Tag Archives: reedbuck

Boston Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

October has been a busy month, not much time at home to explore, so few sightings. There was a final snowfall at the beginning of the month, then the weather settled into a summer pattern, regular thunderstorms, rain and misty days between hot ones.

02-cover-img_6978

One misty day a pair of Common Reedbuck ventured close to the house, unhurriedly grazing as the passed by. I had several close-up encounters on different predawn mornings with individual Reedbuck.

03-mammals-common-reedbuck-img_6980

03-mammals-common-reedbuck-img_6988

03-mammals-common-reedbuck-img_7005

03-mammals-common-reedbuck-img_7009

The moist conditions have produced many flowers, they sparkled at me as I passed by. The few I managed to find time to photograph were Asparagus africanus, Monopsis decipiens and Oxalis smithiana.

04-flowers-asparagus-africanus-img_2680

Asparagus africanus

04-flowers-monopsis-decipiens-img_6969

Monopsis decipiens

04-flowers-oxalis-smithiana-img_2683

Oxalis smithiana

A tiny Lacewing sp. perched on the kitchen towel.

05-insects-lacewing-sp-p1070941

Lacewing

There have been several lovely moths including these two, an Emerald sp. and one unidentified.

05-insects-moth-emerald-sp-img_2698

Moth – Emerald sp.

05-insects-moth-p1070943

Unidentified moth (suggestions welcome)

Tiny Dunce Caps, Conocybe tenera; popped up in the lawn after rain as did a False Earth-star.

06-fungi-dunce-cap-conocybe-tenera-img_2695

Tiny Dunce Caps – Conocybe tenera

06-fungi-false-earth-starimg_2631

False Earth-star

The Village Weavers have been very busy in the Pin Oak and in an adjacent Plane Tree Spectacled Weavers have built a few nests. The Piet-my-Vrou, Red-chested Cuckoo finally started calling on the 19 October. I also saw an African Harrier-Hawk flying by.

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.

dormouse

All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.

mousebirds

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

The onset at last of the rainy season is so welcome, that one doesn’t mind days of grey, mizzling weather – which is no good for taking great photographs. It also doesn’t put a damper on the excitement of seeing a pair of Wattled Cranes looming large right next to the road.

image1

Wattled Cranes

And it is always pleasing to see Grey Crowned Cranes, there were a group of six on The Drift one morning, flying off north

image2

Grey Crowned Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Red-capped Lark, African Dusky Flycatcher, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Great Egret, African Darter, Greater Striped Swallow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Grassbird, African Reed-warbler

image3

African Reed-Warbler

Red-necked Spurfowl, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

image4

Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Burchell’s Coucal, Bokmakierie, Cape Sparrow, Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Mousebird, African Paradise-flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, , African Hoopoe, Pin-tailed Whydah, Olive Thrush, Spur-winged Goose

image5

Spur-winged Goose

Lanner Falcon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Cattle Egret (closely roosting overnight near the dam)

image6

Cattle Egret

Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant (also at the dam on a tree in the island where it was perching room only)

image7

White-breasted Cormorant

Cape Longclaw, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Crow, Cape Robin-chat, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Pipit,

image8

African Pipit

Red-collared Widowbird, Village Weaver, White-throated Swallow, Cape Weaver

image9

Cape Weaver

Brown-throated Martin, Southern Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Little Grebe, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, African Spoonbill (taking a break from feeding)

image10

African Spoonbill

Common Waxbill, Cape Turtle-dove, Pied Starling, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-chested Cuckoo, Helmeted Guineafowl, Amethyst Sunbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Double-collared, Sunbird, African Stonechat, Cape Canary, Cape White-eye, African Fish-eagle

image11

African Fish-Eagle

Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Boubou, Forest Canary, Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Goose (the gosling turning into gangling teenagers)

image12

Egyptian Geese

Red-knobbed Coots were feeding three newly-hatched chicks

image13

Red-knobbed Coot

Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck

image14

Yellow-billed Duck

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

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

bug

Leonotus in the hills

leonotus-in-the-hills-1

wildflowers-1

wildflowers-2

wildflowers-3

Granny’s Bonnet orchids

granny-s-bonnet-orchids

Carnivorous Snail on D707

carnivorous-snail-on-d707

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

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

fledgeling-black-sparrowhawk-2-weeks-after-being-a-ball-of-white-feathers

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

female-reedbuck-with-youngsteryoung-reedbuck-male

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

3-oribi-hiding-behind-bushes-on-a-very-windy-day

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

i-think-this-is-a-juvenile-honey-buzzard-going-by-the-honey-buzzard-pics-i-sent-in-earlier-this-year

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

juvenile-speckled-mousebird

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

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

Male Amethyst sunbird

amythest-male-sunbird

Female White-bellied Sunbird

female-malachite-sunbird-i-think

 

Long-crested Eagle

black-crested-eagle

Male Southern masked weaver building a nest

male-southern-masked-weaver-building-a-nest

Red-billed Quelea (non-breeding males)

red-billed-non-breeding-males

Scadoxus puniceus

scadoxus-puniceus

Evert van Breemen – Old Furth

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

snow-on-the-berg

Detail of picture:

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

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Winter 2016

Nicola Storkey

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

Snow 1

Snow 2

Snow 3

Kilgobbin Forest

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

Dargle Primary learners explore the forest floor.

Dargle Primary pupil makes friends with a grasshopper

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Snare

Snow & the mayhem it produces!

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

IMG-20160724-WA0001

Vehicles driving past Beverley

IMG-20160724-WA0003

IMG-20160724-WA0004

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

IMG-20160724-WA0000

IMG-20160724-WA0005

IMG-20160724-WA0008

IMG-20160725-WA0000

IMG-20160725-WA0002

IMG-20160725-WA0003

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

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

Buck leg 1

Buck leg 2

Pauline Holden – Woodsong Farm

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

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

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

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

Male reed buck after heavy rain with wet coat

Common Reedbuck (male)

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

Secretary bird

Secretarybird

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

Gymnogene in my garden

African Harrier-Hawk

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

Jackal buzzard (I think)

Jackal Buzzard

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

Black sparrowhawk female sitting on nest

Black Sparrowhawk nesting

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

Black sparrowhawk chick

Black Sparrowhawk chick

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

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

Frozen Hamerkop

Hamerkop

 

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

3 oribi running up the hill

Oribi

 

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

Sunrise

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

A few of the crowned crane at Fowlers farm Lions river

Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

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

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

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

Female duiker

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

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

Cape robin being flirtatious

Cape Robin-chat

We have a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds.

Male and female gurney sugar birds

Gurney’s Sugarbirds

Gurney sugar bird at dusk

Gurney’s Sugarbird

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

Another baby reedbuck

Female reedbuck with her youngster

Female reedbuck

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

Yellow white eye

Cape White-eye

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

Male Malachite Sunbird now in full color

Male malachite now in full color eating the flowering frelinias

Malachite Sunbird (male)

New moon

New moon

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

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

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

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

Samango

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

Samango Monkey

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

Muddy icy paw print

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

Buddleja

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Goddard

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

Otter

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Early morning mist over the valley

Ash 1

Worm in freshly cut wattle tree

Ash 2

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

Ash 3

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

Ash 4

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

Ash 5

Inhlosane rising above the ever diminishing Mavela Dam

Ash 6

Little dam near Selsley Farm

Ash 7

Aloes flowering on a neighbours farm

Ash 8

Ash 9

Ash 10

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

Ash 11

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

Ash 12

Sunset

Ash 13

Late afternoon sun streaming through some pine trees

Ash 14

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

Ash 15

Louise Ghersie – Satori Farm

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

Eland on Satori Farm.jpg

Boston Wildlife Sightings – July 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

02 Cover IMG_6073

Fire and Ice July, the first part of the month was characterized by smoky, hazy skies from fire-break burning. A cold front brought a sharp frost on 3 July, with very chilly temperatures and a few flakes of snow on the previous day.

02 Cover IMG_6101

The dry, warmer, intervening weather was changed into a snowy winter wonderland on the 25 July, much needed moisture, including rain, soaked the dry soil for a few days.

02 Cover IMG_621602 Cover IMG_626202 Cover IMG_6273

Aloe maculata have started fruiting, there are still some bright orange flowers on the hillside;

Buddleja salvifolia burst into flower after the snow;

as well as hundreds of bright yellow Gazania krebsiana;

03 Flora Flower Gazania krebsiana IMG_6307

one or two Greyia sutherlandii flowers had opened earlier, now the tree is covered in red tipped branches;

03 Flora Flower Greyia sutherlandii IMG_6293

the Halleria lucida branches are dripping with flowers, the most I’ve seen in a long time;

03 Flora Flower Halleria lucida IMG_6297

now that the soil is damp Ledebouria ovatifolia rosette, flat leaves have tightly packed buds above them.

03 Flora Flower Ledebouria ovatifolia IMG_6327

We have been working at rehabilitating a hillside that had a stand of pine trees growing on it. It is a very slow process, nine years since the trees came down in a tornado. Removal of the trunks and large branches came first, then regular annual burns and weeding out alien species. We are seeing indigenous pioneer species coming in. Recently we cut down and removed Acacia melanoxylon

and were happy to identify small indigenous trees that grow in a grove, Canthium (now Afrocanthium) mundianum, which will remain there.

03 Flora Tree Canthium (now Afrocanthium) mundianum IMG_2301

This last month there have been several sightings of Common Reedbuck. A very fine male, with beautiful horns, regularly wanders quite close to the house. He rests in a patch of bracken, one evening he was emerging as I arrived home.

04 Mammal Common Reedbuck P1070655

Male Common Reedbuck

Then on a walk to the top of our property I saw three males and four females, the largest group I’ve seen together in recent years.

04 Mammal Common Reedbuck spoor IMG_6331

Common Reedbuck spoor

Down near the gate I found many small pieces of fur, possibly Vlei Rat, that had been discarded by a predator, possibly the Long-crested Eagle, as that gatepost is a frequent perch.

04 Mammal fur IMG_6029

A pile of Porcupine droppings indicated they are still around.

04 Mammal Porcupine droppings IMG_6312

Porcupine scat

A Black-headed Oriole has taken over from the Black-backed Puffback, trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. His liquid song from the verandah, where he perched in between bouts was so beautiful.

05 Bird Black-headed Oriole IMG_6145

Black-headed Oriole

A Cape Robin-chat splashed in the verandah birdbath even though there was still snow on the ground.

05 Bird Cape Robin-chat IMG_6174

A flock of Cape Weavers sunned themselves in bare branches.

05 Bird Cape Weaver IMG_6078

Cape Weavers

The large group of Cape White-eyes are my favourite winter birds, they all keep together, moving constantly whether foraging or taking a drink and dip.

05 Bird Cape White-eye IMG_6111

Cape White-eyes

05 Bird Cape White-eye IMG_6321

Cape White-eye

The Speckled Pigeons have multiplied, there are about six living here, roosting and nesting in the carports. I regularly hear the African Fish-Eagle calling from the valley, took a flight up over the house.

05 Bird Speckled Pigeon IMG_6163

Speckled Pigeon

There are many Striped Skinks living among the wooden slats of an outbuilding. They enjoy the warmth of a winter sun, basking.

06 Reptile Striped Skink IMG_6316

Striped Skink

There are many bees and hoverflies buzzing in the few flowering plants.

07 Invertebrate Bee on Buddleja salvifolia IMG_6288

I found what I think is a Wasp nest on the ground and several huge ant nests in trees.

07 Invertebrate Wasp nest IMG_6308

Possible wasp nest on the ground

07 Invertebrate Ant nest IMG_6314

Ant nest in the tree

A beautiful Painted Lady butterfly soaked up warmth from a rock on the hilltop.

07 Invertebrate Butterfly Painted Lady IMG_6310

Painted Lady Butterfly

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We are getting quite a lot of activity at Stormy Hill Horse Trails. The buck are coming to drink at our horses’ water trough on the hill, so we have spotted a pair of Bushbuck, a Reedbuck, including a ‘teenager’ Reedbuck, and our resident Common (Grey) Duiker. We have even had a Bushbuck doe eating the rose bushes in the garden, which is great as it will save me some pruning.

We were quite excited to see a pair of Knysna Turaco (previously know as the Knysna Lourie), so I’m hoping that they have decided to nest in the area.

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Birds have evolved very efficient ways to regulate their body temperature, but in winter it is hard not to think they are feeling the cold when they are sitting all huddled up like the Speckled Pigeons on the roof of a barn

image1

Speckled Pigeons

or facing into the cold wind like a group of Helmeted Guineafowl

image2

Helmeted Guineafowl

Black-headed Herons also appeared to huddle together in supporting companionship

image3

Black-headed Heron

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Cape Weaver, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Red-winged Starling, Lanner Falcon, Rock Kestrel, Denham’s Bustard, Green Wood-hoopoe, Bokmakierie, Forest Canary, Pied Starling, Buff-streaked Chat

image4

Buff-streaked Chat

African Firefinch, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow

image5

House Sparrow

Cape Wagtail, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola

image6

Levaillant’s Cisticola

Black-shouldered Kite, Long-crested Eagle, Black-headed Heron, Cape Sparrow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-dove, Fork-tailed Drongo

image7

Fork-tailed Drongo

Cape White-eye, Speckled Pigeon, Village Weaver (the males beginning to practise their building skills)

image8

Village Weaver

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Longclaw, Yellow Bishop, Little Grebe

image9

Little Grebe

Drakensberg Prinia, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, White-necked Raven, African Stonechat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Canary and Southern Boubou (which appreciated having water available in the bird bath).

image10

Southern Boubou

Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Autumn frost on leaves

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

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

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

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

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

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

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

Mouse running away

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

Oribi Ram

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

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

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

Rinkhals in the grass

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

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

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

Wattled Cranes 2

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

Puffadder

Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

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

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

wattled crane

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

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

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

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

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

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

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

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

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

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

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

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

darner dragon fly

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

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

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

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

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

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

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

 

garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

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

reedbuck in a hurry

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

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

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

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

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

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Gaudy commodore

Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector Butterfly (Precis archesia)

It’s been a dry month – 80 ml in total. I saw the Blue Crane juvenile flying for the first time on 27th February. We see them almost daily mostly at sunset where they wade in the dam which is dropping at an alarming rate. One hot midday I watched in fascination as it seemed the blue crane adults were trying to teach the youngster to swim.

Crane 1 - Come on junior – this is how you swim

Come on junior – this is how you swim

They were swimming all over the dam while he just stood and watched. Not too interested but he suddenly decided to start running through the shallow water in wild abandon.

Crane 2 - Check this, I’m dancing on water

Check this, I’m dancing on water

Then up and down the side of the dam, wings widespread while his parents stood and watched the antics. At one stage mom or dad started running after him. I watched for an hour before they eventually wandered off to look for some lunch. They are a very close knit family and there is a lot of touching of beaks between them. They are such incredible parents. 5th youngster they have raised now.

Crane 3 - Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

A malachite baby flew into the verandah door one day – as we had folk for lunch I did not take photos. I put him in a box for awhile and let him loose later where he flew off quite contented.

There have been dozens of moths this month and the frogs have been having a feast on the verandah. No snakes yet!

One morning while having tea on the stoep, we saw 2 Common Reedbuck fighting down at the dam.

Reedbuck 1 - Female reed buck either playing or fighting

Female Common Reedbuck either playing or fighting

We presumed they were males fighting over the females as usual. But as they parted we were surprised to see they were 2 females. A chase ensued and then another charge and more head butting and pushing.

Reedbuck 2 - The Chase

The Chase

It did not look friendly and I wondered if they were fighting over a male!!! But he was nowhere in sight. They eventually parted on friendly terms and carried on grazing. I was surprised at this behaviour between 2 females who are usually so docile.

Reedbuck 3 - The Charge

The Charge

Pat saw an African Jacana at the dam 2 days in a row, but every time I looked for him he was nowhere to be seen.

The Martial Eagle returned to the same dead gum tree a few days after the stork kill. It was a stifling day. His beak was ajar and his wings pulled away from his body. I was so thrilled to see him once again, but that was the last time. A number of raptors around.

Pat saw a black sparrow hawk eating a rat along our driveway. We went for a walk one evening around the dam and found 2 Blacksmith Lapwing eggs lying out in the open a few metres from the dam edge.

Blacksmith plovers eggs

Blacksmith Lapwing eggs

One morning I saw a strange coloured raptor on our dead tree – I went outside to get closer for a photo shoot.

Unknown Raptor 1

Then I heard another raptor making a sort of “peeeoooo” noise which went on for a few
minutes. This one was somewhere in the gum trees opposite our house. The raptor left the dead tree and flew up to the gum trees, found a perch, and he too started his “peeeoooo” calling.

Unknown Raptor 2

Then suddenly the other raptor flew in and joined him a few metres away on the same level. There was a chorus of whistling to and fro and then the one flew off and the other followed shortly after.

Unknown Raptor 3

I have no idea what raptors these are but think they are juveniles because of their light coloured eyes. They are both differently coloured yet whistled the same song. I have asked Ashley to please see if he could find someone to identify them for me. I googled juvenile steppe and jackal buzzards, and also forest buzzards, but got so confused after a few hours gave up.

The skinks (lizards) round the house have become very friendly and enjoy the morning sun in our study. They love the warmth of the sun and sit for some time on the carpet wherever the sun touches it. Strange little creatures and very social. They have now found their way into our bathroom too.

Skink in our study enjoying the morning sun

All day long they slip under the aluminium doors into the study and our bedroom which adjoins both sides of the verandah. The dogs ignore them and they run around freely looking for and eating the dead moths from the previous night and anything else that’s edible.

Skink eating all the dead moths from the night before

They always seem to know how to get out of the house which amazes me. At one stage I used to shush them out the door until I found that they definitely know their way around. Amazing.

Heard several African Fish-Eagles crying this morning over the house – they were miles up – the sky was so blue and bright that I could see nothing, but that wonderful sound lingered in the thermals – a sound that one does not forget – this is our beautiful country, Africa.

 

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

The Yellow-billed Kites have gone, but the Barn Owls are back in their box in the farmyard – hope they breed successfully again. I saw just one Reedbuck doe all month and one Common Duiker. Jackal Buzzards, Cormorants, Egyptian Geese, a small brown duck, wagtails, hadedas, a Giant Kingfisher and an African Fish-Eagle watch as we enjoy the last swims of the season in a not yet full dam.

Autumn changes always seem the most obvious, and are much loved by most Midlanders – the chilly ground underfoot in the mornings, perfect afternoons and gentle light of the evenings.

grassland view of Inhlosane

View of Inhlosane

Disperis fanninaea, appears quite at home in the understory of wattle or pine woodlots. Flowers are borne on stems of up to 40cm tall, sometimes singly or in clusters of up to eight. Petals are joined to form a white helmet-shaped hood, flushed with pink speckles and rimmed in green. Dormant during winter, with new shoots emerging from the underground tuber in spring. The pollination of Disperis is interesting; it is carried out mainly by specialized oil-collecting bees, Rediviva coloratat, this is a rare phenomenon in plants. The bees collect the oil as food for their larvae. Once pollinated, the fruit capsule ripens and thousands of minute, dust-like seeds are released and dispersed by wind. As is the case with most orchids, they have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi that live in their roots – supplying them with nutrients absorbed from decaying organic matter.

disperis fanninaea

Disperis fanninaea

Leonotis intermedia and Pycnostachys reticulata are flowering in grasslands.

pycnostachys reticulata

Pycnostachys reticulata

Plectranthus laxiflorus, Hypoestes triflora, Desmondium repandum and Plectranthus dolichopodus flower on forest edges.

desmodium repandum

Desmodium repandum

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Rain has been minimal this month, sometimes we do still get a bit of dew on the grass though.

Dew on the veld grass

This grass was being burnt from the heat of the rocks, until we had a tiny bit of rainfall.

Grass burnt from the heat of the rocks before the rains arrived

Some pink Everlastings and Watsonia flowering in the veld.

 

Sunset over the Dargle

Sunset over the Dargle

Spiky Caterpillar

Spiky Caterpillar

Some kind of worms found whilst digging a hole in the ground, they managed to burrow quickly under everytime I turned the soil over, pretty sure they weren’t maggots

Worms in deep soil
Rainforest Brown Butterfly

Rainforest Brown

A few different kinds of fungi and mushrooms sprang up after the rains at the beginning of the month.

Malvina & Evert van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

March has been extremely busy on Old Furth Estate with multiple celebrations and hordes of visitors, so we have been battening down the hatches more than usual!

No sooner had the dust settled from the last carload of visitors than we had the call we have been waiting for from Free Me that the two Serval were on their way for release on the farm.

Serval 1

Never a dull moment here! We went over to the other side of the Furth River and released there as we know that we have Serval near our dams already and didn’t want to cause a territorial problem.

Serval 5

Serval 2

The male was released first, rather groggy after his antidote, and then the female.

Serval 3

We were very surprised that neither of them bolted, they just took their time sniffing the new territory and then gradually melted away into the surrounding vegetation.

Serval 4

On some of the walks showing everyone around we found some lovely fungi in the forest

Fungi

and a really large bulb which had been disturbed – any guesses on what it could be?

mystery bulb

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

The swallows have been gathering since the 1st March. On a couple of evenings the sky over us has looked just like Mt Moreland . Literally 1000’s. Almost in competition with the Amur Falcons at Mooi River.

This extraordinary “nest” is growing out of or is stuck to a wall in the garden. The fluff looks like human hair clippings. At the top of the nest there is a white lava and below it is the brown pupa. I think we need Dr Jason Londt ‘s expertise again…

Strange Nest

Dr Jason Londt’s Response: “Many caterpillars incorporate their long hairs into their cocoons – I think that is what we see in the photo – the pupal case left behind by the emerged adult moth is frequently found inside the cocoon – or bits of it should it break up. I wouldn’t like to guess at the species that made these cocoons but maybe a Monkey Moth.”

I found this gay fellow on Grandpa’s Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

Colourful Caterpillar

The dehisced seed capsule of the Kigelaria africana and below the unopened capsules. The seeds in the capsules are very pretty, black with red flesh. The birds always beat me to it and I didn’t manage to get a photo. The Acraea butterfly breeds on this tree and at times it is crawling with caterpillars. The fruit and larvae attract a huge number of birds and there is constant activity. It is a really worthwhile tree for a larger garden. Cuckoos and Black Headed Orioles feast on the caterpillars. The doves scratch round under the tree picking up seeds, the toppies, sparrows, weavers and white eyes strip the capsules of the fruit. Thrushes and boubous too.

Kigelaria Africana

Wyndham Robartes – Wana Farm

Wyndham sent in a video of some “Processionary Worms”, here is a still from that video.

Caterpillars

David Mann – Knowhere Farm

Rode on the bike up to the top of the farm last week with Ben (the Ridgeback) and as we got to the top a Jackal took off and Ben decided to give chase. He returned a while later looking a bit tired, obviously the Jackal gave him a good run!

Louise Bolton – Robhaven Farm

I recently took a walk up Inhlosane mountain this week and took a few pictures.

Inhlosane View from the top

The weather was perfect as we were up there by 7am. Here is a picture of the view from the top plus a panorama.

Inhlosane Panorama

There were many flowers in bloom but this one caught my eye, Crassula alba.

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

Also saw this lizard basking in the sun. Love how the shadow reveals the jagged edge of its tail.

Lizard

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – July, August and September 2015

Jul, Aug, Sep 2015 header

Karkloof Conservation Centre

We had regular sightings of up to 86 different bird species at the Karkloof Conservation Centre and nearby farmlands visible from the road. The winter months had surprisingly better lists than spring!

View from the Crowned Crane Hide in Winter

View from the Crowned Crane Hide in Winter

On the 21st August, Karin Nelson reported a sighting of the first Steppe Buzzard of the season in the Karkloof as she was travelling back from her visit to Benvie Gardens. On the 2nd September, we had our first sighting of the Yellow-billed Kite here at the Centre. It’s always exciting to see the migrants return, understanding that many of them have endured a tough journey.

The Wattled Crane Hide was full of life as the sun rose to greet the day. By the time the light was good enough for a photo, the Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes had already flown off. These three Wattled Cranes stayed around for a little while though.

The Wattled Crane Hide was full of life as the sun rose to greet the day. By the time the light was good enough for a photo, the Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes had already flown off. These three Wattled Cranes stayed around for a little while though.

We have had great sightings of all three crane species (a perk of having them breed in the area), which is something members of the Karkloof Conservancy can be proud of, as this indicates suitable wetland and grassland habitat allowing a healthy environment.

The Wattled Cranes were extremely active and even gave us a rendition of the "Can-Can" dance.

The Wattled Cranes were extremely active and even gave us a rendition of the “Can-Can” dance.

We must not be complacent though, as there are a number of threats we face, which can be of detriment to these stately birds, as well as other fauna and flora. Threats include but are not limited to drainage of wetlands (no matter how big or small), fracking, developments that put pressure on an already sensitive environment, and not to forget the dreaded N3 Bypass.

A typical winter scene with Wattled Cranes amongst the White-faced Ducks in the foreground and a Common Reedbuck grazing in the background.

A typical winter scene with Wattled Cranes amongst the White-faced Ducks in the foreground and a Common Reedbuck grazing in the background.

Adam Riley, of Rockjumper Birding Tours, brought visitors to the hides on the 15 December, who were thrilled to see 4 Wattled Cranes at the Loskop pan. Two of the birds had rings and stayed there for the remainder of the day looking a lot like a couple. The one on the far left is Mbeche’s sibling (Mbeche is our adopted Wattled Crane that was collected in the Karkloof as a second egg after being abandoned) and the one next to our charmer is its assumed partner that was colour ringed as a chick by Brent Coverdale and Tanya Smith in October 2013 at Impendle Nature Reserve. This is the first re-sighting of the Impendle bird since it fledged.

Wattled Cranes by Adam Riley

Wattled Cranes by Adam Riley

Other sightings included: African Black Duck; African Black Swift; African Darter; African Fish-Eagle; African Hoopoe; African Jacana; African Marsh-Harrier; African Olive-Pigeon; African Pipit; African Sacred Ibis; African Snipe; African Spoonbill;

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

African Stonechat; African Wattled Lapwing; Amethyst Sunbird; Black Crake; Black-headed Heron; Black-shouldered Kite; Blacksmith Lapwing; Black-winged Lapwing; Blue Crane; Brown-throated Martin; Buff-streaked Chat; Burchell’s Coucal; Cape Canary; Cape Crow; Cape Robin-chat; Cape Shoveler; Cape Turtle-dove; Cape Wagtail; Cardinal Woodpecker; Common Fiscal; Crowned Lapwing; Crowned Lapwing; Dark-capped Bulbul; Drakensberg Prinia; Egyptian Goose; Fan-tailed Widowbird; Forest Buzzard; Fork-tailed Drongo; Giant Kingfisher; Green Wood-Hoopoe; Grey Crowned Crane; Grey Heron; Hadeda Ibis; Hamerkop; Helmeted Guineafowl; Hottentot Teal; Jackal Buzzard;

A Jackal Buzzard caught some rodent salad.

A Jackal Buzzard caught some rodent salad.

Lanner Falcon; Levaillant’s Cisticola; Little Grebe; Little Swift; Long-crested Eagle;

Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

Long-tailed Widowbird; Malachite Kingfisher; Natal Spurfowl; Olive Thrush; Olive Woodpecker; Osprey;

This Osprey was seen daily. This sighting was out of season for inland distribution.

This Osprey was seen daily. This sighting was out of season for inland distribution.

Pied Crow; Pied Kingfisher; Pied Starling; Pin-tailed Whydah; Purple Heron; Red-billed Quelea; Red-billed Teal; Red-eyed Dove; Reed Cormorant; South African Shelduck; Southern Black Flycatcher; Southern Boubou; Southern Grey-headed Sparrow; Southern Red Bishop; Speckled Mousebird; Speckled Pigeon; Spur-winged Goose; Village Weaver; White-breasted Cormorant; White-throated Swallow; Wood Sandpiper; Yellow-billed Duck; and Yellow-fronted Canary.

Orange Ground-Thrush Project @ Benvie – Karin Nelson

Under the guidance and supervision of Prof. Colleen Downs of UKZN, I have started an exciting project on the Orange Ground-Thrush. These birds are uncommon residents of the KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Forests. These forests are classified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, IBA’s, as they have important bird, tree and flowering plant species.

Orange Ground-Thrush by Karin Nelson

Orange Ground-Thrush by Karin Nelson

Benvie lies within these Mistbelt Forests, hosting a healthy population of Orange Ground-Thrush. With the support and enthusiasm of John and Jenny Robinson of Benvie, I have started catching and colour-ringing some thrushes.

The engraved colour ring used to identify the birds from a distance using binoculars or photographs

The engraved colour ring used to identify the birds from a distance using binoculars or photographs

I have also taken blood samples which will be analysed by UKZN staff for genetics, relatedness, population and sex. In the future, we will also be assessing breeding biology to determine factors such as nest success, fidelity, sites used, and threats.

Bird Ringing @ Gartmore – Karin Nelson

Winter proves to be a difficult time to do bird ringing at the Gartmore hide, as the mealies have been turned into silage, causing the mist nets to be fairly exposed. Karin was, however, grateful that a large flock of Red-billed Quelea did not fly into her nets. Despite the slow morning, she managed to catch 10 birds, with 3 of these being re-traps:

  • 4 Levaillant’s Cisticola
  • 2 Southern Red Bishop
  • 2 African Stonechat
  • 1 Cape Robin Chat
  • 1 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

Karin also managed to list 43 different species during the morning, which includes this Giant Kingfisher which was a highlight to the day.

Giant Kingfisher by Karin Nelson

Giant Kingfisher by Karin Nelson

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth

An Orange-breasted Bush Shrike which we have had in our garden at Mbona. They are not on our bird list and have never heard them calling here. SABAP2 does show this is the edge of their range, but probably more down towards Albert Falls dam. I saw this little one outside our bedroom window and then again one week later when he flew into a window stunning himself. Fortunately not too bad, but we were able to pick him up for a photo shoot before he/she flew away. Beautiful colours!

Orange-breasted Bush Shrike by Richard Booth

Orange-breasted Bush Shrike by Richard Booth

I’ve included a picture of one of the lovely orchids that grow in our COOL forest: Polystachya pubescens.

Polystachya pubescens, an orchids that grow in the cool forest at Mbona

Polystachya pubescens, an orchids that grow in the cool forest at Mbona

“Twitching bug” bites the Campbell’s – Lisa Campbell

The Campbell family are becoming real bird watchers of late, and they were very excited about a “lifer” for them and for their garden.

Groundscraper Thrush photographed by Lisa Campbell

Groundscraper Thrush photographed by Lisa Campbell

This Groundscraper Thrush had the Campbell paparazzi snap its good side for the rest of the community to enjoy. Well done and we look forward to future contributions!

Crane Custodian – Tony Matchett (Agric. Manager of Benson Farming)

There is no better reward for a crane custodian than stumbling upon a Wattled Crane chick that has been smartly hidden by its parents.

Wattled Crane chick playing "hide-and-go-seek" in the veld.

Wattled Crane chick playing “hide-and-go-seek” in the veld.

Tony luckily had his camera on hand and took a few photos before he left promptly, limiting the stress levels of the birds, and allowing the chick and parents to reunite. This was attempt number two for the pair of Wattled cranes this last breeding season, as they unfortunately lost their first chick. Let’s hope we see this one flying amongst the 311 others.

The Wattled Crane parents feeding in the burnt veld.

The Wattled Crane parents feeding in the burnt veld.

Tony took this photograph which represents part of the floater flock of about 50 Grey Crowned Cranes (they couldn’t all fit in the frame!) that were enjoying the safe lands that are provided by the Benson family.

Part of a flock of 50 Grey Crowned Cranes with a Common Reedbuck in the background.

Part of a flock of 50 Grey Crowned Cranes with a Common Reedbuck in the background.

This flock were seen daily for almost 2 months and spent the whole day there, only splitting up to find a place to roost for the night. A Common Reedbuck seemed to enjoyed their company, while grazing on the lush cover crop planted as part of the no-till farming technique which plays a significant role in preventing soil erosion.

Grey Crowned Cranes are the only cranes that can perch in trees.

Grey Crowned Cranes are the only cranes that can perch in trees.

Capturing the Moments – Chris and Ingy Larkin

Chris and Ingy managed to capture these gorgeous photographs during their visit to the bird hides.

Purple Heron well camouflaged. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Purple Heron well camouflaged. Photographed by Chris Larkin

African Snipe on the cold and frosty vegetation. Photographed by Chris Larkin

African Snipe on the cold and frosty vegetation. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Levaillant’s Cisticola in flight. Photographed by Ingy Larkin

Levaillant’s Cisticola in flight. Photographed by Ingy Larkin

Grey Crowned Crane in flight. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Grey Crowned Crane in flight. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Ingy Larkin photographed this White-breasted Cormorant with a fairly large fish in its beak.

Ingy Larkin photographed this White-breasted Cormorant with a fairly large fish in its beak.

Chris Larkin photographed this special sighting of the Osprey emerging out of the water with a meal fit for a king.

Chris Larkin photographed this special sighting of the Osprey emerging out of the water with a meal fit for a king.

White-breasted Cormorant and an African Darter having a squabble. Chris Larkin captured this typical book club scene.

White-breasted Cormorant and an African Darter having a squabble. Chris Larkin captured this typical book club scene.

Grey Crowned Crane puffed out after a bath. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Grey Crowned Crane puffed out after a bath. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.