Tag Archives: ground orchid

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – January 2014

Brain and Marashene Lewis – Glen Gyle

A Greater Double-Collared Sunbird (male) at our feeder


Barend and Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

This magnificent orchid was spotted in the grassland recently.  There are 52 genera of orchid in South Africa – some of which grow in trees, but mostly they are found in grasslands. Pterygodium magnum is the largest terrestrial orchid in South Africa. Most of the 18 local species occur in the Western Cape, with four in KZN.  It is usually found in damp grassland, often growing amongst Leucosidea sericea (ouhout).  The narrow, lance shaped leaves (bracts) are borne along the stem, which can be up to 1,5m tall. The inflorescence is made up of densely packed greenish-yellow flowers with purplish-red veins and dots.  Info source: http://www.dargleconservancy.org.za/wildflowerarchive/wfa022012.php

pterygodium magnum

Also in flower – Brunsvigia natalensis.  See more about this orchid at: http://www.dargleconservancy.org.za/wildflowerarchive/wfa01a2013.php

brunsvegia natalensis

Below are also some of the first images captured on one of the Trail Cameras which the Dargle Conservancy purchased last year . The camera was placed in the forest.   Most exciting was the Blue Duiker, with her baby.

blue duiker and baby

(Philantomba monticola) is a small, forest-dwelling duiker found in  Central Africa and southern South Africa. Blue duikers stand around 35 cm tall at the shoulder and weigh 4 kg. They are the smallest of the antelope family. The blue duiker has a brown coat with a slight blue tinge – hence the name – and a white underside. A glandular slit occurs beneath both eyes, with a very slight crest between the ears. Source: Wikipedia

blue duiker

Caracal (Caracal caracal) is a wild cat that is widely distributed across Africa, central Asia and southwest Asia into India. The word caracal is derived from the Turkish words kara kulak, which means “black ear”. Source: Wikipedia


Bushbuck is the most widespread antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is found in rain forests, montane forests, forest-savanna mosaics and bush savanna forest and woodland. Source: Wikipedia


The Bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus) is a member of the pig family and lives in forests, woodland, riverine vegetation and reedbeds in East and Southern Africa. Bushpigs can be very aggressive, especially when they have young. They are omnivorous and their diet could include roots, crops or carrion, as well as newborn lambs. Source: Wikipedia

bush pig

Porcupines are rodents with a coat of sharp spines, or quills, that defend them from predators. They are indigenous to the Americas, Southern Asia, Europe, and Africa. Porcupines are the third largest of the rodents, behind the capybara and the beaver. It eats leaves, herbs, twigs and green plants like clover and in the winter it may eat bark. Source: Wikipedia


Justin Herd – Bee Tree Farm

We have released this snail at St Andrews Church on Tuesday 28th.  There is a huge infestation of the “bad” non-indigenous snails (Helix apsera) in the Agapanthus next to church entrance.  I have been breeding the indigenous carnivorous snail – Natalina cafra.

Natalina cafra

We had an infestation of the bad snails, on Beetree some years ago and the Natalina ate all of them and we have none left to feed the two youngsters that I have got left – so have pinched a few of the bad ones, from St Andrews. The snail we released is an adult and large (shell diameter 5cm) – it had just finished a meal of a Helix.  It looks different from the bad snails so please warn gardeners that the snail will be roaming and gobbling up your bad ones!

Dieter Setz – Wakeford Farm

Found “this” in the grass. Looked quite disgusting. Never seen these bright orange creatures before. They look like ticks but I am sure they are not. Anybody out there who knows what these are?  Ed’s note: A wonderful bright red, often seen on dead Songololos.  Some sort of mite? Did you see how many legs they had?

red beetles

These grasshoppers are reaching maturity towards the end of January.

green black grasshoppers

Fiscal Shrike’s Larder

fiscal shrike larder

Frogs and other aquatics are having a ball. Common River frog and Guttural Toad

common river frog

guttural toad

The powder puffs (Cyanotis speciosa)  are in full bloom in 2 different colours.

cyanotis powder puffs

Wyndham and Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

We saw the most amazing thing: a Diedricks Cuckoo feeding its chick! It
was around for a couple of days, hopping around mostly on the rocks. I’m afraid
we couldn’t take any pics!

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

My sightings this month are all centred around the dam and forest where many hot summer hours have been spent.  A Spurwinged Goose casually landed beside me while I was swimming in the dam and swallows constantly dive and dip into the water. The pair of Egyptian Geese (who get very grumpy having to share the dam with me) is back, as are a couple of dabchicks (I watched one bashing a small fish on the surface of the water for ages before swallowing it), African Black Ducks (I think) and cormorants. A Wagtail has built a nest in the raft and is raising chicks.  She is quite brave, landing on the opposite corner of the raft even while my dog and I are sitting there!

summer nest wagtail raft

I’ve seen a fish eagle a few times and a guest on Old Kilgobbin saw a Crested Eagle near the dam.  There is evidence of water mongoose in the crab shells left on the on the banks where many beautifully coloured dragonflies flit amongst the Juncus and sedges.

Extra special moments have been the thousands of brown veined white butterflies fluttering by on their way East  and the full moon rising above the forest on a gorgeous summer evening.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the butterflies – read the real story here: https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/white-butterfly-migration/

r moon rise over forest

Hundreds of swallows swirl above the forest edge in the early evenings and mornings, and on 27 January I observed them gathering in numbers (at least 200) on the electricity lines.  Winter is on it’s way. After the sun sets, the bats come out.  I have heard Wood Owls and a Burchell’s Coucal, seen a pair of Brown hooded Kingfishers often and found a dead Buff Spotted Flufftail outside of my window.

buff spotted flufftail

Although the grasslands must be full of flowers, these are blooming in the shade of the forest now.  Impatiens hochtettiii

summer nest forest impatiens hochstetteri

Crocosmia aurea

summer nest forest crocosmia aurea


summer nest forest plectranthus sp

Monopsis stellaroides

summer nest forest monopsis stellaroides

Disperis fanniniae

summer nest forest disperis fanniniae

Chlorophytum comosum

summer nest forest chlorophytum comosum

Robin and Tinks Fowler – Corrie Lynn Farm

This past month we have watched Cape Robins nest and raise three chicks in the ‘Tikkie Creeper’ on the side of our house, followed by a pair of Bulbuls producing two offspring in the Wisteria hanging from the eaves and then we are still watching a couple of Paradise Flycatchers feeding up another three chicks in a tree at the edge of the garden. The amazing thing to see is how these fast growing little birds manage to fit into some rather small nests, we would be busy adding on another room or two!

Our swallows have been busy building and now seem to be sitting. They’re too high up and close to the roof for us to see what’s going on inside. In the past, some of the chicks have literally fried to death under the corrugated iron, so we have constructed a “gazebo” on top of the tin to make it a bit cooler!

They seem to be a bit later than usual this year – perhaps they know something about the weather that we haven’t yet figured out?

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Found this spoor whilst setting up the Trail Camera, anyone know what it is as I ran out of time to try identify it…possibly Porcupine?  Ed’s note: what about water mongoose?  How big was it?

spoor maybe porcupine

Blue Agapanthus (probably A. campanulatus) flowering in the hills.


Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Have had wonderful sightings for the month.  For the 1st 2 weeks a giant kingfisher arrived almost daily alerting us to his presence with loud screeching noises.  Pat saw him catch a frog and bash it to death on a tree branch. We found a heap of crab shells and scat on our wooden swing, which was his favourite perch.

giant kingfisher screeching

While out in the field Pat heard a meowing noise and investigated to find a baby spotted genet about a month old. (eyes open)  He surprised  the baby blue crane and parents one day (youngster about 3 wks old) so they got in dam and swam to island.

3 week old blue crane chick

14th Jan – the blue crane came to eat from the voermol block.

4 week old blue crane cattle lick Shortly afterwards, they walked down hill to other side where there is an underground stream with sink holes along its course.  Pat and I saw at once that there was a problem.  The adults were peering in the long grass walking around not knowing what to do.  We realized that the youngster had fallen down one of these sink holes.  Pat in the meantime ran around the house trying to find his trout net.  I told him to leave it and just get down there asap. He must have been making a noise because the Nguni herd were alerted and came running up the hill to see what all the fuss was about.  The parents valiantly tried to ward them off with their wings running bravely forwards and backwards to try and keep the herd away.

blue crane parents fend off cows

Pat got to sinkhole and gently lifted out baby crane.  I could not take photo as thought he had drowned but then Pat placed him on the ground and he took off like a bullet.  Straight past his startled parents who then proceeded to chase him up the hill.  They ran so fast I could not get a photo.  What a relief that we  happened to see this drama and save this precious baby.

pat lifting baby crane from sinkhole

15th Jan – thousands of brown veined white butterflies on their migration route from north west to south east through the garden all day.

17th Jan – Pat saw fish eagle at dam from 5.30am dive bombing the 3 yellowbill ducklings on the dam.  He kept missing as they ducked under the water.  At about 7am I saw him sitting on edge of dam checking out his options for a meal.  The plovers were hovering and screeching at him.

yellow billed duckling

Then he took off towards the ducks and landed on top of the ducklings splashing about frantically. (I lost him at this point) The parents were trying desperately to fend him off but with no luck.  He flew off with a duckling clutched in his talons with mom looking on, distraught. He took his meal to the pine tree where I photographed him last month harassing the hadedas.

fish eagle

21st – gymnogene on dead tree – dogs chased him away.


25th – I was alerted to a hammerkop flying round the garden with loud noises. (I thought it was the giant kingfisher) He landed on the swing (favourite perch) and I got a lovely colourful picture of him and the yellow cannas and evening primrose flowers.


Have also seen a number of reed buck grazing down at the dam in the evenings.  Pat found 2 reed buck carcasses today (31st) around the dam – looks like the jackal numbers are growing!

male reedbuck

Dam sitings – 6 spoonbill, a pair of shell duck, saw the hammerkop running along edge of dam this morning.  Plovers, yellow billed duck, cormorant, spurwing, Egyptian geese, one pair with a gosling.  A pair of crested (crowned) crane every few days.

One night I nearly stood on a 1 metre long red lipped herald (snake) on our enclosed verandah.  It was cold and drizzling (I thought snakes only looked for a meal during the day and when it was hot!!) He was obviously chasing after the frogs.  Pat very kindly took him and placed him down the hill. I will admit that I am terrified of snakes.

Flowers have been wonderful. Sophubia cana

Sopubia cana

and Satyrium (possibly cristatum)


Boston Wildlife Sightings – January 2014

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

Typical summer storms, with misty days between the sweltering heat. The resulting verdant green foliage studded with a multitude of flowers, butterflies and moths is a feast for the eyes!2014 01 Butterfly 02 Belenois aurota

A Facebook page was created for the annual Brown-veined White, Belenois aurota, migration. Fascinating to see where major flight paths occurred throughout South Africa. For about a week the migration passed through Sitamani, on two days thousands of these butterflies flew over.

2014 01 Butterfly 01 Belenois aurota

Three different varieties of Emperor moths, so dramatic amongst the smaller moths, Mopane,

2014 01 Moth 01 Mopane Moth

Speckled Emperor

2014 01 Moth 02 Speckled Emperor

and Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor, settled near the backdoor.

2014 01 Moth 05 Common Emperor

An intriguing small brown moth of the Monkey moth sp., rested on the backdoor for two days, amazing that a bird didn’t gobble it up.

2014 01 Moth 06 Monkey moth sp

Every January I wait with anticipation for the magnificent Brunsvigia undulata plants to flower.

2014 01 Plant Brunsvigia undulata 01

This year was no exception, but fewer plants actually flowered than last year. By the end of January several were already in their ‘tumble-weed’ dried out form.

2014 01 Plant Brunsvigia undulata 02

Amongst other flowers seen were: several ground orchids including Eulophia ovalis,

2014 01 Plant Eulophia ovalis

Habanaeria dives,

2014 01 Plant Habernaria dives

Satyrium longicauda and Satyrium cristatum;

2014 01 Plant Satyrium cristatum

Crocosmia masonorum

2014 01 Plant Crocosmia masonorum 01

Crocosmia paniculata,

2014 01 Plant Crocosmia paniculata

Geranium schlechteri,

2014 01 Plant Geranium schlechteri

Heliophila rigiduscula,

2014 01 Plant Heliophila rigidiuscula

Kniphofia buchananii,

2014 01 Plant Kniphofia buchananii

Sopubia cana (one of my favourites),

2014 01 Plant 02

Stachys aethiopica,

2014 01 Plant Stachys aethiopica

Vernonia natalensis,

2014 01 Plant Vernonia natalensis

many Watsonia densiflora

2014 01 Plant Watsonia densiflora 02

and the berries of Searsea discolor.

2014 01 Plant Searsea discolor

Red-collared Widowbirds, Common Waxbills, Dark-capped Bulbuls, Black-headed Orioles, Fork-tailed Drongos, Hadeda Ibises, Grey-headed Canaries, Cape Sparrows, Southern Black Tits, Amethyst Sunbirds, Lesser Striped Swallows, Red-chested Cuckoos, Cape White-eyes, Glossy and Red-winged Starlings, Black-shouldered Kites, Jackal Buzzards, Long-crested Eagles, Rock Kestrels, Steppe Buzzards and Grey Herons, Wailing Cisticolas, Spotted Eagle Owls hooting to each other in the early morning and evenings, are a some of the birds seen this month.

Several early morning encounters with Duiker and Reedbuck, and Black-backed Jackal calling close to the house at night.

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen

Heard Spotted Eagle Owls hooting; Common Fiscal with brownish juvenile; Crested Barbet, on tree alongside the Elands river – at Christmas time, a pair were seen, but the flooding river covered the nest which was in a fallen tree, so any eggs were no doubt lost; Monitor lizard in front of house on banks of Elands river

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

It was very good to see Amur Falcons back in the district in January. These birds travel about 15 000 km every year from their breeding grounds in Mongolia, China, to South Africa for our summer here. The buzzards continue to confuse with the great colour variations in the plumage between adult and immature birds of both Jackal and Common (Steppe) Buzzards.

Boston_2237_Steppe Buzzard_imm

Forest Buzzards add to the mix, but they usually only occur in KZN during the winter months, according to raptor expert David Allan. At Gramarye and The Willows it was great to see the Grey Crowned Cranes with three chicks,


while I was surprised to see a Cape Weaver still working on a nest at the end of the month, quite late in the breeding season.


The list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Grey Crowned Crane, Hadeda Ibis, Cape White-eye, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, Diderick Cuckoo, Little Rush Warbler,


Egyptian Goose, Cape Sparrow, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow,  Red-knobbed Coot, Bokmakierie, Common Moorhen, Black Saw-wing, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-collared Widowbird, Greater Striped-Swallow, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Crow, Southern Red Bishop, African Stonechat, Drakensberg Prinia,


Olive Thrush, Cattle Egret,


Yellow-billed Kite, Barn Swallow, Red-necked Spurfowl, Cape Wagtail, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Common Waxbill, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Common Fiscal, African Firefinch, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Dark-capped Bulbul, Amethyst Sunbird, Pin-tailed Whydah, Village Weaver, Black-headed Oriole, African Dusky Flycatcher, Burchell’s Coucal, White Stork, Black-headed Heron, Spur-winged Goose, Pied Kingfisher, Cape Weaver, Little Grebe,


Cape Longclaw, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Duck, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Helmeted Guineafowl, Spotted Eagle-Owl, African Rail, Cape Glossy Starling, Speckled Mousebird, Pied Starling, Pale-crowned Cisticola, White-throated Swallow, Amur Falcon, Brown-throated Martin, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Jackal Buzzard,

Boston_2203_Jackal-Buzzard_imm_pic 1

Blacksmith Lapwing, Banded Martin, Speckled Pigeon, Red-winged Starling, Sombre Greenbul, Blue Crane, Terrestrial Brownbul, Cape Grassbird, African Emerald Cuckoo, Malachite Sunbird,


Southern Boubou, Barratt’s Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, African Hoopoe, Cape Batis, Yellow Bishop, African Sacred Ibis, Olive Woodpecker, Horus Swift, Red-chested Cuckoo, Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, African Harrier-Hawk, Steppe (Common) Buzzard, White-breasted Cormorant, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Fish-Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Reed Cormorant, Buff-streaked Chat, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Barn Owl, African Reed-Warbler, Red-chested Flufftail.

Exploring Edgeware

Led by Rory Brighton, the group assembled at the Boston T-Party and drove to a suitable spot on the hill. Walking from there, and choosing a westerly aspect the party soon split into those who covered the whole distance to the beacon at the top, and those who achieved a half-way flower search.

on Edgeware 029.res

Rob Speirs pointed out old wagon trails heading to Bulwer and tracks that had been created by oxen dragging indigenous timber to the station. Philip Grant explained that the huge rocks were dolorite, now exposed by erosion.

DIsa nigrescens Edgeware 037res.

Edgeware can be said to have been far below its plant potential. No doubt a consequence of the considerable ongoing rains since October and the searing heat of recent days. But that is not to say that Edgeware did not produce some really worthwhile flowering plants. But the big surprise is that the thousands of Eriosema, particularly the distinctum and salignum, forgot to flower this year. There are thousands of plants but no sign of a bloom. We did find something new to puzzle over though – Tragia meyeriana – stinging nettle creeper.

2012 12 28 Edgeware Tragia meyeriana 02RES.

The ground orchids which were seen, made up in quality if not quite such numbers. There were lots of Eulophia tenella, often in large groups

2012 12 28 Edgeware Eulophia tenella RES.

numerous Asclepias albens – once four in a group

Asclepias albens by David crop.

David photographed them earnestly

David photographs Asclepias on Edgeware 072.res

and took GPS readings for the considerable number of Asclepias cultriformis

asclepias cultriforim by David

Aren’t they spectacular up close?

2012 12 28 Edgeware Asclepias cultriformis 02RES.

After seeing some blue Moraea inclinata,

morea inclinata by David rotated.

Christeen Grant located a mystery Moraea which has us very excited. It is partly like a Moraea brevistyla, but has quite distinct differences

2012 12 28 Edgeware Moraea sp don't think brevistyla RES.

The Pachycarpus never failed to get attention, both Pachycarpus natalensis

Pachcarpus natelensis by David

and what we think is Pachycarpus dealbatus

Pachcarpus dealbatus by david

And not to forget the numerous Eulophia clavicornis

2012 12 28 Edgeware Eulophia sp think clavicornisres.

Another excitement on a hillside usually known for its Aloes, was that few Aloe boylii were in flower.

2012 12 28 Edgeware Aloe boylei 02res.

On the lower slopes we had to fight through American Bramble which had taken advantage of the distrurbance caused the the pipelint to the resevoir. Higher up however, we were pleased to find the indigenous bramble Rubus lugwigii

Celia admires the indigenous bramble. Edgeware 068res.

According to Rob, the big red termite mounds were a recent addition to the landscape.

anthill on Edgeware 036.res

Those who walked to the beacon at 1555m, were rewarded with this view. Not as sptacular as on a clear day. Pauline commented “I’ve really enjoyed all the Midlands walks I have done, but this one has been my favourite.”

2012 12 28 Edgeware view from the beacon.RES

Rory concluded “It was great to have a good turn out and see everyone so enthusiastic about the flowers. I even learned a few names myself.”

Look under Events for a list of all the regular walks happening in 2013. There will also be a number of ‘once off’ excursions like the CREW outing to Happy Valley/Palmer Four near Impendle. This takes place on 6 January and is certain to be a great outing. Contact Barbara Clulow for more info:072 961 1918 Watch the press for details of these.

This report was compiled by David Clulow, with a little help from his friends.