to the river. We couldn’t work out why it died, but it appeared as if its neck was broken.


Spotted Eagle-Owl lying dead on the path

Very welcome sights were that of Denham’s Bustards on a few occasions


Denham’s Bustards

In the frost in a maize field (above) and ponderously taking to the air (below)


Denham’s Bustard in flight

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: White-breasted Cormorant, Long-crested Eagle, Common Moorhen, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-knobbed Coot, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Brown-throated Martin, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Starling, African Stonechat, Little Grebe, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, African Spoonbill, Black-shouldered Kite (carrying out its pest control duties)


Black-shouldered Kite

Red-winged Starling, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Common Fiscal, Spotted Eagle-owl, Green Wood-hoopoe, Red-necked Spurfowl, Olive Woodpecker, Speckled Pigeon, Cape Glossy Starling, Sombre Greenbul, Black-headed Heron, Dark-capped Bulbul,


Dark-capped Bulbul

Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Hadeda Ibis,


Hadeda Ibis

Southern Boubou, Helmeted Guineafowl, Olive Thrush, House Sparrow, Cape Robin-chat, Village Weaver (making the most of hospitality on offer at the feeding station)


Village Weavers

As did the Cape White-eyes


Cape White-eyes

Bokmakierie, Drakensberg Prinia,


Drakensberg Prinia

Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, African Firefinch. The Grey Crowned Crane family continued with their daily routine, the youngster is still with the parents and roost with them at night.



Grey Crowned Crane family

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

There were three Mountain Reedbuck on the hill. The Common (Grey) Duiker was seen a few times and the Vervet Monkey troop have been visiting. An African Fish-Eagle cruised around overhead. An African Harrier-hawk landed in one of the trees and flew off with one of our resident Weaver birds. A Common Reedbuck was seen while out on a ride. Jackals have been heard a lot with the dogs barking to let them know that they are not welcome near the house.

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

June and fire-break burning are synonymous, tracer lines burnt earlier in April hold the fire when the breaks are burnt. A damp day preceded our burn day so fortunately we had an ideal cool burn, that doesn’t damage the plant life as severely. Jackal Buzzards, Drongos, Long-crested Eagles and Cape Crows wheeled around looking for rodents displaced from their homes. The fires are dramatic, particularly in the late afternoon.

02 Firebreak season IMG_2269

Despite the very dry and cool conditions some of my favourite flowers found here were blooming, bright golden yellow and orange Aloe maculata on the hillside;

03 Flower Aloe maculata IMG_5932

Aloe maculata

snow white, delicate Buddleja dysophylla;

03 Flower Buddleja dysophylla 01 IMG_6012

Buddleja dysophylla

03 Flower Buddleja dysophylla 02 IMG_6018

Buddleja dysophylla

03 Flower Buddleja dysophylla 03 IMG_6017

Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja salvifolia buds are swelling, almost ready to bloom;

03 Flower Buddleja salvifolia IMG_6001

Buddleja salvifolia

tiny, cheerful Euryops laxus have popped up in the short grass around the house; in the tracer-lines,

03 Flower Euryops laxus IMG_5998

Europs laxus

early Gerbera ambigua;

03 Flower Gerbera ambigua IMG_5933

Gerbera ambigua

Halleria lucida is flowering profusely and creating a magnet for birds and insects;

03 Flower Halleria lucida IMG_6022

Halleria lucida

a neon coloured Ipomoea bolusiana plant took advantage of the shelter along the warm east side of the house.

03 Flower Ipomoea bolusiana IMG_5926

Ipomoea bolusiana

The male Black-backed Puffback is still persistently trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. When resting he is starting to display his courtship puffback. The birdbaths are very sought after and often up to 30 Cape White-eyes splash and drink together, the shy Southern Boubou, Cape Robin-chats and Dark-capped Bulbuls take their turn in the verandah birdbath. The Fork-tailed Drongos, Olive Thrushes, Canaries and Cape Sparrows prefer the birdbath under the trees in the garden. Also seen were a flock of Common Waxbills, African Stonechats, Buff-streaked Chats, Amethyst Sunbirds, a Spotted Eagle-Owl and a Cape Batis. A Fish Eagle can be heard regularly calling from the valley.

04 Bird Black-backed Puffback IMG_5908

Black-backed Puffback (male)

The Lesser Savanna Dormice, Grahiurus kelleni, are still very much in residence, though seen less frequently, particularly in cooler weather. The young Duiker has moved off on it’s own, we still see all three around, but separately.

A few butterflies seen are what I think is a Common Hottentot male,

05 Invertebrates Butterfly Common Hottentot male IMG_6002

Common Hottentot (male)

and a Geranium Bronze, Cacyreus marshalli.

05 Invertebrates Butterfly Geranium Bronze Cacyreus marshalli IMG_6003

Geranium Bronze

An unusual Katydid perched on the backstep.

05 Invertebrates Katydid IMG_5913


A spider I hadn’t seen before and rescued from the bath, was identified as a Funnel web wolf spider, Family Lycosidae.

05 Invertebrates Spider Funnel-web Spider of Agelenidae Fam Funnel web wolf spider Family Lycosidae P1070424

Funnel web wolf spider

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Pamela Ellenberger Kleiman

Being new to the district I hope to be able to contribute sightings occasionally from the Kamberg Conservancy.

A view from the D450 across the hill where 2 farmers regularly put out carcasses for the Vultures. As an atlasser I have seen a group of up to 40+ individuals flying in the area.


During the first 2 weeks of May I was privileged to see a large flock of Southern Bald Ibis in 4 different areas, the main one along the D450


I see this pair of Grey Crowned Cranes regularly along our valley which has a series of farm dams in it.


I love the name Groundscraper Thrush. The only time I have seen them they have been calling from the top of the tallest trees!


Red-throated Wryneck, a permanent visitor to my garden.


During May the Black-headed Oriole was often in the garden. Now in June I no longer hear it.


African Harrier-hawk is often seen in the Oak trees along our valley much to the annoyance of many of the small birds.


Just a picture of a Long-crested Eagle giving the eye to two Hadedas.


On the 23rd May there were still White Storks around despite the fact that we had already had a few mornings of quite heavy frost.


Hottentot Teal that were a new atlas recording for our area.


On the road to Fairview farm I recorded 2 pairs and 2 individual Secretarybirds last week.


Buff-streaked Chat. This is a Species I am delighted to be finding more and more often in our area.


There is an ever present flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks on ponds on one of our dairy farms.


Another new atlas recording – rather a bad shot, unfortunately of a Black Crake on Connington’s small dam.


This Denham’s Bustard was also another new atlas recording which I saw along the main road to Kamberg.


It is such a pleasure to have a pair of Lanner Falcons on Connington. They give me the occasional fly-past.


High up on grass veld last week I was surprised to find 6 Wattled Crane – such beautiful creatures.


A very skittish and unexpected visitor to my garden on Connington this week was a Black Sparrowhawk, only just managed this record shot before it flew off.


Great to be back in the country and be able to see Duiker wandering across the fields in front of my cottage.


June 21st. Full moon breaking through the cloud.


Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

I do love ‘butterfly season’ in Dargle! My garden seems to be constantly on the move, with spots of colour flashing between Hypoestes, Kniphofia, Senecio, Polygala and Leonotis.

Things are a bit quieter in the hills. Has anyone else noticed that there are seldom jackal calling at night? I still hear owls, but no jackal. Have seen a few groups of reedbuck – about 8 in total, during my grassland walks and one bushbuck.

r autumn 2016 reedbuck hiding

A couple of times I have come across Jackal Buzzards sitting quietly on hay bales waiting for a snack to show itself in the newly shorn fields. Unsure who this little brown fellow is in the tall grass?

r autumn 2016 bird on grass 1

I adore the subdued colours of this season. Lots of orange Leonotis leonaurus and the last of the Berkheya flowers

r berkheya

Most of the Gomphocarpus physocarpus pods have popped releasing their fairy seeds to float away.

r autumn gomphocarpus seeds1

The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

r autumn 2016 boophane bulb1

Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

r autumn 2016 phymaspermum 1

A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

r autumn 2016 Aristea 1

Clutia cordata, the grassland clutia, which grows to about 70 cm tall. The plants are single sex. Tiny pale green male and female flowers on separate plants clustered along the stalks.

autumn clutia cordata

Loved this twirled grass – anyone know which variety it is?

r autumn 2016 twirly grass

Shadows in the very scarce pools of water are spectacular. How on earth are animals to survive this winter when the streams have already stopped trickling?

r autumn shadows in pool

Michael Goddard – Steampunk Coffee

Not sure if these little guys have been spotted this far inland but this morning I saw this pair. Common myna (Acridotheres tristis), sometimes spelled mynah, also sometimes known as “Indian myna”

Indian Mynah

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

At the beginning of the month we had Gurney’s Sugarbird in the garden revelling in the abundant blooms of the Leonotis. However they disappeared after a day or so. Probably off to the locally grown proteas, that they much prefer. A Greater Honeyguide was calling in the garden a couple of weeks ago. His unmistakable call of ” vic – tor ” rang out clearly, but I was unable to find him. Another uncommon sight for Kildaragh was a Purple Heron at our little dam. We have recorded one there before,but that was a few years ago. Below is the ribbon bush. Orthosiphon labiatus, a very worthwhile plant for the indigenous garden and the bees love it.

Ribbon bush (Orthosiphon labiatus)

Can anyone out there help me with the identification of the plant below? I know it is African and that it is perhaps a Halleria elliptica (E. Cape), which grows to about 2m. However I am not convinced that it is…
Comment by Nikki Brighton: Looks exotic. Pretty sure it is not indigenous.


Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Skaapsteker on the road

Spotted skaapsteker 1

Spotted skaapsteker 2

Nola Barrett – God’s Grace

I took this picture of this minute little frog on the inside of my veranda window (~ a Painted Reed frog perhaps? Ash)

Frog 1

Then we put him in the garden. The frog is about 2 – 3 cms long but he jumps very far , over a meter maybe almost 2 metres. My gardener says he’s been on the window about 2 weeks. You’ll have to look closely to see him in the garden.

Frog 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The 3 Wattled Crane have been regular visitors on our farm over the past couple of months now, here are a few pics of them with the Grey Crowned Cranes making an appearance too.

Wattled Cranes 1Wattled Cranes 2Wattled Cranes 3Wattled Cranes 4Wattled Cranes 5

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We have been away for most of May. All these photos were taken in April. Our dam is now just a puddle, so no more crane and water birds unfortunately.
There were dozens of butterflies this year.

Blue pansy


Gaudy commodore


Greenbanded swallowtail


Painted lady


The sunbirds were showing their eclipse colours. We have quite a number of sunbirds, now feeding off the proteas and aloes.

Greater collared sunbird in eclipse


a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)


Male Malachite in eclipse


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


Our skinks have disappeared now. Have a photo of the skin of one of them who was shedding his skin in our study. He was actually pulling off the skin of his legs with his mouth. He ran under the couch, hence only pic of body skin left on carpet.


Have not seen our Blue Crane for 6 weeks now but early one morning, beginning of may, woke to see 8 Grey Crowned Crane and 3 Wattled Crane at the dam. They flew off at sunrise.


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


The Long-crested Eagle is still around


The African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) arrives on the farm at about 07:30 on most days hopping around the rocks. With the lizards (skinks) which seem to have vanished around the house, he must be eating mice and rats.


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


At about 10pm one night the dogs started barking, (in that special way when something is amiss) and we went out to find a huge porcupine around our pond area next to the stone wall. He was trying to hide behind a tree to get away from the dogs. We put the animals away and tried to shush the porcupine out the gate, but he was having none of it and proceeded to try and climb the stone wall. This ended with him falling down, and nearly on top of Pat. He raced off with speed and we could not find him after that. He must have come through the culvert as our whole garden has bonnox fencing to keep the animals from encountering our dogs and prevent them from destroying my garden.



Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat


Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills


Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Autumn is officially here with winter trying to sneak in early and this frost we had a couple of weekends ago.

Autumn frost on leaves

A very beautiful black caterpillar with red and yellow markings on the sides and blue spines on the top.

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

Some sort of brown mantis sitting on my arm. Comment from Dr Jason Londt: “It is a mantid (family Mantidae). Don’t know the species (we have over 180 species in SA). Unfortunately I am not aware of a local specialist who could give us a species name – most of the literature on the group seems to be in French! Anyway – nice twig mimic!”

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

Flying ants inside the house which appeared after the recent rains in Dargle

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

I was moving a feed tyre out of the grass and suddenly noticed a whole family of little mice scurrying around. I managed to capture a pic of this guy before they all disappeared into the grass.

Mouse running away

A beautiful Oribi ram, spotted on our farm. The first and only time that I have ever seen one.

Oribi Ram

Not the best pic, but trying to capture a Pied Kingfisher with a cellphone camera in mid dive is a bit of a challenge!

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

I nearly stepped on this orange and black Rinkhals, and had just 3 seconds to capture this pic before he disappeared into the long grass.

Rinkhals in the grass

A very cold, wet and miserable Black-headed Heron which I drove closer and closer to in the Landrover, before it got a little jumpy and flew away.

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

The Wattled crane is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

Wattled Cranes 2

A very large Puffadder which we saw crossing the tar road near Avanol.


Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

I have recently been hearing an African Scops owl calling in the evenings just as it gets dark. It’s an uncommon resident in this area . A couple of nights ago, the evening started with the Scops calling and later when we went to bed we heard Jackal yelping close by. They haven’t been heard for a few months . Waking in the early hours a Spotted Eagle Owl was hooting nearby. Just as sleep had come again we were woken by the raucous call of the Natal Francolin, and finally the Fish Eagle’ s lovely call at dawn, got me out of bed. Who would live anywhere else.

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

Comment by Pat McKrill: “Your diagnosis (Spotted Skaapsteker Psammophylax tritaeniatus) is quite correct, even though those occurring further north are more spotted – as the name implies – than striped. They’re a pretty common grassland snake up your neck of the woods, and because their food preference is pretty wide-ranging, some of it is not necessarily temperature dependent – rodents, skinks – they tend to ignore the hibernation rule and hunt year-round as long as the sun is shining. The concave indentation in the individual dorsal scales is a useful diagnostic. Thanks for the pics, great!”

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were blessed this month to see 7 wattled crane on the farm for a week – they would feed on our neighbours oats during the day and arrive at the dam early evening and sometimes midday to wade around the dam which is drying up daily. We could not see any tags on their legs.

wattled crane

One morning just one appeared and walked around the vlei area for a few hours and then sat down. We got very excited as thought perhaps she was thinking of making a nest there but when the cattle arrived to drink, she changed her mind. Like the plovers eggs which never hatch out as cattle always drinking around the edges of dam where they lay.

Our yellow bill ducklings are down from ten to five in number. We also have 6 Red-billed Teal who swim with them.

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

Two pairs of South African Shelduck now. They did not have chicks this year as dam only started to fill late December. Our 3 Blue Crane have been here the entire month. The fledgling still with his parents. 5 months old now. Sometimes another pair of blue crane join them but they never stay long. 3 african grey crowned crane have been arriving at sunset. We love watching their antics – they always dance in and out the water and sometimes the spoonbill and plovers join them in wild abandon. At first the fledgling would run off when he saw his parents making fools of themselves but lately he joins in the prancing. They are the only cranes that I have not seen swimming. The wattled cranes love to swim and stick their long necks down underwater to see what they can forage. One day we had all 3 cranes visit us.

We have noticed that the crowned cranes have been chasing the blue crane away from the dam – we are not sure why this is as they both have one fledgling. Shame, the 3 of them stand on the hill looking forlornly down at the dance show.

crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 1crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 2

The gymnogene has been arriving early in the morning hunting amongst the rocks in front of the house – one morning there were 2 of them flying around.

When we woke early one cold overcast morning we found a Herald snake trying to swallow a large toad on our front verandah.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

He just could not swallow it and regurgitated it. He then lay next to it. This did not go down well with me as everyone by now knows how terrified I am of snakes. Pat put snake and frog in a box and released them at the bottom of the farm.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

Went down to the dam one hot day and saw thousands of dragonflies.

darner dragon fly

There were also a few red ones but I couldn’t get a pic of them as would not perch for long. There were also hundreds of brown ones but don’t know their name.

We saw a black shouldered kite eating a huge rat one morning on our dead tree – took him one and half hours to finish eating.

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

He kept stopping for a few minutes and would then continue to feed for awhile.

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

Found a new ant bear hole in kikuyu paddock near the dam. There was a Barn Owl on our verandah early one morning and on my approach he flew off. Not sure if this was a fledgling learning to fly. There are a couple in our chimney now which is very awkward if wanting to light a fire. A few years ago one was suffocated from the smoke and fell into the fire. It was horrible and I don’t want that happening again. A bokmakierie visited us for the first time. He sang to us for a good ten minutes. Beautiful start to the day.

There have been dozens of butterflies each day. Citrus swallowtail, Green-banded Swallowtail, Gaudy Commodore, Garden Commodore and for the first time a Blue Pansy.


garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

We have seen a couple of Reedbuck around the dam and in the hill behind us and a female sleeps in our garden each night in the long grass.

reedbuck in a hurry

Also a couple of duiker eating the acorns from the oak trees. Pat has seen 7 Reedbuck and one duiker eating rye grass and veld on our neighbours farm across the stone wall. On our walks in the evening we have seen signs of a Common Fiscal in the area with the surprises left along the fenceline. A small snake

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

I received a lot of comments on the identification of my raptors last month – Dr David Allan said they were European Honey Buzzards – female adult with juvenile – very rare in this area. I have not seen them again. The Steppe Buzzards have left, not seeing any Jackal Buzzards, but still see the Long-crested Eagle. Often hear the African Fish-Eagles.

André Stapelberg – Crab Apple Cottages (sent in by Helen Booysen)

The photo of the Drakensberg Prinia was taken at Whispering Waters in its usual Leucosidea-habitat.

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle

Boston Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye:

A GROUP of Grey Crowned Cranes made good use of a pivot at Elandshoek farm, demonstrating their perching skills.


And it is very pleasing that the resident pair on The Willows, Gramarye and Elvesida has once again managed to raise one youngster. The surviving chick is making good progress. The parents were taking extra safety precautions by sleeping on a little island in a dam at night.


I love the nests of Thick-billed Weavers, very beautiful, and woven with great skill


and it was good to spot the inhabitants as well


A female was visiting a stand of Leonotus elsewhere


The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 also included: African Black Swift, African Wattled Lapwing, Village Weaver, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, Grey Heron, South African Shelduck, Steppe Buzzard,


Southern Boubou, Common Quail, Red-necked Spurfowl, Bokmakierie, Diderick Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher,


African Hoopoe, African Firefinch, Red-throated Wryneck, African Darter, Spur-winged Goose, Amethyst Sunbird,


Brown-throated Martin, Cape Robin-chat, Hadeda Ibis, African Sacred Ibis, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Black Saw-wing, Greater Striped Swallow, African Paradise-flycatcher, Speckled Mousebird, Zitting Cisticola, Cape Crow, Speckled Pigeon, Malachite Kingfisher, Cape Grassbird,


African Olive-Pigeons and Pied Starlings forming strange bedfellows on overhead wires


Black-headed Heron, White-throated Swallow, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Pied Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Duck, Little Grebe, Common Waxbill, Blacksmith Lapwing, Southern Red Bishop, Three-banded Plover,


Egyptian Goose, Cape Longclaw, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Long-crested Eagle, Wailing Cisticola, Common Fiscal,


The last of the Amur Falcons before migration, both male and female


Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-billed Quelea, Red-collared Widowbird, Cape Canary, Pin-tailed Whydah, Barn Swallow, African Stonechat, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-winged Starling, Dark-capped Bulbul, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-eyed Dove, Cape White-eye, Sombre Greenbul, and Cape Wagtail.


Christeen Grant of Sitamani:

There has been a mellowness of autumn creeping in, in milder days between very hot ones, cool mornings and golden tones in the grasses. Beautiful light effects at dawn and sunset.

02 Cover b IMG_4832

Flowers are almost over for the season subtle shades of autumn grass make a perfect foil for silhouetted flowering grasses. However bright yellow Berkheya Echinacea and Helichrysum cooperi shine and it’s also the season for Hesperantha baurii and masses of Plectranthus calycina.

03 Flower Berkheya echinacea IMG_4821

Berkheya echinacea

03 Flower Berkheya echinacea IMG_4822

Berkheya echinacea

03 Flower Helichrysum cooperi IMG_4816

Helichrysum cooperi

03 Flower Hesperantha baurii IMG_4824

Hesperantha baurii

03 Flower Plectranthus calycina IMG_4819

Plectranthus calycina

For the first time I saw what I think is a Drakensberg Crag Lizard, it was very wary; also at a distance, so not a perfectly sharp photo.

04 Reptile Drakensberg Crag Lizard Pseudocordylus melanotus subviridis IMG_4820

A lovely Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly found it’s way inside and I managed to get a couple of photos before setting it free.

05 Insects & Spiders Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly  IMG_478305 Insects & Spiders Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly IMG_4776

One of my favourite insects, the Mottled Veld Antlion, settled in the grass near the house one morning.

05 Insects & Spiders Mottled Veld Antlion IMG_4769

A sparkling dew beaded spider web after rain caught my attention.

05 Insects & Spiders dew beaded spider web IMG_4799

A pair of Malachite Sunbirds flitted busily over the hillside for a couple of weeks. Cape White-eyes, Cape Robin-Chats and the Black-backed Puffback have been enjoying the verandah birdbath. The Village Weavers have dispersed, abandoning their summer nests. A Long-crested Eagle has used the Eskom poles as a vantage point. Several times after an absence I’ve heard the Spotted Eagle Owl hooting.

Most evenings the Black-backed Jackal yip and call. A pair of Duiker are still seen regularly along the drive and in the garden. A Doormouse had a narrow escape, somehow it had fallen into the toilet bowl during the night. I managed to rescue it in the morning and set it free outside. However for a while there was evidence in nibbled fruit and moth wings, that it had come back inside again.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – January 2016

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

Summery weather, hot, humid mornings with frequent afternoon thunderstorms and much needed rain for the depleted water table. Beautiful atmospheric, moody sky-scapes and misty mornings.

02 Cover IMG_1598

A variety of flowering plants seem to enjoy this weather. Aloe boylei have been very showy and I have counted an additional four Brunsvigia undulata flowering this season.

Aloe boylei

Aloe boylei

Brunsvigia undulata

Brunsvigia undulata

Other flowering plants include: Crassula alba, Cumis hirsutus, Gladiolus sericeovillosus, Indigofera hilaris, Kniphofia buchananii, Lotononis foliosa bright yellow aging to orange hues, Moraea brevistyla, Pearsonia sessilifolia, Schizoglossum bidens, Sebaea natalensis and hundreds of Watsonia confusa festoon the hillsides.

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

Cumis hirsutus

Cumis hirsutus

Gladiolus sericeovillosus

Gladiolus sericeovillosus

Indigofera hilaris

Indigofera hilaris

Kniphofia buchananii

Kniphofia buchananii

Lotononis foliosa

Lotononis foliosa

Lotononis foliosa

Lotononis foliosa

Moraea brevistyla

Moraea brevistyla

Pearsonia sessilifolia

Pearsonia sessilifolia

Schizoglossum bidens

Schizoglossum bidens

Sebaea natalensis

Sebaea natalensis

Watsonia confusa

Watsonia confusa

The orchids have also finally started flowering. One seen for the first time here: Pterygodium magnum! It is not as tall, densely packed inflorescence or the individual flowers as large, but I’m pretty certain of the ID.

Pterygodium magnum

Pterygodium magnum

Others flowering were Eulophia hians nutans, Eulophia ovalis, Eulophia tenella, Satyrium cristatum and Satyrium longicauda.

Eulophia hians nutans

Eulophia hians nutans

Eulophia ovalis

Eulophia ovalis

Eulophia tenella

Eulophia tenella

Satyrium cristatum

Satyrium cristatum

Satyrium longicauda

Satyrium longicauda

Several interesting fungi appeared after each heavy rainfall, Boletus edulis, Clitopilus prunulus, Psathyrella candolleana that blackened with age, helping with identification and the bright red Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe rubra.

Boletus edulis

Boletus edulis

Clitopilus prunulus

Clitopilus prunulus

Psathyrella candolleana

Psathyrella candolleana

Star Stinkhorn Aseroe rubra

Star Stinkhorn Aseroe rubra

A common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra, enjoyed the damp grass one morning.

Common Cannibal Snail - Natalina cafra

Common Cannibal Snail – Natalina cafra

Moths are still plentiful of special interest was seeing a Wounded Emperor laying eggs one evening with wings flapping, it was still nearby the next morning. Also seen a Common Emperor moth, a Longhorn moth (Family Adelidae) and a few others, which I haven’t been able to identify.

Wounded Emperor Moth

Wounded Emperor Moth

Common Emperor Moth

Common Emperor Moth

Longhorn Moth

Longhorn Moth

Unidentified moth

Unidentified moth

Unidentified moth

Unidentified moth

There are many Pill millipedes around. A Bee fly possibly of the Philoliche genus fed off a Watsonia, its long proboscis probing the flowers.

Pill Millipede

Pill Millipede

Bee fly possibly of Philoliche genus

Bee fly possibly of Philoliche genus

A very busy False button spider, Family Theridiidae, Genus Theridion, was moving a large egg sac up over the kitchen blind. They are commonly found near sinks, basins and baths in houses, but do not have a toxic bite. Glistening spider webs draped over grass sparkle at dawn.

False button spider

False button spider

05 Spider web IMG_1594

An immature African Stonechat perched on a Watsonia, (a curious lizard on a rock in the background), and a Speckled Pigeon posed for me on the birdbath.

African Stonechat

African Stonechat

Speckled Pigeon

Speckled Pigeon

Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill Horse Trails”:

CREW also came to Stormy Hill in January to look at all the lovely flowers.

CREW checking the wildflowers at the top of the hill

CREW checking the wildflowers at the top of the hill

On a ride to the dam I saw an African Fish-Eagle sitting on a rock while being dive bombed by the two resident Jackal Buzzards. They were really determined to get him out of their territory.
Then one Saturday, I decided on a night out at the club where Cathy and Dave’s wonderful chicken curry went down a treat. As some added excitement a Barn Owl swooped through the hall, did a lap round the bar (yes, we had to duck) and flew into the kitchen where Dave managed to catch it and it was taken outside for a ceremonial release after being inspected by the resident Boston bird expert Christelle. Don’t get that in town!

Brunsvigia undulata

Brunsvigia undulata

Also seen a few duiker when out on rides and unusually eight crowned cranes flying over. I normally have a pair that live round here but not eight.

To top it all, two foals were born in January.

Foal Dusty investigating his mother having a roll

Foal Dusty investigating his mother having a roll

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

Members of Durban’s BirdLife Port Natal came for an outing to Gramarye on 24 January. Walking towards the river, the Yellow-crowned Bishop which I saw for the first time in that area earlier in the month, confirmed its presence. What really got everyone’s attention though was a Red-collared Widow with a yellow, instead of a red collar under its throat. This could either be due to washed out colours or it can be ascribed to “Xanthochroism when there is excessive yellow pigment in feathers or the yellow replaces another colour, typically red”. Read more about Avian Oddities here: http://www.birdinfo.co.za/rarebirds/25_avian_colour_oddities.htm

Red-collared Widowbird with an unusual yellow collar

Red-collared Widowbird with an unusual yellow collar

Warblers, bishops and widowbirds were on good form and gave good displays, including a juvenile Levaillant’s Cisticola.

Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant’s Cisticola

A Spotted Eagle-Owl was seen in the willow trees.

Spotted Eagle-Owl

Spotted Eagle-Owl

We then went to the Geldarts’ Boschberg Cottages for forest birding and once again had good sightings, including Cape Batis and Bar-throated Apalis.

Cape Batis

Cape Batis

Bar-throated Apalis

Bar-throated Apalis

The favourite was Bush Blackcap.

Bush Blackcap

Bush Blackcap

Earlier in the month during the heat waves “het die kraaie gegaap” – the crows not only yawned, they also dangled their wings to keep cool.

Pied Crow

Pied Crow

When it did rain, birds made the most of fresh water flowing into dams and in some cases it was standing room only (African Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron and African Spoonbill)

African Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron and African Spoonbill

African Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron and African Spoonbill

Migrants from the northern hemisphere were doing their bit to keep insects under control. There didn’t appear to be that many Amur Falcons present this year

Amur Falcon

Amur Falcon

and White Stork numbers also seems to be lower. The white streaks on the legs of this stork indicate its way of using faeces to control temperature.

White Stork

White Stork

With all the migrants present, the atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was well over 110 birds: Forest Canary,

Forest Canary

Forest Canary

Speckled Pigeon, Common Waxbill, Swee Waxbill, Red-winged Starling, African Black Duck, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Pied Starling, Pied Kingfisher,

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Helmeted Guineafowl, African Snipe, Steppe Buzzard, White-throated Swallow, Barn Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow, African Rail, White-breasted Cormorant, Amethyst Sunbird, Yellow Bishop, Red-necked Spurfowl, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Firefinch, Red-throated Wryneck,

Red-throated Wryneck

Red-throated Wryneck

Greater Honeyguide, Brimstone Canary, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Longclaw, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Cape Weaver, Three-banded Plover, Little Grebe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, South African Shelduck (the female with a white head and the male grey)

South African Shelduck

South African Shelduck

Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Black-shouldered Kite, Olive Thrush, Black Saw-wing, African Sacred Ibis, Fork-tailed Drongo, Burchell’s Coucal, Hadeda Ibis, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, White Stork, Red-chested Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker,

Olive Woodpecker

Olive Woodpecker

Dark-backed Weaver, Chorister Robin-chat, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Yellow-billed Duck, Black Cuckoo, Hamerkop,



Buff-spotted Flufftail, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Green-backed Camaroptera, Alpine Swift, Bush Blackcap, Southern Boubou, Knysna Turaco, White-starred Robin, Olive Bush-shrike, Terrestrial Brownbul, Cardinal Woodpecker, Cape White-eye, Cape Glossy Starling,

Cape Glossy Starling

Cape Glossy Starling

Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Batis, Purple-crested Turaco, Barratt’s Warbler, African Hoopoe, African Black Swift, Neddicky, Wailing Cisticola, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Canary, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Reed Cormorant, Malachite Kingfisher, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,

Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Little Rush-warbler, Cattle Egret, Red-chested Flufftail, Cape Robin-chat, Southern Red Bishop, Zitting Cisticola (with a streaked crown),

Zitting Cisticola

Zitting Cisticola

African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Crow, Cape Grassbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Egyptian Goose and Spur-winged Goose (both trailing new families)

Egyptian Goose family

Egyptian Goose family

Spur-winged Goose family

Spur-winged Goose family

Village Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, Dark-capped Bulbul, African Reed-warbler, African Wattled Lapwing, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Common Fiscal, Red-billed Quelea, Grey Crowned Crane, Cape Wagtail, Black-headed Oriole

Black-headed Oriole

Black-headed Oriole

Speckled Mousebird

Speckled Mousebird

Speckled Mousebird

And a young Diderick Cuckoo,

Diderick Cuckoo

Diderick Cuckoo

The Grey Crowned Cranes once again produced three chicks. This photograph was taken on 22 January,

Grey Crowned Cranes

Grey Crowned Cranes

but two days later when the Durban bird club visited there was only one chick left, the others probably predated.

Grey Crowned Cranes

Grey Crowned Cranes

Let’s hope this one is a survivor like its sibling who safely fledged last year.

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – July, August and September 2015

Jul, Aug, Sep 2015 header

Karkloof Conservation Centre

We had regular sightings of up to 86 different bird species at the Karkloof Conservation Centre and nearby farmlands visible from the road. The winter months had surprisingly better lists than spring!

View from the Crowned Crane Hide in Winter

View from the Crowned Crane Hide in Winter

On the 21st August, Karin Nelson reported a sighting of the first Steppe Buzzard of the season in the Karkloof as she was travelling back from her visit to Benvie Gardens. On the 2nd September, we had our first sighting of the Yellow-billed Kite here at the Centre. It’s always exciting to see the migrants return, understanding that many of them have endured a tough journey.

The Wattled Crane Hide was full of life as the sun rose to greet the day. By the time the light was good enough for a photo, the Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes had already flown off. These three Wattled Cranes stayed around for a little while though.

The Wattled Crane Hide was full of life as the sun rose to greet the day. By the time the light was good enough for a photo, the Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes had already flown off. These three Wattled Cranes stayed around for a little while though.

We have had great sightings of all three crane species (a perk of having them breed in the area), which is something members of the Karkloof Conservancy can be proud of, as this indicates suitable wetland and grassland habitat allowing a healthy environment.

The Wattled Cranes were extremely active and even gave us a rendition of the "Can-Can" dance.

The Wattled Cranes were extremely active and even gave us a rendition of the “Can-Can” dance.

We must not be complacent though, as there are a number of threats we face, which can be of detriment to these stately birds, as well as other fauna and flora. Threats include but are not limited to drainage of wetlands (no matter how big or small), fracking, developments that put pressure on an already sensitive environment, and not to forget the dreaded N3 Bypass.

A typical winter scene with Wattled Cranes amongst the White-faced Ducks in the foreground and a Common Reedbuck grazing in the background.

A typical winter scene with Wattled Cranes amongst the White-faced Ducks in the foreground and a Common Reedbuck grazing in the background.

Adam Riley, of Rockjumper Birding Tours, brought visitors to the hides on the 15 December, who were thrilled to see 4 Wattled Cranes at the Loskop pan. Two of the birds had rings and stayed there for the remainder of the day looking a lot like a couple. The one on the far left is Mbeche’s sibling (Mbeche is our adopted Wattled Crane that was collected in the Karkloof as a second egg after being abandoned) and the one next to our charmer is its assumed partner that was colour ringed as a chick by Brent Coverdale and Tanya Smith in October 2013 at Impendle Nature Reserve. This is the first re-sighting of the Impendle bird since it fledged.

Wattled Cranes by Adam Riley

Wattled Cranes by Adam Riley

Other sightings included: African Black Duck; African Black Swift; African Darter; African Fish-Eagle; African Hoopoe; African Jacana; African Marsh-Harrier; African Olive-Pigeon; African Pipit; African Sacred Ibis; African Snipe; African Spoonbill;

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

African Stonechat; African Wattled Lapwing; Amethyst Sunbird; Black Crake; Black-headed Heron; Black-shouldered Kite; Blacksmith Lapwing; Black-winged Lapwing; Blue Crane; Brown-throated Martin; Buff-streaked Chat; Burchell’s Coucal; Cape Canary; Cape Crow; Cape Robin-chat; Cape Shoveler; Cape Turtle-dove; Cape Wagtail; Cardinal Woodpecker; Common Fiscal; Crowned Lapwing; Crowned Lapwing; Dark-capped Bulbul; Drakensberg Prinia; Egyptian Goose; Fan-tailed Widowbird; Forest Buzzard; Fork-tailed Drongo; Giant Kingfisher; Green Wood-Hoopoe; Grey Crowned Crane; Grey Heron; Hadeda Ibis; Hamerkop; Helmeted Guineafowl; Hottentot Teal; Jackal Buzzard;

A Jackal Buzzard caught some rodent salad.

A Jackal Buzzard caught some rodent salad.

Lanner Falcon; Levaillant’s Cisticola; Little Grebe; Little Swift; Long-crested Eagle;

Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

Long-tailed Widowbird; Malachite Kingfisher; Natal Spurfowl; Olive Thrush; Olive Woodpecker; Osprey;

This Osprey was seen daily. This sighting was out of season for inland distribution.

This Osprey was seen daily. This sighting was out of season for inland distribution.

Pied Crow; Pied Kingfisher; Pied Starling; Pin-tailed Whydah; Purple Heron; Red-billed Quelea; Red-billed Teal; Red-eyed Dove; Reed Cormorant; South African Shelduck; Southern Black Flycatcher; Southern Boubou; Southern Grey-headed Sparrow; Southern Red Bishop; Speckled Mousebird; Speckled Pigeon; Spur-winged Goose; Village Weaver; White-breasted Cormorant; White-throated Swallow; Wood Sandpiper; Yellow-billed Duck; and Yellow-fronted Canary.

Orange Ground-Thrush Project @ Benvie – Karin Nelson

Under the guidance and supervision of Prof. Colleen Downs of UKZN, I have started an exciting project on the Orange Ground-Thrush. These birds are uncommon residents of the KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Forests. These forests are classified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, IBA’s, as they have important bird, tree and flowering plant species.

Orange Ground-Thrush by Karin Nelson

Orange Ground-Thrush by Karin Nelson

Benvie lies within these Mistbelt Forests, hosting a healthy population of Orange Ground-Thrush. With the support and enthusiasm of John and Jenny Robinson of Benvie, I have started catching and colour-ringing some thrushes.

The engraved colour ring used to identify the birds from a distance using binoculars or photographs

The engraved colour ring used to identify the birds from a distance using binoculars or photographs

I have also taken blood samples which will be analysed by UKZN staff for genetics, relatedness, population and sex. In the future, we will also be assessing breeding biology to determine factors such as nest success, fidelity, sites used, and threats.

Bird Ringing @ Gartmore – Karin Nelson

Winter proves to be a difficult time to do bird ringing at the Gartmore hide, as the mealies have been turned into silage, causing the mist nets to be fairly exposed. Karin was, however, grateful that a large flock of Red-billed Quelea did not fly into her nets. Despite the slow morning, she managed to catch 10 birds, with 3 of these being re-traps:

  • 4 Levaillant’s Cisticola
  • 2 Southern Red Bishop
  • 2 African Stonechat
  • 1 Cape Robin Chat
  • 1 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

Karin also managed to list 43 different species during the morning, which includes this Giant Kingfisher which was a highlight to the day.

Giant Kingfisher by Karin Nelson

Giant Kingfisher by Karin Nelson

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth

An Orange-breasted Bush Shrike which we have had in our garden at Mbona. They are not on our bird list and have never heard them calling here. SABAP2 does show this is the edge of their range, but probably more down towards Albert Falls dam. I saw this little one outside our bedroom window and then again one week later when he flew into a window stunning himself. Fortunately not too bad, but we were able to pick him up for a photo shoot before he/she flew away. Beautiful colours!

Orange-breasted Bush Shrike by Richard Booth

Orange-breasted Bush Shrike by Richard Booth

I’ve included a picture of one of the lovely orchids that grow in our COOL forest: Polystachya pubescens.

Polystachya pubescens, an orchids that grow in the cool forest at Mbona

Polystachya pubescens, an orchids that grow in the cool forest at Mbona

“Twitching bug” bites the Campbell’s – Lisa Campbell

The Campbell family are becoming real bird watchers of late, and they were very excited about a “lifer” for them and for their garden.

Groundscraper Thrush photographed by Lisa Campbell

Groundscraper Thrush photographed by Lisa Campbell

This Groundscraper Thrush had the Campbell paparazzi snap its good side for the rest of the community to enjoy. Well done and we look forward to future contributions!

Crane Custodian – Tony Matchett (Agric. Manager of Benson Farming)

There is no better reward for a crane custodian than stumbling upon a Wattled Crane chick that has been smartly hidden by its parents.

Wattled Crane chick playing "hide-and-go-seek" in the veld.

Wattled Crane chick playing “hide-and-go-seek” in the veld.

Tony luckily had his camera on hand and took a few photos before he left promptly, limiting the stress levels of the birds, and allowing the chick and parents to reunite. This was attempt number two for the pair of Wattled cranes this last breeding season, as they unfortunately lost their first chick. Let’s hope we see this one flying amongst the 311 others.

The Wattled Crane parents feeding in the burnt veld.

The Wattled Crane parents feeding in the burnt veld.

Tony took this photograph which represents part of the floater flock of about 50 Grey Crowned Cranes (they couldn’t all fit in the frame!) that were enjoying the safe lands that are provided by the Benson family.

Part of a flock of 50 Grey Crowned Cranes with a Common Reedbuck in the background.

Part of a flock of 50 Grey Crowned Cranes with a Common Reedbuck in the background.

This flock were seen daily for almost 2 months and spent the whole day there, only splitting up to find a place to roost for the night. A Common Reedbuck seemed to enjoyed their company, while grazing on the lush cover crop planted as part of the no-till farming technique which plays a significant role in preventing soil erosion.

Grey Crowned Cranes are the only cranes that can perch in trees.

Grey Crowned Cranes are the only cranes that can perch in trees.

Capturing the Moments – Chris and Ingy Larkin

Chris and Ingy managed to capture these gorgeous photographs during their visit to the bird hides.

Purple Heron well camouflaged. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Purple Heron well camouflaged. Photographed by Chris Larkin

African Snipe on the cold and frosty vegetation. Photographed by Chris Larkin

African Snipe on the cold and frosty vegetation. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Levaillant’s Cisticola in flight. Photographed by Ingy Larkin

Levaillant’s Cisticola in flight. Photographed by Ingy Larkin

Grey Crowned Crane in flight. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Grey Crowned Crane in flight. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Ingy Larkin photographed this White-breasted Cormorant with a fairly large fish in its beak.

Ingy Larkin photographed this White-breasted Cormorant with a fairly large fish in its beak.

Chris Larkin photographed this special sighting of the Osprey emerging out of the water with a meal fit for a king.

Chris Larkin photographed this special sighting of the Osprey emerging out of the water with a meal fit for a king.

White-breasted Cormorant and an African Darter having a squabble. Chris Larkin captured this typical book club scene.

White-breasted Cormorant and an African Darter having a squabble. Chris Larkin captured this typical book club scene.

Grey Crowned Crane puffed out after a bath. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Grey Crowned Crane puffed out after a bath. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.