Tag Archives: moths

Boston Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

October has been a busy month, not much time at home to explore, so few sightings. There was a final snowfall at the beginning of the month, then the weather settled into a summer pattern, regular thunderstorms, rain and misty days between hot ones.

02-cover-img_6978

One misty day a pair of Common Reedbuck ventured close to the house, unhurriedly grazing as the passed by. I had several close-up encounters on different predawn mornings with individual Reedbuck.

03-mammals-common-reedbuck-img_6980

03-mammals-common-reedbuck-img_6988

03-mammals-common-reedbuck-img_7005

03-mammals-common-reedbuck-img_7009

The moist conditions have produced many flowers, they sparkled at me as I passed by. The few I managed to find time to photograph were Asparagus africanus, Monopsis decipiens and Oxalis smithiana.

04-flowers-asparagus-africanus-img_2680

Asparagus africanus

04-flowers-monopsis-decipiens-img_6969

Monopsis decipiens

04-flowers-oxalis-smithiana-img_2683

Oxalis smithiana

A tiny Lacewing sp. perched on the kitchen towel.

05-insects-lacewing-sp-p1070941

Lacewing

There have been several lovely moths including these two, an Emerald sp. and one unidentified.

05-insects-moth-emerald-sp-img_2698

Moth – Emerald sp.

05-insects-moth-p1070943

Unidentified moth (suggestions welcome)

Tiny Dunce Caps, Conocybe tenera; popped up in the lawn after rain as did a False Earth-star.

06-fungi-dunce-cap-conocybe-tenera-img_2695

Tiny Dunce Caps – Conocybe tenera

06-fungi-false-earth-starimg_2631

False Earth-star

The Village Weavers have been very busy in the Pin Oak and in an adjacent Plane Tree Spectacled Weavers have built a few nests. The Piet-my-Vrou, Red-chested Cuckoo finally started calling on the 19 October. I also saw an African Harrier-Hawk flying by.

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.

dormouse

All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.

mousebirds

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

The onset at last of the rainy season is so welcome, that one doesn’t mind days of grey, mizzling weather – which is no good for taking great photographs. It also doesn’t put a damper on the excitement of seeing a pair of Wattled Cranes looming large right next to the road.

image1

Wattled Cranes

And it is always pleasing to see Grey Crowned Cranes, there were a group of six on The Drift one morning, flying off north

image2

Grey Crowned Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Red-capped Lark, African Dusky Flycatcher, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Great Egret, African Darter, Greater Striped Swallow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Grassbird, African Reed-warbler

image3

African Reed-Warbler

Red-necked Spurfowl, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

image4

Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Burchell’s Coucal, Bokmakierie, Cape Sparrow, Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Mousebird, African Paradise-flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, , African Hoopoe, Pin-tailed Whydah, Olive Thrush, Spur-winged Goose

image5

Spur-winged Goose

Lanner Falcon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Cattle Egret (closely roosting overnight near the dam)

image6

Cattle Egret

Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant (also at the dam on a tree in the island where it was perching room only)

image7

White-breasted Cormorant

Cape Longclaw, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Crow, Cape Robin-chat, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Pipit,

image8

African Pipit

Red-collared Widowbird, Village Weaver, White-throated Swallow, Cape Weaver

image9

Cape Weaver

Brown-throated Martin, Southern Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Little Grebe, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, African Spoonbill (taking a break from feeding)

image10

African Spoonbill

Common Waxbill, Cape Turtle-dove, Pied Starling, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-chested Cuckoo, Helmeted Guineafowl, Amethyst Sunbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Double-collared, Sunbird, African Stonechat, Cape Canary, Cape White-eye, African Fish-eagle

image11

African Fish-Eagle

Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Boubou, Forest Canary, Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Goose (the gosling turning into gangling teenagers)

image12

Egyptian Geese

Red-knobbed Coots were feeding three newly-hatched chicks

image13

Red-knobbed Coot

Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck

image14

Yellow-billed Duck

Boston Wildlife Sightings – January 2016

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

Summery weather, hot, humid mornings with frequent afternoon thunderstorms and much needed rain for the depleted water table. Beautiful atmospheric, moody sky-scapes and misty mornings.

02 Cover IMG_1598

A variety of flowering plants seem to enjoy this weather. Aloe boylei have been very showy and I have counted an additional four Brunsvigia undulata flowering this season.

Aloe boylei

Aloe boylei

Brunsvigia undulata

Brunsvigia undulata

Other flowering plants include: Crassula alba, Cumis hirsutus, Gladiolus sericeovillosus, Indigofera hilaris, Kniphofia buchananii, Lotononis foliosa bright yellow aging to orange hues, Moraea brevistyla, Pearsonia sessilifolia, Schizoglossum bidens, Sebaea natalensis and hundreds of Watsonia confusa festoon the hillsides.

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

Cumis hirsutus

Cumis hirsutus

Gladiolus sericeovillosus

Gladiolus sericeovillosus

Indigofera hilaris

Indigofera hilaris

Kniphofia buchananii

Kniphofia buchananii

Lotononis foliosa

Lotononis foliosa

Lotononis foliosa

Lotononis foliosa

Moraea brevistyla

Moraea brevistyla

Pearsonia sessilifolia

Pearsonia sessilifolia

Schizoglossum bidens

Schizoglossum bidens

Sebaea natalensis

Sebaea natalensis

Watsonia confusa

Watsonia confusa

The orchids have also finally started flowering. One seen for the first time here: Pterygodium magnum! It is not as tall, densely packed inflorescence or the individual flowers as large, but I’m pretty certain of the ID.

Pterygodium magnum

Pterygodium magnum

Others flowering were Eulophia hians nutans, Eulophia ovalis, Eulophia tenella, Satyrium cristatum and Satyrium longicauda.

Eulophia hians nutans

Eulophia hians nutans

Eulophia ovalis

Eulophia ovalis

Eulophia tenella

Eulophia tenella

Satyrium cristatum

Satyrium cristatum

Satyrium longicauda

Satyrium longicauda

Several interesting fungi appeared after each heavy rainfall, Boletus edulis, Clitopilus prunulus, Psathyrella candolleana that blackened with age, helping with identification and the bright red Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe rubra.

Boletus edulis

Boletus edulis

Clitopilus prunulus

Clitopilus prunulus

Psathyrella candolleana

Psathyrella candolleana

Star Stinkhorn Aseroe rubra

Star Stinkhorn Aseroe rubra

A common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra, enjoyed the damp grass one morning.

Common Cannibal Snail - Natalina cafra

Common Cannibal Snail – Natalina cafra

Moths are still plentiful of special interest was seeing a Wounded Emperor laying eggs one evening with wings flapping, it was still nearby the next morning. Also seen a Common Emperor moth, a Longhorn moth (Family Adelidae) and a few others, which I haven’t been able to identify.

Wounded Emperor Moth

Wounded Emperor Moth

Common Emperor Moth

Common Emperor Moth

Longhorn Moth

Longhorn Moth

Unidentified moth

Unidentified moth

Unidentified moth

Unidentified moth

There are many Pill millipedes around. A Bee fly possibly of the Philoliche genus fed off a Watsonia, its long proboscis probing the flowers.

Pill Millipede

Pill Millipede

Bee fly possibly of Philoliche genus

Bee fly possibly of Philoliche genus

A very busy False button spider, Family Theridiidae, Genus Theridion, was moving a large egg sac up over the kitchen blind. They are commonly found near sinks, basins and baths in houses, but do not have a toxic bite. Glistening spider webs draped over grass sparkle at dawn.

False button spider

False button spider

05 Spider web IMG_1594

An immature African Stonechat perched on a Watsonia, (a curious lizard on a rock in the background), and a Speckled Pigeon posed for me on the birdbath.

African Stonechat

African Stonechat

Speckled Pigeon

Speckled Pigeon

Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill Horse Trails”:

CREW also came to Stormy Hill in January to look at all the lovely flowers.

CREW checking the wildflowers at the top of the hill

CREW checking the wildflowers at the top of the hill

On a ride to the dam I saw an African Fish-Eagle sitting on a rock while being dive bombed by the two resident Jackal Buzzards. They were really determined to get him out of their territory.
Then one Saturday, I decided on a night out at the club where Cathy and Dave’s wonderful chicken curry went down a treat. As some added excitement a Barn Owl swooped through the hall, did a lap round the bar (yes, we had to duck) and flew into the kitchen where Dave managed to catch it and it was taken outside for a ceremonial release after being inspected by the resident Boston bird expert Christelle. Don’t get that in town!

Brunsvigia undulata

Brunsvigia undulata

Also seen a few duiker when out on rides and unusually eight crowned cranes flying over. I normally have a pair that live round here but not eight.

To top it all, two foals were born in January.

Foal Dusty investigating his mother having a roll

Foal Dusty investigating his mother having a roll

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

Members of Durban’s BirdLife Port Natal came for an outing to Gramarye on 24 January. Walking towards the river, the Yellow-crowned Bishop which I saw for the first time in that area earlier in the month, confirmed its presence. What really got everyone’s attention though was a Red-collared Widow with a yellow, instead of a red collar under its throat. This could either be due to washed out colours or it can be ascribed to “Xanthochroism when there is excessive yellow pigment in feathers or the yellow replaces another colour, typically red”. Read more about Avian Oddities here: http://www.birdinfo.co.za/rarebirds/25_avian_colour_oddities.htm

Red-collared Widowbird with an unusual yellow collar

Red-collared Widowbird with an unusual yellow collar

Warblers, bishops and widowbirds were on good form and gave good displays, including a juvenile Levaillant’s Cisticola.

Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant’s Cisticola

A Spotted Eagle-Owl was seen in the willow trees.

Spotted Eagle-Owl

Spotted Eagle-Owl

We then went to the Geldarts’ Boschberg Cottages for forest birding and once again had good sightings, including Cape Batis and Bar-throated Apalis.

Cape Batis

Cape Batis

Bar-throated Apalis

Bar-throated Apalis

The favourite was Bush Blackcap.

Bush Blackcap

Bush Blackcap

Earlier in the month during the heat waves “het die kraaie gegaap” – the crows not only yawned, they also dangled their wings to keep cool.

Pied Crow

Pied Crow

When it did rain, birds made the most of fresh water flowing into dams and in some cases it was standing room only (African Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron and African Spoonbill)

African Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron and African Spoonbill

African Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron and African Spoonbill

Migrants from the northern hemisphere were doing their bit to keep insects under control. There didn’t appear to be that many Amur Falcons present this year

Amur Falcon

Amur Falcon

and White Stork numbers also seems to be lower. The white streaks on the legs of this stork indicate its way of using faeces to control temperature.

White Stork

White Stork

With all the migrants present, the atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was well over 110 birds: Forest Canary,

Forest Canary

Forest Canary

Speckled Pigeon, Common Waxbill, Swee Waxbill, Red-winged Starling, African Black Duck, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Pied Starling, Pied Kingfisher,

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Helmeted Guineafowl, African Snipe, Steppe Buzzard, White-throated Swallow, Barn Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow, African Rail, White-breasted Cormorant, Amethyst Sunbird, Yellow Bishop, Red-necked Spurfowl, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Firefinch, Red-throated Wryneck,

Red-throated Wryneck

Red-throated Wryneck

Greater Honeyguide, Brimstone Canary, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Longclaw, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Cape Weaver, Three-banded Plover, Little Grebe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, South African Shelduck (the female with a white head and the male grey)

South African Shelduck

South African Shelduck

Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Black-shouldered Kite, Olive Thrush, Black Saw-wing, African Sacred Ibis, Fork-tailed Drongo, Burchell’s Coucal, Hadeda Ibis, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, White Stork, Red-chested Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker,

Olive Woodpecker

Olive Woodpecker

Dark-backed Weaver, Chorister Robin-chat, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Yellow-billed Duck, Black Cuckoo, Hamerkop,

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

Buff-spotted Flufftail, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Green-backed Camaroptera, Alpine Swift, Bush Blackcap, Southern Boubou, Knysna Turaco, White-starred Robin, Olive Bush-shrike, Terrestrial Brownbul, Cardinal Woodpecker, Cape White-eye, Cape Glossy Starling,

Cape Glossy Starling

Cape Glossy Starling

Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Batis, Purple-crested Turaco, Barratt’s Warbler, African Hoopoe, African Black Swift, Neddicky, Wailing Cisticola, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Canary, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Reed Cormorant, Malachite Kingfisher, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,

Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Little Rush-warbler, Cattle Egret, Red-chested Flufftail, Cape Robin-chat, Southern Red Bishop, Zitting Cisticola (with a streaked crown),

Zitting Cisticola

Zitting Cisticola

African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Crow, Cape Grassbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Egyptian Goose and Spur-winged Goose (both trailing new families)

Egyptian Goose family

Egyptian Goose family

Spur-winged Goose family

Spur-winged Goose family

Village Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, Dark-capped Bulbul, African Reed-warbler, African Wattled Lapwing, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Drakensberg Prinia, Common Fiscal, Red-billed Quelea, Grey Crowned Crane, Cape Wagtail, Black-headed Oriole

Black-headed Oriole

Black-headed Oriole

Speckled Mousebird

Speckled Mousebird

Speckled Mousebird

And a young Diderick Cuckoo,

Diderick Cuckoo

Diderick Cuckoo

The Grey Crowned Cranes once again produced three chicks. This photograph was taken on 22 January,

Grey Crowned Cranes

Grey Crowned Cranes

but two days later when the Durban bird club visited there was only one chick left, the others probably predated.

Grey Crowned Cranes

Grey Crowned Cranes

Let’s hope this one is a survivor like its sibling who safely fledged last year.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – December 2015

Caroline McKerrow of “Stormy Hill”:

In November, I saw two large grey mongooses or it could be one that I saw one twice as it was in the same area on both days. A jackal ran across my path when I was out riding. Two bushbuck were grazing when taking a trail ride. A couple of mountain reedbuck, and then at home I saw a Common Reedbuck and Duiker

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”:

Breeding season is in full swing. A necklace of Southern Red Bishops paints a picture of colonial harmony,

Southern Red Bishop

Southern Red Bishop

but there are a lot of territorial disputes between males

Male Southern Red Bishop

Male Southern Red Bishop

All these activities are keenly observed by Diderick Cuckoos for the slightest opportunity to slip into a nest and deposit an egg

Dideric Cuckoo

Dideric Cuckoo

Another parasitic species, a Dusky Indigobird, put in a surprise appearance on my kitchen stoep on Christmas morning. I haven’t seen them around for some time and this one was probably checking out the presence of African Firefinches.

Dusky Indigobird

Dusky Indigobird

A disaster though, on the same morning, was when I found that part of the nest of the Greater Swallows had broken off and an empty egg was lying on the stoep below.

CW5 - Egg of Greater Striped Swallow

Despite the dry conditions and shortage of suitable mud, the parents wasted no time to begin fixing the damage

Greater Striped Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

I was delighted to notice that one chick seemed to have survived in the nest. During the days following, the parents were kept busy alternating between feeding their offspring and repairing the nest

Surviving chick of Greater Striped Swallow

Surviving chick of Greater Striped Swallow

Breeding success for other species meant there are a number of fledglings flopping around in the vegetation, trying out their balancing acts, like Levaillant’s Cisticola

Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant’s Cisticola

And Amethyst Sunbird sitting pretty

Amethyst Sunbird

Amethyst Sunbird

And African Stonechat testing its vocal skills

African Stonechat

African Stonechat

I was very pleased to find a posse of Orange-breasted Waxbills feeding on a path. By standing very still, they came quite close and allowed themselves to be photographed.

Orange-breasted Waxbill

Orange-breasted Waxbill

SABAP2 atlas sightings for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: White-throated Swallow, Cape Robin-chat, African Sacred Ibis, Brown-throated Martin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-headed Oriole, Red-knobbed Coot, Pied Starling, Brimstone Canary, African Firefinch, Barn Owl, Natal Spurfowl, African Black Duck, Cape Grassbird, African Rail, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, Common Waxbill, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Wailing Cisticola, Cape Longclaw, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Bar-throated Apalis, Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Sombre Greenbul, Wattled Crane, African Wattled Lapwing, Red-billed Teal, African Snipe, South African Shelduck, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Reed Cormorant, Three-banded Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing, Barn Swallow, Little Grebe, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, African Darter, White-breasted Cormorant, Yellow-billed Kite,

Yellow-billed Kite

Yellow-billed Kite

Drakensberg Prinia, African Stonechat, African Reed-warbler, Little Rush-warbler, Red-chested Flufftail, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Crow, Common Quail, Burchell’s Coucal, Pied Kingfisher, Red-billed Quelea, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape White-eye, Speckled Mousebird, Black Saw-wing, Amethyst Sunbird, Green Wood-hoopoe, Black-headed Heron, Bokmakierie, Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Village Weaver,

Village Weaver

Village Weaver

Cape Weaver, Zitting Cisticola, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Fiscal, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Dusky Flycatcher, Olive Thrush, African Hoopoe, Southern Boubou, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Diderick Cuckoo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Greater Striped Swallow, Hadeda Ibis, Long-crested Eagle, Cattle Egret, Grey Crowned Crane, (cutting a lonely figure in a dam drying out)

Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane

African Spoonbill, Dusky Indigobird, African Fish-Eagle

African Fish-Eagle

African Fish-Eagle

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”:

At last rain, thunderstorms, misty mornings and damp overcast days.

After the storm

After the storm

Although it seems too late for most of the indigenous flowering plants, flower numbers are way down compared to most Decembers, many of the wide variety are represented. The insect world however has come alive, particularly moths.

There were two first sightings for Sitamani, both have the common name ‘maiden’ although not the same genus, African Maiden Moth, Family Thyretidae and Cool Maiden, Amata kuhlweini.

African Maiden Moth, Family Thyretidae

African Maiden Moth, Family Thyretidae

Cool Maiden, Amata kuhlweini

Cool Maiden, Amata kuhlweini

Then many more of which I only have three ID’s, Marbled Emperor; a stunning red moth Metarctica lateritia and Plum Slug, Latoia lastistriga which is quite apt as the caterpillars eat plums and we have an orchard of them!

Marbled Emperor

Marbled Emperor

Metarctica lateritia

Metarctica lateritia

Plum Slug Latoia lastistriga

Plum Slug Latoia lastistriga

02 Moth P1050939 02 Moth IMG_1422 02 Moth P1050942 02 Moth P1050945 02 Moth P1050946

Other insects include butterflies, Common Meadow Blue, Cupidopsis cissus cissus and a Pirate, Catacroptera cloane cloane this was a first sighting here.

Common Meadow Blue, Cupidopsis cissus cissus

Common Meadow Blue, Cupidopsis cissus cissus

Pirate Catacroptera, cloane cloane

Pirate Catacroptera, cloane cloane

Bees are plentiful in the indigenous brambles and any other flower they can find.

Bee

Bee

Then I wrote last month: “The distinctive sound of the Bladder grasshoppers echoes at night, ‘gonion, gonion’, but I haven’t seen one yet”, and one appeared!

Bladder grasshopper

Bladder grasshopper

A gorgeous Blister Beetle, a shy Mottled Veld Antlion, a Praying mantis that pretended to be a stick insect and an interesting small wasp of the Enicospilus genus which lays its eggs in Cut Worms.

 Blister beetle on Cyanotis speciosa

Blister beetle on Cyanotis speciosa

Mottled Veld Antlion

Mottled Veld Antlion

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

Wasp of Enicospilus genus

Wasp of Enicospilus genus

The Village Weavers are still busy building, but one female is happy, she laid an egg now hatched and both parents are frantically feeding the demanding vocal chick! Other birds that attracted my attention was a Cape Longclaw, four Greater Striped Swallows and a disconsolately damp Red-throated Widow on top of a tree in the damp drizzle!

Village Weaver male

Village Weaver male

Village Weaver egg

Village Weaver egg

Greater Striped Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

04 Bird Cape Longclaw IMG_4493

Red-collared Widowbird

Red-collared Widowbird

Flower species seen were: Agapanthus campanulatus, Asclepias albens, Berkheya speciosa, Commelina africana, Cynaotis speciosa,

Agapanthus campanulatus

Agapanthus campanulatus

Asclepias albens

Asclepias albens

Berkheya speciosa

Berkheya speciosa

Commelina africana

Commelina africana

Cynaotis speciosa

Cynaotis speciosa

both green and orange Dipcadi viride,

Dipcadi viride

Dipcadi viride

Dipcadi viride orange form

Dipcadi viride orange for

Dipcadi viride seeds

Dipcadi viride seeds

Gadiolus ecklonii, another first sighting just a single plant, Eulophia calanthoides, Eulophia ovalis, Eulophia zeheriana,

Gadiolus ecklonii

Gadiolus ecklonii

Orchid, Eulophia calanthoides

Orchid, Eulophia calanthoides

Orchid Eulophia ovalis

Orchid Eulophia ovalis

Orchid, Eulophia zeheriana

Orchid, Eulophia zeheriana

then an exception that is flowering profusely, some colonies of between 10-15 plants plus individuals scattered around, Orthochilus foliosus, Pachycarpus natalensis, Pelargonium luridum, Spotted-leaved Arum Zantedeschia albomaculata, Tephrosia purpurea, Watsonia confusa, Zornia capensis and fruiting Searsea discolour.

Orchid, Orthochilus foliosus

Orchid, Orthochilus foliosus

Pachycarpus natalensis

Pachycarpus natalensis

Pelargonium luridum

Pelargonium luridum

Spotted-leaved Arum Zantedeschia albomaculata

Spotted-leaved Arum Zantedeschia albomaculata

Tephrosia purpurea

Tephrosia purpurea

Watsonia confusa

Watsonia confusa

Zornia capensis

Zornia capensis

Searsea discolour

Searsea discolour

Black-backed Jackals yip and howl in the evenings. A male and female Common Duiker are regular visitors in the early morning and evening and have been enjoying the bounty of fallen plums!

Boston Wildlife Sightings – November 2015

Rob Geldart of ‘Boston View’:

Rob took these pictures of Cape Longclaw chicks hatching.

Cape Longclaw chicks

Cape Longclaw chicks

He often sees Wattled and Blue Cranes in his potato fields. On one occasion Rob and one of his sons, Michael, counted nine Blue Cranes.

Rob Speirs of ‘The Rockeries’:

Robert reports hearing a Burchell’s Coucal calling in his garden for the first time ever.

Crystelle Wilson  of ‘Gramarye’:

For the first time I can remember I heard a Greater Honeyguide, Crested Barbet and Black Cuckoo calling in my garden. It is likely that the drought is influencing the behaviour and movements of birds and it should be interesting to keep an eye out for unusual sightings.

Black-headed Heron at the Elandshoek dam

Black-headed Heron at the Elandshoek dam

Dam levels dropping dramatically have in some cases resulted in making it easier to see birds normally sheltering in reeds or emergent vegetation. They now have to cross bigger expanses of mud moving between the water’s edge and the plants. A rare sight was at 09h45 one morning finding an African Snipe resting on the mud at the dam on Elandshoek.

African Snipe

African Snipe

A picture taken at the dam on The Drift shows the difference in sizes between a Black Crake and Common Moorhen, as well as the distinguishing colour combinations to help with identification. The crake has red legs with a yellow bill and is smaller, while the moorhen has yellow legs and a mostly red bill.

Black Crake and Common Moorhen

Black Crake and Common Moorhen

The tree on the little island in the middle of this dam continues to be well used by a variety of birds

CW 5

But one morning there was only one bird on the tree: a juvenile African Fish-Eagle!

Juvenile African Fish-Eagle

Juvenile African Fish-Eagle

Another juvenile raptor that made use of the fast-food potential offered by the Cape Weaver nests on this tree was an African Harrier-Hawk

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

Rising insects over the dam provided meals for Brown-throated Martins

Brown-throated Martin

Brown-throated Martin

And for the first of the Barn Swallows I saw this season.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

A Three-banded Plover gave an obliging view of the patterning on its back as it flew across the water.

Three-banded Plover

Three-banded Plover

The Great Egret put in another few appearances

Great Egret

Great Egret

The Egyptian Goose family is growing up fast, with the goslings reaching teenager status by the end of the month.

Egyptian Geese

Egyptian Geese

Atlas sightings for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Long-crested Eagle, Purple Heron, White-necked Raven, Forest Canary

Forest Canary

Forest Canary

Red-chested Cuckoo, Sombre Greenbul, Amethyst Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, White-rumped Swift, Barratt’s Warbler, Wailing Cisticola, Yellow Bishop,

Yellow Bishop

Yellow Bishop

African Snipe, South African Shelduck, Grey Heron, Steppe Buzzard, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Crested Barbet, African Wattled Lapwing, Black-winged Lapwing, Black Crake, Red-chested Flufftail, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, African Hoopoe,

African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe

Spectacled Weaver, Great Egret, White-throated Swallow, Spotted Eagle-owl, African Fish-eagle, Three-banded Plover, Cape Crow, Speckled Pigeon, African Darter, Giant Kingfisher, Red-billed Quelea, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Jackal Buzzard, Blue Crane, Barn Swallow, African Harrier-Hawk, Cape Longclaw, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Brown-throated Martin, Cape Weaver, Blacksmith Lapwing, Bokmakierie,

Bokmakierie

Bokmakierie

Helmeted Guineafowl, White-breasted Cormorant, Little Rush-warbler, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Grassbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Black-headed Heron, Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-headed Oriole, Common Fiscal, Red-collared Widowbird,

Red-collared Widowbird

Red-collared Widowbird

African Rail, African Spoonbill, Grey Crowned Crane, Reed Cormorant, Cattle Egret, African Sacred Ibis, Pied Crow, Hadeda, African Stonechat, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Wagtail, Diderick Cuckoo, Common Waxbill, Common Quail, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye, Village Weaver, Olive Thrush, Cape Batis, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Sparrow, African Paradise-flycatcher, Southern Boubou,

Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Robin-chat, Speckled Mousebird, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black Saw-wing, Greater Striped Swallow, Green Wood-hoopoe, Greater Honeyguide, Brimstone Canary.

Brimstone Canary

Brimstone Canary

Christeen Grant of ‘Sitamani’:

On the 3 November a fall of snow covered the Drakensberg. Although we didn’t have much rain, the first proper rain fell in the last week of November.

Snow on the Drakensberg mountains

Snow on the Drakensberg mountains

There have been some spectacular cloud effects in the mornings and evenings. Despite the dry conditions many different flower species bloomed, albeit in smaller numbers and size. Orchids have not yet appeared.

Spectacular cloud effects

Spectacular cloud effects

Some of the flower species seen were: Ajuga ophrydis, Aristea woodii, Berkheya macrocephala, Haemanthus humilis subsp hirsutus, Merwilla nervosa, Moraea inclinata, Papaver aculeatum, Silene bellidioides and burchellii, Striga bilabiata, Watsonia socium and Xysmalobium involucratum.

Ajuga ophrydis

Ajuga ophrydis

Xysmalobium involucratum

Xysmalobium involucratum

Watsonia socium

Watsonia socium

Striga bilabiata

Striga bilabiata

Silene burchellii

Silene burchellii

Silene bellidioides

Silene bellidioides

Papaver aculeatum

Papaver aculeatum

Moraea inclinata

Moraea inclinata

Merwilla nervosa

Merwilla nervosa

Haemanthus humilis subsp hirsutus

Haemanthus humilis subsp hirsutus

Berkheya macrocephala

Berkheya macrocephala

Aristea woodii

Aristea woodii

There have been some interesting moths about, Slug moth Family Limacodidae, Tri-coloured Tiger and Tussock or Gypsy moth Family Lymantriidae.

Slug moth, Family Limacodidae

Slug moth, Family Limacodidae

Tri-coloured Tiger

Tri-coloured Tiger

Tussock or Gypsy moth, Family Lymantriidae

Tussock or Gypsy moth, Family Lymantriidae

A lovely Praying Mantis sunned himself on the step. Striking red Millipedes forage busily and a spider ‘home’, funnel and web sparkled after light rain. The distinctive sound of the Bladder grasshoppers echoes at night, ‘gonion, gonion’, but I haven’t seen one yet.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

The Village Weavers, (identified by Stuart McLean), are still busy building nests on the Pin oak tree. Either the females are rejecting them or they are blown down by strong winds and lie scattered over the lawn amongst the ‘pruned’ leaves.

Millipede

Millipede

Black-backed Jackals yip and howl in the evenings. On several mornings I’ve seen the Common Duikers and once a male Bushbuck in the evening on my way home.

Spider home

Spider home

Boston Wildlife Sightings – October 2015

Christeen Grant of “Sitamani”

This month’s Sitamani Sightings are dedicated to remembering my friend Prof. David Clulow. He shared my love of nature and was always supportive of these sightings, usually the first to comment on the Midlands Conservancy Forum blog each month and often emailed to share his delight. Some of my best memories of Dave were botanizing on hillsides in bright sunshine, examining the colourful array of flowers on display. May you rest in peace Dave, your enthusiasm for life in all its forms will long be remembered.

Green desert

Green desert

A green desert best describes this October. Usually the rains have started, spring greens ripen into a lush growing vibrancy. This year, however, is dry and drought conditions are even harder in other parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Showers brought promising rainbows only to be dried in hot winds that followed.

02a Cover Rainbow IMG_1158

In the evening of 29 October I spotted a very unusual bee-type insect on a window sill. Craig Peter, Assistant Prof. at Rhodes University identified it for me, saying that the insect itself wasn’t special, but the fact that it had two bright yellow pollinaria attached to it’s head was. The Large Leaf-cutting Bee, Megachile cinta, is a known pollinator of Eulophia streptopetala. A fruitless search for the orchid ensued, however, these bees are capable of flying great distances, so perhaps in Boston there is a Eulophia streptopetala in flower! (pg. 246 in ‘A Field Guide to Wild Flowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region’ Elsa Pooley, pub. Natal Flora Publications Trust) At the CREW Summer Rainfall Workshop in November 2014 at Highover, a very interesting talk “The Sex Life of Plants” by Steve Johnson, described the process and we saw a Eulophia streptopetala flowering there!

Large Leaf-cutting Bee Megachile cinta with pollinaria

Large Leaf-cutting Bee Megachile cinta with pollinaria

Insect life is buzzing, the annual migration of Brown-veined White, Belenois aurota aurota, butterflies started on the 11 October, but in very small numbers and so far I’ve only seen about 150 individuals.

Brown-veined White Butterfly - Belenois aurota aurota

Brown-veined White Butterfly – Belenois aurota aurota

Gaudy Commadores, Precis octavia sesamus, are now in their orange and black summer form. Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, obligingly posed for me sipping nectar from Vernonia hirsuta. Grasshoppers flik-flack in the grass as you walk through.

Gaudy Commadore - Precis octavia sesamus

Gaudy Commadore – Precis octavia sesamus

 Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui on Vernonia hirsuta

Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui on Vernonia hirsuta

Grasshopper - Canantops humeralis

Grasshopper – Canantops humeralis

Nymph of a Foam grasshopper

Nymph of a Foam grasshopper

A most interesting and very small Hemerobiidae, Brown Lacewing perched on the sink.

 Hemerobiidae - Brown lacewing

Hemerobiidae – Brown lacewing

Then if anyone knows which insect could have made this beautiful felted home on a narrow leaf I would be grateful!

Insect home - any help on an ID would be great

Insect home – any help on an ID would be great

Attached to a flower was this Bagworm, a moth larvae, Family Psychidae.

Bagworm Family - Psychidae

Bagworm Family – Psychidae

Several moths were seen, Cherry Spot, Diaphone eumela, Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor, Bunaea alcinoe, an Emperor sp. and Tri-coloured Tiger, Rhodogastria amasis, caterpillar known as a Wooly Bear.

 Cherry Spot - Diaphone eumela

Cherry Spot – Diaphone eumela

Tri-coloured Tiger caterpillar

Tri-coloured Tiger caterpillar

The Red-Chested Cuckoo, Piet-my-Vrou, was first heard on the 19 October. The Lesser Striped Swallows were much later in arriving this year, first seen on the 29 October instead of the beginning of the month. The Olive Thrush is a perennial around the house, though very camera shy.

Olive Thrush

Olive Thrush

A delight is the colony of weavers that have decided to nest in the Pin Oak near the garage. I’m not sure if they are Village or Southern Masked Weavers. It is the first time they are building in such numbers. Much stripping of new leaves, then very showy construction of the nests. The strong winds keep ripping the nests off the branches, and persistently the males start all over again…

 Village Weaver

Village Weaver

Although the size and numbers of flowers is way down, the variety sparkles: Argyrolobium sp., Asclepias albens & humilis, Clutia cordata, Cyphia elata, Delosperma hirtum, Dierama cooperi, latifolium & pictum, Eriosema kraussianum, Graderia scabra, Hebenstretia comosa & dura, Hirpicium armeroides, Hypoxis iridifolia, Indigofera hilaris, Kniphofia bracystachya, Ledebouria cooperi, Lotononis corymbosa, Monopsis decipiens, Pentanisia prunelloides, Raphionacme hirsuta, Stachys aethiopica, Trachyandra asperata, Vernonia hirsuta, natalensis & a Vernonia sp., and Xysmalobium parviflorum.

Argyrolobium sp

Argyrolobium sp

Xysmalobium parviflorum

Xysmalobium parviflorum

Vernonia natalensis

Vernonia natalensis

Trachyandra asperata

Trachyandra asperata

Stachys aethiopica

Stachys aethiopica

Monopsis decipiens

Monopsis decipiens

Lotononis corymbosa

Lotononis corymbosa

Ledebouria cooperi

Ledebouria cooperi

Indigofera hilaris

Indigofera hilaris

Hebenstretia dura

Hebenstretia dura

Dierama pictum

Dierama pictum

Cyphia elata

Cyphia elata

Clutia cordata

Clutia cordata

Asclepias humilis

Asclepias humilis

Asclepias albens

Asclepias albens

Grasses are seeding very quickly, though the leaves aren’t growing to cover the soil yet. As I left early one morning a duiker played hide-and-seek along the driveway of Pin Oaks.

Grass

Grass

Crystelle Wilson of “Gramarye”

ON several mornings this month we saw a duiker at the dam on The Drift.

Common (Grey) Duiker

Common (Grey) Duiker

A new visitor to my garden was a Cardinal Woodpecker, tapping away in the buddleia outside the bathroom window.

Cardinal Woodpecker

Cardinal Woodpecker

In the wetland a newcomer was a pair of Wattled Lapwings, which I haven’t seen there for some years.

Wattled Lapwing

Wattled Lapwing

The surviving Grey Crowned Crane juvenile that was ringed in March appears to have finally left its natal area and gone off to join the floater flock in the district. The parents is spending a lot of time at the nesting site on The Willows and might be getting ready to breed again. We call one of the pair “Danglefoot”, because of a leg always hanging oddly in flight, and which enable us to identify the pair as “ours”.

Grey Crowned cranes coming in to land at the nesting site where they successfully raised one of three chicks this year.

Grey Crowned cranes coming in to land at the nesting site where they successfully raised one of three chicks this year.

Grey Crowned Cranes

Grey Crowned Cranes

I’ve seen two pairs of Blue Cranes flying over Gramarye and often hear them calling in the early morning. The good news is that the pair of Blue Cranes on Endeavour seems to be breeding. I saw one of them feeding while the other was presumably on the nest.

Blue Crane

Blue Crane

The willow tree in the dam on Elvesida where the cranes roosted overnight during winter had now been taken over by at least two pairs of African Spoonbills

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000:
Jackal Buzzard, Great Egret, African Reed-warbler, Cardinal Woodpecker, Diderick Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Pied Crow, Secretarybird, Neddicky, Yellow-billed Kite, Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle in flight

Long-crested Eagle in flight

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Black Cuckoo, Sombre Greenbul, Lesser Swamp-warbler, Red-billed Teal, Three-banded Plover, South African Shelduck, Blacksmith Lapwing, Grey Heron, White-throated Swallow, Speckled Pigeon, African Harrier-Hawk, House Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, White-rumped Swift, Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Canary, Village Weaver, Bokmakierie, Helmeted Guineafowl, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Red-knobbed Coot, Giant Kingfisher, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose with chicks

Egyptian Goose with chicks

Egyptian Goose with chicks

Cape Weaver in full breeding colour

Cape Weaver in breeding plumage

Cape Weaver in breeding plumage

White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Sparrow, Reed Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Yellow-billed Duck,
African Darter, African Rail, Brown-throated Martin, Red-collared Widowbird, Red-billed Quelea,
African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Common Quail, Common Fiscal, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Paradise-flycatcher,

African Paradise-Flycatcher

African Paradise-Flycatcher

Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-headed Oriole, Southern Boubou, Black-headed Heron, Pin-tailed Whydah (change into breeding colours nearly completed, tail needs some work)

Pin-tailed Whydah

Pin-tailed Whydah

Southern Red Bishop changing into its wedding outfit is a crazy mix of colours

Southern Red Bishop

Southern Red Bishop

Cape Longclaw, Cape Crow, African Hoopoe, Cape Grassbird, Cape Robin-Chat, Drakensberg Prinia, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Little Rush-warbler, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Stonechat, Cape Wagtail, Greater Striped Swallow, Black Saw-wing, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, Dark-capped Bulbul, Speckled Mousebird (cooling off on a hot day)

Speckled Mousebirds cooling off on a hot summers day

Speckled Mousebirds cooling off on a hot summers day

Olive Thrush

Olive Thrush

Olive Thrush

Boston Wildlife Sightings – March 2015

Crystelle Wilson: Gramarye

ONE morning a reedbuck spent several minutes running backwards and forwards on a hillside with what can only be described as pure joy of life.

CW 1

A joyful Common Reedbuck

On the birding front, an exciting lifer for me was a Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk. The way to tell this bird apart from juvenile Black Sparrowhawks, which can also show rufous colouration on the chest, is that they have yellow eyes and not red like the Black Sparrowhawk.

CW 2

Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk in flight

CW 3

Notice the diagnostic yellow eyes of the Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk which sets it apart from it’s close relative the Black Sparrowhawk which has red eyes.

At the end of the breeding season there are many juvenile birds around. The plumage of these birds, especially raptors, can be very different from those of the adults. The trick is to look at the shape of the bird, rather than the colour of its feathers. One such individual flying overhead had me very puzzled, and it was only by looking at my photographs that I could identify it as an African Harrier-Hawk, messily dressed like the gawky teenager it was.

CW 4

African Harrier-Hawk in flight.

The juveniles of common birds such Common Fiscal can also be confusing.

Juvenile Common Fiscal

Juvenile Common Fiscal

Another exciting sighting was a pair of Wattled Cranes opposite the Mount Park Guestfarm near the Everglades Hotel. Tanya Smith of EWT’s crane project tells me that that was a traditional breeding site for the birds and she was very pleased to hear that they have been spotted again in the area.

CW 7

Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust searching for a crane chick

Tanya managed to successfully ring the surviving Grey Crowned Crane chick that was hatched at The Willows/Gramarye this season.

Surviving Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane chick trying to keep a low profile to avoid potential danger.

The SABAB2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Red-winged Starling, African Olive-Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, African Harrier-Hawk, Amur Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard, Malachite Sunbird, Malachite Kingfisher, Red-collared Widowbird, Sombre Greenbul, Banded Martin, (with its tell-tale white eyebrows and long wings)

CW 8

A gorgeous Banded Martin shows off its white eyebrow

Blacksmith Lapwing, Cape Grassbird, South African Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck, Neddicky, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Brown-throated Martin, Common Waxbill, Black-headed Heron, Long-crested Eagle,

CW 9

The Long-crested Eagle is a KZN Midlands favourite!

Purple Heron, African Reed-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, African Snipe, Zitting Cisticola, Black-headed Oriole, Red-throated Wryneck, African Paradise-Flycatcher, White-throated Swallow, African Rail, Black Sparrowhawk, Pied Kingfisher, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Cape Longclaw, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black Saw-wing, Cape Wagtail, Three-banded Plover,

CW 10

A Three-banded Plover on the waters edge

Speckled Mousebird, Barn Owl, Greater Striped Swallow, Amethyst Sunbird, Olive Thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape White-eye, Yellow-fronted Canary, Spur-winged Goose, Drakensberg Prinia, African Stonechat, Egyptian Goose, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Cape Crow, Bokmakierie, African Darter, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, African Sacred Ibis, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Diderick Cuckoo, Village Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Common Fiscal, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Grey Crowned Crane, Barn Swallow, Lanner Falcon.

CW 11

Lanner Falcon

Derek Hurlstone-Jones: The Rockeries

The iconic African Fish-Eagle was seen overhead while driving along R617 at the Elands river.

Bruce and Bev Astrup: Highland Glen
A pair of Greater Striped Swallow nested under the eaves where they successfully raised their young.

Glyn Bullock: Harmony
Floater flock of approximately 40 Grey Crowned Cranes were seen regularly on “Harmony”. Highest number noted being 51.

David Clulow visiting on 11 March:
Long-tailed Widowbird at “Seven Streams” T-junction; White Stork on 29 March; Mousebirds at Elands river.

Piet Nel and his son, Willem: Twin Rowan:
Besides seeing the parents of the surviving chick from the pan on The Willows, while they were feeding on “Gramarye”, we saw three Grey Crowned Cranes near the upper fence line on The Willows, with five chicks running and hiding in the tall grass.

Grey Crowned Crane chick on “The Willows”:
An unsuccessful attempt to ring the surviving chick being reared on The Willows on 11 March – because the chick, after being clearly spotted, did its belly crawl into the long grass, after which it lay ‘doggo’ and could not be found; but on 16 March, Tanya Smith of the African Crane Conservation Trust was successful, and the chick was suitably caught, ringed and then set free again.

Caroline McKerrow: Stormy Hill
March was a quiet month, but the highlight was a sighting of two Bushbuck.

David and Wizz Lawrence: The Willows
Three Grey Crowned Cranes flying overhead.

An unusual incident occurred when soot from the fireplace was being irritatingly released. The reason became apparent, when a Barn Owl flew out from the hearth, and into the kitchen, where Wizz caught it and set it free whereupon it flew immediately towards “Gramarye”. The Owl appeared thin, hungry and thirsty – apparently having been in the chimney for some while before it eventually managed to get past the draft release lever.

Rob Geldart: Boston View and Watershed
The usual pair of Wattled Cranes from the pan on “Myrtle Grove” together with their chick, now well grown. African Fish-Eagles are seen fairly often.

Christeen Grant: Sitamani
March is the month when a touch of autumn creeps in, the grass is starting to turn gold, a crispness in the air, but still storm clouds on the horizon. March is also the month of Moths and Mushrooms and there have been many!

01 Cover IMG_2922

A delightful Striped Stream Frog Strongylopus fasciatus sprang across the grass this morning outside the kitchen door, then obligingly waited for me to fetch my camera for a photo shoot! The house is about 150m from the nearest stream, so perhaps it is looking for a winter hibernation spot.

Amphibian Striped Stream Frog Strongylopus fasciatus IMG_2990

Striped Stream Frog – Strongylopus fasciatus

The Speckled Pigeons were most indignant when the planks that supported their nest were moved after their fledgling had flown. Happily they approve of the new arrangement and have already almost reared their youngest juvenile.

Bird Speckled Pigeon juvenile IMG_2977

Speckled Pigeon juvenile

Three flowers caught my eye, a first identification of Berkheya echinacea, also seen Helichrysum cooperi and the delicately elegant Hesperantha baurii.

Flower Berkheya echinacea IMG_2971

Berkheya echinacea

Helichrysum cooperi

Helichrysum cooperi

Hesperantha baurii

Hesperantha baurii

Some interesting insects in and around the house, the Mottled Veld Antlion flew in one evening,

Mottled Veld Antlion

Mottled Veld Antlion

I know where their larvae pits are in dry sandy soil.

Mottled Veld Antlion larvae pits

Mottled Veld Antlion larvae pits

The excerpt from Q&A Insects and Spiders of southern Africa (pub Struik 1993 S. Matthews, illustr. C. Grant) describes the larvae feeding habits.

Insect Antlion Struik

The excerpt from Q&A Insects and Spiders of southern Africa (pub Struik 1993 S. Matthews, illustr. C. Grant)

Cockroaches of the Hostilia sp.

Insect Cockroach Hostilia sp IMG_2987

Cockroach: Hostilia sp.

Insect Cockroach Hostilia sp P1030295

Cockroach: Hostilia sp

and this lovely Preying Mantis were also seen.

Common Mantid sp.

Common Mantid sp.

Many varied size, colour and shaped moths have settled for daytime rest. Some I haven’t been able to identify, if anyone can help I would be most grateful! Clouds of small dark moths flutter beneath the trees during the day, I think they are the daytime Handmaiden Amata sp..

Handmaiden Amata sp.

Handmaiden Amata sp.

Others include Plated Footman Sozusa scutellata, Pretoria Red Lines Cyana pretoriea and six more moths.

Plated Footman - Sozusa scutellata

Plated Footman – Sozusa scutellata

Pretoria Red Lines - Cyana pretoriea

Pretoria Red Lines – Cyana pretoriea

Insect Moth IMG_2986

Unidentified moth (1)

Insect Moth IMG_2985

Unidentified moth (2)

Insect Moth IMG_2983

Unidentified moth (3)

Insect Moth IMG_2969

Unidentified moth (4)

Insect Moth IMG_2968

Unidentified moth (5)

Insect Moth IMG_2961

Unidentified moth (6)

After each showery day multitudes of fungi appear, (I haven’t managed to identify all of them); Bolete or Cep, Blusher Amanita rubescens, Earth-star, Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria, Cinnabar Bracket Pycnoporus sanguineus and two more.

Bolete or Cep

Bolete or Cep

Fungi Blusher Amanita rubescens IMG_2941

Blusher – Amanita rubescens

Earth-star

Earth-star

Fly Agaric - Amanita muscaria

Fly Agaric – Amanita muscaria

Tropical Cinnabar Bracket - Pycnoporus sanguineus

Tropical Cinnabar Bracket – Pycnoporus sanguineus

Fungi IMG_2956

Unidentified Fungi (1)

Fungi IMG_2952

Unidentified Fungi (2)

Cape Serotine bats Pipistrellus capensis flit at dusk and dawn. Common Reedbuck come to the greener grass near the house to graze at night. Duiker pick their way through the long grass and almost every evening the Black-backed Jackal call.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – February 2015

Sitamani – Christeen Grant

As I’ve been away for most of February I have concentrated on the beautiful moths that settle outside the kitchen door most evenings.

Moth Mopane Moth Imbrasia belina

Mopane Moth Imbrasia belina

Some I haven’t been able to identify, if anyone can help I would be most grateful! Eggar Moth sp Family Lasiocampidae, Golden Plusia Trichoplusia orichalcea, Hawk Moth sp Family Sphingidae, Mopane Moth Imbrasia belina, Tri-coloured Tiger Rhodogastria amasis, Two-phase Emerald Rhadinomphax divincta,

Moth Two-phase Emerald Rhadinomphax divincta

Two-phase Emerald Rhadinomphax divincta

Moth Tri-coloured Tiger Rhodogastria amasis

Tri-coloured Tiger Rhodogastria amasis

Moth Hawk Moth sp Family Sphingidae

Hawk Moth sp Family Sphingidae

Moth Golden Plusia Trichoplusia orichalcea

Golden Plusia Trichoplusia orichalcea

Moth Eggar Moth sp family Lasiocampidae

Eggar Moth sp family Lasiocampidae

plus four with no name….

Moth P1020356 Moth P1020354 Moth P1020353 Moth P1020352

The two main flowers out this month have been Watsonia densiflora and Kniphofia augustifolia.

Watsonia densiflora

Watsonia densiflora

Kniphofia augustifolia

Kniphofia augustifolia

We have experienced strong winds in February just before thunderstorms and sadly a beautiful Amethyst Sunbird nest was blown out of a tree.

Bird Amethyst Sunbird nest P1030067

Then I spotted a Spectacled Weaver nest only partially completed, obviously the female’s exacting standards hadn’t been met.

Bird Spectacled Weaver nest P1030066

There have been some very beautiful sunrises and one evening a perfectly clear sky just after sunset with the evening star shining bright.

Cover photo Sunrise P1020687

Sunrise

Cover photo Sunset with an evening star P1020615

Sunset with an evening star

Gramarye – Crystelle Wilson

Several pairs of Grey Crowned Cranes appear to have bred successfully this summer. I saw chicks with their parents at at least four sites in the district.

CW1

Grey Crowned Cranes with chicks

The pair on The Willows and Gramarye produced three chicks, but two must have been predated as by the end of the month there was only one still with the adults.

CW2

Grey Crowned Crane with remaining chick

Talking about cranes, it has been a delight to see floater flocks of Grey Crowned Cranes numbering about 20 flying between Harmony and Netherby farms at dawn and dusk.

CW3

Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

An uncommon visitor this month at the dam on The Drift was a Purple Heron.

CW4

Purple Heron

While driving to the Geldart’s cottages on Boston View a heard a loud click coming from trees right next to the car and managed to snap a picture of an African Goshawk before it disappeared from view.

CW5

African Goshawk

Birding was good in February, with most migrants still present, like the Barn Swallows who will be leaving for Europe soon.

CW6

Barn Swallows

The SABAB2 atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Wing-snapping Cisticola, Purple Heron, African Hoopoe, Red-winged Starling, Steppe Buzzard,

CW7

Steppe Buzzard

Terrestrial Brownbul, Barratt’s Warbler, African Olive-Pigeon, Cape Batis, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Pale-crowned Cisticola, African Goshawk, Thick-billed Weaver, Pied Kingfisher, Blacksmith Lapwing, Malachite Kingfisher, Wailing Cisticola, Amur Falcon, African Firefinch, Neddicky, Drakensberg Prinia, Pied Starling, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Longclaw, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Cape Crow, Cape Canary, White Stork, Black Saw-wing, Diderick Cuckoo, African Black Duck, Common Waxbill, Cape Grassbird, Black-headed Oriole, Little Rush-Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,

CW8

Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Moorhen, Common, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Weaver, African Darter,

CW9

African Darter

Red-collared Widowbird, Bokmakierie, Cormorant, (you can tell the cormorants apart by the colour of their eyes) White-breasted Cormorant (green eye)

CW10

White-breasted Cormorant

Reed Cormorant (red eye)

CW11

Reed Cormorant

Greater Striped Swallow, African Pipit, Egyptian Goose,

CW12

Egyptian Geese

African Reed-Warbler, Southern Boubou, Brown-throated Martin, Black-headed Heron, Jackal Buzzard, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Village Weaver, Pin-tailed Whydah, Olive Thrush, Giant Kingfisher, Speckled Pigeon, House Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Red-throated Wryneck

CW13

Red-throated Wryneck

Common Fiscal, Burchell’s Coucal, African Dusky Flycatcher, Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Cape Robin-Chat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Grey Crowned Crane, Cape White-eye, Red-necked Spurfowl, Yellow-fronted Canary, Barn Swallow, Cattle Egret

CW14

Cattle Egret

Zitting Cisticola, African Stonechat, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Wagtail.

Stormy Hill Horse Trails – Caroline McKerrow

Two sightings of serval cat. One in the forest where I ride and one on the road near Everglades hotel. Both of them jumped into the bushes and disappeared when I got near. Mountain reedbuck in the forest and Vervet monkeys at my stables.

10991386_957217407642137_158489289152574151_n

The following is an account I put on my facebook page on 12 February. I was driving towards town in the morning and as I came through the forest near Mafagatini, I saw a jackal come out of the forest onto the grass. The poor thing had its whole head stuck in a two litre plastic bottle of maas. It couldn’t see where it was going and trotted around in circles. I pulled over and jumped out of the car and made my way quietly over to it. It had fallen down and got back up again resuming its circular path, and as it came by me I grabbed the maas bottle handle. So, now I’d got the jackal and I started to ease off the bottle. I think it realised what was happening and started pulling against me as the bottle was working its way up its neck towards its ears. The jackal had been trying to get at the maas and bitten a hole in the plastic and then got stuck in there once it had put its head through. Then the ears came through and the jackal was free. It took one look at me, it’s eyes widened in shock and fear from having a human so close. It turned tail and ran back into the forest. What a lovely animal to see up close and I came away happy that I’d saved it from a long and painful death. What a start to the morning.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – December 2014

Rose Dix – guest at Boston T-Party

Our New Year was spent at the beautiful premises of Rory and Sue (such warm and welcoming hosts, despite the varied needs of 20 hikers!). Jon led us on the Nhlosane hike –  which  presents us with a steep climb which  had the younger ones racing ahead, while we plodded sedately and breathlessly after them. For me, the cherry on the top, was meeting up with Nikki Brighton on top and we exchanged a rapturous greeting which remains a highlight of my trip.

rose and nikki

After a brief respite , we went down the back way to the Waterfall on Furth Stream. At this point, we were joined by a lovely dog who wouldn’t respond to our efforts to get him to return from whence he had arrived.  After lunching at the Waterfall, we climbed up yet another steep incline which brought us to  the Impendhle Road and started the long plod towards home – being Everglades Hotel where we had left our cars. By now, we were all worried about our Dog-Friend because he wouldn’t leave us, and he  was looking very concerned about his whereabouts.  So it was with infinite relief that the owner of Everglades welcomed him home with open arms. A lovely end to a lovely day.

inhlosane dec 2014 210

For those of us who consider a days rest a fate-worse-than-death, Rory came to our rescue the following day and most kindly took our diminished party of  6 on a magnificent hike on Edgeware across the road from Boston T Party.

boston hike with rory

Our hiking companions – and Rory – were indulgent  of my enthusiasm and patiently waited  in the misty dizzle while I rolled around in the wet grass photographing various flowers – the most exciting of which was this Bonatea speciosa. As my enthusiasm far surpasses my knowledge, a  many friends were bombarded with requests for an ID. Thank you to those who came to my rescue. I had taken my Mountain Flowers book and this beautiful plant wasn’t in that one – it was in the book which I had left at home (naturally).

bonatea.speciosa close up jpg

The following day, Rory again led us (this time, the full contingent of about 20) on yet another hike – on Mondi property. Taking in a magnificent waterfall where we saw Eucomis, Sandersonia and even a Littonia. As this was a HIKE (in capital letters), there wasn’t much chance to photographing flowers in detail.

IMG_0106

The  stiff climb out of the waterfall valley drowned out all thought, except for the delicate call of an Emerald Cuckoo and TWO Red Chested Cuckoos who  persistently communicated with each other. I identified two Jackal Buzzards as Crowned Eagles and Rory gently corrected me…eek!!! (Well, they do SOUND vaguely similar don’t they?) Thank you to Rory and Sue for all you did to make this New Year one of the Very Best we have had for many years. Boston is brilliant!

IMG_0049

Crystelle WIlson – Gramarye 
Once again I realised there is always something new to be found when out birding even in an area done many times before. This time I spotted a bird that behaved like a Tawny-flanked Prinia, but because I haven’t seen it during the SABAP2 period over the past seven years, I paid closer attention and saw it was a Lazy Cisticola – “a bird with prinia-like behaviour”. The giveaway is that the prinia has a grey head, while the cisticola has a rufous-coloured head.

Boston_3062_Lazy-Cisticola

In my garden I investigated the alarm calls of a party of birds and discovered a Spotted Eagle-Owl sitting in a tree outside my bedroom window. I saw it several times during the month and really hope it will take up residence.

Boston_3107_Spotted-Eagle-Owl

Before Christmas we watched pairs of African Paradise Flycatchers Boston_3215_African-Paradise-Flycatcher

and Cape White-eyes building nests in the same tree within metres of each other outside the kitchen and I am keeping a close watch on the breeding developments.

IMG_4697_3275_Cape-White-eye

The Greater Striped Swallows are feeding their chicks in the nest under the kitchen verandah.

IMG_4161_2966_Boston_Greater-Striped-Swallow

I am concerned about the lack of Amur Falcons I’ve seen in the district, only a handful at most instead of numbering close to a hundred in past seasons.  In the wetland I was pleased to find the butterfly gladioulus, Gladiolus papilio and the small arum lily, Zantedeschia albomaculata.

IMG_4169_2974_Boston_Zantedeschia-albomaculata

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Wing-snapping Cisticola, Cape Canary, Forest Canary, White Stork, Blue Crane, African Fish-Eagle, Brown-throated Martin, African Darter, Red-capped Lark, African Hoopoe, Black-headed Oriole, Pied Crow, Brimstone Canary, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Natal Spurfowl, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Red-winged Starling, Yellow Bishop, Pale-crowned Cisticola,

Boston_3058_Pale-crowned-Cisticola

Lazy Cisticola,

Boston_3077_Lazy-Cisticola

African Emerald Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo, Wailing Cisticola, Common Moorhen, Sombre Greenbul, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Firefinch, African Pipit, Cape Wagtail, Long-tailed Widowbird,

Boston_3107_Long-tailed-Widowbird

Jackal Buzzard, Pied Starling, Steppe Buzzard, Amur Falcon, Zitting Cisticola, Olive Thrush,

Boston_3249_Olive-Thrush

Pin-tailed Whydah, African Sacred Ibis, Fork-tailed Drongo, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Cape Weaver, African Dusky Flycatcher,

Boston_3263_African-Dusky-Flycatcher

African Paradise-Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Long-crested Eagle, Speckled Mousebird, Buff-spotted Flufftail, House Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Sunbird, Amethyst, Cape White-eye, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black Saw-wing, Cape Longclaw, Yellow-billed Kite, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Malachite Kingfisher, Common Waxbill, Spur-winged Goose, Barn Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Burchell’s Coucal, Cattle Egret,

IMG_4170_2975_Boston_Cattle-EgretAfrican Black Duck, Common Quail, Diderick Cuckoo, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Stonechat, Egyptian Goose, Cape Crow, Yellow-billed Duck, Bokmakierie, Greater Striped Swallow, Red-billed Quelea, Common Fiscal, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Drakensberg Prinia, Red-necked Spurfowl, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Grey Crowned Crane, Village Weaver, Little Rush-Warbler, African Reed-Warbler, Red-chested Flufftail, Black-winged Lapwing, Amur Falcon.

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen

The sight of the month was when a great noise was heard from the free-range fowls – rushed to their rescue as Mongoose and a variety of other predators have been known to help themselves. We found a juvenile Monitor Lizard, making its embarrassed way along the path with a whole flock of the fowls behind, escorting it off the premises. Now it is not known whether it had already snacked on a few newly laid eggs or not, thereby having no further appetite, but the scene was unusual. The pair of Reedbuck remain in evidence, next to the garden fence.

Barbara and David Clulow were visiting Boston at the request of CREW representatives from Durban, who asked to be shown how to enter Edgeware to seek the elusive Asclepias bicuspis and Schizoglossum bidens near the summit at 1500 metres. Together with Chris Wahlberg and we two, the party included Hlengiwe Mtshali and Mbali Mkhize of CREW staff. The Midlands Conservancies blog post is available for viewing, so details are not repeated, but the successful finds of the two plants sought, justifies repetition.  Here is Barbara’s photo of the Schizoglossum of which 12 were found in the limited area searched

Schizoglossum-bidens

and only one sample of the Asclepias.

Asclepias-bicuspis

Temptation to show photos of two other flowers amongst the masses of species on the hill – a Sandersonia aurantiaca, blooming in timely proximity to December 25

Sandersonia-aurantiaca

and a new species for Edgeware, four plants of the Disa crassicornis, with the eager CREW folk admiring them.

CREW-with-Disa-crassicornis

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

Recently I heard a snippet of information, December in KwaZulu-Natal statistically has a cooler average temperature than November. That seems to be true this year, combined with being in the ‘mist-belt’, there have been many rainy overcast days and nights when we haven’t seen the sun, moon or stars. For the wildflowers on our hillsides it has been perfect and they have blossomed profusely!

02 Cover Rocky Hillside IMG_2424

Some of the sparkling jewel-like flowers seen this month: Agapanthus campanulatus;

02 Cover Flower Watsonia Socuim & Agapanthus campanulatus IMG_2479

Aristea woodii,

Flower Aristea woodii IMG_2412

Asclepias albens,

Flower Asclepias albens P1020017

Cyanotis speciosa the aptly named Doll’s Powder-puff;

Flower Cyanotis speciosa IMG_2366

Dipcadi viride;

Flower Dipcadi viride IMG_2369

Eucomis autumnalis Pineapple lily, with it’s distinctive tuft of green leafy bracts topping the inflorescence, traditional medicinal uses include treatment of low backache, assisting in post-operative recovery and healing of fractures, as well as urinary disease, stomach ache, fevers, colic, syphilis and to facilitate childbirth.

Flower Eucomis autumnalis IMG_2460

Fewer ground orchids than usual in December but these were flowering Eulophia foliosa and

Flower Eulophia foliosa IMG_2387

Eulophia ovalis;

Flower Eulophia ovalis IMG_2467

dainty Geranium schlecteri;

Flower Geranium schlecteri IMG_2473

Hypoxis parvula;

Flower Hypoxis parvula P1020008

Indigofera alpina (a new ID);

Flower Indigofera alpina IMG_2413

Papaver aculeatum;

Flower Papaver aculeatum IMG_2477

Pearsonia sessilifolia;

Flower Pearsonia sessilifolia IMG_2396

Pentanisia augustifolia;

Flower Pentanisia augustifolia IMG_2389

Senecio isatideus;

Flower Senecio isatideus IMG_2378

two sp. of Silene commonly known as Gunpowder Plants, as the seed capsules ‘explode’ when ripe, dispersing the fine black seeds, the flowers are open in the late afternoon or in dull light, quickly wilting in direct sun, Silene bellidioides

Flower Silene bellidioides IMG_2350

and Silene burchellii a very much smaller species with all the flowers held on one side of the flowering stem;

Flower Silene burchellii IMG_2376

Stachys aethiopica;

Flower Stachys aethiopica IMG_2362

Vernonia natalensis;

Flower Vernonia natalensis IMG_2402

Watsonia lepida;

Flower Watsonia lepida IMG_2384

Zaluzianskya elongata (another new ID)

Flower Zaluzianskya elongata IMG_2416

and Zantedeschia albomaculata the Spotted-leaved Arum.

Flower Zantedeschia albomaculata IMG_2436

A very attractive Mushroom grew rapidly in the damp conditions.

Fungi IMG_2341

A Cicada nymphal skin remained attached to the shade-cloth and just below a newly emerged Cicada waited to ‘harden’ before flying off to join the earsplitting chorus in the tree above.

Insect Cicada nymphal skin IMG_2356

Insect Cicada P1010985A surprise sighting of a Pamphagidae Transvaaliana playing hide and seek in the long grass.

Insect Pamphagidae Transvaaliana draconis IMG_2382

One early morning a Bladder Grasshopper Pneumora inanis was spotted on the lawn, it’s distinctive loud call, a screech followed by repeated ‘khonia’ is a typically Summer sound!

Insect Bladder Grasshopper Pneumora inanis P1020211

Two moths caught my eye, Plume Moth sp.

Insect Moth Plume Moth sp IMG_2401

and a Translucent Ermine.

Insect Moth Translucent Ermine IMG_2440

A delightful Bee fly Australoechus hirtus flitted from flower to flower, resting very briefly on a stone.

Insect Bee fly Australoechus hirtus IMG_2478

A vibrantly striped caterpillar munched hungrily on it’s favourite, Albuca flowers.

Insect caterpillar IMG_2372

Many Millipedes and Pill Millipedes track their many footed way.

Invertebrate Millipede  P1010954

Invertebrate Pill millipede IMG_2347

On dewy mornings the tall grass is festooned with sparkling webs, the underside view of this tiny (3mm) Orb-Web spider waiting patiently in the centre of it’s web.

Spider Orb-Web Spider IMG_2358

On a walk through the grasses I spotted a tiny juvenile Striped skink sunning on a rock.

Reptile Striped skink juvenile IMG_2391

Beneath shrubs and trees there is evidence in empty eggshells that baby birds are hatching, and high-pitched calls seem to echo through the garden. The frenetic parents clear the ‘nightly crop’ of moths that settle near the light outside the kitchen. The Striped Swallows haven’t managed to make their dabbed nest ‘stick’ this year.

Bird Striped Swallow IMG_2439

One evening I watched a duiker eating fallen plums. Compressed ‘beds’ in the grass show where the Reedbuck rest during the day.02 Cover Flower Watsonia Socuim & Agapanthus campanulatus IMG_2479

 

Boston Wildlife Sightings – November 2014

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

Rain and thunderstorms in a typically Summer pattern almost every day, has resulted in a carpeting of wildflowers!

02 Cover after the storm IMG_2262

Black-backed Jackal call in the dark hours, Duiker daintily pick their way in dew laden grass in the early mornings and the family of three Common Reedbuck are often seen together near the house.

04 Cover Flower field IMG_2295

Flowers seen include: Ajuga ophrydis,

Flower Ajuga ophrydis IMG_2277

Albuca setosa,

Flower Albuca setosa IMG_2314

Aristea cognata,

Flower Aristea cognata P1010858

Aspidonepsis flava,

Flower Aspidonepsis flava IMG_2286

Aster bakerianus,

03 Cover Aster bakerianus IMG_2278

Cyphia elata,

Flower Cyphia elata P1010863

Dimorphotheca jucunda,

Flower Dimorphotheca jucunda IMG_2297

Gladiolus longicollis the sweetly scented “Honey Flower” which only opens at night and in misty conditions, is pollinated by a Hawk Moth,

Flower Gladiolus longicollis IMG_2248

an abundance of Haemanthus humilis in a rocky patch,

Flower Haemanthus humilis IMG_2302

one of my favourites Heliophila rigiuscula,

Flower Heliophila rigidiuscula IMG_2331

bright patches of Indigofera hilaris,

Flower Indigofera hilaris IMG_2298

Lotononis corymbosa,

Flower Lotononis corymbosa IMG_2334

many Merwilla nervosa flowers,

Flower Merwilla nervosa IMG_2291

the dainty Orithogalum graminifolium,

Flower Ornithogalum graminifolium P1010861

a stunning Pachycarpus natalensis,

Flower Pachycarpus natalensis P1010857

the dainty trailing Pelargonium alchemilloides

Flower Pelargonium alchemilloides IMG_2333

and Pelargonium luridum,

Flower Pelargonium luridum IMG_2281

bright red Peucedanum caffrum seed heads,

Flower Peucedanum caffrum seeds IMG_2316

many Wahlenbergia sp including cuspidata

Flower Wahlenbergia cuspidata MG_2285

and vibrantly neon orange Watsonia socium scattered on the hillside.

Flower Watsonia socium IMG_2296

Beautiful moths, these particularly caught my eye, a Bagworm on a Vernonia sp. this is the laval form of the Psychidae family of moths. Males have clear grey wings with hairy veins when they hatch, females never leave the laval bag. Once mated, most females remain in the bag, lay eggs within it and die. Insect Bagworm on Vernonia sp IMG_2325

A Slug moth,

Insect Moth Slug moth IMG_2270

Speckled / Wattle Emperor with it’s stunning pink ‘eyes’

Insect Moth Speckled Emperor P1010856

and a delightful bright coloured moth which I haven’t been able to identify, does anyone know it’s name?

Insect Moth P1010855

Red-collared Widow males are fully in their striking black courting plumage, red collars very bright, Striped Swallows in free flight sometimes swooping in and out of the house are only two of the myriad of birds around at the moment!

A lovely find of a hatched African Stonechat egg, neatly deposited out in the open away from the nest. Bird African Stonechat egg

Tiny Swee Waxbills forage for seeds in the grass,

Bird Swee Waxbill male IMG_2273

close to a Four-striped Mouse that has become very tame.

Mammal Four-striped Grass Mouse IMG_2243

Bev and Bruce Astrup – Highlands Glen

Hear African Fish-Eagle calling fairly often; Long-crested Eagles; African Harrier-Hawk; Water Mongoose often; Spur-winged Geese, Common Reedbuck on a daily basis at house

DSCF3799Reedbuck

Barbara and David, visiting Gramarye, watching at birdfeeder: Pin-tailed Whydah female

DSCF3800fem Pin-tailed Whydah

Sparrow

DSCF3802Cape Sparrow

Delighted to hear Grey Crowned Crane calling and then seeing the female in a field at The Willows feeding near a water furrow and calling to mate, who had gone “flyabout”. From regular duetting, they appear to be preparing for the breeding season. Also at feed table were regular visits by Village Weavers.

DSCF3806Village Weaver

Greater Striped Swallows are nesting on the verandah and swooping about.

Gordon Pascoe – Keswick

Reported seeing 27 Grey Crowned Cranes flying over Keswick late in November

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

The decision I took some years ago to grow lots more indigenous plants in my garden is paying off handsomely with more bird species coming to inspect what is on offer by way of food or security for nesting purposes. A newcomer during November was Brimstone Canary who was out in the open contentedly munching on euphorbia seeds.

Boston_2682_Brimstone-Canary

My previous sightings of this canary were usually near patches of forest elsewhere in the district. Brimstone is the largest of the canaries and has a heavy bill (Afrikaans name is Dikbekkanarie) and one could compare the differentiation in markings with the other two yellow canaries also found at Gramarye, the Yellow-fronted and Cape Canaries.

Boston-birds_4298_Cape-Canary

African Firefinch ventured out in the open, while Dark-capped Yellow Warblers, African Reed Warblers

Boston_2459_African-Reed-Warbler

and Little Rush Warblers continued to kick up a din along the river.

Boston_2658_Little-Rush-Warbler

Along the Dargle Road I was pleased to spot a little band of Orange-breasted Waxbills, a species that appear to be in some trouble. It is always exciting to see a swirl of swifts moving across the sky and usually it is a challenge to identify them. Alpine Swift is the easiest because of its large size, white chin and belly and the power and speed of its flight.

Boston_2604_Alpine-Swift

It was very satisfactory to take a birder friend who wanted to see a Bush Blackcap to the Norwood forest, stopping the car and telling her it should be here somewhere, and the next moment she was calling out she’s found it.

The SABAP2 list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Yellow-throated Petronia, Greater Honeyguide, Red-chested Flufftail, Red-collared Widowbird, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Jackal Buzzard, Red-capped Lark, African Darter, Red-throated Wryneck, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Glossy Starling, African Fish-Eagle, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Southern Red Bishop,

Boston_2467_Southern-Red-Bishop

Zitting Cisticola, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-billed Quelea, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Sparrow, House, Pied Starling, African Pipit, Pied Crow, Forest Canary, Wattled Crane, Red-winged Starling, Cape Batis, Sombre Greenbul,

Boston_2615_Sombre-Greenbul

Black-backed Puffback, Green-backed Camaroptera, Bar-throated Apalis, Black Cuckoo, Speckled Pigeon, Long-tailed Widowbird, Buff-streaked Chat, White-throated Swallow, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Three-banded Plover, Little Grebe, Cuckoo, Red-chested, Brown-throated Martin, Common Fiscal, Black Saw-wing, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Firefinch, Speckled Mousebird, Cattle Egret, Brimstone Canary, Neddicky, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow Bishop, Barratt’s Warbler, Yellow-billed Duck, Yellow-fronted Canary,

Boston_2632_Yellow-fronted-Canary

Black-headed Heron, African Reed-Warbler, Long-crested Eagle, Diderick Cuckoo,

Boston_2729_Dideric

Cape Grassbird, Common Quail, Bokmakierie, African Sacred Ibis, Greater Striped Swallow, African Black Duck, Common Waxbill, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Amethyst Sunbird, African Harrier-Hawk, Dark-capped Bulbul, Spur-winged Goose, African Stonechat, Red-necked Spurfowl, Egyptian Goose, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, African Rail, Cape Wagtail, Cape Longclaw, Fan-tailed Widowbird,

Boston_2707_Fan-tailed-Widow

Burchell’s Coucal, Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Robin-Chat, African Hoopoe, Cape Canary, African Paradise-Flycatcher, African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush, Hadeda Ibis, Grey Crowned Crane, Barn Swallow.

Boston_2596_Barn-Swallow

During a visit home Matthew Murray took time out to accompany me to Impendle town to do a SABAP2 atlas list. We ticked 61 birds in about three hours, the highest total so far for this pentad.

The list for Impendle pentad 2935_2950 was: Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-billed Duck, African Rail, African Reed-Warbler, Black-headed Heron, Red-chested Flufftail, Long-tailed Widowbird, Little Rush-Warbler, Spur-winged Goose, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Waxbill, Familiar Chat, Speckled Mousebird, Common Myna, Wattled Starling,

Boston_2754_Wattled-Starling

Red-chested Cuckoo, Pied Starling, House Sparrow, African Harrier-Hawk, Cape Wagtail, Cape Turtle-Dove, Cape Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Crow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Blue Crane,

Boston_2268_Blue-Crane

Cattle Egret, Pied Crow, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Red-collared Widowbird, Lanner Falcon, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Longclaw, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Bokmakierie, Yellow Bishop, Jackal Buzzard, African Pipit, Cape Glossy Starling, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Weaver, African Dusky Flycatcher, Levaillant’s Cisticola,

Boston_2222_Levaillant's-Cisticola

Drakensberg Prinia, African Sacred Ibis, Cape White-eye, Black Saw-wing, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, South African Shelduck, African Spoonbill, Cape Canary, Egyptian Goose, Cape Robin-Chat, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Common Fiscal, Hadeda Ibis, Greater Striped Swallow, African Stonechat.

 

Boston Wildlife Sightings for September

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Lovely sighting of Cape Batis

IMG_0524_Cape-Batis

A surprise sighting in September was a Great Egret from a distance at a small farm dam in Boston. I haven’t encountered this species during the past seven years of atlasing in the area and the data showed only three previous records for the bird.

IMG_0903_Great-Egret

Another bird which has been somewhat scarce was Bronze Mannikin and it was good to welcome back Dark-capped Warblers from their coastal winter sojourn. On Melrose I counted about 80 Grey Crowned Cranes in a floater flock, which hints at a good breeding season.

IMG_0594_Grey Crowned Crane

At Tillietudlem I had a great view of a Black Crake exercising its balancing skills

IMG_0361_Black-Crake

and on the way home saw a buck which might have been an Oribi in the plantations on Good Hope.

IMG_0540_

It was amusing to watch a Cape Sparrow doing “shadow boxing” in a window at home. This occurs when a bird defends its territory by fighting its own reflection. A student, Joel Roerig, is doing research into this phenomenon and would like people to record their observations on his website: http://shadowboxingbirds.wordpress.com/ Please make a note of the bird, type of reflective surface and if possible the GPS co-ordinates.

Cape-Sparrow_shadow-boxing_w

The SABAP2 list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Wattled Crane, African Hoopoe, Giant Kingfisher, African Black Duck, Alpine Swift, Pied Crow, Cape Glossy Starling, African Fish-Eagle, Forest Canary, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Great Egret, Three-banded Plover, Buff-streaked Chat, Jackal Buzzard, African Black Swift, Common Waxbill, House Sparrow, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Canary, Hamerkop, Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Bronze Mannikin, Cape Weaver, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Brown-throated Martin, Little Grebe, African Darter, Red necked Spurfowl,

IMG_0671_Red-necked-Spurfowl

Southern Red Bishop, Cape Longclaw, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Batis, African Harrier-Hawk, Cape Crow, Black-headed Heron, Bokmakierie, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-knobbed Coot, Fork-tailed Drongo, Yellow-billed Duck, Black-headed Oriole, Reed Cormorant, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-billed Quelea, Cape White-eye, Yellow-billed Kite, Yellow-fronted Canary, Helmeted Guineafowl, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Wagtail, White-throated Swallow, Long-crested Eagle, Drakensberg Prinia,

IMG_0321_Drakensberg-Prinia

Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Rail, Black Saw-wing, African Sacred Ibis, African Stonechat, African Spoonbill,

IMG_0816_African-Spoonbill

Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose,

IMG_0984_Spur-winged-Goose

Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Fiscal, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Hadeda Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Village Weaver.

Rory and Sue Brighton – Elandsvlei

Mother Otter amd 4 young gambolling for the delight of guests at the dam; two resident Bushbuck at edge of dam; two resident African Fish-Eagles put on display of flying above dam and calling for half an hour – they ignored the attempts by Cape Crows to dive-bomb them; also Yellow-billed Ducks on dam; Cape Wagtails on lawn at edge of dam

David and Barbara Clulow during visit to Boston – on 5 September, saw Floater Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes at midday and again at 16H08 on pastures on Melrose farm, not far from farmhouse. Impossible to count accurately, but estimated at between 70 and 80 birds. Visit to Melrose dam: African Shelduck; Egyptian Geese; Spur-winged Geese; Darter; Reed Cormorant; African Stonechat; Red-knobbed Coot; Little Grebe.

Other reports – of a pair of Wattled Cranes seen by Wendy Arnott in Boston View region; two Southern Ground Hornbills seen by Wendy Arnott on Keswick; Blue Cranes heard by Crystelle Wilson north of Elvesida and Grey Crowned Cranes spotted in flight.

David and Wizz Lawrence – The Willows – huge flocks of Village Weavers at the feeder.

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

September continued to be very dry. After several promising clouds, misty days and dry thunderstorms eventually in the last few days of September we eventually had about 17mm of rain.

04 Morning mist

Fires glowing on the horizon, SAPPI and Mondi fire-fighting units on visible standby, created a taut atmosphere.

05 Promise of rain (1)

Spring flowers continued to be sparse and stunted. Moraeas are starting to produce buds and greening started almost as soon as the rain fell. Agapanthus africanus is flowering more profusely than usual damper years, the conditions must suit it better. The small patch of Helicrysum caespititium have flowered, though the mat forming plants are reduced in circumference.