Tag Archives: ground hornbills

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – July

If you like your birds rare, you should either undercook them or come to the Karkloof Conservation Centre to see our Southern Ground-Hornbill. Twané arrived at the office recently to find it strutting around the parking area.

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She had obviously heard about the excellent hides and wanted to check them out. We followed her down the avenue whilst I (Pat Cahill) took too many shots of her.

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Just outside the frame of this picture by Priscilla Maartens from the Wattled Crane Hide are several large centre pivots, which at the end of a dry winter are kept busy irrigating the fields surrounding the pan. Despite this, there are two endangered species visible. A picture she took shortly after this included some Blue Cranes! Priscilla counted up to 56 Grey-crowned Cranes,

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4 Blue Cranes and 2 Wattled Cranes in one afternoon.

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Working at the Conservation Centre has definite advantages. Twané was able to capture this shot of two African Fish Eagles exchanging ‘high fives’ recently.

July Sightings 5

The bird list issued free to visitors is not cast in stone and is updated when necessary. The next revision will include a previously unreported newcomer to the Valley. This Peregrine Falcon, along with a partner, recently made an appearance. Fortunately when Twané was holding a camera.

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The pair were seen harassing a juvenile Jackal Buzzard on Loskop side and subsequently started chasing some lapwings as well.

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Another new species officially added to the list, but not a first time sighting, is a Pied Starling. A large flock were seen feeding in the field behind the Gartmore hide amongst the cattle and raiding the feeding troughs. I photographed one in November 2010.

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A lonely Samango monkey has been relaxing in the Plane trees above our Picnic Site. It has been a fun sighting for the kids, as he has been visible thanks to the bare wintry trees.

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Sappi Karkloof – Dr. David Everard  There have been 2 camera trap recordings of a Honey Badger in different plantations within the Karkloof region.

July Sightings 10

Dave mentioned that they have now recorded about 30 different large mammal species within the Sappi plantations in KZN, which is pretty remarkable. He regularly adds this information to the Animal Demographic Unit’s Virtual Museum, which is a wonderful way for conservation enthusiasts to contribute photographic sightings and become citizen scientists.

Some exciting news is that Sappi have discovered that there are Brown Hyena in the Karkloof. They have had several recordings in a number of places within the same plantation and Dave wonders if there is more than one or if there is one that enjoys having its photograph taken.

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Another very note-worthy record, not quite from the Karkloof, is a Side-striped Jackal that was recorded near Cumberland Nature Reserve. Dave remarks that this is way out of its normal range making this information extremely valuable.

Bartersfield – Ren and Britt Stubbs

In the early morning of the 23 July 2014, Ren Stubbs had a sighting of a Serval running on his farm while   surveying his land from a helicopter. That same day, in the mid-morning, Britt and Ren were driving along the dirt road towards Curry’s Post, where they had a sighting of the female Southern Ground-Hornbill.

Connemara – Mike Benson

Mike Benson sent in this excellent photograph of a Scrub Hare which he took on the 24 July 2014. They are a common species, however people rarely get a chance to photograph them due to their speedy getaway and nocturnal behaviour. They are solitary animals, but can reach high densities in many areas. Although normally associated to woodland and bush cover, they have adapted fairly well to cultivated land as well.

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Mist-netting at Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson

Karin set up her nets on the 18 July 2014 and caught 40 birds, with 5 of these being re-traps. She was impressed with the birdlife that was present in winter and was thrilled to catch 2 x Black Crake in her spring traps. The photo shows the juvenile/sub-adult that was caught and ringed.

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She also ringed the first Cape Canary at Gartmore since starting in 2010. Other birds that were caught included: 2 x African Stonechat, 3 x Red-billed Quelea, 3 Fan-tailed Widowbirds, 3 x Yellow-fronted Canaries, 4 x Southern Red Bishops, 5 x Levaillant’s Cisticola and 17 x Village Weavers.

Ground-Hornbill News

As you can see, we have had sightings of the lonely female Southern Ground-Hornbill pouring in. We would like to thank you all for taking the time to let us know. The information we receive is invaluable and helps us understand her movements within the Karkloof valley.

Liesl Jewitt sent us this fun picture of her which was taken on Friday, 4 July 2014, on Mizpah Farm Retreat by Kyra Naude, a recent student horse professional volunteer. She was being followed by a group of Guinea Fowl, no doubt muttering to them about the problem of being a vulnerable species in the Karkloof with a terrible shortage of eligible males!  She was spotted that same afternoon by Liesl, but was a little further from where she was in the morning.

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On the afternoon of 15 July 2014, Bruce MacKenzie had a sighting of her near the Karkloof Country Club and managed to take this clear photo of her with his phone. This was extremely useful, as his phone took a GPS reading and added it to the photograph’s properties. Thumbs up for modern technology and smart phones!

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Thank you to everyone who sent in pictures and stories. We’ve had surprisingly good sightings in spite of the cold weather. Digital photography has certainly added a new dimension to bird watching and makes it much easier to share your experience and to identify unknown birds when you take the images home to consult your reference books.

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – June 2014

Karkloof Sightings are compiled by Pat Cahill.

Having spent a major portion of my life in The Wicked City (Johannesburg), it is such a pleasure to have migrated to a more pleasant environment. I now understand why birds return to the Karkloof every year! One bird which is a resident of the Karkloof Conservation Centre is Twané, who runs the office and performs many other tasks with a smile. We hope she doesn’t join the migratory avians any time soon! One advantage of her job is the amazing view from the office and the hides. The following pictures are some which she has taken recently.

For some time it seemed as if the African Fish-Eagles had abandoned the Karkloof, but now they’re back and we have been seeing a pair at the hides more regularly. 1

A Giant Kingfisher likes to perch in the taller branch at the Gartmore hide and is seen in the early mornings. 2

Black Crakes and African Snipe have become more prolific at the Gartmore hide and observant birders are assured of a sighting of both.

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I have seen an otter many times in the past five years, but have never managed to capture more than an amorphous head in the distance; this Cape Clawless Otter, however, came out to greet Twané.5

All 3 Crane species have been seen daily. Usually a pair of Blue Cranes that are rather noisy and up to 47 Grey-Crowned Cranes. 6

We have had a family of 3 Wattled Cranes (2 parents and their offspring) make use of the pans at both hides. They are also seen in the surrounding fields. None have rings, so our blonde craniac, Tanya Smith, can’t positively identify them for us. You can notice how the youngster’s grey cap is starting to form.

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Malcolm Robinson suggested that the Steppe Buzzard which was reported in last month’s Sightings was probably a juvenile Jackal Buzzard as the Steppe Buzzards should have left on their annual migration. We have had a lot of “teenage” Jackal Buzzards, as well as adults, around and we have not had a sighting of the Steppe Buzzard, nor any others that may have a similar resemblance. The Long-crested Eagles are also out in their droves and we have seen the African Marsh Harrier on many occasions. An African Harrier-Hawk was seen a few mornings in the field.

Karkloof Sappi MTB route – Matthew Drew

It is most gratifying to receive a fair number of sightings from locals. Matthew Drew has kindly forwarded some images supplied by Dr David Everard, Divisional Environmental Manager at Sappi Forests. Matthew is a keen cyclist and regularly rides the trails in the SAPPI plantations. Matthew has submitted a very comprehensive report, for which we are very grateful! These were taken by a camera trap on the 30km Karkloof MTB route over a 10 day period.

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The camera trap was acquired by Sappi to survey what mammal species are found within plantations. Sappi’s foresters as well as the mountain bikers and trail runners who regularly access the plantations see many wildlife species.  The camera trap was specifically placed to record what was using the cycle track to move about these plantations.  David recorded the following species which are using the tracks to get about the plantations: Caracal, Serval, Black-backed Jackal, Porcupine, Bushpig, Bushbuck, Common Duiker and Common Reedbuck.

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David was surprised, not only by the variety, but also by the frequency the tracks are used.  Some species were recorded every night.  Sappi has deployed cameras in a variety of sites across their plantations and have recorded about 20 species of mammals and in good numbers. This goes to show that plantations are definitely places many mammal species are able to survive in, and with healthy numbers.

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My favourite pic is the one of the single Porcupine. No doubt on his way to forage somewhere, he is using the flow of the trail to gain some real momentum!

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I often ride on my own through the plantations and I sometimes see between 5 – 10 antelope, and other wildlife in various parts of the Shafton and Demagtenburg areas. I have also come across a whole heap of bloody quills that must have resulted from a major fight between two Porcupine or perhaps death by a Leopard or Caracal.

Spitzkop farm – Nick and Tim Hancock

Tim Hancock had some new visitors on Spitzkop this last month – a Cape Rock-Thrush and a sweet little Malachite Kingfisher which is a delight for anyone to see.  It is always a good idea to keep a list of species that you have seen on your property. You will never know the extent of the biodiversity unless you take the time to record your sightings. Well done to the Hancocks for always keeping a keen eye out for new species to record!

Sightings at Mbona Private Nature Reserve

Peter and Ronnie Ritchie were privileged to watch this beautiful Brown-hooded Kingfisher “fish” for worms on their lawn whilst they had a lovely al fresco lunch outdoors. “Not to be outdone, he proceeded to find at least 10 juicy worms in our lawn and sat in the winter sun getting visibly fatter. He is a most appealing bird”.

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Richard Booth reported that: “A Black Stork has been seen on a few occasions in the past two weeks on Mbona. Not new to our bird list, but not commonly seen”.

The Croxfords

Michael Croxford had a sightings of a Large-spotted Genet near their shed some time ago and supplied this great photo which he managed to take with his cellphone. The Large-spotted Genet has fairly large spots, usually rusty-brown in colour, and a dark brown or black-tipped tail. They are nocturnal and are certainly not fussy when it comes to food, as they feed on insects, small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds and other small mammals. It’s wonderful to know that we have such a diversity of creatures in the valley.

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Ground-Hornbill news

Thank you to all who have been updating us on the whereabouts of the female Southern Ground-Hornbill. John Roff saw a Ground Hornbill flying across the Karkloof canopy tours section of forested valley early morning on 4th May this year. He also heard them calling regularly in the forest around Canopy tours. “The sounds do vary, but I don’t know if it is one or more. I think it or they are spending a bit of time near troops of Samango monkeys, as I often hear them together”.  Mike Benson managed to get a superb photograph of her when she made a visit to Connomara one day. Between Mike and Tony Matchett, we have been very well informed of her presence in this area and on this property.

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How do we know it’s a lady? Notice the violet patch that breaks up the red on her neck, just below her beak. Males don’t have this patch, so their neck will be fully red.

Please keep your eyes open for her and any others that might be around and let us know about it so that we can pass this information on to the relevant people involved in the conservation of this endangered species.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – December 2012

George Edlmann of “Parkside”:

Pelargonium luridum in bloom

pelargonium luridum

Emperor Swallowtail butterfly on Nasturtiums

emporer swallowtail

The Cicada below is described as mottled green and brown; this all green specimen was seen on Parkside:

cicada

The spoor at Parkside on the right above was identified by Dr Gerhard Verdoorn as that of a Brown Hyaena

hyena print

Neil and Gail Baxter of “Mosgate”:

Following after the Scilla natalensis (blue), now the Scilla nervosa(white) are in bloom

Rob and Gail Geldart of “Boston View”:

News received that Rob saw a single Southern Ground Hornbill up on the hillside.

Andrew and Patricia Poole of “Brooklands”:

Pair of Wattled Cranes breeding on farm

Pete and Frances Nel of “Four Gates”:

Juvenile Black-backed Jackal at entrance gate to farm.

Dec 21 – Pete saw the same little jackal this morning round 8am at the same gate.  Mother must have abandoned it!

Dec 16 – three Southern Ground Hornbills on hillside, behind the farmhouse

Nigel and Tracy Murray of  “Trelyon”:

Identified together with David Norris-Jones – a Greater Honeyguide near the house.

“Sitamani”, Boston – a Wildflower Outing on 15 December

Absolutely stunning flowers, and even more still to bloom. Here are a few:

Alepidea natalensis,

alipedia natalensisAsclepias albens,

asclepias albens

Eulophia foliosa,

eulophia foliosa

Indigofera macropoda,

indigofera macropoda

Haemanthus humilis

heamanthus humilis

Argyrolobium tuberosum,

argylobium tuberosum

Merwilla nervosa

merwilla nervosa

Read more about this outing at https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/botanising-in-boston/

Derek Hurlstone-Jones of “The Rockeries”:

Two Night Adders, slithering across lawn together

Ian and Jenny Lawrence of “Endeavour”:

A pair of Wattled Cranes in the lands; pair of Grey Crowned Cranes near farmhouse.

Dec 22 – saw Blue Cranes with chick at the vlei; and again on 24 Dec

Brown-hooded Kingfisher; Blesbuck had two young during late November, and these are surviving, thanks to some Black-backed Jackal control; several Amur Falcons on the wires on Dargle Road

Barbara and David Clulow of “The Willows”:

12 Dec – watched a fully grown male Common Reedbuck wading through the grass at the Elands river. After the rains it is so high and so rank that only his head and horns are visible.

15 Dec – major rain and wind storm for 15 minutes, which destroyed main trunk of Weeping Willow tree, in which African Hoopoes were breeding. Male seen still carrying worms to family, hopefully

Dec 27 – two Grey Crowned Crane chicks hatched at nesting site in the wetlands on The Willows about 20th December and now seen in the pan being fed by parents.

Cape Weaver female

cape weaver female

There is a Toad in the affairs of men………

toad

Xysmalobium undulatum flower, found widely at present in the wetlands alongside the Elands river; also along the road past Mpophomeni

xysmalobium

Bruce and Bev Astrup of “Highland Glen”:

Two Secretarybirds on the farm road to “Heronvale”

Two Spotted Eagle-Owls about three times each week, as they fly by and/or perch in the riverine Willows at dusk; Black-headed Heron; 9 Yellow-billed Ducks, splashing in pools of water; a bathing Hadedah Ibis; Malachite Kingfisher; Cape Crows as of an evening; Pin-tailed Wydah; Little Rush-Warbler; Long-crested eagle flying about; Cape Turtle-Dove

Dec 26 – Clay Pigeons, thick in the air.  Two Secretarybirds on the farm road to “Heronvale”. Two Spotted Eagle-Owls about three times each week, as they fly by and/or perch in the riverine Willows at dusk; Black-headed Heron; 9 Yellow-billed Ducks, splashing in pools of water; a bathing Hadedah Ibis; Malachite Kingfisher; Cape Crows as of an evening; Pin-tailed Wydah; Little Rush-Warbler; Long-crested eagle flying about; Cape Turtle-Dove.

“Edgeware” Outing on 28 December 2012:

Moraea inclinata,

mrea inclinata

Asclepias cultriformis,

asclepias cultriformis

Eulophia tenella,

eulophia tenella

Pachycarpus natalensis

pachycarpus natelensis

Read more about this outing at: https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/exploring-edgeware/

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers of “Lapa Lapa”:

African Spoonbill at the dam; Burchell’s Coucal taking note of the rain; found Helmeted Guineafowl egg and placed it under a broody farm hen, which hatched it out.

Philip and Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

Philip saw a Serval up close when cycling on Mont Shannon in the early morning. Duiker and Reedbuck have been spotted close to the house and heard whistling at night.

Grey Herons have definitely decided that our patch is a good place to forage and they are often seen stalking in the grass. Black-shouldered Kites are often seen hovering and soaring, wonderful to have them around again, very rare sightings here for many years. Steppe and Jackal Buzzards, plus Long-crested Eagles are regulars, but a glimpse of an African Harrier Hawk swooping into trees was a treat. Malachite Sunbirds graced us for a few days on their journey westward to the mountains. Amethyst and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds are enjoying the flowers.

Many Collared Earth-star fungi after each rainy spell, plus a myriad of other mushrooms and toadstools. The froggy chorus is very vocal in the evenings and many beetles buzzing around.

Wildflowers are still prolific; on the 15 December Boston CREW spent a few hours wandering over our hillside enjoying them. Some of the flowers seen were: Albuca setosa, Indigofera hilaris, Asclepias albens, Pachycarpus natalensis, Satureja compacta, Zornia capensis, Lotononis pulchra, Hermannia woodii, Hypericum lalandii, Hypoxis rigidula, Indigofera sp, Peucedanum caffrum seed, Corycium nigrescens, Scenecio sp, Hypericum aethiopicum, Hibiscus aethiopicus, Eulophia foliosa, Pelargomium luridum, Craterocapsa tarsodes, Psammotropha mucronata, Papaver aculeatum, Argyrolobium tuberosum, Lessertia perennans, Thesium pallidum, Moraea brevistyla, Aristea woodii, Pearsonia sessilifolia, Ajuga ophrydis, Oxalis depressa, Ornithogalum graminifolium, Striga bilabiata, Crassula obovata.

Craterocapsa tarsodes

caterocapsa

Aristea woodii

aristea woodii 2

Hypoxis  rigidula

hypoxizs rudulata

Oxalis depressa

oxalis depressa

Pearsonia sessifolia

pearsonia

Psammatropha mucronata

psammatropha

Basil and Terry Cuthbert of “Jaluka Estate”

Pair of Secretary birds in veld on Alfius Ndlovu’s farm, “Woodlands”, for a second time

Rob and Celia Speirs of “The Rockeries”:

Dec 20 – heard a Burchells’ Coucal at dawn in the Elands river area

Dec 24 – a Bibron’s Blind Snake, trampled by cattle on a path; a previous one was rescued from the cat; they are described in the literature as being a stout species with 30 scales around the body, more than 300 dorsals and an angular snout

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

Best this month was seeing some Amur Falcons returning to the district after the distressing reports of these birds being killed by their thousands on a daily basis in India during their migration from Mongolia to South Africa.

amur falcons

While walking along the river at Gramarye we saw an Egyptian Goose defending its brood when a Yellow-billed Kite swooped down to grab a gosling. The goose flew at the kite, causing it to drop the baby which lay stunned for a few seconds before getting up and trotting after the adult with its siblings.

juvenile YB kite

The SABAP2 bird list for the Elandshoek pentad: Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Wagtail, African Hoopoe, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, Black Saw-wing, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape White-eye, Cape Canary, Greater Striped-Swallow, Spur-winged Goose, Fork-tailed Drongo, Grey Crowned Crane, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Red-chested Flufftail, Red-necked Spurfowl, African Rail, Little Rush-Warbler, Drakensberg Prinia, African Stonechat, Cape Grassbird, Dideric Cuckoo, Dark-capped Bulbul, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Sparrow, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Spoonbill, Bokmakierie, Egyptian Goose, Common Fiscal, African Pipit, Blacksmith Lapwing, White-breasted Cormorant, Giant Kingfisher, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, White-throated Swallow, Brown-throated Martin, Red-collared Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kite, African Sacred Ibis, Common Moorhen, Helmeted Guineafowl, African Fish-Eagle, Cape Crow, Barn Swallow, African Reed-Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Cattle Egret, Red-throated Wryneck, Blue Crane, Wattled Crane, Yellow Bishop, White Stork, Burchell’s Coucal, Zitting Cisticola, Common Myna, Black-shouldered Kite, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Black-headed Heron, Wailing Cisticola, Common Quail, Red-chested Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Black-headed Oriole, Sombre Greenbul, Black-backed Puffback, Buff-spotted Flufftail African Emerald Cuckoo, Barratt’s Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Longclaw, Terrestrial Brownbul, Speckled Pigeon, Cape Parrot, Cape Batis.

malachite kingfisher (2)

Boston Wildlife Sightings for October

Neil and Gail Baxter – MontroseThe flowers at the upper dam, near the indigenous forest are coming into bloom. Scilla natalensis (or Merwilla), Silene bellidioides. The Watsonia socium are adorning the hillsides – even in the forest. 

Ian and Jenny Lawrence – Endeavour

Two Blue Cranes on grasslands near Elands river; pair of Grey Crowned Cranes on field near house

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers – Lapa Lapa

Egyptian Geese parents have brought two goslings to 75% stage; Paradise Flycatcher male in garden; three African Fish-Eagles at beginning of month; watched five Grey Crowned Cranes coming in to land near The Drift dam.

Barbara and David Clulow – The Willows

Oct 1 – The Greater-striped Swallows are back

Oct 5 – Olive Thrush and African Hoopoe in the garden. A spread of Cyrtanthus breviflorus at The Drift below the damwall, in wetland, on Oct 7. while more common on The Drift, the Cyrtanthus tuckii (green-tipped fire lily). On the low-lying paths at the Elands river the way is a mat of Diclis reptans, through white to pale mauve

Mid-October – changing into breeding colours – Red Bishop plus Red-billed Queleas

Oct 22- after some days of gloomy weather and some rain, the sunshine was greeted by the first Piet-my-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo) of the season, whose ringing call promised a real summer. While Barbara was busy at her laptop, she had some eager spectators – a male and female Paradise Flycatcher:Graeme and Claire Hudson Kia Ora

Two Blue Cranes

Ian and Jenny Lawrence – Endeavour

Reported that the pair of Blue Cranes are always in the lower field towards the Elands river, day and night; also that the pair of Grey Crowned Cranes are commonly in the stubble maize field near the house.

Terry and Vivien Cawood – Edgeware

A Porcupine was damaging the veggie-garden so Terry caught it and put it in a cage while he considered how to educate it to stick to the higher levels on “Edgeware” hill. But before he had solved this tricky problem, it had escaped and no doubt decided on its own that the hills were safer

Other experiences during the month: a photo of a Red-throated Wryncck and a Night-adder, which Terry also wanted to persuade to find another place to stayAny offers of ID for the following two spoor on Edgeware this last month: Otter, Mongoose or Porcupine?

Larger Feline – Caracal, Serval or Leopard

Rory and Sue Brighton – Elandsvlei

Oct 17 in late afternoon, Rory was out on his bike, when he disturbed four Ground Hornbills, south of “Montrose”, on the old “Norwood” farm, now a Mondi area, but in grasslands, from where they flew over the hill and out of sight

Caroline McKerrow – Stormy Hill

Seen some duiker, reedbuck, a bushbuck and an otter this month. When it was raining one of my hadedas from the bird tree, went and sat on the electricity box on the pole coming into my place and promptly blew itself up. The other hadeda left the nest after a few days.

Derek Hurlstone-Jones – The Rockeries

On opening the doors of the Boston Country Club, there was an Amethyst Sunbird male trapped indoors, which took the opportunity to join the great out of doors.

George Edlmann – Parkside

A Narina Trogon, which often calls in the forest; Black Cuckoo; Diederick Cuckoo and Amethyst Sunbird. A Caracal was seen by Malcolm Smith, manager of “Coniston” in the driveway close to the house at the end of October.

Pete and Frances Nel – Four Gates

Pete came across a Black-backed Jackal recently, entering the plantation, early in the morning. Two Secretarybirds in the valley to the right of the house. A few Grey Crown Cranes, African  Spoonbill  at the little dam. Our big dog found a baby Duiker while we were out one day. The poor little thing must have been  spooked by poachers, got separated from its mother and ended up in our garden. Although it had no wounds and our dog was very gentle with it, it died later that day.

Rob and Celia Speirs – The Rockeries

A pair of white faced duck on our dam. Aristea ecklonii.

Philip and Christeen Grant – Sitamani

The Striped Swallows returned on Friday 12 October and have been flitting around since then. I heard the first Red-Chested Cuckoo on Monday 29 October. Philip had a lengthly sighting of a Caracal right next to his bakkie on the servitude road to our house. There are many wonderful flowers on Sitamani now. Using iSpot, the query relating to the Helichrysum was answered. It is a Helichrysum caespititum.


Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Tricoloured tiger moths (Dionychopus amasis) seen under the plane trees at Gramarye. Stephen Woodhall, president of the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa (http://www.lepsoc.org.za) had this comment: The male is mating the female before she’s expanded her wings! Interesting behaviour.On the birding front there was excitement surrounding the noisy comings and goings of Long-crested Eagles on Elvesida, Gramarye and The Willows in early spring. The interest in the birds was increased by student Twane who is doing a research project on them. She is monitoring 10 nests in the KZN Midlands, including one on Elvesida. When she arrived to do measurements at the nesting site we discovered that it had been taken over by a pair of Yellow-billed Kites who were anxiously watching what we were doing. We were also confused by hearing at least three eagles calling at the same time from different directions and wondered if there was another pair in the area. We speculated that the Elvesida eagles had found another site to build a nest, possibly in the trees on Gramarye, as I’ve been hearing a lot of shrieking from the eagles in the garden during the preceding month. But search as we might, we couldn’t find a sign of another nest. A week later early one morning I saw three eagles flying into the plane trees and then the penny finally dropped: an adult pair was training their offspring to hunt for itself. I saw the juvenile bird with its loose feathers and still a bit of yellow around the gape (mouth) with one adult in attendance and another on a telephone pole on the road.  The pair of Yellow-billed Kites, the Long-crested Eagle nest and Junior.

The SABAP2 list for the Elandshoek pentad is: Grey Crowned Crane, Cape Robin-Chat, Hadeda Ibis, Red-necked Spurfowl, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, African Hoopoe, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Sparrow, Village Weaver, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Cape White-eye, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Common Fiscal, Diderick Cuckoo, African Pipit, Southern Boubou, Cape Canary, Pied Crow, White-throated Swallow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Longclaw, Yellow-billed Duck, Pied Kingfisher, Reed Cormorant, Red-collared Widowbird, Cape Weaver, African Stonechat, Blacksmith Lapwing, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Darter, Little Grebe, White-breasted Cormorant, Common Waxbill, Cape Crow, African Reed-Warbler, Bokmakierie, Dark-capped Bulbul, Helmeted Guineafowl, Greater Striped Swallow, Green Wood-hoopoe, Red-billed Quelea, African Firefinch, Yellow-billed Kite, Amethyst Sunbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Wagtail, Cape Glossy Starling, Cattle Egret, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Olive Thrush, Long-crested Eagle, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Little Rush Warbler, African Sacred Ibis, Cape Grassbird, Southern Red Bishop, Giant Kingfisher, Brown-throated Martin, Red-chested Flufftail, Red-knobbed Coot, Jackal Buzzard, Forest Canary, Cape Parrot, African Dusky Flycatcher, Bar-throated Apalis, Barratt’s Warbler, Sombre Greenbul, Yellow Bishop, Wailing Cisticola, Red-chested Cuckoo, Speckled Pigeon, Yellow-fronted Canary, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Neddicky, Wattled Crane, Blue Crane, Black-headed Heron, Speckled Mousebird, House Sparrow.

This summary was compiled by David Clulow, a member of the Lions Club of  Pietermaritzburg (Host),  and has been approved by that Club as an official conservation project of the Club.

Boston Wildlife Sightings for June

Philip and Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

Apart from a few really chilly days, this winter has been very mild. Frost has browned the grasses and the lack of any significant rainfall has further dried out the summer vegetation. However, way ahead of it’s usual flowering, Greyia sutherlandia is covered in blossom, though they are rather shrivelled by the dry hot winds. Halleria lucida have many bees and attendant birds foraging among the bright orange flowers. There was a wonderful showing of Buddleja salvifolia are about to bloom and for the first part of June a Buddleja dysophylla shrub was laden with flowers. A few Gazania krebsiana flowers have come up in burnt tracer-lines. Most evenings we still have Reedbuck grazing near the house, a lovely sighting was a mum with twin young, also a fine male Reedbuck has been seen on the ridge. Duiker are seen most mornings just before sunrise. Flocks of seedeaters in winter plumage swirl around the tall grasses, mainly Red-collared Widowbirds and Grey-headed Canaries. Other birds seen include Drakensberg Prinias, Southern Black Tits, Wailing Cisticolas, Malachite and Southern Double-Collared Sunbirds. Night birds, Spotted Eagle Owls, Fiery-Necked Nightjars and Fluff-Tails can be heard calling. Many bees, ladybirds, carpenter bees and large mating amour-coated grasshoppers are about.

Peter and Karen Geldart of “Cocquidale”:

30 May – six Southern Ground Hornbills near Cocquidale homestead. Heard Red-throated Wrynecks

John and Ann Black of “Elandshoek”:

Single Blesbuck seen amongst cows; and on one occasion, together with two Oribi.. Six Denham’s Bustards on occasion.

George Edlmann at “Parkside”:

A pair of Jackal Buzzard attending to their evening meal on the ground, of a bird they had caught, were interupted by a troublesome pair of Lanner Falcon diving bombing them repeatedly, which in turn were being harrassed by two White Necked Ravens, all this to the accompaniment of some Cape Crows strutting aroung and below all these goings on. The Jackal Buzzards completed their meal!

Sue and Rory Brighton at “Elandsvlei”:

The inaugural Eland’s River walk which is part of the Midlands Conservancies Forum calendar of regualr walks took place on Friday 29 June.  Pat Cahill, one of the party who walked through the fields and along the banks of the river, sent this picture. Next walk at 9am on 27 July.

Rob and Celia Speirs at “The Rockeries”:

2 July – Yellow-billed Kite at Boston SA Police Station. Never seen one in mid-winter before

David Clulow of “The Willows:

Late May – a Water Mongoose shot out of the brambles on the Elands river bank, across my path, yelping (if that is the sound) in fright , and disappeared into more roughage on the other side.
The variety of songs and calls, which the Bokmakierie can manage are astounding. This one graces the early morning daily at the window, and can sing beautifully but also utter some resounding squawks. One of the hens which inhabits “The Willows” garden, has produced 8 tiny chicks, and within minutes a Long-crested eagle was overhead, fortunately hovering above and letting out frequent warning whistles. The numbers of Helmeted Guineafowl seen are encouraging – these, part of a larger flock, were on “The Willows”:

Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”:

1 puff adder; 1 cold gerbil; 1 striped weasel; a few striped field mice.

Trevor and Cheryl  Scheepers of  “Lapa Lapa”:

50 to 60 Helmeted Guineafowl; Sacred Ibis daily; while burning firebreaks, saw a male Common Reedbuck and separately a female with half-grown youngster; the 5 Barn Owl chicks have flown the nest in the shed, but return daily and watch for meals; hear a Spotted Eagle-Owl often.

NIgel and Tracy Murray of “Treylon”

Pair of Grey Crowned Cranes with two juvenile chicks

Ian and Jenny Lawrence of “Endeavour”:

Lanner Falcon, swooping on prey:

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

The winter landscape may look bleak, but birds provide plenty of colour to lift one’s mood. What’s nicer than a flash of turquoise as the Brown-hooded Kingfisher hawks insects in the garden, or a Bokmakierie calling in golden splendour. And early morning the African Olive (Rameron) Pigeons find a useful spot to wait for the sun to warm them up.

Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Sparrow, Drakensberg Prinia, Helmeted Guineafowl, Bokmakierie, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Village Weaver, Fork-tailed Drongo, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Common Fiscal, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou, Cape Glossy Starling, Speckled Mousebird, Black-headed Oriole, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Yellow-billed Duck, African Black Duck, Common Waxbill, African Rail, Red-chested Flufftail, Red-necked Spurfowl,

African (Common) Stonechat, Cape Wagtail, Cape Grassbird, Grey Crowned Crane, South African Shelduck, Long-crested Eagle, Sombre Greenbul , Cape White-eye, African Pipit, Black-headed Heron, Cape Crow, Yellow Bishop, White-breasted Cormorant, African Hoopoe, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Terrestrial Brownbul, African Olive-Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Parrot, Olive Bush-Shrike, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Longclaw, Little Grebe,

Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, Forest Canary, Thick-billed Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Red-billed Quelea, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Malachite Kingfisher, Three-banded Plover, Lanner Falcon, African Sacred Ibis, Brown-throated Martin, Blacksmith Lapwing, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Pied Crow, Jackal Buzzard, Pied Starling, Common Starling, Pin-tailed Whydah, House Sparrow, African Firefinch, Cardinal Woodpecker, Orange-breasted Waxbill.

Endangered Species – an ongoing saga: The Cape Parrot and Southern Ground Hornbill have been added to the ‘Special Watch’ section on the SABAP2 website. Prof Colleen Downs (University of Kwazulu-Natal, Cape Parrot Working Group) is the primary researcher for the Cape Parrot, while Lucy Kemp heads up the project for the Southern Ground Hornbill

Also from the African Crane Conservation Programme: “Grey Crowned Cranes have now been officially uplisted globally from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red Data List http://www.birdlife.org/action/science/species/global_species_programme/whats_new.html. This uplisting is due to their decline of between 65 and 80% over the last 45 years primarily due to habitat loss and the illegal removal of birds from the wild.”