Tag Archives: Jackal Buzzard

Boston Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We have had quite a lot of activity over September. Some good, some bad.

We saw a large mongoose with dark colouration run across the road on our way out one day. Possibly either a Large Grey Mongoose or a Water (Marsh) Mongoose?

The Common (Grey) Duiker is a regular visitor and then we had a wonderful sighting with the small Bushbuck herd. We saw the ram, a doe and fawn and another male (could this be last years baby?) all together.


Bushbuck ram


Young Bushbuck


Bushbuck fawn


Bushbuck doe and fawn

We were so chuffed, then about two weeks later we had a tragedy. The dogs kept barking towards nextdoors indigenous forest so we went to look. After pushing through the American Brambles, we came across what we think was the baby Bushbuck caught in a snare. We couldn’t be sure as it had got quite badly decomposed so was not too easy to identify. We think that the dogs were picking up the scent by that time as it did smell a bit. Such a shame. We have seen two of the bushbuck again but not the baby.

The Hadeda Ibis and Village Weaver birds are busy nesting in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons seem to be nesting everywhere and the Red-winged Starlings are in the shed. I’ve seen the resident African Paradise Flycatcher too.

We were building some better steps over the balcony wall for Pisch man who is Stormy Hill’s elderly cat when we came across the Red-lipped Herald snake in a concrete block at the base of the old steps. So now we know where he lives! We’ve named him Harry and he seems quite content living in the cat steps. Maybe he’s waiting for them to drop a mouse or two.


Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake


Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

September Spring has been wonderful, mostly warm days, a few thunderstorms and a surprise snowfall on the eighteenth,


followed by a magical sunrise a few days later.


Many flowers have sprung up through the greening grass, though the water table is still very low. Amongst those seen, Acalypha sp.; Argyrolobium marginatum; Asclepias stellifera; Aster bakerianus; Chrysanthemoides monilifera; Clutia cordata; Convolvulus natalensis; Dierama cooperi; Eriosema salignum;


Acalypha sp.


Argyrolobium marginatum


Asclepias stellifera


Aster bakerianus


Chrysanthemoides monilifera


Clutia cordata


Convolvulus natalensis


Dierama cooperi


Eriosema salignum

Eulophia hians var. hians with an exciting sighting of an ant like insect, probably the pollinator with pollinaria stuck to it’s back;

Eulophia hians var. inaequalis;

Gerbera ambigua;

Gymnosporia uniflora, Dwarf Spikethorn, a first for me;


Gymnosporia uniflora

Hebenstretia duraHelichrysum aureum;


Hebenstretia dura


Helichrysum aureum

Helichrysum caespititium and I found a new population;

Hypoxis argentea and costata;


Hypoxis argentea


Hypoxis costata

Kohautia amatymbica; two different Ledebouria sp.;


Kohautia amatymbica


Ledebouria sp.

Pentanisia prunelloides; Raphionacme hirsuta;


Pentanisia prunelloides


Raphionacme hirsuta

Senecio macrocephalus and oxyriifolius leaves;


Senecio macrocephalus


Senecio oxyriifolius

Stachys aethiopica; Thesium pallidum; Tritonia lineata; Tulbaghia leucantha; Vernonia hirsuta and another smaller sp.; plus Vihna vexillata.


Stachys aethiopica


Tritonia lineata


Vernonia hirsuta


Vernonia sp (small)


Vihna vexillata

A few other observations were, Carpenter Bees;


Carpenter bee

a Drone Fly, Bee-mimic;


Drone Fly

a Marbled Emperor moth;


Marbled Emperor Moth

a Wasp nest neatly placed in a rock crevice


Wasp nest

and finally I nearly stepped on a rather large Puff Adder sunning himself near his hole… He slid inside it as I tried to take a quick photo, not in good focus!


Puff Adder

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Welcome spring rain generated fresh growth on the hillsides and while out birding, I was pleased to see a snake lily (Scadoxus puniceus)


Scadoxis puniceus

and giant anemones (Anemone fanninii)


Anemone fanninii

Spring is also the time of year when many birds respond to the urge to reproduce. For some time I have been keeping an eye on a large nest in trees along the Elands River on the Dargle Road. It might have originally belonged to Long-crested Eagles, but has also been used by Egyptian Geese and this season by a Jackal Buzzard. The first picture show the raptor on the nest on 2 September


Jackal Buzzard

The second picture was taken on 24 September and there appears to be a fledgling in the nest. The adult was sitting on a tree nearby.


Jackal Buzzard fledgling

Jackal Buzzards seem to be doing very well in the district, with a number of immature birds in a variety of plumages showing up all over. The picture of one of them in flight shows the bird is in the process of moulting, and donning yet another variation in colouration.


Jackal Buzzard in flight

Another highlight was seeing four Blue Cranes flying over the Geldarts’ newly proclaimed Boschberg Nature Reserve, with another two on the ground below them


Blue Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Pipit, Pied Starling, Common Waxbill


Common Waxbill

Wailing Cisticola, Lanner Falcon, Egyptian Goose (already boasting a clutch of goslings)


Egyptian Goose with goslings

Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Grey Heron


Grey Heron

Malachite Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown-throated Martin, Lesser Swamp-warbler, Three-banded Plover, Red-knobbed Coot, Spur-winged Goose, South African Shelduck


South African Shelduck

White-throated Swallow, Black-headed Heron, Common Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Greater Striped Swallow, African Fish-Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, African Firefinch, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Brimstone Canary


Brimstone Canary

African Stonechat, Cape Wagtail, African Black Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Longclaw, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Long-crested Eagle, Bokmakierie, Cape Glossy Starling, Red-throated Wryneck, Bar-throated Apalis, African Hoopoe, Levaillant’s Cisticola


Levaillant’s Cisticola

Common Moorhen, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape White-eye, Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebird, Hamerkop



Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher, Hadeda Ibis, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Robin-chat


Cape Robin-chat

Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, House Sparrow, Village Weaver, Cape Canary, Cape Crow


Cape Crow

Cape Sparrow, (and a welcome back to migrants) Black Saw-wing and African Paradise-flycatcher


African Paradise-flycatcher

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings for September

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill

Sightings have improved recently, with a group of African Spoonbills unconcernedly sharing their bath in the Gartmore Pan with some cows. Twané said the cattle, despite their size advantage, were more concerned about the presence of the birds.

September Sightings 1

Two infrequent visitors on the Gartmore pan were the Great Egret which Twané saw recently and the Giant Kingfisher which landed on the rock in front of me.

September Sightings 2

September Sightings 3

We are having daily sightings of African Rails, Black Crake and African Snipe. We have also been seeing the Drakensberg Prinia and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow more often. Two Long-crested Eagles were seen flying in unison and gave a shrieking call for a few minutes. The avenue of trees are dominated by a combination of Fork-tailed Drongos and Southern Black Flycatchers who are feeding on all the delicious insects.

Snake Saga – Part 2

Twané showed great foresight when she labelled last month’s “Snake Saga” Part 1. She obviously had a feeling that it wasn’t yet over, so here is Part 2!  She was working on her laptop reading through Part 1 when she suddenly became aware of a pair of eyes watching her from just above the screen. As she is now quite used to its presence, she grabbed a camera and photographed it.

September Sightings 5

It was obviously not satisfied with the information it had gleaned from Roberts’ Birds on its last visit, so it sought out a slightly more recent edition.

September Sightings 6

Having heard about Pat McKrill’s reputation as an authority on snakes it then perused his excellent book on the subject – ‘Getting to know the Neighbours’. As it appears to have decided that the Conservation Centre is a friendly place, I think it deserves a name so that it may be put onto the payroll! We’re unsure of its sex, so I’d like to propose an asexual name like Percyvera!

September Sightings 7

Karkloof Babies – Patrick Cahill

I am not sure where baby birds come from, when I was a kid the stork delivery epitomised current belief to be replaced later by the gooseberry bush hypothesis. Whichever is correct, the delivery service has been working overtime recently.

AJ Liebenberg, a manager on Loskop Farm, sent in this picture of a family of Egyptian Geese seen on Loskop Pan. Though most despise this bird, one cannot help falling in love with the goslings who have complete faith in their parents and follow closely.

September Sightings 8

Twané has seen plenty of Blacksmith  Lapwing chicks on the shores of the Loskop Pan. They are hard so spot and photograph, as they are far away and blend in very well with the vegetation.

Perhaps the highlight of the recent deliveries has been the arrival of a Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl chick on Gartmore virtually in Charlie’s back yard.  I managed to capture this photo of Wol and Wollet in the late afternoon. They are nocturnal and primarily hunt at night and their diet consists of mammals up to the size of Vervet monkeys, a variety of birds such as Secretarybirds, ducks, raptors, and they also eat reptiles, frogs, fish and arthropods.

September Sightings 9

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth

An immature Martial Eagle perched on a dead tree, giving a clear, excellent view. We occasionally see Martial here, but not often.

A Black Sparrowhawk flying across our lake carrying a bird the size of a dabchick (Little Grebe). It sat on the road in front of me to recover from exertion before flying into a tree. Can’t be sure what its prey was, but very likely a dabchick as it was taken over water. We have a pair of Egyptian geese with goslings but they are on a different dam.

A Striped Flufftail was heard calling in the grassland on “little Mbona” hill, a new one for our bird list, and gives us three flufftails with the Buff-spotted and Red-chested. The call was exactly as described in Roberts and continued for some time.

Mist-netting at Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson

Thursday 25th September was windy and not an ideal day for ringing. Billowing nets are more visible to the birds and thus capture numbers lower. We did still catch and ring 13 birds. A small flock of   Yellow-fronted Canaries were the favourites of the morning.

September Sightings 10

The following species were caught, ringed and measured :

  • 4 x Yellow-fronted Canary
  • 4 x Red-billed Quelea
  • 2 x Southern Red Bishop
  • 2 x Levaillant’s Cisticola
  • 1 x African Stonechat

Raptor Ringing Day – Karin Nelson

The 2nd Raptor Ringing Day was held on Saturday the 13th September 2014, where 4 teams, with 4 participants per team took part. Each team had a qualified ringer, a falconer, a raptor expert/handler/researcher and a trainee/enthusiast. Our team was made up of Ben Hoffman (Raptor Rescue), Stuart Pringle (Falconer), Brent Coverdale (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) and myself, Karin Nelson (Ringer).

September Sightings 11

Each team had one baited Balchatri Trap and were given a route to drive to find and trap the raptors. Our team randomly selected the Richmond area. The day was in part to collect valuable data for Lorinda Hart, who is working on a Jackal Buzzard project as her Post-doctoral Research at UKZN. All Jackal Buzzards caught were ringed, measured, weighed, bloods taken, and photographed to collect data for the project. In total 11 raptors were caught by the four teams.

September Sightings 12

The topic of Lorinda’s project is the Population relatedness and colour variation of Jackal Buzzards. Only 3.5% of bird species demonstrate plumage polymorphism (variation in feather colour) within a population of same age and sex. Birds of prey have a relatively high incidence of plumage polymorphism.  Jackal Buzzards vary in their colour morphs throughout southern Africa . Up to seven plumage categories have been identified in the eastern Karoo with colours and patterns varying in the face, chest, back, eye, and tail of individuals .

You can contribute to the project by sending colour images of Jackal Buzzards and relevant GPS co-ordinates to Lorinda at rinjordaan@gmail.com. This information will be useful to add to the database of colour variation for the area. Please note that both front and back profiles are required.  This photographed Jackal Buzzard was taken by one of the four teams in the Karkloof. Stuart MacKenzie’s cattle and the beautiful Loskop mountain can be seen in the background.

September Sightings 13

Boston Wildlife Sightings – August

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

We have had a very dry, mild to hot August, unusually for this time of year, almost wind free. That was until the last weekend, on the 29 August it was bitterly cold with snow flurries that didn’t settle, but the Drakensberg had a dusting, glimpsed between moving clouds; then wild wind for two days.

2014 08 29 Snow

Spring flowers have been sparse. There were fewer ragged Anemone fanninii flowers on our hillside and quickly ravaged by the wind, as were Apodiolirion buchananii. Ledebouria obvatifolia have flourished, bright purple spots of colour between the rocks.

Plant Ledebouria obvatifolia

Cyrtanthus tuckii bravely fly red flags.

Plant Cyrtanthus tuckii

Pale pink confetti of Dimorphotheca jucunda daisies shine on dry ground.

Plant Dimorphotheca jucunda

One hive of activity is the winter remains of Rocket in the vegetable garden. Bees, Cape Canaries and Striped Mice feast on the flowers and seeds.

Insect Bee

Mammal Striped Mouse

Bird Cape Canaries

The Leucosidea sericera and Halleria lucida flowers also still attracted many insects, Carpenter bees, Bees, Ants and Ladybirds.

Insect Ladybird on Ouhout

Cape White-eyes, Bulbuls, Cape Robin-Chats and Southern Boubous enjoy the bird bath. A Malachite Sunbird and Red-collared Widowbirds are in the process of growing their summer plumage. Amethyst Sunbirds busily gather cobwebs for new nests. The first Yellow-billed Kite of the season joined the Long-crested Eagles and Jackal Buzzards soaring overhead.

Black-backed Jackal call in the evenings. Common Reedbuck come close to the house to feed. Sadly we found an adult Serval lying dead, with no apparent cause on the driveway early on 21 August as we drove out before dawn. When we returned the next evening all evidence of it had gone.2014 08 Frost

Barry and Kirsten Cromhout – Highland Glen

Single Cape Vulture flying above; African (Ethiopian) Snipe in a ; Denham’s Bustard.

Rory and Sue Brighton – Elandsvlei

Pair of Fish-Eagles on the dam for the last month. What a lovely cry to hear first thing every morning.

Trevor Scheepers – Lapa Lapa

While visiting at “Four Gates” farm, saw a single Southern Ground Hornbill

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen

Pair of Common Reedbuck lying outside garden fence and watching activities

David and Wizz Lawrence – The Willows

Single Grey Duiker, seen often outside garden fence in field.

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Yellow-billed Kites are often regarded as the harbingers of spring when they return from overwintering in Africa north of the equator. I saw my first YBK on 26 July near Ashburton, Pietermaritzburg, when Boston was still very much in the grip of fierce frosts. Winter birding was still slow with low numbers, but it is easier to see forest birds with less foliage on the trees. I was pleased with finding a Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler Boston_9189_Yellow-throated-Woodland-Warbler

and Swee Waxbill at Norwood forest in the Boston pentad, as well as seeing some swifts making a return.


The list for pentad 2940_3000 were: Alpine Swift, Greater Striped Swallow, Rock Martin, Terrestrial Brownbul, Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Forest Canary,


Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Olive-Pigeon, Olive Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Apalis,

Boston_9154_Yellow-breasted-Apalis Swee Waxbill, Sombre Greenbul, African Firefinch, Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-fronted Canary, Little Swift, African Black Swift, Southern Boubou, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Red-throated Wryneck, African Harrier-Hawk,


Speckled Mousebird, Black-headed Oriole, Pied Crow, Black Sparrowhawk, Jackal Buzzard, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Moorhen, African Sacred Ibis, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, South African Shelduck, House Sparrow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Fiscal, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat,


Fan-tailed Widowbird, Hamerkop, Reed Cormorant, Cape Wagtail, Cape Crow, White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Glossy Starling, Long-crested Eagle, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron,

Boston_9317_Black-headed Heron

Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Cape Sparrow, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, Drakensberg Prinia, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Bokmakierie, Cape Longclaw, Red-necked Spurfowl, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, African Rail, Olive Thrush.

In the Elandshoek pentad I saw a Secretarybird between Kia Ora and Boston View and hope that they will breed this year in the area that Rob Geldart had pointed out to me.


The list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_300: African Harrier-Hawk, Red-throated Wryneck, Red-billed Quelea, Giant Kingfisher, Black-headed Oriole, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Black Tit,


Southern Red Bishop, Red-knobbed Coot, Black Sparrowhawk, African Pipit, Red-capped Lark, Fan-tailed Widowbird, White-breasted Cormorant, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Speckled Pigeon, Amethyst Sunbird, Wattled Crane, Sombre Greenbul, Cape White-eye, Cape Batis, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat, Bokmakierie, Malachite Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Three-banded Plover,


Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Reed Cormorant, Jackal Buzzard, Brown-throated Martin, Cape Wagtail, Common Fiscal, Cape Crow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Rail, Cape Longclaw, Speckled Mousebird, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck, Olive Thrush, Blacksmith Lapwing, Grey Crowned Crane, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Hadeda Ibis, Drakensberg Prinia, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Sacred Ibis, Red-necked Spurfowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Boubou.

David Clulow, while visiting Boston on 11 August:
Between 10 am and 11 am overlooking Melrose dam


African Fish-Eagle circling overhead; Egyptian Geese; Huge flock of flying yellow-billed Ducks; Spurwing Geese; lots of African Shelduck on water; Little Grebe; Reed Cormorant; Common Moorhen; White-breasted Cormorant; Blacksmith Lapwing; Sacred Ibis; African Stonechat; Common Fiscal; African Darter.

DSCF2643African Darter

On leaving the dam: Brown-throated Martin; Yellow-billed Kite; many Pied Crows; Cape Crows; Jackal Buzzard; Cape Turtle-Dove; Hadedah Ibis; and in garden at “The Willows”: many Village Weavers; Cape Sparrow; House Sparrow; Cape Weaver; Red-billed Quelea; in silage pit -Helmetted Guineafowl.

Driving by “Kampoko”:

Three Grey Crowned Cranes feeding near R617

DSCF2677Three Grey Crowned Cranes

Question for Bostonians and well-wishers of Impendle Nature Reserve:

What will the plans for Smithfield dam, downstream the uMkomaas river from the R617, in the old Deepdale valley; and the Impendle dam upstream from the R617 have as an impact on these two places?      

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.


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.

July Sightings 2

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,

July Sightings 3

4 Blue Cranes and 2 Wattled Cranes in one afternoon.

July Sightings 4

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.

July Sightings 6

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

July Sightings 7

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.


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.

July Sightings 9

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.

July Sightings 11

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.

July Sightings 12

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.

July Sightings 13

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.

July Sightings 14

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!

July Sightings 15

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.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – July 2014

2014 07 19 Soft winter dawn

Photo of a wintery Boston morning by Christeen Grant

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers – Lapa Lapa
Two Glossy Starlings frozen to death after minus 9 in early morning; plenty of young Helmetted Guineafowl noticed; a Grey Long-tailed Mongoose hiding in a hole on Lapa Lapa.

Christeen Grant – Sitamani
July has been mixture of warm berg winds, a light dusting of snow followed by a hard frost that burnt off all the Greyia sutherlandii buds before they had really opened, misty days and some very chilly nights.

2014 07 06 Mist

Light snow fell here on 7 July, very damp and cold, the temperature didn’t go above 2C for three days.

2014 07 07 Snowing

A Speckled Pigeon fluffed herself over the eggs she was brooding in the garage, glaring at me with a very beady eye. Her brood of two have hatched since and excited cheeps erupt whenever the parents are near.

Bird Speckled Pigeon

Buddleja salviifolia scent fills the air, all the bushes are covered with blossom.

Plant Buddleja salviifolia

Bees fly busily around the inflorescences and I discovered a tiny greyish-green weevil with a black proboscis!

Plant Buddleja salviifolia with bee and weevil

Halleria lucida are also flowering profusely, an army of ants march up the stems to the flowers.

Plant Halleria Lucida

Leucosidea sericea have just started flowering, still with yellow winter leaves below.

Plant Leucosidea sericea flower

Plant Leucosidea sericea yellow leaves

Seedheads of Agapanthus campanulatus sub. sp. patens

Plant Agapanthus campanulatus subsp patens seedhead

and a Dierama sp. blend with the mellow winter landscape.

Plant Dierama seedheads

In amongst dry branches a ‘flowering’ lichen displayed vivid orange spore.


Birds continue to be very vocal and enthusiastic around the garden, Cape White-eyes, Cape Robin-Chats, Southern Boubous, Black-backed Puffbacks, Cardinal Woodpeckers tapping dead wood in the Buddlejas, Long-crested Eagles, Jackal Buzzards and our perennial Cape Sparrow family, that now have a double story nest in the protective thorny lemon tree, to accommodate their growing numbers. Nearby is a large round Ant nest.

Insect Ant nest

One early morning I watched a Black-backed Jackal pick it’s way over the burnt grass through the rocks.

2014 07 08 Winter landscape

A very dear little Climbing Mouse has taken up residence in the kitchen. The first sign it was around was a ‘litter’ of fine ostrich feather strands, from the feather duster, on the washing machine. Good nesting material. Then one morning there it was peeping at me as it balanced on the electric cord. Some mornings it sits in the spice rack as I make coffee. One day it was being very obvious, persistently making it’s self ‘be seen’, making tiny squeaks. Philip called from the other end of the house, “Come quickly, there’s a mouse in the bath. It can’t get out!”. We made a ladder of a towel, the Climbing Mouse hopped on and out of the bath, then we shepherded it out of the window. The mouse in the kitchen was still there when I returned, then disappeared after a beady stare.

Caroline McKerrow – Stormy Hill
Three Mountain Reedbuck, one male and two female, while out horse riding on Mount Shannon.

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen
Black-headed Heron in wetland near Elands river. Black-backed Jackal, closest to the house they have ever been

Barbara and David Clulow, visiting Boston:
Cape Crow, Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Geese, Spur-wing Geese, Red-knobbed Coot, African Shelduck.

Pete and Frances Nel – Four Gates
Two Southern Ground Hornbill, A pair of Blue Cranes

Des and Noreen Muller – Fairview
Numbers of Bald ibis in the old mealie felds on Netherby

Crystelle Wilson- Gramarye

In early July David and Barbara Clulow and I visited Tillietudlem Game and Trout Lodge to do a winter birding list for the SABAP2 atlas project. The pentad joins my home pentad at Boston on the western side. As expected in winter, birding was slow, but we were pleased to see a Secretarybird which staff member Wesley Dragt told us about. He said he hadn’t seen any nests, but that same evening he phoned to tell me he had found a nest with two birds in attendance, which is very good news.


We also enjoyed watching a pair of African Fish-Eagles flying against a hillside near the dam.We managed a list of 45 in about four hours of birding. At Boston I got 71 for my home pentad over a couple of days, one of which included freezing cold weather with snow dusting the hilltops while I photographed a Malachite Kingfisher


and a Reed Cormorant at the Elandshoek dam.


Tillietudlem Pentad 2935_2955: African Stonechat, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Speckled Mousebird, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Crow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Village Weaver, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-Dove, Common Fiscal, Cape Wagtail, Speckled Pigeon, Drakensberg Prinia, Buff-streaked Chat, Jackal Buzzard, South African Shelduck, Bokmakierie, African Pipit, Cape Longclaw, Little Grebe, African Fish-Eagle,


Southern Boubou, Egyptian Goose, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Batis, Cape White-eye, Secretarybird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Red-throated Wryneck, African Firefinch,


Cape Canary, Rock Martin, Cape Rock-Thrush, Yellow-fronted Canary, Common Waxbill, Spur-winged Goose, Grey Crowned Crane, Brown-throated Martin, Hadeda Ibis, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Robin-Chat, Pied Starling, Yellow Bishop, Southern Red Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird.

The SABAP2 list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Speckled Pigeon, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, White-breasted Cormorant, African Firefinch, Reed Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Pied Crow, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, Buff-streaked Chat, Green Wood-Hoopoe, African Harrier-Hawk,


Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Hoopoe, Spur-winged Goose, Black Sparrowhawk, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black-winged Lapwing, African Sacred Ibis, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Cape Glossy Starling, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Common Waxbill, Long-crested  Eagle, African Dusky Flycatcher, Brown-throated Martin, Jackal Buzzard,


Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Speckled Mousebird, African Olive-Pigeon, Hamerkop, Cape Weaver, Red-winged Starling, Dark-capped Bulbul, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Three-banded  Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing, Village Weaver, House Sparrow, Amethyst  Sunbird,   Cape Sparrow,  Cape  Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush, Cape White-eye,  Bokmakierie,  Red-necked Spurfowl,  African Rail, Red-knobbed Coot,  Little Grebe, Cape Longclaw,


Red-capped Lark, African Pipit,  Cape  Wagtail,    Helmeted Guineafowl, South African Shelduck, African Stonechat, Southern Red Bishop, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Crow, Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, Black-headed Oriole, Egyptian Goose, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Fiscal, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-Dove, Hadeda.



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.

Boston Wildlife Sightings for September

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

Windy and dry, no real rain to speak of, a myriad of brave flowers appearing, albeit that they seem to be smaller than usual. Small jewels glowing brightly: Argyrolobium marginatum;

Argyrolobium marginatum CGrant

Chrysanthemoides monilifera, Common Tickberry with flowers and ‘tick’ berries; Chrysanthemoides monilifera CGrant

Cucumis zeyheri;

Cumis zeyheri CGrant

Dieramas including latifolium;

Dierama latifolium CGrant

Dimorphotheca jucunda;

Dimorphotheca jucunda CGrant

Eriosema kraussianum;

Eriosema kraussianum CGrant

two types of Hebenstretia comosa (a first for me)

Hebenstretia comosa CGrant

and Hebenstretia dura;

Hebenstretia dura CGrant

several Hypoxis including argentea;

Hypoxis argentea CGrant

Pachycarpus natalensis just about to open;

Pachycarpus natalensis CGrant

Pelargonium luridium;

Pelargonium luridium CGrant

Raphionacme hirsuta;

Raphionacme hirsuta a CGrant

Senecio oxyriifolius with it’s insignificant ‘old paintbrush’ type flowers

Senecio oxyriifolius CGrant

and Tulbaghia leacantha were some of the flowers out.

Tulbaghia leucantha CGrant

Large congregations of hibernating ladybirds, (some in a safe place in the bathroom for winter, unfortunately both indigenous and alien varieties),

Ladybird CGrant

have migrated out into the new foliage that has attracted many smaller bugs, to feast.

Small red bug CGrant

Black-headed Orioles send out liquid sound from the treetops. Southern Black Tits, Red-collared Widowbirds, Fork-tailed Drongos, Hadeda Ibises, Grey-headed Canaries and Cape Sparrows with young are frequently in the garden foraging.

A Caracal sauntered past our bedroom window one misty morning, causing great consternation to Tigger our cat when he ventured out a bit later. Duiker and Common Reedbuck are both seen fairly frequently.

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Raptors can be notoriously difficult to identify, especially because the plumage of juvenile and adult birds can differ vastly. I had to keep my wits about me this winter with all the juvenile Jackal Buzzards about.

Boston birds_1185_Jackal Buzzard_juv

Their plumage differed from rufous-tinged to straw-coloured and it is only because I knew the Steppe Buzzards have not arrived from Russia for summer yet that I got them sorted. The so-called “diagnostic” band across the chest of the Steppe Buzzard also seemed to appear in the Jackal Buzzard’s plumage as well.

Boston birds_1092_Jackal Buzzard_adult

And just to confuse the issue, there is the Forest Buzzard, but here the tear-drop shapes on the chest and paler eyes help with the identification.

Boston birds_1220_Forest Buzzard

The list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 is: Jackal Buzzard, Olive Thrush, Village Weaver, Speckled Mousebird, Cape White-eye, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Boubou, Common Swift, Fork-tailed Drongo, Little Grebe, Egyptian Goose, Cape Crow, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Batis, Common Fiscal, Cape Robin-Chat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Canary, Spur-winged Goose, African Sacred Ibis, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Stonechat, Cape Wagtail, Red-necked Spurfowl, Yellow-billed Kite, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Grassbird, Barratt’s Warbler, Burchell’s Coucal, African Olive-Pigeon, Black Saw-wing, White-breasted Cormorant, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Quail, Southern Red Bishop, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Rail, Red-chested Flufftail, South African Shelduck, Cape Longclaw, Bokmakierie, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Weaver, African Darter, Yellow-billed Duck, Reed Cormorant, African Pipit, Rufous-naped Lark,

Rufous-naped Lark_1160

Orange-breasted Waxbill, Cape Sparrow, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Greater Striped Swallow, Black-headed Heron, Cape Glossy Starling House Sparrow, Blue Crane, White-throated Swallow, Brown-throated Martin, Three-banded Plover, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Red-knobbed Coot, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Southern Black Tit, Forest Canary, Cape Parrot, Yellow Bishop.

David Clulow: Jackal Buzzard, Sacred Ibis, Cape Crow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Spurwing Goose; Egyptian Goose, Cape Sparrow, House Sparrow, Village Weaver, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, African Stonechat, Yellow-billed Duck, all within two hours.

jacka buzzard

Dave and Wizz Lawrence – The Willows: African Hoopoe, COmmon Waxbill, Red Headed Quelea

From The Willows garden on 23 September: Cape Turtle-Dove; Southern Boubou; Village Weavers; Red-billed Quelea; Grey Crowned Cranes in the wetland; Sacred Ibis; Hadedah Ibis; House Sparrow feeding young on verandah; Grey-headed Sparrows also breeding on verandah; Bokmakierie; Blacksmith Lapwing in wetland; Cape Sparrow; Jackal Buzzard; African Spoonbill in wetland; Speckled Mousebirds.

Overlooking Melrose farm dam on 10 September: Jackal Buzzard, Dark-capped Bulbul, Blacksmith Lapwing in wetland, Cape Crow, Egyptian Geese, Red knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Sacred Ibis, African Stonechat, Reed Cormorant, Yellow-billed Ducks.

Bruce and Bev Alstrup – Highlands Glen

Afternoon of 30 September – Black headed Heron, VIllage Weavers, White necked Raven, Pied Crow, European Starling, Yellow-billed Kite, Egyptian Goose, African Harrier Hawk, Long-crested Eagle on newly foliaged Willow tree, contrasting with green and brown pastures! long crested eagle