Tag Archives: serval

Boston Wildlife Sightings – Summer 2016

November 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

November has had the first typically summer rainfall pattern in three years. Hot humid haze days, interspersed with misty cool ones, regular thunderstorm activity and glorious rain. Finally our well has some water in it, the first time since May. Wildflowers particularly have responded and the hillside is covered in a neon orange wash of Watsonia socium.

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Watsonia socium

Some of the spectacular array of flowers are: Adjuga ophrydis; Albuca pachychlamys; Asclepias albens, these amazing flower heads droop downwards, hiding the vivid lime green and pink flowers;

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Adjuga ophrydis

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Albuca pachychlamys

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Asclepias albens

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Asclepias albens

Aspidonepsis flava with Crab spider; Berkheya macrocephala;

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Aspidonepsis flava with a well camouflaged crab spider

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Berkheya macrocephala

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Berkheya macrocephala

Chlorophytum cooperi; Cyanotis speciosa; Cyphia elata; Dierama latifolium; Helichrysum pallidum; Hermannia woodii; Indigofera hilaris, bright pink clumps in the grass;

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Chlorophytum cooperi

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Cyanotis speciosa

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Cyphia elata

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Dierama latifolium

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Helichrysum pallidum

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Hermannia woodii

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Indigofera hilaris

another different Ledebouria sp; delicate Lobelia erinus; hundreds of Merwilla nervosa; Pachycarpus natalensis; Scabiosa columbaria; Searsia discolor;

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Ledebouria sp.

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Lobelia erinus

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Merwilla nervosa

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Merwilla nervosa

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Pachycarpus natalensis

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Scabiosa columbaria

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Searsia discolor

two species of Silene, Silene bellidoides and Silene burchellii;

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Silene bellidoides

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Silene bellidoides

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Silene burchellii

Sisyranthus trichostomus; Trachyandra asperata; Wahlenbergia cuspidata;

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Sisyranthus trichostomus

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Trachyandra asperata

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Wahlenbergia cuspidata

I finally have a name for this beautiful Watsonia via a Facebook group: Flora of southern Africa, Watsonia meriana

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Watsonia meriana

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Watsonia meriana

and Xysmalobium parviflorum.

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Xysmalobium parviflorum

I managed to get a photo of a Spectacled Weaver on a nest in the Plane Tree. The Spectacled Weavers don’t seem to strip off the leaves in the vicinity of their nests as the Village Weavers do; perhaps they seek camouflage rather than being able to see their predators approach. The Striped Swallows have returned over a month later than usual. Red-collared Widows are now in full courting plumage and a large flock roams over the seeding grass. A Long-crested Eagle perches regularly on the Eskom post. The Southern Boubou’s are a delight with their varying call and quiet movements on the lawn and in shrubbery. A Bokmakierie pair are frequently heard and seen in the Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja thicket that has grown up behind the house.

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Spectacled Weaver

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Spectacled Weaver nest

With the rainfall, fungi pop up regularly. A Horse Mushroom and Star Stinkhorn with a millipede are two of them.

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Horse mushroom, Agaricus arvensis

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Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe ruba, with a millipede

Butterflies are starting to be seen more frequently. I watched an African Common White butterfly feeding in Vernonia natalensis.

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African Common White butterfly on Vernonia natalensis

Bagworm larvae, of the Psyshidae Family of moths, on Vernonia hirsuta.

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Bagworm on Vernonia hirsuta

Insects, like these Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys, are nibbling many flowers and buds.

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Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys

Finally a delight on the lawn one morning, a Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra!

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Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra

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Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra

November 2016 on Stormy Hill – Caroline McKerrow

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 Speckled Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.

mousebirds

December 2016 on Gramarye – Crystelle Wilson

On a trip to a Zululand game reserve in November we were lucky enough to see cheetahs. Back at Boston I was just as excited seeing a Serval on an early morning walk down to the river.

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Serval

The breeding season was in full swing and juvenile birds were everywhere to be seen. At the river two Levaillant’s Cisticola fledglings tried to balance on the same stalk

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

And in the garden African Paradise Flycatcher parents were industriously feeding their newly fledged chicks

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African Paradise Flycatcher

On the kitchen verandah there was a near tragedy when part of the nest of the Greater Striped Swallows collapsed on Christmas Day, leaving the three chicks exposed inside. Fortunately they were about to fledge and within a few days were flying strongly with the parents.

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Greater Striped Swallows

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Greater Striped Swallows

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,

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Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Amethyst Sunbird, Common Moorhen, Hamerkop, Three-banded Plover, Wailing Cisticola, Blacksmith Lapwing, Speckled Mousebird,

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Speckled Mousebirds

African Spoonbill, Black-headed Oriole, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Lazy Cisticola, Neddicky, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Canary

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Yellow-fronted Canary

Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Barn Swallow,

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Barn Swallow

Yellow-billed Kite, Little Grebe, White-backed Duck,

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White-backed Duck

Cape Wagtail, Black Crake, Cape Weaver, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Crow, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola,

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Zitting Cisticola

Fork-tailed Drongo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Burchell’s Coucal, White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Cape Glossy Starling,

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Cape Glossy Starling

African Hoopoe, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, Egyptian Goose, Cape Canary (well camouflaged in the summer grass)

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Cape Canary

Red-chested Flufftail, Grey Crowned Crane,

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Grey Crowned Crane

Cape Longclaw, Common Waxbill, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cattle Egret, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Bokmakierie, Village Weaver,

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Village Weaver

Southern Fiscal, Brown-throated Martin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Quail, Southern Red Bishop,

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Southern Red Bishop

Drakensberg Prinia,

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Drakensberg Prinia

Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird,

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Fan-tailed Widowbird

Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Rush-warbler, African Reed-warbler, African Stonechat, Long-crested Eagle, Hadeda Ibis, Cardinal Woodpecker

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Cardinal Woodpecker

Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Pin-tailed Whydah

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Pin-tailed Whydah

Red-eyed Dove,

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Red-eyed Dove

Cape Turtle-dove, Southern Boubou, Greater Striped Swallow, Cape White-eye, Diderick Cuckoo

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Diderick Cuckoo

December 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant

Sultry hot days with thunderstorms have produced a vivid green landscape, however there has not been enough rain to raise the water table significantly; although there is water in the well it is a fraction of what is usually there in December.

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Summer solstice

Clouds obscured the full moon rise; however early the next morning it was visible through scudding clouds.

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Summer solstice was a glorious day, ending in a beautiful sunset. Already many grasses are seeded, the red tinge of Themeda triandra softening the green.

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Themeda triandra

There are still many wildflowers in bloom, some that I saw were: Agapanthus campanulatus; Aristea woodii; Berkheya setifera; Clutia monticola fruit;

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Agapanthus campanulatus

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Aristea woodii

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Berkheya setifera

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Clutia monticola

Craterocapsa tarsodes, which I usually associate with the mountains grows here too on rocky clay patches;

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Craterocapsa tarsodes

Dipcadi viride; Epilobium capense seeds; Gladiolus ecklonii; Haemanthus humilis; Lobelia erinus;

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Dipcadi viride

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Epilobium capense

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Gladiolus ecklonii

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Haemanthus humilis

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Lobelia erinus

four orchids, Eulophia hians var. nutans; Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii; Eulophia zeyheriana and Satyrium longicauda;

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Eulophia hians ver. nutans

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Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii

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Eulophia zeyheriana

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Satyrium longicauda

Papaver aculeatum; Pelargonium luridum; Rubus ludwigii; Senecio subrubriflorus; Strigia bilabiata and Zantedeschia albomaculata.

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Papaver aculeatum

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Pelargonium luridum

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Rubus ludwigii

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Senecia subrubriflorus

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Strigia bilabiata

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

 

An unusual fungi was growing in stone gravel.

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In the lush foliage I found some delightful insects: two Bee Fly species, a Foam Grasshopper and a lucky sighting of a Giant Forest Cicada!

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Bee Fly

 

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Bee Fly

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Foam Grasshopper

 

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Giant Forest Cicada

Most mornings the birds find the night flying moths before I do, but I did see a few, including the wings of a Wounded Emperor, Neobunaeopsis arabella; then a rather spectacular first for me, a day flying moth, a Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp. which at first I thought must be a butterfly!

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Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.

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Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.

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Wings of an Emperor moth, Neobunaeopsis arabella

After a misty night I saw a water-beaded spider web.

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Long-crested Eagles catch thermals between waiting and watching patiently from perches.

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Two discarded eggshells, one from a Spectacled Weaver and the second from a Village Weaver prove that some of the nests were acceptable.

The Striped Swallows have selected a new site to build a nest, I hope this one works out. A pair of Cape Wagtails have recently taken up residence in the garden. Occasionally I hear Spotted Eagle-Owls calling at dusk and dawn.

One morning I discovered a newly excavated Antbear hole, as it was in the middle of the driveway we had to fill it in.

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Sadly I will have to live-trap and relocate the Lesser Savanna Dormice that have taken up residence in the house; a hole in a carpet, wooly slippers and clothing where they have selected bedding material, and they devour any food left out… Drawers are their favoured places to make nests. I love their chirrups as they move through the house and occasional sightings as they scurry across the floor and furniture.

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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

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – September 2015

Rupert Powell – Bukamanzi Cottage

As ever it’s only been the smaller creatures who have stuck around long enough to have their photograph taken – the duiker, reedbuck and hares that I’ve been seeing around the cottage buzz off pretty quickly. The little mouse with a black stripe down its back was the best character this month

2015-09 mouse

– a friend and I were having tea on the verandah when she appeared from beneath his arm. She had been nesting in one of the cushions and had darted out to object at being sat upon. She preened around for a bit before a gigantic leap into the garden. No sign of my swallows yet but I live in hope that they’ll return and sit on my bed-posts as they did once before. My love for my spiders was severely tested when I found one crawling up my face as I brushed my teeth. There really is a limit.

A Frog…

2015-09 frog

and a moth

2015-09 moth

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

This chap found a warm place in the wood basket in the TV room, during the last cold snap.

Fly 1

I released him in the orchard . The toppies soon spied him and their alarm calls got all the other birds in quite a panic.

Fly 2

Pat Mckrill had this to say: ” From what I can see from the photos, I’m pretty sure it’s a Herald snake. The almost white belly colouration is typical and although not too clearly shown in the pictures, the head is darker than the rest of the body – another identifying feature. As with your specimen, a lot of Heralds lack the upper lip colouration, from whence came the iconic ‘Red Lipped Herald’ name, as well as the often well-defined light spotting along the body – also not visible. The prominent backbone on your snake would suggest that it’s searching for an early season frog.”

Fly 3

Mike and Anne Weeden – River Run Farm, Hopedale

While driving home on the Dargle Road the other night we saw three adult bush pigs crossing just east on the Dargle River bridge. They were fairly unconcerned by our approach but unfortunately we were unable to get a photo.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

What are your favourite sounds of Spring? Trees drip on leaf litter and rain trickles on tile roofs. The solid wu-hoo of a Spotted Eagle Owl and the screech of tree dassies. Pre-dawn chitter becomes a chorus, and as the morning wakes, oriels and clattering weavers join in too. The zing of a bee swarm moving their Queen. Faint patter of startled grasshopper hatchlings scattering. Skree of Yellow billed Kite, flap of a single Spurwinged Goose and sky high echo of Blue Cranes. The whisper of bat wings in the evening.

Cape Batis

Cape Batis

Grasslands are starting to bloom – Urginea capitata and Tulbaghia leucanthra in rocky places

Tulbaghia leucantha

Tulbaghia leucantha

Hypoxis - such bright yellow stars

Hypoxis – such bright yellow stars

Scadoxus puniceus - Snake Lily

Scadoxus puniceus – Snake Lily

Cyrtanthus contractus after the fire

Cyrtanthus contractus after the fire

Cheerful Senecio speciosus

Cheerful Senecio speciosus

Tritonia lineata on the road verge. Love the dark veins in the delicate yellow flowers.

Tritonia lineata

Tritonia lineata

These striking Merwilla plumbea stems had disappeared when I walked by a few days later – presume eaten by something.

Merwilla plumbea buds

Merwilla plumbea buds

This may be Orthonna natalensis but I really don’t know for sure.

Orthonna natalensis?

Orthonna natalensis?

Cyrtanthus breviflorus in the wetland

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Arums flowering already too

Zantedeschia aethiopica

Zantedeschia aethiopica

Tiny orange mushrooms amongst the bracken fronds

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

I saw two single reedbuck, and one group of three. No Oribi spotted for the Annual Oribi count.

Common Reedbuck

Common Reedbuck

Samangos must be really hungry. They have eaten all the lemons on my tree.

Samango monkey eating a lemon

Samango monkey eating a lemon

This fellow boldly helps himself to apples and pears in my kitchen. I now hide my fruit in the oven.

Samango monkey eating my fruit

Samango monkey eating my fruit

Katie Robinson – Lemonwood

Wood Owls: I have been looking after Woody

Woody wood owl

and Jesse

Jesse the Wood Owl

Jesse the Wood Owl

for a few weeks now. They were given to me by Tammy at the Raptor Rescue Rehabilitation Centre for release in the forest.

After familiarising themselves with the sights and sounds of the bush, tonight is the night they venture out into the wild. I will miss them both and I so hope they remain in the area, or even better, make their home in my wood owl box at the edge of the forest, also erected by Raptor Rescue. They have been a delight to have here. What stunning birds. Good luck guys.

Another excitement for me is the arrival of a small family of Rock Dassies which I saw deep in the forest for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago. Such inquisitive creatures with the most endearing faces. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me when they were close enough to photograph, but I will continue to try to capture one as they are sure to make everyone smile. The leader, I have called him Walter, sat for about 5 minutes, only about 50 metres away when I first saw him. He seemed completely mesmerised and unfussed by me and the dogs (who didn’t even notice him). What a pleasure.

I have had the privilege of using the Dargle Conservancy trail camera for a few weeks and have had some wonderful sightings of bush buck, bush pig, rock dassie, samango monkeys, water mongoose, porcupine, genet and jackal. I even caught a short video of 2 porcupines mating which I had never worked out before. How do they do it? In short, very carefully but the much smaller male made it look very easy! (If you would like to see some of Katie’s videos, then please visit the “Dargle” Facebook page, or you will have to come to the AGM next year to view the vids!)

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

I think I have finally beaten Sandra Merrick for amount of images in 1 month! I had so many great opportunities and have enjoyed using my new Samsung cellphone to capture all of these images! I may just be retiring my poor old Canon…

Inhlosane gave me some great shots this month, usually around sunset I would walk the dogs and see these scenes

Inhlosane

Inhlosane

and this one was taken from our driveway

Inhlosane at Sunset

Inhlosane at Sunset

and this is by far my favourite capture so far

Inhlosane in the late afternoon

Inhlosane in the late afternoon

The sun rays were magnificent over the ridge towards Ivanoe

Sunset

Sunset

The little stream is still struggling a little, hopefully the rains will come soon (it’s only 10cm wide in this pic)

Little stream

Little stream

There’s an abundance of orange ladybirds at the moment

Pole with Orange Ladybirds

Pole with Orange Ladybirds

Yet have only seen a couple of locusts so far

Black and Blue Locust

Black and Blue Locust

A spider trying to stock it’s larder

Spider on its web

Spider on its web

A crab was a bit lost running up the trail!

Crab on Trail

Crab on Trail

And for the first time I saw a dung beetle (very hard at work) on the farm

Dung Beetle

Dung Beetle

Some lovely wildflowers

Wildflowers 1

The Natal Green Snake was trying to hide in the bushes of the garden

Green Snake

Green Snake

The Night Adder was hiding in an old sack in the shed, I thought it was dead…I was wrong! It hissed and told me it wanted out

Night adder which was hiding in an old bag in the shed

Night adder which was hiding in an old bag in the shed

The Red Herald Snake was lying next to the trail late in the afternoon, hence the bad image, I managed to capture one action shot with the tongue out!

Red herald snake

Red herald snake

A Porcupine was visiting the old potato fields and left his or her trademark

Porcupine was visiting

Porcupine was visiting

And here’s something I’ve also never seen here before…

Glow Worm

Glow Worm

…a Glow Worm!

Glow Worm

Glow Worm

And finally, a stunning sunset peering from behind an old farm gate – enjoy!

Old Farm Gate at Sunset

Old Farm Gate at Sunset

Kevan Zunckel – ZUNCKEL ECOLOGICAL & ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES

Kar asked me ages ago to send this to you, so sorry for the delay. I took this picture in a wetland in the upper uMngeni catchment just south of the Umgeni Vlei but on communal land while doing ground truthing work for the SANBI/UKZN project on ecological infrastructure (29°33’32.82″S 29°50’48.24″E). It was close to the road and tried to hide behind a reed but not successfully – hence the nice photo opportunity. Another one flew out a bit deeper into the system so it was great to see that there was a pair. I was with a colleague who is an avid birder and who was extremely excited about the sighting, so I guess it was quite significant.

Bittern

Bittern

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

The reedbuck have been returning – saw 8 around the dam one evening, 3 on the hill and 2 duiker. On another evening 7 reedbuck, 1 oribi and a duiker on the hill.

Reeduck grazing the burn

Reeduck grazing the burn

The european swallows arrived on the 23rd sept. Have seen the blue crane on and off over the month. Sometimes just one. We’ve seen a pair of Black-bellied Korhaan walking on the hills behind house and once on our driveway.

Petronia I think - nesting time

Petronia I think – nesting time

Stanley bustard flies over the farm quite often. It’s been 2 months since we’ve seen the Waterbuck. The Fan-tailed Widowbirds arrive in numbers on our lawn every day. The wagtail has 3 eggs – her nest is in the jasmine creeper once again.

Canary

Canary

The sparrows are nesting outside our study window again this year and the swallows are looking for a place to nest around the house.

African Harrier-Hawk (previously known as a Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (previously known as a Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk looking for a meal in the hillside rocks

African Harrier-Hawk looking for a meal in the hillside rocks

Our neighbour told us that he had found 2 dead male reedbuck near his dam – it looked like they had been fighting as there were lots of puncture wounds.

Dark-capped Bulbul

Dark-capped Bulbul

The interesting news is that I put a picture of a ringed wattled crane in the dargle newsletter in the july issue. No one came forward with information about the ring tagging of this bird. Then on facebook on the Karkloof conservancy page, it was mentioned that a ringed wattled crane had been identified, so I sent them my picture to see if they could identify my one. It was sent to Tanya Smith and she identified it.

Ringed Wattled Crane

Ringed Wattled Crane

Comment from Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s African Crane Conservation Programme re Sandra’s July Sighting of a Wattled Crane: “This bird was ringed as a wild chick of about 11 to 12 weeks of age, it was a chick of a pair we monitor closely with the farmers in the Kokstad area. It was colour ringed as a chick by me and Cobus Theron on a farm called Hebron located between Franklin Vlei and Kokstad in January 2014. This is the first re-sighting we have had of this chick since it left the farm as a flying teenager, and considering the distance it has moved since then it is a great sighting, so thank you very much for taking the time to take photographs and to report the information. I am not sure of the sex of the bird unfortunately.

Black-shouldered Kite

Black-shouldered Kite

Another interesting story was told to me by a friend at Mount West: She was looking at a Common Duiker walking along her dam early one morning – it was following a serval – the serval was aware of being followed but seemed unconcerned.

Here is the pic of the Duiker looking at the serval, but you have to look very hard to see the serval!

Common Duiker following a Serval

Common Duiker following a Serval

Here the Serval is out in the open

Serval being followed

Serval being followed

Neville van Lelyveld : Farm Report for Iain Sinclair, Benn Meadhon Farm

Spotted a pregnant Oribi last month, and somewhere in this picture, the Oribi is hidden.

Oribi

Sunset over the farm

Sunset

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – August 2015

Iona Bate – Inversanda Farm

This is the guard at our gate – exceptional for being both decorative and practical.

Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis)

Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis)

Pat McKrill (after identifying for us) had this to add: ” Your snake – correctly i.d’d – looks very satisfied with itself. Seems to have had an early season start in the food queue! No question, the season has started and – along with the snakes – I’m delighted. Roll on summer.”

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

There seems to be a dearth of wildlife on Kildaragh, and this is all I could come up with. The lizards on our sunny back veranda love a mealworm during the lean winter months.

The Aloe garden at Klidaragh. Aloe ferox at the back and Aloe marlothii in foreground.

The Aloe garden at Klidaragh. Aloe ferox at the back and Aloe marlothii in foreground.

The fynbos garden

The fynbos garden

Common Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon), coming into flower. It’s not a mist belt tree but was planted , I’m told by June Fannin, who was around many years ago. She owned this property and loved trees and all the old , tall ones were no doubt planted by her. This Coral tree is, at least 30 ft high. The Sunbirds and Black-headed Orioles love it.

Common Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

Common Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

Barry & Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Saw this lovely little green fella outside my workshop.

Natal Green Snake

Natal Green Snake

Other than that, amongst the usual suspects, we’ve spotted slender mongoose, a samango foraging our old pumpkins and oranges (food must be scarce in the forest), hooded eagles, gymnogene creating much angst with the resident hadedas, rock pigeons enacting some sort of rock pigeon soap opera with nestlings apparently being kicked out… the poor little ones battling to deal with the cold and damp, and at least one succumbing.

Robin and Sharon Barnsley

I have been away but I gather that Nikki will send you a picture of a Serval which we saw outside our lounge window one evening. It was standing its ground against our dogs, who had clearly decided that discretion was better than valour, and casually made its way up into a tree. There have been numerous sightings of serval, far more than usual, on the D17 over the past fortnight.

Serval

Serval

Tiffany Attwell – Horse Play, Old Kilgobbin Farm

Saw banded mongoose today!! He was rather large. And two reed buck and I think an oribi?

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Inhlosane was burnt this week, as was quite a bit of the Dargle and surrounding areas after the recent rains.

Inhlosane burning close up

Inhlosane burning close up

…but in other areas at least the grass is starting to recover in the firebreaks

Firebreaks are finally yielding some new grass

Firebreaks are finally yielding some new grass

And the insects are out busy pollinating the flowers and fruit trees (I’m sure Trevor Pye will be very happy about this!)

Bees working hard

Bees working hard

And finally I managed to photograph some Yellow Everlastings whilst taking the dogs for their afternoon walk in the veld.

Yellow Everlastings in the veld

Yellow Everlastings in the veld

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm
With additional images from Dr Amy Shuttleworth (Trail Cam Pics)

As we were away for most of august, have nothing to report, just the pics I took below during july and beginning of august. The water buck are still around and our house sitter said he saw a female grysbok. Not sure if they are found in this area! Another interesting thing is that I looked up my pics of Tanzania and found that the water buck there, do not have the “white toilet” rump. Never knew that they differed.

 

African hoopoe in the garden

African hoopoe in the garden

Grey Crowned Cranes grazing

Grey Crowned Cranes grazing

Drakensberg prinia

Drakensberg prinia

Gurney's sugarbird

Gurney’s sugarbird

Malachite female sunbird

Malachite female sunbird

Male malachite sunbird - still getting his new plumage

Male malachite sunbird – still getting his new plumage

Male Reedbuck

Male Reedbuck

Southern boubou

Southern boubou

Red throated wryneck female sitting on hollow fence pole (her usual spot) calling for a mate

Red throated wryneck female sitting on hollow fence pole (her usual spot) calling for a mate

Wagtail wading in dam at sunset

Wagtail wading in dam at sunset

Waterbuck on the gallop

Waterbuck on the gallop

Pat set the trail camera up next to the gate in the stone wall – as you will see from the trail photos below, a lot of animals use this gate for entry, eg: genet

 

Black-bellied korhaan and apparently quite uncommon for the midlands so a very nice sighting

Black-bellied korhaan and apparently quite uncommon for the midlands so a very nice sighting

Waterbuck doe

Waterbuck doe

Reedbuck ram

Reedbuck ram

Porcupine

Porcupine

Oribi Ram

Oribi Ram

Oribi Doe

Oribi Doe

Jackal

Jackal

Genet

Genet

Duiker doe

Duiker doe

Duiker

Duiker

Duiker

Duiker

Neville van Lelyveld : Farm Report for Iain Sinclair, Benn Meadhon Farm

Oribi
On Saturday Morning we were delighted to 5 of the original 9 oribi in the oribi paddock. Until now the most we have sighted was 3.

Reedbuck
It was very pleasing to see that during this weekend we managed to get a count of 27 reedbuck on the rye grass on Saturday night. There has been a steady increase in their numbers since the February disaster which seemed to have removed all the reedbuck from the farm. The new reedbucks currently on the farm are a completely new herd as their habits, characteristic, features, tracks, ages and habitats have all changed radically from the previous lot of reedbuck that were on the farm prior to February of this year.

Grey duiker
The duiker population on the farm has also under gone a 100% change in animals from February until now. There are also a lot less duiker around. On Saturday morning whilst waiting for the poachers to come in on the top of the hill on the non-agricultural side of the farm an adult male duiker came within a metre of us and stood over us looking at us while we were lying in the grass, even when we sat up he did not move off or feel threatened as he stood and watched us for about 3 minutes until he slowly started grazing and moved off slowly total unthreatened by our presence. This was a very special moment for us to experience this close a contact with this duiker. Somehow we never seem to have camera handy to capture these moments. Sadly however this will probably result in a very sad ending for him if he does not learn fear for humans. Sadly only 5 duiker were seen over this last weekend.

Blue Crane
A single blue crane was seen on Saturday.

Grey Crowned Cranes
Three crowned cranes were sighted on Saturday morning in the vlei. This is the first time we have seen these crowned cranes on the farm.

Forest Canaries
During our visit we saw a large flock of Forest Canaries in a tree. What a pretty little bird with such an amazing little song.

Spur-winged Geese
As previously reported the spurwing geese appear to be on the increase. During our visit we counted some 20 spurwing geese on the dam. This was great to see particularly with the presence of the Canadian geese on the dam.

Olive Thrush
There is still a lot of Olive thrushes on the farm, but once again there is a definite reduction in their number over previous visits.

Jackal Buzzards
Several Jackal buzzards can be seen almost anywhere on the farm. The sighting of these raptors seems to have increased. We were even privileged enough to see a juvenile Jackal Buzzard still most of his baby feathers on the fence above the maize paddocks. He then decided that playing with the crows was great fun; however the crow did not seem to agree. He flew around with them for ages either confused that he too was a crow or maybe he just enjoyed the reaction he got from them.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

At this time of year there seem to be so many birds about. I suppose they are searching for food and water in the gentler climates of gardens. Lots of nest building, bathing and foraging for food right beside my cottage, which is a delight to observe.

Weaver bathing

Weaver bathing

Walks in recently burned areas are full of little treats too. Just when one begins to wonder if anything could survive, the tiny yellow flowers of Cyrtanthus breviflorus (Yellow Fire Lily) poke cheerfully out of the charcoal grassland. The bulbs lie dormant buried under the ground, surviving the heat of the fires and emerging triumphantly when all is calm.

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Interestingly, Conostomium natalensis (known as the lightning plant) which flowers in shady spots for most of summer and autumn, has just turned a dark chocolate colour, not burnt to the ground.

Conostimium natalense

Conostimium natalense

Rocks, usually hidden by bracken and shrubs are revealed. These ones standing taller than me.

r burn rocks 043

With just a little moisture in the mornings, the tiny bird like Bracken fronds begin to unfurl.

Bracken

Bracken

I spotted a serval running across the hillsides one afternoon, have heard the Tree Hyrax calling, there have been Common Duiker and Bushbuck, a couple of Reedbuck and a single Oribi about too. Certainly, all hoping for something green to eat to emerge from the ashes soon.

The grey leaves of Buddleja dysophylla (White Climbing Sagewood) found scrambling along forest margins appear to glow in the early morning light.

Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja dysophylla

Spring in Rosetta and Notties

A new Conservancy is being fledged in the area of KZN bounded by the Mooi River system on the north western side, the N3 in the north east, the road between Nottingham Road and the N3, and the Nottingham Road/Loteni Road. It is an area rich in grasslands, wetlands and water courses – the natural home of the serval – logo of the Rosetta Nottingham Road Conservancy.

Recently much interesting wildlife has been observed in the area, including Woolly-necked Storks who pop into Greenfields Butchery in the middle of Notties for snacks!

Chris had a Grey Duiker visit  her garden and has seen many sacred ibis on the wall of the dam in the background.

duiker in garden

Besides an array of splendid spring flowers, Sarah reported seeing helmeted guineafowl, longtailed widow birds, yellow-billed kites, the freshly-shed skin of a puffadder and stunning Scadoxus.

On the edge of the R103 between Nottingham Road and Rosetta is a small rock outcrop where Penny spotted dassies (rock hyrax) last year. Recently she has glimpsed one and wonders if anyone else seen them? Will they be affected by all the construction in the area with the building of the pipeline? Should we consider asking EKZN Wildlife to move them to a safer spot? Are there other colonies in our conservancy?

Hypoxis

Cyrtanthus (below)  and Hypoxis (above) are in flower on the road verges.

cyrtanthus

Adrian reports: We have a bushbuck doe who is a fairly frequent visitor to the garden (although now that the rain has arrived and leaves are growing everywhere she has less need to come). A really close look through binoculars showed a very large number of engorged blue ticks on her neck where she cannot easily scratch them off. This made us think about the losses of ox peckers through agricultural dipping practices and how our wildlife has to suffer the consequences of blood-sucking parasites. Wonder if there has been any research into this and whether antelope and other animals now have a greater prevalence of tick-borne diseases? Or does their natural immunity still protect them?

bush buck doe ticks

The same doe is usually accompanied by a lamb, no longer suckling but browsing like its mother. Intriguingly, there are sometimes two lambs of very similar size. We wonder whether this is in fact also her offspring and did she have twins? But then, when the second lamb is not visible, is it just down in the bush out of sight or where is it? Bushbuck have quite a short gestation period (only about eight months), so it is possible for them to have two lambs in a calendar year. There is no great size difference between these two.  We caught a male Bushbuck on camera too.

bush buck ram

Our camera trap has also captured a Black backed Jackal,

jackal

A Long Crested Eagle

long crested eagle

A little porcupine

porcupine

Reedbuck doe

reed buck doe

and Reedbuck ram

reedbuck ram

A Grey Duiker

grey duiker

and a Serval.

serval

A public Launch Meeting for the Conservancy is to be held at 1700 on Friday 14th November 2014 at Rawdons Hotel. This will provide an opportunity for residents of the area to hear about the activities and aims of the Conservancy, to offer their names for membership and to stand as ‘champions’ for their selected conservation activity.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – August

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

Brandon Powell – Bukamanzi

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

rain spider

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

brandon's cottage

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

brandons cottage dam

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

copperleigh ledobouria

Helichrysum

copperleigh helichrysum

Senecio speciosus

copperleigh senecio speciosus

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

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

winter grassland trail dargle 088

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

winter yellowwood

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

J themeda in pool

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

forest walk Barend

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

forest walk Penz

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

Anne and Mike Weeden – Hopedale Farm

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

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

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

LOTS OF REED BUCK

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

more reed buck

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

DUIKER

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

female oribi

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

pied kingfisher frog

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

RED THROATED WRYNECK

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

sptted eagle owlet

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

spotted eagle owl parents

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

.Back view of owlet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other birds we have seen include: Black headed Oriel

black headed oriel yellow eye

Common Stonechat

COMMON STONECHAT

Drakensberg Prinia

DRAKENSBERG PRINIA

Gurneys Sugarbird

GURNEY SUGARBIRD

Malachite Sunbird

MALACHITE SUNBIRD.

Olive Thrush

OLIVE THRUSH

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (passer diffuses)

what bird is this

Yellow eyed Canary

yellow eyed canary

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

SCAT - WILD OR NATAL RED HARE.

Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

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

gilly scadoxus

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

gilly scadoxus puniceus

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

gilly scadoxus again

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

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Robinson – Hebron Nguni Farm

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

Hebron Nguni Farm

Reedbuck along Petrus Stroom road, taken on cell phone.

River Bend Estate 29 Agust 2014

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

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

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Lourens – Aloe Ridge

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

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

NguNgumbane by Small Dam JPEG 1200dpi

Wayne writes:

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

Serval 2 JPEG 1200dpi

Boston Wildlife Sightings – August

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

We have had a very dry, mild to hot August, unusually for this time of year, almost wind free. That was until the last weekend, on the 29 August it was bitterly cold with snow flurries that didn’t settle, but the Drakensberg had a dusting, glimpsed between moving clouds; then wild wind for two days.

2014 08 29 Snow

Spring flowers have been sparse. There were fewer ragged Anemone fanninii flowers on our hillside and quickly ravaged by the wind, as were Apodiolirion buchananii. Ledebouria obvatifolia have flourished, bright purple spots of colour between the rocks.

Plant Ledebouria obvatifolia

Cyrtanthus tuckii bravely fly red flags.

Plant Cyrtanthus tuckii

Pale pink confetti of Dimorphotheca jucunda daisies shine on dry ground.

Plant Dimorphotheca jucunda

One hive of activity is the winter remains of Rocket in the vegetable garden. Bees, Cape Canaries and Striped Mice feast on the flowers and seeds.

Insect Bee

Mammal Striped Mouse

Bird Cape Canaries

The Leucosidea sericera and Halleria lucida flowers also still attracted many insects, Carpenter bees, Bees, Ants and Ladybirds.

Insect Ladybird on Ouhout

Cape White-eyes, Bulbuls, Cape Robin-Chats and Southern Boubous enjoy the bird bath. A Malachite Sunbird and Red-collared Widowbirds are in the process of growing their summer plumage. Amethyst Sunbirds busily gather cobwebs for new nests. The first Yellow-billed Kite of the season joined the Long-crested Eagles and Jackal Buzzards soaring overhead.

Black-backed Jackal call in the evenings. Common Reedbuck come close to the house to feed. Sadly we found an adult Serval lying dead, with no apparent cause on the driveway early on 21 August as we drove out before dawn. When we returned the next evening all evidence of it had gone.2014 08 Frost

Barry and Kirsten Cromhout – Highland Glen

Single Cape Vulture flying above; African (Ethiopian) Snipe in a ; Denham’s Bustard.

Rory and Sue Brighton – Elandsvlei

Pair of Fish-Eagles on the dam for the last month. What a lovely cry to hear first thing every morning.

Trevor Scheepers – Lapa Lapa

While visiting at “Four Gates” farm, saw a single Southern Ground Hornbill

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen

Pair of Common Reedbuck lying outside garden fence and watching activities

David and Wizz Lawrence – The Willows

Single Grey Duiker, seen often outside garden fence in field.

Crystelle Wilson – Gramarye

Yellow-billed Kites are often regarded as the harbingers of spring when they return from overwintering in Africa north of the equator. I saw my first YBK on 26 July near Ashburton, Pietermaritzburg, when Boston was still very much in the grip of fierce frosts. Winter birding was still slow with low numbers, but it is easier to see forest birds with less foliage on the trees. I was pleased with finding a Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler Boston_9189_Yellow-throated-Woodland-Warbler

and Swee Waxbill at Norwood forest in the Boston pentad, as well as seeing some swifts making a return.

Boston_9160_Swee-Waxbill_s

The list for pentad 2940_3000 were: Alpine Swift, Greater Striped Swallow, Rock Martin, Terrestrial Brownbul, Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Forest Canary,

Boston_9176_Forest-Canary

Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Olive-Pigeon, Olive Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Apalis,

Boston_9154_Yellow-breasted-Apalis Swee Waxbill, Sombre Greenbul, African Firefinch, Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-fronted Canary, Little Swift, African Black Swift, Southern Boubou, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Red-throated Wryneck, African Harrier-Hawk,

Boston_9129_African-Harrier-Hawk

Speckled Mousebird, Black-headed Oriole, Pied Crow, Black Sparrowhawk, Jackal Buzzard, Grey Crowned Crane, Common Moorhen, African Sacred Ibis, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, South African Shelduck, House Sparrow, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Fiscal, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat,

Boston_9373_African-Stonechat

Fan-tailed Widowbird, Hamerkop, Reed Cormorant, Cape Wagtail, Cape Crow, White-breasted Cormorant, Cape Glossy Starling, Long-crested Eagle, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron,

Boston_9317_Black-headed Heron

Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Cape Sparrow, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, Drakensberg Prinia, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Bokmakierie, Cape Longclaw, Red-necked Spurfowl, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, African Rail, Olive Thrush.

In the Elandshoek pentad I saw a Secretarybird between Kia Ora and Boston View and hope that they will breed this year in the area that Rob Geldart had pointed out to me.

Boston_9452_Secretarybird

The list for Elandshoek pentad 2935_300: African Harrier-Hawk, Red-throated Wryneck, Red-billed Quelea, Giant Kingfisher, Black-headed Oriole, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Black Tit,

Boston_9115_Southern-Black-Tit

Southern Red Bishop, Red-knobbed Coot, Black Sparrowhawk, African Pipit, Red-capped Lark, Fan-tailed Widowbird, White-breasted Cormorant, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Kite, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Speckled Pigeon, Amethyst Sunbird, Wattled Crane, Sombre Greenbul, Cape White-eye, Cape Batis, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat, Bokmakierie, Malachite Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Three-banded Plover,

Boston_8994_Three-banded-Plover

Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Reed Cormorant, Jackal Buzzard, Brown-throated Martin, Cape Wagtail, Common Fiscal, Cape Crow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Rail, Cape Longclaw, Speckled Mousebird, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck, Olive Thrush, Blacksmith Lapwing, Grey Crowned Crane, Village Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Hadeda Ibis, Drakensberg Prinia, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, African Sacred Ibis, Red-necked Spurfowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Boubou.

David Clulow, while visiting Boston on 11 August:
Between 10 am and 11 am overlooking Melrose dam

DSCF2637

African Fish-Eagle circling overhead; Egyptian Geese; Huge flock of flying yellow-billed Ducks; Spurwing Geese; lots of African Shelduck on water; Little Grebe; Reed Cormorant; Common Moorhen; White-breasted Cormorant; Blacksmith Lapwing; Sacred Ibis; African Stonechat; Common Fiscal; African Darter.

DSCF2643African Darter

On leaving the dam: Brown-throated Martin; Yellow-billed Kite; many Pied Crows; Cape Crows; Jackal Buzzard; Cape Turtle-Dove; Hadedah Ibis; and in garden at “The Willows”: many Village Weavers; Cape Sparrow; House Sparrow; Cape Weaver; Red-billed Quelea; in silage pit -Helmetted Guineafowl.

Driving by “Kampoko”:

Three Grey Crowned Cranes feeding near R617

DSCF2677Three Grey Crowned Cranes

Question for Bostonians and well-wishers of Impendle Nature Reserve:

What will the plans for Smithfield dam, downstream the uMkomaas river from the R617, in the old Deepdale valley; and the Impendle dam upstream from the R617 have as an impact on these two places?