Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton
Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector Butterfly (Precis archesia)
It’s been a dry month – 80 ml in total. I saw the Blue Crane juvenile flying for the first time on 27th February. We see them almost daily mostly at sunset where they wade in the dam which is dropping at an alarming rate. One hot midday I watched in fascination as it seemed the blue crane adults were trying to teach the youngster to swim.
Come on junior – this is how you swim
They were swimming all over the dam while he just stood and watched. Not too interested but he suddenly decided to start running through the shallow water in wild abandon.
Check this, I’m dancing on water
Then up and down the side of the dam, wings widespread while his parents stood and watched the antics. At one stage mom or dad started running after him. I watched for an hour before they eventually wandered off to look for some lunch. They are a very close knit family and there is a lot of touching of beaks between them. They are such incredible parents. 5th youngster they have raised now.
Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight
A malachite baby flew into the verandah door one day – as we had folk for lunch I did not take photos. I put him in a box for awhile and let him loose later where he flew off quite contented.
There have been dozens of moths this month and the frogs have been having a feast on the verandah. No snakes yet!
One morning while having tea on the stoep, we saw 2 Common Reedbuck fighting down at the dam.
Female Common Reedbuck either playing or fighting
We presumed they were males fighting over the females as usual. But as they parted we were surprised to see they were 2 females. A chase ensued and then another charge and more head butting and pushing.
It did not look friendly and I wondered if they were fighting over a male!!! But he was nowhere in sight. They eventually parted on friendly terms and carried on grazing. I was surprised at this behaviour between 2 females who are usually so docile.
Pat saw an African Jacana at the dam 2 days in a row, but every time I looked for him he was nowhere to be seen.
The Martial Eagle returned to the same dead gum tree a few days after the stork kill. It was a stifling day. His beak was ajar and his wings pulled away from his body. I was so thrilled to see him once again, but that was the last time. A number of raptors around.
Pat saw a black sparrow hawk eating a rat along our driveway. We went for a walk one evening around the dam and found 2 Blacksmith Lapwing eggs lying out in the open a few metres from the dam edge.
Blacksmith Lapwing eggs
One morning I saw a strange coloured raptor on our dead tree – I went outside to get closer for a photo shoot.
Then I heard another raptor making a sort of “peeeoooo” noise which went on for a few
minutes. This one was somewhere in the gum trees opposite our house. The raptor left the dead tree and flew up to the gum trees, found a perch, and he too started his “peeeoooo” calling.
Then suddenly the other raptor flew in and joined him a few metres away on the same level. There was a chorus of whistling to and fro and then the one flew off and the other followed shortly after.
I have no idea what raptors these are but think they are juveniles because of their light coloured eyes. They are both differently coloured yet whistled the same song. I have asked Ashley to please see if he could find someone to identify them for me. I googled juvenile steppe and jackal buzzards, and also forest buzzards, but got so confused after a few hours gave up.
The skinks (lizards) round the house have become very friendly and enjoy the morning sun in our study. They love the warmth of the sun and sit for some time on the carpet wherever the sun touches it. Strange little creatures and very social. They have now found their way into our bathroom too.
All day long they slip under the aluminium doors into the study and our bedroom which adjoins both sides of the verandah. The dogs ignore them and they run around freely looking for and eating the dead moths from the previous night and anything else that’s edible.
They always seem to know how to get out of the house which amazes me. At one stage I used to shush them out the door until I found that they definitely know their way around. Amazing.
Heard several African Fish-Eagles crying this morning over the house – they were miles up – the sky was so blue and bright that I could see nothing, but that wonderful sound lingered in the thermals – a sound that one does not forget – this is our beautiful country, Africa.
Male and female Amethyst Sunbirds
Grey Heron, Spur-winged Goose and African Spoonbill
Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm
The Yellow-billed Kites have gone, but the Barn Owls are back in their box in the farmyard – hope they breed successfully again. I saw just one Reedbuck doe all month and one Common Duiker. Jackal Buzzards, Cormorants, Egyptian Geese, a small brown duck, wagtails, hadedas, a Giant Kingfisher and an African Fish-Eagle watch as we enjoy the last swims of the season in a not yet full dam.
Autumn changes always seem the most obvious, and are much loved by most Midlanders – the chilly ground underfoot in the mornings, perfect afternoons and gentle light of the evenings.
View of Inhlosane
Disperis fanninaea, appears quite at home in the understory of wattle or pine woodlots. Flowers are borne on stems of up to 40cm tall, sometimes singly or in clusters of up to eight. Petals are joined to form a white helmet-shaped hood, flushed with pink speckles and rimmed in green. Dormant during winter, with new shoots emerging from the underground tuber in spring. The pollination of Disperis is interesting; it is carried out mainly by specialized oil-collecting bees, Rediviva coloratat, this is a rare phenomenon in plants. The bees collect the oil as food for their larvae. Once pollinated, the fruit capsule ripens and thousands of minute, dust-like seeds are released and dispersed by wind. As is the case with most orchids, they have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi that live in their roots – supplying them with nutrients absorbed from decaying organic matter.
Leonotis intermedia and Pycnostachys reticulata are flowering in grasslands.
Plectranthus laxiflorus, Hypoestes triflora, Desmondium repandum and Plectranthus dolichopodus flower on forest edges.
Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm
Rain has been minimal this month, sometimes we do still get a bit of dew on the grass though.
This grass was being burnt from the heat of the rocks, until we had a tiny bit of rainfall.
Some pink Everlastings and Watsonia flowering in the veld.
Sunset over the Dargle
Some kind of worms found whilst digging a hole in the ground, they managed to burrow quickly under everytime I turned the soil over, pretty sure they weren’t maggots
Rainforest Brown Butterfly
A few different kinds of fungi and mushrooms sprang up after the rains at the beginning of the month.
Malvina & Evert van Breemen – Old Furth Estate
March has been extremely busy on Old Furth Estate with multiple celebrations and hordes of visitors, so we have been battening down the hatches more than usual!
No sooner had the dust settled from the last carload of visitors than we had the call we have been waiting for from Free Me that the two Serval were on their way for release on the farm.
Never a dull moment here! We went over to the other side of the Furth River and released there as we know that we have Serval near our dams already and didn’t want to cause a territorial problem.
The male was released first, rather groggy after his antidote, and then the female.
We were very surprised that neither of them bolted, they just took their time sniffing the new territory and then gradually melted away into the surrounding vegetation.
On some of the walks showing everyone around we found some lovely fungi in the forest
and a really large bulb which had been disturbed – any guesses on what it could be?
Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm
The swallows have been gathering since the 1st March. On a couple of evenings the sky over us has looked just like Mt Moreland . Literally 1000’s. Almost in competition with the Amur Falcons at Mooi River.
This extraordinary “nest” is growing out of or is stuck to a wall in the garden. The fluff looks like human hair clippings. At the top of the nest there is a white lava and below it is the brown pupa. I think we need Dr Jason Londt ‘s expertise again…
Dr Jason Londt’s Response: “Many caterpillars incorporate their long hairs into their cocoons – I think that is what we see in the photo – the pupal case left behind by the emerged adult moth is frequently found inside the cocoon – or bits of it should it break up. I wouldn’t like to guess at the species that made these cocoons but maybe a Monkey Moth.”
I found this gay fellow on Grandpa’s Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)
The dehisced seed capsule of the Kigelaria africana and below the unopened capsules. The seeds in the capsules are very pretty, black with red flesh. The birds always beat me to it and I didn’t manage to get a photo. The Acraea butterfly breeds on this tree and at times it is crawling with caterpillars. The fruit and larvae attract a huge number of birds and there is constant activity. It is a really worthwhile tree for a larger garden. Cuckoos and Black Headed Orioles feast on the caterpillars. The doves scratch round under the tree picking up seeds, the toppies, sparrows, weavers and white eyes strip the capsules of the fruit. Thrushes and boubous too.
Wyndham Robartes – Wana Farm
Wyndham sent in a video of some “Processionary Worms”, here is a still from that video.
David Mann – Knowhere Farm
Rode on the bike up to the top of the farm last week with Ben (the Ridgeback) and as we got to the top a Jackal took off and Ben decided to give chase. He returned a while later looking a bit tired, obviously the Jackal gave him a good run!
Louise Bolton – Robhaven Farm
I recently took a walk up Inhlosane mountain this week and took a few pictures.
The weather was perfect as we were up there by 7am. Here is a picture of the view from the top plus a panorama.
There were many flowers in bloom but this one caught my eye, Crassula alba.
Also saw this lizard basking in the sun. Love how the shadow reveals the jagged edge of its tail.