Tag Archives: KZN Crane Foundation

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were away for half of November but on our return we were thrilled to find we had had a lot of rain and our dam was full at last and everywhere so green. Quite a change from the Cape.

One morning to our astonishment, a young male reedbuck wandered through the garden quite happily. Thank goodness the dogs were elsewhere.

male-reedbuck-wandering-through-our-garden

We have woken up for the past few weeks to Reedbuck eating the long grass in our garden.

male-and-female-reedbuck-in-garden

A porcupine got into the garden one night and dug up a heap of cannas – there was a fight with the dogs and as usual the dogs came off second best being stabbed with quills.

porcupine-got-into-my-cannas-one-night

The gymnogene has been terrorising the birds in the garden who have made nests in the trees. Caught a lovely picture of him perched on my bottle brush tree.

gymnogene-perched-on-my-bottle-brush-tree

A pair of wattle crane arrived at the dam and stayed for a week.

pair-of-wattled-crane-tag-on-wattled-crane-white-on-one-leg-and-green-and-blue-on-the-other

The one has tags on its legs which I had sent to the KZN Crane Foundation for identification.

wattled-crane-with-tags

Response from Tanya Smith, African Crane Conservation Program: “It is so great to get this resighting, this bird is definitely of breeding age and is perhaps looking for wetland area to set up a new territory. The combination of rings (Green/Blue on the left leg and large white on the right leg) is of a bird we caught and colour ringed at the end of August 2011 on a farm just outside Nottingham Road (on the Fort Nottingham Road), from a farm called Shawlands. Therefore this bird is about 5.5 years old.”

The pair of blue crane come and go and do not seem to have made a nest yet. We also have a number of oribi running around – the past 2 days we have seen a pair of males.

There were 5 Grey Crowned Cranes that arrived at the dam one morning.

4-crowned-crane-at-the-dam

We also have African Spoonbill,

3-spoonbill-in-a-row

dozens of Yellow-billed Duck, White-faced Duck,

white-faced-whistling-duck

Little Grebe (where do these waterbirds come from as the dam was empty for months??), Red-billed Teal, Spur-winged Geese and a pair of Egyptian Geese with 5 young who are now about a month old.

We have been inundated with Puff Adders once again – one next to our soak pit eating a frog and the dogs killed an enormous one in our driveway – our rottie proceeded to eat it – we are always concerned that the dogs will pierce the poison sac while eating these snakes – on the same day Pat saw some children from Kazimula school walking down the D18 carrying a dead puffie.

The Steppe Buzzard, and Jackal Buzzard often sit on our dead tree next to the pond waiting for a juicy meal now that our ponds are full.

The Long-crested Eagle is often seen perched on one of the poles along the D18.

black-crested-eagle-always-around

Two White Storks arrived on the farm a week ago. We have a number of Sunbirds flitting around the garden now that the summer flowers are in bloom.  Saw this female Amethyst Sunbird feeding off Wygelia flowers.

female-amythest-sunbird-feeding-off-wygelia-flowers

The White-throated Swallows that made their nest on our verandah lampshade have hatched out 4 chicks who are now about ten days old. We have to clean up a heap of poop each morning. The other swallows nest outside the bedroom window fell down during a severe wind.

i-think-there-are-4-white-throated-swallow-chicks-in-their-mud-nest-on-verandah

In the past few days a pair of Greater Striped Swallows have arrived and make a huge chirping noise before perching on the hanging basket where they groom themselves. This is about 4pm each day. They are very tame and do not mind my running around and taking photos of them thru the glass doors. We have not had them here before.

lesser-striped-swallow-perching-on-balustrade

The Cape White-eyes have been stealing the coir from my hanging baskets.

a-pair-of-cape-white-eyes-pulling-coir-from-hanging-basket-to-make-their-nest

The Red-chested Cuckoo (piet-my-vrou) sometimes sings for hours. Hope it finds a mate soon.

Drakensberg Prinia

drakensberg-prinia

Anthericum, possibly angulicaule (Thanks Nikki Brighton)

anthericum-possibly-angulicaule-thanks-nikki-brighton

Gladiolus longicollis

gladiolus-longicollis

Senecio bupleuroides (yellow starwort)

senecio-bupleuroides-yellow-starwort

Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Rinkhals which has been roaming around the garden for a while.

a-large-rinkals-which-has-been-roaming-around-the-garden-for-a-while

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

Our small dam at it lowest this year. Only 2 puddles left for the fish. Quite a few died but some fortunately survived.

our-small-dam-at-it-lowest-this-year-only-2-puddles-left-for-the-fish-quite-a-few-died-but-some-fortunately-survived

Since the rains we have had recently, things have improved.

since-the-rains-we-have-had-recently-things-have-improved

The Christmas herald! We have a little patch of Christmas Bells on Kildaragh. They are fast disappearing though. As children we would pick bunches for the Christmas table. Now we look in excitement when we see just one.

the-christmas-herald-we-have-a-little-patch-of-christmas-bells-on-kildaragh-they-are-fast-disappearing-though-as-children-we-would-pick-bunches-for-the-christmas-table

Clausena anisata, Perdepis or Horsewood. A neat, small tree for the bird garden. Some Swallowtail butterflies breed on this tree.

clausena-anisata-a-neat-small-tree-for-the-bird-garden-some-swallowtail-butterflies-breed-on-this-tree

A close up of the leaves, which have a very unpleasant smell, when they are crushed. The prolific fruit is visible.

clausena-anisata-or-horeswood-a-close-up-of-the-leaves-which-have-a-very-unpleasant-smell-when-they-are-crushed-the-prolific-fruit-is-visible

The Pom – Pom tree (Dais cotinifolia). This is an especially large specimen on our property. It was probably planted years ago by June Fannin who planted many trees here but never lived on the property. These trees grow well in the Midlands as is seen along the Main Road in Howick. Always a wonderful show.

the-pom-pom-tree-dais-cotinifolia-this-is-an-especially-large-specimen-on-our-property

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Such a treat to have the grassland streams flowing again.

r-waterfall

I adore the cool early mornings and frequently wander about at dawn. Seldom have my camera or phone with me, but fortunately did on this day.

r-dawn-bird

Every year I say the same thing, but as this interests me every year, it is worth repeating: Isn’t it fascinating how a patch of grassland that you can be very familiar with suddenly produces an abundance of flowers that you have not noticed much before? Clearly, rainfall and temperature patterns have an enormous influence (never mind grazing and burning) on which plants flower best when. This spring I have particularly noticed Arum lilies thriving, lots of Striga bilabiata, dainty white Kniphofia and more recently lots of Christmas bells – Sandersonia aurantiaca.

r-sandersonia-aurantiaca

The Cape Chestnut (Calodendron capense) hasn’t been as spectacular as usual – the leaves appeared at the same time as the pink flowers. Someone told me that Scilla nervosa has been amazing this year, but I have not noticed that where I walk. Anyway – a few floral treasures to share:

Plenty of pale blue Thunbergia natalensis in shady areas

r-thunbergia-natalensis

Asclepias gibba – in Lesotho all parts of this plant are eaten. Flowers like sweets, bulbs straight out of the ground and the leaves cooked with other greens.

r-asclepias-gibba

Asclepias albens – always a spectacular find

r-asclepias-alba

Pachycarpus natalensis – love the two kinds of ant and the beetle lurking in the flower!

r-pachycarpus-natalensis

Aster bakerianus

r-aster-bakerianus

Kniphofia – most likely breviflora

r-kniphofia-poss-breviflora

Vernonia hirsuta with attendant fly

r-vernonia-hirsuta

Hypericum lalandii – the tiny indigenous Hypericum, not the invasive shrub.

r-hypericum-lalandii

Alepidea natalensis

r-alepidea-natalensis

Ajuga ophrydis – Bugle plant

r-ajuga-ophrydis

Cyperus spharocephalus

r-cyperus-sphaerocephalus

Dierama luteoalbidium

r-dierama-luteoalbidum

Morea possible inclinata

r-morea-poss-inclinata

Pentanisia prunelloides

r-pentanisia-prunelloides

Sisyanthus trichostomus – the Hairy Grass-Flower. I think I may have found Sisyanthus fanniniae too, but the photo is dreadful, so I can’t be sure.

r-sisyranthus-trichostomus

I have never come across this pale Gladiolus before. Not sure what the species is but possibly serica as the stems are really hairy.

r-gladiolus-poss-sericeovillosus

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Continuing on from last month’s dead things, here is a tiny baby Skink which I found next to the dog’s water bowl

a-tiny-dead-baby-skink

I first thought that this might be the larder of a Fiscal Shrike, but I’m sure something larger like a raptor must have eaten something and left the gizzards on this pole

somethings-leftover-lunch

A juvenile Fiscal Shrike which was stuck in the water tank

juvenile-fiscal-shrike-stuck-in-water-tank

A pretty tame Black-backed Jackal that had been lying in the long grass in one of our sheep day camps, sometimes terrible creatures for us farmers but still beautiful to look at. This one was only about 20m away, taken with my cellphone. I managed to herd it around into the purple flowers for a more visually appealing shot!

black-backed-jackal

Some cracks in the mud of Mavela Dam, hopefully it’ll be full again by the end of summer! Still waiting for a big rain.

cracks-in-the-mud-of-the-dam

“Working for Water” did a very good job cutting and helping to clear some invasive alien wattle trees on our farm. Hopefully I’ll be able to take a photograph of this corner one day and it will be bugweed and wattle free!

dargle-impendle-road-with-wattles-that-have-been-cut-by-working-for-water-1dargle-impendle-road-with-wattles-that-have-been-cut-by-working-for-water-2

Couple of beetles fighting over a mate

beetles-mating-in-the-grass

2 large Rhino Beetles

large-rhino-beetles

A large fern next to a small pond in the veld

large-fern-next-to-one-of-the-water-pools

The Rinkhals have been doing the rounds on Copperleigh recently.

large-rinkhals-crossed-the-road-into-our-sheep-camp

I’m not sure if this is a fly or a bee as I’ve never seen one before, but the colour was very striking on the brown fur of this cow

strange-bug-not-sure-if-fly-or-bee-on-one-of-our-cows

Reedbuck Doe

reedbuck-doe-on-the-new-green-veld-grass

Reedbuck Ram

reedbuck-ram-standing-next-to-little-dam

A spider in its dewey web on the ground

I took the dogs for a walk through the veld one Sunday, and took the following images, this is a panoramic view of Inhlosane in the distance

panoramic-view-of-inhlosane-overlooking-the-grassland

Very happy to have running streams

stream-running-through-the-veld

Red hot pokers

red-hot-pokers-next-to-stream

Pink Wildflowers

pink-wildflower

Arum Lily

veld-arum-lily

Floater Flock of Craniacs at Crystal Springs Primary

Nkanyiso Ndlela of the KZN Crane Foundation was invited by the Balgowan Conservancy through the Environmental Learning and Leadership Programme, which is funded by N3 Toll Concession, to visit their local school, Crystal Springs Primary, to present a two part lesson from their enchanting Cranes in the Classroom series. There were 62 learners from grade 4 who participated in these lessons on the 6 and 13 July 2015.

The first lesson began with a short presentation about the three South African crane species, namely the Blue Crane; Grey Crowned Crane; and the critically endangered Wattled Crane. The learners were then handed art materials and instructions to make their own unique crane name badges and gave them instructions. These turned out beautifully. The lesson wound down with a story from Wisdom Tales about Mama noHemu and Baba noHemu. The learners were quizzed at the end to ensure that they listened carefully.

Sisanda Ntombela wearing her wattled crane name tag

Sisanda Ntombela wearing her wattled crane name tag

The second lesson introduced more facts about our three special cranes, with Nkanyiso showing them what they look like using pictures and posters. They discovered how threatened our cranes and wetlands are, and how we must treasure them by looking out for them and not poaching or killing them.

Nkanyiso is super dynamic in the classroom and uses pictures to show the learners what our African cranes look like

Nkanyiso is super dynamic in the classroom and uses pictures to show the learners what our African cranes look like

They learnt about the cultural beliefs and traditions associated with the cranes and they were allowed to ask plenty of questions. Thabani Bubele said: “I like the wattled crane more than the other cranes because it’s big”. Thabani is right, as the Wattled Crane can grow to an impressive height of 175 cm (1.75 m), making it the largest crane in Africa and second tallest in the world!

It was time for some more arts and crafts where the children made their own wattled crane masks. This made Thabani very happy, as now he could pretend to be just like his favourite crane.

Thabane Bubele wears his Wattled Crane mask with pride

Thabane Bubele wears his Wattled Crane mask with pride

Now that they all looked the part, they were ready to fill in their Crane Flower worksheets. This worksheet got the learners thinking about what they learnt over the two lessons and were asked to choose keywords represented in bold print from a list of facts below and fill them in the correct crane flower speech bubble.

Nkanyiso finished off with a quick fact about the Strelitzia flower, which comes from South Africa and is the flower emblem of KwaZulu Natal. It is also known as a crane flower because it looks just like the crowned crane.

Great fun was had while filling in their crane flower worksheets

Great fun was had while filling in their crane flower worksheets

Mr Makhathini, an enthusiastic teacher at Crystal Springs Primary, said: “These lessons suit the learners very well. They’re hands on and supplements the CAPS well”.

Balgowan are now home to these lovely craniacs who will love and nurture our country’s stately birds in the future.

 

The Three Cranes and their Landowner Custodians

Article from the KZN Crane Foundation‘s Summer Newsletter and written by Charlie MacGillivray, Chairman of the Karkloof Conservancy and KZNCF Committee Member.


"First world and hi-tech farming operations, with high input and high output (yields), can operate cheek by jowl with some of the endangered (red data) species of birds such as the Blue, Grey Crowned and the criticalled endangered Wattled Cranes" Charlie MacGillivray

For many Farmers, there is a very real sense of pride and more importantly “ownership” of the flocks of some, or in fact where fortunate, all three of these stately birds occur.

Grey Crowned Cranes on Loskop farm in the Karkloof

Grey Crowned Cranes on Loskop farm in the Karkloof

This privilege is often recognised by Custodian signs and ought to be regarded as a fulfilment of symbiotic co-existence and success.

Many farmers in the Karkloof are recognised as Crane Custodians.

Many farmers in the Karkloof are recognised as Crane Custodians.

Cranes are truly magnificent birds and beautiful to behold. They depict humour in their behaviour, grace in flight and delight in song.

Grey Crowned Cranes gossiping - By Patrick Cahill

Grey Crowned Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

Blue Cranes dancing on Colbourne farm - By John Hill

Blue Cranes dancing on Colbourne farm – By John Hill

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre - By Patrick Cahill

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

The real thrill for me and I know for many landowners fortunate (thoughtful) enough to have these graceful inhabitants, is that with a little care and courtesy, there is room for ALL of us. Our yardstick being their continued proliferation, with increasing flock sizes in as many different localities as possible.

Large flock of about 50 to 60 Grey Crowned Cranes are often seen in the Karkloof.

A large flock of about 50 to 60 Grey Crowned Cranes are often seen in the Karkloof.

The real threat and the cause of the dire dearth of the flocks of yore, is because their ideal habitats have been transformed by agricultural (and lifestyle) use and in some cases misuse. Here forestry is also seriously implicated.

This delightful picture by the learners of Gartmore Primary School depicts the 3 crane species in an agricultural environment. A common sighting for most of the children.

This delightful picture by the learners of Gartmore Primary School depicts the 3 crane species in an agricultural environment.

It is not always blatantly wilful actions, but often through ignorance by failing to ask ourselves the obvious question, “What will be the consequence if I proceed with what and how I/we do things?”

Blue Crane at the Karkloof Conservation Centre - By Patrick Cahill

Blue Crane at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

We need to be more attuned to the dependence and interdependence of ALL components of our environment to ensure the integrity of bio-diversity. More emphasis on the primary organisms of our eco-systems, and the role played in ensuring sustainability further up the “food chain”.

Ren Stubbs, a member of the Karkloof Conservancy, showing the earthworms which is No-Till farmings greatest ally.

Earthworms are No-Till farmings greatest ally.

Landowners hold the trump card in the proliferation of our precious Cranes, and it is our role to help where there is some ignorance, encourage and assist where there is uncertainty, and to exercise influence on as many people as possible, to ensure the future of our threatened populations.

Blue Cranes on Gartmore Farm

Blue Cranes on Gartmore Farm

The respective calls of the three Cranes serve as our commentary on the success of our endeavours, and should remain the highlight of any day.

A pair of Wattled Cranes with their offspring on Gartmore Farm.

A pair of Wattled Cranes with their offspring on Gartmore Farm.