May has been a beautiful month at the Karkloof Conservation Centre with the falling of leaves and the gorgeous autumn colours on display. Patrick Cahill has put these monthly sightings together and will do his best to keep up a regular issue of Sightings from the Karkloof. We have had excellent sightings of all 3 of our crane species in good numbers, as well as sightings of Spotted Necked otters that have been putting Chad le Clos to shame with their superb swimming skills.
Red-knobbed Coots and Little Grebes are very defensive of their territory, I have watched Little Grebes chasing one another for half an hour on the Loskop Pan. This Coot took great exception to the presence of the Red-billed Teal on his part of the pan and the Teal remembered the words of advice from his Irish Grandfather: “Best be a coward for five minutes than a dead man all your life”!
Loskop (Wattled Crane) Hide
During this period Blue Cranes were sighted on 8 occasions, Grey Crowned Cranes 4 occasions, and Wattled Cranes 5. Besides the normal population of water birds, the following species were listed for the period:-
African Fish Eagle, South African Shelduck, Southern Pochard, African Marsh Harrier, White-faced Duck and Jackal Buzzard.
Gartmore (Crowned Crane) Hide
During this period Grey Crowned Cranes were sighted on 3 occasions, Wattled Cranes on 7, and Blue Cranes on 2. Some special sightings included the African Harrier-Hawk, South African Shelduck, Steppe Buzzard, African Marsh Harrier, Black-headed Heron, Giant Kingfisher, Black Crake, Spotted Necked Otter and3 young, Lesser Kestrel, Bald Ibis and the Greater Striped Swallow.
Twané often has close encounters with the herptile kind and she photographed this non-venomous Variegated Bush Snake in the Nick Steele Picnic Site recently as it was trying to eke out some warmth from the sun’s wintry rays. Remember to bring some extra picnic lunch along for our friend next time you visit.
Norma Maguire’s culinary skills have been praised by her guests at Thistledown Country House for many years and now it appears the residents of the surrounding forest are keen to try her cuisine. Norma recently photographed this Bushbuck doe on her lawn. It unfortunately had to be turned away as it hadn’t made a booking!
On a morning drive around their farm, 1 lonely Oribi was seen with 3 Reedbuck rams and 4 does, as well as 17 Guinea fowl which were counted. This is the most they have seen for a while and were concerned about the drop in numbers and were seeing only 3 at a time. Carolyn would love to know if anyone else has kept a count of their Guinea fowl and we would love you to send future counts of these birds to us so that we can monitor their numbers. You can send this information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was some excitement in the Karkloof about a year ago when Tim Hancock saw a completely white owl, with two fledgling chicks that looked like Spotted Eagle Owls, in the Karkloof Nature Reserve.
In this rush of excitement, Pieter Duys managed to photograph this peculiar family of owls, and sent his photos on to some of the experts for identification and explanation.
Dr. Mark Brown, of Natures Valley Trust, and Adam Riley, of Rockjumper Birding Tours, both responded confirming that this was a family of Spotted Eagle Owls and the white owl is a leucistic specimen. Leucism is a milder form of albinism. Albinism is the absence of any pigmentation, but leucism is a partial absence of pigmentation. This phenomenon occurs in many species, including mammals, reptiles and birds.
Fortunately, the family hung around the vicinity long enough to be well ‘captured’ on camera in the following days of the sighting by Adam Riley and Tim Hancock. It is spectacular that this owl has flourished to adulthood and had a successful breeding season. Both chicks were unaffected by the recessive allele and have successfully fledged their nest.
Have you ever wondered what’s in that hole in the ground? Well, Charlie and Robyn set up a camera trap that they borrowed from the Midlands Conservancies Forum to find out exactly what it was and to settle the ongoing debates. Camera’s don’t lie (all women know that!) and the mystery was solved. This Porcupine was photographed and was definitely NOT camera shy!
The mountain biking trails in the SAPPI plantations in the Karkloof are proving very popular with the more athletic visitors to the area and this Serval decided to take a ‘selfie’ using the camera trap set up on one of the trails. Servals have become more prolific in many areas in KwaZulu-Natal.
This female Southern Ground-Hornbill was photographed on the road between the Currie’s Post Road and the Karkloof Country Club and she is probably the same one which has been sighted on various farms such as Colbourne, Gartmore, Lsokop, Hawkstone and Denleigh. Lucy Kemp, of the Mabula Ground-Hornbill project, advised us that it is normal to see a female roaming an area alone, as she would be scouting for a group of males to breed with. Please let the Conservation Centre know if you have any sightings of Ground-Hornbills in the Karkloof so that we can pass this information on to Lucy for conservation purposes.
We would appreciate any contributions of interesting pictures taken and stories of sightings in the Karkloof region. Please would you email them to us at email@example.com.