Tag Archives: snakes

Boston Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We have had quite a lot of activity over September. Some good, some bad.

We saw a large mongoose with dark colouration run across the road on our way out one day. Possibly either a Large Grey Mongoose or a Water (Marsh) Mongoose?

The Common (Grey) Duiker is a regular visitor and then we had a wonderful sighting with the small Bushbuck herd. We saw the ram, a doe and fawn and another male (could this be last years baby?) all together.

bushbuckram1

Bushbuck ram

bushbuckyoungster

Young Bushbuck

bushbuckbaby

Bushbuck fawn

bushbuckdoeandbaby

Bushbuck doe and fawn

We were so chuffed, then about two weeks later we had a tragedy. The dogs kept barking towards nextdoors indigenous forest so we went to look. After pushing through the American Brambles, we came across what we think was the baby Bushbuck caught in a snare. We couldn’t be sure as it had got quite badly decomposed so was not too easy to identify. We think that the dogs were picking up the scent by that time as it did smell a bit. Such a shame. We have seen two of the bushbuck again but not the baby.

The Hadeda Ibis and Village Weaver birds are busy nesting in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons seem to be nesting everywhere and the Red-winged Starlings are in the shed. I’ve seen the resident African Paradise Flycatcher too.

We were building some better steps over the balcony wall for Pisch man who is Stormy Hill’s elderly cat when we came across the Red-lipped Herald snake in a concrete block at the base of the old steps. So now we know where he lives! We’ve named him Harry and he seems quite content living in the cat steps. Maybe he’s waiting for them to drop a mouse or two.

harrytheherald

Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake

harry

Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

September Spring has been wonderful, mostly warm days, a few thunderstorms and a surprise snowfall on the eighteenth,

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followed by a magical sunrise a few days later.

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Many flowers have sprung up through the greening grass, though the water table is still very low. Amongst those seen, Acalypha sp.; Argyrolobium marginatum; Asclepias stellifera; Aster bakerianus; Chrysanthemoides monilifera; Clutia cordata; Convolvulus natalensis; Dierama cooperi; Eriosema salignum;

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Acalypha sp.

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Argyrolobium marginatum

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Asclepias stellifera

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Aster bakerianus

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Chrysanthemoides monilifera

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Clutia cordata

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Convolvulus natalensis

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Dierama cooperi

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Eriosema salignum

Eulophia hians var. hians with an exciting sighting of an ant like insect, probably the pollinator with pollinaria stuck to it’s back;

Eulophia hians var. inaequalis;

Gerbera ambigua;

Gymnosporia uniflora, Dwarf Spikethorn, a first for me;

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Gymnosporia uniflora

Hebenstretia duraHelichrysum aureum;

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Hebenstretia dura

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Helichrysum aureum

Helichrysum caespititium and I found a new population;

Hypoxis argentea and costata;

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Hypoxis argentea

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Hypoxis costata

Kohautia amatymbica; two different Ledebouria sp.;

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Kohautia amatymbica

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Ledebouria sp.

Pentanisia prunelloides; Raphionacme hirsuta;

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Pentanisia prunelloides

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Raphionacme hirsuta

Senecio macrocephalus and oxyriifolius leaves;

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Senecio macrocephalus

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Senecio oxyriifolius

Stachys aethiopica; Thesium pallidum; Tritonia lineata; Tulbaghia leucantha; Vernonia hirsuta and another smaller sp.; plus Vihna vexillata.

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Stachys aethiopica

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Tritonia lineata

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Vernonia hirsuta

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Vernonia sp (small)

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Vihna vexillata

A few other observations were, Carpenter Bees;

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Carpenter bee

a Drone Fly, Bee-mimic;

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Drone Fly

a Marbled Emperor moth;

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Marbled Emperor Moth

a Wasp nest neatly placed in a rock crevice

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Wasp nest

and finally I nearly stepped on a rather large Puff Adder sunning himself near his hole… He slid inside it as I tried to take a quick photo, not in good focus!

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Puff Adder

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Welcome spring rain generated fresh growth on the hillsides and while out birding, I was pleased to see a snake lily (Scadoxus puniceus)

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Scadoxis puniceus

and giant anemones (Anemone fanninii)

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Anemone fanninii

Spring is also the time of year when many birds respond to the urge to reproduce. For some time I have been keeping an eye on a large nest in trees along the Elands River on the Dargle Road. It might have originally belonged to Long-crested Eagles, but has also been used by Egyptian Geese and this season by a Jackal Buzzard. The first picture show the raptor on the nest on 2 September

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Jackal Buzzard

The second picture was taken on 24 September and there appears to be a fledgling in the nest. The adult was sitting on a tree nearby.

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Jackal Buzzard fledgling

Jackal Buzzards seem to be doing very well in the district, with a number of immature birds in a variety of plumages showing up all over. The picture of one of them in flight shows the bird is in the process of moulting, and donning yet another variation in colouration.

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Jackal Buzzard in flight

Another highlight was seeing four Blue Cranes flying over the Geldarts’ newly proclaimed Boschberg Nature Reserve, with another two on the ground below them

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Blue Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Pipit, Pied Starling, Common Waxbill

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Common Waxbill

Wailing Cisticola, Lanner Falcon, Egyptian Goose (already boasting a clutch of goslings)

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Egyptian Goose with goslings

Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Grey Heron

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Grey Heron

Malachite Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown-throated Martin, Lesser Swamp-warbler, Three-banded Plover, Red-knobbed Coot, Spur-winged Goose, South African Shelduck

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South African Shelduck

White-throated Swallow, Black-headed Heron, Common Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Greater Striped Swallow, African Fish-Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, African Firefinch, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Brimstone Canary

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Brimstone Canary

African Stonechat, Cape Wagtail, African Black Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Longclaw, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Long-crested Eagle, Bokmakierie, Cape Glossy Starling, Red-throated Wryneck, Bar-throated Apalis, African Hoopoe, Levaillant’s Cisticola

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

Common Moorhen, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape White-eye, Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebird, Hamerkop

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Hamerkop

Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher, Hadeda Ibis, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Robin-chat

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Cape Robin-chat

Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, House Sparrow, Village Weaver, Cape Canary, Cape Crow

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Cape Crow

Cape Sparrow, (and a welcome back to migrants) Black Saw-wing and African Paradise-flycatcher

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African Paradise-flycatcher

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

All wildlife seems to be hibernating and as per usual, the Red-lipped Heralds are snugly coiled in the wood pile. We noticed 2 Common Reedbuck on our property – an unusual sighting these days! Good to see. They ran off onto Iain Sinclair’s farm.

Interesting birds have been seen in the garden: Green Wood Hoopoe, Wryneck, Oriole, Golden Tailed Woodpecker, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite and Amethyst Sunbirds. A small flock of about 20 Helmeted Guineafowl scratch round in our pastures with numerous young. With the drought, it has been a good breeding season for them. We regularly see Black-winged Lapwings flying over on their food seeking missions.

In the veld we have noticed Natal Spurfowl, Cape Longclaw, and have heard the Common Quail with their gentle call.

An old Aloe arborescens, the Krantz aloe, that grows on one of our hill slopes is particularly beautiful this year. If you are frustrated with your garden in this season of drought, here’s what to plant!

Aloe tree

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Spotted a Secretarybird whilst driving past Selsley farm. We also spotted one on Knowhere farm earlier in the month whilst moving some cattle.

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

Snake
Pat McKrill, Snake Country: “I’d go with your i.d. Ashley – Spotted Skaapsteker – although it’s not that clear. There’s a slim possibility of it being a Short-snouted Sand snake (grass snake, whip snake – I wish they’d make their minds up!) but we’d need a better pic. Still some activity on the warmer days. Yay.”

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

A very quiet month. At the beginning of June we saw the Black Sparrowhawks hunting and eating pigeons every couple of days. We saw the female at the old familiar nest in the gum trees. She was either adding more material to the nest or feeding young we thought. Well that’s the last we have seen of them, so no idea what happened. With the dry dam we have seen no waterbirds – the crane have disappeared. Only hear the Jackal occasionally.

Black-backed jackal

Black-backed Jackal

We see the secretary bird and gymnogene now and then.

Secretarybird

Secretarybird

The odd Common (Grey) Duiker seen during the day. We saw a very small Reedbuck on one of our walks. When I drove around the farm today I saw 4 Common Reedbuck sitting in the pine trees away from the wind. Two were young females and 2 were young rams.

Sunrise

Sunrise

There are still a number of sunbirds about, feeding off the aloes and proteas.

Malachite male sunbird in eclipse

Malachite Sunbird (non-breeding male)

I think this could be a female malachite or juvenile sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

Greater double-collared sunbird in bush

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

I think this is a amythest male or female in eclipse or juvenile – not sure

Amethyst Sunbird

In the past few weeks about a dozen Weavers arrive at about 9am and descend upon the aloes in front of the house.

Weavers en masse

They have been destructive in the defoliation of the aloes – they pull off a petal,

Weaver pulled off aloe petal

place it beneath a foot, and suck out the nectar and then drop them on the ground.

Weaver holding aloe with her foot

They are also feeding off the tecomas,

Weavers eating the tecoma flowers

bottle brushes and pig ears.

Weaver feeding from pigs ear flowers

I think they are the non-breeding Masked Weavers but am sure someone will be able to identify them for me? So we only see the sunbirds very briefly as they get chased away by the weavers which is rather sad.

Weaver sitting on aloes

Another surprise is that the Sparrows are collecting feathers and going into their nest under the eaves of the house.

Sparrow carrying feather

Surely they are not thinking of breeding now? Perhaps they are just making it warmer!

Southern Boubou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs.

Southern bou bou enjoying the sun – seldom seen on the lawn – they prefer to be hidden among the shrubs

Southern Boubou

Well that’s all there is to report this month. It would be wonderful to get some rain or snow soon.

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

While I hear Spotted Eagle Owls and Wood Owls at night, I never come across the Barn Owls that moved into the owl box in the shed earlier this year. I do hope they have not eaten a poisoned rat. As last month, Jackal calls are still very scarce. Where are they? Very early one morning I met a big Porcupine while out walking and have come across lots of quills on various paths. I wonder, do they shed them more during Winter?

I found a Samango monkey skin and skeleton in the grassland,

winter monkey skin

and this dead Scrubhare beside the road.

winter dead hare

Not a lot in flower, but these little yellow daisies are so cheerful! The hairy, maroon coloured stems should have made it easy to identify, but I can’t find it.

yellow winter daisy

An unusually coloured Leonotis leonarus blooms beside the D707.

winter pale  leonotis

Grassland streams have stopped trickling altogether. Planted aloes are looking splendid.

winter aloe

David Schneiderman – Carlisle Farm

We went out on our farm Carlisle yesterday and we found 2 Waterbuck and 2 Reedbuck.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The water is still receding in Mavela Dam. The ducks, geese and other wildlife are walking through the mud and making little trails.

Mavela dam is very low and ducks and geese are leaving spoor in the mud

A very cold frog I found in one of the water troughs – aren’t they supposed to be hibernating?!

A very cold frog I found in the water trough - aren't they meant to be hibernating

Whilst doing our mandatory firebreaks with the neighbours, I quickly snapped a few pics of the aloes in the area

Aloes that were photographed on neighbours farm whilst we were doing mandatory firebreaks

Aloe 1

Aloe 2

Some burnt aloes, I’m sure by next year they will be looking beautiful once again.

Aloe in fire

Burnt aloes

Fires in the Dargle with Inhlosane watching from a distance

Firebreaks with Inhlosane in the background

We had a very cold weekend this past week, with bits of snow and sleet falling. Sunday morning we woke up to lots of ice on the edges of the dam, and beautiful little icicles forming and coming up through the mud.

Ice 008

Ice 009

Ice 011

Ice 014

Ice 016

Ice 006

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

I do love ‘butterfly season’ in Dargle! My garden seems to be constantly on the move, with spots of colour flashing between Hypoestes, Kniphofia, Senecio, Polygala and Leonotis.

Things are a bit quieter in the hills. Has anyone else noticed that there are seldom jackal calling at night? I still hear owls, but no jackal. Have seen a few groups of reedbuck – about 8 in total, during my grassland walks and one bushbuck.

r autumn 2016 reedbuck hiding

A couple of times I have come across Jackal Buzzards sitting quietly on hay bales waiting for a snack to show itself in the newly shorn fields. Unsure who this little brown fellow is in the tall grass?

r autumn 2016 bird on grass 1

I adore the subdued colours of this season. Lots of orange Leonotis leonaurus and the last of the Berkheya flowers

r berkheya

Most of the Gomphocarpus physocarpus pods have popped releasing their fairy seeds to float away.

r autumn gomphocarpus seeds1

The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

r autumn 2016 boophane bulb1

Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

r autumn 2016 phymaspermum 1

A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

r autumn 2016 Aristea 1

Clutia cordata, the grassland clutia, which grows to about 70 cm tall. The plants are single sex. Tiny pale green male and female flowers on separate plants clustered along the stalks.

autumn clutia cordata

Loved this twirled grass – anyone know which variety it is?

r autumn 2016 twirly grass

Shadows in the very scarce pools of water are spectacular. How on earth are animals to survive this winter when the streams have already stopped trickling?

r autumn shadows in pool

Michael Goddard – Steampunk Coffee

Not sure if these little guys have been spotted this far inland but this morning I saw this pair. Common myna (Acridotheres tristis), sometimes spelled mynah, also sometimes known as “Indian myna”

Indian Mynah

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

At the beginning of the month we had Gurney’s Sugarbird in the garden revelling in the abundant blooms of the Leonotis. However they disappeared after a day or so. Probably off to the locally grown proteas, that they much prefer. A Greater Honeyguide was calling in the garden a couple of weeks ago. His unmistakable call of ” vic – tor ” rang out clearly, but I was unable to find him. Another uncommon sight for Kildaragh was a Purple Heron at our little dam. We have recorded one there before,but that was a few years ago. Below is the ribbon bush. Orthosiphon labiatus, a very worthwhile plant for the indigenous garden and the bees love it.

Ribbon bush (Orthosiphon labiatus)

Can anyone out there help me with the identification of the plant below? I know it is African and that it is perhaps a Halleria elliptica (E. Cape), which grows to about 2m. However I am not convinced that it is…
Comment by Nikki Brighton: Looks exotic. Pretty sure it is not indigenous.

Unknown

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Skaapsteker on the road

Spotted skaapsteker 1

Spotted skaapsteker 2

Nola Barrett – God’s Grace

I took this picture of this minute little frog on the inside of my veranda window (~ a Painted Reed frog perhaps? Ash)

Frog 1

Then we put him in the garden. The frog is about 2 – 3 cms long but he jumps very far , over a meter maybe almost 2 metres. My gardener says he’s been on the window about 2 weeks. You’ll have to look closely to see him in the garden.

Frog 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The 3 Wattled Crane have been regular visitors on our farm over the past couple of months now, here are a few pics of them with the Grey Crowned Cranes making an appearance too.

Wattled Cranes 1Wattled Cranes 2Wattled Cranes 3Wattled Cranes 4Wattled Cranes 5

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We have been away for most of May. All these photos were taken in April. Our dam is now just a puddle, so no more crane and water birds unfortunately.
There were dozens of butterflies this year.

Blue pansy

1

Gaudy commodore

2

Greenbanded swallowtail

3

Painted lady

4

The sunbirds were showing their eclipse colours. We have quite a number of sunbirds, now feeding off the proteas and aloes.

Greater collared sunbird in eclipse

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a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)

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Male Malachite in eclipse

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An arum lily frog was hiding amongst the pot plants for a couple of days during the cold weather.

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Our skinks have disappeared now. Have a photo of the skin of one of them who was shedding his skin in our study. He was actually pulling off the skin of his legs with his mouth. He ran under the couch, hence only pic of body skin left on carpet.

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Have not seen our Blue Crane for 6 weeks now but early one morning, beginning of may, woke to see 8 Grey Crowned Crane and 3 Wattled Crane at the dam. They flew off at sunrise.

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The Wattled Crane swam around the dam for a while foraging with their long necks. The dam was quite shallow at this stage.

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The Long-crested Eagle is still around

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The African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) arrives on the farm at about 07:30 on most days hopping around the rocks. With the lizards (skinks) which seem to have vanished around the house, he must be eating mice and rats.

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Pat saw a pair of Oribi running through the farm. There are still a few Reedbuck and Duiker around.

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At about 10pm one night the dogs started barking, (in that special way when something is amiss) and we went out to find a huge porcupine around our pond area next to the stone wall. He was trying to hide behind a tree to get away from the dogs. We put the animals away and tried to shush the porcupine out the gate, but he was having none of it and proceeded to try and climb the stone wall. This ended with him falling down, and nearly on top of Pat. He raced off with speed and we could not find him after that. He must have come through the culvert as our whole garden has bonnox fencing to keep the animals from encountering our dogs and prevent them from destroying my garden.

Bokmakierie

15

Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat

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Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills

Untitled

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Autumn frost on leaves

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

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

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

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

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

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

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

Mouse running away

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

Oribi Ram

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

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

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

Rinkhals in the grass

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

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

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

Wattled Cranes 2

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

Puffadder

Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

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

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

wattled crane

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

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

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

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

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

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

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

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

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

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

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

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

darner dragon fly

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

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

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

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

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

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

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

 

garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

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

reedbuck in a hurry

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

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

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

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

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

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – January 2016

Louis Bolton – Robhaven Farm

A new contributor, hopefully Louis will send us pics on a regular basis… the first is an image of some White-throated Swallows sitting on a mailbox – perhaps the newly appointed CEO of The Post Office will make use of them?

White-throated Swallows

White-throated Swallows

White-throated Swallow

White-throated Swallow

White-throated Swallow

White-throated Swallow

The spider was taken at Misty Meadows School up the D17

An Orb Spider

An Orb Spider

The panorama was from Crab Apple Church bench

Panorama from Crab Apple

Panorama from Crab Apple

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

Found this “Stinkhorn” Mushroom by pure luck and had my camera. I never saw the early stages of this mushroom, only when it is red and stinks.

Stinkhorn Mushroom

Stinkhorn Mushroom

It sure is mushroom season now after the welcome rain, must say it has not stopped since I am back.

It sure is mushroom season now after the welcome rain, must say it has not stopped since I am back.

Had to catch these buggers, as they were running away, must be from the “speedy” variety.

Had to catch these buggers, as they were running away, must be from the speedy variety

The Locusts are also out in full force on Wakecroft.

The Locusts are also out in full force on Wakecroft

They sure don’t mind what they eat, this one I found on my rosemary bush.

They sure don`t mind what they eat, this one I found on my rosemary bush

One of our cabbage trees is beginning to bloom.

Cabbage Tree

Cabbage Tree

Two’s a party

2 is a party

Emperor Moth (Aurivillius fuscus) Also paid me a visit.

Emperor Moth (Aurivillius fuscus)

Emperor Moth (Aurivillius fuscus)

Malvina van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

2016 started off with a lovely experience for me – I had to drop our youngest daughter off in Petrusstroom early on New Year’s Day, so on the return journey I was looking out for the pair of Crowned Cranes who frequent the little dam next door to Colmonel. They had crossed the road and were keeping company with a few Storks and as I slowed down to have a good look, I was treated to the special sight of them doing a delightful courtship dance!

Since the Cranes are by far one of my favourite birds, I was quite delighted to see this.

Grey Crowned Cranes dancing

Grey Crowned Cranes dancing

On the same morning, we also had a mass visitation of Spoonbills at our nearly dry bottom dam – I have never seen so many here! The quality of these pics is really poor but I only had my phone 😦

Spoonbills flying over dry dam

Spoonbills flying over dry dam

Then one Saturday afternoon, we came in at our gate house and saw what we thought was a plastic bag flapping on the wind, hooked onto our fence. We very quickly realised it was a bird! We found a young Jackal Buzzard had obviously misjudged and had hooked itself on the fence by its upper wing. We wrapped it in a cardigan and got it into a big box for transportation to Free Me. They then sent it on to Raptor Rescue who examined the wing and sadly had to euthanase her as the tendon and flesh were too badly damaged. We were very sad, but hope to be able to do our bit in the future as a raptor release site and with that in mind, we will build a rehabilitation area for future releases.

Young injured Jackal Buzzard

Young injured Jackal Buzzard

We are also very excited with the new forest trail which our enthusiastic and energetic youngsters have started working on, watch this space and follow us on Facebook to see the progress: https://www.facebook.com/Old-Furth-Estate-507001752673713/

Forest Trail

Forest Trail

Kevin Barnsley – Constantia, D17

Obviously rich veld and pasture lands attract these awesome birds.
For me they represent an awesome indicator species due to their insatiable appetite for all the little chaps (rodents, snakes, insects, frogs etc) that should be pursuing life down in the undergrowth of this habitat.

Of course mowing a pristine block of veld is going to expose these poor creatures, especially during the summer months. My suggestion to other hay cutting farmers and contractors is to sacrifice some yield by pitching your mowers up a little, in order to leave a little more foliage behind during the summer months. This not only gives the little chaps I’m referring to, some cover and a better chance, but also leaves some of the plants solar panels behind for them to be able to bounce back a little before winter, or even give you a better second cut of the season.
In late autumn one might be able to cut a bit lower, as the affected parties have mostly headed for deeper cover underground for the winter to escape the cold and ravages of fires etc. Of course a short cut at this time does expose the soil for the long winter, but is probably less harmful than fire, however any fire will be far less intense in such cut lands.

White Stork

White Stork

Belinda and Pierre Oosthuizen – Hambledon Farm

We have a small bat I found on our veranda floor this morning. I didn’t want my dogs to kill it so we placed it in a box and will release it tonight. Will update u how it goes. We have seen some huge rabbit’s but don’t know what kind and weren’t fast enough with the camera. We have owls too. And spotted 8 deer (Ed: “Reedbuck perhaps?”) on the short drive from the farm to the turn by the Zenex and Everything shop 2 nights ago. Have heard the jackles call the other night as well.

This is the unfortunate adder we couldn’t save the gardener from killing.

Dead Puff Adder

Dead Puff Adder

We spotted this snake near our stables, which went into the haystack. It’s about 1.2m long. We thought at first that it may have been a Mamba, however, Pat McKrill (the Snake Man) responded with the following identification: “A beautiful Olive House snake. No venom, no problem, not aggressive.”

Olive House Snake

Olive House Snake

Sue & Derek Millier – Buxtons Cottage on Beaconfield Farm

This duiker arrives at dusk and dawn most days to eat the acorns which the
vervet monkeys drop while foraging in our large oak tree.

Common (Grey) Duiker

Common (Grey) Duiker

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Well our new year started with a bang – we have had 234 ml of rain this month – wonderful.

Waterfall flowing for 1st time this week

Waterfall flowing for 1st time this week

After having an empty dam and stream, it is now running well and the dam is filling up, much to the delight of the cows and water fowl.

Storm building

Storm building

Wed 27th was not a great day as we had 2 huge hail storms with gale force winds, slicing through my garden. No electricity for 7 hours and pressure pump hit and Pat was knocked back while closing the garage door, but he’s fine. Just a slightly burnt finger thank the good Lord. The good news was we got 38 ml of rain as well. What a blessing it has been in these dry months.

A Hamerkop arrived on our swing looking for another frog but unfortunately our stream and dam were empty at this stage.

A hammerkop looking for another frog in the stream

A hammerkop looking for another frog in the stream

Late one afternoon through the mist, we saw a Woolly-necked Stork sitting on our transformer pole. Once the mist cleared he flew off.

Woolly-necked Stork

Woolly-necked Stork

Our juvenile White-throated Swallows were still returning to their nest each evening on the verandah a month after flying off. Then one morning the nest lay in a heap on the verandah slipping off the glass lampshade that it had been attached to. The one juvenile did appear on our front verandah one afternoon during a big storm. The 2 of them weren’t crazy about getting wet.

Juvenile White-throated Swallow sheltering from the storm

Juvenile White-throated Swallow sheltering from the storm

The Sunbirds have been plentiful this month with lots of shrubs and flowers to feed off. Here the male Amethyst Sunbird:

Amethyst Sunbird (male)

Amethyst Sunbird (male)

Female Amethyst Sunbird

Amethyst Sunbird (female)

Amethyst Sunbird (female)

Double-collared Sunbird

Double-collared Sunbird

Double-collared Sunbird

Female Malachite Sunbird

Female Malachite Sunbird

Female Malachite Sunbird

Male Malachite Sunbird

Malachite Sunbird (male)

Malachite Sunbird (male)

The steppe buzzard has been visiting regularly as has the Gymnogene:

African Harrier-Hawk (previously know as a Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (previously know as a Gymnogene)

Our most exciting sighting was seeing our Blue Crane with a chick about 2 months old. They arrived mid month when the dam was just starting to fill up but as there was little grass for them (being so short from the drought and eaten by 300 animals) to feed off they vanished shortly thereafter. They do reappear about once a week to wade in the dam. Another pair have also arrived on the farm but no chick.

Mama Blue Crane with her Juvenile

Mama Blue Crane with her Juvenile

We have seen reedbuck every day but not in the numbers that we used to see, which is rather sad.

Common Reedbuck (male)

Common Reedbuck (male)

Also just one Duiker this month. Pat saw a male Oribi on 2 consecutive days near our gum trees. He has also seen a black saw winged swallow down the bottom of the farm on a few occasions. A male samango monkey has been running around and on some days I could drive right past him sitting on a pole and he would just stare at me.

For the first time we had a Long-tailed Widowbird on our lawn eating along with the Sparrows.

Long-tailed Widowbird (male)

Long-tailed Widowbird (male)

Female Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver (female)

Cape Weaver (female)

Olive Thrush and female Malachite Sunbird

Olive Thrush and female Malachite Sunbird

Olive Thrush and female Malachite Sunbird

Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Just two small sightings: A dying locust resting on top of our owl, perhaps it had been injured, or affected by crop spraying in the area.

Owl-and-Locust

The recently shed skin of a skink.

skink-skin-1

Hayley & Neville van Lelyveld – Benn Meadhon Farm

Oribi
Only four of the original 9 animals were seen. A single male Oribi was seen across the road, more or less opposite the normal oribi paddock. The second herd of 5 animals that used to be above the maize field have all but disappeared.

Reedbuck
Only 4 females were seen out of a previous average count of 20 animals. Once again as per our October visit no males were observed.

Other antelope/Jackal
No other antelope species were seen at all. There has been a very steady decline in wildlife on the farm. No Jackals were seen or heard during this visit.

Other mammal species
No porcupine were observed, however I have been informed by Iain that 19 have been trapped and destroyed by Mannie since our visit in October. We were also informed that 2 Jackals were also trapped and destroyed since our October visit.

Bird life
It was very pleasing to see that the geese on the dam have been breeding; both the Egyptian and the Spurwing geese as there are quite a few goslings of both species on the dam.

General
Over the last past few months we have encountered unwanted people on the farm (in August we encountered a dog IPO club using the farm as tracking grounds. When we confronted them as we always do and as per Iain’s request to confront any strangers on the farm to find out why they are there, we were told that Mannie Delgardo, the land owner, had given them permission to use his farm. Once we informed them that Mannie was not the farm owner they were very surprised.

On Monday the 28th December from around 08h00 until around 11h00 we noticed a small white aircraft (sesna size) flying very low over the area across the road over the natural bush near Lemonwood constantly. We thought nothing of it at the time. Later however due to circumstances it became all too clear as to what the low flying air craft was doing as I believe that it was scouting the wildlife within the natural bush area on that side of the farm and the surrounding farms including Graham Freese’s forest as it circled over that area as well.

Later, Iain informed me that Mannie and his new partner, Clint, have insisted that we leave the farm with immediate effect as they have a problem with our presence on the farm. I firmly believe that this objection to us being on the farm was due to our February 2015 report. We immediately packed up and left the farm.
As Hayley and I are no longer permitted to be on Iain’s farm we can no longer monitor the wildlife on the farm and on the surrounding farms. However, the unexplained radical drops in wildlife on Iain’s farm has now become abundantly clear with this development. Unfortunately the actions of this group of people is well known by Ezemvelo, EWT and people like Robin Barnsley, the probable results of which will result in a major threat to the rest of the wildlife in the greater Dargle Valley area if this situation is allowed to continue. Hayley and I, not been allowed on Iain’s farm anymore does not mean that our involvement with the Dargle conservancy has to come to an end, but rather it will just be a little more challenging, however we will still continue to do our very best to support the Dargle Conservancy as much as possible with all their conservation projects and courses that I still intend to do. It does however affect our Oribi project with EWT as I believe that the few animals left now have no chance of survival and this greatly disturbs Hayley and I particularly since “Baby Girl” was due to give birth during November 2015. The success of this will now never be known. This project was in particular very close to our hearts and it is very painful for Hayley and I to see it totally destroyed in this way. It is very painful for us both to just leave behind 9 years of work and have it all destroyed in a matter of days.

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Continuing with my “macro” images that I’ve been capturing the past few months, had some really interesting little critter sightings in January, starting with this beautiful green caterpillar

1

and again from behind…

2

I found the carapace of one of these bugs last month, this one was still alive and crawling around the natural bush on the farm

3

This poor Watsonia densiflora was being chewed to pieces

4

Whilst this Dragonfly was struggling to fly with a wonky wing

5

I came home late from Quiz Night at il Postino and had this magnificent Rhino beetle to greet me as I was closing the gate

6

The locusts were ‘busy’ this month, though not too many seen

7

Spiders were making works of art in the early hours before the dew came

8

Had a couple of different types of fungi appearing this month, this white one with some spires on top

9

and this orange one growing on an old dead Eucalyptus tree

10

A Giant Kingfisher came to visit us once

11

and to end off, a pic of the clouds coming over Inhlosane

12

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Farm

More snakes . There have been so many this summer. Natal green snake, just off the veranda.

Natal green snake, just off the veranda.

Natal green snake, just off the veranda.

A slug eater on our driveway.

A slug eater on our driveway.

A slug eater on our driveway.

The beautiful little Erythrina humeana, which is very happy in the Midlands if in a protected spot. The sunbirds love it.

Erythrina humeana

Erythrina humeana

Balloon milkweed or Hairy balls – Ghomphocarpus physocarpus. Host to the African Monarch butterfly. The little prinias and apalis ferret around in it. The sunbirds enjoy the freshly opened flowers and the fluff on the seed is used to line nests of many birds (although it is also poisonous).

Balloon milkweed, hairy balls - Ghomphocarpus physocarpus

Balloon milkweed, hairy balls – Ghomphocarpus physocarpus

While weeding I came across what I thought was a type of fungus that looked like goose down. Then these THINGS started WALKING and they JUMPED (about 20 cm high). Response from Dr Jason Londt : “It’s a plant sucking bug (Hemiptera) – I have the name Orthezia insignis – but I’m no expert on these beasts. They are usually considered pests – but I have never seen a lot of damage caused by them (but may not have the necessary experience).”

Orthezia insignis

Orthezia insignis

the bush looks totally dead.

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Then it slowly comes back to life. It is obviously host to these beetles and they have this incredible symbiotic relationship.

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Beatles eating Buddleja salviifolia

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

 

Senecio

Senecio

Late afternoon

Late afternoon

Kniphofia

Kniphofia

Helichrysum setosa

Helichrysum setosa

Grewia occidentalis

Grewia occidentalis

Gerbera

Gerbera

damp Crocosmia

damp Crocosmia

Aritea

Aritea

Allophylus dreageanus

Allophylus dreageanus

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – December 2015

Malvina van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

December has seen increasing competition for the puddles remaining in our dams and we have seen numerous Herons, African Spoonbills, Spur-winged Geese, Egyptian Geese, Hamerkops, Teal, Yellow-billed Ducks, African Black Ducks, loads of raptors, disconsolate African Fish-Eagles, Sacred Ibis and even Grey Crowned Cranes visiting the ever-shrinking pools. The dam closest to the house is now completely dry and only has a mud puddle to show for the tiny amounts of rain we have received so far. Most of our little streams are dry and the stream which feeds the house is still just managing to keep going. We are deeply grateful for that! The Furth River is so low it is just threading its way between the rocks. We are also deeply grateful that at least our livestock has grass to graze on thanks to the little bit of rain – unlike areas in the rest of SA where there is just spectacularly nothing. I recently travelled to Joburg and there was a howling dust storm all the way from Harrismith to Joburg. Heaven knows where that part of the Free State went….

Chameleons (Natal Dwarf) thankfully are still bountiful and I am gleefully awaiting the tiny babies who will appear all over the garden. The hot days have delivered numerous little brown grass snakes of varying sizes who have required rescue from our cats.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

The Cicadas have been loving the heat and we found one emerging from its casing inside the house in late November, after the sightings had been listed.

Cicada (superfamily of insects in the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha)

Cicada (superfamily of insects in the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha)

Thousands of baby Praying Mantis have been hatching as well.

We had a lovely visit from the Knysna Loeries (or Turaco), who have increased their flock from two to five. What a delight to just catch the flash of their beautiful plumage as they explore the indigenous forest along the stream bed near the house! Various Flycatchers and Sunbirds have been very active in and around the garden and the Paradise Flycatchers are often seen flitting upstream to where the waterfall should be running (but is not) near the house – they must have a nest there again this year.

On returning from a recent road trip to Gauteng, we were welcomed back to the Midlands by the most spectacular sight of thousands of Amur Falcons (previously known as Eastern Red-Footed Kestrels) arriving in Mooi River at sunset, seeking a roost for the night in the big London Plane trees near the Spar. I could not have asked for a better welcome home! Hopefully they will decimate the huge swarms of locusts we have been having in the garden now that they have arrived.

Amur Falcons

Amur Falcons

Wishing everyone in our wonderful Valley all the very best for an excellent 2016, hopefully we will get some rain next year!

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

HAPPY 2016 EVERYONE!

BIRDS
The junior Crowned Crane and its parents went away for a few days and then they were back without jnr. Did they deliver him/her to its mate? They seem to have made two paddocks their home territory. I see them every day.
The village weavers have been entertaining in their tree right in front of the veranda. Many nests on the ground testify to frustrated hens not being ready to mate. Broken egg-shells tell of success and busy-ness. I’ve noticed the Drongo checking out the possibilities of a meal, as does the resident Fiscal Shrike.
The entrance porch is home now to a pair of house martins (I think). One flew into the cottage to the delight of my old cat who could do nothing but chatter. It was evening so I switched off the inside lights and it soon found its way out.

MOTHS
Never have I seen such a variety of insects as those that invade any lighted room in my cottage!

 

Metarctica lateritia

Metarctica lateritia

Does anyone know the ID of this brown moth?

Does anyone know the ID of this brown moth?

GUTTURAL TOAD
The insects invite predators so of course I have had to remove frogs from the cottage. At last I remembered to photograph one: the flash in the bucket has given the toad an unusual colour but its patterns show quite clearly. The cross on its back is reminiscent of the cross on a donkey’s back, but I don’t think there’s any linking the toad to that legend!

Guttural Toad

Guttural Toad

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

The first pic is where I was walking with Inhlosane in the back. I have never seen the grass that short before and only very few flowers very low down to the ground before.

Inhlosane

Inhlosane

This purple flower was almost not visible at all.

2

This yellow flower I have seen many a times before, but this time very low to the ground and not many about.

3

Purple flower next to a fern, also not taller than 15cm in height.

4

Dung Beatle busy rolling his food store for the next generation.

5

Evening primrose normally well over 1 meter tall, this one 20cm high.

6

Never seen this before on the side of an eroded path.

7

This green friend was very happy where he was

8

Normally these Beatles are also 10x bigger. Must have been the lack of rain this year that stunned all growth up here in the upper dargle.

9

Nicole Schafer – Woodcroft Farm, Lidgetton

A large Bushbuck ram seen on Woodcroft farm, photographed from a distance

Bushbuck

Bushbuck

Brunsvigia photographed in the Mbona Private Nature Reserve

Mbona Nature Reserve - Brunsvigia 2

And here a little closer…

Mbona Nature Reserve - Brunsvigia

Charles Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Common Slug Eater (Thanks Pat McKrill for the identification!)

Common Slug Eater

Common Slug Eater

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Black and orange locust

Black & Orange Locust

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Black scorpion seen near the MTN tower on the top of the farm

Black Scorpion

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Our 2 wagtail babies hatched on a day of 38 degrees (1st dec) The 2 white throated baby swallows on the front verandah decided it was just too hot and decided to also get out of the nest and sit on top of it

White-throated Swallow sitting outside his mud nest

White-throated Swallow sitting outside his mud nest

They kept sitting on lampshade for a few days and then across to the ledge a metre away for a few hours where mom kept encouraging them to get out there and fly. Eventually on the 7th December they flew out and sat on gutter where mom and dad fed them for a few hours (they were born 23rd November approx.)

Mommy swallow flying in to feed the 2 young that had just left the nest

Mommy swallow flying in to feed the 2 young that had just left the nest

They then joined the parents and flew off into the blue skies – they returned to the mud nest each evening for 2 weeks thereafter and then we went on holiday. They were not here on our return.

I was very excited to watch the growth and feeding of the wagtail young on our verandah.

Cape Wagtail

Cape Wagtail

Both parents so diligent feeding non stop till late evening

Pair of Cape Wagtails feeding their young

Pair of Cape Wagtails feeding their young

Then on the 10th December I went out to see them and they were lying dead beneath their nest. One half eaten and very little left of the other one

Remains of dead wagtail babies

Remains of dead wagtail babies

I was absolutely devastated. I cannot understand what is happening with this pair of wagtails. First she laid 2 eggs in the jasmine creeper in spring and never sat on them. Then she made a nest in the other creeper and the 2 young just disappeared on the tenth day too. Then they came and built on the verandah in my pot plant and again death – but why and who would eat them? A few days later they decided to start building again on the verandah but this time in my maidenhair fern. That was an absolute no no. Removed the fern. They now have built another nest in the jasmine creeper but so high that I cannot see anything but see the pair of adults flitting in and out.

On the other side of the verandah the female Amethyst Sunbird started feeding her young at the beginning of December. On the 10th dec I saw one sunbird peeking its head out the nest and tweeting loudly for its food.

Only room for one sunbird at a time to stick its head out of nest

Only room for one sunbird at a time to stick its head out of nest

Poor mama was working overtime because he screamed all day long – then 2 days later suddenly another head appeared behind the front head battling to get the front position, but no room.

2 juvenile Amethyst Sunbirds

2 juvenile Amethyst Sunbirds

No wonder mom was working so hard. Dad arrived now and then to check out the progress of the young. On the 15th dec both babies left the nest at lunch time and sat on the hanging basket for awhile.

2 juvenile Amethyst Sunbirds leaving the nest for the first time

2 juvenile Amethyst Sunbirds leaving the nest for the first time

Unfortunately I was not here to see this magic emergence but fortunately my husband was, and took a few pics. Thereafter mom fed both of them in the bottlebrush tree and fuschia bushes outside my bedroom. I could not see them but could hear them and saw mom popping in and out. I was just so thrilled to know that at least the swallow and sunbird babes had survived.

There are at least 4 sets of sparrows being fed by mom on the lawn at the moment. Two have 3 each, one has one and the other one has 2, so they too have done well considering this is their 2nd batch this season.
A pair of starlings have been feeding young in the one chimney and rock pigeons feeding in the other chimney.

What was very special this year was seeing one juvenile Red-throated Wryneck emerge from its nest in the hollow pole next to the gate in front of our house.

Juvenile and adult Red-throated Wryneck

Juvenile and adult Red-throated Wryneck

The female has sat there and called for about 3 seasons now and no young ever seemed to come from this. This juvenile sat on top of the pole for a few days before eventually flying off with mom.

Juvenile Red-throated Wryneck testing his wings before flying off with mom

Juvenile Red-throated Wryneck testing his wings before flying off with mom

Another first for us was having a pair of black cuckoo calling in the trees around the house. Probably because our trees have grown large (we have been here nearly 8 years)
An olive thrush has been digging up our ground cover in the formal garden looking for grubs and worms and is nesting in one of the standard drassina bushes.

One afternoon, 2 Cape Longclaws were giving vent to their feelings for hours while sitting in the proteas.

Couple of Cape Longclaws

Couple of Cape Longclaws

I have only seen 2 juvenile Cape Robin-Chats this season.

Juvenile Cape Robin-Chat

Juvenile Cape Robin-Chat

Have only seen 16 white stork in our lands. Pat saw an oribi running through farm and also a Martial Eagle. Our gardener sadly killed another Red-lipped Herald on the verandah (~perhaps the gardener needs to attend a Snake Talk with Pat McKrill?! – Ash). Our house sitter saw a genet at 7pm walking along the stone wall behind the house.

A pair of Natal Spurfowl walked down our driveway one morning.

Natal Spurfowl

Natal Spurfowl

Another first for us was the female Buff-streaked Chat nesting under the eaves of the house. Could not see the nest but they kept flying in and out. One precious baby came of this mating.

Juvenile male Buff-streaked Chat

Juvenile male Buff-streaked Chat

One morning I heard a commotion out the front and saw dad chasing his son around the rockery – poor little guy was terrified and screeching his head off.

Adult father Buff-streaked Chat chasing his juvenile son away – little chap hiding behind rockery

Adult father Buff-streaked Chat chasing his juvenile son away – little chap hiding behind rockery

Dad eventually left. Juvenile male buff streaked chat resting on rock after being chased by dad…

Juvenile male Buff-streaked Chat resting on rock after being chased by dad

Juvenile male Buff-streaked Chat resting on rock after being chased by dad

Ingrid if you are reading this, I have about 12 photos for you if you are still interested, as you told me last year that there was only 1 picture on the internet of a juvenile and then the one I took last year. Now I have some lovely ones of him which I will post next month or contact me should you need the photos.

I think this may be a juvenile Malachite Sunbird?

I think this may be a juvenile malachite sunbird

Eidin Griffin

Spotted lots of these giant African land snails on the D16 between Corrie Lynn and the river. Saw them around the same time last year too. I was in and out of the car a couple of times moving them so they wouldn’t get squashed by traffic. Must ask the Corrie Lynn school kids to make a ‘Beware of the Snails’ sign 🙂

Snail

Barend & Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

The Carnivorous snail on the right is busy having a dinner of Agate Snail in Kilgobbin Forest…

Untitled

Carl Bronner – Old Kilgobbin Farm

I was riding with a friend up on our main hayfield last week and we saw two huge black birds with red faces. When we got home and checked in the Roberts’ bird book, we found out that they were ground hornbills! Quite rare in our area. We didn’t get too close as we had dogs with us, and the birds marched along the edge of the field and then disappeared into the forest.

Ashley’s Response: Thanks Carl! That is a rare and a great find. Southern Ground-Hornbills are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ throughout Africa by the IUCN, but within South Africa they have been classified as ‘Endangered’, as their numbers outside of formally protected areas are still declining. If you have a moment and can possibly provide additional info such as exact location and GPS coordinates, please go to the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project website:

http://www.ground-hornbill.org.za/

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

American brambles (declared Invasive Alien Plants) are a terrible curse that we are battling to get rid of on the farm, but after 3 years we are almost winning the battle. The berries are delicious though…I will miss them!

American Bramble Berries

American Bramble Berries

The dandelions are certainly popping up all over the countryside.

Dandelions

Had a plague of beetles arrive the one day, luckily they soon disappeared.

Beetle plague, here one day and gone the next

A large green locust came to visit.

Large green locust

And a hairy worm was playing on the lawn.

Large hairy worm

This beautiful large moth was sitting on the dog’s blanket.

Large moth on dog blanket

On one occasion I picked up a dead leaf from the hydrangea bush and found this very large yellow spider inside (Hairy Field Spider), I set him down and made my retreat!

Large yellow spider inside a Hydrangea leaf

Hairy Field Spider

One evening the dogs were going mad, so I went outside to find out the cause…

 

I found a very docile Natal Black Snake Natal black snake...1which didn’t seem at all worried about all the commotion it was causing. It slowly slithered through the grass, and went down the drain pipe.

Natal black snake...2

This beautiful Painted Reed Frog came into the kitchen one evening so I tried to take it outside. I found out it had really sticky foot pads as I struggled to get it off my hand!

Painted Reed Frog

Every evening these black beetles are attracted in their hundreds to the gate security lights

Thousands of small black beetles drawn to the security lights

A couple of coiled up Millipedes found under an old tyre.

Tightly Coiled Millipedes

And a strange bug I found, never seen one before.

Unknown bug

The wild Aloes were managing to collect some of the dew drops.

Water collecting in wild aloe leaves

Water running down the road after a big rain! Sadly it was short lived and we still needs lots more to add to the little puddles of dams in the area.

Running rain water - a welcome sight

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Farm

The dry weather continues with just enough drizzle to keep things green. The Pavetta lanceolata,  (weeping brides bush )in the garden was looking very pretty but with the intense heat and no rain, it was soon over.

Pavetta lanceolata

Pavetta lanceolata

At the beginning of December we noticed a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds in the gigantic Jochroma cyaneum ( South American ) known as blue cestrum. One of the few exotics in the garden as the sunbirds, amethyst, malachite and Southern double-collared, love it too.

Jochroma cyaneum

Jochroma cyaneum

In the 12 years we have lived on Kildaragh, we have trotted up 128 bird species. Residents, holidaymakers and daytrippers. A motley selection outside the kitchen.

3 - Birds

The rye field alongside the garden, has attracted the tiny Zitting Cisticolas, and we constantly hear their loud, high pitched call as they fly dipping over the grass. Recently, in the early of the morning, we have heard the nkonyane’s (bladder beetle) eerie call . Our children used to think that the Martians had landed and were always rather wide eyed at the sound.

Our gardener, while eating her lunch noticed an umhlangane running across the wide lawn to cover, on the other side. It must have been a confused, large , grey mongoose.

A night adder paid us a Christmas visit. Tried to gain entry to house, but I shooed him off.

Night Adder

Night Adder

The Alberta magna gives us a good display of lovely bright flowers each summer.

Alberta magna

Alberta magna

The little Eucomis humilis

Eucomis humilis

Eucomis humilis

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2015

 

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm:

Sadly November was another extremely dry month for those of us living here in the Dargle, and indeed, South Africa as a whole. I believe that it is prudent that we as custodians of the earth need to do our part to conserve water during this time of drought. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but if some of you would like some ideas as to how to conserve water, click on the link below to go to a website giving you some hints and tips, which you could also pass on to employees or people in your place of work and help us all to conserve our precious water:

http://forloveofwater.co.za/facts-tips/water-saving-tips/

Mavela dam is getting quite low now, the ducks and other water birds generally just wade in the water around the little island, and on one occasion I woke up and these 3 Spoonbill were busy wading in the shallow water.

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

Later, some of the Cormorants had been swimming around the dam before they came back to land to catch a tan.

Cormorants sunning themselves

Cormorants sunning themselves

The Grey Heron was trying to outdo the Cormorants by tanning on the other side of the dam!

Grey Heron sunning itself

Grey Heron sunning itself

Not a very sharp picture of the African harrier-hawk (or Gymnogene), but he was rushing from one weaver nest to the next and I just managed to capture this image

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

…before he was after the ‘take aways’ in the willow tree next door

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)

The Greater Striped Swallow (Cecropis cucullata) is feeding lots of noisy babies outside my office window

Greater Striped Swallow

Greater Striped Swallow

We had a new arrival this month, the Greater double-collared sunbird. I spent last Sunday afternoon trying to get close ups of his magnificent colours

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

From the front, a very red chest

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

All natural nectar!

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

Greater Double-Collared Sunbird

The Cape Weaver is a bit of a menace to the other birds in the garden

Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver

as he believes the water bottle belongs to him!

Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver

One Sunday we had some friends join us for lunch, and were treated to the Grey Heron catching a frog in the dam in front of us

Grey Heron with a frog

Grey Heron with a frog

…before it took off with it’s prize!

Grey Heron taking off with frog

Grey Heron taking off with frog

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin:

Asclepias sp.

Asclepias sp.

Kniphofia breviflora

Kniphofia breviflora

Hibiscus sp.

Hibiscus sp.

Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Chapel:

Amethyst Sunbirds’ little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Amethyst Sunbirds` little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Amethyst Sunbirds` little home in Crab Apple Chapel

Brian & Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle:

Some of the images from the trail camera this month.

Bushbuck

Bushbuck

Porcupine

Porcupine

Bushbuck

Bushbuck

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm:

The African sunbird completed her nest on 27th Oct.

Sunbird sitting

Sunbird sitting

She then got together with male for a week and then presumably started laying her egg(s)? She started sitting on the 12th November and it looks like youngster may have hatched today 1st Dec as she is flitting in and out of nest. That’s on the right hand side on verandah.

Feeding on my fuchias

Feeding on my fuchias

On left side of verandah, right in corner next to our study, a pair of wagtails decided they wanted to build in my pot plant.

A pair of wagtails building nest in pot plant on verandah

A pair of wagtails building nest in pot plant on verandah

As both doors from dining room and study lead onto verandah at that point, I thought this would not be a good idea as too much interference from humans and dogs coming and going. Removed potplant for 3 days and she moved off but when I put it back again, she was back again and in 4 days, the 2 of them had finished their nest. What a feat. Even in the drizzle they continued building, not like the sunbird who did not.

1 wagtail egg

1 wagtail egg

Wagtails finished building on the 10th November and laid one egg on 17th, 18th and 19th nov. The one egg was cracked so she threw that out. She started sitting and babies hatched on 30th November. Very exciting.

Wagtail sitting

Wagtail sitting

Our lives have been turned upside down, as we cannot sit on the verandah with our tea while admiring the view, as both sunbird and wagtail get very agitated wanting to come in –they are both very nervous about movement on the verandah and also inside the house, so curtains stay closed and also doors, which is a nuisance when one wants to get some air into the house, being so hot. I have had to take all my photos of the wagtail through glass doors, so not good pics due to reflection.

On the other verandah out front, the swallows hatched out about 12 days ago and every morning a huge amount of poo has to be washed off the verandah. The parents are very aggressive and dive bomb anyone who goes out there, especially when I need to water the formal garden – because of this, my groundcover has died. Yesterday saw 2 little faces peeping over the nest and today the one is sitting on top of the nest.

We have had a number of raptors around here lately sitting on our dead trees around dry ponds searching for food.

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

2 baby robins flew off at 16 days old – I have not seen them again. Still a lot of reedbuck around.

Female Common Reedbuck in garden

Female Common Reedbuck in garden

They come out in the evenings and a number of them have been jumping over the fence and coming into the garden to graze as our grass is long and lush now.

Male Common Reedbuck grazing in our garden one evening

Male Common Reedbuck grazing in our garden one evening

Young male Common Reedbuck

Young male Common Reedbuck

I saw a Pin-tailed Whydah trying to chase a female chat off its perch on the dead tree. The chat held her position while the pintail fluttered up and down trying to intimidate her. He eventually gave up.

We have about 10 baby sparrows flying around. I have noticed sometimes that when the mother feeds them on the grass, the male comes along and chases them away. Not sure if he is jealous of all the attention that mom is giving them or telling them to go find their own grub!

Baby Sparrows

Baby Sparrows

Strangely this year, the Buff-streaked chats nested under the eaves. They usually nest up in the hills inside the rocks. Got pic of dad with food.

Buff-streaked Chat

Buff-streaked Chat

Nice to see that some of the male birds do get involved in the rearing of the young. The male sunbird puts in an appearance every now and then and sits on the balustrade twittering at his partner in the nest.

Saw thousands of flying ants for 3 hours one afternoon while visiting on the D18 road.
Seen quite a few bush buck and samango monkeys and duiker on D18 and a duiker in our garden this morning. He must have got in yesterday while gate was left open. We chased him out.

The male malachite sunbird came and sat on balustrade and fluttered his feathers showing his yellow mating feathers and tweeted loudly trying to attract the female but she never arrived.

Male Malachite Sunbird

Male Malachite Sunbird

Saw a gymnogene being chased by a fork-tailed drongo – he then flew into the gum trees and terrorised the birds there for a few minutes before flying out again to once more being chased by drongo.

A Hamerkop flew into garden next to pond (the only one which has some water) and caught a frog

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

He hammered the poor thing to death before swallowing it.

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Farm:

The garden has abundant Midlands bird life and the list is very similar to Sandra’s so I won’t repeat it. This weekend, the last in November, we heard a pair of yellow billed kites calling. These birds are usually silent, so it was wonderful to hear and see them flying above our house, swooping and turning in their intra pair interaction.

It is sad to see the dearth of so many Reedbuck on the hills around us. As others have noted, the numbers are right down. We can only speculate as to the cause – blue tongue? hunting dogs?

The Tree Hyraxes in the Dargle Forest above us have been very noisy these last few nights, with their snorting, screaming calls. We were told many years ago by the old farmers that they heralded the rain! Hopefully there is some truth in this!

Finally a fun photo to end off. The thick billed weavers continually raid Scruffy Parrots seed dish. Here is a male doing just that.

Thickbilled Weaver

Thickbilled Weaver

Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage, D17:

Pat McKrill responding to Wendy’s Snake Sighting Below:

“Yup, it’s a Night Adder – with attitude as always. But once they’ve told you who’s in charge, they calm down and continue with the task at hand – whatever it was. Aside from colour and any additional markings, the arrow on the head is diagnostic. I am a firm believer that Night adders are our most even tempered snakes and are quite comical to watch as they continue after all the bluster of hissing and mock striking, to bustle about their work, secure in the knowledge that the aggressor now knows where he/she stands. Thanks for this, and on the assumption that it wasn’t bopped on the head after the photo shoot, well done to your member.”

Night Adder

Night Adder

The other evening I came around a bend about 500m from home and a beautiful Bushbuck ram was in the road. The next day I came around the same corner at about 17h00 with the sun behind me and saw an animal in the road: long legs, the size of an Africanus dog, thin, yellow fur and deeper yellow spots, cat-like face and black tufts of hair on the tips of the ears. I thought serval but the colour was wrong, also the ears. Then lynx or caracal. It disappeared into the long grass and the small birds followed it for a way. The ‘bobbejaan’ spiders are invading! Three in the house and one on the verandah. I need to be rescued! Have identified three cuckoos by their calls: Red-chested Cuckoo, Dideric Cuckoo and Klaas’ Cuckoo.

On Thursday I heard the gardener calling in isiZulu. After a time I realised I was being called. She was stabbing at what looked like a cornucopia shell. I asked her to bring it to me and then I realised she was saying it’s a snake. I didn’t believe until she fearfully put the ’shell’ in my hand. It was a small light brown snake with a white belly. Its head was hidden inside and only a couple of mm of tail stuck out the narrow end. I estimated the coil to be about 2,5cm long. The gardener was inclined to think it was a baby and the mother/father had left it on the ground while it took to the trees to escape her gardening. I asked her to throw it into grassland beyond the garden fence. Any idea what it could have been? I never thought of a photo while I was holding it.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – October 2015

We were sad to hear that David Clulow passed away during October. David was the inspiration behind our Wildlife Sightings, having started collecting monthly records in Boston many years ago. He was pleased that other Conservancies had followed his example, and always sent supportive notes when he received the latest edition. We will miss his witty and clever comments.

October has been an extremely dry month for us here in the Dargle. With only a few millimeters of rain received near the beginning of the month, we had almost nothing until this past week when a few drops finally fell to cool down the parched earth. Hopefully this means that the big rains will be coming soon!

We have some great images and stories to share, so let us take your mind off your normal daily worries, and be transported to the enchanting forests and valleys of The Dargle, in the KZN Midlands…

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

South African shelduck or Cape shelduck (Tadorna cana), this is the female

South African shelduck or Cape shelduck (Tadorna cana), this is the female

A Male Shelduck keeping watch from the jetty

A Male Shelduck keeping watch from the jetty

Shelduck Family, only 3 of the original 8 babies are left

Shelduck Family, only 3 of the original 8 babies are left

How to do the "Shelduck Bob"...

How to do the “Shelduck Bob”…

Male Shelduck being chased by Egyptian Goose

Male Shelduck being chased by Egyptian Goose

Life is tough, living on a farm dam

Life is tough, living on a farm dam

Spurwing Goose standing on wooden pole

Spurwing Goose standing on wooden pole

A Pair of Blue Crane flying overhead

A Pair of Blue Crane flying overhead

The Amethyst sunbird, also called the black sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina)

The Amethyst sunbird, also called the black sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina)

Juvenile Gymnogene, checking out the weaver nests

Juvenile Gymnogene, checking out the weaver nests

Eidin Griffin

Puffadder caught by Mlungisi.

Puffadder caught by Mlungisi

Puffadder caught by Mlungisi

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

This month, for the first time ever I saw a Tambourine Dove. It may not be rare or unusual, but it was very exciting for me!

Tambourine Dove

Tambourine Dove

A group of big egrets were in the water and roosting in the dead tree beside the dam one morning, I have never seen them here before, either. Are they Yellow-billed Egrets?

Who's this Egret?

Who’s this Egret?

Have often heard Burchell’s Coucal (will have to change it’s common name ‘Rain Bird’, I think), occasionally a Buff Spotted Flufftail and of course, all the cuckoos – Emerald and Klaus’ – Red Chested first heard on 9 October, with African Black on 10 October. I have not heard the Diederick yet. Spotted this clump of Spurwinged Geese early one morning.

Spur-winged Geese

Spur-winged Geese

Always good to find familiar spring favourites in the grassland, like Senecio speciosus.

Senecia speciosus

Senecia speciosus

Eulophia clavicornis – The colour of the flower is variable, ranging from purplish brown to dark green with a white or purple or yellow fleshy lip. One reference I came across described Eulophia clavicornis as a ‘mauve pixie’ which seems just perfect.

Eulophia clavicornis

Eulophia clavicornis

Learn more about Eriosema disctinctum:

Eriosema distinctum

Eriosema distinctum

Eriosema Kraussianum – The silvery stems are covered in silky hairs which set off the pale yellow flowers perfectly. For centuries, Zulu men have drunk hot milk infusions or boiled root decoctions made from Eriosema to treat impotence. In 2006, research undertaken by the University of Natal found that key compounds in the plant are effective in tackling this problem.

Eriosema kraussianum

Eriosema kraussianum

Senecio oxyriifolius with fleshy, nasturtium like leaves and flowers help aloft on long stalks.

senecio oxyrifolius false nasturtium

senecio oxyrifolius false nasturtium

Kouhautia amatymbica are flowering profusely – must like the dry weather.

Kouhautia amatymbica

Kouhautia amatymbica

Clerodendrum hirsutum Wild violet, in the grassland.

Clerodendrum hirsutum

Clerodendrum hirsutum

Beside a stream bed (no water flowing) a splendid, shoulder high Crinum macrowanii

Crinum macrowanii

Crinum macrowanii

Found some more unusual plants too like Schizoglossum cordifolium Common Split tongue

Schizoglossum cordifolium

Schizoglossum cordifolium

Asclepias cucullata Hooded Meadow Star

Asclepias cucullata

Asclepias cucullata

Have seen one oribi, two bush buck and a few reedbuck and common duikers. Lots of evidence of wildlife in the damp edges of the dam. There are great swathes of Senecio bupleuroides (I think) which flower in recently burnt areas.

Senecio bupleroides mass

Senecio bupleroides mass

Up close the flowers are too pretty for words. Commonly known as Yellow Starwort.

Senecio bupleroides

Senecio bupleroides

Finding this damselfly was a treat! Not sure what it is. Help anyone? Perhaps it is actually an antlion?

Who's this Damselfly?

Who’s this Damselfly?

I am always pleased to come across a dung beetle, there don’t seem to be nearly enough around.

Dung Beetle

Dung Beetle

Fields of daisies (I think Adenanthellum osmitoides)

White daisies

White daisies

Derek & Sue Miller

Natal Green Snake, not very sharp as it was shot in a hurry! We used the markings on the wall to measure the snake’s length of well over 1.5metres.

Natal Green Snake

Natal Green Snake

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A couple weeks ago I was checking up on our little stream which runs through the natural bush on our farm. Thankfully it was still running, providing water further down for some of our animals.

Even through the worst part of the drought this little stream still flowed from underground

Even through the worst part of the drought this little stream still flowed from underground

I also managed to sneak up to within 3m of an Olive Woodpecker before he got nervous of myself and the cellphone camera

Male Olive Woodpecker (Mesopicos griseocephalus)

Male Olive Woodpecker (Mesopicos griseocephalus)

He left quite a few holes in one of the little trees…

Holes in wood from woodpecker

Holes in wood from woodpecker

…as well as a significant pile of “saw dust”!

Sawdust from woodpecker

Sawdust from woodpecker

There was a fire (November) recently which burnt a large portion of farmland – just to give you all an idea of how dry it has been.

Fires started last week near the chicken farm

Fires started last week near the chicken farm

A massive Aardvark hole at the top of our farm

Massive Aardvark hole on the farm

Massive Aardvark hole on the farm

Spiderweb on the ground captured the recent rain

Spiderweb on ground captured the rain

Spiderweb on ground captured the rain

The Dargle Valley should start to look a little greener now, after the recent rains

View of the valley from up high

View of the valley from up high

I wasn’t sure what this dead snake was, so sent it to Pat McKrill for his expert opinion: ” It’s a Cross marked, or Montane grass snake, probably got a new common name now, but still Psammophis crucifer. Although venomous, completely harmless, and feeds on lizards and frogs. Good find, not often seen, pity that it’s got to the end of the road before time.”

Unknown

Cross marked, or Montane grass snake

Some lovely skins found in the garden, courtesy of the Natal Green Snakes!

Snake skins found in garden most likely from Natal Green Snakes

Snake skins found in garden most likely from Natal Green Snakes

Brian & Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle
Everyone looks at plants and animals. After the lovely rains the forest fungi are flourishing. We noticed 3 specimens today.

The yellow fungus is Pycnoporus Sanguineus. (Cinnabar Bracket)

Pycnoporus Sanguineus. (Cinnabar Bracket)

Pycnoporus Sanguineus. (Cinnabar Bracket)

The white fungus appears to be Auricularia Auricula-judae (Jews ear)

Auricularia Auricula-judae (Jews ear)

Auricularia Auricula-judae (Jews ear)

Best game camera photo for September. I desaturated a day photograph – Bushbuck Ram

Bushbuck Ram

Bushbuck Ram

Malvina van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

We have been privileged this month to see a caracal right near the house in our hill paddock, although we are wondering whether it was scoping out one of our Nguni calves or coming closer to check on our free-roaming ducks and Bushveld chickens! There’s a caracal in this photo – somewhere at the bottom of a clump of grass…

Caracal hidden in the grass somewhere

Caracal hidden in the grass somewhere

We have also had numerous Natal dwarf chameleons around the house, male and female and so look forward to a crop of tiny, itsy bitsy babies soon.

The spoonbill has been very busy in our super-low dams, along with several sacred ibis and the first Piet-My-Vrou started calling on the 7th of October.

Spoonbill making the most of the low water levels

Spoonbill making the most of the low water levels

The first swallows were spotted here on the 15th of October and the Swifts and Martins just before that. The raptors have been very busy overhead and our Gymnogene has been causing havoc with the Weavers. The Blue and Crowned Cranes have been spotted flying overhead and landing on various parts of the farm.

The Bushbuck have been very active on the hill near the house and we have seen the magnificent male a few times on the road going up the hill. He is a very watchful chap and we often hear him ‘barking’ at night whenever something disturbs them.

Inhlosane viewed from Old Furth Estate

Inhlosane viewed from Old Furth Estate

We also had a rather noisy and large fruit beetle land in our kitchen – I knew them by the Afrikaans name of “Tor” but think it may be a CMR beetle in English

Beetle

Beetle

The baboons are obviously getting really hungry and munched through a couple of cables on one of our WebSmart Wireless Broadband masts, thereby decommissioning everyone’s connections to that high site! Frustrating for all concerned…..

Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Farm

So hot , so dry , but we all press on hopefully , and as night follows day, so we hope the rain must come.

A beautifully patterned moth

A beautifully patterned moth

Despite the drought and heat , indigenous plants and trees in the garden are valiantly blooming.Scilla natalensis or blue squill

Despite the drought and heat , indigenous plants and trees in the garden are valiantly blooming.Scilla natalensis or blue squill

Thunbergia natalensis. The Natal Bluebell.

Thunbergia natalensis. The Natal Bluebell.

The little Ochna natalita tree with it's cheerful yellow flowers

The little Ochna natalita tree with it’s cheerful yellow flowers

Prunus africana , Red Stinkwood or Bitter Almond in glorious bloom

Monsters in the garden, that appeared one mizzly evening.

Monsters in the garden, that appeared one mizzly evening.

Monsters in the garden, that appeared one mizzly evening.

Monsters in the garden, that appeared one mizzly evening.

Lara Kirsten and Kim Goodwin – Woodstock Farm, Lidgetton

Unknown - Bagworm moth larvae

Unknown – Bagworm moth larvae

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

Oribi: During both visits we only saw 5 Oribi, 3 female and 2 males in the Oribi Paddock all of the other Oribi from the second herd that lived above the maize paddock have disappeared. This is a major blow to our Oribi project as we have had a reduction from 15 to 5 ever since the February issue. One bit of good news however is that “Baby Girl” one of our babies from 2013 is now pregnant. We noticed this during our September visit and confirmed it during our October visit. She is already withdrawing from the main herd so she is close to delivery. This is a big thing for us as she was one of our babies that is now pregnant so it is very special for Hayley and I. We will be closely monitoring them from slightly more of a distance over the next few months and we will also monitor the jackal movement and presence in this paddock from now on, in order to ensure the survival of this very precious baby on the way. She still let us within our normal 5m range of her.

Reedbuck: There has been a major reduction in the reedbuck population from 27 animals during our September visit to a total of 12 female only. All the males have been poached out. It is very obviously that these males have been “professionally” poached or shot as only the males have been taken. This poaching of the males only is obviously for their horns as trophies as they are of a taxidermist value as trophies for sale to the general public. These trophies can fetch several thousands of rand each. This situation will also be closely monitored and the perpetrators will be brought to book.

Grey duiker: Sadly only 3 duiker females were observed and once again as per the Reedbuck all the males have been poached again for their horns as trophies as a taxidermist value. As with the Reedbuck we will be monitoring this closely and the perpetrators will be brought to book as well as any other accessories involved in this poaching going on, on the farm. This is very clearly not the local with snares as the poaching is done far to selectively and professionally.

Jackals: During the September visit while we were observing the nocturnal wildlife we heard someone on the farm using an electronic jackal caller on the farm fairly close to the cross road area. We saw no jackals that night. The question then has to be asked who did and who were they? A very big concern for the welfare of the wildlife.

Bushbuck: No Bush buck have been seen on the farm since January 2015. There is however bush buck scat and tracks to be seen on the farm in certain areas, but even this is nowhere near as much as what was seen prior to February this year. The distinct reduction in scat and track presence since February does prove a major reduction on the farm.

Conservation Award:

2015 AGM Trophy Award for Conservation Neville van Leyleveld

Neville van Lelyveld received the J.F.King Conservation Trophy from KZN Hunting and Conservation Association recently for his work in conservation, particularly in Dargle. Neville believes that this is an example of how hunters and conservationists can work together for the greater good of indigenous wildlife and hope that his work inspires other hunters to get involved in similar projects. “This is a team effort” he said, thanking in particular Iain Sinclair of Benn Meadhon, Dr. Ian Little from EWT, Brian and Teresa Jones of SACAN, Dargle Conservancy, Kim Gillings Ezemvelo DCO, Howard Long, Rob Hanbury, Graham Freese, Katie Robinson, AP Smith and Robin and Sharon Barnsley.

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

Most evenings we had ten reedbuck grazing in the dry dam below us – 3 males and 7 females – one evening the 2 males were fighting until it got too dark for me to see – I was concerned that they would get injured with their large horns but Pat assured me that he did not find any injured animal the next day. The secretary bird has been walking the hills for a few weeks.

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A male spurwing goose arrives on some mornings and sits or stands on the rock on top of the hill behind us, admiring the view.

Spur-winged Goose

Spur-winged Goose

We saw 2 oribi running up the hill one day (male and female) – the male looked like he only had one very long horn but was difficult to see as they were running.

Oribi

Oribi

On the 17th, 3 wagtails were born in the jasmine creeper – i took a photo of them at ten days old and the next day they had vanished – they certainly did not look ready to fly – looked all over for them but no luck – I wondered if the owls may have eaten them – they were living under the eves close by – the barn owls have now left.

On the 20th, 2 cape robins were born in a honeysuckle creeper – I checked them today and they are getting quite large now but still with lots of fluff.

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Pat saw a serval at 7am on the driveway one morning.

A few days ago while having tea on the verandah Pat and I heard jackal buzzards – we went outside and saw what looked like mom giving her 2 fledglings a lesson in flying – there was lots of conversing – the youngsters seemed to flap madly at times, while mom glided swiftly and smoothly through the thermals. When one went up too high she flew up and brought him down, still with lots of chat between them all. It was a very heartwarming sighting.

We have 3 pairs of white throated swallows nesting around under the eves of the house in the corners. The one pair decided to make their mud nest in a cup shape on the same glass lamp shade that the black female sunbird built on last year (we left that nest there in the hope that she would return)

Female Amethyst Sunbird enjoying the Protea flowers

Female Amethyst Sunbird enjoying the Protea flowers

Instead, the female Amethyst sunbird decided to build her nest on a piece of string with 2 crystal baubles tied to it – this has hung on our back verandah for 5 years now – my daughter got married and made a whole lot of hearts and baubles for wedding decoration and I brought one home. Over the years the wind has broken most of it, just leaving about 9 inches of string (too old to work out cm). She started building on the 17th – I have watched her for 2 weeks now as I still have a broken ankle and moon boot, so plenty time to observe our wonderful wildlife.

Amethyst sunbird starting the nest

Amethyst sunbird starting the nest

Sunbird starts at 5am and goes through till 6pm = each trip lasting approx 30 secs –If you had to work out the mileage it would run into a number of kms each day. Every few hours she stops to feed on my alstramerias and bottle brushes. One day when it drizzled she did not work on the nest – probably the wet material would rot the rest of nest or else too difficult to break the pieces of grass, not sure. After ten days of building she started collecting lichen to decorate the outside of the nest – she found a number of feathers in the gutters where the rock pigeons and sparrows sit.

Male Amethyst Sunbird

Male Amethyst Sunbird

Sometimes she would sit on the balustrade and turn her head left and right to check and see that everything was as it should be – sometimes her partner would arrive and sit on my hanging basket and chat to her –probably telling her to get a move on!!

Female Amethyst Sunbird

Female Amethyst Sunbird

Its the 31st today and she is still at it – she has made the hole in the entrance smaller and now lining the inside of nest. Its 2 weeks since she started building. Doing it all on her own. She has been stopping work at 3pm now. I think she becomes exhausted. I always know when shes there as she always arrives with loud cheeping. As my study looks out onto the verandah, I am very fortunate to be able to see her clearly. I am sure there are birds where both male and female help with the nest building. Amazing. I am in awe of God’s creation.

Female Amethyst Sunbird with a gorgeous nest

Female Amethyst Sunbird with a gorgeous nest

We have sparrows in all 4 corners of the house – mostly on top of the gutters – fortunately have not had much rain – some years the nests have been swept down the gutters.

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

Woke up one cold morning to find the dogs had killed a night adder outside the garage – then 2 weeks ago, also on a cold overcast day, my gardener killed a puff adder. Sorry Pat McKrill, I know you will not be impressed.
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I took a picture of a raptor in our gum trees which we could not identify – I sent it to Dr David Allan in Durban and he said he thought it might be a juvenile jackal buzzard.

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Caught this cape robin fluffing her feathers after a rock pool bath – she looks like a fat clown

Cape Robin-Chat

Cape Robin-Chat

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Duiker

Duiker

Hisss – Helping Individuals Survive Snake Season

-by Nick Evans –

We are all aware that snake season is well underway, especially now that Summer’s here and the temperatures are constantly rising. The snakes have started to come together to mate and to hunt, after their low activity period in Winter. This causes a widespread panic and fear, especially for the well-being of family and pets. This will have been exacerbated by the much publicised snakebite, on a young girl from a Night Adder, in Pietermaritzburg recently. There is, however, no need to panic and there is no need to live in fear of snakes either.

Brown House Snake - One of the friendliest snakes to have around. Docile, non-venomous and they love eating rats! They’re brown with cream-coloured markings going down the body.

Brown House Snake – One of the friendliest snakes to have around. Docile, non-venomous and they love eating rats! They’re brown with cream-coloured markings going down the body.

Snakes are amongst one of the most feared and misunderstood animals on earth, which stems from myths, legends, superstitions and over-exaggerated tales about these unique creatures. T.V. also has a negative impact by portraying them in a false way (i.e the Anaconda movies!). The lack of understanding and education about these animals often leads to them being killed, so it’s time we change our perceptions of these ecologically important animals.

Boomslang (male)- Thicker than the harmless green snakes, with a much larger head and eyes, these snakes are actually South Africa’s most toxic snake species. Fortunately, they are very shy and are reluctant to bite unless harassed. Interestingly, and quite uniquely amongst South African Snakes, they are sexually dimorphic. Males are green with black patterns, while females are a drab brown colour.

Boomslang (male)- Thicker than the harmless green snakes, with a much larger head and eyes, these snakes are actually South Africa’s most toxic snake species. Fortunately, they are very shy and are reluctant to bite unless harassed. Interestingly, and quite uniquely amongst South African Snakes, they are sexually dimorphic. Males are green with black patterns, while females are a drab brown colour.

Contrary to popular belief, snakes do not attack people. They do not want to bite us. They are more scared of us than we are of them and that is the truth of the matter. Whenever they see us or sense our presence approaching, they either flee or remain undetected. They are very secretive and shy animals that prefer to be left alone, and that is exactly what you should do if you see a snake.

Boomslang (female)

Boomslang (female)

People are often bitten while trying to capture or kill a snake, so don’t ever try. If you see a snake while out walking, in one of the many beautiful nature reserves or conservancies in the Midlands, simply keep calm and stay still. Snakes get nervous when they see a lot of fast movement. If it’s crossing the path, keep a safe distance, appreciate the sighting, and consider yourself lucky that you have seen such a secretive animal. It will move off quite quickly. If it appears to not be moving and just basking (typical Puff Adder behaviour), either walk around it, giving a wide birth, or walk the other way. That’s all you need to do to avoid being bitten. You may shout it if you want, but you would just be wasting your breath. Snakes are completely deaf and have no ears. *NEVER pick up a snake, alive or dead. Even if you think you know what it is.

Puff Adder - Quite common in the Midlands and highly venomous. They are a thick-bodied snake, with chevron markings and a large head, that are responsible for a few snakebites every year. This is because they prefer to keep still and rely on their camouflage to conceal them. They will not definitely bite if stood on.

Puff Adder – Quite common in the Midlands and highly venomous. They are a thick-bodied snake, with chevron markings and a large head, that are responsible for a few snakebites every year. This is because they prefer to keep still and rely on their camouflage to conceal them. They will not definitely bite if stood on.

If it’s in your house, or somewhere on your property where you really don’t want it, you will have to call your local snake catcher. Otherwise, give it a chance to escape, like leaving a door/window open that leads outside. You can try the police too if you can’t get hold of a snake catcher, but make sure they do not kill it (some policemen unfortunately do). Snakes should not be killed, for your own safety, and for the well-being of the environment. They’re actually doing us a favour.

The Green Snakes - These would consist of the Spotted Bush Snake, Western Natal Green Snake and Green Water Snakes. All are completely harmless, long, thin and green, which often leads them to being identified as Boomslangs or Green Mambas. Green Mambas do not occur in the Midlands. The Bush Snakes have quite prominent spots going down the body.

The Green Snakes – These would consist of the Spotted Bush Snake, Western Natal Green Snake and Green Water Snakes. All are completely harmless, long, thin and green, which often leads them to being identified as Boomslangs or Green Mambas. Green Mambas do not occur in the Midlands. The Bush Snakes have quite prominent spots going down the body.

Snakes play a vital role in the ecosystem in two ways, as predators and as prey. Snakes are like a free pest control service, especially with regards to rats. We don’t really want rats around, as they can cause havoc in homes. Snakes are one of the many creatures that do a fantastic job at keeping rodent populations in check, so no need for rat traps or poisons, just let the local House Snake hunt in your garden. Venomous snakes like the Black Mamba, Puff Adder, Rinkhals and Mozambique Spitting Cobra, do the job just as well as House Snakes, if not better. Snakes also keep gecko populations in check, as well as all other lizards. Birds, bats, slugs, centipedes, and frogs are all on the menu.

Mozambique Spitting Cobra

Mozambique Spitting Cobra

They’re not just predators, but prey too. Birds, like raptors and herons, mongooses, genets and monitor lizards all love eating snakes, and so do some other species of snake. Yes, snakes will eat each other! They clearly are a key link in the food chain and are here for a good reason, just like all native wildlife.

Night Adder - A venomous species which is often mistaken for a Puff Adder, but is a lot smaller and a lot less toxic. They are more slender snakes than Puff Adders, brown in colour and have dark, pentagon-shaped patches going down the body.

Night Adder – A venomous species which is often mistaken for a Puff Adder, but is a lot smaller and a lot less toxic. They are more slender snakes than Puff Adders, brown in colour and have dark, pentagon-shaped patches going down the body.

So, how does one keep snakes away from one’s property? In truth, there is no set way or definite method in keeping them away. The best thing you can do is to keep your property neat and tidy. Get rid of piles of wood, bricks, and logs which provide shelter to snakes and their food. Jeyes fluid does not work, nor do any other repellants. Planting Geraniums all around your property will not keep them away either. If there’s “food” around, you’ll get snakes. If you are lucky enough to live on a farm/conservancy/reserve, you will definitely see a snake around the property at some point in time. It’s something you have to deal with while living in Africa. We are privileged with an abundance of wildlife.

Black Mamba - The most feared and notorious snake, but arguably the most shy and retreating. Occurs in some areas around Pietermaritzburg, and in Ashburton, but not a common species in the Midlands. Africa’s largest venomous snake, that averages in length of 2-2m. Highly venomous, and highly misunderstood. They have a bad, over-exaggerated reputation that is largely false.

Black Mamba – The most feared and notorious snake, but arguably the most shy and retreating. Occurs in some areas around Pietermaritzburg, and in Ashburton, but not a common species in the Midlands. Africa’s largest venomous snake, that averages in length of 2-2m. Highly venomous, and highly misunderstood. They have a bad, over-exaggerated reputation that is largely false.

So please, give the snakes a break. Next time you want to reach for a spade or stick to kill it, reach for a camera or cellphone instead. Keep a safe distance, and take a pic or too of your lucky sighting. Share your sighting with friends over email or social media! Tag the Midlands Conservancies Forum and the KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation pages too.

Respect snakes, don’t fear or hate them. Understand that they’re fulfilling a role in nature, and they are needed.

Nick Evans runs a programme called KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, a chapter of The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization. The aim of the programme is to promote awareness of these ecologically important animals, and to educate the public.

For snake awareness and identification talks, or frogging evenings, please email Nick at nickevanskzn@gmail.com

With assistance for snake removals, you can contact Nick on 072 8095 806, who will put you in touch with the closest snake catcher. (Nick is based in Durban).

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