Tag Archives: samango monkey

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – July 2015

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

We have been spoilt this month by the visitation of a pair of wattled crane every few days. The one is ringed – Left leg: large white and Right leg: small red over small blue. Quite distinctive in the photo. The other one is not ringed but has a limp. This sighting will be reported to the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Crane Programme.

A pair of wattled crane have been arriving at the dam every few days during the month. One has a white ring on his right leg and a red ring (upper) and blue on the other leg

A ringed Wattled Crane

The wattled cranes enjoyed wading at sunset amongst the egyptian and spurwing geese

The wattled cranes enjoyed wading at sunset amongst the egyptian and spurwing geese

The black sparrow hawks nest has been taken over by egyptian geese. I have seen them flying through the trees but not sure if they are going to build another nest in the gum trees like last year. Every night at sunset about 50 ibis (ha de das) stop at the dam to drink and then fly over the house in various numbers.

Lesser double collared male sunbird - the only time I have seen him in the garden

Lesser double collared male sunbird – the only time I have seen him in the garden

Found 2 dead Reedbuck at the dam. Not sure how they died as only bones left and little flesh.
Bees swarming a few weeks ago down the chimney which chased the owls away as have not seen or heard them since. For days lots of dead bees around the house.

This young male reed buck arrived on the farm a few weeks ago. The older resident male has been chasing him around the hills

This young male reed buck arrived on the farm a few weeks ago. The older resident male has been chasing him around the hills

9 Waterbuck still on farm and neighbouring farms. The day after the snow, they were lying up against the stone wall out of the wind, trying to keep warm.



One morning 9 wattled crane flew south over the house.

9 Wattled Cranes flew by

9 Wattled Cranes flew by

An african hoopoe been visiting our garden which is unusual.

African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe

One morning a frantic female duiker was running around the hills smelling the ground and following a scent – not sure if the jackal scent or perhaps the scent of her lost baby which had been taken by the jackal. This went on for 30 minutes and she kept returning to one particular spot in front of our farm gate. The next day 2 duikers were chasing each other around the farm – going at such speed could not see what sex.

Bokmakierie (Bushshrike)

Bokmakierie (Bushshrike)

A great sighting this month was a female sentinel rock thrush which is a first for us.

Female sentinel rock thrush (on barbed wire fence)

Female sentinel rock thrush (on barbed wire fence)

Cape Longclaws visit our garden every few days.

Cape Longclaw

Cape Longclaw

Saw black shouldered kite, crowned grey crane, blue crane only once.

A Black-shouldered Kite

A Black-shouldered Kite

There has been a lot of activity on our road and neighbours road with the aardvark digging huge holes. On the hill behind our house, there were distinct claw marks on the rocks where he tried to pull them out, trying to get to the termites beneath. We therefore asked Dr Amy Wilson (Shuttleworth) to bring up her trail cameras – we put 3 up on neighbour’s farm (Paul Smit) and after a week brought them back to our place and placed them up at the stone wall where there is a rickety old gate where the animals climb through. Unfortunately, we had no luck with pics for the elusive aardvark but plenty of other interesting sightings.

Male buff streaked chat getting a real soaking on a warm day

Male buff streaked chat getting a real soaking on a warm day

A very wet female buff streaked chat after a 5 minute bath

A very wet female buff streaked chat after a 5 minute bath

Rupert Powell Bukamanzi Cottage

With everyone hunkered down for the winter and not all that much on there is a lot more time for Wuthering Heights moments such as these, out on the hills:


Sometimes the gloom can be more beautiful than the more obvious golden afternoons, I think. The same goes for lesser Dargle wildlife, such as the sociable spiders who have been busy in the grassland (Oh, hello Daphne! is that you?!)


This great big hairy number got very sociable indeed, and fell out of a curtain in the cottage. I scooped her up and had a good hour photographing her on the verandah – she didn’t mind it a bit and stuck around for ages, showing off.


Aside from arachnids I have also seen plenty of bushbuck and hares and the return of the weaver birds. I’ve been hearing woodpeckers recently and best of all, at about five-thirty every morning, two Crowned Cranes and their juvenile have been flying noisily over the roof of the cottage to visit the Stipstitches dam, and hold out their damp wings in the rising sun.

Before the frost hit us I also found this single flower, the only bloom for miles:


After the freak rainstorm of the 25th of July this is how glorious and clear everything looked the morning after the night before. Every blade of grass and every leaf shone as if someone had been at them with a cloth and feather-duster.


There is a lovely sleepiness to the landscape at the moment – if Inhlosane had eyes then at this time of the year only one of them would be open.


Helen and Barend Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

Helen was the recipient of the Dargle Conservancy Trail Camera for a month, after she won one of the photography categories at the AGM. These are some of the pics captured…









Bushpig family

Bushpig family

Bushbuck ram

Bushbuck ram

David and Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Red-lipped Herald snake

Red-lipped Herald snake

Sunset 2 Sunset 1

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset 2

Yellow Wildflowers

Yellow Wildflowers

Yellow flowers coming up through the firebreaks

Yellow flowers coming up through the firebreaks

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Red hot poker

Red hot poker

Red Aloes flowering in the hills

Red Aloes flowering in the hills

Orange Aloes flowering in the hills

Orange Aloes flowering in the hills

Inhlosane on the day it snowed in the Drakensberg

Inhlosane on the day it snowed in the Drakensberg

Ice on a puddle

Ice on a puddle

Frost on hay

Frost on hay

Frost in the sheep camp

Frost in the sheep camp

Nikki Brighton – Cottage at Old Kilgobbin Farm

Our baby owls have been learning to fly! Lots of crashing about the barn and hissing. This chap was not too thrilled when I climbed up a ladder to take his picture. I, of course, was delighted.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Samango monkey troops spend late afternoons basking and playing in the sunshine on the forest edges. They pick and nibble at a plant in the grass – obviously just what they need at this time of year. They are also eating Vepris lanceolata berries. I enjoy watching them tumble about and listening to the sounds they make – squeaks and clicks, chattering and booming.

r samango family r samango vepris winter july 2015 099 r samango winter july 2015 072

I’m collecting a collection of winter colours and textures on my walks.

r winte walk colours 027 r winte walk bracken 054 r winte walk rhus 04 0 r winter textures dried leonotis r winter textures 034

r winter walk helichrysum

I have seen Oribi, Reedbuck and quite a few Duiker on my rambles. Lots of raptors, herons, red necked spurfowl and shimmering hadedas. Egyptian geese flying in formation and swimming on the dam.

r winte walk colours 091

An interesting stick insect on my verandah.

r stick insect winterJPG

The first of the grasshoppers to hatch (does this seem a tad early?)

r winte walk grasshoppers 044

The low light at this time of year makes everything seem extra magical,

r low light of winter july 2015

Crunchy leaves carpet the forest and fungi make good use of fallen branches.

fungi winter july 2015 132

Early one morning I spotted three men and seven dogs obviously out hunting. That was a little disconcerting. I reported to SACAN 083 799 1916 as soon as I got home.

r hunting with dogs

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2015

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

Tony Ritchie/Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

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

Crowned Eagle

Crowned Eagle

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

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

Barn Owl 1

Barn Owl 2

Barn Owl 3

Barn Owl 4

Barn Owl 5

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

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

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

This huge samango monkey at sunrise was a surprise.

This huge samango monkey at sunrise was a surprise.

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

Male Duiker







Reedbuck doe

Reedbuck doe

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Brian & Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

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

Blue Duiker

Blue Duiker

Bushbuck doe

Bushbuck doe

Bushbuck ram

Bushbuck ram



Porcupine Family

Porcupine Family

Spotted Genet

Spotted Genet

Tailend of a Bushpig

Tailend of a Bushpig

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

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

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

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

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

Grey crowned crane with juvenile

Grey crowned crane with juvenile

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

Aardvark burrow

Aardvark burrow

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

Aardvark claw marks inside burrow

Aardvark claw marks inside burrow

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

Black female sunbird sitting once again

Black female sunbird sitting once again

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

House sparrow

House sparrow

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

Male duiker

Male duiker

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

Jackal buzzard

Jackal buzzard

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

Olive thrush in the rain

Olive thrush in the rain

Gurney's Sugarbird

Gurney’s Sugarbird

Black sunbird on kniphofia

Black sunbird on kniphofia

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

Malachites 1


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

Malachites 4

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

Male malachite sunbird

Male malachite sunbird

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

Unknown butterfly

Unknown butterfly

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

Aardvark prints

Aardvark prints

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

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

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

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

Barn owl on window sill

Barn owl on window sill

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

Garden Commodore (Precis archesia)

Garden Commodore (Precis archesia)

Emperor swallowtail

Emperor swallowtail

A pair of African shelduck at the dam.

A pair of shelduck

A pair of shelduck

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

Yellow bill duck and 4 ducklings

Yellow bill duck and 4 ducklings

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

Female reedbuck

Female reedbuck

Tree Enthusiasts are Enthralled

Everybody won on the two day Forest Ecology Course held in Dargle recently. Eugene Moll, who lives in Cape Town now, got to spend time in the forests he remembers so fondly from his student days, to relax on the veranda of Crowned Eagle Cottage listening to tree dassies call at night and to stir up some controversy around the trees we thought we knew. All his favourite things!

r group forest

Participants were enchanted by his enthusiasm and knowledge and couldn’t believe their luck at having such an expert on hand for a few days. The gorgeous Cairn of Old Kilgobbin provided the perfect venue beside the mist belt forest, the days were sunny and there was hand-made lemon cordial on tap. Life doesn’t get much better than this – especially when you are learning about something as special as our forests.

r eugene explains

In 1965 Eugene completed his Master’s thesis on the Vegetation of the Upper uMngeni Catchment. That is above Midmar dam. He admitted that he got some facts pretty wrong and has since changed his mind about a couple of things. One being that the forests had shrunk greatly. They are not. He told us that in the first surveys of ‘forest’ areas, all the grasslands in between were included! “Forests are aggressive things” he said “Controlled by fire. It is our grasslands we need to protect as they are really ancient – certainly older than most forest trees. Grasslands have shrunk alarmingly.”

r eugene

His views on fire were interesting too. He believed that we have got the burning all wrong nowadays and the very best time to burn grassland is when there is less than 40% humidity, temperatures higher than 40 degrees and the wind speed is about 40 kilometres an hour. We could all imagine the LRFPA having a heart attack!

One thing we all learned was to QUESTION things. To think about what makes a peach a peach, for instance. If we understand the basic characteristics of familiar plants we find in our gardens, we will have a much easier time trying to identify new trees.

r Penz Reshnee Sarah

Everyone was keen to try our they plant id skills using the Keys in various Guide books. Just to confuse everyone Eugene included two samples of Kiggelaria Africana (Wild Peach) – one branch from a mature tree and a twig from a little sapling. They were COMPLETELY different and had everyone puzzled for ages.

r puzzling

Eugene was rather disparaging about many of often difficult to use and ‘unfriendly’ keys. The botanical jargon is hard to understand, descriptions of many characters are too general and photos are non-specific. “What is the point of a photo of the entire tree, when all you can see in the forest is the bark?” he asks.

So we learn that the Guide books are exactly that, guides. Nothing beats in the field observation. Walking, looking, feeling, tasting and comparing.   “The same trees can be completely different from one area to another” commented Eugene, in awe of the huge specimens of Dais cotonifolia we came across. “In the Cape these are tiny scrubby things,” he told us.

r Brian Barend David

Eugene has produced a book called What’s that Tree? A starter’s guide to the trees of southern Africa, which he believes does a good job of highlighting the diagnostic features of each species – for example if ‘three veins from the base of the leaves’ is an important feature, he includes a picture of exactly that. Richard Booth, from Karkloof commented “I really enjoyed Eugene’s wisdom.”

r group eugen old kilgobbin

Most of the course we spent outdoors under the forest canopy. Each tree has a little space around it if viewed from the air, we learnt. The tree tops brush against one another and keep each tree separate.

r canopy

We came across an old logging pit where a Yellowwood had been felled many years ago for use in local houses. This illustrated perfectly how we have now lost the ability to live locally, on local resources. We have become ‘Biosphere people’ using resources from all over the globe in our daily lives.

rr IMG_2837

Eugene prefers to call Podocarpus (Yellowwoods), Afrocarpus, which he feels is a more accurate description. We hugged some really big ones and had heated discussions about ‘the twisted petiole’ of P. henkelii! He also feels pretty certain that none of the trees in the forest are over 500 years old.

r hugging tree

Sarah Ellis made a note of 45 trees during our walk in Kilgobbin forest and when she got home looked them all up to learn more about them. “I am certain I won’t recognise more than half of them on my own but writing them down and reading up about each one is a start!”

r lets look that up

We learnt how specimens of Clausena anisata (perdepis) probably got mixed up with specimens of Hippobromus by the early collectors. The scientific name Hippobromus means ‘smell of horse’, but when the dried specimens were finally described, the smell had gone from the leaves, so there was no way of telling which was which!r hand leaf

We felt the stickiness of Protamophila prehensilis and the velvety leaves of Quisqualis parviflora admired Briophytes and Epiphytes, tasted Asparagus stalks and smelt Lemonwood leaves. Naturally, we got down on our knees to find interesting things in the stream, including nematodes and damselfly larvae.

r barend and penz

Kathy Milford won’t forget the course in a hurry. “The most memorable thing for me was the crazy expert peering through his treasured old magnifying glass with a chipped frame, at a little leaf and his saying ‘this must be a Diosypyros whyteana, look at those orange hairs on the edge of the leaf’. That was a special moment, and when I looked through the magnifying glass there were the most beautiful little orange hairs that became larger than life. I felt like Alice in Wonderland! He showed us the most amazing little details on the leaves and trees which would normally have escaped my attention! Wonderful”

r moss

Penelope Malinga agreed “I will pay a lot more attention to the small details in future.” Penelope also loved seeing Samango monkeys for the first time. A troop was feasting on the fresh green Celtis leaves right above our heads as we explored the forest edge.

r samango celtis

We learnt so many fascinating facts like: Insects are the biggest herbivores and that woody plants (C3) utilise higher levels of carbon dioxide. Eugene demonstrated how to make rope from the bark of Dais cotonifolia (Grewia occidentalis also used for the is purpose), and we learned the vines of Dalbergia obovata  are used to make fishing baskets.  Sarah Ellis “I found Eugene fascinating, with such a huge passion and depth of knowledge. How fortunate we are to have spent time with a man of this calibre. I also enjoyed meeting and chatting to some of the other like-minded people on the course.”

r looking up

Oriah and Kei Ellis, who are home schooled in Dargle, used the opportunity for some outdoor learning.  “The tree ecology course was a great experience – learning about the different shapes of leaves, learning through the interactions with others, and how to simply identify trees.  I also enjoyed taking a walk through Barend’s forest, eating cookies and making new friends!  ” said Oriah afterwards.

r kei oriah sam

Alison Lettinger came all the way from Creighton and was so pleased she had. “Two days in a delightful setting with kindred spirits. I am so glad I made the effort to attend. Kilgobbin is one of the most beautiful, accessible and diverse forests that I have been in. My favourite was hearing snippets of info and opinions from Eugene. Such as not tree rings in South Africa not being annual rings, but growth rings.  Intriguing that the red fruit of Acokanthera is toxic but ripens to palatable as it turns black.”

r leaf litter

Reshnee Lalla of SANBI felt she really learnt a lot and collected some samples of the invasive blue periwinkle growing on the forest edge.

Julie and Richard Braby, who live in Underberg, enjoyed their time with other people as passionate about plants as they are. “We felt we were in another world for those two days and were sad to get home. The venue was fantastic. The talk and very good food at Tanglewood in the evening in the company of Dargle Conservancy members, was wonderful.”

rr carol and barend

Barend Booysen, who is custodian of the section of forest we spent time in, had a marvellous time. “I really thought I knew this forest backwards. I have been humbled by all the things I have never noticed before and my head is spinning with all the new information. I learnt so much. What a delightful man.” David Crowe added “The two day workshop was informative and worthwhile.”

rr IMG_2842

Eugene Moll is a retired professor from the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the University of the Western Cape. He holds a PhD in plant ecology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He edited the first edition of the Keith Coates Palgrave’s Trees of Southern Africa, and has authored and co-authored many guides and papers on trees and the ecology of woody plants.

rr picnic in forest

Sarah Ellis compiled this: KILGOBBIN FOREST TREE LIST

  • Rapanea melanophloeos – Cape Beech
  • Tricalysia africana – Pondo Jackal-coffee
  • Ficus craterostoma – strangler fig
  • Scutia myrtina – cat thorn
  • Veronia mespilifolia – veronia
  • Buddleja dysophylla – White climbing sagewood
  • Ptaeroxylon obliquum – Sneezewood
  • Euclea natalensis – hairy guarri
  • Diospyros whyteana – bladder nut
  • Harpephyllum caffrum – wild plum
  • Dias cotinifolia – pompon tree
  • Grewia occidentalis – cross berry raisin
  • Vepris lanceolata – white ironwood
  • Dombeya rotundifolia – wild pear
  • Trimeria grandifolia – wild mulberry
  • Xymalos monospora – lemonwood
  • Gymnosporia harveyana – round fruit forest spike thorn (was Maytenus mossambicensis) Kiggelaria africana – wild peach
  • Combretum edwardsii – forest climbing bush willow
  • Cassinopsis ilicifolia – lemon thorn
  • Prunus africana – red stink wood
  • Combretum krausii – forest bush willow
  • Dalbergia obovata – climbing flat bean
  • Cussonia spicata – cabbage tree
  • Diospyros whyteana – bladder nut – ginger hairs on edge of leaves
  • Podocarpus falcatus – yellow wood
  • Podocarpus henkelii – drooping leaf yellow wood
  • Podocarpus latifolius – broad leaf yellow wood
  • Strophanthus speciosus forest poison rope
  • Cnestis polyphylla – itch pod
  • Ilex mitis – Cape holly
  • Celtis africana – white stink wood
  • Carissa bispinosa – num num
  • Rhamnus prunoides – glossy leaf (blink blaar)
  • Dovyalis rhamnoides – Sourberry Kei-apple
  • Clutia pulchella – lightning bush
  • Apodytes dimidiata – white pear
  • Ocotea bullata – black stink wood
  • Eugenia zuluensis – paperbark myrtle
  • Clausina anisata – perdepis
  • Cryptocarya myrtifolia – myrtle wild quince
  • Calpurnia aurea – wild laburnum
  • Vepris lanceolata – white ironwood
  • Canthium inerme – turkey berry


Dargle Wildlife Sightings – September

We’ve had a very dry autumn, winter and spring this year in Dargle, but thankfully this weekend brought a few millimetres of rain that  helped to settle the dust.  Remember we are custodians of the water catchment that millions of people rely on. Besides not using water wastefully, we also need to ensure that water in our care is unpolluted and riparian areas are free of invasive plants – to allow wildlife access, as well as improve the quality and quantity of the flow.  With little snow, our ground water supplies have not been replenished either.  Robin Fowler, who keeps seasonal records going back many years, provided these interesting figures comparing 2013 (first column) and 2014

  • June                    21     0
  • July                      1.5    3
  • August             21.5    8
  • September       7.5     10.5 (only 1mm recorded before this weekend’s rain!)
  • Winter total 51.5     21.5
  • 11 year average (September to August) = 951.5mm
  • 2013/14 = 946.5mm
  • Wettest year = 2004/5   1271mm
  • Driest year = 2006/7      718mm

Katie Robinson – Lemonwood

Oh how I love living in Africa. This was one of those moments which will remain with me forever. Siyabonga brought me a ‘pigeon’ in a box the other morning. He told me that he had seen it being chased by an eagle (I wasn’t there, so have no idea which variety) and flew into the kitchen window. I peered into the box and immediately recognised this frantic creature jumping up and down trying to get out as the elusive Narina trogan. So thrilling as I have only ever seen it once before. I carefully picked it up and felt that unmistakable terrified heartbeat.


I wanted to just check that there was nothing broken.   In a matter of seconds, he had calmed down and I was able to examine his wings and legs. He started to sort of purr/coo at me and despite my hand being completely open, he sat there for nearly 5 minutes! Maybe it was just vanity ‘cos one of my staff had time to go and get his phone and take the pictures. When the photo shoot was over, he flew back into the forest where he belongs, seemingly completely unharmed. What a magic moment.

27 Sept Would you Adam and Eve it! I rescued the second Narina trogan which failed a suicide flight into my daughter’s bedroom window this morning! What are the chances of 2 such elusive birds needing help in as many weeks?  This one seemed much younger as the colours were not quite all there and it was smaller. It stayed with me for quite a long time and then I put it on a branch in a deep bit of the garden where it remained for a further 20 minutes until flying off into the forest. Wow!

narina trogon

I seem to be having a very exciting couple of days. Yesterday I heard the Samangos going absolutely crazy at the end of my garden, they were screaming like banshees! As I turned around to see what was going on a huge Martial eagle flew out of the forest, swerved around towards me and sliently flew past about 20 metres away. it is only when they are that close that you fully appreciate the sheer size of these birds! Thank goodness there was not a baby Samango hanging from its talons. Wow!

Kathy Herringytn and Wayne Lourens – Aloe Ridge Farm

Being a hot September, reptiles came out quite early, and one afternoon, while repairing electrical outlets that serve our pressure-booster water pump and the new “coldroom” container, I came face-to-face with a boomslang of about 750mm, which had come to the water pump to drink – there’s a minor water leak there that no amount of clamping has been able to stop completely. We stared at each other for a few seconds, before it made its way over the cut-back granadilla stems, to the bushy areas on the other side of the dividing wall.

On the subject of reptiles, Kat & I spent a short time at the old house ruin overlooking the Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary dam, and were thrilled to see that the Natal Spotted Green Bush snakes that are resident in the ruin, are thriving and growing. I first saw two shed skins, each of about 500mm in length, and then 2 of the 3 known residents showed themselves, one with just a few coils, the other with its whole length along the top of the northern wall of the ruin.

Kat visited the Aloe Ridge indigenous forest on Sunday 14th, and saw ten Bushbuck in the forest, and a whole lot of Reedbuck on the grasslands around the fringes of the forest. She also heard the wild pigs fairly close by, but didn’t see them in that dense part of the forest.

It seems we’re managing the remaining KZN Midlands Mistbelt Grasslands to the satisfaction of the buck species resident on Greater Hopedale, as the Blesbuck and Reedbuck are congregating on the short-mowed grasslands and the wider firebreak we burned this year – down the watercourse feeding the main dam (the first burn of the area since 2008’s runaway fire that started higher up in the Dargle and raced across Upper Hopedale in about 10 minutes, under Berg wind conditions). On Saturday, we saw the Blesbuck grazing on the new growth on the firebreak, near a group of 3 Reedbuck, with a further 3 “reedies” not far away. The Blesbuck have been decimated by poaching over the last few years (mainly on Hopedale Portions 1 & 2), and less than half of the herd of 15 that were resident when I joined Kat on Aloe Ridge 4 years ago, remain. Similarly, the Reedbuck population has been affected by poaching on Hopedale 2 and around the fringes of Hopedale. Since buying Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary from Andrew Nash 3 years ago, we have established a presence on that part of Hopedale, confronted dog hunters on Aloe Ridge hill, and removed numerous snares along the Umngeni floodplain, all of which have almost eliminated poaching on our own 2 portions of Hopedale.

Due to jackals hunting in packs having taken half of our 2013/2014 season’s Nguni calves, we now bring cows that are due to calve up into the sheep-fenced pastures just below the house on Aloe Ridge. About 10 days ago, we were woken at 2am by a cow, and, on checking, we saw that it was getting ready to calve. Feeling confident that our calving management plan was good, we went back to bed, & were woken again just before 4am with a jackal sounding off. I sprang out of bed, grabbed the spotlight torch, and saw that the beast was disappearing down the roadway. It had been in the roadway between the house and the field that the cows were in, and the cow we’d seen earlier had just calved. Since then, we’ve had 2 more calves born in that same field, but the jackal hasn’t returned, and it must have told the rest of the bunch that it had a close shave, as no others have showed up at calving time either.

Our Belgian Shepherd, Kelly has taken over the role of watchdog, and, about a week ago, at about 2 in the morning, she gave 4 sharp barks. When I went out to investigate, she sat bravely on the veranda while I scanned the area with my torch. Hearing a rustling, I shifted the torch beam in that direction …. right onto one of the biggest porcupines I’ve ever seen!! It was quite relaxed, with its “mohawk” quill-line intact. It wandered around for a few minutes before getting out of torch-beam range below our sand arena. Kelly’s braveness in staying on the veranda while I followed the porcupine across the lawn is a result of her having run full-tilt into one in the dark driveway a few years ago.

On Friday afternoon, Kat persuaded me that, since we’d worked through Heritage Day with our staff (who then had Friday off), we should take a belated Public Holiday and go to Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary dam for some fishing. Sitting on the boat (Kat-a-Splash), we noticed some juvenile Grebes swimming & diving not far away. Eventually, one came quite close to the boat, & I tried to get a photo with my mobile phone camera – at times like this I regret not having a good camera any more!!! Also, a solitary waterfowl that looked almost like a Pygmy Goose, flew in and did a perfect touchdown on the dam, before paddling over to the exposed rocks to sit and preen, and call. We used our “far-eyes” (binoculars) to get a closer look, and then, that evening, pulled out the ‘birder books for amateurs’ to look up what we’d seen. It turns out it was a South African Shelduck.

Nikki Brighton Old Kilgobbin Farm

Beside the dam seems the most sensible place to be in the hot, dry weather.

r dam locust

Along the edges here is evidence of plenty of visitors at cooler times of the day.

r dam spoor

Obviously, there are lots of hungry creatures about, so getting your legs stuck in the mud is a risky business.

r dam bones

On the exposed damp banks there are masses of tiny white flowers – Limosella longiflora.

r limosella longiflora

I have heard the so called “rainbird” – Burchell’s Coucal – calling lately along with Blue Cranes, Bar-throated Apalis and Crowned Eagles. Heard the first Klaas’s Cuckoo on 27 September, Piet-my-Vrou won’t be far behind!  Lots of birds are seeking succour in the relative cool and damp of the garden. Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Batis and Chorister Robins are my favourites. Tree dassies are making a huge racket at night. Samango monkeys are making the most of the fresh green leaves on the Celtis trees.

r samango celtis

This fellow enjoys the abundant fruit on my lemon tree.

r samango lemon

There are flowers in the grassland – especially in protected rocky areas. I have spotted Rabdiosella, Teucrium, Bekheya, Helichrysum, Nemesia as well as the delightful Acalypha penduncularis which has male and female flowers on different plants. These are male.

r Acalypha

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm

A new visitor to our garden this month is a Southern black flycatcher.

Southern black flycatcher

A pair of pied crows are making a nest in a pine tree. They have been carrying grass for a couple of weeks now and fly from the Dargle side, so I wonder if its some special kind of thatch/grass. On 2 occasions 5 crowned cranes have arrived in the dry dam and have not stayed very long when no water was found. Once saw 2 blue crane on the farm but have heard them quite often. Seen the female oribi on a few occasions mostly in the long grass but once on the green burn.

Female oribi

Our pair of white throated swallows arrived on the 5th Sept and are looking to build a nest on top of the verandah light again. Our sparrow hawks still occupy the canopy of gum trees. Still see them sitting on the dead gum logs in the early mornings. Saw the one eating something on the log a few days ago. Not sure if they are feeding themselves or not as have not seen the adults.

White throated swallow

Many reed buck around still and quite a few youngsters.

Male reedbuck

Malachite, black and greater half collared sunbirds have returned. The malachite is the perfect model as loves his photo being taken.

Malachite sunbird

Not so the half collared which flits all over the place and never sits still for a minute. The gurney sugar birds are also very accommodating with photos.

Gurney sugarbird feeding on warratah flowers.

Caught the one with a hornet or wasp in its beak, beating it on the branch of flowering peach tree. Took a while but eventually swallowed it. Never knew sunbirds ate insects but have seen them doing so lately in competition with the drongos and flycatcher.

Gurney sugar bird with a hornet or wasp

I have been listening to the cry of the southern boubou lately and decided that I would track it down. Unfortunately the pair of them live in a dense thicket of cassia bushes, so I sat one morning waiting for the special moment when they would appear. One eventually hopped around the branches – first got a tail, then a face and that was it. I know they are solitary and elusive so I was determined that one day it would happen and it did. Watching the Springbok/All Black rugby match one Saturday morning got too much for my nerves, so took the camera out to the verandah and stood looking for a few minutes. Saw a movement in the bushes and took a few photos. Thought it was the olive thrush. It was only when I checked out the pics after the rugby match that I howled with delight, my Southern Boubou at last. I was at a friends house looking out of her sliding doors late one afternoon, when I saw several Southern boubous hopping around her lawn quite happily, socially mixing with the olive thrushes, and I had no camera with me. I will take it with me next week when I revisit and hope to see them once again.

Southern Bou bou.

The cape wagtail is nesting once more in the jasmine creeper but no eggs as yet. Male red shouldered widow is getting new feathers.

Starting to develop their tails =  male red shouldered widow

Pat and I checked the two hollow poles where the redthroated wrynecks hop in and out of. No eggs there either. She is still calling lustily, probably looking for a mate. The barn owls have still not returned. The jackal are still very active at night. The secretary bird flew over the farm this morning but landed out of view unfortunately. Pat saw it striding out on the other side of the dam. Due to the hot weather at the beginning of the month, saw a number of beautiful butterflies and some very bedraggled and torn ones too.

colourful butterfly

bedraggled butterfly


butterflies love the freylinia flowers

An African hoopoe also visited the garden on morning. They have nested in the wattle plantation for years, so seldom see them here.

African hoopoe

Scilla flowering in the rocky grasslandScilla natalensis

and this Morea – might it be albicuspa?


Neville van Lelyveld on  Iain Sinclair’s – Benn Meadhon Farm

Oribi During weekend of the 5th we observed 5 Oribi in the usual Oribi paddock. This is fairly normal as occasionally some of them stay on Howard’s property and don’t come across. On the weekend of the 8th we observed all 8 Oribi in the normal paddock, however on the Saturday night of the 9th we also observed another 6 Obri on the hay Paddock at the back of the maize fields on the plains above the valley that leads down to the Umgeni River. This is the first time that we had observed this “new” group of Orbi. It was the high light of our visits this month. Where they came from remains a mystery to us but we are delighted to have them on the farm as they could possibly improve the gene pool of the Oribi on the farm. This now brings the total Oribi population on the farm to 14 with 2 groups one of 8 animals and one of 6 animals. All the animals in both groups appear to be in an excellent condition.

Bush Buck During this month’s visits a total of approximately 20 bush buck where sighted with an even balance of male and female. This is good news. All the animals seen both male and female are in good condition. Reedbuck During our July and August visits we observed an average of 30 Reedbuck. During our September visits we have only observed an average of 7 to 9 Reedbuck. The animals are surprisingly in a very good condition. Grey duiker Once again there were 14 duiker sighted during each of the September visits.  The duiker population seems to be stable at this time and they appear to be in a very good condition. Most of the does seen seem to be pregnant.

Vervet Monkey A small troop of 5 animals were sighted in the Valley near the Umgeni River. This troop has been there for a while now and it is great to see them again on the farm as the bush buck is dependent on them particularly during this dry period. Porcupine A very large ± 20kg porcupine was seen on the night of the 13th Jackals There was a lot jackal activity during both weekends of our September visits. Jackals were seen every evening during our September visits. Antbear Once again we saw the Ant bear hole in the back jackal / hay paddock. There appears to be a second ant bear hole down on the plains down by the Umgeni River. This was very exciting to see and to possibly have the second ant bear around on the farm. We will continue to monitor these holes and hopefully see both of them at some time.

Blue Crane Several blue cranes were seen during both weekends. Spurwing Geese Over last few visits we have noticed that this year there has been a dramatic increase in the Spurwing goose population. A flock of 10 geese is not uncommon now. It is very nice to see that their numbers have finally increased. Egyptian Geese The Egyptian geese population on the farm has also increased over the last few months which was also very pleasing. Several flocks of geese can be seen flying around almost all day. Herons Several Herons were seen all over the farm during this month’s visits. Guinea Fowl It is pleasing that the guinea fowl population has increased dramatically over the last few months. During both weekends we saw a flock of some 50 birds. This is the most we have seen in many years. Their population seems to be stable at this stage with a similar number of birds counted during the visits last month. Grass Owl During both visits this month we had the amazing privilege to see a grass owl as these are endangered. Francolin During this month’s visit no Francolin were seen, but many were heard. This is not uncommon as they do tend to stick to forested/wooded areas and are masters of camouflage. Pigeons There appears to be a reduction in the number of pigeons and doves around at the moment, but this is probably normal considering that the maize crops have all been harvested now and there is a clear reduction in food around for them. Owls A few barn owls were seen near the top end of the cross road forests. As a whole the owl population does seem to be on the increase at the moment. Olive Thrush There are a lot of olive thrushes around on the farm at present.

Once again several jackal buzzards and crown eagles were seen and an overall increase in raptors was seen. A large population of swallows were seen almost everywhere on the farm.

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – July

If you like your birds rare, you should either undercook them or come to the Karkloof Conservation Centre to see our Southern Ground-Hornbill. Twané arrived at the office recently to find it strutting around the parking area.


She had obviously heard about the excellent hides and wanted to check them out. We followed her down the avenue whilst I (Pat Cahill) took too many shots of her.

July Sightings 2

Just outside the frame of this picture by Priscilla Maartens from the Wattled Crane Hide are several large centre pivots, which at the end of a dry winter are kept busy irrigating the fields surrounding the pan. Despite this, there are two endangered species visible. A picture she took shortly after this included some Blue Cranes! Priscilla counted up to 56 Grey-crowned Cranes,

July Sightings 3

4 Blue Cranes and 2 Wattled Cranes in one afternoon.

July Sightings 4

Working at the Conservation Centre has definite advantages. Twané was able to capture this shot of two African Fish Eagles exchanging ‘high fives’ recently.

July Sightings 5

The bird list issued free to visitors is not cast in stone and is updated when necessary. The next revision will include a previously unreported newcomer to the Valley. This Peregrine Falcon, along with a partner, recently made an appearance. Fortunately when Twané was holding a camera.

July Sightings 6

The pair were seen harassing a juvenile Jackal Buzzard on Loskop side and subsequently started chasing some lapwings as well.

July Sightings 7

Another new species officially added to the list, but not a first time sighting, is a Pied Starling. A large flock were seen feeding in the field behind the Gartmore hide amongst the cattle and raiding the feeding troughs. I photographed one in November 2010.


A lonely Samango monkey has been relaxing in the Plane trees above our Picnic Site. It has been a fun sighting for the kids, as he has been visible thanks to the bare wintry trees.

July Sightings 9

Sappi Karkloof – Dr. David Everard  There have been 2 camera trap recordings of a Honey Badger in different plantations within the Karkloof region.

July Sightings 10

Dave mentioned that they have now recorded about 30 different large mammal species within the Sappi plantations in KZN, which is pretty remarkable. He regularly adds this information to the Animal Demographic Unit’s Virtual Museum, which is a wonderful way for conservation enthusiasts to contribute photographic sightings and become citizen scientists.

Some exciting news is that Sappi have discovered that there are Brown Hyena in the Karkloof. They have had several recordings in a number of places within the same plantation and Dave wonders if there is more than one or if there is one that enjoys having its photograph taken.

July Sightings 11

Another very note-worthy record, not quite from the Karkloof, is a Side-striped Jackal that was recorded near Cumberland Nature Reserve. Dave remarks that this is way out of its normal range making this information extremely valuable.

Bartersfield – Ren and Britt Stubbs

In the early morning of the 23 July 2014, Ren Stubbs had a sighting of a Serval running on his farm while   surveying his land from a helicopter. That same day, in the mid-morning, Britt and Ren were driving along the dirt road towards Curry’s Post, where they had a sighting of the female Southern Ground-Hornbill.

Connemara – Mike Benson

Mike Benson sent in this excellent photograph of a Scrub Hare which he took on the 24 July 2014. They are a common species, however people rarely get a chance to photograph them due to their speedy getaway and nocturnal behaviour. They are solitary animals, but can reach high densities in many areas. Although normally associated to woodland and bush cover, they have adapted fairly well to cultivated land as well.

July Sightings 12

Mist-netting at Gartmore Hide – Karin Nelson

Karin set up her nets on the 18 July 2014 and caught 40 birds, with 5 of these being re-traps. She was impressed with the birdlife that was present in winter and was thrilled to catch 2 x Black Crake in her spring traps. The photo shows the juvenile/sub-adult that was caught and ringed.

July Sightings 13

She also ringed the first Cape Canary at Gartmore since starting in 2010. Other birds that were caught included: 2 x African Stonechat, 3 x Red-billed Quelea, 3 Fan-tailed Widowbirds, 3 x Yellow-fronted Canaries, 4 x Southern Red Bishops, 5 x Levaillant’s Cisticola and 17 x Village Weavers.

Ground-Hornbill News

As you can see, we have had sightings of the lonely female Southern Ground-Hornbill pouring in. We would like to thank you all for taking the time to let us know. The information we receive is invaluable and helps us understand her movements within the Karkloof valley.

Liesl Jewitt sent us this fun picture of her which was taken on Friday, 4 July 2014, on Mizpah Farm Retreat by Kyra Naude, a recent student horse professional volunteer. She was being followed by a group of Guinea Fowl, no doubt muttering to them about the problem of being a vulnerable species in the Karkloof with a terrible shortage of eligible males!  She was spotted that same afternoon by Liesl, but was a little further from where she was in the morning.

July Sightings 14

On the afternoon of 15 July 2014, Bruce MacKenzie had a sighting of her near the Karkloof Country Club and managed to take this clear photo of her with his phone. This was extremely useful, as his phone took a GPS reading and added it to the photograph’s properties. Thumbs up for modern technology and smart phones!

July Sightings 15

Thank you to everyone who sent in pictures and stories. We’ve had surprisingly good sightings in spite of the cold weather. Digital photography has certainly added a new dimension to bird watching and makes it much easier to share your experience and to identify unknown birds when you take the images home to consult your reference books.

World Wildlife Day

Today the world will celebrate the first ever World Wildlife Day. The 3rd of March was chosen by the United Nations General Assembly because it is the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international treaty that aims to ensure global trade does not threaten the survival of listed species. r milestone midlands dwarf chameleon In the KZN Midlands, we have a wide range of special fauna and flora to celebrate and care for.  These include many species listed on the IUCN Red Data List as Threatened, Endangered and Critical.  There is the Cream Spotted Mountain Snake, the Midlands Dwarf Chameleon and the Long Toed Tree Frog.  This bright green frog avoids trees and lives in grasslands and marshy areas.  It earned its name from its abnormally long fingers and toes with reduced webbing.

r long toed tree frog

The Karkloof Blue butterfly is one of the more famous 50 invertebrates in danger.  This tiny butterfly is endemic to the region and particularly rare as its grassland habitat has largely been destroyed. Dr Adrian Armstrong of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife:  “Many lycaenid butterflies such as the Karkloof Blue (Orachrysops ariadne) have mutualistic relationships with ants and each butterfly may only lay its eggs on one particular species of plant, the larval food plant (in this case Indigofera woodii). The absence of the ant or the food plant means the absence of the breeding butterfly.  These sites may be distant from one another, linked only by dispersal of adults who move between colonies to ensure their continued survival. Obviously, small colonies are prone to extinction though habitat change caused by drought, fires at the wrong time of year, or prevention of fire in vegetation that requires fire for regeneration.”


Fourteen bird species are in danger, including, in the Vulnerable category:  the African Grass Owl, African Finfoot and Crowned and Blue Cranes and Southern Ground Hornbill.  The Cape Parrot and Spotted Ground Thrush are Endangered , Yellow-breasted Pipit, Blue Swallow and Wattled Crane are Critically Endangered.

r wattled crane by Karen Edwards1

Six Red Data List mammals are found in the Midlands – including the Oribi, Serval, Striped Weasel, Samango Monkey.  The Samango is endemic to the evergreen Afro-Montane forests of Southern Africa – moist forests. These forests cover less than 1% of this sub-region and are severely fragmented.  They live in troops of up to 30 members and are active during the day, resting in the tree tops at night.  They feed on a wide range of wild fruits, flowers and leaves as well as caterpillars and other insects.

samango monkey crop res.

Many plant species, including – Senecio dregeanus (below) – which has been found in Impendle and on Beacon Hill; Asclepias woodii which occurs on Beacon Hill; Alipidea amatymbica and Anemone fanniniae found at Mbona and in Impendle.

acrea butterfly.res

Only a small proportion of this diversity, however, and only 53% of priority species,  receive protection within the existing protected area network.

Judy Bell, Chair of the Midlands Conservancies Forum:  “Conservation of these species and their habitats is vital to ensure the ecosystems in which they live can continue to provide us with essential goods and services.   Human wellbeing depends on healthy ecosystems which provide many things we take for granted – clean water, fresh air, pollination, carbon storage, flood attenuation, modulation of extreme temperatures, and so much more.   The KZN Midlands is situated within a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area. It is rich in wetlands, springs, streams and the grasslands, forests and other ecosystems which form the fabric of our life-support systems or biodiversity that underpin the economy of the province.” r rocky stream impendle 175 Currently, at  least 80% of the important biodiversity lies outside formally protected areas,  on privately or communally owned land, making strategic partnerships with landowners  crucial if our natural heritage is to be conserved. The Biodiversity Stewardship Programme is a good tool for improving the conservation management of sites of biodiversity significance while  maintaining the productivity of the landscape for landowners. Proactive  partnerships and cooperative management are the key ingredients of natural  resource management and custodianship. A further aim of the programme is the creation of a  network of protected areas, linked as corridors across the landscape, in order to  improve the ability of species to adapt to climate change.  Stewardship processes identify land of  critical importance for biodiversity conservation and/or the provision of  ecosystem services, and encourage landowners to engage in  biodiversity conservation and other sustainable land use practices. r biodiversity survey

Dargle Wildlife Sightings October 2013

Dargle is very, very green already and we are delighted with the rainfall we have received.  Cuckoos are all back – wonderful to hear them calling – the sounds of summer.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm Mammals: Bush buck male and female, plenty of reedbuck (8 on one occasion), including this one who simply lay in the grass as I drove by and one dead male, r reed buck3 oribi, plenty of Samamgo monkeys – one hangs out in my garden eating lemons or raiding the birdfeeder. He even pops into my kitchen occasionally to help himself to an apple or pear from the fruit bowl! r samango on path Birds: Both the Red Chested Cuckoo and the African Cuckoo arrived on 9 October.  I also saw Orange throated Longclaw, Yellow billed kites, Amethyst sunbird, Swallows, Cape batis, Drakensberg Prinia, Thickbilled weavers, masked Weavers, Southern Boubou, Olive Thrush, Ring-necked dove, Chorister Robin Chat, Cape Robin Chat, Mousebirds, White Eyes, Sombre bulbuls, Bulbuls, Cape Parrots, collared and double collared Sunbirds, Stone chat, fiscal shrike, Jackal Buzzards, Egyptian geese, Rock pigeons, Bronze Mannekins, pin tailed Whydah.  Heard – Crowned Cranes, Wood Owl Flowers: Cyrtanthus contractus, Clausena anisata, Nemesia denticulate, Kouhoutia amatymbica, Apodolirion buchananii, Tulbaghia leucantha, r spring tulphabia leucantha Cyrtanthus breviflorus, Canthium mundianum, Oxalis sp, Ursinia tenuiloba, Veronia hirsuta, Senecio speciosus, Pentanisia prunelloides, r spring pentanisia prunelloides Eriosema kraussianum, Eriosema distinctum, Acalypha penduncularis, Dierama luteoalbidum r spring dierama luteoalbidium Gerbera, Everlastings, Acalypha penduncularis, Gladiolus longicaulis, Hypoxis sp, Tulbaghia natalensis,  Asclepias cucullata r spring asclepias cucullata Hemizigia teucrifolia, Ledebouria, Aster bakeriana, Pelagonium luridum, Raphionacme hirsute, r spring raphionacme hirsuta Gladiolus papilio, Watsonia pilansii, Asipodonepsis diploglossa r spring asclepias cucullataOther things: Common river frogs, gazillions of tiny black grasshoppers and Collared Earthstar r spring collared earth star Vaughan Koopman – River Front Farm After being on River Front Farm for nearly 8 years I spotted a black crake scrambling amongst rocks and vegetation on the islands in the uMngeni river. I was doing some alien plant control follow-up work on the island before the summer high waters arrive when I spotted it.  What makes it a surprise is that it took so long to see one and also that they are typically found in more wetland type habitat. I like to think it’s because the islands are in a better shape since most of the wattle and mulberry have been cleared.

Dennis Sokhela – Old Kilgobbin Farm Four oribi, lots of bushbuck and a friendly dassie dassie From Mike and Anne Weeden – River Run Had a first for us last week with a baboon in the veggie garden. Another unusual sighting was of a fully grown male reedbuck being chased along the river bank by two black backed jackal at seven in the morning. The buck eventually escaped by jumping into and crossing the river onto our side. The swallows that returned to last years nest have now hatched three youngsters.

Kathy and Wayne Lourens – Aloe Ridge Farm Back on Aloe Ridge Farm and Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary, after both our vehicles failing us expensively, we lost a stunning new-born Nguni-X heifer calf overnight to jackals, the day I was discharged from hospital after the nose op, which meant I never even saw it. Kathy thinks it was one of the best heifers she’s seen, so jackals dropped off our “favoured” list for a day or two. There’s been a beautiful caracal sighted over the past few months on different parts of Hopedale, mainly by staff, but Kathy had a glimpse of it shortly before our Botswana trip, on the top of the hill above our indigenous forest. In the first week of October, two Blue Cranes circles over the Aloe Ridge paddocks & sand arena, calling distinctively even before they came into view. I sent a staff member running for Kathy, who was able to get a good sighting before they flew off up the Umgeni Valley. This month also saw the return of the swallows, and our resident pair of Lesser Striped Swallows began building on the lintel over the alcove on the Aloe Ridge front verandah. lesser striped swallow It’s been interesting watching them build their mud nest from the inside, looking as though they’re dimensioning it to their body length & width. Last week, Mike & Anne Weeden found a lone male baboon in their vegetable garden & asked it to kindly leave. The following morning (Friday), we heard it shouting in our indigenous forest, but an urgent trip to PMB was needed, and by the time we returned in the late afternoon, we could no longer hear it. night adder aloe ridge David, our Manager,   almost stepped on a small but very vocal puff adder near the Hopedale Mistbelt  Sanctuary main dam on his way home from work earlier in the month. He stopped   to take a few photos of it, when it calmed down & realised he wasn’t  about to disrupt its afternoon siesta. Pat McKrill tells us: The snake in the photo is actually a rhombic night adder, Causus rhombeatus which is, as reported, equally as vocal as the puff adder, Bitis arietans – often leading to misidentification – but it’s nowhere near as venomous.  The arrow on the head and the ‘rhomboid’ (hence the name) markings down the body are diagnostic. It is actually a very even tempered snake and calms down quickly – rather like a spoilt child who shuts up if you just ignore it. After our August block burn of Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary (to clear 5 years worth of vegetative fire-hazard fuel load), we saw little of the 12 to 15 strong population of Reed Buck. However, this morning (Monday) there were 3 nearly together just north of the Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary main dam. Kathy came back after riding her quadbike up to Hopedale Mistbelt Sanctuary on Sunday morning, very excited. What we thought were ducks on the main dam, she saw had goose characteristics, and looking them up, saw that they are Pigmy Geese. We managed to get a distant photo of one this morning. In closing, on a semi-wild note, our flock of domestic guinea fowl have been very vociferous throughout the night over the past few months, and were roosting in the tree in front of the house. We started talking to them quite sternly, and eventually after chasing them away from their roost, I suggested they relocate to the trees around the water-storage tank. Blow me if they didn’t go straight there to roost, and have been there ever since!!! Barry and Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage  Seen: Bokmakierie, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Longbilled Crombec, Yellowbilled Kites, Black Kites, flocks of Guineafowl and Redbilled Queleas, Grey Herons, Egyptian Geese, Lesser Doublecollared Sunbirds, Amethyst Sunbirds, Cardinal Woodpecker, Crowned Cranes. Lots of flying ants, including a huge swarm along the Dargle Road near D17 on Monday 28th.  Carpenter bees, butterflies, beetles, ladybirds, millipedes, frogs, skinks. Heard: Fish Eagles, Buffspotted Flufftails, “Piet-my-Vrou” (Red-chested Cuckoo – Cuculus solitarius), Jackals. Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm dragon fly ashley crookes Simon Hayes – Hambledon  I think this is a brown house snake which my dogs found in our flower bed. Sadly it didn’t make it.IMG-20131008-00777 Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury Farm There have been a number of male reedbuck in our garden this month.  One lay on the grass burn and watched me watering my garden all morning. Sept 13 sitings 014 On the 9th October I awoke early as I was flying off to Israel, and on the front lawn was a gymnogene hopping around and on top of the rocks, trying to catch lizzards and rodents.  It was fun watching him flap his wings trying to get whatever out of its hiding place. Israel 2013 002 On the other side of the house was a male reed buck looking at the beef cattle on the other side of the rock wall.  Watched a  hammerkop walking in our garden next to the stream. Sept 13 sitings 001 Pat made a note of animals and birds while I was away.  His contribution: Secretary bird walking the hills every few days. Common quail are back. Spurwing geese back now that we have had some rain and water in the dam once again. Heard Piet my vrou on the 10th Oct. Swallows struggling to find mud to build nests, but now, with all the rain, they are building double storeys! (Pats joke). Blue crane and crowned crane on the farm again. A few days ago on my return, we heard flapping one evening on the door of our study next to verandah and found a disorientated male Diederichs cuckoo.  We put him safely in a container for the night and next morning I asked my maid to hold him so I could take a picture before releasing him. Israel 2013 441 We have had 159ml rain this month up till 27th Oct.  Our prayers have been answered and our dam is rapidly filling.

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings August

Karkloof Conservation Centre

The Reedbuck have been seen regularly again. A ram with 2 females were at the Gartmore pan with another ram frequenting the Loskop pan.

There were sightings of a Cardinal Woodpecker in the Plane trees at the office. This bird fascinates many scientists, engineers and doctors due to it’s ability to withstand brain damage considering that it drums away at a rate of 18-22 times per second, with a “deceleration” force of 1200 g. Humans, on the other hand, will lose consciousness under 4 to 6 g’s and a sudden deceleration of 100 g will cause a concussion. Through the studies done on woodpeckers, designs have been created to replicate the woodpeckers which have been used in shock absorbers for aeroplane flight recorders and helmuts.

Again, all 3 crane species were seen this month. A pair of Blue Cranes were foraging amongst Stuart MacKenzie’s cattle, a pair of Wattled Cranes were regular visitors on Loskop Pan, and about 30 Grey-crowned Cranes were on Gartmore and Colbourne farms.

The Village Weavers have started building their nests above the office again. The males were using the vegetation around the garden as well as Charlie’s cover crop for their nesting materials. It is amazing to witness such craftsmanship by these birds. I can’t even get close to building the same nest with my 10 fingers, yet they are able to build this intricate design using their bills.

An interesting sighting that was noted this month was a Common Greenshank. The African Olive-Pigeon (formerly known as a Rameron Pigion) which is the largest Pigeon in the region has also been sighted. The African Sacred Ibis have increased with sightings of about 30 – seems like they too are upset with the Municipal landfill site where they usually occur. Reed Cormorants and African Darters were seen sunning themselves. A Grey Heron, as well as a pair of African Shelducks have taken up residence on the Loskop pan.

African Fish Eagles, African Marsh-Harriers and Black-shouldered Kites have been seen at the pans. Long-crested Eagles and Jackal Buzzards are seen along the Karkloof Road on telephone poles with Yellow-billed Kites soaring in the air.

Others great sightings: Yellow-billed Ducks, White-faced Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Geese, Red-billed Teal, Black Crake, African Rails, Three-banded Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwings, Black-winged Lapwings, African Wattled Lapwings, Pied Kingfishers, African Stonechats, Common Fiscal, Cape Wagtails, Levaillant’s Cisticolas, Fork-tailed Drongos, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Dark-capped Bulbuls, White-throated Swallows, Hadeda Ibis and Black-headed Herons.

Snake love story continues:  In May this year, we had witnessed the Natal Green Snake and the Variegated Bush Snake “cuddling” on our Trellidor. Pat McKrill had mentioned that the fat Natal Greeny seen days later may have eaten the Bush Snake. In August I found this Variegated Bush Snake curled up when I opened the Conservation Centre’s door. I do hope this is the same one that survived and that love overcame all hunger obstacles. In September I will be looking for the young hybrids which would really put a happy ending to this story.

Bundy and Wendy Shaw – Shawswood

Samango Monkeys were seen in the forest and have developed the art of hiding from the camera. A Bushbuck was seen on the path from Mount Gilboa to Shawswood. We found a monkey skull in the field with a crack in the upper part of the skull.

Postman Pat – volunteer at Karkloof Conservation Centre

I apologise! For many years, I have derisively referred to some friends and colleagues as “bird brains” when they have done something worthy of entry into the Darwin Awards. I now consider this epithet insulting to birds!

I was watching the White-throated Swallows from the Gartmore hide and they have some amazing advantages over humans:- they can fly and they have built in GPS systems. The pair which has moved into the nest under the eaves of the hide is probably the pair which built it about three years ago. How many thousand kilometres have they flown in that time and how many insects have they devoured? The homing instinct is perhaps the most remarkable feature of some birds. Even the humble pigeon which was not gifted with an overdose of brain cells is capable of pinpointing its home from hundreds of kilometres away.

When I was running the Blood Bank in Port Shepstone, I had a problem transporting specimens of patient’s blood from the hospital in Bizana to my laboratory. Usually the hospital would send them with the railway bus service, which took several hours and the specimens were often lost or damaged in transit. Whilst trying to solve this problem I was inspired by a few ales and asked some friends for help. There was a very active pigeon fanciers club in Port Shepstone, and I persuaded some of the members to lend me a few birds which we sent up to Bizana where they boarded with a local policeman. When the hospital needed to send me a specimen, instead of waiting for the next bus (which only ran once a day) they would take 2mls of blood into a small tube, clip it to a birds leg, let it go and phone me to tell me it was on its way. It worked perfectly, and prevented several possibly fatal transfusions of incompatible blood. Birdbrains do have some uses!

It has always surprised me how swallows and drongos risk drowning when they drink from the pans by flying just above the surface of the water and dipping their beaks into it. The drongos actually go a bit deeper as I have seen them coming back to their perch with sopping wet chests. I know their feathers are fairly hydrophobic, but they’re not like the amphibians which have webbed feet and can swim and get a bit of forward momentum to take off. Did penguins advance from other species which couldn’t take off after falling in the water?!

Lynn Morphew – Colebourne Farm

This photo shows a pair of Blue Cranes on the Colbourne Vlei. They, together with a pair of Crowned Cranes, have been around quite a bit.

Tim Hancock – Spitzkop Farm

In the beginning of August I saw Lazy Cisticola and a Brown-crowned Tchagra (previously known as a Threestreaked Tchagra).

John and Jenny Robinson – Benvie Farm

A pair of Black Sparrowhawks used a Long-crested Eagle’s nest and in August they managed to fledge their offspring. I am seeing them with the parent in the garden being taught to hunt.

Cape Parrots are also preparing a nest in a Blackwood tree so holding thumbs! The Orange Thrushes are being seen in good numbers and in pairs. Now getting ready to breed as soon as we get some decent rain. In general lots of Swee Waxbills in the garden and White-starred Robins are seen regularly.

Benvie Garden opened from 22nd September officially. Please call in advance if anyone wishes to visit: 033 502 9090 or 082 443 3805

Pierre Oliver and Ronnie Ritchie – Mbona

The Karkloof was one of the many lucky recipients of a winter wonderland snow fall on the 7 August 2012! The first picture was taken by Pierre and he explained that he could hear the Zebra’s teeth chattering while he was taking the photo.

This photo overlooks the Karkloof Valley from Mbona.

Jennie Shaw – Mholweni Farm

Jennie captured a stunning photo of the Grey Mares Tail waterfall with the snow giving the cliff’s edge great definition. She also took this adorable photo of Bakkie’s first snow experience!

Peter and Gill Train

Gill took this photo of Bronze Mannikins on her bird feeder. They look quite satisfied with themselves for finding food and shelter during the snow. I’m sure we all wonder about what happens to the animals during the snow and we hope that their survival instincts kick in.

Tony Matchett – Benson Farming

Tony Matchett gave us good news that both Wattled Crane chicks in the valley have survived the snow! Let’s hope the 2 pairs of cranes are able to fledge their chicks successfully.