Tag Archives: wattled crane

Celebrating World Wetlands Day

Article supplied by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

World Wetlands Day, celebrated annually on 2 February, provides an opportunity to celebrate a natural resource that is critical for people, the environment, and biodiversity. Wetlands come in all shapes and forms, from estuaries along our beautiful coastlines and high altitude inland wetlands within the grasslands of Mpumalanga, to the hard working wetlands within our urban landscapes. Much of our conservation effort within the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is centred around the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands and the catchments that feed them, and we encourage you to celebrate World Wetlands Day with us.


Two of South Africa’s three crane species, the Grey Crowned and Wattled Crane, are completely dependent on wetlands for their survival – yet both are threatened with extinction. Their threatened status mirrors the loss of wetlands in our country, with an estimated 50% of wetlands completely transformed in South Africa. The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP), a partnership between the EWT and the International Crane Foundation, has used these charismatic, long-lived birds as flagships for wetland protection, restoration and management.

The ACCP’s South Africa Regional Manager, Tanya Smith, confirms that the efforts of the ACCP team and its partners have ensured the protection of nearly 100,000 ha of grasslands, wetlands and associated rivers in important catchments for people and cranes in South Africa over the past five years. The protection of the key water resources contributes to the long-term security of our water supply for millions of people in South Africa.

Wattled Cranes

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

From large charismatic cranes to the small and slippery, wetlands are home to many. Globally, amphibians are the most threatened class of vertebrate with 32.5% of species currently listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Approximately 800 species of amphibians make exclusive use of wetland habitats. Here in South Africa, a tiny frog the size of your thumbnail is found only in 25 wetlands along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Therefore, a key focal species of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP), is the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. These coastal wetlands are unique in their structure and are themselves classified as Critically Endangered. “The presence of flagship species that depend on wetlands for their survival really helps leverage support for the protection and restoration of wetlands,” says Dr Jeanne Tarrant, TAP Programme Manager. The EWT embarked on an ambitious journey to restore four of these wetlands in the Durban area through alien plant control, re-establishment of indigenous plants and assessing wetland rehabilitation needs and this year will be working towards formal protection of two of these wetlands through community stewardship models.

This year’s World Wetland Day theme is “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction” and this theme truly celebrates the services wetlands provide for us free of charge. Wetlands greatly reduce the impacts of flooding by slowing down the flow of water, and reduce the impacts of droughts by slowly releasing water to our streams and rivers. In the current drought gripping much of South Africa, the role and protection of healthy wetlands has never been more important.

silindile learning about wetlands

Slindile students learning about the importance of wetlands

The EWT is involved with several World Wetlands Day celebratory events around the country. In KwaZulu-Natal, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated at the Greater Edendale Mall wetland in Pietermaritzburg on 2 February from 10am. This is a collaboration of all partners of the KwaZulu-Natal Wetland Forum and will see over 300 children learning about and experiencing the value of wetlands. In the Eastern Cape, the EWT and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa have partnered to get our future generation’s hands dirty experiencing the wetlands of the Amathole area, where the EWT has been implementing catchment restoration work for the past three years. Lastly, in Gauteng, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated on 17 February at Tembisa Esselen Park Pan. A fun day of activities is planned, so be on the lookout for the EWT stand.

Later on in the month, you can get involved in raising awareness for our special wetland dwellers, the frogs, by joining in on a number of Leap Day for Frogs activities, including the EWT’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog on Friday, 24 February. This exciting event gets underway at 10am on the Durban beachfront promenade near uShaka Marine World. Find out more by visiting www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za or emailing JeanneT@ewt.org.za

Yellow-striped Reed Frog 1 - Nick Evans

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

You can make a difference to our wetlands all year round in a number of different ways, including:

  1. Planning a wetland clean up in your community with local schools and parents.
  2. Reducing your waste, reusing bottles and containers you would normally throw away, use reusable shopping bags and recycle! Our water resources like rivers and wetlands are heavily impacted on by litter and waste, so these small actions can make a huge difference.
  3. Reporting any illegal dumping in wetlands and rivers to your local municipality or police station.
  4. Supporting the efforts of organisations like the EWT in protecting wetlands on your behalf.

Useful resources to learn more about World Wetlands Day 2017:

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – November 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were away for half of November but on our return we were thrilled to find we had had a lot of rain and our dam was full at last and everywhere so green. Quite a change from the Cape.

One morning to our astonishment, a young male reedbuck wandered through the garden quite happily. Thank goodness the dogs were elsewhere.


We have woken up for the past few weeks to Reedbuck eating the long grass in our garden.


A porcupine got into the garden one night and dug up a heap of cannas – there was a fight with the dogs and as usual the dogs came off second best being stabbed with quills.


The gymnogene has been terrorising the birds in the garden who have made nests in the trees. Caught a lovely picture of him perched on my bottle brush tree.


A pair of wattle crane arrived at the dam and stayed for a week.


The one has tags on its legs which I had sent to the KZN Crane Foundation for identification.


Response from Tanya Smith, African Crane Conservation Program: “It is so great to get this resighting, this bird is definitely of breeding age and is perhaps looking for wetland area to set up a new territory. The combination of rings (Green/Blue on the left leg and large white on the right leg) is of a bird we caught and colour ringed at the end of August 2011 on a farm just outside Nottingham Road (on the Fort Nottingham Road), from a farm called Shawlands. Therefore this bird is about 5.5 years old.”

The pair of blue crane come and go and do not seem to have made a nest yet. We also have a number of oribi running around – the past 2 days we have seen a pair of males.

There were 5 Grey Crowned Cranes that arrived at the dam one morning.


We also have African Spoonbill,


dozens of Yellow-billed Duck, White-faced Duck,


Little Grebe (where do these waterbirds come from as the dam was empty for months??), Red-billed Teal, Spur-winged Geese and a pair of Egyptian Geese with 5 young who are now about a month old.

We have been inundated with Puff Adders once again – one next to our soak pit eating a frog and the dogs killed an enormous one in our driveway – our rottie proceeded to eat it – we are always concerned that the dogs will pierce the poison sac while eating these snakes – on the same day Pat saw some children from Kazimula school walking down the D18 carrying a dead puffie.

The Steppe Buzzard, and Jackal Buzzard often sit on our dead tree next to the pond waiting for a juicy meal now that our ponds are full.

The Long-crested Eagle is often seen perched on one of the poles along the D18.


Two White Storks arrived on the farm a week ago. We have a number of Sunbirds flitting around the garden now that the summer flowers are in bloom.  Saw this female Amethyst Sunbird feeding off Wygelia flowers.


The White-throated Swallows that made their nest on our verandah lampshade have hatched out 4 chicks who are now about ten days old. We have to clean up a heap of poop each morning. The other swallows nest outside the bedroom window fell down during a severe wind.


In the past few days a pair of Greater Striped Swallows have arrived and make a huge chirping noise before perching on the hanging basket where they groom themselves. This is about 4pm each day. They are very tame and do not mind my running around and taking photos of them thru the glass doors. We have not had them here before.


The Cape White-eyes have been stealing the coir from my hanging baskets.


The Red-chested Cuckoo (piet-my-vrou) sometimes sings for hours. Hope it finds a mate soon.

Drakensberg Prinia


Anthericum, possibly angulicaule (Thanks Nikki Brighton)


Gladiolus longicollis


Senecio bupleuroides (yellow starwort)


Alvera Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Rinkhals which has been roaming around the garden for a while.


Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

Our small dam at it lowest this year. Only 2 puddles left for the fish. Quite a few died but some fortunately survived.


Since the rains we have had recently, things have improved.


The Christmas herald! We have a little patch of Christmas Bells on Kildaragh. They are fast disappearing though. As children we would pick bunches for the Christmas table. Now we look in excitement when we see just one.


Clausena anisata, Perdepis or Horsewood. A neat, small tree for the bird garden. Some Swallowtail butterflies breed on this tree.


A close up of the leaves, which have a very unpleasant smell, when they are crushed. The prolific fruit is visible.


The Pom – Pom tree (Dais cotinifolia). This is an especially large specimen on our property. It was probably planted years ago by June Fannin who planted many trees here but never lived on the property. These trees grow well in the Midlands as is seen along the Main Road in Howick. Always a wonderful show.


Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

Such a treat to have the grassland streams flowing again.


I adore the cool early mornings and frequently wander about at dawn. Seldom have my camera or phone with me, but fortunately did on this day.


Every year I say the same thing, but as this interests me every year, it is worth repeating: Isn’t it fascinating how a patch of grassland that you can be very familiar with suddenly produces an abundance of flowers that you have not noticed much before? Clearly, rainfall and temperature patterns have an enormous influence (never mind grazing and burning) on which plants flower best when. This spring I have particularly noticed Arum lilies thriving, lots of Striga bilabiata, dainty white Kniphofia and more recently lots of Christmas bells – Sandersonia aurantiaca.


The Cape Chestnut (Calodendron capense) hasn’t been as spectacular as usual – the leaves appeared at the same time as the pink flowers. Someone told me that Scilla nervosa has been amazing this year, but I have not noticed that where I walk. Anyway – a few floral treasures to share:

Plenty of pale blue Thunbergia natalensis in shady areas


Asclepias gibba – in Lesotho all parts of this plant are eaten. Flowers like sweets, bulbs straight out of the ground and the leaves cooked with other greens.


Asclepias albens – always a spectacular find


Pachycarpus natalensis – love the two kinds of ant and the beetle lurking in the flower!


Aster bakerianus


Kniphofia – most likely breviflora


Vernonia hirsuta with attendant fly


Hypericum lalandii – the tiny indigenous Hypericum, not the invasive shrub.


Alepidea natalensis


Ajuga ophrydis – Bugle plant


Cyperus spharocephalus


Dierama luteoalbidium


Morea possible inclinata


Pentanisia prunelloides


Sisyanthus trichostomus – the Hairy Grass-Flower. I think I may have found Sisyanthus fanniniae too, but the photo is dreadful, so I can’t be sure.


I have never come across this pale Gladiolus before. Not sure what the species is but possibly serica as the stems are really hairy.


Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Continuing on from last month’s dead things, here is a tiny baby Skink which I found next to the dog’s water bowl


I first thought that this might be the larder of a Fiscal Shrike, but I’m sure something larger like a raptor must have eaten something and left the gizzards on this pole


A juvenile Fiscal Shrike which was stuck in the water tank


A pretty tame Black-backed Jackal that had been lying in the long grass in one of our sheep day camps, sometimes terrible creatures for us farmers but still beautiful to look at. This one was only about 20m away, taken with my cellphone. I managed to herd it around into the purple flowers for a more visually appealing shot!


Some cracks in the mud of Mavela Dam, hopefully it’ll be full again by the end of summer! Still waiting for a big rain.


“Working for Water” did a very good job cutting and helping to clear some invasive alien wattle trees on our farm. Hopefully I’ll be able to take a photograph of this corner one day and it will be bugweed and wattle free!


Couple of beetles fighting over a mate


2 large Rhino Beetles


A large fern next to a small pond in the veld


The Rinkhals have been doing the rounds on Copperleigh recently.


I’m not sure if this is a fly or a bee as I’ve never seen one before, but the colour was very striking on the brown fur of this cow


Reedbuck Doe


Reedbuck Ram


A spider in its dewey web on the ground

I took the dogs for a walk through the veld one Sunday, and took the following images, this is a panoramic view of Inhlosane in the distance


Very happy to have running streams


Red hot pokers


Pink Wildflowers


Arum Lily


Boston Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

October has been a busy month, not much time at home to explore, so few sightings. There was a final snowfall at the beginning of the month, then the weather settled into a summer pattern, regular thunderstorms, rain and misty days between hot ones.


One misty day a pair of Common Reedbuck ventured close to the house, unhurriedly grazing as the passed by. I had several close-up encounters on different predawn mornings with individual Reedbuck.





The moist conditions have produced many flowers, they sparkled at me as I passed by. The few I managed to find time to photograph were Asparagus africanus, Monopsis decipiens and Oxalis smithiana.


Asparagus africanus


Monopsis decipiens


Oxalis smithiana

A tiny Lacewing sp. perched on the kitchen towel.



There have been several lovely moths including these two, an Emerald sp. and one unidentified.


Moth – Emerald sp.


Unidentified moth (suggestions welcome)

Tiny Dunce Caps, Conocybe tenera; popped up in the lawn after rain as did a False Earth-star.


Tiny Dunce Caps – Conocybe tenera


False Earth-star

The Village Weavers have been very busy in the Pin Oak and in an adjacent Plane Tree Spectacled Weavers have built a few nests. The Piet-my-Vrou, Red-chested Cuckoo finally started calling on the 19 October. I also saw an African Harrier-Hawk flying by.

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.


All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.


Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

The onset at last of the rainy season is so welcome, that one doesn’t mind days of grey, mizzling weather – which is no good for taking great photographs. It also doesn’t put a damper on the excitement of seeing a pair of Wattled Cranes looming large right next to the road.


Wattled Cranes

And it is always pleasing to see Grey Crowned Cranes, there were a group of six on The Drift one morning, flying off north


Grey Crowned Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Red-capped Lark, African Dusky Flycatcher, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Great Egret, African Darter, Greater Striped Swallow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Grassbird, African Reed-warbler


African Reed-Warbler

Red-necked Spurfowl, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler


Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Burchell’s Coucal, Bokmakierie, Cape Sparrow, Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Mousebird, African Paradise-flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, , African Hoopoe, Pin-tailed Whydah, Olive Thrush, Spur-winged Goose


Spur-winged Goose

Lanner Falcon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Cattle Egret (closely roosting overnight near the dam)


Cattle Egret

Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant (also at the dam on a tree in the island where it was perching room only)


White-breasted Cormorant

Cape Longclaw, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Crow, Cape Robin-chat, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Pipit,


African Pipit

Red-collared Widowbird, Village Weaver, White-throated Swallow, Cape Weaver


Cape Weaver

Brown-throated Martin, Southern Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Little Grebe, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, African Spoonbill (taking a break from feeding)


African Spoonbill

Common Waxbill, Cape Turtle-dove, Pied Starling, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-chested Cuckoo, Helmeted Guineafowl, Amethyst Sunbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Double-collared, Sunbird, African Stonechat, Cape Canary, Cape White-eye, African Fish-eagle


African Fish-Eagle

Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Boubou, Forest Canary, Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Goose (the gosling turning into gangling teenagers)


Egyptian Geese

Red-knobbed Coots were feeding three newly-hatched chicks


Red-knobbed Coot

Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck


Yellow-billed Duck

Boston Wildlife Sightings – August 2016

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We saw quite a bit at Stormy Hill this August. The Bushbuck pair were visiting, as well as the Reedbuck. The resident Duiker is wandering around.


Resident Duiker wandering around

A vlei rat was helping itself to some horse food leavings at the stables.


Vlei rat

The Village Weavers and the Hadedas are building nests in the bird tree.


Village Weaver working hard on his nest to impress the female.

We went on a ride and saw a huge bird at the dam which we think was a lammergeier (it’s the only bird that fits the sighting in our bird book.) I’ve also included some photos of our resident Jackal Buzzards.


Jackal Buzzard


Jackal Buzzard

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

There is concern about the status of Secretarybirds in South Africa, which has been uplisted from Near-threatened to Vulnerable. This is due to factors such as habitat loss and collisions with fences and power lines. BirdLife South Africa has a special research project on these birds which can be followed at https://www.facebook.com/secretarybirdconservation. It is always a highlight to spot them in the field, and especially in an agricultural setting where they appear to adapt to their surroundings.



Equally pleasing was catching sight of a Wattled Crane, a long distance away from the camera.


Wattled Crane

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Cape Glossy Starling, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Natal Spurfowl, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Red-necked Spurfowl, Spur-winged Goose, African Firefinch, Cape Wagtail,


Cape Wagtail

Black-headed Oriole, Southern Boubou, African Wattled Lapwing, African Spoonbill, Grey Crowned Crane, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Cape Longclaw,


Cape Longclaw

Olive Thrush, Red-billed Teal, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Southern Red Bishop, Red-capped Lark, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Robin-Chat, Three-banded Plover,


Three-banded Plover

Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-Dove, Jackal Buzzard, House Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, African Stonechat, Pied Starling, Cape Weaver, Drakensberg Prinia, Brown-throated Martin, Long-crested Eagle,


Long-crested Eagle

White-breasted Cormorant, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck (the male has a grey head and females black and white)


South African Shelduck

African Sacred Ibis, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Duck,


Yellow-billed Duck

Buff-streaked Chat,


Buff-streaked Chat (male)

Bokmakierie, Hadeda Ibis, Black-headed Heron, Wattled Crane, Village Weaver, Red-eyed Dove, Common Fiscal, Cape White-eye, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Speckled Mousebird,


Speckled Mousbirds

Sombre Greenbul, Amethyst Sunbird, Hamerkop, Secretarybird, Malachite Kingfisher


Malachite Kingfisher

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

Scattered bones and new life in August. Is anyone else missing the gusty winds usually prevalent during August?


We experienced mainly mild temperatures, apart from a couple of cold fronts that brought in some wonderful rain, between there were clear blue skies, spectacular sunrises and new green grass started covering the hillsides.


After the rain new life in popped up almost overnight. Dried out Moss, Selaginella dregei, greened up;


Selaginella dregei

Bracken Pteridium aquilinum and Tree Fern Cyathea dregei fronds started unfurling.


Pteridium aquilinum


Cyathea dregei

Colourful spots appeared in the new grass, Apodolirion buchananii one of my favourite first spring flowers,


Apodolirion buchananii

Dimorphotheca jucunda, Graderia scabra, Green-tipped Fire Lily, Cyrtanthus tuckii vibrantly red, Ledebouria ovatifolia, Nemesia caerulea and Ursinia tenuiloba.


Dimorphotheca jacunda


Dimorphotheca jacunda


Graderia scabra


Cyrtanthus tuckii


Ledebouria ovatifolia


Nemesia caerulea


Ursinia tenuiloba

A few dried out seed heads of Themeda triandra interspersed in unburnt areas.


Themeda triandra

Masses of Buddleja salviifolia flowers scent the air,


Buddleja salviifolia

new leaves of the Cabbage Trees, Cussonia paniculata wave like a feather dusters on long trunks


Cussonia paniculata

and the delicate yellow Ouhout, Leucosidea sericea flowers are attracting hover flies, bees and birds.


Leucosidea sericea


Leucosidea sericea

I found a few huge Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris after the rain.


Agaricus campestris

Revealed in burnt off areas were two sets of scattered bones. I think the skull is of a Porcupine and the other set was a small antelope, probably a Duiker. As there seemed to be little disturbance of the bones I think they died of natural causes.


Porcupine skull


Remains possibly of a Duiker

The Common Reedbuck are still keeping close to the house and one evening a female and male casually picked their way grazing as they moved.


Common Reedbuck (female)


Common Reedbuck (male)

An exciting find was a pile of what I’m sure was relatively fresh Eland droppings.


Eland droppings

The Village Weavers are back at the Pin Oak in the garden and one male was very busy starting to build a nest. Black-headed Orioles, Black-backed Puffbacks, Cape Robin-chats, Fork-tailed Drongos, Cape White-eyes, Speckled Pigeons and Southern Boubous are some of the birds I’ve seen round the house and at the birdbaths. The Fish Eagle I hear regularly calling from the valley.


Male Village Weaver building a nest


Male Village Weaver building a nest

On my way home one day I spotted a tiny, ±2mm Crab spider, Family Thomisidae on the road. Unusual for me as I’d never seen a black one before, the ones I normally see are yellow, green or pink.


Crab Spider

On Mt. Shannon, Mondi Plantation, Philip came across a very weak Long-crested Eagle on the ground, it had a ring on one leg. On investigation he discovered that it had been ringed by Lindy Jane Thompson, as an adult bird, on the 25th March 2015, on the Boston-Dargle Road. When he returned it had gone, leaving no trace.


Long-crested Eagle

On another day we saw a pair of South African Shelducks, Yellow-billed Ducks and a Reed Cormorant on the dam as we walked past.


Three Yellow-billed ducks in the foreground, two South African Shelduck in the middle (male and female), and a Reed Cormorant in the background.

Kamberg Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Pamela Ellenberger Kleiman

Being new to the district I hope to be able to contribute sightings occasionally from the Kamberg Conservancy.

A view from the D450 across the hill where 2 farmers regularly put out carcasses for the Vultures. As an atlasser I have seen a group of up to 40+ individuals flying in the area.


During the first 2 weeks of May I was privileged to see a large flock of Southern Bald Ibis in 4 different areas, the main one along the D450


I see this pair of Grey Crowned Cranes regularly along our valley which has a series of farm dams in it.


I love the name Groundscraper Thrush. The only time I have seen them they have been calling from the top of the tallest trees!


Red-throated Wryneck, a permanent visitor to my garden.


During May the Black-headed Oriole was often in the garden. Now in June I no longer hear it.


African Harrier-hawk is often seen in the Oak trees along our valley much to the annoyance of many of the small birds.


Just a picture of a Long-crested Eagle giving the eye to two Hadedas.


On the 23rd May there were still White Storks around despite the fact that we had already had a few mornings of quite heavy frost.


Hottentot Teal that were a new atlas recording for our area.


On the road to Fairview farm I recorded 2 pairs and 2 individual Secretarybirds last week.


Buff-streaked Chat. This is a Species I am delighted to be finding more and more often in our area.


There is an ever present flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks on ponds on one of our dairy farms.


Another new atlas recording – rather a bad shot, unfortunately of a Black Crake on Connington’s small dam.


This Denham’s Bustard was also another new atlas recording which I saw along the main road to Kamberg.


It is such a pleasure to have a pair of Lanner Falcons on Connington. They give me the occasional fly-past.


High up on grass veld last week I was surprised to find 6 Wattled Crane – such beautiful creatures.


A very skittish and unexpected visitor to my garden on Connington this week was a Black Sparrowhawk, only just managed this record shot before it flew off.


Great to be back in the country and be able to see Duiker wandering across the fields in front of my cottage.


June 21st. Full moon breaking through the cloud.


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.


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


Gaudy commodore


Greenbanded swallowtail


Painted lady


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


a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)


Male Malachite in eclipse


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


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.


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.


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


The Long-crested Eagle is still around


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.


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


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.



Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat


Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills


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.


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

Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – July, August and September 2015

Jul, Aug, Sep 2015 header

Karkloof Conservation Centre

We had regular sightings of up to 86 different bird species at the Karkloof Conservation Centre and nearby farmlands visible from the road. The winter months had surprisingly better lists than spring!

View from the Crowned Crane Hide in Winter

View from the Crowned Crane Hide in Winter

On the 21st August, Karin Nelson reported a sighting of the first Steppe Buzzard of the season in the Karkloof as she was travelling back from her visit to Benvie Gardens. On the 2nd September, we had our first sighting of the Yellow-billed Kite here at the Centre. It’s always exciting to see the migrants return, understanding that many of them have endured a tough journey.

The Wattled Crane Hide was full of life as the sun rose to greet the day. By the time the light was good enough for a photo, the Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes had already flown off. These three Wattled Cranes stayed around for a little while though.

The Wattled Crane Hide was full of life as the sun rose to greet the day. By the time the light was good enough for a photo, the Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes had already flown off. These three Wattled Cranes stayed around for a little while though.

We have had great sightings of all three crane species (a perk of having them breed in the area), which is something members of the Karkloof Conservancy can be proud of, as this indicates suitable wetland and grassland habitat allowing a healthy environment.

The Wattled Cranes were extremely active and even gave us a rendition of the "Can-Can" dance.

The Wattled Cranes were extremely active and even gave us a rendition of the “Can-Can” dance.

We must not be complacent though, as there are a number of threats we face, which can be of detriment to these stately birds, as well as other fauna and flora. Threats include but are not limited to drainage of wetlands (no matter how big or small), fracking, developments that put pressure on an already sensitive environment, and not to forget the dreaded N3 Bypass.

A typical winter scene with Wattled Cranes amongst the White-faced Ducks in the foreground and a Common Reedbuck grazing in the background.

A typical winter scene with Wattled Cranes amongst the White-faced Ducks in the foreground and a Common Reedbuck grazing in the background.

Adam Riley, of Rockjumper Birding Tours, brought visitors to the hides on the 15 December, who were thrilled to see 4 Wattled Cranes at the Loskop pan. Two of the birds had rings and stayed there for the remainder of the day looking a lot like a couple. The one on the far left is Mbeche’s sibling (Mbeche is our adopted Wattled Crane that was collected in the Karkloof as a second egg after being abandoned) and the one next to our charmer is its assumed partner that was colour ringed as a chick by Brent Coverdale and Tanya Smith in October 2013 at Impendle Nature Reserve. This is the first re-sighting of the Impendle bird since it fledged.

Wattled Cranes by Adam Riley

Wattled Cranes by Adam Riley

Other sightings included: African Black Duck; African Black Swift; African Darter; African Fish-Eagle; African Hoopoe; African Jacana; African Marsh-Harrier; African Olive-Pigeon; African Pipit; African Sacred Ibis; African Snipe; African Spoonbill;

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill

African Stonechat; African Wattled Lapwing; Amethyst Sunbird; Black Crake; Black-headed Heron; Black-shouldered Kite; Blacksmith Lapwing; Black-winged Lapwing; Blue Crane; Brown-throated Martin; Buff-streaked Chat; Burchell’s Coucal; Cape Canary; Cape Crow; Cape Robin-chat; Cape Shoveler; Cape Turtle-dove; Cape Wagtail; Cardinal Woodpecker; Common Fiscal; Crowned Lapwing; Crowned Lapwing; Dark-capped Bulbul; Drakensberg Prinia; Egyptian Goose; Fan-tailed Widowbird; Forest Buzzard; Fork-tailed Drongo; Giant Kingfisher; Green Wood-Hoopoe; Grey Crowned Crane; Grey Heron; Hadeda Ibis; Hamerkop; Helmeted Guineafowl; Hottentot Teal; Jackal Buzzard;

A Jackal Buzzard caught some rodent salad.

A Jackal Buzzard caught some rodent salad.

Lanner Falcon; Levaillant’s Cisticola; Little Grebe; Little Swift; Long-crested Eagle;

Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

Long-tailed Widowbird; Malachite Kingfisher; Natal Spurfowl; Olive Thrush; Olive Woodpecker; Osprey;

This Osprey was seen daily. This sighting was out of season for inland distribution.

This Osprey was seen daily. This sighting was out of season for inland distribution.

Pied Crow; Pied Kingfisher; Pied Starling; Pin-tailed Whydah; Purple Heron; Red-billed Quelea; Red-billed Teal; Red-eyed Dove; Reed Cormorant; South African Shelduck; Southern Black Flycatcher; Southern Boubou; Southern Grey-headed Sparrow; Southern Red Bishop; Speckled Mousebird; Speckled Pigeon; Spur-winged Goose; Village Weaver; White-breasted Cormorant; White-throated Swallow; Wood Sandpiper; Yellow-billed Duck; and Yellow-fronted Canary.

Orange Ground-Thrush Project @ Benvie – Karin Nelson

Under the guidance and supervision of Prof. Colleen Downs of UKZN, I have started an exciting project on the Orange Ground-Thrush. These birds are uncommon residents of the KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Forests. These forests are classified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, IBA’s, as they have important bird, tree and flowering plant species.

Orange Ground-Thrush by Karin Nelson

Orange Ground-Thrush by Karin Nelson

Benvie lies within these Mistbelt Forests, hosting a healthy population of Orange Ground-Thrush. With the support and enthusiasm of John and Jenny Robinson of Benvie, I have started catching and colour-ringing some thrushes.

The engraved colour ring used to identify the birds from a distance using binoculars or photographs

The engraved colour ring used to identify the birds from a distance using binoculars or photographs

I have also taken blood samples which will be analysed by UKZN staff for genetics, relatedness, population and sex. In the future, we will also be assessing breeding biology to determine factors such as nest success, fidelity, sites used, and threats.

Bird Ringing @ Gartmore – Karin Nelson

Winter proves to be a difficult time to do bird ringing at the Gartmore hide, as the mealies have been turned into silage, causing the mist nets to be fairly exposed. Karin was, however, grateful that a large flock of Red-billed Quelea did not fly into her nets. Despite the slow morning, she managed to catch 10 birds, with 3 of these being re-traps:

  • 4 Levaillant’s Cisticola
  • 2 Southern Red Bishop
  • 2 African Stonechat
  • 1 Cape Robin Chat
  • 1 Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

Karin also managed to list 43 different species during the morning, which includes this Giant Kingfisher which was a highlight to the day.

Giant Kingfisher by Karin Nelson

Giant Kingfisher by Karin Nelson

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth

An Orange-breasted Bush Shrike which we have had in our garden at Mbona. They are not on our bird list and have never heard them calling here. SABAP2 does show this is the edge of their range, but probably more down towards Albert Falls dam. I saw this little one outside our bedroom window and then again one week later when he flew into a window stunning himself. Fortunately not too bad, but we were able to pick him up for a photo shoot before he/she flew away. Beautiful colours!

Orange-breasted Bush Shrike by Richard Booth

Orange-breasted Bush Shrike by Richard Booth

I’ve included a picture of one of the lovely orchids that grow in our COOL forest: Polystachya pubescens.

Polystachya pubescens, an orchids that grow in the cool forest at Mbona

Polystachya pubescens, an orchids that grow in the cool forest at Mbona

“Twitching bug” bites the Campbell’s – Lisa Campbell

The Campbell family are becoming real bird watchers of late, and they were very excited about a “lifer” for them and for their garden.

Groundscraper Thrush photographed by Lisa Campbell

Groundscraper Thrush photographed by Lisa Campbell

This Groundscraper Thrush had the Campbell paparazzi snap its good side for the rest of the community to enjoy. Well done and we look forward to future contributions!

Crane Custodian – Tony Matchett (Agric. Manager of Benson Farming)

There is no better reward for a crane custodian than stumbling upon a Wattled Crane chick that has been smartly hidden by its parents.

Wattled Crane chick playing "hide-and-go-seek" in the veld.

Wattled Crane chick playing “hide-and-go-seek” in the veld.

Tony luckily had his camera on hand and took a few photos before he left promptly, limiting the stress levels of the birds, and allowing the chick and parents to reunite. This was attempt number two for the pair of Wattled cranes this last breeding season, as they unfortunately lost their first chick. Let’s hope we see this one flying amongst the 311 others.

The Wattled Crane parents feeding in the burnt veld.

The Wattled Crane parents feeding in the burnt veld.

Tony took this photograph which represents part of the floater flock of about 50 Grey Crowned Cranes (they couldn’t all fit in the frame!) that were enjoying the safe lands that are provided by the Benson family.

Part of a flock of 50 Grey Crowned Cranes with a Common Reedbuck in the background.

Part of a flock of 50 Grey Crowned Cranes with a Common Reedbuck in the background.

This flock were seen daily for almost 2 months and spent the whole day there, only splitting up to find a place to roost for the night. A Common Reedbuck seemed to enjoyed their company, while grazing on the lush cover crop planted as part of the no-till farming technique which plays a significant role in preventing soil erosion.

Grey Crowned Cranes are the only cranes that can perch in trees.

Grey Crowned Cranes are the only cranes that can perch in trees.

Capturing the Moments – Chris and Ingy Larkin

Chris and Ingy managed to capture these gorgeous photographs during their visit to the bird hides.

Purple Heron well camouflaged. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Purple Heron well camouflaged. Photographed by Chris Larkin

African Snipe on the cold and frosty vegetation. Photographed by Chris Larkin

African Snipe on the cold and frosty vegetation. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Levaillant’s Cisticola in flight. Photographed by Ingy Larkin

Levaillant’s Cisticola in flight. Photographed by Ingy Larkin

Grey Crowned Crane in flight. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Grey Crowned Crane in flight. Photographed by Chris Larkin

Ingy Larkin photographed this White-breasted Cormorant with a fairly large fish in its beak.

Ingy Larkin photographed this White-breasted Cormorant with a fairly large fish in its beak.

Chris Larkin photographed this special sighting of the Osprey emerging out of the water with a meal fit for a king.

Chris Larkin photographed this special sighting of the Osprey emerging out of the water with a meal fit for a king.

White-breasted Cormorant and an African Darter having a squabble. Chris Larkin captured this typical book club scene.

White-breasted Cormorant and an African Darter having a squabble. Chris Larkin captured this typical book club scene.

Grey Crowned Crane puffed out after a bath. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Grey Crowned Crane puffed out after a bath. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Munching breakfast together. Photographed by Ingy Larkin.

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – September 2015

Rupert Powell – Bukamanzi Cottage

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

2015-09 mouse

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

A Frog…

2015-09 frog

and a moth

2015-09 moth

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

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

Fly 1

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

Fly 2

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

Fly 3

Mike and Anne Weeden – River Run Farm, Hopedale

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

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

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

Cape Batis

Cape Batis

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

Tulbaghia leucantha

Tulbaghia leucantha

Hypoxis - such bright yellow stars

Hypoxis – such bright yellow stars

Scadoxus puniceus - Snake Lily

Scadoxus puniceus – Snake Lily

Cyrtanthus contractus after the fire

Cyrtanthus contractus after the fire

Cheerful Senecio speciosus

Cheerful Senecio speciosus

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

Tritonia lineata

Tritonia lineata

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

Merwilla plumbea buds

Merwilla plumbea buds

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

Orthonna natalensis?

Orthonna natalensis?

Cyrtanthus breviflorus in the wetland

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Cyrtanthus breviflorus

Arums flowering already too

Zantedeschia aethiopica

Zantedeschia aethiopica

Tiny orange mushrooms amongst the bracken fronds



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

Common Reedbuck

Common Reedbuck

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

Samango monkey eating a lemon

Samango monkey eating a lemon

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

Samango monkey eating my fruit

Samango monkey eating my fruit

Katie Robinson – Lemonwood

Wood Owls: I have been looking after Woody

Woody wood owl

and Jesse

Jesse the Wood Owl

Jesse the Wood Owl

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

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

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

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

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

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

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



and this one was taken from our driveway

Inhlosane at Sunset

Inhlosane at Sunset

and this is by far my favourite capture so far

Inhlosane in the late afternoon

Inhlosane in the late afternoon

The sun rays were magnificent over the ridge towards Ivanoe



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

Little stream

Little stream

There’s an abundance of orange ladybirds at the moment

Pole with Orange Ladybirds

Pole with Orange Ladybirds

Yet have only seen a couple of locusts so far

Black and Blue Locust

Black and Blue Locust

A spider trying to stock it’s larder

Spider on its web

Spider on its web

A crab was a bit lost running up the trail!

Crab on Trail

Crab on Trail

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

Dung Beetle

Dung Beetle

Some lovely wildflowers

Wildflowers 1

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

Green Snake

Green Snake

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

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

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

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

Red herald snake

Red herald snake

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

Porcupine was visiting

Porcupine was visiting

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

Glow Worm

Glow Worm

…a Glow Worm!

Glow Worm

Glow Worm

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

Old Farm Gate at Sunset

Old Farm Gate at Sunset


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



Pat and Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm

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

Reeduck grazing the burn

Reeduck grazing the burn

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

Petronia I think - nesting time

Petronia I think – nesting time

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



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

African Harrier-Hawk (previously known as a Gymnogene)

African Harrier-Hawk (previously known as a Gymnogene)

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

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

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

Dark-capped Bulbul

Dark-capped Bulbul

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

Ringed Wattled Crane

Ringed Wattled Crane

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

Black-shouldered Kite

Black-shouldered Kite

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

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

Common Duiker following a Serval

Common Duiker following a Serval

Here the Serval is out in the open

Serval being followed

Serval being followed

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

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


Sunset over the farm


Karkloof Wildlife Sightings – April, May and June 2015

White Faced Duck

Karkloof Conservation Centre – Patrick Cahill:

When Twané gave me her personal list of sightings, she said that she had seen 14 Wattled Cranes on April the first. I thought this was her idea of an April Fool’s, but she was being serious!

Wattled Cranes

Wattled Cranes at the Loskop Pan by Twané Clarke

Pairs of Grey Crowned Cranes have been hanging around the Loskop Hide, but their nest building appears to have come to an end.

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes

A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes by Patrick Cahill

I recently saw a Natal Spurfowl (aka Natal Francolin before the taxonomists started messing with our glossaries) and several visitors have reported them during the month.

Natal Spurfowl

Natal Spurfowl by Patrick Cahill

A big thanks to the Karkloof residents who assisted with the NguniTV team to produce the excellent documentary for 50/50 on our Cranes. Congratulations to Charlie and Twané for their performance on the box. They are prepared (for a small fee) to autograph your TV sets. It will be a great loss to the Karkloof if they are tempted to forsake us for a career on the screen! Watch it here: https://youtu.be/9Cb_Tddm0ng

Many visitors have reported regular sightings of Black-winged Lapwings and Malachite Kingfishers, whilst a pair of African Jacana appear to have taken up squatters rights on the Loskop Pan. A Pied Kingfisher was spotted recently saying grace before taking the plunge to get lunch.

Let us prey. Pied Kingfisher by Patrick Cahill

Let us prey. Pied Kingfisher by Patrick Cahill

Other sightings included:

Southern Red Bishop, Dark-capped Bulbul, Forest Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-fronted Canary, Familiar Chat, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Zitting Cisticola, Red-knobbed Coot, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Cape Crow, Pied Crow, African Darter, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, White-faced Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Great Egret, Yellow-billed Egret, Common Fiscal, Southern Black Flycatcher, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, Little Grebe, Helmeted Guineafowl, Hamerkop, African Marsh-Harrier, Black-headed Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, African Sacred Ibis, Hededa Ibis, Southern Bald Ibis, Giant Kingfisher, Black-shouldered Kite, African Wattled Lapwing, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, Common Moorhen, Barn Owl, African Olive Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, Three-banded Plover, Drakensberg Prinia, Red-billed Quelea, African Rail, Cape Robin-Chat, Secretarybird, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler, African Snipe, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Spoonbill, African Stonechat, White Stork, Amethyst Sunbird, Barn Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Hottentot Teal, Red-billed Teal, Cape Wagtail, Common Waxbill, Village Weaver, Pin-tailed Whydah, Fan-tailed Widowbird, and Cardinal Woodpecker.

Bird Ringing @ Mbona – Karin Nelson:

I was recently privileged to do some bird ringing in Mbona Private Nature Reserve upon invitation by Richard Booth. Forest edge birding is always very special, as you never know what you may catch. This day being no exception!

Bush Blackcap by Karin Nelson

Bush Blackcap by Karin Nelson

We caught, ringed and released 27 birds, representing 19 different species which included:
Bush Blackcap, Orange Ground-Thrush, Barratt’s Warbler, Lemon Dove, Cape Batis, Forest Canary, White-starred Robin, Swee Waxbill, Sombre Greenbul and Dark-backed Weaver.

Orange Ground Thrush by Richard Booth

Orange Ground-Thrush by Richard Booth

A great ringing morning for me with 2 species that I’d never ringed before. It was also good to meet some of the Mbona residents who came to see what bird ringing is about. We plan to have further ringing sessions, possibly once a season at Mbona.

Barats Warbler by Karin Nelson

Barratt’s Warbler by Karin Nelson

Thanks to Richard for the invite and a great morning.

Cape Batis by Richard Booth

Cape Batis by Richard Booth

Mbona Private Nature Reserve – Richard Booth:

The Greater Double-collared Sunbirds are in our garden where they spend much of the day feeding in the Pink Plumes (Syncolostemon densiflorus) which are in bloom, a real favourite of theirs.

by Richard Booth

Male Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Richard Booth

by Richard Booth

Female Greater Double-collared Sunbird by Richard Booth

Some happy news from Mbona is that we have a pair of Cape Parrots nesting high up in a dead eucalyptus tree on our Reserve. We first discovered them in April and were then seen regularly at the site during May.

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Nesting Cape Parrots by Richard Booth

Mt. Gilboa Nature Reserve – Richard Booth:

During the walk at the Mount Gilboa Nature Reserve in April, which was organised by the Karkloof Conservancy and lead by Kevin McCann of the Wildlands Conservation Trust, as well as Donna Lay who is the manager of this reserve.

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

What stood out most in this grassland and wetland habitat, was a gorgeous display of these special White Nerine, Nerine pancratioides. One picture is enlarged to show a fly with a long proboscis coming in to feed and pollinate. Spoiler alert: This is the flower chosen for April in the Midlands Conservancies Forum calendar which will be on sale from September!

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Nerine pancratioides (White Nerine) by Richard Booth

Loskop Dairy Farm – AJ Liebenberg (bestuurder):

On the 16 April, AJ was fortunate enough to see a Serval catching mice or rats in the maize lands near the Polo grounds in the early hours – 00h30! He watched it jump around as it tried to pounce on the little rodents.

Common Duiker by AJ Liebenberg

Common Duiker by AJ Liebenberg

He has also been seeing a variety of buck around Loskop, which includes Common (Grey) Duiker, Common Reedbuck and a female Bushbuck that came into the garden.

Reedbuck ram by AJ Liebenberg

Reedbuck ram by AJ Liebenberg

Bushbuck doe by AJ Liebenberg

Bushbuck doe by AJ Liebenberg

Something he has been noticing more often are about 4 Warthogs in the cut maize lands near the club.

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Warthog by AJ Liebenberg

Another interesting offering were photographs of the Black-winged Lapwings which he noticed around the farmlands, especially under the irrigation systems. There are easily over a hundred of them that gather in an area. Shortly after his sighting, Graham and Trish McGill, from Umtentweni KZN, popped into the Conservation Centre and was desperately looking to photograph some of these birds for his website.

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

Black-winged Lapwing by AJ Liebenberg

AJ was quite happy for us to point out their location and allow him to get a little closer. Much to our amusement, he set up a portable bird hide under the Centre Pivot and waited patiently for them to get closer. This got all the locals driving by quite excited, as they all thought that someone was illegally hunting and immediately got on the phone to warn AJ. A good exercise to check if your neighbours are vigilant! Graham popped back to the Centre to excitedly show us his superb photographs. You can see his photos here:
SA Birding Photography

This is a great website to use when confirming the identification of a bird species.

Taking a Closer Look – Vicki Street:

Vikki, a regular visitor to our Conservation Centre, took these magnificent photographs in April of Damselflies, Ladybugs, Spiders, Flies and Butterflies. These creatures are often the food source for many of the birds that you see from our hides. At a recent talk at the KZN Midlands Bird Club meeting, David Johnson spoke about “50 ways to eat an insect”, which was not only humorous, but a wonderful insight into the many adaptations of insectivorous birds. Next time you’re birding, keep your eyes open for the little wonders.

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Photograph by Vicki Street

Wattled Crane – Andrew Cairncross:

Spent a very pleasant morning at Karkloof and was lucky enough to capture a Wattled Crane. It really is a superb place to visit.

Wattled Crane by Andrew Cairncross

Wattled Crane by Andrew Cairncross