Tag Archives: jackal

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

All wildlife seems to be hibernating and as per usual, the Red-lipped Heralds are snugly coiled in the wood pile. We noticed 2 Common Reedbuck on our property – an unusual sighting these days! Good to see. They ran off onto Iain Sinclair’s farm.

Interesting birds have been seen in the garden: Green Wood Hoopoe, Wryneck, Oriole, Golden Tailed Woodpecker, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite and Amethyst Sunbirds. A small flock of about 20 Helmeted Guineafowl scratch round in our pastures with numerous young. With the drought, it has been a good breeding season for them. We regularly see Black-winged Lapwings flying over on their food seeking missions.

In the veld we have noticed Natal Spurfowl, Cape Longclaw, and have heard the Common Quail with their gentle call.

An old Aloe arborescens, the Krantz aloe, that grows on one of our hill slopes is particularly beautiful this year. If you are frustrated with your garden in this season of drought, here’s what to plant!

Aloe tree

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Spotted a Secretarybird whilst driving past Selsley farm. We also spotted one on Knowhere farm earlier in the month whilst moving some cattle.

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

Snake
Pat McKrill, Snake Country: “I’d go with your i.d. Ashley – Spotted Skaapsteker – although it’s not that clear. There’s a slim possibility of it being a Short-snouted Sand snake (grass snake, whip snake – I wish they’d make their minds up!) but we’d need a better pic. Still some activity on the warmer days. Yay.”

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

A very quiet month. At the beginning of June we saw the Black Sparrowhawks hunting and eating pigeons every couple of days. We saw the female at the old familiar nest in the gum trees. She was either adding more material to the nest or feeding young we thought. Well that’s the last we have seen of them, so no idea what happened. With the dry dam we have seen no waterbirds – the crane have disappeared. Only hear the Jackal occasionally.

Black-backed jackal

Black-backed Jackal

We see the secretary bird and gymnogene now and then.

Secretarybird

Secretarybird

The odd Common (Grey) Duiker seen during the day. We saw a very small Reedbuck on one of our walks. When I drove around the farm today I saw 4 Common Reedbuck sitting in the pine trees away from the wind. Two were young females and 2 were young rams.

Sunrise

Sunrise

There are still a number of sunbirds about, feeding off the aloes and proteas.

Malachite male sunbird in eclipse

Malachite Sunbird (non-breeding male)

I think this could be a female malachite or juvenile sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

Greater double-collared sunbird in bush

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

I think this is a amythest male or female in eclipse or juvenile – not sure

Amethyst Sunbird

In the past few weeks about a dozen Weavers arrive at about 9am and descend upon the aloes in front of the house.

Weavers en masse

They have been destructive in the defoliation of the aloes – they pull off a petal,

Weaver pulled off aloe petal

place it beneath a foot, and suck out the nectar and then drop them on the ground.

Weaver holding aloe with her foot

They are also feeding off the tecomas,

Weavers eating the tecoma flowers

bottle brushes and pig ears.

Weaver feeding from pigs ear flowers

I think they are the non-breeding Masked Weavers but am sure someone will be able to identify them for me? So we only see the sunbirds very briefly as they get chased away by the weavers which is rather sad.

Weaver sitting on aloes

Another surprise is that the Sparrows are collecting feathers and going into their nest under the eaves of the house.

Sparrow carrying feather

Surely they are not thinking of breeding now? Perhaps they are just making it warmer!

Southern Boubou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs.

Southern bou bou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs

Southern Boubou

Well that’s all there is to report this month. It would be wonderful to get some rain or snow soon.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

While I hear Spotted Eagle Owls and Wood Owls at night, I never come across the Barn Owls that moved into the owl box in the shed earlier this year. I do hope they have not eaten a poisoned rat. As last month, Jackal calls are still very scarce. Where are they? Very early one morning I met a big Porcupine while out walking and have come across lots of quills on various paths. I wonder, do they shed them more during Winter?

I found a Samango monkey skin and skeleton in the grassland,

winter monkey skin

and this dead Scrubhare beside the road.

winter dead hare

Not a lot in flower, but these little yellow daisies are so cheerful! The hairy, maroon coloured stems should have made it easy to identify, but I can’t find it.

yellow winter daisy

An unusually coloured Leonotis leonarus blooms beside the D707.

winter pale  leonotis

Grassland streams have stopped trickling altogether. Planted aloes are looking splendid.

winter aloe

David Schneiderman – Carlisle Farm

We went out on our farm Carlisle yesterday and we found 2 Waterbuck and 2 Reedbuck.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The water is still receding in Mavela Dam. The ducks, geese and other wildlife are walking through the mud and making little trails.

Mavela dam is very low and ducks and geese are leaving spoor in the mud

A very cold frog I found in one of the water troughs – aren’t they supposed to be hibernating?!

A very cold frog I found in the water trough - aren't they meant to be hibernating

Whilst doing our mandatory firebreaks with the neighbours, I quickly snapped a few pics of the aloes in the area

Aloes that were photographed on neighbours farm whilst we were doing mandatory firebreaks

Aloe 1

Aloe 2

Some burnt aloes, I’m sure by next year they will be looking beautiful once again.

Aloe in fire

Burnt aloes

Fires in the Dargle with Inhlosane watching from a distance

Firebreaks with Inhlosane in the background

We had a very cold weekend this past week, with bits of snow and sleet falling. Sunday morning we woke up to lots of ice on the edges of the dam, and beautiful little icicles forming and coming up through the mud.

Ice 008

Ice 009

Ice 011

Ice 014

Ice 016

Ice 006

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.

Lichen

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.

Boston_8410_zebra

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

Boston_8491_Malachite-Kingfisher

and a Reed Cormorant at the Elandshoek dam.

Boston_8502_Reed-Cormorant

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,

Boston_8445_African-Fish-Eagle

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

Boston_8464_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,

Boston_8543_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,

Boston_8454_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,

Boston_8434_Cape-Longclaw-(juv)

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_8528_snow

 

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2014

Simon Hayes – Hambledon

A fish eagle has been visiting our dam lately, trying rather unsuccessfully to catch a fish.

fish eagle in flight

IMG_3323[1]

Maybe the otter in the dam puts him off!

IMG_1636

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury

We have had sleepless nights this past month with our 3 barn owlets learning to fly.

barn owlet

They have been flying onto our verandah, onto our window sills, causing the alarm to go off as much as 5 times a night. After the alarm went off one night and we saw the owl on the window sill, we also saw a natal red rock rabbit in the garden hopping around. Just may be the one that lived in my formal garden for 4 months as a baby and vanished in March. Things have quietened down this past week, so it looks like the owlets are now hunting on their own. There is still an adult barn owl in the chimney which the other 2 adults keep chasing.

The hamerkop came into the garden again on an overcast day.

hamerkop

We have dozens of sunbirds and most of them have lost their summer colours, so have found it difficult to identify. Greater collared sunbird

greater collared sunbird

Female malachite sunbird

female malachite sunbird

Also many common stonechats and buff streaked chats.  Common Stonechat

common stonechat

Some Female African Stonechats (saxicola torquatus) – Thanks to Hugh Bulcock for identifying them as well as the Yellow-throated Petronia.

little bird

Hundreds of seed eaters on the lawn every day. Up to 16 sacred ibis on dam every day and the odd spoonbill. Gurney sugarbird

guerney sugar bird

At the beginning of june our 2 adult blue crane arrived at the dam one afternoon and mournfully cried for about ten minutes and then flew off. A few hours later one blue crane arrived and he too also gave a few mournful cries and flew off. I can only guess that mom and dad were saying a sad farewell to their baby as I have not seen them since. I miss them but they will be back next season, I am sure. Cape White-eye

cape white eye

A redthroated wryneck living in corner post in our garden. A pair of shelduck, egyptian geese, spurwing geese, plovers. Black crested eagle, jackal buzzard. Heard the cry of the fish eagle several times during the month. Cape Robin

cape robin

a Secretary Bird arrived at last for a short while and then flew off

secretary bird

Yellow-throated Petronia (gymnoris superciliaris)

bird on bare branches

Malachite sunbird in eclipse

malachite sunbird in eclipse

Black sunbird – with its tongue out!

black sunbird tongue out

Common duiker

common duiker

One morning saw a Natal red duiker standing in the middle of the road just past Endebeni farm. I stopped the car, went for my camera but it ran back into the bush. I have never seen one here before but I checked out the website and it was definitely a red duiker. Dark auburn in colour, small head and smaller in size than the common duiker.

Lots of reedbuck on the hills and in the long grass around the house. The males have been chasing a female for a couple of weeks now. They came to blows one morning. Walked towards each other, face to face, eyeball to eyeball and then the fight began. Locked horns, pushing backwards and forwards.

reedbuck fighting

One of them went down and I wondered what would happen next but he got up, they looked at each other and calmly walked off.

male reedbuck after fight

We had fun with the trail camera. Captured as many as 100 photos in 2 nights with the trail camera we hired for the month (from the Dargle Conservancy). Well worth the R100. Pat changed the camera position about every 5 days.  Some very interesting photos of the owls with the owlets practising their jumping and flapping skills before learning to fly. They have been flying for the last 2 weeks.

barn owl practicing flying

We also saw many jackal in the bush. One running up the burn at 7am one morning.

jackal albury

male bush buck,

male bush buck

porcupine

M2E1L0-6R350B300

and lastly a beautiful caracal which is very special.

caracal

Many male and female reedbuck on our road to the house. Strangely no images of bush pig or female bush buck were captured.

Robin Barnsley – Sanctuary

Saw a Genet up the tree late one night when I arrived home. Also saw the one-horned Bushbuck that attacked Jenny Fly a few months ago.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Have seen the Vervet Monkey’s on the corner of our farm near Barret’s Country house on quite a few occasions. This morning I saw a Reedbuck take off up the hill when putting out salt lick for our cows.

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

At present this is the only colour, even with frost on it, along the riverbed

frosted orange fruit

Bugweed (Solanum mauritianum) or what is left of it after strong frost

frosted bugweed

Don’t know the name of this weed. It flowers, seeds and is frost resistant (all in one) and no animal eats it. Can anybody out there shed some light on it?

what is this weed

Here is the most hated flower by hikers and people walking in the veld – Blackjacks!

black jacks

These tiny little flowers are flowering now and have a very pleasant sweet scent

buddleja close up

Strawflowers are hanging in as well

straw flowers are hanging in

The frost got hold of these wild melons as well.

frosted wild melons

Images from the Trail Camera:  a Small Antelope

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Eland

M2E1L0-7R350B300

Aardvark

M2E1L0-3R350B300

Porcupine and Jackal

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Common Male Duiker

M2E62L200-196R385B316

Nikki Brighton

I spent most of the month beside the seaside, so have nothing interesting to report for Dargle. If you are interested, you can see what I saw at the beach here: https://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/east-coast-abundance-figs-flowers-and-footprints/

Keep an eye on the Dargle Facebook page for local news. Video footage of the Barn Owls captured at the Merrick’s property will be posted soon. https://www.facebook.com/dargle.kzn

 

Tracks and Scats

‘We will follow the animals’ read the invitation to the Dargle Conservancy’s Track and Scat ID workshop held recently. This is exactly what we did, although we didn’t have to venture far from the farm tracks to see all sorts of interesting things. “Well, the animals like a road to walk along too” laughed Hayley van Leylyveld, who led the excursion along with her husband, Neville.

tracks and scats dargle 074

We learnt so many fascinating facts from the couple who spend one weekend a month observing wild animals in Dargle. They have been witness to some remarkable things – like a duiker giving birth right in front of them. If you are respectful and quiet and wear camouflage colours, reckons Neville, you’ll be amazed at how close you can get.

tracks and scats dargle 045

First find was Reedbuck droppings and prints. Apparently Reedbuck mate for life. Unlike Bushbuck, who are solitary and have different partners, whom they meet by chance.

reedbuck_spoor

The scat of the bushbuck was quite different to reedbuck (below) – compressed rather than pellets.

reedbuck_scat_WS

Neville told us “If one comes across a bush buck male, it is best to treat him with great respect as they are known to be very aggressive. They are the only antelope that have been known to attack rather than flee from danger. It is best not to do anything that they might conceive as a threat such as sudden movement, shouting or approaching them without regard to the safe zone they have around them. For example when he is feeding and he raises his head and looks at you, you are too close and you are presenting a threat to him. In such a situation it is best not to make eye to eye contact with him but rather keep a wary eye on him and move backwards until he starts feeding again and them make your way out of his domain into safety. They can very easily kill a human. It is always best to remember that you are invading their home and therefore you must always give the wildlife the respect that they deserve. Bush buck are particularly dangerous when wounded.”

bushbuck

Another fascinating fact is that Bushbuck are dependent on monkeys as they can only reach the fruit on trees to a certain height.  It is the task of the monkeys to drop the fruit that is out of their reach which then falls to the ground for them to eat.  So killing all the monkeys in an area will negatively affect the bush buck population.

We came across quite a few ‘nests’ in the long grass where animals had been lying – this one was just perfect for Kei to curl up in out of the cold.

tracks and scats dargle 014

There was plenty of duiker activity including a few carrots on the edges of the fields that had been nibbled. “I often get farmers bemoaning the fact that they lose so much of their crop to wildlife but in reality it is seldom much.”

duiker_carrot

Unless a sounder of bush pigs discover your mielie field, that is. Neville told us that bush pig don’t like the smell of cabbages so an easy (eco-friendly) deterrent is to plant rows of cabbages all around your fields.

Neville adds: “Bush pigs, although mainly nocturnal, must be treated with great respect. They are powerful and aggressive creatures, particularly the boars when they have piglets around them.  They are the sounder protectors. A bush pig can very easily kill a human and is regarded by those in the know as dangerous game. It is always good policy to avoid known bush pig areas at night. They are masters of stealth and can suddenly appear without any warning. This is one reason why being able to identify animal track and scat is so important as it can often save you from a dangerous encounter with wildlife. It makes you much more aware of what potentially is in which area.”

bushpig

We could see areas where bush pigs had made messy paths through the reeds.

bushpig_02

We learnt how to tell how big the animal is from the distance between the back and front prints, ie the length of the animals stride in relation to his size.

jackal_02

How to judge how fresh the print was and in which direction the animal was moving.

reedbuck

We saw evidence of jackal including one obviously following closely behind a duiker. “Jackals always tend to follow the pregnant doe’s when they are due to give birth. Somehow they know when the duiker doe is due.” Neville told us. This is something that they have observed over a long period of time during their work on this farm. Sifting through the jackal scats, we could see exactly what they had been eating – mostly scrub hares, with no evidence at all of lambs or calves of which they are so often accused of eating.

jackal

We learnt that the indiscriminate shooting of Jackals in large numbers actually does not work as a method to protect livestock.  In fact it can actually make the problem worse, as Jackals will merely increase their breeding to fill in the missing animals. This is done by the pack leader male breeding with the ‘reserve’ females that normally he would not breed with. In such cases it has been known for Jackal females that are not pregnant to bring in milk and to help feed the newborn litter so that instead of only some of the pups surviving they will all survive!  It is normal for only four out of a litter of six to survive under usual circumstances. As in all natural ecosystems only the strongest survive, however when their numbers are threatened they ensure their own survival by increasing the survival rate of the pups.

Neville: “A well-documented way of controlling Jackals is to shoot only the communicator – that is the one who finds the food source. By doing so the communication link is broken back to the rest of the pack. This also prevents the attempted wiping out of the Jackals as only one individual been destroyed rather than trying destroy them all. This is a much more conservation minded method, and  more effective than just indiscriminate slaughter.  In actual fact,  Jackals are scavengers who clean up bush rather than hunters of domestic stock. On this farm they are currently only feeding on vlei rats and scrub hare which form part of their normal diet. This can clearly be seen from the scat they leave behind. Looking at old scat as well as fresh scat gives you an indication of what the jackals have been eating over a long period.”

tracks and scats dargle 033

Jackal activity is greatest during the first quarter of the moon. There is little about on full moon nights as it is too bright making it difficult for predators to stay out of sight. The wind also has a major effect on wildlife. If the wind is below about 3km/hr the prey animals battle to pick up the scent of the predators and if the wind is too strong, say over 10km/hr the prey animals once again battle hear and smell the predators. The lack of prey animals therefore also affects the presence of the predators. They all lie low until the weather conditions become more favourable. This has been noticed every time by Neville and Hayley when they are out in the Dargle area on their monthly visits.

jackal_spoor

It was fun to find that porcupine had been around the evening before. Their scat revealing the very varied diets they have – seeds and crabs and all sorts of things. Porcupine feed on a very similar diet to that of Bush pigs,  including carrion, vegetable, rhizomes and tubers – basically almost anything that they can find.porcupineTheir only defence mechanism is their quills which they will ram into whatever tries to attack them. They always go into their hole forward so that they cannot be removed easily. We were amazed to learn that porcupine can weigh up to 24 kgs!

porcie

We spotted quite a few caracal tracks. Once again Neville was a mine of interesting information.  Caracal can kill animals of Reedbuck size easily. After they have made the kill they will only eat about 1kg of meat from the rump and the rest of the carcass is left. Sometimes they will drag it into cover, but rarely come back to feed on it the next night. Feeding on an old kill is normally only done when food is very scarce. Jackals are normally found on these kills doing what they do best as scavengers. Often they are spotted at the old kill and are wrongly accused for being response able for the kill. Caracal is strictly nocturnal and lives in a wide variety of habitats, except desert type regions. They prefer open plains and areas around vleis. They can sometimes be seen just before day break or shortly after dark. Although a good tree climber, Caracal mainly hunts on the ground. It has the ability to hide its self very well whilst resting during the day and if startled it can become very aggressive and very dangerous as it will instantly go into defence mode. Its natural reaction will be to protect its self, so they are not to be under estimated. Common prey animals are duiker, steenbok, grysbok, bushbuck does, sheep lambs, dassies, monkeys, spring hares, guinea fowl, francolin and other ground living birds. Caracal are not dependent on water.

caracal

Its tracks are absent of claw marks if walking. When it is running or walking on soft or slippery ground such as mud the claw marks are visible as its claws are retractable as are most cats.

The edges of the farmland were seriously transformed with invasive alien plants lining the river banks. The indigenous pioneer Senecio madagascariensis took advantage of the disturbed earth creating a pretty picture with Oriah in the middle.

tracks and scats dargle 059

Some brave Kniphofias and Hebenstretia were flowering in the mess of invasives.

hebenstretia

On our way back through the wetland area we came across mongoose prints, clearly made since we had passed earlier.

porcupine_spoor

Although we didn’t see any animals, there are likely plenty just lying low while the humans potter about noisily.

tracks and scats dargle 078

The next Track and Scat workshop takes place on 14 June in Dargle. Once again a donation of R20 for the SA CAN Anti-Poaching programme will be requested.

A night walk planned is around the 6th or 13th September depending on animal numbers. Call Neville to book your spot – 0829737052. Neville and Hayley are also available to conduct wildlife surveys on your property, chat to them about rates if you are interested. valleyview@telkomsa.net

midlands_view

A sincere thank you to the landowner Iain Sinclair for allowing us to use his farm. Photos by Nicole Schafer and Nikki Brighton

Boston Wildlife Sightings December 2013

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Cape Longclaw

Boston_7859_Cape LongclawOn early morning walks at The Drift farm I came across a water mongoose

Boston_7332_water mongooseand a black-backed jackal

Boston_6932_jackal while in the wetland on Gramarye which was burnt late winter it was gratifying to meet a crab

20131225_070013_craband seeing the vegetation flourishing, including a beautiful gladiolus flower.

20131229_064109_gladiolusBird sighting of the month was Black Harrier, the first time I’ve ever seen one of these in the district. The bird is endemic to Southern Africa and has the most restricted range of the 13 harrier species worldwide. It hunts over dry and damp grasslands, fynbos and karoo and its breeding stronghold is in the south western parts of the country.  Another new listing for the Elandshoek pentad was Southern Pochard, only the second time I’ve seen the duck in the area, as was the pair of European Rollers which I saw for the second time after several years in the same spot near the Good Hope dams.

Boston_7820_European RollerBlack-crowned Tchagra and Golden-breasted Bunting were also new additions to that pentad. The list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Diederik Cuckoo, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Sparrow, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape White-eye, Amethyst Sunbird, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Greater Striped-Swallow, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Firefinch, Hadeda Ibis, Southern Boubou, Cape Robin-Chat, African Harrier-Hawk, Black Saw-wing, African Hoopoe, Yellow-billed Kite, Spur-winged Goose,

Boston_7951_Spur-winged GooseCape Canary, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Stonechat, Little Rush-Warbler, Fork-tailed Drongo, Drakensberg Prinia, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Cattle Egret, Helmeted Guineafowl, Common Waxbill, African Reed-Warbler, Red-collared Widowbird,

Boston_7909_Red-collared WidowbirdCape Wagtail, Brown-throated Martin, Common Fiscal, Cape Crow, Red-necked Spurfowl, Cape Grassbird, Dusky Indigobird, Zitting Cisticola, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Red Bishop,

Boston_6601_Southern Red BishopCape Weaver, Village Weaver, African Rail, Cape Longclaw, Bokmakierie, Red-billed Quelea, African Darter, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, White-breasted Cormorant, African Pipit, Malachite Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Grey Crowned Crane, White-faced Duck, Black-headed Heron, Blue Crane, White-throated Swallow, Barn Swallow, Pied Starling, Black Sparrowhawk, House Sparrow, Amur Falcon, Steppe Buzzard, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Jackal Buzzard, Sombre Greenbul, Blacksmith Lapwing, Banded Martin, Wailing Cisticola, Hamerkop, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellow Bishop, Long-tailed Widowbird, Bar-throated Apalis, Black-backed Puffback, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Emerald Cuckoo, Forest Canary, Alpine Swift, Burchell’s Coucal, Olive Thrush, Black-headed Oriole, Long-crested Eagle, Red-throated Wryneck, Common Moorhen, Red-chested Flufftail.

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers of Lapa Lapa: Four Buff-spotted Flufftail chicks in the garden

Bruce and Bev Astrup of Highland Glen: Watched Crested Barbet shinning up tree in garden; Burchell’s Coucal; Red-shouldered Widowbird; Red-chested Cuckoo (Piet-my-Vrou), calling. Saw the pair of Spotted Eagle-Owls in the evening in Basket Willows alongside the Elands river, and further sightings of  the Crested Barbet – appear to be nesting in the Weeping Willow along with Fork-tailed Drongos, Darkcapped Bulbuls, Village Weavers, Long-crested Eagle; Elands river over its banks last night, 22nd Dec, and a couple of Village Weavers nests are upmarket with running water.

Christeen Grant – Sitamamani

December has continued to be wet, many afternoon thunderstorms, fortunately only small hail a few times. Many fungi have sprung up including Earth Stars

2013 12 Fungi 03 Earth Starsand Amanita pantherina.

2013 12 Fungi 05 Amanita pantherinaThey quickly shrivel and fade when the sun comes out again.

2013 12 Fungi 04

2013 12 Fungi 01For the first time I found a large patch of Clubmoss, Lycopodium clavatum on a moist slope.

2013 12 Fern Clubmoss Lycopodium clavatumA few interesting invertabrates have been around, a Harvestmen, Order Opilones was sitting near the kitchen door.

2013 12 Harvestmen Order OpilionesA Lunate Blister Beetle, Decapotoma lunata was seen on a Hypoxis 

2013 12 Insect 01 Lunate Blister Beetle Decapotoma lunataand an unusual moth of the Goat Moths, family Cossidae settled for the day on the backstep.

2013 12 Insect 03 Goat Moth fam Cossidae In amongst the grasses, very cleverly camouflaged was a Green lynx spider a Oxyopidae Peucetia sp.

2013 12 Spider Green lynx spider Oxyopidae Peucetia spThere are a multitude of jewel like flowers scattered over the hillside: Agapanthus caulescens,

2013 12 Plant Agapanthus caulescensAnthericum cooperi,

2013 12 Plant Anthericum cooperiAspidonepsis diploglossa,

2013 12 Plant Aspidonepsis diploglossaConvoluvus natalensis,

2013 12 Plant Convoluvus natalensisCyanotis speciosa (particularly prolific this year),

2013 12 Plant Cyanotis speciosaDipcadi viride (and amongst the brown coloured ones a green one which echoes it’s given name),

2013 12 Plant Dipcadi viridea first for me Drimia spaerocephala,

2013 12 Plant Drimia sphaerocephalaEriosema distinctum,

2013 12 Plant Eriosema distinctumEucomis autumnalis,

2013 12 Plant Eucomis autumnalisGladiolus ecklonii,

2013 12 Plant Gladiolus eckloniiHibiscus aethiopicus,

2013 12 Plant Hibiscus aethiopicusHypericum lalandii,

2013 12 Plant Hypericum lalandiiMoraea brevistyla,

2013 12 Plant Moraea brevistylaNemesia caerulea,

2013 12 Plant Nemesia caeruleaOrnithogalum graminifolium,

2013 12 Plant Ornithogalum graminifoliumPachycarpus dealbatus,

2013 12 Plant Pachycarpus dealbatusPapaver aculeatum,

2013 12 Plant Papaver aculeatumRubus ludwigii

2013 12 Plant Rubus ludwigiiand Zantedeschia albomaculata were some of them flowering during the month.

2013 12 Plant Zantedeschia albomaculataOn a walk over Mondi’s Mt Shannon, in and near a rather murky pool of water, we saw a Common Platanna Xenopus laevis, 2013 12 Amphibian 02 Common Platanna Xenopus laevisa Common River Frog  Afrana angloensis

2013 12 Amphibian 01 Common River Frog Afrana angloensisand a Swamp Bluet Africallagma glaucum.

2013 12 Insect 02 Swamp Bluet Africallagma glaucumCREW fieldtrip on Edgeware on 13 December, searching for Schizoglossum bidens and ‘new’ Moraea, last seen on 28 December 2012. The very late rains had arrived too late to bring out the hoped-for plants, so the few CREW and helpers, who were available to make the climb up the hillside were disappointed and when eventually the rains did show that they meant business, it was helter-skelter to a waiting car driven by a kindly rescuer,  Celia Speirs, who came to assist Suvarna Parbhoo, Christina Potgieter, Barbara Clulow and others, who were somewhat wet through. A few flowers were recorded, which compared to the usual masses at this time of the year, was a slight compensation.   The lists up until then were of 155 species on Edgeware and this outing added another 7 new species – photos by Barbara Clulow  – including Asclepias cucullata

asclepias culcullataCycnium racemosum for first time on Edgeware

Cycnium racemosumTephrosia macropoda

Tephrosia macropodaPelargonium alchemilloides

Pelargonium alchemilloidesNot the first time, but a lovely Asclepias albens

Asclepias albensThe hard cover book of the 100 most highly threatened South African plant species, “Plants in Peril”, has been published.  Boston CREW is represented therein with Barbara Clulow, Christeen Grant and David Clulow at Impendle Nature Reserve, where the rare plant, Asclepias concinna, was found earlier. This impressive book is available from Suvarna Parbhoo at 082 354 5649. An extract:  Asclepias concinna

Asclepias concinnaGomphocarpus photographed by Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye on the edge of the Norwood forests. The one seen before in the area is a physocarpus and is described in Elsa Pooley’s “Wildflowers of KZN” as being white flowers, which is the case; so this is an interesting variation – Darwin would have been intrigued.

Gomphocarpus

Jackal Pups

FreeMe are raising some Jackal pups, and while they are thoroughly enjoying the experience, they realise that jackals are not everyone favourite animal.

Jackal painting

Ros Marais of FreeMe coments:  “A concerned farmer asked that they not be released anywhere near his property as he believes that they kill calves in a very unpleasant way.  This is a very legitimate request.”  This is the Free Me response to farmers and others who are concerned about their decision to rehabilitate jackals:

As a rule we do not rehabilitate jackals at all, because of the problem of finding a suitable release site.  At the moment though we have had a request from a new reserve up near Phinda in Northern Zululand.  They were previously surrounded by squatter camps and their jackal population was wiped out by distemper picked up from the local dogs.  They are finding it very difficult to balance their reserve without jackals and the distemper virus stays in the soil for up to four years.  Because we can inoculate for distemper with a 100% success rate, our jackals will be able to survive, breed and build up a viable population.  All our releases are approved by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and they would certainly never approve jackal releases in a farming area.

Similarly, we are also very careful about the release of mongoose, genet, serval and all other predator sites.   We will occasionally release antelope or birds in the Midlands, but nothing else.  We do not release into Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve because of the poaching problem.

One of the FreeMe Jackal pups-

jackal pup

Recently, Neville van Lelyveld who regularly counts wildlife on a Dargle farm observed the following:  No Jackals were seen with very little calling activity on Saturday night. A very interesting observation is that we have seen this before on a full moon evening, but only when there is little or no wind. When this is taken together with the very few sightings of antelope during the night, there appears to be a pattern or natural defence strategy between the prey animals and predators during full moons whereby if there is little or no wind their sense or ability to use sent as a form of defence in the case of the prey animals and form of hunting strategy for the predators is impaired and therefore there is less activity on both sides. This is a dynamic that we want to look into in the coming months.  Although this was not a directly full moon weekend as the full moon was on the following Wednesday it was still fairly bright. These sorts of patterns are something that needs more investigation and understanding. There are however a lot of jackal tracks and scat to be seen all over the farm. It was interesting to observe that their main diet consisted of scrub hare’s and field mice based on the scat analysis done. On the odd occasion a dove feather can be found in their scat. This goes to prove that they are being sustained by their natural food supply. Based on the amount of scat there appear to be several jackals on the farm. A single jackal foetus was found on the road down to the Umgeni River, this is normally a sign of stress. It also supports that fact they are breeding. There were however not many new fresh tracks or scat found on Sunday morning which tends to support  the theory mentioned previously. 

An extract from D.T. Rowe-Rowe’s paper on WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT – BLACKBACKED JACKAL for KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service

The black-backed jackal, Canis mesomelas, is one of South Africa’s most controversial carnivores.  The mere mention of its name is enough to throw many a sheep farmer into a fit of rage because of the reputation this jackal has gained as a killer of sheep. On the other hand, a grain farmer may not share the sheep farmer’s aversion, as he values any animal that preys on rodents.

Size and development:  Adult jackals weigh between 6 and 11 Kg, with 8Kg being the average in most parts of Southern Africa. By the age of 6 months, young jackals have acquired all of their permanent teeth, and by the age of 12 months, they have almost reached full adult size.

Ecology
Black-backed jackals are distributed throughout South Africa, occurring in our deserts as well as in the high-rainfall grasslands, and from sea level to the summit of the Drakensberg. The jackal’s high degree of habitat tolerance and adaptability is well illustrated by the diet that differs from one region to the next.
In the most arid parts of the country jackals eat a high proportion of insects, whereas in high rainfall grassland regions, rodents form bulk of the diet. Wherever large amounts of carrion are available the jackal resorts to this food source, and takes advantage of opportunities, when they occur, to overpower and kill conveniently sized mammals such as hares, newborn antelope, or sheep (mostly lambs). So adaptable is the jackal that it will even feed on fallen fruit.

From a study done in a grassland region, of the Drakensberg, it has been estimated that in that particular area each jackal is capable of consuming approximately 1500 field mice or 500 vlei rats per year.

Habits
Until a few years ago little was known about the jackal other than details of its diet and that it caused problems in some sheep-farming areas. Radio telemetry, however, has made it possible to find out a great deal about the private life of an animal, which although widespread, is wary and secretive.

Black-backed jackals are predominantly nocturnal. Where they are not hunted, their activity starts just before sundown and reaches a peak shortly after dark. A second activity peak occurs shortly before sunrise. Jackals generally spend the daylight hours dozing and sleeping. In hot weather they lie in the shade, but when it is fine and cool, they lie in the sun. They very seldom lie in holes during the day.

Pair bonds are formed by jackals which are usually three years of age or older. Once mated, the pair remains together until one of the partner’s dies. When one partner dies the remaining individual wanders over a large area outside its territory, looking for a new mate. Most jackals’ pups are born during late winter or early spring, which is probably because this is the time of year when most carrion is available.M2E60L198-198R382B332

Initially the female suckles the pups, but they start to feed on solids at an early age and the adults then regurgitate food for them. Both parents feed and care for the young.

During the first 14 weeks of their lives, the pups remain in or around the natal den, which is usually a hole in the ground, then begin to forage with the parents. Although the average litter numbers five (litters of 2 to 8 have been recorded), it is seldom that more than one or two pups survive beyond the age of fourteen weeks. The number of surviving pups is largely dependent on the amount of food that can be provided during the early stages of their lives.

Mated pairs are territorial with both males and females defending the territory: males defending it against other mated males, and mated females defending it against mated females. When a young jackal reaches the age of a year it may remain within the parent pair’s territory and help them to feed and protect the next litter, or it may become a solitary wandering animal.

One of the primary factors that govern territory size, home range size, and jackal density is the amount of food. In the course of research done on jackals in Giants Castle Game Reserve in the Drakensberg of KwaZulu-Natal, it was found that the average size of mated pairs’ territory was 1900 ha. Immature jackals which were less than a year old, occupied ranges of about 900 ha within those of the mated pair, and the average home range size of a solitary non-breeding jackals was 3300 ha.
But what do these figures mean in terms of the total density of jackals?
It was estimated that in Giant’s Castle Game Reserve there is approximately one jackal pr 250 to 290 ha. The only other known density figure is reported from the Serengeti in Tanzania, where it was estimated that black-backed jackals occur at a density of one per 200 ha. Information from a study done in the Western Transvaal indicates that densities on farmland are lower. Sometimes jackals gather at large carcasses in numbers, which might create the impression that densities are higher. Such aggregations include jackals from more than one territory.

There are thus four components in black-baked jackal social groups: the progeny of the year; helpers which improve pup survival; and solitary non-breeding, non-territorial animals (some of which may previously have served as helpers). Solitary adults probably act as a reserve breeding population. The time at which they bear young will depend on the availability of food and territory. Apparently, very few black-baked jackals live longer than six or seven years. If jackals enter the breeding population at approximately three years of age, then by the time that a pair is six years old, their first progeny will be of breeding age.

The knowledge gained from the study of the social organisation of the jackal leads to a better understanding of this predator. As is the case with many other carnivores, the black-baked jackal is at the end of a food chain. So, although widespread and common in many areas, food is the limiting factor. The social system, which has evolved in jackals, ensures that there is sufficient food to go round and that the species continues to exist.

Photos By Trail Camera

Boston Wildlife Sightings for July

Christeen Grant -Sitamani

July has been an insect month, not many flowers out, although the Aloe maculata grace the hillside, the Halleria lucida, Buddleja salviifolia and Greyia sutherlandii are focal points attracting many insects and birds.

The small Rosemary bush in my herb bed is also covered in flowers, easy to photograph some of these insects, Bees,

2013 07 11 Bee CGrant

a variety of Hover Flies,

2013 07 11 Hover fly 02 CGrant

a delightful miniature Leaf Beetle (only about 5mm),

2013 07 11 Leaf Beetle CGrant (1)

and a pair of small brown butterflies that Steve Woodhall identified as possibly being male and female Common Hottentots.

2013 07 11 Common Hottentot male 02 CGrant (1)

2013 07 11 Common Hottentot female 01 CGrant

Also seen on another day, a first for me, a Twig Wilter.

2013 07 19 Twig wilter CGrant

Three Common Reedbuck have decided our hillside is a refuge this winter, two females and a male, often seen at dusk and dawn, close to the house. Duiker are active around the same time each day.

An unusual bird sighting for us was a Hammerkop near the house and one early morning a Marsh Owl. A pair of Black-shouldered Kites, Jackal Buzzards and Long-crested Eagles are frequent overhead visitors. The bushes are alive with Cape White-eyes, Dark-capped Bulbuls, Speckled Mousebirds, Fork-tailed Drongos, Black-headed Orioles, Black-backed Puffbacks and Bronze Mannikins.

David and Wizz Lawrence on The Willows:

Cape Robin_Chat; Red-billed Quelea; Village Weavers galore, some getting summer golden colour; Boubou Shrike; Common Fiscal; Cape Turtle-Dove; Glossy Starling; Cape Sparrow; Speckled Mousebird; Drakensberg Prinia; House Sparrow; Hadedah Ibis; Helmeted Guineafowl; juvenile Jackal Buzzard often around, and maturing, getting a russet front.

David Clulow on The Willows:

Four Grey Crowned Crane seen at Endeavour farm – parents and two grown up juveniles, feeding about 50 metres from farmhouse; pair of Wattled Cranes seen in stubble maize about 300 metres from farmhouse. Geese at the Elands river, flying over wintry Basket Willows:

geese at Elands River

Common Fiscal on winter’s morning

common fiscal shrike

Bridge over Elands river from “Endeavour” to the north

Bridge over Elands River from Endeavour

Crystelle Wilson – Graymarye

I never expected to come across Grey Crowned Cranes in prison, but this was an unexpected sighting at Sevontein Prison near Elandskop in July. I was atlasing the pentad 2940_3005 and driving on the land surrounding the prison when I spotted four cranes in the cabbage patch alongside the stream running next to the buildings. Three hours of birding yielded only 37 species, in part due to the increasing human settlements in the area.

2013Jul22_Grey Crowned Crane_Sevontein Prison_4109

The list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 is: Village Weaver, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Firefinch, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Drakensberg Prinia (below),

2013Jul22_Drakensberg Prinia_4151_s

Fork-tailed Drongo, Hadeda Ibis, Common Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Helmeted Guineafowl, Cape White-eye, African Stonechat, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-fronted Canary, Green Wood-hoopoe, Cape Crow, Black-headed Heron, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Wagtail, House Sparrow, Southern Red Bishop, Denham’s Bustard, Lanner Falcon, Yellow-billed Duck, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Dark-capped Bulbul, Little Grebe (below),

2013Jul21_Little Grebe_3785_s

Cape Grassbird, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Parrot, Red-winged Starling, Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Batis, African Hoopoe, Jackal Buzzard, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Sombre Greenbul, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Robin-Chat, Bokmakierie, Brown-throated Martin, Olive Thrush, Southern Boubou, Red-necked Spurfowl, African Rail, Common Waxbill, Long-crested Eagle, Grey Crowned Crane, Giant Kingfisher, Spur-winged Goose, African Pipit, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, African Darter, Cape Longclaw, Red-knobbed Coot, Blue Crane, Black Sparrowhawk, Red-collared Widowbird, Rufous-naped Lark, South African Shelduck, Red-chested Flufftail, Blacksmith Lapwing, Hamerkop, Cape Sparrow, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow.

2013Jul22_Rock Kestrel_4069

Other sightings include reedbuck

2013Jul22_reedbuck female_3928_s

and a jackal, not the farmers’ favourite.

2013Jul21_jackal_3728