Tag Archives: sugarbird

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Winter 2016

Nicola Storkey

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

Snow 1

Snow 2

Snow 3

Kilgobbin Forest

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

Dargle Primary learners explore the forest floor.

Dargle Primary pupil makes friends with a grasshopper

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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


Snow & the mayhem it produces!

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


Vehicles driving past Beverley



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







Wendy de Waal – Honeywood Cottage

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

Buck leg 1

Buck leg 2

Pauline Holden – Woodsong Farm

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

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

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

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

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

Male reed buck after heavy rain with wet coat

Common Reedbuck (male)

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

Secretary bird


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

Gymnogene in my garden

African Harrier-Hawk

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

Jackal buzzard (I think)

Jackal Buzzard

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

Black sparrowhawk female sitting on nest

Black Sparrowhawk nesting

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

Black sparrowhawk chick

Black Sparrowhawk chick

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

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

Frozen Hamerkop



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

3 oribi running up the hill



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


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

A few of the crowned crane at Fowlers farm Lions river

Flock of Grey Crowned Cranes

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

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

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

Female duiker

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

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

Cape robin being flirtatious

Cape Robin-chat

We have a pair of Gurney’s Sugarbirds.

Male and female gurney sugar birds

Gurney’s Sugarbirds

Gurney sugar bird at dusk

Gurney’s Sugarbird

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

Another baby reedbuck

Female reedbuck with her youngster

Female reedbuck

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

Yellow white eye

Cape White-eye

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

An interesting picture of someone burning at sunset

Male Malachite Sunbird now in full color

Male malachite now in full color eating the flowering frelinias

Malachite Sunbird (male)

New moon

New moon

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

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

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Picture of the dargle hills and neighbours horses at sunset

Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

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


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

Samango Monkey

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

Muddy icy paw print

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


Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Goddard

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


Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Early morning mist over the valley

Ash 1

Worm in freshly cut wattle tree

Ash 2

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

Ash 3

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

Ash 4

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

Ash 5

Inhlosane rising above the ever diminishing Mavela Dam

Ash 6

Little dam near Selsley Farm

Ash 7

Aloes flowering on a neighbours farm

Ash 8

Ash 9

Ash 10

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

Ash 11

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

Ash 12


Ash 13

Late afternoon sun streaming through some pine trees

Ash 14

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

Ash 15

Louise Ghersie – Satori Farm

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

Eland on Satori Farm.jpg

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – August

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

Brandon Powell – Bukamanzi

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

rain spider

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

brandon's cottage

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

brandons cottage dam

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

copperleigh ledobouria


copperleigh helichrysum

Senecio speciosus

copperleigh senecio speciosus

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

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

winter grassland trail dargle 088

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

winter yellowwood

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

J themeda in pool

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

forest walk Barend

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

forest walk Penz

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

Anne and Mike Weeden – Hopedale Farm

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

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

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


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

more reed buck

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


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

female oribi

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

pied kingfisher frog

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


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

sptted eagle owlet

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

spotted eagle owl parents

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

.Back view of owlet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other birds we have seen include: Black headed Oriel

black headed oriel yellow eye

Common Stonechat


Drakensberg Prinia


Gurneys Sugarbird


Malachite Sunbird


Olive Thrush


Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (passer diffuses)

what bird is this

Yellow eyed Canary

yellow eyed canary

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


Gilly Robartes – Wana Farm

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

gilly scadoxus

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

gilly scadoxus puniceus

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

gilly scadoxus again

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

Dieter Setz – Wakecroft

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Robinson – Hebron Nguni Farm

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

Hebron Nguni Farm

Reedbuck along Petrus Stroom road, taken on cell phone.

River Bend Estate 29 Agust 2014

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

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

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Lourens – Aloe Ridge

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

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

NguNgumbane by Small Dam JPEG 1200dpi

Wayne writes:

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

Serval 2 JPEG 1200dpi

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2013

Dargle hills are striped in black and gold while raptors watch fires in the hope of an easy meal.

winter hills and dam res.

Kevin Culverwell – The Wallows

For the June sightings we have had a Verrauxs (Black) eagle on the farm that caught a feral cat & consumed it one day. Crowned crane pair nesting in the vlei between Howard Long & ourselves.Two sightings of a honey badger – very unusual.

Josie and Dieter Rowe-Setz – Wakeford

spotted on Wakecroft, a Shrike’s winter larder -stored neatly on one of the fences

Larder-1 2013

Larder-3 2013

Larder-4 2013

Larder-2 2013

Jill Hunter

Being fully retired from farming in Zimbabwe I now have the odd day when I can sit and watch nature unfolding in and around my house. At this time of year my little north facing veranda is my most popular spot to sit in the sun and watch the little creatures that share it with me.

The other day I heard a scuffle under a wooden trunk and out came a lizard with part of a wasp in its mouth. The fairly large black wasps have their hives dotted around the house under the eaves. They have never harmed me but they become over excited and will attack the gardener on a hot day. So they have been removed from above the shed door.

Three years ago I had a large luncheon party and my son (who is a man of the bush) decided we should remove the rather large hive next to the front door. I was interested how he would do it without killing them all. The evening before after sun down, he sprayed them with water from my high pressure garden tap. They all fell on the ground and because it was dark and they were very wet they were unable to fly. He then bundled them all into a plastic container with their nest and we released them a good distance from the house. It only took them about a month before they had re-established their hive in the exact same spot above the front door. How little the layman knows of the minds of these little creatures.

winter pleargonuum leaf. res. JPG

Now, the lizard was trying to kill the unfortunate wasp by turning his head from side to side and scraping it on the tiles.(The scene reminded me of the crocodiles we used to breed.) This commotion attracted another lizard and then the fight was on, as to who would have the wasp for lunch. I was unable to see which one won but one of them came into view again with the now dead wasp in his mouth and swallowed it there and then. After he disappeared into the rocks nearby, I spotted a part of the wasp left on the tiles. It was the head. I was interested to wonder why it was the head not the stinging end that he had decided not to eat.

A few days later I watched a smaller lizard literally stalking a wasp sunning itself on the tiles. He crept unnoticed to within two centimetres of the wasp, because he was obscured from the vision of the wasp by a small ledge. He slowly put one front foot on the ledge and waited a minute or more but when he lifted his other front leg the wasp spotted the predator and flew away. The hunt was fruitless that time.

My latest observation was yesterday, when I spotted a lizard with the front end of a wasp in its mouth – it seemed to be having difficulty swallowing the now dead creature. It was eating it head first with the legs hanging out of his mouth. The wasps legs appeared stuck between the lizards teeth, I sympathised with the little creature. I visualised having to catch the lizard, holding it so I could prise open its mouth and remove the wasp with a tooth pick! Fortunately it rushed around for a good three minutes and eventually I watch him swallow his lunch. But then I spotted the sting end of the wasp left behind at the spot where the whole drama had started and also a small piece of its guts. The lizard went to the lap pool for a drink and then came back to the remains and promptly completed his meal, with what, I presume, to be the tastiest part of a wasp!

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Plants in flower: Buddleja dysophylla, Buddleja auriculata, Gnidia slendens, In seed: Rhammnus prinoides, Vepris lanceolata

Birds: Southern Boubou, Thrush, Cape Robin Chat, Cape Parrots, Stone Chats, Bush black cap, Jackal Buzzard, Crowned Eagle, Collared Sunbird, Double collared sunbird, Thickbilled weaver, Heard Fish Eagle

cape robin chat RES

Mammals: common duiker,2 bush buck, 9 reedbuck (2 groups), samango monkeys Heard jackal

Lauren Taylor

This last Saturday morning, my family and I were startled awake by the sound of gunshots at 6am! Our hearts racing, my husband immediately asked “Do you think someone’s in trouble?” Not a pleasant way to wake up!! After enduring over 2 hours of continuous shot-gun noise, we realised it was a “public shoot” across the river. Another shoot a few weeks ago went on all Sunday afternoon! This seems very unreasonable!   We know that this is something that seems to happen every winter. However, most importantly, our concern is the impact that it is having on our wildlife and domestic animals? What are the “rules” regarding holding a public shoot? Do you need to inform neighbours? Our dogs were petrified; especially those that sleep out and I would have liked to have locked them up. The same applies to my horses which were galloping around the property and could have been easily injured (or shot)! The gun shot noise made fireworks seem tame!   Would this also not be classified as “public disturbance”?

In this day and age, if your neighbours are shooting whilst it’s still dark, with no notice – when do you actually know if someone truly IS in trouble?  And can you see where your bullets are ending up??

Another of our neighbours has enjoyed beautiful wattle crane and sacred ibis along their river frontage. Sadly, these have not been seen since the weekend.  We frequently see a herd of 7 reedbuck on our Lions River vlei.  We also fear that this will chase them off (if they haven’t already left).  This vlei is a wetland that is a natural sanctuary for so much wildlife that we should treasure. If they can’t live here, where to?

I don’t believe this is right! We may be zoned “agricultural” but we are surrounded by populated small holdings and it is neither safe nor in the best interests of nature to be holding public shoots without prior knowledge or consent of your neighbours!

Sadly, I think the days of “what was spotted in the Dargle?” may be challenged!

Nigel Anderson – Lane’s end Farm

I have just seen, but was too slow to photograph, a secretary bird flying over Lane’s End Farm at 14:55. It flew from Piggly Wiggly’s direction and headed south towards Midmar side.

There are also about 34 Crowned Cranes in the wetland along the Petrusstroom road.  Although they left during the shooting described above, they returned within a few hours.

Vaughan and Karen Koopman – Riverside Farm

Purple Crested Loerie, Honeyguide

Derek and Jenny Fly – Kildaragh Park

32 Cape Parrots Bushbuck with one horn

Kathy Herrington and Wayne Louwrens – Aloe Ridge

Caracal seen several times on Hopedale, causing some staff a little consternation! Several lovely Serval sightings.  Egyptian (Large Grey)  Mongoose pair doing the rounds! Black sunbirds having a feast on our lovely Aloes.

Anne & Mike Weeden at River Run

Besides the usual reedbuck and duiker sightings, which are always more plentiful during the winter months, we have spotted two serval fairly regularly over the last month as well as a caracal which was only about a 100 metres from the house. We also have a jackal which comes up to the house fence almost nightly to chat, rather loudly, to our dogs. For the first time since we arrived, we heard a porcupine calling one evening but couldn’t pick it up in the torch light.IMG_2517_4

I managed to get very close to a raptor last week when driving alongside the river and happened to have my camera with me and also photographed another one some distance off in the pines across the river. Maybe someone can identify them for me?



Iain Sinclair – Benn Meadhon

A very comprehensive report on the wildlife on Portion 2 of Maritzdaal written by Neville van Leyleveld who spent two nights last week-end patrolling the property.

Oribi – It is pleasing to report that there were 4 Oribi sighted over the weekend, 1 male 2 female and another very young female no bigger than a blue duiker. Finally they are breeding! Seen this was definitely the highlight of our weekend. More frequent visits to the Oribi paddock will be done to monitor the development of this youngster. Our action plan of firstly controlling poaching on the farm has clearly had positive effects if the Oribi are breeding as this is the first evidence of them breeding in the last 4 years. It is sad however that there has been a reduction in the adult population from 5 to 3 animals. We will endeavour to protect these Oribi as best as we can.

Bush Buck:  One pregnant female bush buck was sighted on the D17 on Friday night. She has regularly been sighted but this is the first time we have noticed that she is pregnant.

Reedbuck: There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Reedbuck sightings since the beginning of this year. Quite a few youngsters of varying ages can be seen some still with their parents. It is pleasing to report they are once again breeding well again. A total of 22 sighting of Reedbuck were made during the weekend. The Reedbuck are often seen feeding on the carrot field, on the oats paddock and in the vlei by the cross roads during the day. Both Reedbuck scat and tracks of varying ages can be found in these areas suggesting that they frequent these areas regularly. They are obviously feeling safe. Some seem to stay out most of the day and night in certain areas. This too leads us to believe that they are feeling safe and unthreatened. Clearly there has been a reduction in poaching activities in these areas of the farm as well.

Blue duiker: A single lone Blue duiker male was seen on the D17 on Sunday morning at about 04h00.

Grey duiker: Several grey duiker can still be seen all over the farm, particularly near the carrot and oats paddocks. Grey duiker are also been sighted in the vleis leading down from Graeme’s forests. Both Duiker scat and tracks can be found in these areas suggesting that they are frequenting these areas on a regular basis.

Bush pigs: Kean and I were “hunted” by a very large bushpig boar in the maize by Howard Long’s boundary as we were walking past the boundary fence between the oats paddock and the boundary fence. I estimate him to be about 140kg as he was about a metre tall and had a head nearly the size of a cows head. I heard the pigs in the maize eating. When I shone the torch into the area from where the noise was coming I saw him approach us in an aggressive manner grunting and clawing the dirt. I then forced him to back off, which he did very reluctantly. We then continued down onto the hay paddock just to have the same bushpig follow us and confront us again. I then forced him to back off again and we then left the area for safety reasons. He was really very aggressive and I suspect that he was protecting youngsters and I suspect that he has been hunted before. He is a potential danger for people in that area. Staff must please be warned about his presence. Although they are nocturnal creatures they have been known to protect their home domain even during the day, particularly if he is living in the maize and if young are present.

Porcupine: No Porcupine were observed, however there is a lot of evidence in the forms of scat, tracks and quills to suggest that there is porcupine activity.

Jackals: No jackals were seen or heard on Friday night or Saturday night. We did however see one loan jackal on Sunday morning around 09h30 leaving the oats area walking across the back ha paddock towards Hanbury.

Scrub Hare: An increase in scrub hare presence has been observed. Prior to this year we never saw them and only saw evidence of in the form of their fur in jackal scat. However this year things have changed. During the last three visits tom the farm this year we always see at least one mainly on the main road and this visit was no exception with one been seen crossing the road by the Oribi paddock. Since our visit I have done some very interesting research on scrub hare. Their anatomy is very different to that of other animals. They will also prefer to eat crops such as carrots in preference to their normal diet of grass and rhizomes. The increase in sightings could therefore be as a result of the carrot crops. We will keep this in mind over the next few visits to see if this is in fact true.

dried helichrysum

Blue Crane: During the weekend we observed several Blue Cranes in various place on the agriculture land. Most of them were in pairs.

Spurwing Geese: There appears to be an increase in the Spurwing goose population on the farm. A flock of eight birds was observed on their flight path from the dam across the field to the vlei behind the gum forest by the carrot and oats paddocks. Previously we only saw a single pair of them.

Egyptian Geese: There also seems to be an increase in the Egyptian geese population on the farm as o flock of 10 birds was seen on the same flight path as the Spurwing geese. We have seen both species on the large patch of water in the field behind the gum forest. They both seem to go there in the morning at around 07h00 to 08h00.

Herons: No Herons were observed on the agricultural land during this visit.

Guinea Fowl: A flock of 15 birds was sight on field below the shed on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning. It is great to see that are still around. They migrate from fields across the road each day the fields below the sheds for a feed and then go back across the road to roost.

Quail: A small flock of 10 quail was seen on the road between the oats paddocks. It was great to see them again as they were not around last year or the previous year.

Natal Francolin: A flock of 10 birds was observed in the grass on the left side of the gum forest by the carrot and ever grass fields. Previously we have seen francolins by the cross road below the shed as well as in this area. This time we didn’t see any by the cross roads, but this was probably due to the burning that took place on Friday.

Pigeons: Several pigeons were seen all over the far made up of Rameron, Speckled rock pigeon and various other dove types. The numbers are down compared to previous years but this attributed to the lack of food for them. Interestingly the size of the grey dove species has changed. Mainly small youngsters are been seen. I suspect that there is not enough food for the bigger birds which seem to move off to where there is a better food source once they get bigger?

Owls: Five barn owls were sighted over the duration of the weekend. Three of which were seen on Friday night by the cross road area probably after the vlei rats etc. after the burn. One was seen on near the top carrot field by the dead forest that has recently been felled. Another was seen in the back jackal paddock at the back of the oats.

A dead Large Common Genet was found by the cross road on the fire break between your new forest and Graeme’s forest. There was no obvious signs of it cause of death. This is the first time we have seen one of these on the farm.

Poaching: We found a sliding door cage type porcupine type trap in long grass next to the new road from the oats to the main logging road at the back of the farm. It does appear however that it has been there for some time as it was fairly rusty. It was removed, destroyed and we asked Robin to dispose of it for us. There was no other evidence of any poaching found. We will however keep on top of the poaching issue particularly since the Oribi are now breeding.

Sandra and Pat Merrick – Albury farm

We have seen the secretary bird several days this month. Have not seen our blue crane family but hopefully they haven’t gone too far afield. 4 spoonbill arrived at the dam on the 5th June

spoonbills in dam

2 caracal playing at 10am one morning. Have seen the jackal running in front of our house at 8am on various mornings.  Thursday and Friday last week at 8am heard the jackal howling near the stone wall.  Pat went to investigate and found a female on heat, surrounded by a group of suitors!

Seen about 15 cape parrots flying over the house at about 4pm on 3 days during June.  We are always attracted by their raucous calling. 2 new arrivals in our garden were 5 gurney sugar birds (below) and a double collared sunbird. They were seen sucking on the proteae and tecoma flowers and a few roses that weren’t frosted.

guerneys sugarbird

Also rameron pigeons eating catoniasta berries. Pied kingfisher, orange throated long claws (below) and various chats. As our dam drops (it leaks) more and more spurwing geese are spending the night. Still see the crowned and wattled crane now and then.

orange throated longclaw

A horrible incident 2 weeks ago:  We have had a barn owl nesting in our roof for 4 years now since the Bronner’s cut their pine trees down.  She has had 4 lots of 2 babies.  We have had to take 2 to Free Me with injured wings.  This time we had just made a fire in the study and the next minute the baby owl fell onto the flue.  It was dead, obviously asphyxiated.  Must have fallen down the chimney during the day.  It never made a sound poor thing.  The mother must have heard something because she screeched around the outside house verandah for ten minutes.  The other baby was sitting quietly on the gutter wondering what all the fuss was about.  2 days later we went for a walk and saw baby owl sitting on a halleria tree (wild fuschia) at the stone wall.  It sat there all day.  I was very concerned wondering if the mother had left him and that he was now starving.  He wasn’t there the next day but we heard all the fuss and noise on the roof that night when mom was feeding him, thank goodness.  They now seem to have flown away.

baby barn owl