Tag Archives: owls

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2015

The lovely warm winter days have certainly been abundant this year, we have had some chilly frosty mornings here in the Dargle, but by 9am it’s usually pretty warm. One thing needing mentioning, the Merricks sent through their sightings for March, but somehow they got lost in “cyber space” and only came through in June! So let’s see what pictures have been sent in and creatures spotted…

Tony Ritchie/Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

This pic of our Crowned Eagle was taken by a guest: Tony Ritchie, as the bird flew over our driving session on Monday 15th June.

Crowned Eagle

Crowned Eagle

Nikki Brighton and Tiffany Atwell (Old Kilgobbin) as well as Tammy Caine & Shane McPherson (Owl Box Project)

Early morning wanders around the farmyard have been a real treat for the last while. Often the silent silhouette of a barn owl swoops by just before the sun starts to rise. The hungry hiss of a couple of chicks in the owl box is unmistakable, but we can’t see them tucked safely in their bed high in the shed. Fortunately, Tammy Caine and Shane McPherson of the Owl Box Project visited to install a box in another shed on the farm and couldn’t resist a peek. Tiffany took these wonderful photos while they ringed the chicks so that we will be able to see if one of them takes up residence nearby.

Barn Owl 1

Barn Owl 2

Barn Owl 3

Barn Owl 4

Barn Owl 5

Dr. Amy-Leigh Shuttleworth, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Some images captured on the trail cameras on Albury Farm last month, Sandra Merrick sent through this information:

Dr Amy-Leigh put up 4 cameras during the month, as we had a very active aardvark on the farm but as usual, no luck after ten days, but there are a couple of other wonderful pics she sent us.

This huge samango monkey at sunrise was a surprise.

This huge samango monkey at sunrise was a surprise.

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

 

Jackal

Jackal

Porcupine

Porcupine

 

Reedbuck doe

Reedbuck doe

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

After attending all the recent Owl talks we’ve had in the Dargle, I have tried to be more observant to see what owls we have here on our farm. Last month we had a Barn Owl flying around inside our shed whilst we were working with the sheep. Then last week as I was driving out the gate in the evening, there was an African Eagle owl sitting on the fence just looking out over the veld. Hopefully he/she managed to catch lots of rodents and keep them out of our tractors!

Brian & Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

The first part of June did not deliver many photographs. Brian then moved the camera to a different part of the GlenGyle forest. (These were all captured with the Dargle Conservancy Trophy Camera.)

Blue Duiker

Blue Duiker

Bushbuck doe

Bushbuck doe

Bushbuck ram

Bushbuck ram

Jackal

Jackal

Porcupine Family

Porcupine Family

Spotted Genet

Spotted Genet

Tailend of a Bushpig

Tailend of a Bushpig

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm (March & June)

We were away when the juvenile Blue Crane started flying. They are still on our farm and fly to the dam every night at about 5.30pm.

Blue crane family - the juvenile started flying early march while we were away

Blue crane family – the juvenile started flying early march while we were away

Saw 7 crowned crane at the dam one evening. Have seen 2 sets of Crowned crane with one juvenile this month. Have not seen our Blue crane in a long while.

Grey crowned crane with juvenile

Grey crowned crane with juvenile

Last month we got quite excited when we saw a large hole had been dug in the hill opposite our house.

Aardvark burrow

Aardvark burrow

We went to investigate and found scratch marks from the claws of the aardvark just inside the burrow. I contacted Dr Amy Wilson who came out with her trail cameras and set up 3 outside the burrow. Unfortunately, the next 8 nights were either stormy or drizzly and cold. Much to our disappointment, the cameras showed no activity at all, so either he had bunkered down or gone elsewhere.

Aardvark claw marks inside burrow

Aardvark claw marks inside burrow

The black female sunbird was sitting when we went away but not there on our return so not sure if a juvenile had been hatched.

Black female sunbird sitting once again

Black female sunbird sitting once again

The swallows, sparrows, barn owls and rock pigeons are still around the house.

House sparrow

House sparrow

Seen a number of duiker and reed buck. They are eating the acorns.

Male duiker

Male duiker

The black sparrowhawks are still in the gum plantation. The buzzards seem to have vanished.

Jackal buzzard

Jackal buzzard

Chats, sunbirds, wagtails, southern bou bous, cape robins, drakensberg prinia, olive thrushs still around.

Olive thrush in the rain

Olive thrush in the rain

Gurney's Sugarbird

Gurney’s Sugarbird

Black sunbird on kniphofia

Black sunbird on kniphofia

I am convinced that these Malachite sunbirds were mating. I saw this happening beginning June. The problem is, do sunbirds mate in winter?

Malachites 1

Malachites

They first both landed on tree, looked at each other and then touched beaks (did not get this photo unfortunately). They moved closer together on branch and then she turned upside down and he flew on top of her – this all happened in seconds…

Malachites 4

Perhaps someone who is experienced in this behaviour can shed some light on what they were doing.

Male malachite sunbird

Male malachite sunbird

We saw our neighbour who told us that he had 9 water buck on his farm eating his pastures, so we decided to go for a hike one morning when the electricity was off for 13 hours (repairs). He also told us that there were a number of aardvark holes next to the dirt road. He had noticed the trophy camera that Dr Amy Wilson had put up the previous week, as we had told her the aardvark was around once more digging his holes. She put up several cameras around our farm roads.

Unknown butterfly

Unknown butterfly

It was a beautiful morning and we soon found the 9 Waterbuck lying in the long grass. There were many aardvark prints in the soft dirt road and also a number of large holes. I took a few pics and we carried on walking to a stream on the next door farm, wanting to stop for a tea break. What we encountered in the Wattle trees was a bush pig. Fortunately there was no confrontation and he just ran off. Whew.

Aardvark prints

Aardvark prints

The very next day those same 9 water buck arrived on our farm once more. We have always had 5 buck but now the 9 from next door had arrived – had they followed our scent?
They seemed to enjoy eating the roughage for a few hours before disappearing over the dam wall. We haven’t seen them since.

The water buck are back, but 9 arrived on farm this time although only managed to get 7 in this shot

The water buck are back, but 9 arrived on farm this time although only managed to get 7 in this shot

The one Barn owlet was giving us a lot of problems through the month by flying through the security beams every night. We were getting a little tired of this and one night when he arrived on the window sill I told Pat to go and fetch him before the dogs caught him! We put him in a large box and took him to Free Me next day. We decided to do this before he injured his wings. All the previous owlets that we have taken to Free Me had injured their wings. When I went to go see him a week later at Free Me, I was told that Tammy Caine from the Raptor Rehab centre had arrived at Free Me and had ringed him and taken him away. I just hope that he will be released soon in an area where he will be happy.

Barn owl on window sill

Barn owl on window sill

I have seen a number of commodore butterflies this month. One sat on the ceiling in our lounge for a week. One warm morning when I opened the doors he flew out.

Garden Commodore (Precis archesia)

Garden Commodore (Precis archesia)

Emperor swallowtail

Emperor swallowtail

A pair of African shelduck at the dam.

A pair of shelduck

A pair of shelduck

A yellowbilled duck hatched out 10 ducklings beginning of the month. So very late. A few days ago only 4 were left! Every night about 60 spurwing geese spend the night on the dam. Pat saw 3 francolin chicks.

Yellow bill duck and 4 ducklings

Yellow bill duck and 4 ducklings

There are a lot of reedbuck around – a few days ago saw a baby reedbuck with mom which was encouraging as the jackal are still howling every night.

Female reedbuck

Female reedbuck

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings for September

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill

Sightings have improved recently, with a group of African Spoonbills unconcernedly sharing their bath in the Gartmore Pan with some cows. Twané said the cattle, despite their size advantage, were more concerned about the presence of the birds.

September Sightings 1

Two infrequent visitors on the Gartmore pan were the Great Egret which Twané saw recently and the Giant Kingfisher which landed on the rock in front of me.

September Sightings 2

September Sightings 3

We are having daily sightings of African Rails, Black Crake and African Snipe. We have also been seeing the Drakensberg Prinia and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow more often. Two Long-crested Eagles were seen flying in unison and gave a shrieking call for a few minutes. The avenue of trees are dominated by a combination of Fork-tailed Drongos and Southern Black Flycatchers who are feeding on all the delicious insects.

Snake Saga – Part 2

Twané showed great foresight when she labelled last month’s “Snake Saga” Part 1. She obviously had a feeling that it wasn’t yet over, so here is Part 2!  She was working on her laptop reading through Part 1 when she suddenly became aware of a pair of eyes watching her from just above the screen. As she is now quite used to its presence, she grabbed a camera and photographed it.

September Sightings 5

It was obviously not satisfied with the information it had gleaned from Roberts’ Birds on its last visit, so it sought out a slightly more recent edition.

September Sightings 6

Having heard about Pat McKrill’s reputation as an authority on snakes it then perused his excellent book on the subject – ‘Getting to know the Neighbours’. As it appears to have decided that the Conservation Centre is a friendly place, I think it deserves a name so that it may be put onto the payroll! We’re unsure of its sex, so I’d like to propose an asexual name like Percyvera!

September Sightings 7

Karkloof Babies – Patrick Cahill

I am not sure where baby birds come from, when I was a kid the stork delivery epitomised current belief to be replaced later by the gooseberry bush hypothesis. Whichever is correct, the delivery service has been working overtime recently.

AJ Liebenberg, a manager on Loskop Farm, sent in this picture of a family of Egyptian Geese seen on Loskop Pan. Though most despise this bird, one cannot help falling in love with the goslings who have complete faith in their parents and follow closely.

September Sightings 8

Twané has seen plenty of Blacksmith  Lapwing chicks on the shores of the Loskop Pan. They are hard so spot and photograph, as they are far away and blend in very well with the vegetation.

Perhaps the highlight of the recent deliveries has been the arrival of a Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl chick on Gartmore virtually in Charlie’s back yard.  I managed to capture this photo of Wol and Wollet in the late afternoon. They are nocturnal and primarily hunt at night and their diet consists of mammals up to the size of Vervet monkeys, a variety of birds such as Secretarybirds, ducks, raptors, and they also eat reptiles, frogs, fish and arthropods.

September Sightings 9

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth

An immature Martial Eagle perched on a dead tree, giving a clear, excellent view. We occasionally see Martial here, but not often.

A Black Sparrowhawk flying across our lake carrying a bird the size of a dabchick (Little Grebe). It sat on the road in front of me to recover from exertion before flying into a tree. Can’t be sure what its prey was, but very likely a dabchick as it was taken over water. We have a pair of Egyptian geese with goslings but they are on a different dam.

A Striped Flufftail was heard calling in the grassland on “little Mbona” hill, a new one for our bird list, and gives us three flufftails with the Buff-spotted and Red-chested. The call was exactly as described in Roberts and continued for some time.

Mist-netting at Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson

Thursday 25th September was windy and not an ideal day for ringing. Billowing nets are more visible to the birds and thus capture numbers lower. We did still catch and ring 13 birds. A small flock of   Yellow-fronted Canaries were the favourites of the morning.

September Sightings 10

The following species were caught, ringed and measured :

  • 4 x Yellow-fronted Canary
  • 4 x Red-billed Quelea
  • 2 x Southern Red Bishop
  • 2 x Levaillant’s Cisticola
  • 1 x African Stonechat

Raptor Ringing Day – Karin Nelson

The 2nd Raptor Ringing Day was held on Saturday the 13th September 2014, where 4 teams, with 4 participants per team took part. Each team had a qualified ringer, a falconer, a raptor expert/handler/researcher and a trainee/enthusiast. Our team was made up of Ben Hoffman (Raptor Rescue), Stuart Pringle (Falconer), Brent Coverdale (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) and myself, Karin Nelson (Ringer).

September Sightings 11

Each team had one baited Balchatri Trap and were given a route to drive to find and trap the raptors. Our team randomly selected the Richmond area. The day was in part to collect valuable data for Lorinda Hart, who is working on a Jackal Buzzard project as her Post-doctoral Research at UKZN. All Jackal Buzzards caught were ringed, measured, weighed, bloods taken, and photographed to collect data for the project. In total 11 raptors were caught by the four teams.

September Sightings 12

The topic of Lorinda’s project is the Population relatedness and colour variation of Jackal Buzzards. Only 3.5% of bird species demonstrate plumage polymorphism (variation in feather colour) within a population of same age and sex. Birds of prey have a relatively high incidence of plumage polymorphism.  Jackal Buzzards vary in their colour morphs throughout southern Africa . Up to seven plumage categories have been identified in the eastern Karoo with colours and patterns varying in the face, chest, back, eye, and tail of individuals .

You can contribute to the project by sending colour images of Jackal Buzzards and relevant GPS co-ordinates to Lorinda at rinjordaan@gmail.com. This information will be useful to add to the database of colour variation for the area. Please note that both front and back profiles are required.  This photographed Jackal Buzzard was taken by one of the four teams in the Karkloof. Stuart MacKenzie’s cattle and the beautiful Loskop mountain can be seen in the background.

September Sightings 13

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2014

Simon Hayes – Hambledon

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

fish eagle in flight

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Maybe the otter in the dam puts him off!

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Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury

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

barn owlet

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

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

hamerkop

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

greater collared sunbird

Female malachite sunbird

female malachite sunbird

Also many common stonechats and buff streaked chats.  Common Stonechat

common stonechat

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

little bird

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

guerney sugar bird

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

cape white eye

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

cape robin

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

secretary bird

Yellow-throated Petronia (gymnoris superciliaris)

bird on bare branches

Malachite sunbird in eclipse

malachite sunbird in eclipse

Black sunbird – with its tongue out!

black sunbird tongue out

Common duiker

common duiker

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

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

reedbuck fighting

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

male reedbuck after fight

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

barn owl practicing flying

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

jackal albury

male bush buck,

male bush buck

porcupine

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and lastly a beautiful caracal which is very special.

caracal

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

Robin Barnsley – Sanctuary

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

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

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

frosted orange fruit

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

frosted bugweed

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

what is this weed

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

black jacks

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

buddleja close up

Strawflowers are hanging in as well

straw flowers are hanging in

The frost got hold of these wild melons as well.

frosted wild melons

Images from the Trail Camera:  a Small Antelope

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Eland

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Aardvark

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Porcupine and Jackal

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Common Male Duiker

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Nikki Brighton

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

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

 

Rats, Poisons, Owls

Tammy Caine of the Raptor Rescue Rehabilitation Centre has been overwhelmed with offers of safe homes for owls and other small raptors, following our blog post Owls, Out of the Woods. “Thank you. I am going to put together a database of all the people and their properties. I am spoilt for options now. This was a fantastic idea, and I could not have done it without your help. It is so much appreciated!”

r owl pussy cat feet

Obviously, the story captured the imagination of many Midlanders. Not all however, and Judy Bell, Chair of the Winterskloof Conservancy compiled the following information for members and residents.

One of our Conservancy members was distraught recently to see a resident of our Valley walk out of the Spar with an armful of Rattex.  The use of this poison has consequences, which we all need to understand, so we can make informed decisions for the sustainability of the wildlife in our Valley.

A food chain is a system where a small creature is the food for a larger one which, in turn, is the food for an even larger animal. Owls and raptors are perched on top of their food chains and we are privileged to have many in the Winterskloof Valley.  One of our Valley families has even become an owl rehabilitator, looking after injured birds until they are able to fend for themselves and be released.  It will be devastating if the use of poisons (for snails, rats, etc) kills off these beautiful owls that have been given a second chance in life.  We cherish their nocturnal calls as they do their rodent control work for us, free of charge!

owl chicks.

Many people don’t realise that when an owl or other predator eats a poisoned rodent, that animal gets poisoned too. These poisons are killing the very animals, like the Barn Owl, that naturally control rodents. For owls to survive, there needs to be enough food (rats and mice) for them to eat.  This means that there will be these essential creatures in the food chain.  We do need to keep them out of our houses, but shockingly, over 86% of all tested wildlife patients show evidence of exposure to rat poisons!  These animals are eating poisoned rodents and carrying varying loads of toxic poison in their systems and those of their chicks, as a result.

Rat poisons kill by making whatever animal eats them bleed to death internally – slowly and painfully over a period of days. While the poisoned rats or mice are still alive, they (and their deadly load of poison) can be caught more easily and consumed by other predators including owls, cats and dogs. Rodents are the basic food source for a number of different predators all the way up the food chain, including owls, buzzards, eagles, genets and caracal (rooikat) in our area. It is a terrifying prospect; to kill many animals while targeting only one!  As top or apex predators, the presence or absence of raptors (including owls) from an area can tell us how healthy the environment is. If raptors are rare or absent it means that the balance of nature has been disturbed.

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South Africa has 12 owl species varying in size from the tiny Pearl-spotted Owlet to the imposing Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl (previously called a Spotted Eagle-Owl). Owls are found in many habitats, from bushveld to grasslands, on cliff-faces, along river-banks and in our cities.  There are fewer owls and other raptors in the Valley each year, not from the lack of habitat or food, but from the widespread and improper use of poison bait in misguided attempts to control rats.  Rat poison is having dangerous and detrimental effects on the wildlife in our area. We need to find better ways to live well with wildlife.

Please STOP using rat poisons as they are doing more harm than good.  So what CAN we do to keep control these creatures that cause damage when they choose to live in our houses instead of our gardens?

Ben Hoffman, from the Raptor Rescue Centre advocates the use of the Rat Zapper, which is shown in the photo provided by Sharon Gilbert who has bought one.  It provides a lethal shock when a rat or mouse enters the trap.  There are no poisons used and thus will not affect other creatures that may eat the dead mouse or rat.

rat zapper

What a pleasure to have a environmentally responsible alternative to controlling the rodents that may be wreaking havoc in our ceilings!

For more details on raptors, visit the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary website, where they give tips on creating Owl-friendly environments.  We look forward to hearing from you about your tips to avoid using harmful poisons for controlling pests.

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Owls, Out of the Woods

The Raptor Rescue Rehabilitation Centre receives injured birds regularly. They have been hit by cars, poisoned and electrocuted. Sometimes the raptors are shot by irate farmers protecting small livestock like chickens and geese. After receiving tender loving care, many are able to be released back into the wild. However, this is not just a case of letting them go anywhere, usually they need a soft release, with someone to take care of their needs for a while, while they find their wings.

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RRRC is looking for potential release sites for birds. Do you live on a farm or small holding that would be suitable to support birds of prey, either owls, or diurnal raptors?

Katie Robinson at Lemonwood in Dargle has rehabilitated and released a number of owls, a few from FreeMe and the rest rescued by locals. She says I absolutely loved rehabilitating the owls and have done about 12 now over the years and although I don’t see them very often any more, I know they are around and I hear them at night in the forest. 

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 My favourite was a barely alive fledgling, a Spotted Eagle Owl, whom we named Challenge. She was brought to me by a couple of the boys in the village.  As luck would have it, I had two homeopathic vets staying in the cottages who told me to feed it a concoction of remedies, one of which was Rescue (I can’t remember the other two).  I got up every two hours to check on it and administer the drops for the next couple of nights. She made a remarkable recovery and was the first owl I had to teach how to hunt for itself.  I had some live rat traps which were incredibly effective (designed and built by Ken Willan) and I would release the rats into the middle of the lawn and the race was on.  I lost a lot of rats (which I am sure were not fooled by the rat traps twice) but eventually the owl caught on and became a brilliant hunter.  She stayed around the garden for months suddenly appearing out of the trees and landing either on my head or shoulder.  Their flight really is silent, I never knew it was there until I felt her talons trying to get a grip on my skull!!  But she was a tremendous help with the rat problems I had on the farm, so a fright a few times a week was worth the pain! The guests in the cottages loved it.  The owls would come and sit on their balcony. I remember one guest who got the fright of her life as she was at the kitchen sink in front of the window at night and suddenly an owl landed on the sill and started bobbing its head around staring at her with those wonderful, piercing orange eyes.  She told me he stayed there for ages just staring at her and bobbing up and down in their customary way.”

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What a privilege to be chosen as a suitable custodian and being able to engage closely with a bird of prey. This is a very rewarding experience if you have the enthusiasm, time and money to assist our precious raptors and contribute to conservation. You need to be willing to put up a 3m squared release enclosure at your own cost. It needs to have weld-mesh wire or shade cloth sides tied to a metal frame. One side has to have a covered area to protect the bird from the elements, and one side has to have a door in it. Once it has been set up it can be used repeatedly for several releases of various raptors. If owls are to be released, you would need to buy an owl box which will need to be placed in the protected corner of the enclosure. RRRC then bring the raptor/s and place them into your care.

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Four Spotted Eagle Owls were released into the Winterskloof Conservancy area under the custodianship of the Fosters.  Linda Foster: “Thanks for giving us this awesome opportunity to release these lovely raptors.” A while after the successful release, she was delighted to report. “I heard a Spottie calling in the valley last night. Only one calling – couldn’t hear any replies. None of them have been back for food so far though.”

Daily duties for the new guardians will include feeding the birds daily and monitoring their progress for two to three weeks as they settle into their new environment. RRRC will supply the food – several packets of frozen day old chicks which can be taken out, defrosted and used when necessary. Tammy Caine, of RRRC “We will recommend the amount of food to be given depending on the raptor, and which time of day is best to feed.”

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After sufficient time, the door to the enclosure will be opened allowing the raptors to come and go as they please. The guardians will have to continue placing food out until the raptors are hunting and self-sufficient again.

A Crowned Eagle was released in Albert Falls last year – the release process was a perfect success (although later the bird had a sad ending). Theo and Margie Cave reported “Guin (the Crowned Eagle) was released at 17:30 on Friday. She had a successful first meeting with the resident male about an hour later. Both roosted in a large gum tree for the night. Both eagles were in the tree above the hack enclosure on Saturday. Guin came down and fed in the cage.”

16.03.2014 085This is a really worthwhile project to be involved in and obviously a joyful one too. Raptors are often misunderstood and persecuted. “Owls in particular are killed on sight by those superstitious enough to view them as bringers of death. We also get orphan chicks, particularly owls coming into the rehab. It is always a challenge to find suitable homes for these babies as they need longer care, more vigilance and a lot more help in adjusting to life as free, wild birds.” says Tammy Caine. Do contact her as soon as you can to offer your services as a raptor rescuer.  kznraptorrescue@gmail.com 076 724 6846

http://www.africanraptor.co.za

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Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – May 2014

May has been a beautiful month at the Karkloof Conservation Centre with the falling of leaves and the gorgeous autumn colours on display. Patrick Cahill has put these monthly sightings together and will do his best to keep up a regular issue of Sightings from the Karkloof. We have had excellent sightings of all 3 of our crane species in good numbers, as well as sightings of Spotted Necked otters that have been putting Chad le Clos to shame with their superb swimming skills.

Red-knobbed Coots and Little Grebes are very defensive of their territory, I have watched Little Grebes chasing one another for half an hour on the Loskop Pan. This Coot took great exception to the presence of the Red-billed Teal on his part of the pan and the Teal remembered the words of advice from his Irish Grandfather:   “Best be a coward for five minutes than a dead man all your life”!

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Loskop (Wattled Crane) Hide

During this period Blue Cranes were sighted on 8 occasions, Grey Crowned Cranes 4 occasions, and Wattled Cranes 5. Besides the normal population of water birds, the following species were listed for the period:-

African Fish Eagle, South African Shelduck, Southern Pochard, African Marsh Harrier, White-faced Duck and Jackal Buzzard.

Jackal Buzzard

Gartmore (Crowned Crane) Hide

During this period Grey Crowned Cranes were sighted on 3 occasions, Wattled Cranes on 7, and Blue Cranes on 2. Some special sightings included the African Harrier-Hawk, South African Shelduck, Steppe Buzzard, African Marsh Harrier, Black-headed Heron, Giant Kingfisher, Black Crake, Spotted Necked Otter and3 young, Lesser Kestrel, Bald Ibis and the Greater Striped Swallow.

Twané often has close encounters with the herptile kind and she photographed this non-venomous Variegated Bush Snake in the Nick Steele Picnic Site recently as it was trying to eke out some warmth from the sun’s wintry rays. Remember to bring some extra picnic lunch along for our friend next time you visit.

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Norma Maguire’s culinary skills have been praised by her guests at Thistledown Country House for many years and now it appears the residents of the surrounding forest are keen to try her cuisine. Norma recently photographed this Bushbuck doe on her lawn. It unfortunately had to be turned away as it hadn’t made a booking!

Bushbuck at Thistledown

On a morning drive around their farm, 1 lonely Oribi was seen with 3 Reedbuck rams and 4 does, as well as 17 Guinea fowl which were counted. This is the most they have seen for a while and were concerned about the drop in numbers and were seeing only 3 at a time. Carolyn would love to know if anyone else has kept a count of their Guinea fowl and we would love you to send future counts of these birds to us so that we can monitor their numbers. You can send this information to conservancy@karkloof.co.za.

There was some excitement in the Karkloof about a year ago when Tim Hancock saw a completely white owl, with two fledgling chicks that looked like Spotted Eagle Owls, in the Karkloof Nature Reserve.

Mother and chick - By Tim Hancock

In this rush of excitement, Pieter Duys managed to photograph this peculiar family of owls, and sent his photos on to some of the experts for identification and explanation.

Owl, Spotted Eage juv Karkloof  - Adam Riley 2

Dr. Mark Brown, of Natures Valley Trust, and Adam Riley, of Rockjumper Birding Tours, both responded confirming that this was a family of Spotted Eagle Owls and the white owl is a leucistic specimen. Leucism is a milder form of albinism. Albinism is the absence of any pigmentation, but leucism is a partial absence of pigmentation. This phenomenon occurs in many species, including mammals, reptiles and birds.

Owl, Spotted Eage leucistic Karkloof  - Adam Riley2

Fortunately, the family hung around the vicinity long enough to be well ‘captured’ on camera in the following days of the sighting by Adam Riley and Tim Hancock. It is spectacular that this owl has flourished to adulthood and had a successful breeding season. Both chicks were unaffected by the recessive allele and have successfully fledged their nest.

Have you ever wondered what’s in that hole in the ground? Well, Charlie and Robyn set up a camera trap that they borrowed from the Midlands Conservancies Forum to find out exactly what it was and to settle the ongoing debates. Camera’s don’t lie (all women know that!) and the mystery was solved. This Porcupine was photographed and was definitely NOT camera shy!

Porcupine on Gartmore Farm

The mountain biking trails in the SAPPI plantations in the Karkloof are proving very popular with the more athletic visitors to the area and this Serval decided to take a ‘selfie’ using the camera trap set up on one of the trails. Servals have become more prolific in many areas in KwaZulu-Natal.

Serval

This female Southern Ground-Hornbill was photographed on the road between the Currie’s Post Road and the Karkloof Country Club and she is probably the same one which has been sighted on various farms such as Colbourne, Gartmore, Lsokop, Hawkstone and Denleigh. Lucy Kemp, of the Mabula Ground-Hornbill project, advised us that it is normal to see a female roaming an area alone, as she would be scouting for a group of males to breed with. Please let the Conservation Centre know if you have any sightings of Ground-Hornbills in the Karkloof so that we can pass this information on to Lucy for conservation purposes.

Ground Hornbill in the Karkloof - Adult female 1

We would appreciate any contributions of interesting pictures taken and stories of sightings in the Karkloof region. Please would you email them to us at conservancy@karkloof.co.za.