Tag Archives: waterbuck

Bushwillows, Bushbuck and Bushwhacking

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on Tuesday 28 March, as we reached our drop off point for day 3, courtesy of C. MacGillivray’s Karkloof Taxi Services, Sue Viljoen (WWF-SA) remarked that she was in need of a double espresso and a red bull. Yip, the typical day 3 stiffness had set in, and our bodies were yelling for more sleep and wondering why on earth we had volunteered to walk from dawn to dusk through some rather difficult terrain. Once we were on our way, with the morning mist rising and the river looking really beautiful, we soon forgot our morning blues.

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The Karkloof river, our source of inspiration

A hidden gem was waiting for us a few river bends later. Grassy river banks suddenly gave way to a small pocket of riverine forest and invited us in to explore. If we did not have at least another 10km to conquer that day, we would have loved to linger under that quiet, shady tree canopy created by some impressively tall forest trees, including Sue’s new favourite – The Forest Bushwillow (Combretum kraussii).

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Close-up of the Forest Bushwillow

We wondered how old this particular bushwillow was – maybe a good 50 to 90 years?

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Standing under the impressive Bushwillow

However the fantastical forest patches were soon forgotten when we saw the sad sight of green algae in a slow moving section of the river, a sure sign of nutrient enrichment.

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Green algae – a sign of nutrient enrichment

When we stopped at the next suitable place to take water quality samples, the mini-SASS result reflected a decline in river health.

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A sample to test for E. coli, nitrates and phosphates was definitely in order.

From this point on, the condition of the river bank vegetation also declined considerably with a proliferation of alien invasive vegetation, particularly bramble, which required frequent bushwhacking and made walking close to the river very difficult. We had to take a number of detours around or through plantations and lost sight of the river for a fair distance, often due to a hedge-like wall of bramble that separated us from the river.

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Wall of Bramble separating us from the river

We also came across 2 large areas of erosion on exposed, steep river banks.

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Riverbank erosion causes increased sediment deposit in rivers during rainy and stormy weather which leads to the silting up of rivers and dams.

While gazing at the extent of the erosion, a bushbuck suddenly bolted out and made a quick disappearance again. What a treat to see one of these shy antelope! Another boost to our spirits was coming across a few more forest patches with giant-size Bushwillows, Cape Chestnuts and Cabbage Trees.

Three noteworthy sightings from today can adequately be summed up as – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

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The Good – Beloved Bushwillows

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The Bad – Formosa Lilies (Lilium formosanum) an emerging weed, which despite its aesthetic appeal is spreading rampantly.

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The Ugly – Bulldozer activity, altering the river banks and clearing vegetation. Such disturbance is likely to attract more invasive weeds.

When we finally got back to the river’s edge and put some of the more difficult terrain behind us, we came to one of the five fixed sampling points where water quality and river flow is sampled weekly by GroundTruth. This is part of a river monitoring project for the Karkloof Irrigation Board, funded by WWF-SA, along the Karkloof and Kusane Rivers. We were encouraged to find a stonefly at this site, doing a fine display of “push-ups” for us, whereby it pushes its body up and down with its legs which is one of the distinguishing features of stoneflies compared to other aquatic invertebrates.

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Our “bodybuilder”, the Stonefly which was doing push-ups for us.

Seeing time fly by, we had to press on to try reach the pick up point before dusk. A new landscape lay before us of beef grazing peacefully on rolling hillsides, maize lands and lush dairy pastures. The change in land use was also coupled with a change in river characteristics, as the river flow slowed down over flatter floodplain terrain, and began to meander more and more.

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After a long day, seeing our trusty steed comes into view (a certain white Prado) was truly a welcome sight – and one which deserved a silly photo to celebrate!

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Dargle Wildlife Sightings – August 2015

Iona Bate – Inversanda Farm

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

Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis)

Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis)

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

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

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

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

The fynbos garden

The fynbos garden

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

Common Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

Common Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

Barry & Rose Downard – Oak Tree Cottage

Saw this lovely little green fella outside my workshop.

Natal Green Snake

Natal Green Snake

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

Robin and Sharon Barnsley

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

Serval

Serval

Tiffany Attwell – Horse Play, Old Kilgobbin Farm

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

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Inhlosane burning close up

Inhlosane burning close up

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

Firebreaks are finally yielding some new grass

Firebreaks are finally yielding some new grass

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

Bees working hard

Bees working hard

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

Yellow Everlastings in the veld

Yellow Everlastings in the veld

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

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

 

African hoopoe in the garden

African hoopoe in the garden

Grey Crowned Cranes grazing

Grey Crowned Cranes grazing

Drakensberg prinia

Drakensberg prinia

Gurney's sugarbird

Gurney’s sugarbird

Malachite female sunbird

Malachite female sunbird

Male malachite sunbird - still getting his new plumage

Male malachite sunbird – still getting his new plumage

Male Reedbuck

Male Reedbuck

Southern boubou

Southern boubou

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

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

Wagtail wading in dam at sunset

Wagtail wading in dam at sunset

Waterbuck on the gallop

Waterbuck on the gallop

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

 

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

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

Waterbuck doe

Waterbuck doe

Reedbuck ram

Reedbuck ram

Porcupine

Porcupine

Oribi Ram

Oribi Ram

Oribi Doe

Oribi Doe

Jackal

Jackal

Genet

Genet

Duiker doe

Duiker doe

Duiker

Duiker

Duiker

Duiker

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

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

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

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

Blue Crane
A single blue crane was seen on Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

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

Weaver bathing

Weaver bathing

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

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

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

Conostimium natalense

Conostimium natalense

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

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

Bracken

Bracken

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

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

Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja dysophylla

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – July 2015

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

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

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

A ringed Wattled Crane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waterbuck

Waterbuck

One morning 9 wattled crane flew south over the house.

9 Wattled Cranes flew by

9 Wattled Cranes flew by

An african hoopoe been visiting our garden which is unusual.

African Hoopoe

African Hoopoe

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

Bokmakierie (Bushshrike)

Bokmakierie (Bushshrike)

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

Female sentinel rock thrush (on barbed wire fence)

Female sentinel rock thrush (on barbed wire fence)

Cape Longclaws visit our garden every few days.

Cape Longclaw

Cape Longclaw

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

A Black-shouldered Kite

A Black-shouldered Kite

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

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

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

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

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

Rupert Powell Bukamanzi Cottage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Helen and Barend Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

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

Caracal

Caracal

Porcupine

Porcupine

Genet

Genet

Bushpig

Bushpig

Bushpig family

Bushpig family

Bushbuck ram

Bushbuck ram

David and Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Red-lipped Herald snake

Red-lipped Herald snake

Sunset 2 Sunset 1

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset 2

Yellow Wildflowers

Yellow Wildflowers

Yellow flowers coming up through the firebreaks

Yellow flowers coming up through the firebreaks

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Red hot poker

Red hot poker

Red Aloes flowering in the hills

Red Aloes flowering in the hills

Orange Aloes flowering in the hills

Orange Aloes flowering in the hills

Inhlosane on the day it snowed in the Drakensberg

Inhlosane on the day it snowed in the Drakensberg

Ice on a puddle

Ice on a puddle

Frost on hay

Frost on hay

Frost in the sheep camp

Frost in the sheep camp

Nikki Brighton – Cottage at Old Kilgobbin Farm

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

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

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

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

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r winter walk helichrysum

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

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An interesting stick insect on my verandah.

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

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

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

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

r hunting with dogs

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – June 2015

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

Tony Ritchie/Helen Booysen – Crab Apple Cottages

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

Crowned Eagle

Crowned Eagle

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

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

Barn Owl 1

Barn Owl 2

Barn Owl 3

Barn Owl 4

Barn Owl 5

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

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

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

This huge samango monkey at sunrise was a surprise.

This huge samango monkey at sunrise was a surprise.

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

Male Duiker

 

Jackal

Jackal

Porcupine

Porcupine

 

Reedbuck doe

Reedbuck doe

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

Brian & Marashene Lewis – GlenGyle

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

Blue Duiker

Blue Duiker

Bushbuck doe

Bushbuck doe

Bushbuck ram

Bushbuck ram

Jackal

Jackal

Porcupine Family

Porcupine Family

Spotted Genet

Spotted Genet

Tailend of a Bushpig

Tailend of a Bushpig

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

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

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

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

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

Grey crowned crane with juvenile

Grey crowned crane with juvenile

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

Aardvark burrow

Aardvark burrow

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

Aardvark claw marks inside burrow

Aardvark claw marks inside burrow

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

Black female sunbird sitting once again

Black female sunbird sitting once again

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

House sparrow

House sparrow

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

Male duiker

Male duiker

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

Jackal buzzard

Jackal buzzard

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

Olive thrush in the rain

Olive thrush in the rain

Gurney's Sugarbird

Gurney’s Sugarbird

Black sunbird on kniphofia

Black sunbird on kniphofia

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

Malachites 1

Malachites

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

Malachites 4

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

Male malachite sunbird

Male malachite sunbird

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

Unknown butterfly

Unknown butterfly

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

Aardvark prints

Aardvark prints

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

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

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

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

Barn owl on window sill

Barn owl on window sill

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

Garden Commodore (Precis archesia)

Garden Commodore (Precis archesia)

Emperor swallowtail

Emperor swallowtail

A pair of African shelduck at the dam.

A pair of shelduck

A pair of shelduck

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

Yellow bill duck and 4 ducklings

Yellow bill duck and 4 ducklings

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

Female reedbuck

Female reedbuck

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – Autumn 2015

Barry Downard

Here’s an unusual sighting – a Praying Mantis “riding” a bicycle!

Praying Mantis fits in with the KZN Midlands lifestyle.

Praying Mantis fits in with the KZN Midlands lifestyle.

Brandon Powell

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 08

We climbed Inhlosane in a stiff autumn wind – the view of the changing colours of the landscape and fast-sailing clouds was incomparable, as was the huge eagle that flew straight over our heads as soon as we opened the first weissbier at the top…

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 07

There seemed to be beautiful, late-blooming flowers in every crevice and cranny of the mountain.

2015-04-18 Inhlosane 01 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 06 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 05 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 04 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 03 2015-04-18 Inhlosane 02

At Bukamanzi the spiders and beetles get odder and odder looking, but I’m quite fond of them now: This shy, translucent one hides under the rose leaves.

2015-05-04 Bukamanzi 01

There’s a rather mad-looking orange and black one who turned up in the kindling basket.

Scorpion Spider

Scorpion Spider

And a beetle with a back that looks like a Congolese mask.

2015-05-04 Bukamanzi 03

Otherwise it’s been the usual Reedbuck, jackal and vervet monkeys but no sign of the resident genet or duiker in while.

A new addition is the resident snake, Sir Hiss, who I trod on one afternoon on the sunny door-mat. He streaked away like molten toffee being thrown in the air, a wild line of green, as I yelled and jumped up and down on the kitchen table for a good hour. After I described him to her, Helen Booysen thought it must have been a boomslang. She would know, after finding Barend with one whirling around his head like a kite. As snakes go it was wonderful to look at but like a mad horse I still shy away stupidly from hose-pipes/dropped tea-towels/dead sticks.

Our bit of the valley has had an especially fine blaze of autumn colour and flowers:

2015-05-09 Autumn 02

And as ever it’s the details that really stay with one long after the big showy scenes have faded from memory:

2015-05-09 Autumn 01

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

I think we are extraordinarily privileged to be able to observe wildlife at close quarters – often from the comfort of our favourite chair. Over the top of my computer screen, I was able to watch this gorgeous Golden Orb Web spider for a few weeks.

Golden Orb spider

Golden Orb spider

The low sun catching the threads of the web and creating sparkles in the partial shade of the forest. Quite challenging to photograph.

Golden Orb Spider

Golden Orb Spider

After a windy day, red Halleria lucida blossoms were caught in the web creating a really festive forest decoration. She is gone now.

Spider silhouette

Spider silhouette

Just outside, Hadedas built a nest in the Kiggelaria africana tree and hatched two babies. Once again, I was able to observe them at leisure, which was a treat, although the droppings made the most awful mess on the shrubs and patio beneath. Astonishing how two big chicks managed to perch on the tiny, flimsy nest. Before the fledged, they hopped from branch to branch stretching their wings.

Hadeda chicks

Hadeda chicks

A Midlands Autumn classic is the blaze of Leonotis leonaurus across fields and along roadsides. They are particularly spectacular this year.

Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonaurus

Wild Dagga – Leonotis leonaurus

Also still in flower in the long grass is the dainty, parasitic Striga bilabiata. The pinkish mauve flowers with prominent veins are borne on hairy, plum coloured stems.

Striga bilabiata

Striga bilabiata

Veronia natalensis (I think) is also still flowering. The dark purple contrasts beautifully with the gold, bronze and russet grasses.

Veronia  natalensis

Veronia natalensis

Not so natural, but spectacular nonetheless, are the seed heads of Blackjacks (Bidens pilosa) along paths in the grassland.

Blackjacks

Blackjacks

Also in the grassland, there are lots of buck to be seen. I spotted Oribi (a group of three), Common Duiker and Reedbuck.

Beautiful Reedbuck ram

Beautiful Reedbuck ram

Relaxing in the sunshine in the middle of the road one afternoon was this beautiful Midlands Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates). I moved him out of harm’s way and took some photos. Lucky me.

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon

Mike and Anne Weedon

With much of our grass having been cut and the weather allowing for some green growth, the numbers of Reedbuck spotted have increased somewhat in recent weeks.

Female Bushbuck

Female Bushbuck

One of our members of staff was fortunately alerted by a scuffle in the bushes on the way to work recently and, on investigating, discovered a rather exhausted Serval (Leptailurus serval) caught in a snare. Not wanting to unnecessarily alarm the poor animal, I called on Free-Me and SA Can for assistance and they both reacted immediately. With a blanket over its head, the serval was soon calmed and the snare around its rump was quickly removed. A thorough examination surprisingly revealed no injuries whatsoever and the cat was released back into the bush. Many thanks for the prompt and expert help from these two wonderful organisations.

Serval trapped in snare. Free-me and SA CAN helped to free it.

Serval trapped in snare. Free-me and SA CAN helped to free it.

David Crookes

Sunset over Mavela Dam.

Sunset over Mavela Dam

Pat and Sandra Merrick

Some lovely sightings in April and May:

White-throated Swallow chicks thrown out their nest.

White-throated Swallow chicks thrown out their nest.

Painted lady butterfly

Painted lady butterfly

Dead jackal on D17 - run over during the night.

Dead jackal on D17 – run over during the night.

This moth was on the window when I drew the curtains one morning - no idea of its identity.

This moth was on the window when I drew the curtains one morning – no idea of its identity.

These lizards are very social and run in and out the rocks while I am gardening.

These lizards are very social and run in and out the rocks while I am gardening.

Jackal buzzard

Jackal buzzard

Southern Boubou shrieking at her partner down below her

Southern Boubou shrieking at her partner down below her

Malachite sunbird in autumn colours.

Malachite sunbird in autumn colours.

I think this is a reed frog in its brown colouring.

I think this is a reed frog in its brown colouring.

Buff-streaked Chats having a bath one hot morning

Buff-streaked Chats having a bath one hot morning

Reed cormorant drying its wings after diving in and out the pond all morning eating crabs and frogs.

Reed cormorant drying its wings after diving in and out the pond all morning eating crabs and frogs.

Common baboon spider

Common baboon spider

We have had 5 female water buck on the farm this month. They seem to hide during the day in the gum trees and come out in the early evening to drink at the dam.

We have had 5 female water buck on the farm this month. They seem to hide during the day in the gum trees and come out in the early evening to drink at the dam.

Female waterbuck

Female waterbuck

An Aardvark dug this huge hole in our driveway. We filled it in but he came back several times and dug it out again. So presumably heaps of termites down this hole.

An Aardvark dug this huge hole in our driveway. We filled it in but he came back several times and dug it out again. So presumably heaps of termites down this hole.

Cattle Egrets and Reed cormorants settling down for the night.

Cattle Egrets and Reed cormorants settling down for the night.

Secretary bird showing his crown of feathers.

Secretary bird showing his crown of feathers.

African Stonechat

African Stonechat

Crowned crane on power lines at dusk - juvenile in the middle with small crown.

Crowned crane on power lines at dusk – juvenile in the middle with small crown.

We have had a pair of Blacksmith plovers sleeping in our garden each evening - they would walk around the house with their distinct tink tink sound waking me up.

We have had a pair of Blacksmith plovers sleeping in our garden each evening – they would walk around the house with their distinct tink tink sound waking me up.