Tag Archives: night adder

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2015

 

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm:

Sadly November was another extremely dry month for those of us living here in the Dargle, and indeed, South Africa as a whole. I believe that it is prudent that we as custodians of the earth need to do our part to conserve water during this time of drought. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but if some of you would like some ideas as to how to conserve water, click on the link below to go to a website giving you some hints and tips, which you could also pass on to employees or people in your place of work and help us all to conserve our precious water:

http://forloveofwater.co.za/facts-tips/water-saving-tips/

Mavela dam is getting quite low now, the ducks and other water birds generally just wade in the water around the little island, and on one occasion I woke up and these 3 Spoonbill were busy wading in the shallow water.

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

Later, some of the Cormorants had been swimming around the dam before they came back to land to catch a tan.

Cormorants sunning themselves

Cormorants sunning themselves

The Grey Heron was trying to outdo the Cormorants by tanning on the other side of the dam!

Grey Heron sunning itself

Grey Heron sunning itself

Not a very sharp picture of the African harrier-hawk (or Gymnogene), but he was rushing from one weaver nest to the next and I just managed to capture this image

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

…before he was after the ‘take aways’ in the willow tree next door

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

The Greater Striped Swallow (Cecropis cucullata) is feeding lots of noisy babies outside my office window

Greater Striped Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

We had a new arrival this month, the Greater double-collared sunbird. I spent last Sunday afternoon trying to get close ups of his magnificent colours

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

From the front, a very red chest

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

All natural nectar!

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

The Cape Weaver is a bit of a menace to the other birds in the garden

Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver

as he believes the water bottle belongs to him!

Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver

One Sunday we had some friends join us for lunch, and were treated to the Grey Heron catching a frog in the dam in front of us

Grey Heron with a frog

Grey Heron with a frog

…before it took off with it’s prize!

Grey Heron taking off with frog

Grey Heron taking off with frog

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin:

Asclepias sp.

Asclepias sp.

Kniphofia breviflora

Kniphofia breviflora

Hibiscus sp.

Hibiscus sp.

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Chapel:

Amethyst Sunbirds’ little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Amethyst Sunbirds` little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Amethyst Sunbirds` little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Brian & Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle:

Some of the images from the trail camera this month.

Bushbuck

Bushbuck

Porcupine

Porcupine

Bushbuck

Bushbuck

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm:

The African sunbird completed her nest on 27th Oct.

Sunbird sitting

Sunbird sitting

She then got together with male for a week and then presumably started laying her egg(s)? She started sitting on the 12th November and it looks like youngster may have hatched today 1st Dec as she is flitting in and out of nest. That’s on the right hand side on verandah.

Feeding on my fuchias

Feeding on my fuchias

On left side of verandah, right in corner next to our study, a pair of wagtails decided they wanted to build in my pot plant.

A pair of wagtails building nest in pot plant on verandah

A pair of wagtails building nest in pot plant on verandah

As both doors from dining room and study lead onto verandah at that point, I thought this would not be a good idea as too much interference from humans and dogs coming and going. Removed potplant for 3 days and she moved off but when I put it back again, she was back again and in 4 days, the 2 of them had finished their nest. What a feat. Even in the drizzle they continued building, not like the sunbird who did not.

1 wagtail egg

1 wagtail egg

Wagtails finished building on the 10th November and laid one egg on 17th, 18th and 19th nov. The one egg was cracked so she threw that out. She started sitting and babies hatched on 30th November. Very exciting.

Wagtail sitting

Wagtail sitting

Our lives have been turned upside down, as we cannot sit on the verandah with our tea while admiring the view, as both sunbird and wagtail get very agitated wanting to come in –they are both very nervous about movement on the verandah and also inside the house, so curtains stay closed and also doors, which is a nuisance when one wants to get some air into the house, being so hot. I have had to take all my photos of the wagtail through glass doors, so not good pics due to reflection.

On the other verandah out front, the swallows hatched out about 12 days ago and every morning a huge amount of poo has to be washed off the verandah. The parents are very aggressive and dive bomb anyone who goes out there, especially when I need to water the formal garden – because of this, my groundcover has died. Yesterday saw 2 little faces peeping over the nest and today the one is sitting on top of the nest.

We have had a number of raptors around here lately sitting on our dead trees around dry ponds searching for food.

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

2 baby robins flew off at 16 days old – I have not seen them again. Still a lot of reedbuck around.

Female Common Reedbuck in garden

Female Common Reedbuck in garden

They come out in the evenings and a number of them have been jumping over the fence and coming into the garden to graze as our grass is long and lush now.

Male Common Reedbuck grazing in our garden one evening

Male Common Reedbuck grazing in our garden one evening

Young male Common Reedbuck

Young male Common Reedbuck

I saw a Pin-tailed Whydah trying to chase a female chat off its perch on the dead tree. The chat held her position while the pintail fluttered up and down trying to intimidate her. He eventually gave up.

We have about 10 baby sparrows flying around. I have noticed sometimes that when the mother feeds them on the grass, the male comes along and chases them away. Not sure if he is jealous of all the attention that mom is giving them or telling them to go find their own grub!

Baby Sparrows

Baby Sparrows

Strangely this year, the Buff-streaked chats nested under the eaves. They usually nest up in the hills inside the rocks. Got pic of dad with food.

Buff-streaked Chat

Buff-streaked Chat

Nice to see that some of the male birds do get involved in the rearing of the young. The male sunbird puts in an appearance every now and then and sits on the balustrade twittering at his partner in the nest.

Saw thousands of flying ants for 3 hours one afternoon while visiting on the D18 road.
Seen quite a few bush buck and samango monkeys and duiker on D18 and a duiker in our garden this morning. He must have got in yesterday while gate was left open. We chased him out.

The male malachite sunbird came and sat on balustrade and fluttered his feathers showing his yellow mating feathers and tweeted loudly trying to attract the female but she never arrived.

Male Malachite Sunbird

Male Malachite Sunbird

Saw a gymnogene being chased by a fork-tailed drongo – he then flew into the gum trees and terrorised the birds there for a few minutes before flying out again to once more being chased by drongo.

A Hamerkop flew into garden next to pond (the only one which has some water) and caught a frog

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

He hammered the poor thing to death before swallowing it.

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Farm:

The garden has abundant Midlands bird life and the list is very similar to Sandra’s so I won’t repeat it. This weekend, the last in November, we heard a pair of yellow billed kites calling. These birds are usually silent, so it was wonderful to hear and see them flying above our house, swooping and turning in their intra pair interaction.

It is sad to see the dearth of so many Reedbuck on the hills around us. As others have noted, the numbers are right down. We can only speculate as to the cause – blue tongue? hunting dogs?

The Tree Hyraxes in the Dargle Forest above us have been very noisy these last few nights, with their snorting, screaming calls. We were told many years ago by the old farmers that they heralded the rain! Hopefully there is some truth in this!

Finally a fun photo to end off. The thick billed weavers continually raid Scruffy Parrots seed dish. Here is a male doing just that.

Thickbilled Weaver

Thickbilled Weaver

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage, D17:

Pat McKrill responding to Wendy’s Snake Sighting Below:

“Yup, it’s a Night Adder – with attitude as always. But once they’ve told you who’s in charge, they calm down and continue with the task at hand – whatever it was. Aside from colour and any additional markings, the arrow on the head is diagnostic. I am a firm believer that Night adders are our most even tempered snakes and are quite comical to watch as they continue after all the bluster of hissing and mock striking, to bustle about their work, secure in the knowledge that the aggressor now knows where he/she stands. Thanks for this, and on the assumption that it wasn’t bopped on the head after the photo shoot, well done to your member.”

Night Adder

Night Adder

The other evening I came around a bend about 500m from home and a beautiful Bushbuck ram was in the road. The next day I came around the same corner at about 17h00 with the sun behind me and saw an animal in the road: long legs, the size of an Africanus dog, thin, yellow fur and deeper yellow spots, cat-like face and black tufts of hair on the tips of the ears. I thought serval but the colour was wrong, also the ears. Then lynx or caracal. It disappeared into the long grass and the small birds followed it for a way. The ‘bobbejaan’ spiders are invading! Three in the house and one on the verandah. I need to be rescued! Have identified three cuckoos by their calls: Red-chested Cuckoo, Dideric Cuckoo and Klaas’ Cuckoo.

On Thursday I heard the gardener calling in isiZulu. After a time I realised I was being called. She was stabbing at what looked like a cornucopia shell. I asked her to bring it to me and then I realised she was saying it’s a snake. I didn’t believe until she fearfully put the ’shell’ in my hand. It was a small light brown snake with a white belly. Its head was hidden inside and only a couple of mm of tail stuck out the narrow end. I estimated the coil to be about 2,5cm long. The gardener was inclined to think it was a baby and the mother/father had left it on the ground while it took to the trees to escape her gardening. I asked her to throw it into grassland beyond the garden fence. Any idea what it could have been? I never thought of a photo while I was holding it.

Hisss – Helping Individuals Survive Snake Season

-by Nick Evans –

We are all aware that snake season is well underway, especially now that Summer’s here and the temperatures are constantly rising. The snakes have started to come together to mate and to hunt, after their low activity period in Winter. This causes a widespread panic and fear, especially for the well-being of family and pets. This will have been exacerbated by the much publicised snakebite, on a young girl from a Night Adder, in Pietermaritzburg recently. There is, however, no need to panic and there is no need to live in fear of snakes either.

Brown House Snake - One of the friendliest snakes to have around. Docile, non-venomous and they love eating rats! They’re brown with cream-coloured markings going down the body.

Brown House Snake – One of the friendliest snakes to have around. Docile, non-venomous and they love eating rats! They’re brown with cream-coloured markings going down the body.

Snakes are amongst one of the most feared and misunderstood animals on earth, which stems from myths, legends, superstitions and over-exaggerated tales about these unique creatures. T.V. also has a negative impact by portraying them in a false way (i.e the Anaconda movies!). The lack of understanding and education about these animals often leads to them being killed, so it’s time we change our perceptions of these ecologically important animals.

Boomslang (male)- Thicker than the harmless green snakes, with a much larger head and eyes, these snakes are actually South Africa’s most toxic snake species. Fortunately, they are very shy and are reluctant to bite unless harassed. Interestingly, and quite uniquely amongst South African Snakes, they are sexually dimorphic. Males are green with black patterns, while females are a drab brown colour.

Boomslang (male)- Thicker than the harmless green snakes, with a much larger head and eyes, these snakes are actually South Africa’s most toxic snake species. Fortunately, they are very shy and are reluctant to bite unless harassed. Interestingly, and quite uniquely amongst South African Snakes, they are sexually dimorphic. Males are green with black patterns, while females are a drab brown colour.

Contrary to popular belief, snakes do not attack people. They do not want to bite us. They are more scared of us than we are of them and that is the truth of the matter. Whenever they see us or sense our presence approaching, they either flee or remain undetected. They are very secretive and shy animals that prefer to be left alone, and that is exactly what you should do if you see a snake.

Boomslang (female)

Boomslang (female)

People are often bitten while trying to capture or kill a snake, so don’t ever try. If you see a snake while out walking, in one of the many beautiful nature reserves or conservancies in the Midlands, simply keep calm and stay still. Snakes get nervous when they see a lot of fast movement. If it’s crossing the path, keep a safe distance, appreciate the sighting, and consider yourself lucky that you have seen such a secretive animal. It will move off quite quickly. If it appears to not be moving and just basking (typical Puff Adder behaviour), either walk around it, giving a wide birth, or walk the other way. That’s all you need to do to avoid being bitten. You may shout it if you want, but you would just be wasting your breath. Snakes are completely deaf and have no ears. *NEVER pick up a snake, alive or dead. Even if you think you know what it is.

Puff Adder - Quite common in the Midlands and highly venomous. They are a thick-bodied snake, with chevron markings and a large head, that are responsible for a few snakebites every year. This is because they prefer to keep still and rely on their camouflage to conceal them. They will not definitely bite if stood on.

Puff Adder – Quite common in the Midlands and highly venomous. They are a thick-bodied snake, with chevron markings and a large head, that are responsible for a few snakebites every year. This is because they prefer to keep still and rely on their camouflage to conceal them. They will not definitely bite if stood on.

If it’s in your house, or somewhere on your property where you really don’t want it, you will have to call your local snake catcher. Otherwise, give it a chance to escape, like leaving a door/window open that leads outside. You can try the police too if you can’t get hold of a snake catcher, but make sure they do not kill it (some policemen unfortunately do). Snakes should not be killed, for your own safety, and for the well-being of the environment. They’re actually doing us a favour.

The Green Snakes - These would consist of the Spotted Bush Snake, Western Natal Green Snake and Green Water Snakes. All are completely harmless, long, thin and green, which often leads them to being identified as Boomslangs or Green Mambas. Green Mambas do not occur in the Midlands. The Bush Snakes have quite prominent spots going down the body.

The Green Snakes – These would consist of the Spotted Bush Snake, Western Natal Green Snake and Green Water Snakes. All are completely harmless, long, thin and green, which often leads them to being identified as Boomslangs or Green Mambas. Green Mambas do not occur in the Midlands. The Bush Snakes have quite prominent spots going down the body.

Snakes play a vital role in the ecosystem in two ways, as predators and as prey. Snakes are like a free pest control service, especially with regards to rats. We don’t really want rats around, as they can cause havoc in homes. Snakes are one of the many creatures that do a fantastic job at keeping rodent populations in check, so no need for rat traps or poisons, just let the local House Snake hunt in your garden. Venomous snakes like the Black Mamba, Puff Adder, Rinkhals and Mozambique Spitting Cobra, do the job just as well as House Snakes, if not better. Snakes also keep gecko populations in check, as well as all other lizards. Birds, bats, slugs, centipedes, and frogs are all on the menu.

Mozambique Spitting Cobra

Mozambique Spitting Cobra

They’re not just predators, but prey too. Birds, like raptors and herons, mongooses, genets and monitor lizards all love eating snakes, and so do some other species of snake. Yes, snakes will eat each other! They clearly are a key link in the food chain and are here for a good reason, just like all native wildlife.

Night Adder - A venomous species which is often mistaken for a Puff Adder, but is a lot smaller and a lot less toxic. They are more slender snakes than Puff Adders, brown in colour and have dark, pentagon-shaped patches going down the body.

Night Adder – A venomous species which is often mistaken for a Puff Adder, but is a lot smaller and a lot less toxic. They are more slender snakes than Puff Adders, brown in colour and have dark, pentagon-shaped patches going down the body.

So, how does one keep snakes away from one’s property? In truth, there is no set way or definite method in keeping them away. The best thing you can do is to keep your property neat and tidy. Get rid of piles of wood, bricks, and logs which provide shelter to snakes and their food. Jeyes fluid does not work, nor do any other repellants. Planting Geraniums all around your property will not keep them away either. If there’s “food” around, you’ll get snakes. If you are lucky enough to live on a farm/conservancy/reserve, you will definitely see a snake around the property at some point in time. It’s something you have to deal with while living in Africa. We are privileged with an abundance of wildlife.

Black Mamba - The most feared and notorious snake, but arguably the most shy and retreating. Occurs in some areas around Pietermaritzburg, and in Ashburton, but not a common species in the Midlands. Africa’s largest venomous snake, that averages in length of 2-2m. Highly venomous, and highly misunderstood. They have a bad, over-exaggerated reputation that is largely false.

Black Mamba – The most feared and notorious snake, but arguably the most shy and retreating. Occurs in some areas around Pietermaritzburg, and in Ashburton, but not a common species in the Midlands. Africa’s largest venomous snake, that averages in length of 2-2m. Highly venomous, and highly misunderstood. They have a bad, over-exaggerated reputation that is largely false.

So please, give the snakes a break. Next time you want to reach for a spade or stick to kill it, reach for a camera or cellphone instead. Keep a safe distance, and take a pic or too of your lucky sighting. Share your sighting with friends over email or social media! Tag the Midlands Conservancies Forum and the KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation pages too.

Respect snakes, don’t fear or hate them. Understand that they’re fulfilling a role in nature, and they are needed.

Nick Evans runs a programme called KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, a chapter of The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization. The aim of the programme is to promote awareness of these ecologically important animals, and to educate the public.

For snake awareness and identification talks, or frogging evenings, please email Nick at nickevanskzn@gmail.com

With assistance for snake removals, you can contact Nick on 072 8095 806, who will put you in touch with the closest snake catcher. (Nick is based in Durban).

Dargle Wildlife Sightings November 2014

Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

The Dargle Conservancy Camera Trap captured some amazing videos on Wana Farm recently including a Vervet Monkey troop, Porcupine, Duiker, Genet, Mongoose and more. To view them go to the Dargle Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dargle.kzn 

genet camera trap

Nikki Brighton  – Old Kilgobbin

River banks are a picture at the moment with masses of Ranunculus multifidus in flower. One of the Zulu names of this pretty little plant gives us a clue about where it likes to grow. Xhaphozi is the word for wetland.

r ranunculus

Despite repeated attempts to Porcupine proof my fence, I often wake to the crunch, crunch of a bulb feast outside my window. I have no crocosmia or arums left and he has also munched on the roots of Dietes bucheriana and a few Tulbaghia. I snapped this pic as he was destroying the very last clump of arums. Oh well, everything will grow again and porcupines can’t really pop into Woolies.

r porcupine

We’ve had lots of truly beautiful days this month, perfect for long walks in the hills before the grass gets too long. One afternoon a seriously spotty Serval bounded past me with her stripey tail flying. Terribly exciting. This is one of my favourite views of Inhlosane – with an enormous Yellowwood tree on the edge of a forest patch in the foreground.r yellowwod and inhlosane

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A cow died on the farm and the Cape Vultures came to visit.

cape vultures

A little while ago we had a family of four Reedbuck grazing next to our shed.

Reedbuck 2

Egyptian Goose family

Egyptian Goose Family

Spoonbill

Spoonbill

Spurwinged Goose

Spurwing Goose

We had some big rains with more hail this month.

Hail 2

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

It has been a month of cold drizzly grey days and towards the latter part, severe thunder storms bringing hail. Four pied starlings arrived one cold drizzly morning. A cape robin also decided this was a great day for a swim.

cape robin having a dip in our rock pool

A very wet bedraggled cape robin

We picked buckets of mushrooms and huge i’kowes. Driving home on the D18 one afternoon came across a kilometre of flying ants and a jackal buzzard chomping his way through hundreds on the road. Their wings were not fully grown. One very windy morning watched a jackal buzzard flying low over our pond for a few minutes. He eventually plunged in and came up with a frog and flew off with it.

At 6.20pm on 13th November, nine crowned crane arrived at our dam. The light was not good enough for a photo. Two wagtail babies born in our jasmine creeper. I wondered if these would survive with the cold weather.

2 day old wagtails singing Wish you a Happy Xmas

I took a photo this morning – 3 weeks old – they have survived through heavy rain, hail and cold weather.

our wagtails now 2 weeks

One warm morning I almost stood on a green natal bush snake sunning itself on the steps. The porpupine have been getting in under our bonnox fence and have eaten 2 tree ferns and an azalea, which are supposedly poisonous to animals. Our wryneck eventually found a partner and they are nesting in the hollow pole down our driveway. One morning as I drove into our garden a steppe buzzard flew in front of the car with a snake wriggling in its claws. It was half metre – black and silver. Another day a grey heron flew past me with a rat.

Our blue cranes are nesting on neighbouring farm. The male flies over our house almost daily, and craaks loudly and goes and wades in the dam. One morning mom joined him, had a few words and then flew off again. I wonder what she told him, as shortly afterward he flew off in the same direction she had gone.

The blue cranes after another storm

The cape canary has a nest in my standard rose, with 4 eggs. There are at least 3 steppe buzzards on the farm this year. The gymnogene was hunting in the rocks early one morning in front of the house. Our barn owls are back and nesting in the chimney now, as we closed up the cavity where they were nesting before on top of the verandah. The swallows are nesting in 3 different places around the house – one on top of the glass light shade on the verandah. The sparrows have nests in the gutters. The rock pigeons are nesting in another chimney. A male red bishop has joined a flock of red collared widow birds that live on our lawn.

This southern red bishop male has joined the group of red collared widow birds.  The one on the far left looks like a transitional male southern red bishop

Heard red chested cuckoo near the house today. Also heard the fish eagle on several occasions and Orange throated Longclaw.

Orange throated longclaw

Drinking a cup of tea after lunch one Saturday two weeks ago, I was looking out the kitchen window when I saw a frog hopping slowly across the lawn. Alarm bells rang and I started searching for the snake. 5 metres away was a night adder, but instead of chasing the frog it was heading in the opposite direction. I couldn’t understand this until I saw another night adder sliding out of my shrubbery. They slowly slid towards each other and I was not sure what was going to happen. I grabbed my camera, shouted to my husband who was having a nap, jumped on top of the kitchen counter and started to take pictures.

The first time they twisted their tails together

They slowly entwined around each other for about a minute and then joined their tails and lay still for a short while, then the sliding around each other started again and they encircled their tails for a second time. This all took about 2 minutes. They slowly disengaged themselves and went their separate ways. I presumed that they had been mating. Although this was very exciting to observe, I am terrified of snakes and don’t do much gardening at the moment.

They disentwined after about 2 minutes and went their separate ways

The jackals ate half a calf as mother was trying to give birth one night. It was a large calf and Pat had to pull it out next morning. The mother was very traumatised and could not stand. We injected her, fed her, all to no avail, so had to put her down I’m afraid.

Lots of flowers about including Morea inclinata

Moraea inclinata

I think this is a type of jasmine. (ed’s note: Rhodohypoxis baurii I think)I think this is a type of Jasminum

Pat McKrill comments: Looks like the Merricks have more fun than a barrel full of monkeys! The night adder pics are great, please tell Sandra that there’s no need to worry about gardening, as she’s already seen, the snakes have other things to do in the garden at this time of the year – attacking gardeners is not on the schedule. The resultant kids (probably about a dozen) from the two minutes of eye-watering ecstasy will move on when they hatch, like will-o-the-wisps. The only things that might need to worry would be the frogs.

David Crookes  – Copperleigh Farm Sunset over Mavela Dam, Inhlosane on the left.

sunset mavela dam