Wildlife Sightings - October 2017

The Dargle Conservancy publishes stories, pictures, and comments, which our members send to us each month, mostly as received by us, and with minimal editing on our part. We cannot guarantee the correctness of any information contained in the Sightings nor do they necessarily reflect our views or opinions.

Please send your contributions to us, and feel free to comment on the sightings, or to ask any question by sending an e-mail to us here. Pictures should be at least 850px wide.

 

Garry Barlow - Portion 1 of the Farm Hazelmere

Spotted our first Leopard above our forest.

 

Barry and Rose Downard - Oaktree Cottage

In late September, we started noticing two Spotted Eagle Owls often sitting in the royal palm tree next to our house. Then, in early October we noticed the juvenile. Not great pics due to the palm leaf fronds… but a lovely sighting nonetheless.

Cape Eagle Owl chick

Cape Eagle Owl chick

Cape Eagle Owl chick

Cape Eagle Owl chick

Nicola Storkey - La Bon Vie

I never seem to grab my phone fast enough to snap the buck and birds I'd love to share, managed only this web.

web  

Pat and Sandra Merrick – Alury Farm, Lidgetton

A very interesting month – we received 162ml rain – 38ml in half an hour put much needed water into our dam which is now about half full.  All the water birds are now returning.  There is only one Blue Crane flying in to feed from the cattle tyres, so presume the female is sitting on a neighbouring farm which is where  he is flying from.

Blue Crane pair

Our pair of Blue Cranes visiting on the other side of our garden.

There is a pair of Wattled Cranes on the neighbour's dam (one with a tag so presume its the one who visited us last season). They arrived at the cattle tyres to feed but were only there for about ten minutes before flying off again.  Hopefully we will see more of them in future months now that the dam is filling.

The Lesser Striped Swallows started building their mud nest once again in the courtyard up against the neon light.  This was after we received 52ml rain.  They had been waiting for some mud to build with. They started on the 5th October.  Some days when it was cold and miz they didn’t build.

Lesser striped swallow sitting on wash line

Lesser Striped Swallow sitting on wash line.

They would sit on my hanging basket for hours cheeping madly. They have just finished the tunnel and now they are lining the nest with feathers. Saw one flying in with feather this morning. What is interesting about these birds is that when they have finished building the cup of the nest, they start to sleep inside the nest.  They are quite aggressive if other birds come into the courtyard. I had put some bread crumbs on the courtyard wall and the Bulbuls and Sparrows were having a feast until the Swallows saw them. Then there erupted a cacophony of noisy screeching and chasing off. 

Swallow nest

Lesser Striped Swallows sleep in their half made nest – note where last years nest was built above them.

Three Wagtail chicks were hatched on the 14th oct in my pot plant on front verandah.  They grow at an incredible rate with the adults feeding them every 5 minutes.  From dawn till dusk these wagtails never rest.  Incredible.

Wagtail with food for chicks"

Adult Wagtail about to feed her 3 chicks.

Two of the chicks grew very large but the third one seemed small and weak and they kept suffocating it by sitting on top of it,  especially as they outgrew the nest.

Wagtail chicks

Three Wagtail chicks at 2 weeks

On 28th October one flew off and the next morning the second large chick joined his sibling under the protection of my miniature roses in the front garden.  That seems to always be the spot in which they hide and the parents feed them there.  But when the sun comes out, they do too and  either sit on the rose bushes or on the warm tiles surrounding them. The 3rd chick disappeared on the 30th and I am not sure whats happened to it.  Feel very sad about it.

On the 18th October the Cape Robin started sitting on her three eggs in a nest in the large pot in my formal garden.  Two of them hatched out on 28th.  Both adults are feeding them but are very skittish. They fly off very quickly when we appear. Difficult to take a picture of the chicks as the nest is inbetween flowers and a Duranta bush with a leafy branch shading them.

We encountered a large puff adder on a walk one evening before the big thunder storm  the following day. 

The male Red-collared Widowbirds are now parading their flowing tails to the lady followers.

Red-collared Widowbird

Red-collared Widowbird

I have not seen the Buff-streaked Chats as they are nesting up in the hills.  We have about three pairs of white throated swallows about, but no sign of any nests around the house yet.

I managed to get a picture of our Barn Owlet on the balustrade after it set off the alarm once more.  They sometimes flew through the beams two or three times a night and seemed unperturbed about the sirens noise although my dogs hate the noise and howl incessantly.  They have been hunting on their own for the past three weeks and only occasionally do we hear them crashing onto the roof when landing.

Young Barn Owl

Young Barn Owl

As the dam started to fill the reedbuck would gather around the water in the evenings and have fun chasing each other in the shallows. 

Reedbuck

Reedbuck celebrating the filling of water into our dry dam.

Young reedbuck doe in a rock garden of spring watsonias

Young reedbuck doe in a rock garden of spring Watsonias.

Female reedbuck.

On one of our walks came across these two female reedbuck in the burnt-out forest behind our house.

Also six Blue Cranes in the shallows one evening.  Too dark to take clear pics from the verandah I’m afraid.  We saw two oribi on the 18th October running at speed across the hills behind the house.

Pat saw a jackal one morning limping across the hillside.

Other sightings:

Female Malachite Sunbird

Female Malachite Sunbird

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Sulphur shelf fungus

Sulphur shelf fungus growing on gum tree in our avenue

I found this pod beneath the pin oak trees – Is it a seed pod?

Earth star fungus - see observation by Christeen Grant below, also.

I think that this is one of the Senecios?

I think that this is Scilla kraussii.

Merwilla sp.

Merwilla sp. (formerly Scilla)

No idea what wild flower this is but was growing amongst rocks on hills

Raphianacne hirsuta

These flowers were growing in the dry bed of an underground stream

Diclis reptans with Oxalis sp.

Not sure what this flower with the peculiar leaves is?

These pictures were taken on the Dargle Conservancy trailcam:

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Common Duiker

Common duiker

Oribi

Oribi

Oribi

Oribi

Hare

Hare

Porcupine

Porcupine

   

 

Christeen Grant - Sitamani

A cut-off low-pressure system for a few days resulted in good rain and when the clouds parted on the 11 October the Drakensberg was covered in snow.

Snow covered Drakensberg

Since then we’ve experienced a number of damp, misty, rainy days. The grass frequently glittered with heavy dew at dawn.

Dew-laden grass

Our well finally has some water in it.

Green grass covers the hillside and on closer inspection a myriad of varied and colourful flowers are appearing, some of these are:

Ajuga ophrydis;

Ajuga ophrydis

Anthericum cooperi;

Anthericum cooperi

Asclepias albens;

 Asclepias albens

Asclepias cucullata;

Asclepias cucullata

Cyphia elata;

Cyphia elata

Helichrysum aureum;

Helichrysum aureum

the minute ±2mm flowers of Helichrysum caespititium;

Helichrysum caespititium

Indigofera hilaris;

Indigofera hilaris

Kniphofia bracystachya;

Kniphofia bracystachya

Ledebouria sp.;

Ledeboria sp.

Monopsis decipiens;

Monopsis decipiens

an orchid, Eulophia hians var. hians;

Eulophia hians

Pachycarpus natalensis;

Pachycarpus natalensis

Scabiosa columbaria;

Sacbiosa columbaria

a sedge, Cyperus spharerocephalus;

Cyperus spharerocephalus

Senecio oxyriifolius

Senecio oxyriifolius

and Stachys aethiopica.

Stachys aethiopica

Some of the grasses are already flowering:

Caterpillar grass, Harpochloa falx;

Caterpillar Grass - Harpochloa falx

a grass I haven’t been able to identify

Unidentified grass"

and red grass, Themeda triandra.

Themeda triandra

After the last few days of light rain false earth-star fungi have popped up.

False earth-star

There have been some unusual insects:

a cranefly;

Cranefly

a delightful grasshopper

Grasshopper

and an amazing monkey beetle sp. with very strongly developed hind legs that have sharp hooks that can create a pincer, that was burrowed into a Senecio flower.

Monkey beetle

One dewy morning I spotted a crab spider Thomisus sp.

Crab spider - Thomisus sp.

and later a sparkling spider web.

Spider web

My most delightful bird encounter was a Drakensberg Prinia, a locally common endemic, foraging in an Ouhout.

Drakensberg Prinia

The Lesser Striped Swallows returned on the 16 October, a bit later than usual. The Weavers don’t seem to be building nests at all this year.

Most evenings when I arrive home I see the Common Reedbuck grazing near the driveway and often see the Duiker in and around the garden.

 

Ashley Crookes - Copperleigh Farm

Ashley sent the following photos:

Millipede

Millipede

Mushrooms

Mushrooms growing in cow dung after the rain we had a few weeks ago.

Common platanna (African clawed frog)

Common platanna (African clawed frog)

Water monitor that went running across the road in the Lions River area

Water monitor that went running across the road in the Lions River area