Tag Archives: porcupine

Dargle Wildlife Sightings November 2014

Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

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

genet camera trap

Nikki Brighton  – Old Kilgobbin

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

r ranunculus

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

r porcupine

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

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

cape vultures

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

Reedbuck 2

Egyptian Goose family

Egyptian Goose Family



Spurwinged Goose

Spurwing Goose

We had some big rains with more hail this month.

Hail 2

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

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

cape robin having a dip in our rock pool

A very wet bedraggled cape robin

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

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

2 day old wagtails singing Wish you a Happy Xmas

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

our wagtails now 2 weeks

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

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

The blue cranes after another storm

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

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

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

Orange throated longclaw

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

The first time they twisted their tails together

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

They disentwined after about 2 minutes and went their separate ways

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

Lots of flowers about including Morea inclinata

Moraea inclinata

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

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

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

sunset mavela dam

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – August

Spring has brought a myriad of things for us all to look at. Beautiful blooms appearing on the trees as well as new leaves starting to shoot, loads of animal and bird life out and about, as well as a rain spider desperately trying to bring us all some respite after these dry few months. Here’s hoping the rain comes soon…

Brandon Powell – Bukamanzi

This month I haven’t seen anything very LARGE except for this mad rain spider (Palystes) – he hadn’t heard about us not having had any lately.  He crept out of my watering-can after I had done about ten trips with it overflowing its brim. Hopefully he’ll stick around and devour some of my jumping spiders?

rain spider

Things are looking very sad and khaki except for Jenny Stipcich’s proteas and new grass shoots struggling through the fire-breaks.

brandon's cottage

On the Conservancy’s camera I caught several clips of wonderful, leaf-munching duiker, usually alone but once in a pair. A very beautiful foxy-faced genet has also been cutting ’round the place. I’ve scrubbed down my door-steps with clove oil in the hope that one doesn’t have any melodramatic snake sightings as winter draws to its close!

brandons cottage dam

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Wild flowers that have now started popping up all over the place. Ledebouria

copperleigh ledobouria


copperleigh helichrysum

Senecio speciosus

copperleigh senecio speciosus

We also had about 16 Guinea Fowl appearing back on our farm aound the sheep camps after disappearing for a good few months. They were also calling the rain and are welcome back!

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

Saw the first Yellow-billed Kite on 19 August.  Afternoon walks are a real delight where paths are mown through the tall golden grass.

winter grassland trail dargle 088

This magnificent Yellowwood on the edge of the forest can be seen for miles.

winter yellowwood

Interesting reflections in cold pools, where there is just a little water left.

J themeda in pool

N3TC brought a group of media people to visit the Midlands and we took them for a walk in the forest. Barend had them enthralled.

forest walk Barend

Anita Heyl said “I absolutely loved, loved, loved the time spent with your group! Oh, my goodness what a special piece of paradise. I do hope to visit again soon and spend proper quiet time there. If I was Winnie-the-Pooh that would most definitely have been my part of the forest.”

forest walk Penz

Our forest even made the morning news on SABC! Watch the film clip here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3yIKpWoRxs

Anne and Mike Weeden – Hopedale Farm

The other morning at around 11 o’clock we spotted an African Striped Weasel on the fire break close to the house. We walked to within about 5 metres of it and it was totally unconcerned about our presence. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me but it was definitely a weasel rather than a polecat as it had a solid white patch on top of its head and lacked the white markings under its eyes.

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Dr Amy-Leigh Shuttleworth (nee Wilson) came to the farm during the month and Pat took her to 4 burrows. Unfortunately, they all seem to be empty of aardvarks. The one we had last year has vanished perhaps due to lack of termites in the area where he dug.


Have seen a number of reed buck this month. One evening as many as ten on the burn, just driving up to my house in an area of 1km. There are always 2 males.

more reed buck

One stands some distance away and the other one mingles with the females and youngsters. These are the same 2 that were fighting some months ago. A number of male and female duiker.


Seen female oribi quite often. She seems to keep to the long grass and on occassion see her nibbling the green burn.

female oribi

Saw and heard a pair of jackal buzzards – their cry reverberated for an hour one morning. Our 2 blue crane arrived at the dry dam one morning. Haven’t seen them since. Hear them occasionally. Saw 2 yellowbilled kites for the 1st time on 10th August. Saw a pied kingfisher pick up a frog from our pond. He flew to the dead tree where he pounded it to death with his beak and then swallowed it.

pied kingfisher frog

A pair of gymnogene flew over the house early one morning. Heard a very loud peeu cry one morning – went on for ages – I eventually tracked it to the hollow pole next to the  gate where a red throated wryneck was calling for attention. This is the second one we have on the farm. The other one is in a hollow pole half way down our driveway.


Early one morning, Pat heard a freckled night jar in the trees behind the house. The siting of the month for me was seeing and photographing a spotted eagle owlet and adult – not sure if male or female, but I am sure someone will advise me.

sptted eagle owlet

Pat had been walking around the gum trees looking for the sparrowhawks when he heard a loud hooting from the ground. On investigation it looked like the owlet had fallen out the tree and one of the adults was on the ground with it and the other was hooting high above in the tree.

spotted eagle owl parents

Pat left them as had the dogs with him. The next day he again went looking for them and found the owlet in the fork of a gum tree and mom/dad nearby on the branch of a tree. Pat phoned me and told me to come post haste with my camera which I did. Got some lovely snaps. The adult was not too happy and screeched loudly, while the other one which I could not see was hooting higher up. We left them after a few minutes. When I walk down through the gum tree avenue I see one of them flying through the canopy.

.Back view of owlet

So now its egyptian geese, black sparrowhawks and spotted eagle owls flying through the canopy.

Our sparrowhawks left the nest on 26th July. A pair of egyptian geese took over straight away. Early in the mornings and late afternoons would see the sparrowhawk youngsters sitting on a dead gum tree probably waiting for their food, as saw three sitting on same tree late one afternoon. But for the past 2 weeks they have been flying around the canopy of the gums. When I walk around that area, they fly through the canopy and screech loudly. We have seen the adults fly past the house from Dargle side late in the afternoons carrying a bird. Quite large, so presumably a dove.

Dr Ian Little of the EWT Threatened Grasslands Programme commented on my sparrowhawk story last month. I was wrong about a number of things. This is his letter:

Just a quick clarification on Pat and Sandra Merrick’s wonderful sightings with the Black Sparrowhawks. The Male is not rufous coloured, they were in fact looking at one of the juveniles, the male is the same colour as the female but smaller. He delivers food to the female to take to the nest and hence is not often seen at the nest. Thanks for the great pics, now to answer your questions:

How old would you say they are now and is it possible to tell if they are male or female? They must be about 6-8 weeks now, They leave the actual nest at about 35-40 days after hatching. Juveniles are both rufous the only way to tell the sex is by their size. By 30 days they are fully grown and the males are almost half the size of the females. Your confusion is that I think your two youngsters are both females and hence same size.

Are they still being fed by the adults and how long does that go on for? They are fed by the adults for another 1-2 months so yes at this stage they are still being fed by the adults. You very seldom see both adults at the nest as the male provides most food but he will clean the food (remove feathers) away from the nest and then pass the food to the female who brings it in to feed the young.

There is also one more bit of confusion that can crop up. Black Spars (as I call them) come in two colour morphs. What you have are the standard colour morphs but adults can be pitch black with no white on the stomach and juveniles can be pure white with black flecks as opposed to the rufous colour which you have seen here. Anyway, no need to add further confusion. Basic rule of thumb, if it’s rufous it’s juvenile, if it’s Black and white it’s adult and females are almost twice the size of males.

These 2 youngsters grew so quickly.  Just after this snap they both flew off squealing in delight

Other birds we have seen include: Black headed Oriel

black headed oriel yellow eye

Common Stonechat


Drakensberg Prinia


Gurneys Sugarbird


Malachite Sunbird


Olive Thrush


Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (passer diffuses)

what bird is this

Yellow eyed Canary

yellow eyed canary

Lots of scat amongst the rocks – doe this belong to the wild or Natal Red Hare?


Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

I’ve been taking pics of this Scadoxus puniceus (I think that’s the correct species) over the last 2 weeks. It was the first one that I saw – since then, loads have popped their pretty little heads up. The dates are shown. It changed quickly over the first few days.

gilly scadoxus

Not the best pics – (with my Blackberry )That’s the best I can do!

gilly scadoxus puniceus

Learn more about Scadoxus https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/midlands-wildflower-for-august-scadoxus-puniceus/

gilly scadoxus again

I also saw a little black otter playing in the river. A few others have spotted it, but it’s the first time I have.

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

The nicest thing about August was the sight of Spring putting and end to Winter…

he nicest about August was the sighting of Spring putting an end to Winter at Wakecrof

The resident pair of Egyptian Geese are also happy about the end of winter

The resident pair of Egyptian gees are also happy about the end of Winter

A Raven also “changed his tune” sitting on the fence outside my studio window

A raven also did change his tunes sitting on the fence outside my studio window

Charles Robinson – Hebron Nguni Farm

Buck sighting was on 2nd September 2014 100metres from the main house around 9am.

Hebron Nguni Farm

Reedbuck along Petrus Stroom road, taken on cell phone.

River Bend Estate 29 Agust 2014

There is also a pair of Owls, sighted on the Hebron Nguni farm, but not photographed. They do not yet seem to have a nest,  should we put an owl nest up? Ed’s note: Come to Shane McPherson’s talk on 5 November at Tanglewood – he has just started an owl box project.

Please can you advise, we at Hebron Nguni farm have a monkey problem, who can we talk to for advice? Nikki suggests the following reading:

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Lourens – Aloe Ridge

Kathy writes: Whilst enjoying an early evening walk – I heard our ridgeback Murray excitedly barking and turned back to investigate.  There was a cacophony in on the edge of some tall grass – a growling, thumping and loud crackling noise which I had not come across before.  On getting closer I saw a very large porcupine, holding his head very low and growling/howling, whilst thumping hard with the front paws and rattling his considerable quills.  Our other dogs then appeared and our ridgeback and german/belgian shepherd withdrew circumspectly, as they have had (painful) experience with this species before!  I only had to remind our intrepid jack-russell type hound to stay back, whilst I attempted to take a slightly closer photograph of the spectacular animal using my phone, for the Dargle sightings!

I approached a couple of steps talking quietly in what I hoped would be a reassuring manner – but my ‘animal whispering’ is clearly not up to scratch, as he/she took one look at me – growled and charged – leaping forward and spinning to show off the fearsome array of very sharp quills.  Suffice it to say, I withdrew hurriedly and assured the beast that taking clear photos was not THAT important.  I, and the dogs, then continued on our perambulation and left the porcupine to its own devices.

NguNgumbane by Small Dam JPEG 1200dpi

Wayne writes:

Just after 8am on the morning of 22nd August, Kathy and I were on our way to Mount West with our two young horses for a Classical Equitation Clinic held by our German friend, when, with the horse trailer in-tow behind the Land Rover Defender (Kathy in with the 2 young horses on the dirt roads to keep them settled), right in front of me on the Hopedale main access road, was a Serval. Completely owning the roadway and parts of the verge!! Hoping Kathy was looking out of the horse trailer window, I gestured for her to look, and at the same time I grabbed my phone camera. So, while creeping along at the sedate pace that was suitable for the young horses on bumpy roads, I followed the Serval as it made its way along the roadway just ahead, not in the least bit intimidated by the looming Land Rover and horse trailer. At the same time I managed, with one hand on the wheel keeping the Defender & horse trailer on the best parts of the road, and the other setting up the camera on the mobile phone, and managed to take a few shots of the Serval as it sauntered down the roadway for about 100 metres, between 5 metres and 10 metres ahead of us. To me it seemed as though it was a sub-adult female, but that was just my intuition at the time. She playfully tapped at pieces of larger stone aggregate on the roadway along the way, and eventually found an interesting run, probably made by the resident flock of Spurfowl (formerly known as Natal Francolin), down which she disappeared from my view.

Serval 2 JPEG 1200dpi

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – June 2014

Karkloof Sightings are compiled by Pat Cahill.

Having spent a major portion of my life in The Wicked City (Johannesburg), it is such a pleasure to have migrated to a more pleasant environment. I now understand why birds return to the Karkloof every year! One bird which is a resident of the Karkloof Conservation Centre is Twané, who runs the office and performs many other tasks with a smile. We hope she doesn’t join the migratory avians any time soon! One advantage of her job is the amazing view from the office and the hides. The following pictures are some which she has taken recently.

For some time it seemed as if the African Fish-Eagles had abandoned the Karkloof, but now they’re back and we have been seeing a pair at the hides more regularly. 1

A Giant Kingfisher likes to perch in the taller branch at the Gartmore hide and is seen in the early mornings. 2

Black Crakes and African Snipe have become more prolific at the Gartmore hide and observant birders are assured of a sighting of both.


I have seen an otter many times in the past five years, but have never managed to capture more than an amorphous head in the distance; this Cape Clawless Otter, however, came out to greet Twané.5

All 3 Crane species have been seen daily. Usually a pair of Blue Cranes that are rather noisy and up to 47 Grey-Crowned Cranes. 6

We have had a family of 3 Wattled Cranes (2 parents and their offspring) make use of the pans at both hides. They are also seen in the surrounding fields. None have rings, so our blonde craniac, Tanya Smith, can’t positively identify them for us. You can notice how the youngster’s grey cap is starting to form.


Malcolm Robinson suggested that the Steppe Buzzard which was reported in last month’s Sightings was probably a juvenile Jackal Buzzard as the Steppe Buzzards should have left on their annual migration. We have had a lot of “teenage” Jackal Buzzards, as well as adults, around and we have not had a sighting of the Steppe Buzzard, nor any others that may have a similar resemblance. The Long-crested Eagles are also out in their droves and we have seen the African Marsh Harrier on many occasions. An African Harrier-Hawk was seen a few mornings in the field.

Karkloof Sappi MTB route – Matthew Drew

It is most gratifying to receive a fair number of sightings from locals. Matthew Drew has kindly forwarded some images supplied by Dr David Everard, Divisional Environmental Manager at Sappi Forests. Matthew is a keen cyclist and regularly rides the trails in the SAPPI plantations. Matthew has submitted a very comprehensive report, for which we are very grateful! These were taken by a camera trap on the 30km Karkloof MTB route over a 10 day period.


The camera trap was acquired by Sappi to survey what mammal species are found within plantations. Sappi’s foresters as well as the mountain bikers and trail runners who regularly access the plantations see many wildlife species.  The camera trap was specifically placed to record what was using the cycle track to move about these plantations.  David recorded the following species which are using the tracks to get about the plantations: Caracal, Serval, Black-backed Jackal, Porcupine, Bushpig, Bushbuck, Common Duiker and Common Reedbuck.


David was surprised, not only by the variety, but also by the frequency the tracks are used.  Some species were recorded every night.  Sappi has deployed cameras in a variety of sites across their plantations and have recorded about 20 species of mammals and in good numbers. This goes to show that plantations are definitely places many mammal species are able to survive in, and with healthy numbers.


My favourite pic is the one of the single Porcupine. No doubt on his way to forage somewhere, he is using the flow of the trail to gain some real momentum!


I often ride on my own through the plantations and I sometimes see between 5 – 10 antelope, and other wildlife in various parts of the Shafton and Demagtenburg areas. I have also come across a whole heap of bloody quills that must have resulted from a major fight between two Porcupine or perhaps death by a Leopard or Caracal.

Spitzkop farm – Nick and Tim Hancock

Tim Hancock had some new visitors on Spitzkop this last month – a Cape Rock-Thrush and a sweet little Malachite Kingfisher which is a delight for anyone to see.  It is always a good idea to keep a list of species that you have seen on your property. You will never know the extent of the biodiversity unless you take the time to record your sightings. Well done to the Hancocks for always keeping a keen eye out for new species to record!

Sightings at Mbona Private Nature Reserve

Peter and Ronnie Ritchie were privileged to watch this beautiful Brown-hooded Kingfisher “fish” for worms on their lawn whilst they had a lovely al fresco lunch outdoors. “Not to be outdone, he proceeded to find at least 10 juicy worms in our lawn and sat in the winter sun getting visibly fatter. He is a most appealing bird”.


Richard Booth reported that: “A Black Stork has been seen on a few occasions in the past two weeks on Mbona. Not new to our bird list, but not commonly seen”.

The Croxfords

Michael Croxford had a sightings of a Large-spotted Genet near their shed some time ago and supplied this great photo which he managed to take with his cellphone. The Large-spotted Genet has fairly large spots, usually rusty-brown in colour, and a dark brown or black-tipped tail. They are nocturnal and are certainly not fussy when it comes to food, as they feed on insects, small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds and other small mammals. It’s wonderful to know that we have such a diversity of creatures in the valley.


Ground-Hornbill news

Thank you to all who have been updating us on the whereabouts of the female Southern Ground-Hornbill. John Roff saw a Ground Hornbill flying across the Karkloof canopy tours section of forested valley early morning on 4th May this year. He also heard them calling regularly in the forest around Canopy tours. “The sounds do vary, but I don’t know if it is one or more. I think it or they are spending a bit of time near troops of Samango monkeys, as I often hear them together”.  Mike Benson managed to get a superb photograph of her when she made a visit to Connomara one day. Between Mike and Tony Matchett, we have been very well informed of her presence in this area and on this property.


How do we know it’s a lady? Notice the violet patch that breaks up the red on her neck, just below her beak. Males don’t have this patch, so their neck will be fully red.

Please keep your eyes open for her and any others that might be around and let us know about it so that we can pass this information on to the relevant people involved in the conservation of this endangered species.

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”!


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.


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.


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.


Dargle Wildlife Sightings – January 2014

Brain and Marashene Lewis – Glen Gyle

A Greater Double-Collared Sunbird (male) at our feeder


Barend and Helen Booysen – Kilgobbin Cottage

This magnificent orchid was spotted in the grassland recently.  There are 52 genera of orchid in South Africa – some of which grow in trees, but mostly they are found in grasslands. Pterygodium magnum is the largest terrestrial orchid in South Africa. Most of the 18 local species occur in the Western Cape, with four in KZN.  It is usually found in damp grassland, often growing amongst Leucosidea sericea (ouhout).  The narrow, lance shaped leaves (bracts) are borne along the stem, which can be up to 1,5m tall. The inflorescence is made up of densely packed greenish-yellow flowers with purplish-red veins and dots.  Info source: http://www.dargleconservancy.org.za/wildflowerarchive/wfa022012.php

pterygodium magnum

Also in flower – Brunsvigia natalensis.  See more about this orchid at: http://www.dargleconservancy.org.za/wildflowerarchive/wfa01a2013.php

brunsvegia natalensis

Below are also some of the first images captured on one of the Trail Cameras which the Dargle Conservancy purchased last year . The camera was placed in the forest.   Most exciting was the Blue Duiker, with her baby.

blue duiker and baby

(Philantomba monticola) is a small, forest-dwelling duiker found in  Central Africa and southern South Africa. Blue duikers stand around 35 cm tall at the shoulder and weigh 4 kg. They are the smallest of the antelope family. The blue duiker has a brown coat with a slight blue tinge – hence the name – and a white underside. A glandular slit occurs beneath both eyes, with a very slight crest between the ears. Source: Wikipedia

blue duiker

Caracal (Caracal caracal) is a wild cat that is widely distributed across Africa, central Asia and southwest Asia into India. The word caracal is derived from the Turkish words kara kulak, which means “black ear”. Source: Wikipedia


Bushbuck is the most widespread antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is found in rain forests, montane forests, forest-savanna mosaics and bush savanna forest and woodland. Source: Wikipedia


The Bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus) is a member of the pig family and lives in forests, woodland, riverine vegetation and reedbeds in East and Southern Africa. Bushpigs can be very aggressive, especially when they have young. They are omnivorous and their diet could include roots, crops or carrion, as well as newborn lambs. Source: Wikipedia

bush pig

Porcupines are rodents with a coat of sharp spines, or quills, that defend them from predators. They are indigenous to the Americas, Southern Asia, Europe, and Africa. Porcupines are the third largest of the rodents, behind the capybara and the beaver. It eats leaves, herbs, twigs and green plants like clover and in the winter it may eat bark. Source: Wikipedia


Justin Herd – Bee Tree Farm

We have released this snail at St Andrews Church on Tuesday 28th.  There is a huge infestation of the “bad” non-indigenous snails (Helix apsera) in the Agapanthus next to church entrance.  I have been breeding the indigenous carnivorous snail – Natalina cafra.

Natalina cafra

We had an infestation of the bad snails, on Beetree some years ago and the Natalina ate all of them and we have none left to feed the two youngsters that I have got left – so have pinched a few of the bad ones, from St Andrews. The snail we released is an adult and large (shell diameter 5cm) – it had just finished a meal of a Helix.  It looks different from the bad snails so please warn gardeners that the snail will be roaming and gobbling up your bad ones!

Dieter Setz – Wakeford Farm

Found “this” in the grass. Looked quite disgusting. Never seen these bright orange creatures before. They look like ticks but I am sure they are not. Anybody out there who knows what these are?  Ed’s note: A wonderful bright red, often seen on dead Songololos.  Some sort of mite? Did you see how many legs they had?

red beetles

These grasshoppers are reaching maturity towards the end of January.

green black grasshoppers

Fiscal Shrike’s Larder

fiscal shrike larder

Frogs and other aquatics are having a ball. Common River frog and Guttural Toad

common river frog

guttural toad

The powder puffs (Cyanotis speciosa)  are in full bloom in 2 different colours.

cyanotis powder puffs

Wyndham and Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

We saw the most amazing thing: a Diedricks Cuckoo feeding its chick! It
was around for a couple of days, hopping around mostly on the rocks. I’m afraid
we couldn’t take any pics!

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

My sightings this month are all centred around the dam and forest where many hot summer hours have been spent.  A Spurwinged Goose casually landed beside me while I was swimming in the dam and swallows constantly dive and dip into the water. The pair of Egyptian Geese (who get very grumpy having to share the dam with me) is back, as are a couple of dabchicks (I watched one bashing a small fish on the surface of the water for ages before swallowing it), African Black Ducks (I think) and cormorants. A Wagtail has built a nest in the raft and is raising chicks.  She is quite brave, landing on the opposite corner of the raft even while my dog and I are sitting there!

summer nest wagtail raft

I’ve seen a fish eagle a few times and a guest on Old Kilgobbin saw a Crested Eagle near the dam.  There is evidence of water mongoose in the crab shells left on the on the banks where many beautifully coloured dragonflies flit amongst the Juncus and sedges.

Extra special moments have been the thousands of brown veined white butterflies fluttering by on their way East  and the full moon rising above the forest on a gorgeous summer evening.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the butterflies – read the real story here: https://midlandsconservanciesforum.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/white-butterfly-migration/

r moon rise over forest

Hundreds of swallows swirl above the forest edge in the early evenings and mornings, and on 27 January I observed them gathering in numbers (at least 200) on the electricity lines.  Winter is on it’s way. After the sun sets, the bats come out.  I have heard Wood Owls and a Burchell’s Coucal, seen a pair of Brown hooded Kingfishers often and found a dead Buff Spotted Flufftail outside of my window.

buff spotted flufftail

Although the grasslands must be full of flowers, these are blooming in the shade of the forest now.  Impatiens hochtettiii

summer nest forest impatiens hochstetteri

Crocosmia aurea

summer nest forest crocosmia aurea


summer nest forest plectranthus sp

Monopsis stellaroides

summer nest forest monopsis stellaroides

Disperis fanniniae

summer nest forest disperis fanniniae

Chlorophytum comosum

summer nest forest chlorophytum comosum

Robin and Tinks Fowler – Corrie Lynn Farm

This past month we have watched Cape Robins nest and raise three chicks in the ‘Tikkie Creeper’ on the side of our house, followed by a pair of Bulbuls producing two offspring in the Wisteria hanging from the eaves and then we are still watching a couple of Paradise Flycatchers feeding up another three chicks in a tree at the edge of the garden. The amazing thing to see is how these fast growing little birds manage to fit into some rather small nests, we would be busy adding on another room or two!

Our swallows have been busy building and now seem to be sitting. They’re too high up and close to the roof for us to see what’s going on inside. In the past, some of the chicks have literally fried to death under the corrugated iron, so we have constructed a “gazebo” on top of the tin to make it a bit cooler!

They seem to be a bit later than usual this year – perhaps they know something about the weather that we haven’t yet figured out?

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Found this spoor whilst setting up the Trail Camera, anyone know what it is as I ran out of time to try identify it…possibly Porcupine?  Ed’s note: what about water mongoose?  How big was it?

spoor maybe porcupine

Blue Agapanthus (probably A. campanulatus) flowering in the hills.


Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Have had wonderful sightings for the month.  For the 1st 2 weeks a giant kingfisher arrived almost daily alerting us to his presence with loud screeching noises.  Pat saw him catch a frog and bash it to death on a tree branch. We found a heap of crab shells and scat on our wooden swing, which was his favourite perch.

giant kingfisher screeching

While out in the field Pat heard a meowing noise and investigated to find a baby spotted genet about a month old. (eyes open)  He surprised  the baby blue crane and parents one day (youngster about 3 wks old) so they got in dam and swam to island.

3 week old blue crane chick

14th Jan – the blue crane came to eat from the voermol block.

4 week old blue crane cattle lick Shortly afterwards, they walked down hill to other side where there is an underground stream with sink holes along its course.  Pat and I saw at once that there was a problem.  The adults were peering in the long grass walking around not knowing what to do.  We realized that the youngster had fallen down one of these sink holes.  Pat in the meantime ran around the house trying to find his trout net.  I told him to leave it and just get down there asap. He must have been making a noise because the Nguni herd were alerted and came running up the hill to see what all the fuss was about.  The parents valiantly tried to ward them off with their wings running bravely forwards and backwards to try and keep the herd away.

blue crane parents fend off cows

Pat got to sinkhole and gently lifted out baby crane.  I could not take photo as thought he had drowned but then Pat placed him on the ground and he took off like a bullet.  Straight past his startled parents who then proceeded to chase him up the hill.  They ran so fast I could not get a photo.  What a relief that we  happened to see this drama and save this precious baby.

pat lifting baby crane from sinkhole

15th Jan – thousands of brown veined white butterflies on their migration route from north west to south east through the garden all day.

17th Jan – Pat saw fish eagle at dam from 5.30am dive bombing the 3 yellowbill ducklings on the dam.  He kept missing as they ducked under the water.  At about 7am I saw him sitting on edge of dam checking out his options for a meal.  The plovers were hovering and screeching at him.

yellow billed duckling

Then he took off towards the ducks and landed on top of the ducklings splashing about frantically. (I lost him at this point) The parents were trying desperately to fend him off but with no luck.  He flew off with a duckling clutched in his talons with mom looking on, distraught. He took his meal to the pine tree where I photographed him last month harassing the hadedas.

fish eagle

21st – gymnogene on dead tree – dogs chased him away.


25th – I was alerted to a hammerkop flying round the garden with loud noises. (I thought it was the giant kingfisher) He landed on the swing (favourite perch) and I got a lovely colourful picture of him and the yellow cannas and evening primrose flowers.


Have also seen a number of reed buck grazing down at the dam in the evenings.  Pat found 2 reed buck carcasses today (31st) around the dam – looks like the jackal numbers are growing!

male reedbuck

Dam sitings – 6 spoonbill, a pair of shell duck, saw the hammerkop running along edge of dam this morning.  Plovers, yellow billed duck, cormorant, spurwing, Egyptian geese, one pair with a gosling.  A pair of crested (crowned) crane every few days.

One night I nearly stood on a 1 metre long red lipped herald (snake) on our enclosed verandah.  It was cold and drizzling (I thought snakes only looked for a meal during the day and when it was hot!!) He was obviously chasing after the frogs.  Pat very kindly took him and placed him down the hill. I will admit that I am terrified of snakes.

Flowers have been wonderful. Sophubia cana

Sopubia cana

and Satyrium (possibly cristatum)


Balgowan Wildlife Sightings for August

Walter Addison at Eqeleni Farm

More porcupines investigating the compost heap and irritating my dogs. One  female sent her pup home as soon as I arrived
and stayed to argue with me.

Also Cape parrots (maybe only one) seen on two occasions (12th and 14th August flying west to east). Would not have seen the bird if my son who has good ears had not been here. The trouble with deafness is that the high notes go first, so parrots are silent! A good flock of Common Waxbills on the lawn. The Black-headed oreole and the Yellow-billed Kites are back.

This is a puffback shrike recovering from a window collision. He didn’t like being photographed and flew off immidiately I took the pic. A beautiful bird. Look at that eye!

Peter McKenzie at Little Revesby

One pair of Cape Parrots sighted approximately on a weekly basis flying above the forest above the D533 and surrounding area. Since the flock of about forty birds that were present in November 2011 we have only sighted a few birds at a time which now seems to have dwindled to one pair.