Tag Archives: oribi

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

Windy day…My Mobile did its best… Wildflowers and an unknown bug pictured on our walk over the hills:

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Leonotus in the hills

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Granny’s Bonnet orchids

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Carnivorous Snail on D707

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Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Welcome to the Snake farm. I have been expecting it – the hot days this month. On Monday my maid went out to sit outside next to the rockery – 12.30 – that’s when they emerge from the rockery – a metre long cobra. I told her not to sit there anymore. Then on Thursday Pat was doing a block burn in front of the house. The one labourer was putting out the fire with the fire hose when a puff adder shot between his legs and slithered down the hill at speed. Who said puffies move slowly. I’m afraid the other huge puff adder got burnt in the fire. I am now wondering how many more snakes are around the garden.

Our Black Sparrowhawk chick revealed his rufous feathers on the 27th august. A few days later I saw him sitting on a branch high up in one of the gum trees (6th sept). After that I saw him only on a few occasions when I whistled – then he would fly out from one of the trees and whistle back. I have not seen them since beginning of September but Pat sees them occasionally.

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There have been lots of Reedbuck around. One day there were 4 adult females and 4 youngsters together,

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and for the first time we have had 2 sets of oribi on the farm – 3 males and 3 females – the one male only has one horn. (I did fill in and send off the Oribi survey form) We see them almost daily.

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At the beginning of September a buzzard arrived and sat on the dead tree for about an hour – it has been identified as a juvenile Jackal Buzzard. Thanks to the Birdlife KZN Midlands Club for their assistance in this identification.

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The Burchell’s Coucal keeps evading my camera – flew past the house with large worm in its beak and went straight into the shrubbery once more where I think it may be nesting.
One very windy night there was a scratching on our bedroom door while I was reading. This glass door leads onto the verandah. I was a bit nervous about opening the curtain but was surprised to find that it was a Speckled Mousebird who had probably been blown out of the trees. Pat placed it in a box and released him next morning.

juvenile-speckled-mousebird

Our 2 Blue Cranes are back on the farm and wade in the puddle of a dam each evening. On the 14th sept 20 crowned crane flew over the farm flying west. A porcupine was trying to get into the garden by digging a huge hole at the farm gate – the dogs would stand and bark at it but he took no notice – he did get in the one night and dug up a lot of my dietes bulbs. Pat attached more wire to the bottom of the gate which seems to have worked. Still hear the howling of the jackal at night – my dogs love to howl along with them – gets very rowdy at times.

The swallows arrived ten days ago and once again are trying to make a nest on the glass light bowl at front verandah. I have left the light on which seems to have deterred them, but not sure where they have gone now. The sparrows are busy making nests under the eaves at all corners of the house and the wagtails are once more nesting in the jasmine creeper. The rock pigeons are nesting in the one chimney. We occasionally hear the Barn Owl when he clonks onto the roof of the study where we watch TV or sometimes on the bedroom roof late at night where he busily eats his prey. We are not sure if he/she is still in the study chimney. We think she may be living in the forest behind the house.
We are thankful for the rain this past month. Just pray we get a good season this year.

Male Amethyst sunbird

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Female White-bellied Sunbird

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Long-crested Eagle

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Male Southern masked weaver building a nest

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Red-billed Quelea (non-breeding males)

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Scadoxus puniceus

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Evert van Breemen – Old Furth

I have a vague memory of you asking for snow pictures some months back.
Herewith my belated reply.

snow-on-the-berg

Detail of picture:

The closest part of the Berg is some 70 kms away and I estimate we are seeing
about 100 km of snow along the range which varies from 2.5 to 3.3 km in height. The picture is taken from a mast which is at 1.6 km altitude

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – August 2016

Pamela Kleiman – Connington Farm

A very quiet month as far as creatures and plants go, however, being an atlasser it was great to see the start of the migrant birds coming into the area.

Early in the month I was pleased to see quite a large group of Cape Vultures near the Connington road from Rosetta. They seemed to be feeding on something small hidden under some willow trees in a small gully where they were joined by a Yellow-billed Kite and some Pied Crows.

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Cape Vulture

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Cape Vultures

There have been a lot of young Jackal Buzzards around, some of them with very confusing colour variations

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Jackal Buzzard

Down my end of the valley I usually only see Southern Red Bishops so was nice to see some Yellow Bishops for a change – still in their Winter plumage

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Yellow Bishop

Cape Longclaw one of my favourites – just love their kitten-like mewing call

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Cape Longclaw

The first signs of Spring

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Halleria lucida

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Buddleja salvifolia with its gorgeous scent

Two early migrants, Yellow-billed Kite and White-throated Swallow

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Yellow-billed Kite

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White-throated Swallow

A first record for pentad 2915_2950 was a Squacco Heron

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Squacco Heron

Egyptian Geese and Common Moorhen in amongst the water lilies

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Egyptian Geese in the foreground and Common Moorhen in the background

The male Village Weavers are suddenly in full summer plumage and looking so dapper

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Village Weaver (male)

Hlatikulu Conservancy Area by Pamela Kleiman

The mountains were looking splendid in their covering of snow earlier in the month.

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A lucky close sighting of a pair of Oribi

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Oribi (female)

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The male Oribi silhouetted against the snowy ‘berg

A few early flowers after the fire season

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I unexpectedly found this pair of Denham’s Bustards on a recently burnt hill

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Denham’s Bustard

A pair of Ground Woodpeckers flew out of holes in the road cutting as I drove past

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Ground Woodpeckers

I have come across Sentinel Rock Thrush in a few places now

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Sentinel Rock Thrush (female)

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Sentinel Rock Thrush (male)

I often see Buff-streaked Chats I the area

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Buff-streaked Chat (male)

It’s not too often I get to see a Red-throated Wryneck out in the open, let alone get a reasonable photo of one!

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Red-throated Wryneck

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Winter 2016

Nicola Storkey

I photographed these snow scenes whilst on the way to Ivanhoe Farm.

Snow 1

Snow 2

Snow 3

Kilgobbin Forest

Dargle Primary learners visited Kilgobbin forest recently. Thanks Midlands Meander Education Project and WESSA Eco-Schools for facilitating the lesson of forest diversity.

Dargle Primary learners explore the forest floor.

Dargle Primary pupil makes friends with a grasshopper

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

Haven’t seen much except for a couple of Crowned Hornbills (unusual) in the garden that hung around for a few days eating the fruit of the Outeniqua Yellowwood, Podocarpus falcatus. On the 2nd August, Derek spotted his first YBK of the season in the D 17 valley. I noticed him a couple of days later. Very early.

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A snare which was found in the natural forest on our farm.

Snare

Snow & the mayhem it produces!

Some images that were sent in of the “human wildlife”, mostly from PMB and Durban areas, on their way towards Inhlosane Mountain and Impendle. The dirt road was quite a mess afterwards with all the vehicles that got stuck and had to be pulled out by farmers and landowners by Landrover and tractors!

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Vehicles driving past Beverley

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Inhlosane had a few pockets of snow which had eventually melted after a couple of days

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Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

My dog, Missy, very proudly brought this treasure home. I think a jackal or dog may have chewed off the ends. Could anyone identify what buck this came from? Oribi or Bushbuck? [Editor’s Comment: The leg is from a Bushbuck].

Buck leg 1

Buck leg 2

Pauline Holden – Woodsong Farm

We have been so excited to have seen our resident Bushbuck (well they seem to be because we see them regularly). Two females (one seems to be older and is perhaps the Mother) and one male male. They are in different areas of the farm (which is only 25Ha)

We have also seen a Serval, as well as its scat often. We have seen loads of Otter Scat.

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

It was icy cold on the 2nd July and we lit a fire early in the day – I later found our Barn Owl sitting on the ledge on the front verandah. He flew off into the forest behind us and I haven’t seen him since. He was living in the chimney for at least 2 years. We closed the entrances on the roof of the verandah where they nested for several years, due to the mess and noise. I hope Nikki’s barn owls are nesting in the barn again this year.

We had snow for a few hours the next day and then it started to rain. We took this photo of a very wet male Common Reedbuck.

Male reed buck after heavy rain with wet coat

Common Reedbuck (male)

We had regular sightings of the Secretarybird and we were fortunate to have seen two together on one day.

Secretary bird

Secretarybird

On our walks in the evenings we saw a lot of Common Reedbuck on the green burns – counted 13 on a 1hr walk. Saw a half eaten Ibis near the dam – the African Harrier-Hawk had been flying about. Have seen this bird quite often and for the past few weeks he has been coming into the garden.

Gymnogene in my garden

African Harrier-Hawk

Very few raptors – just the Jackal Buzzard and Long-crested Eagle.

Jackal buzzard (I think)

Jackal Buzzard

Beginning of august I was very excited to see the female Black Sparrowhawk sitting on her nest on a few occasions.

Black sparrowhawk female sitting on nest

Black Sparrowhawk nesting

She raised 2 fledglings in same nest 2 years ago – The Egyptian Geese took it over last year which was very disappointing. On the 13th august we saw for the first time a bundle of white feathers sitting on top of the nest. Wow I was ecstatic to see this one chick.

Black sparrowhawk chick

Black Sparrowhawk chick

With the other 2 chicks 2 years ago we used to only see their heads sticking out the top of this very deep nest. It was only when they were completely feathered with their rufous feathers and sitting on the branches that I was able to take some decent pics. Then on the 27th august, just 2 weeks later, there he/she sat on top of the nest with her rufous colouring. Can’t believe they changed colour so quickly. (Picture next month)

On one very frosty morning there was a Hamerkop standing near the pond. His beak was tucked into his chest feathers. He kept lifting his feet up one at a time as if they were numb. He eventually sat down. Half hour later I asked Pat to go and see if he was sick as did not want the dogs to attack him. Thankfully he flew off and seemed fine.

Frozen Hamerkop

Hamerkop

 

We saw three Oribi graze on the hill which has turned green

3 oribi running up the hill

Oribi

 

One morning before sunrise saw a very large clumsy bird hopping on the leafless plane tree. Before I could get the camera it jumped down behind the shrubs – it definitely appeared to be a coucal – first time in the garden although have heard its call from the bush behind the house.

Sunrise

I am sure that most folk have seen the huge group of crowned crane in the vlei of the Fowlers farm at Lions river – I did stop one day and drove down the railway line and took some pics – there appeared to be about 50 of these beautiful creatures. Does anyone know if they breed on the same farm?

A few of the crowned crane at Fowlers farm Lions river

Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

The sunbirds have returned now that there are a few shrubs in flower and they all seem to have regained their summer colours. We hung some string and baubles in the same place that the Amethyst Sunbird made her nest on last year. About ten days ago she flew around the verandah and landed on the string and gave it a good looking over. She flies from door to door looking for insects every morning. On the one day she arrived with her partner. He sat on the hanging basket while she showed him the string. No building of nest has taken place but still too early for that, so we shall see if he approved of her choice.

Pat saw a female cori bustard on the green burn early one morning.
On 26th august, 8 blue crane arrived at our puddle in the dam. They were there for a few hours – 3 blue crane have spent the last few days in the puddle – I am not sure if he is a “hanger on” or the youngster from last year who has not left the fold. We shall see what happens but the puddle is drying up fast, so if no rain soon, I am sure they will look elsewhere to nest this year once again.

A pair of duiker seen close to the house –looks like the wild life are pairing up. We have seen quite a few duiker in August.

Female duiker

The Wagtails, Sparrows, and Olive Thrush all seem to be nesting in the formal garden and of course the Rock Pigeons never stop breeding.

One morning I saw a pair of Cape Robin-chats hopping around in front of the kitchen window. He then hopped onto a branch of the peach tree and starting trying to attract her attention by flicking his tail up and down very quickly – he has a beautifully coloured tail – she did not seem interested as carried on looking for worms.

Cape robin being flirtatious

Cape Robin-chat

We have a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds.

Male and female gurney sugar birds

Gurney’s Sugarbirds

Gurney sugar bird at dusk

Gurney’s Sugarbird

On a few of our walks we have seen quite a few young Common Reedbuck.

Another baby reedbuck

Female reedbuck with her youngster

Female reedbuck

One morning three Cape White-eyes appeared on same peach tree.

Yellow white eye

Cape White-eye

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

Male Malachite Sunbird now in full color

Male malachite now in full color eating the flowering frelinias

Malachite Sunbird (male)

New moon

New moon

Not sure of this buzzard as very dark in color – taken in early august so not sure if Steppe Buzzards were around then?

Not sure of this buzzard as very dark in color – taken in early august so not sure if steppe buzzards were around then

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

This evening at about 6pm, driving on the D707, I was blessed with a wonderful sight. Just past the corner next to the Fly’s staff houses, a large Bushbuck ram stood in the middle of the road facing me. I stopped and waited for him to move. He went into the Fannin paddock, followed by his lady who had been standing near the opposite fence. Beautiful.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

This Winter because of the drought, Samango monkeys have been very hungry, which has made them very bold. They have eaten all the fruit on my lemon tree – even eating up those that they bite and drop (usually for the benefit of bush pig and buck).

Samango

I have noticed they come back the next day and then pick up the dropped fruit and eat it all. Lots of babies have just been born, so I assume they know the drought will be over soon. Certainly hope so.

Samango Monkey

Frosty mornings make for great photos. It was a real treat to come across this paw print in the ice capped mud one morning.

Muddy icy paw print

Balmy winter afternoons are heavy with the fragrance of Buddleja along forest edges.

Buddleja

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

Hello World ,  A glorious season ! Bales of hay, snow, and even some mud as I whiz over the hills in my carriages with Ntombikayise as my back-stepper . .

No humans seen ! Black fire-breaks turning green . . water flowing after some rains, with little frogs chirruping and croaking on the edges !

A sleeping Spotted Eagle Owl on the forest margin at The Old Kilgobbin Dam. . . a pair of Egyptian Geese and a Tegwaan are regulars there .

A beautifully marked Mountain Reedbuck Doe is resident just below the Dam . . she has become used to us trotting by.

Samango Monkeys counted up in the Grasslands . . 32 individuals , with four infants newly arrived .

Up on the top of Carlisle we regularly count 4 Oribi , 5 Reedbuck does and a handsome Reedbuck Ram . He tries to duck behind the old stems of Tweedie bush as we approach and remains unmoved through all of my driving .

Ntombi and I have spotted Jackal Buzzards on the Bales regularly and one on a medium -size kill . . Barend and I have spotted The Red Collared Widow Birds up and busy flirting with half-grown tails during our walks over the top in the grasslands .

Chris and I saw a Long Crested Eagle and plenty of Stone Chats along the walls .

All four Robins have been spotted up near the Oatley Hide . . and our garden with it`s fresh compost has Robins , Thrushes and Bou Bou Shrikes
scratching for and collecting yummy bugs ,

The roughly 50 kms a week that I get to roam the hills are “ Soul-Food “ Thank you for sharing your farms with our horses , Ntombi , Barend and I . . No humans seen . . Magical!!

Jenny Goddard

We found this dead otter at one of our dams this morning. No sign of injury. So sad…do you have a theory about what could have happened to him?? Not sure who else to ask!

Otter

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Early morning mist over the valley

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Worm in freshly cut wattle tree

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Large pile of droppings, I’m guessing from a reedbuck as we have seen them on numerous occasions on the farm

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A dead Oribi I found in one of our firebreaks, not sure what killed it

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Lifted a rock at the dam and found this chap trying to hide underneath

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Inhlosane rising above the ever diminishing Mavela Dam

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Little dam near Selsley Farm

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Aloes flowering on a neighbours farm

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Recovering Olive Thrush sitting in a pot after flying into the window

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A Black Sparrowhawk which was upsetting our lambs as it was flapping around on the ground in their night camp, obviously injured we took it to FreeMe in Howick for them to look after.

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Sunset

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Late afternoon sun streaming through some pine trees

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And finally a wintery scene of grassland and Inhlosane looking down on us

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Louise Ghersie – Satori Farm

A herd of Eland passing our house to the top of our farm. Beautiful sight!

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Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Autumn is officially here with winter trying to sneak in early and this frost we had a couple of weekends ago.

Autumn frost on leaves

A very beautiful black caterpillar with red and yellow markings on the sides and blue spines on the top.

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

Some sort of brown mantis sitting on my arm. Comment from Dr Jason Londt: “It is a mantid (family Mantidae). Don’t know the species (we have over 180 species in SA). Unfortunately I am not aware of a local specialist who could give us a species name – most of the literature on the group seems to be in French! Anyway – nice twig mimic!”

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

Flying ants inside the house which appeared after the recent rains in Dargle

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

I was moving a feed tyre out of the grass and suddenly noticed a whole family of little mice scurrying around. I managed to capture a pic of this guy before they all disappeared into the grass.

Mouse running away

A beautiful Oribi ram, spotted on our farm. The first and only time that I have ever seen one.

Oribi Ram

Not the best pic, but trying to capture a Pied Kingfisher with a cellphone camera in mid dive is a bit of a challenge!

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

I nearly stepped on this orange and black Rinkhals, and had just 3 seconds to capture this pic before he disappeared into the long grass.

Rinkhals in the grass

A very cold, wet and miserable Black-headed Heron which I drove closer and closer to in the Landrover, before it got a little jumpy and flew away.

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

The Wattled crane is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

Wattled Cranes 2

A very large Puffadder which we saw crossing the tar road near Avanol.

Puffadder

Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

I have recently been hearing an African Scops owl calling in the evenings just as it gets dark. It’s an uncommon resident in this area . A couple of nights ago, the evening started with the Scops calling and later when we went to bed we heard Jackal yelping close by. They haven’t been heard for a few months . Waking in the early hours a Spotted Eagle Owl was hooting nearby. Just as sleep had come again we were woken by the raucous call of the Natal Francolin, and finally the Fish Eagle’ s lovely call at dawn, got me out of bed. Who would live anywhere else.

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

Comment by Pat McKrill: “Your diagnosis (Spotted Skaapsteker Psammophylax tritaeniatus) is quite correct, even though those occurring further north are more spotted – as the name implies – than striped. They’re a pretty common grassland snake up your neck of the woods, and because their food preference is pretty wide-ranging, some of it is not necessarily temperature dependent – rodents, skinks – they tend to ignore the hibernation rule and hunt year-round as long as the sun is shining. The concave indentation in the individual dorsal scales is a useful diagnostic. Thanks for the pics, great!”

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were blessed this month to see 7 wattled crane on the farm for a week – they would feed on our neighbours oats during the day and arrive at the dam early evening and sometimes midday to wade around the dam which is drying up daily. We could not see any tags on their legs.

wattled crane

One morning just one appeared and walked around the vlei area for a few hours and then sat down. We got very excited as thought perhaps she was thinking of making a nest there but when the cattle arrived to drink, she changed her mind. Like the plovers eggs which never hatch out as cattle always drinking around the edges of dam where they lay.

Our yellow bill ducklings are down from ten to five in number. We also have 6 Red-billed Teal who swim with them.

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

Two pairs of South African Shelduck now. They did not have chicks this year as dam only started to fill late December. Our 3 Blue Crane have been here the entire month. The fledgling still with his parents. 5 months old now. Sometimes another pair of blue crane join them but they never stay long. 3 african grey crowned crane have been arriving at sunset. We love watching their antics – they always dance in and out the water and sometimes the spoonbill and plovers join them in wild abandon. At first the fledgling would run off when he saw his parents making fools of themselves but lately he joins in the prancing. They are the only cranes that I have not seen swimming. The wattled cranes love to swim and stick their long necks down underwater to see what they can forage. One day we had all 3 cranes visit us.

We have noticed that the crowned cranes have been chasing the blue crane away from the dam – we are not sure why this is as they both have one fledgling. Shame, the 3 of them stand on the hill looking forlornly down at the dance show.

crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 1crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 2

The gymnogene has been arriving early in the morning hunting amongst the rocks in front of the house – one morning there were 2 of them flying around.

When we woke early one cold overcast morning we found a Herald snake trying to swallow a large toad on our front verandah.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

He just could not swallow it and regurgitated it. He then lay next to it. This did not go down well with me as everyone by now knows how terrified I am of snakes. Pat put snake and frog in a box and released them at the bottom of the farm.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

Went down to the dam one hot day and saw thousands of dragonflies.

darner dragon fly

There were also a few red ones but I couldn’t get a pic of them as would not perch for long. There were also hundreds of brown ones but don’t know their name.

We saw a black shouldered kite eating a huge rat one morning on our dead tree – took him one and half hours to finish eating.

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

He kept stopping for a few minutes and would then continue to feed for awhile.

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

Found a new ant bear hole in kikuyu paddock near the dam. There was a Barn Owl on our verandah early one morning and on my approach he flew off. Not sure if this was a fledgling learning to fly. There are a couple in our chimney now which is very awkward if wanting to light a fire. A few years ago one was suffocated from the smoke and fell into the fire. It was horrible and I don’t want that happening again. A bokmakierie visited us for the first time. He sang to us for a good ten minutes. Beautiful start to the day.

There have been dozens of butterflies each day. Citrus swallowtail, Green-banded Swallowtail, Gaudy Commodore, Garden Commodore and for the first time a Blue Pansy.

 

garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

We have seen a couple of Reedbuck around the dam and in the hill behind us and a female sleeps in our garden each night in the long grass.

reedbuck in a hurry

Also a couple of duiker eating the acorns from the oak trees. Pat has seen 7 Reedbuck and one duiker eating rye grass and veld on our neighbours farm across the stone wall. On our walks in the evening we have seen signs of a Common Fiscal in the area with the surprises left along the fenceline. A small snake

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

I received a lot of comments on the identification of my raptors last month – Dr David Allan said they were European Honey Buzzards – female adult with juvenile – very rare in this area. I have not seen them again. The Steppe Buzzards have left, not seeing any Jackal Buzzards, but still see the Long-crested Eagle. Often hear the African Fish-Eagles.

André Stapelberg – Crab Apple Cottages (sent in by Helen Booysen)

The photo of the Drakensberg Prinia was taken at Whispering Waters in its usual Leucosidea-habitat.

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – August 2015

Iona Bate – Inversanda Farm

This is the guard at our gate – exceptional for being both decorative and practical.

Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis)

Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis)

Pat McKrill (after identifying for us) had this to add: ” Your snake – correctly i.d’d – looks very satisfied with itself. Seems to have had an early season start in the food queue! No question, the season has started and – along with the snakes – I’m delighted. Roll on summer.”

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

There seems to be a dearth of wildlife on Kildaragh, and this is all I could come up with. The lizards on our sunny back veranda love a mealworm during the lean winter months.

The Aloe garden at Klidaragh. Aloe ferox at the back and Aloe marlothii in foreground.

The Aloe garden at Klidaragh. Aloe ferox at the back and Aloe marlothii in foreground.

The fynbos garden

The fynbos garden

Common Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon), coming into flower. It’s not a mist belt tree but was planted , I’m told by June Fannin, who was around many years ago. She owned this property and loved trees and all the old , tall ones were no doubt planted by her. This Coral tree is, at least 30 ft high. The Sunbirds and Black-headed Orioles love it.

Common Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

Common Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

Barry & Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Saw this lovely little green fella outside my workshop.

Natal Green Snake

Natal Green Snake

Other than that, amongst the usual suspects, we’ve spotted slender mongoose, a samango foraging our old pumpkins and oranges (food must be scarce in the forest), hooded eagles, gymnogene creating much angst with the resident hadedas, rock pigeons enacting some sort of rock pigeon soap opera with nestlings apparently being kicked out… the poor little ones battling to deal with the cold and damp, and at least one succumbing.

Robin and Sharon Barnsley

I have been away but I gather that Nikki will send you a picture of a Serval which we saw outside our lounge window one evening. It was standing its ground against our dogs, who had clearly decided that discretion was better than valour, and casually made its way up into a tree. There have been numerous sightings of serval, far more than usual, on the D17 over the past fortnight.

Serval

Serval

Tiffany Attwell – Horse Play, Old Kilgobbin Farm

Saw banded mongoose today!! He was rather large. And two reed buck and I think an oribi?

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Inhlosane was burnt this week, as was quite a bit of the Dargle and surrounding areas after the recent rains.

Inhlosane burning close up

Inhlosane burning close up

…but in other areas at least the grass is starting to recover in the firebreaks

Firebreaks are finally yielding some new grass

Firebreaks are finally yielding some new grass

And the insects are out busy pollinating the flowers and fruit trees (I’m sure Trevor Pye will be very happy about this!)

Bees working hard

Bees working hard

And finally I managed to photograph some Yellow Everlastings whilst taking the dogs for their afternoon walk in the veld.

Yellow Everlastings in the veld

Yellow Everlastings in the veld

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm
With additional images from Dr Amy Shuttleworth (Trail Cam Pics)

As we were away for most of august, have nothing to report, just the pics I took below during july and beginning of august. The water buck are still around and our house sitter said he saw a female grysbok. Not sure if they are found in this area! Another interesting thing is that I looked up my pics of Tanzania and found that the water buck there, do not have the “white toilet” rump. Never knew that they differed.

 

African hoopoe in the garden

African hoopoe in the garden

Grey Crowned Cranes grazing

Grey Crowned Cranes grazing

Drakensberg prinia

Drakensberg prinia

Gurney's sugarbird

Gurney’s sugarbird

Malachite female sunbird

Malachite female sunbird

Male malachite sunbird - still getting his new plumage

Male malachite sunbird – still getting his new plumage

Male Reedbuck

Male Reedbuck

Southern boubou

Southern boubou

Red throated wryneck female sitting on hollow fence pole (her usual spot) calling for a mate

Red throated wryneck female sitting on hollow fence pole (her usual spot) calling for a mate

Wagtail wading in dam at sunset

Wagtail wading in dam at sunset

Waterbuck on the gallop

Waterbuck on the gallop

Pat set the trail camera up next to the gate in the stone wall – as you will see from the trail photos below, a lot of animals use this gate for entry, eg: genet

 

Black-bellied korhaan and apparently quite uncommon for the midlands so a very nice sighting

Black-bellied korhaan and apparently quite uncommon for the midlands so a very nice sighting

Waterbuck doe

Waterbuck doe

Reedbuck ram

Reedbuck ram

Porcupine

Porcupine

Oribi Ram

Oribi Ram

Oribi Doe

Oribi Doe

Jackal

Jackal

Genet

Genet

Duiker doe

Duiker doe

Duiker

Duiker

Duiker

Duiker

Neville van Lelyveld : Farm Report for Iain Sinclair, Benn Meadhon Farm

Oribi
On Saturday Morning we were delighted to 5 of the original 9 oribi in the oribi paddock. Until now the most we have sighted was 3.

Reedbuck
It was very pleasing to see that during this weekend we managed to get a count of 27 reedbuck on the rye grass on Saturday night. There has been a steady increase in their numbers since the February disaster which seemed to have removed all the reedbuck from the farm. The new reedbucks currently on the farm are a completely new herd as their habits, characteristic, features, tracks, ages and habitats have all changed radically from the previous lot of reedbuck that were on the farm prior to February of this year.

Grey duiker
The duiker population on the farm has also under gone a 100% change in animals from February until now. There are also a lot less duiker around. On Saturday morning whilst waiting for the poachers to come in on the top of the hill on the non-agricultural side of the farm an adult male duiker came within a metre of us and stood over us looking at us while we were lying in the grass, even when we sat up he did not move off or feel threatened as he stood and watched us for about 3 minutes until he slowly started grazing and moved off slowly total unthreatened by our presence. This was a very special moment for us to experience this close a contact with this duiker. Somehow we never seem to have camera handy to capture these moments. Sadly however this will probably result in a very sad ending for him if he does not learn fear for humans. Sadly only 5 duiker were seen over this last weekend.

Blue Crane
A single blue crane was seen on Saturday.

Grey Crowned Cranes
Three crowned cranes were sighted on Saturday morning in the vlei. This is the first time we have seen these crowned cranes on the farm.

Forest Canaries
During our visit we saw a large flock of Forest Canaries in a tree. What a pretty little bird with such an amazing little song.

Spur-winged Geese
As previously reported the spurwing geese appear to be on the increase. During our visit we counted some 20 spurwing geese on the dam. This was great to see particularly with the presence of the Canadian geese on the dam.

Olive Thrush
There is still a lot of Olive thrushes on the farm, but once again there is a definite reduction in their number over previous visits.

Jackal Buzzards
Several Jackal buzzards can be seen almost anywhere on the farm. The sighting of these raptors seems to have increased. We were even privileged enough to see a juvenile Jackal Buzzard still most of his baby feathers on the fence above the maize paddocks. He then decided that playing with the crows was great fun; however the crow did not seem to agree. He flew around with them for ages either confused that he too was a crow or maybe he just enjoyed the reaction he got from them.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

At this time of year there seem to be so many birds about. I suppose they are searching for food and water in the gentler climates of gardens. Lots of nest building, bathing and foraging for food right beside my cottage, which is a delight to observe.

Weaver bathing

Weaver bathing

Walks in recently burned areas are full of little treats too. Just when one begins to wonder if anything could survive, the tiny yellow flowers of Cyrtanthus breviflorus (Yellow Fire Lily) poke cheerfully out of the charcoal grassland. The bulbs lie dormant buried under the ground, surviving the heat of the fires and emerging triumphantly when all is calm.

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Interestingly, Conostomium natalensis (known as the lightning plant) which flowers in shady spots for most of summer and autumn, has just turned a dark chocolate colour, not burnt to the ground.

Conostimium natalense

Conostimium natalense

Rocks, usually hidden by bracken and shrubs are revealed. These ones standing taller than me.

r burn rocks 043

With just a little moisture in the mornings, the tiny bird like Bracken fronds begin to unfurl.

Bracken

Bracken

I spotted a serval running across the hillsides one afternoon, have heard the Tree Hyrax calling, there have been Common Duiker and Bushbuck, a couple of Reedbuck and a single Oribi about too. Certainly, all hoping for something green to eat to emerge from the ashes soon.

The grey leaves of Buddleja dysophylla (White Climbing Sagewood) found scrambling along forest margins appear to glow in the early morning light.

Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja dysophylla

Making Sense of Oribi Census

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust discusses the results of the most recent Oribi census which many farmers and landowners participate in annually. Please contact the EWT should you have any oribi on your land and consider participating in their annual survey.

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust


The Oribi census is an exercise used to monitor animal numbers in private and protected areas. The period September to November is chosen because this is when the grasslands that have been burnt are flushing green making the Oribi easier to see as they are attracted to this green flush. Unfortunately in 2014 this was rather difficult with delayed rain leaving landowners skeptical of burning, thus making it difficult to count animals since they hide in the standing tall grass.

Female Oribi standing in tall grass.

Female Oribi standing in tall grass.

Oribi (Ourebia ourebi) surveys have been conducted in South Africa for over fifteen years and for that the Oribi Working Group would like to thank each and every landowner who has been involved since day one of this long-term survey effort. The Oribi Working Group saw a need to monitor Oribi because of the rate at which the population was perceived to be decreasing. Oribi face a lot of threats and require ongoing conservation attention in South Africa, as a working group we are committed to working with private landowners and protected land managers to ensure the conservation of this beautiful species.

Oribi - Ourebia ourebi

Oribi – Ourebia ourebi

In 2014 a total of 3006 Oribi were counted in South Africa from 266 survey returns, these numbers include protected areas and privately owned properties. When comparing between provinces KwaZulu-Natal submitted more surveys and has the highest number of animals, 1583 from 149 returns. KwaZulu-Natal is followed by the Eastern Cape with 1103 animals from 88 returns and then Mpumalanga which submitted 29 surveys and had a total of 320 animals.

Total national survey results and number of records as compared to previous year’s results. EKZNW reserve counts were included in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 1998-2003 only included KZN province, thereafter the survey had a national focus. All of these values have been revised based on the discovery of historical data records previously not included.

Total national survey results and number of records as compared to previous year’s results. EKZNW reserve counts were included in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 1998-2003 only included KZN province, thereafter the survey had a national focus. All of these values have been revised based on the discovery of historical data records previously not included.

Oribi surveys data to date have shown a high level of fluctuation of animal numbers with an increase in recent years of years back to similar numbers as recorded at the change of the century. This fluctuation in numbers is a result of varying survey efforts resulting from changes in the survey team and shifting levels of capacity. The crux of the story is that overall numbers in the country sit at just over 3000 animals and regionally populations have declined dramatically. The KZN population has about halved since 2001.Of concern is the high number of properties who are not sure of their population trends coupled with a high reporting rate of decreasing numbers. Mpumalanga submitted only 29 returns and the Oribi Working Group would like to see more returns from this Province in order to assess the overall trend.

Dr. Ian Little, Manager of the EWT's Threatened Grassland Species Programme

Dr. Ian Little, Manager of the EWT’s Threatened Grassland Species Programme

Unfortunately Oribi are faced with many threats. These animals are an easy target for predators and humans. As grassland specialists they need good quality grasslands to survive, if it is disturbed in any way Oribi will have a hard time surviving. The 2014 Oribi survey reported that poaching with dogs is by far the most prominent threat, followed by stray dogs then snaring and illegal shooting. Another major threat to Oribi is habitat destruction, with considerable development (including widespread mining and agriculture) taking place in grassland areas. From our experience these threats are not confined to any province in particular and are significant throughout the region.

Oribi

Oribi

The issue of poaching with dogs is a serious threat and has seen a significant recent increase with the shift from hunting as a hobby to poaching and gambling in large numbers (also called taxi hunting). The EWT, EKZNW, The KZN Hunters and Conservation Association and SACAN are working closely with each other to tackle all these issues by working directly with landowners and communities at large. Environmental education and awareness is very important for all of us to achieve our conservation goals. Collectively we can do more and make a difference by tackling all the problems faced not only by Oribi but all of our natural resources.

For more information or to report poaching with dogs contact SACAN on 08-616-72226.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – December 2014

Marashene Lewis – Glen Gyle

I took the photograph one morning from our guest bedroom upstairs. The view is looking towards the D707 as it meandered down the hill to join the D17.

marashene sunrise

Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

Came across this large snail up in the hills on Carlisle,

IMG_2084

and spotted this beautiful moth on the same walk.

IMG_2079

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Saw a Water Mongoose cross the road just before the entrance gate to the farm. Di Droste photographed this:

Rinkhals

Pat McKrill’s Comment: “Your snake is a rinkhals – looks like a juvenile with attitude. You’ll find a few colour and pattern variations around that might lead to a bit of confusion, but the basic jizz of the variegated version shown in your pic is diagnostic.”

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Another month of misty grey days. I am always alerted by the special cry of the fish eagles as they fly overhead. Seen them high in the sky at least 4 times in past month. A pair of red necked francolin woke us at 5am one morning but ran into the shrubs before I could get a picture. The secretary bird walking the hills on a few occasions and also seen flying over farm. Common Stone chats are common.

Common stonechat

Hundreds of white butterflies flew into the garden on the 30th November and there were also dozens of dragon flies on the same day, so the swallows were having a field day.

brown veined butterfly on a felicia wrightii

colourful butterfly

A handful of white stork arrived on the 1st december and they are still here in the lands. Don’t know what happened to the rest of them. All the widow birds left end of november. Only one lonely chap left.

our only red collared  widow bird left

Our 2 wagtail babies left the nest on the 27th november and decided to shelter in my miniature rose bushes in front of the house, where mom fed them for about a week, before they started venturing forth to find their own food.  wagtail baby

One afternoon they both found a worm and rushed into the roses, only to rush out again being chased by an olive thrush. She loves going in there to pick up frogs as our water feature is also there and an attraction for the frogs. They now fly around the garden and love hopping in and out of the rocks looking for insects.

2 babies on the rocks

We had 2 cape canaries laying last month. One in the standard rose and the other in a standard duranta. One lot hatched out on the 9th dec with 2 babies and the other one on the 10th dec with 2 babies. Unfortunately on the 16th dec I found that my standard roses braches were broken, and a tattered nest with no week old babies. There were no prints below the rose, so I can only presume that a gymnogene had taken them. The other 2 babies are doing fine so far except that my cat is intrigued by the cheeping.

A grey heron came to visit in the garden one morning.

Grey heron

Pat saw one of the sparrow hawks eating a bird in the pastures.  Lots of red billed Queleas around.

red billed male quelea

One afternoon a small baby jackal, still with its fluffy hair ran in front of the car and into the wattle plantation on our farm. Saw 2 duiker in a chase across the hills.

One morning saw a mother oribi and her young male son running across the hill in front of the house.

Mom and male baby oribi running across the hill

A black sunbird and his mate are building a nest which looks almost complete, on the glass shade of our verandah.

female black sunbird

The black sunbirds nest on our verandah

Every few days the Steppe buzzard comes and perches on our dead tree next to the pond.

This steppe buzzard

Saw a grey mongoose running around the D18 at midday – Don’t see them much during the day. The birds all seem very busy nesting or finding food for their young – all in a great hurry. Cape Robin in my formal garden with a whole clump of something in its beak.

cape robin with a mouthful

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Luckily a cellphone is always on hand (well, except in extreme situations when you actually really need them…) so I managed to capture a few locusts this month on the farm.

Red and Blue Grasshopper

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

I like looking up. You always see something interesting. This month, African spoonbill, Grey Heron, lots of Spurwinged Geese, Jackal Buzzards, Swallows, Cormorants, Knysna Turacos, Crowned and Blue Cranes have flown over my head. I was delighted to see a Blue Crane at ground level too.

r December blue crane

Once my gaze shifted from the sky to the earth there were so many summer delights at ground level. Only one in six plants in healthy grassland are actually grasses, perfectly illustrated by this selection.Satyrium longicauda,

December flowers Satyrium longicauda

 Kouhoutia amatymbica,

Dec kouhautia

Dipcadi viride,

December Dipcadi viride

Eulophia foliosa,

December Eulophia foliosa

Ajuga,

December flowers Ajuga

Anthericum,

December flowers anthericum

Aristea,

December flowers Aristea

Cephalaria oblongifolia,

December flowers Cephalaria oblongifolia

Cyanotis speciosa,

December flowers cyanotis

Cyphia longifolia,

December flowers Cyphia longifolia

Diclis reptans,

December flowers Diclis

Hypericum lalandii,

December flowers Hypericum lalandii

Lobelia erinus,

December flowers lobelia

Pentanisia,

December flowers pentanisia

Rhodohypoxis baurii,

December flowers rhodohypoxis

Scilla nervosa,

December flowers Scilla nervosa

Senecio (discodregeanus?),

December flowers senecio discodregeanus

Silene bellidoides,

December flowers Silene

Trachyandra,

December flowers trachyandra

Tulbaghia natalensis,

December flowers tulbahgia natalensis

Psammotropha mucronata,

December Psammotropha

Senecio oxyriifolius,

December Senecio oxy

Sisyanthus trichostomus,

December Sisyanthus trichostomus

Vernonia hirsuta,

December Vernonia hirsuta

Senecio setosa,

senecio setosa

Hermannia depressa,

Hermannia

Hypoxis parvula,

Hypoxis parvula

Zantedeschia albomaculata,

December flowers Zantedeschia

Hibiscus trionum,

Hibiscus trionum

Ledebouria,

Ledebouria

Hesperantha baurii,

Hesperantha baurii

Gerbera ambigua.

Gerbera ambigua

Two new exciting finds I never seen on the farm before were: Psorolea abottii and

summer 2015 107 - Copy

Knipophia breviflorus (if I have the id correct, that is!)

knipophia breviflora

Although this photo of Stachys aethiopica is out of focus, I had to include it – just look at those hairs on the stem. Isn’t it fun when you download your photos and discover a whole lot of interesting things you never realised were there in the field?

December flowers Stachys DOTS and HAIRS

Saw two Bushbuck, a few Common Duiker and a couple of Scrub Hares, big troops of Samango monkeys and 8 Reedbuck.

r December reedbuck group

Heard tree dassies, jackals, Wood Owls, Barn Owls, Burchell’s Coucal, Buff spotted Flufftail, African Cuckoo, Red Chested Cuckoo. Am thoroughly enjoying watching Weavers build their nests right outside my kitchen door – so fast and such enthusiasm!

r weaver building nest

There seem to be masses of insects about, pollinating everything in flower. Loved this gorgeous wasp on Vernonia.

r December wasp on Vernonia natalensis