Tag Archives: plants

Impendle Nature Reserve

The Midlands CREW headed out to Impendle Nature Reserve on 23 March to find some flowers and wander in the grasslands.  Most of us had never visited before, so we were lucky that CREW stalwarts, Christeen Grant, Barbara and David Clulow came along to show us the way. They have had success during past seasons in finding Threatened Species – Asclepias biscuspis, Disa scullyi, Asclepias concinna, Schizoglossum bidens var hirtum, Asclepias woodii, Schizoglossum bidens subsp hirtum,  Asclepias woodii, Bowiea volubilis subsp. volubilis and Sandersonia aurantiaca – in various locations in the Midlands.

Boston Crew Barbara, Christeen, David in impendle res.

The reserve centre lies 11 km due south of  Impendle town, and about 50 km west of Pietermaritzburg. It took about an hour to get there from Howick.  The terrain is undulating, steep and rocky at the highest points, and dissected with small river drainage lines that fall over a minor escarpment as they join the Umkomaas River, which forms much of the site’s southern boundary. Altitude range is 935–1 586 m.  The site is predominantly grassland (about 2 000 ha). Most of this is Highland Sourveld,  with some Southern Tall Grassveld remaining. In its pristine state, this grassland should be dominated by Red Grass Themeda triandra, but the scarcity of this grass indicates that the site has been man-modified in the past – we saw plenty of Aristida and Paspalum.

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We headed up the hill from the carpark. There are no paths, so we simply waded through the grass, finding treasures as we went.

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The first discovery was Satyrium macrophyllum – shown off beautifully against the dry gold grass

IMG_8812 Satyrium macrophyllum CGrant

then Alectra sessiliflora, which is flowering profusely in the Midlands this year.

IMG_8821 Alectra sessiliflora CGrant

We stopped to photograph everything! Christeen took all the fabulous flower photos in this post.

Peter and Christeen phtographing res.

We saw Disa fragrans, Helichtrysum adenocarpum, Monocymbium ceresiliforme, Habernaria lithophila, Helichrysum glomeratum, Becium obovatum subsp. obovatum var. obovatum.

IMG_8820 Becium obovatum CGrant

Eucomis autumnalis, Veronia natalensis, Searsia (Rhus) discolour, Vigna vexillata, Pachycarpus sp (not in flower), Lobelia erinus, Schistostephium crataegifolium,

IMG_8839 Schistosephium crataegifolium CGrant

Satyrium longicauda (not in flower), Wahlenbergia cuspidata, Haberneria dregeana,

IMG_8843 Habenaria dregeana CGrant

Barleria monticola, Sebaea sedoides (isivumelwane esikhulu), Hermannia gerradii – two plants spreading across the earth below the rocky area which was a first for David and Christeen and cause for much delight. Lobelia erinus

IMG_8838 Lobelia erinus CGrant

Leonotis intermedia,  Striga elegans, Gladiolus sericeovillosus  – this was Lindiwe’s favourite flower of the day.

IMG_8858 Gladiolus sericeovillosus CGrant

Some things we really puzzled over, but half the fun is looking up, discussing and finding the answer.

what is that impendle crew res.

This Senecio had us stumped. Peter thought it might be Senecio dreageana which is listed in the red Data book as vulnerable. He has posted it on iSpot – for assistance from other amateur Botanists – have a look: iSpot record  If it is,  it is pretty special – “It probably occurs at less than 10 locations, based on herbarium records and habitat maps. At least 67% of its grassland habitat has been transformed, and all remaining subpopulations are on small habitat fragments that are subject to ongoing degradation as a result of frequent fires, overgrazing, subsistence agriculture and the effects of fragmentation. Habitat loss has taken place over a period longer than three generations. Data on population size and trends are urgently needed.”  We are uncertain and await specialist identification – it is so easy for us to be over enthusiastic and misidentify things, so we want to make sure.

IMG_8824 Secencio sp CGrant

Crassula pellucida, Kniphofia laxiflora (not flowering), Diospyrus lycoides (not flowering), Scolopia, Berkheya multijuga, Calpurnia sericia (not flowering), Kalenchoe persiflora, Hibiscus trionum,

IMG_8855 Hibiscus trionum CGrant

Merwilla plumbea (not flowering), Cussonia paniculata (not flowering), Argylobium magenta (not flowering), Rhabdiosella calycina, Canthium mundianum (not flowering – stunted amongst rocks),  Buchnera simplex,

IMG_8881 Buchnera simplex CGrant

Ziziphus (not flowering – stunted amongst rocks), Pelargonium luridum (not flowering), Ortholobium polystictum, Asparagus cooperi, Watsonia socium (a few still in flower), Aloe maculata (not flowering), Pimpinella caffra,

IMG_8861 Pimpinella caffra CGrant

Dicoma anomala

IMG_8886 Dicoma anomala CGrant

Ayanda simply loved the wide opens spaces, the quiet and the views.

Ayanda and Christeen impendle crew res.

We couldn’t identify: Small yellow tubular flower with 5 fused petals. Fine 10cm long stem from ground.  Tiny bracts. Anyone have any ideas?


Helichrysum cephaloideum, Zaluzianskia microsiphon, Gladiolus ecklonii,

IMG_8875 Gladioulus eckonii CGrant

We saw a couple of reed buck, lots of butterflies, found a porcupine quill and fell into a few aardvark holes.  This tiny weevil was interesting

IMG_8869 Weevil sp CGrant

Greyia sutherlandii, Grewia occidentalis, Halleria lucida, Scolopia mundii, Schizoglossum bidens (with fruit), Dicomis autumnalis, Eulophia sp (seed pods and caterpillar)

IMG_8889 Eulophia sp with caterpillar

We were very excited to find Bowiea volubilis amongst the Dolerite rocks on the ridge as it is on out Target Species list of Threatened species to look out for.  The Red Data list tell us that it is under severe threat from harvesting for the medicinal plant trade.

IMG_8883 Boweia volubilis CGrant

We also thought we spotted Anenome fanninii (another from our list) in the valley.  Impendle holds one of the largest populations of Blue Swallow remaining in South Africa, however we only visited the Northern slopes, not the area where they nest.

The reserve consists of a series of farms that were first settled by colonists over 100 years ago. Most of the land was devoted to cattle grazing, but small areas have been used for crops.  The farms were purchased in the late 1970s by the government for the purpose of consolidating the old KwaZulu homeland. They have been uninhabited since 1980. The value of this Trust Land to conservation was recognised in 1983 with the proposal to formally convert the area into Impendle Nature Reserve. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has been the management authority for the reserve since 1994.

Should you wish to visit, you need to make arrangements before you go or you may find the gate locked.  Call Michael Ngubo, 072 542 3049 or Nicholas Mndaweni, 082 518 8219.  The Officer in Charge is Mbuyiselo Gxashi – his email address is gxashim@kznwildlife.com

Bews Herbarium and Botanical Garden Excursion

Recently, Midlands CREW and the Mpophomeni Conservation Group spent a morning exploring the Bews Herbarium and Botanical Garden at the University of KZN – Pietermaritzburg Campus.

Christina Potgieter, Senior Herbarium Technician, introduced the Bews Herbarium – the biggest in KZN with over 150 000 specimens. She explained how important the collection was for scientific research and that the information gathered here was very useful to publications. In particular, she mentioned that Elsa Pooley’s book on KZN Wildflowers had used their references on flowering times.christina welcomes everyone herbarium RES.

Christina explained carefully how to collect and press plants and how important it was to write down all your observations in the field – in particular location, colour, date, time of day, pollinators present and fragrance.  Photos are a useful addition, but cannot replace a carefully pressed specimen for proper identification.

alicia david ayanda israel - herbarium.RES. JPG

Ayanda Lipheyana, an Environmental Management student focussing on Invasive Species, was interested to discover that the Herbarium also collected specimens of weeds.

Ayanda with alien specimens herbarium res.

Curator, Dr Benny Bytebier, showed everyone how to access Brahms – the Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System.   Currently Bews is digitizing all the data in their collection and uploading onto this site to enable anyone anywhere to access the information housed here.

benny - herbarium.res. JPG

Alison Young, curator of the UKZN Botanical Gardens gave us a guided tour pointing out interesting plants and explaining the history of the gardens established in 1983.  An enormous Jacaranda had been left standing when other invasive species were cleared as it provided a habitat for the endangered Ocotea bulata to thrive.   Certainly, the trees growing under the canopy were much bigger and better looking than those growing in the sunshine. Of particular interest was an area of grassland which was slowly going back to its natural state after years of being mown – with a number of original bulbs emerging.

alison young explains.RES

Everything cut back in the garden is recycled into compost and excess distilled water from the laboratories feeds the stream, wetland and ponds. It certainly is a green oasis in the city with lots of birds and butterflies and other small wild animals in evidence.

botanical garden ukzn RES.

Penz Malinga, whose particular interest is medicinal plants,  enjoyed a quiet moment under an impressive cycad.

Penz malinga cycad RES.

Lindiwe Mkhize was delighted to find a fully grown specimen of Polygala myrtifolia,  as she had recently planted one in her own garden.

Lindiwe Mkhize Polygala.res

Israel Silevu,  student and Free Me volunteer commented afterwards “I really enjoyed every single step of the field trip. It was so interesting. I  look forward to our next outing.”  Do join others interested in wildflowers for a meeting to learn more about CREW on Friday 22 March at 10am at the Howick Museum.

Midlands Wildflower for March – Kniphofia laxiflora

Common name: Slender Poker; Zulu names: icacane, inxonya, umathunga

kniphofia laxiflora by Alex march

Kniphofia laxiflora is an evergreen plant which flowers in late summer and autumn in the moist grasslands of KZN and Lesotho.  The linear leaves appear from the rhizome at the base of the plant.

The drooping tubular red flowers are loosely arranged on the tall inflorescence.  The colour may vary from salmon to yellow to bright orange-red.  It is pollinated by sunbirds. In traditional medicine infusions made from pounded rhizomes are sipped hot to treat chest complaints.

In the garden, Kniphofia laxiflora prefers a sunny, well watered site and can withstand temperatures below freezing.

kniphofia laxiflora close res.

Hawu we ma!

There were so many astonishing moments during our Cobham weekend that “Wow” simply couldn’t do them justice. “Hawu we ma!”  became the exclamation of choice.  Stars, streams, mountains, waterfalls, caves, flowers, food and friendship ensured the experience was utterly magical. Four students about to start Matric at Shea O’Connor School in Nottingham Road had been looking forward to the adventure for weeks. The weekend was organised by MCF with funding from N3Toll Concession.

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The journey began on a cold, wet Midlands morning. There was little point rushing to the mountains where it was likely to even colder and mistier, so we explored along the way. First stop, the Nokulunga Gumede Memorial in Mpophomeni, where we chatted about the violence which lead to her death, the origins of the township and the Mpophomeni Conservation Group initiative.

cobham 003 RES.

We popped in to tell the friends we had made on the Hlatikulu trip recently, Zamambo and Bulelani, about our planned adventure – back to the mountains.  They were green with envy.

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We visited the Yellowwood Church in Bulwer, it was too wet to walk in the forest to see the real live Yellowwood trees. The headstones with dates from the early 1900s had everyone astonished. “Unbelievable” quipped Nkulu, shaking his head.

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After crossing the uMkomazi river, we stopped at Pucketty Farm Stall to stock up on fresh bread, local cheese and chocolate brownies, and stroke the cat. As the mizzle was really thick, we spent a few hours exploring the Himeville Museum crammed full of fascinating artefacts before heading through the mud to Cobham.

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On arrival at Pholela hiking hut, we were thrilled to find a big wood pile (invasive wattle) and set about building a fire to snuggle around. Wendy made some new friends and headed out in the rain for a swim!  “What a wonderful weekend – a fabulous thing that I have never done in my life.”  She said.

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After a good night’s sleep in absolute darkness the really astonishing moments began… Breakfast on the verandah included happy eggs donated by Aloe Ridge Farm and discussions about the day’s possibilities. Christeen Grant, an experienced Berg Guide, had joined us and made some suggestions about where to walk.

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Despite the damp, grey weather we wandered through the Ouhout scrub – following jackal prints along the path – to make the most of our few precious days.

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Undeterred by the weather, the deep pools in the river enticed us to swim, taking our breath away at first.

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Soon we were used to the cold,  and no one wanted to get out.

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The exclamations and laughter faded as we spent time in quiet contemplation of our surroundings.

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Finding a spot to be entirely alone.

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Listening to the water and the birds, feeling the breeze on our skins and just being still.

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With both Nikki and Christeen passionate about plants, there were many stops to admire the floral treasures in the grassland.  Everyone taking a turn with the camera to capture their beauty.  Polygala hottentotta.

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The cliffs beckoned and we climbed up to a waterfall

cobham 211.res

We explored a hidden cave, filled with animal prints, that looked out across the river valley. “We had a whimsical experience with you. Thank you for showing us the beauty of nature.  I loved learning about the many wonders the mountains keep dear to their hearts. Wonders that we will now keep dear to OUR hearts.” said Vusi.

cobham 228.res. JPG

We stopped often to chat about rocks, admire insects, discuss scats. Christeen’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the area, adding depth and a special dimension. “Christeen, thank you for being with us this weekend. We wouldn’t have done it without you. You gave up your time, family and everything for us and we love you for that.” said Nkulu.

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After the invigorating exercise, lunch on the verandah went down well.  “Hawu we ma – izingane zidla kakhulu!”  said Nikki.  Everyone competed to make the most interesting sandwiches – startling combinations of ingredients which elicited lots of exclamations! Banana and beetroot anyone?

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A herd of horses joined us for afternoon tea.

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On Sunday, we walked part of day two of the Giant’s Cup trail.  We packed plenty of snacks and our water bottles and headed for the hills.

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How exciting when the clouds lifted and Hodgson’s Peaks and the Drakensberg emerged.

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Every possible moment was spent quietly, watching Cape Vultures circle, the shadows on the mountains move and relishing being almost alone in nature.

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We drank fresh, cold water from the streams.

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As the sky got bluer, we climbed higher and higher,

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We crept through the forest to discover a beautiful, cool cave where Qiniso magically pulled nougat from his backpack.

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This was Bath Plug falls – water rushing in from above, but no sign of it leaving the deep pool.  “I loved the waterfalls” said Qiniso, “we visited six this weekend.”

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We walked back to camp in silence. Vusi particularly enjoyed the quiet moments. “Thank you, you have made this experience a Moment for Life.

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After lunch, we packed a watermelon and headed to the river to swim and wallow and bask in the sunshine. Nkulu said “What a wonderful afternoon. I enjoyed the swimming and diving with you and I really enjoyed the floating lesson you gave me.”

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Early evening was spent chatting and playing cards in the outdoor boma before building a fire to cook our colourful kebabs. After tucking in, Wendy said “We must be happy for the food we eat because it is given to us with an opened heart.”  Ever mindful of our carbon footprint, all our food was local and organic and we took all the peelings home for the compost.  We collected all other packaging materials to recycle  – this filled only half of a plastic Woollies bag. We left no trace of our adventure at all.

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Then as the darkness grew and the stars sparkled in the moonless sky, we lay on the swing bridge across the Pholela River, the water rushing below us. No one had ever seen a sky quite like it – absolutely crammed with twinkling lights, and shooting stars galore.  Qiniso “I had so much fun watching the stars at night. It was wonderful.”

cobham 441.res We crossed the bridge again the next morning on our way to yet another lovely waterfall, tucked between steep cliffs with a deep dark pool at the bottom.

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We met the Reserve Field Rangers and joined them on their patrol. This provided a good opportunity to chat to them about the animals in the area, their jobs and the training they had received, and to take advantage of their experienced eyes pointing out baboons and buck and birds.

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After another dip in the Pholela, we said our goodbyes “What a fabulous trip we had. The things I learnt from each of us is that we must share our knowledge and we must not leave our group members behind when we are walking in the mountains.”  Wendy said.

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On the way home we stopped at Marutswa to walk in the forest and picnic on leftovers, enjoying the protection of the cool canopy after the heat of the grasslands.

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The journey home to Mooi River, Rosetta and Nottingham Road provided opportunities to compose text messages:

“Thank you for each and every support that you’ve been giving to us and it was such a wonderful experience.”  Qiniso Zuma

“The walk to the cave and the stars were so amazing. I have never had a great weekend like this ever, but I didn’t like washing dishes.   Thank you for everything. Lots of love” Nkululeko Mdladla

“It was a great weekend. You have given me hope and strength and washed my worries away. Ngiyabonga. Love” Wendy Mkwanazi

“I remember our trips to the river and enjoyed learning to float, but the really amazing part of this trip was the time we spent on the suspension bridge looking at stars.  I even got to see a shooting star (I made a wish, but I can’t tell). I can’t explain how much fun I had, this was truly a time to remember and in the words of my favortite artist ‘I wish that I have this moment for life’.” Vusimusi Mvelase

Christeen Grant “Thank you for the privilege of spending an inspiring time with you, Wendy, Vusi, Nkulu and Qiniso over the past few days at Cobham! Your commitment and dedication to inspiring, caring and nurturing these young lives is awesome, a very real motivation as you guide, not impose ideas and experiences in their lives. For me it was a real and heart-warming pleasure to share the mountains with all of you!” 

Nikki concludes: “Sidlalile, sifundile kahle ePholela. Sobuya futhi.”  Thank you to Penny Rees for the inspiration.

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May the sun bring you new energy by day

May the moon softly restore you at night

May the rain wash away your worries

May the breeze blow new strength into your being

May you walk gently through the world and

Know it’s beauty all the days of your life.

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Midlands Bioblitz

The endless rain stopped on the morning of the Midlands Bioblitz and it was a perfect day to wander about photographing flowers.  Almost 50 nature enthusiasts turned up at the KZN Crane Foundation headquarters at Bill Barnes Nature Reserve in Nottingham Road to take part and do their bit for biodiversity conservation. More plants have gone extinct in South Africa than any other country and one in four species are currently threatened.

The Midlands Conservancies Forum had organised the day and invited learners from Shea O’Connor school nearby to join in the activities.

After a presentation by Suvarna Parbhoo of SANBI on CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) and iSpot, everyone headed out into the reserve to find all the living things they could.  Amongst the Themeda triandra and other grasses, there were some tiny, tiny flowers like these Lobelia

Sarah got up close and personal, photographing small grassland plants.

In the rocky outcrop on top of the hill, there were Veronia, Arums and Kniphophia

and lots of Alepidea natalensis in the places the cows can’t get to.

Charlene and Mark searched the wetlands for frogs but didn’t manage to catch one to phtograph. They saw common river frog and heard clicking stream frogs and painted reed frogs too.

Not everything was easy to identify – some plants puzzled the spotters.  This Hermannia was a nice find.

Aristea and Wahlenbergias literally glowed in the low light.

Amanda looked out for animal scats and Nora searched for orchids, but it was a little early – they flower in January and February.  We found plenty of Brunsvegia which will be in flower in mid-summer too.

Cups of tea were on tap on the verandah of the KZN Crane Foundation, with views across the dam. “What a lovely day. I enjoyed it very much. It was great to be with so many people who know so much about plants and wildlife. said Molly Perret

Lindiwe found porcupine quills and four Oribi were spotted bounding away from the action.

After all the rain, the Dierama luteaoabidum and Pelargonium luridium weren’t looking their best, however these little mauve ones were in abundance.

Helichrysum aEriosema, Hypoxis, Pentanisia and Commelina were all flowering happily.  Ipomoea and Scabiosa were plentiful on the road verges.

Quite a few birds were seen, including long claws, swallows, egrets, yellow billed kites, jackal buzzard, widows and red bishop.  There were lots of fuzzy little caterpillars in the damp grass.

This group of girls was very excited to discover them and other creeppy crawlies amongst the flowers.

girls discover a caterpillar. crop.JPG

“What an awesome day of networking, getting to know interesting people, not to mention capturing the beauty of nature. I’m looking forward to another Bioblitz!”  Andile Vilakazi.  Environmental educators – Nkanyiso, Lindiwe, Andile, Antonia and Sanele took some great photos and will be visiting the Bews Herbarium soon to learn more about plant identification.

Then we all looked over our pictures, tried to identify the species and enjoyed a picnic beside the dam.

Vusi, Thembela, Quiniso and Sanele had fun checking out iSpot and loading photographs.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting day. In early 2013, we will be starting a Midlands CREW group to survey patches of natural vegetation in the area for threatened plant species.  Should you be interested in joining this group, please contact Nikki at info@midlandsconservancies.org.za

Dargle Wildlife Sightings in April

Carl and John Bronner – Old Kilgobbin Farm
Opened the backdoor one morning to find two Staffies sitting eyeing out a porcupine.  After eating John’s birdseed, it must have fallen into the courtyard and I suppose as it got lighter he decided the nook at the back door was the darkest, safest place, even though it had 2 staffs sleeping there. When we opened the gate it tore across the arena to the forest and I doubt it will ever come back again. Needless to say, Mofokeng was utterly dissappointed that he didn’t have nyama!
Jeth saw what he thought was a lynx in our driveway late on Friday night.  There was a snake – about a metre, on my front veranda. Never seen one like this before – very light brown with shapes on it, not diamonds, more the patches on a giraffe, with yellowy edge and dark brown inside.  I was hanging onto the dogs and stomped my foot to get it to move faster and it turned and did hectic long hissing at me!  Anyone know what it was?  About 3 cm fat with small head.
Loads of jackal droppings right by the staff houses this week, 2 duikers every single evening in my hay field.
Colleen and Willem Van Heerden – Khululeka
2 Peregrine falcons hunting
Antelope (buck)
Hooting of owls (hearing only)
Saw a blue mole snake
Locust huge one’s in the garden
Heard jackals calling
Sharon and Robin Barnesly – Sanctuary
The rainfall is 24mm which is low but traditionally, April rainfall is erratic. Ranging from 90mm up to 200mm but some years they have been in the 30’s, 20’s and as low as 12,5mm in 1999. Last year April’s rainfall was 169.5. We had the first light frost around the 19 April.
The crowned cranes are still around, huge porcupines and some hares and duiker, plenty of geese (Egyptian). Tragically, one of the biggest porcupine I have ever seen was killed by a car (not ours!!) 10 days ago one evening. Although it is clear that we seem not to be short of them as I have seen evidence of their digging all over Sanctuary. Not that we saw them here, but we did have a wonderful two days in Wakkerstroom and saw most of what we should have up there including Southern Bald Ibis, Botha’s Lark, Rudds Lark and Blue Korhaan. Unfortunately could not find any Ground Woodpecker – it is a good little town to visit.
Kate and Gary Kelly – Beverly Country Cottages
We have a pair of resident African Wood Hoopoes in our garden, which we see from time time. I saw them last week.

A Crested Eagle was perched in one of the dead gum trees at the bottom of our property. I am sure I saw a pair of Crowned Eagles circling over head but cannot confirm this.
We found some pretty big serval droppings. Other than that, plenty of doves, crows, starlings, little sun birds. Will have to look them up! The cat or dog caught a golden mole!
Rose and Barry Downard – Oak Tree Cottage
Midlands Dwarf Chameleon, tiny tree frogs, large Palystes spiders, butterflies, long hairy caterpillars, lots of skinks.

Birds: Hoopoes, Weavers, Doves, Bulbuls, Southern Boubou, Fiscal Shrike, Olive Thrush, Cape Robin, Cape White-eyes, Sparrows, Drongos, Hadedahs, Crows, Mousebirds etc.
Snakes: Red-lipped Herald.
Heard – Spotted Eagle Owl, Cape Parrots, howling Jackals.
Bernard and Ros Janisch – Misty Meadows
The Cape Parrots were here last week.  We have also been watching the long-crested eagles encouraging their young one to fly – wonderful!
Malvina and Evert van Bremem – Old Furth
Heard: Fish Eagles and tree dassies and lots of jackal and baboon and owls
Seen: red-throated wryneck, olive woodpecker, giant kingfisher, pied kingfisher, yellowbilled ducks, loads of our resident sunbirds (black, even a malachite? and also gurney’s sugarbirds), southern bou bou, blackheaded orioles, delighted to see our resident wagtails are increasing in numbers, the secretary bird baby has left the nest and we are seeing lots of social activity from the egyptian geese now that the babies are having friends over to ‘visit’. Finding lots of chameleons and seeing quite a few ‘karkloof blue’ butterflies – I wonder if they are karkloof ones or a subspecies found in Dargle? Found a marvellous slug – huge –  and if I have identified it correctly, it is the one which eats snails – yay! The snails are fat and healthy and fed to ducks and chickens whenever they are discovered as they have eaten all attempts at flower gardening, except for antirrhinums and foxgloves and aquiligeas.
The forest buzzards and kites and gymnogenes have all been moving their offspring out of their territories. The francolins are raising babies and so are the guineafowl we so seldom see.
Serval eating gyppo youngsters, and other wild waterfowl and francolins etc. Not our muscovy ducks, thank goodness!
Little brown mouse with very long tail hoping like a kangaroo. Anyone know what it is?
Eidin Griffin and Malcolm Draper – Wits End
As we were riding the other day, a family of reedbuck lept out of the long grass. There was a covey of francolins busy in the garden. Very vocal crows are int he yard every morning. We saw a pair of crowned cranes and some spurwing gees at the dama at Corrie Lynn.
Nikki Brighton
I saw three little brown mice in the grassland, I think I may have disturbed their nest while walking. Reedbuck, bushbuck, samango monkeys, hares.

Plants:  Plectranthus elegantulus, Pavonia columella, Plectranthus laxiflorus, Senecio tamoides, Phymaspermum acerosum, Leonotis, Rabdiosella calycina. In seed –  Dombeya tiliacea, Trimeria, Kiggelaria, Rhus, Maytenus mossambicensis, Canthium mundianum, Carissa bispinosa
Birds:  pair of white faced ducks, Francolins, Pied Crows, Stone Chats, Jackal Buzzards, White eyes, Southern Boubous, Cape Robins, Thrushes, Rock Pigeons, Grey headed Sparrows, Bulbuls, black Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Golden Oriel, Hadedas, Swallows. Heard Fish Eagle, Crowned Eagles, Wood Owls.
Jackals calling and tree dassies too. Lucky me.
Barend and Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage
Guests in our cottage spotted a Blue Duiker while walking in the forest.  This is very exciting. last year I saw a pregnant female in the same area.
Hunting Dogs
Ian Little, Threatened Grassland Species Programme Manager for EWT, sent this message: Please advertise that should this be seen again (anywhere) it should be reported immediately to:
Riaan van Rooyen (SAPS) – 0823762499  or
Kim Gillings (EKZNW)          – 0845777066 or
Samson Phakathi (EWT)    – 0828054806
This is very important if we are to have any chance of fighting this illegal activity.
uMngeni River Walk
The river walk team set out from Mngeni Vlei on 1 May. The first couple of days were absolutely glorious, but then they started to come across invasive infestations, degraded river banks and litter in the water.  They are having the most marvellous adventure – do follow their journey on www.umngeniriverwalk.com.  They are exceptionally grateful to all the Dargle folk who have been so generous.  Margie Pretorius, Kate and Gary Kelly, Merrill King, Yvonne Munk, Colleen van Heerden, Nikki Brighton, Eidin Griffin and Malcolm Draper, Dean and Serene de Chazal, Kathryn Coulson, Vicky and Craig Alison, Nicky Mann, Peni and Rob Hanbury, Wilma and Greg Martindale and Dargle Conservancy. At a function at Tanglewood Coutry House, each team member was presented with a Dargle Dassie Certificate in recognition of their contribution to conservation in the Dargle and beyond.
Wildflower of the Month
Coccinea palmata

Common name: Wild cucumber, Afrikaans name: Bospampoentjie, Zulu names: uthangazane omncane, uthangazane lwehlathi.
This creeper, found in midlands forests, is fruiting at the moment. The cucumber-like fruit is an attractive bright orange-red fading to green at the stem end. It has creamy yellow flowers in summer – the male flower is borne on a long stem, while the female has a short stem.  The climbing stems are corky.  The soft leaves are slightly hairy, deeply lobed and can be cooked and eaten as spinach. In Malawi during times of famine, the potato-like bulb is also eaten. Dried fruit infusions are used in traditional medicine as purgatives. About 30 species occur in Africa with seven found in South Africa. They are part of the cucumber family.
Creepers add a new dimension to your wildlife garden, providing habitats and food for birds and insects.

Boston Wildlife Sightings for March

Enquiries are rolling in as to the progress of “Bossie” Boston, the Grey Crowned Crane chick, lost but rescued last month, and then sent to Hlatikulu Crane Centre, where he/she is being reared and is growing by leaps and bounds.  Taking a bath – photo by Tanya Smith. Read more about Bossie and the Cranes of Boston here: http://crystellewilson.posterous.com/bossy-boston-stretches-its-wings


Pete and Frances Nel of Four Gates:
March 1st – three Southern Ground Hornbills in gum trees near house; subsequently heard virtually every morning at the same locality

CREW visit to Glandrishokvlei (Myrtle Grove farm) on 15 March 2012
Rather late in the season for most vlei wildflowers, but some specials were found: Erica alopecurus Alectra thyrsoidea, Crassula vaginata, Jamesbrittenia breviflora

Barbara and David Clulow of The Willows:
One Crowned Crane chick sadly lost, but the other is doing well, growing nicely; other parent nearby as sentry.

March 12 – Large Grey Mongoose crossed the Dargle road ahead of car, 150 metres from R617
Green Wood-Hoopoes active daily; Long Crested Eagle several times:
White Storks seen often riding the thermals easily and gracefully.

Numerous wildflowers on the edges of the Norwood forest road – Pavonia columella, Clematis brachiata, Pavetta gracilifolia Otholobium caffrum,  Peucedanum capense (Wild parsley), Rhyncosia, Geranium flanaganii.  Hesperantha baurii flowering commonly at present; seen both at Glandrishok on 15 March and also at dam on Mount Shannon on 27 Feb
Crab in stream on Glandrishok (Myrtle Grove)

Bev and Bruce Astrup of Highland Glen:  Common Reedbuck grazing around house at night, mainly in vegetable garden !!!

Trevor and Cheryl Scheepers of Lapa Lapa: The raptors continue to decimate the Helmeted Guinea Fowl chicks; from 7 now down to 3 around the yard; that is when not picking off the doves.

Birding Outing near  Impendle on 15 March:
On a post near Brentwood House – a juvenile Cape Longclaw. Dusky Indigobird in Impendle Nature Reserve, and a Red-necked Spurfowl.

Neil and Gail Baxter of Mosgate: Previously, a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes with a chick; but on 22 March two chicks with adult birds at pumphouse on Elands river; chicks not yet ready to fly; 15 juvenile Spur-winged Geese.

John and Joan Stewart of Seven Streams: A Serval, which leaped up at the side of the vehicle, on “Trelyon” about 22nd March

Derek Hurlstone-Jones of The Rockeries: Eagle Owl, perched on Boston Country Club signpost at 6 pm on 28th March 2012.  Green House snake

Philip and Christeen Grant of Sitamani:

Dennis Field saw a small grey mongoose near the “Sitamani” garage in the evening of 23 March
Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria ‘fairy tale red spotted’ mushrooms and Collared Earth-star Geastrum triplex fungi out at the moment

Helichrysum cooperi is the flower of March, in abundance, Some of the other flowers out Alectra sessiliflora, Plectranthus calycina, Lobelia erinus, Stachys aethiopica, Cyanotis speciosa, Alectra sessifolia, Plectranthus calycina.

Sightings of Common Reedbuck and Duiker on several occasions

Spotted Eagle Owl hooting, one pair of Speckled Mousebirds, Cape Glossy Starlings are a few of the less common birds for “Sitamani” around at the moment

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye:
In 2011 the conservation status of Secretarybirds has been uplifted to Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, another indication of the rapid deterioration of our grassland biomes. The atlas project has a special watch for these majestic birds on its website where people are asked to report any sightings of these majestic birds: http://sabap2.adu.org.za.

Secretarybirds, on the road to Impendle Nature Reserve

The SABAP2 list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Pin-tailed Whydah, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black Saw-wing, Black-headed Heron, Cape Wagtail, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Amethyst Sunbird, Southern Red Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat, Spur-winged Goose, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Barn Swallow, Cape Crow, Cattle Egret, Pied Kingfisher, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Bokmakierie, Common Fiscal, Black Sparrowhawk, Fork-tailed Drongo, Greater Striped-Swallow, Red-necked Spurfowl, Egyptian Goose, Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Boubou, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, African Sacred Ibis, Cape Longclaw, Yellow-billed Duck, African Quailfinch, Cape Glossy Starling, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Red-throated Wryneck, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, Orange-breasted Waxbill, African Black Duck, Speckled Mousebird, White Stork, African Pipit, Little Rush-Warbler, Red-billed Quelea, Helmeted Guineafowl, White-throated Swallow, Brown-throated Martin, Yellow-fronted Canary, Amur Falcon, Hamerkop, Steppe Buzzard, Sombre Greenbul, Tambourine Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Jackal Buzzard, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Pale-crowned Cisticola, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Olive-Pigeon, Terrestrial Brownbul, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Black-backed Puffback, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Knysna Turaco, Lemon Dove, African Hoopoe, Red-winged Starling, Yellow Bishop, Black-headed Oriole, African Harrier-Hawk, Red-collared Widowbird, Malachite Sunbird, Blacksmith Lapwing, Black-winged Lapwing.

This summary was compiled by David Clulow, a member of the Lions Club of Pietermaritzburg (Host),  and has been approved by that Club as an official conservation project of the Club.