Wildlife Sightings - January 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.

Nikki Brighton - Old Kilgobbin

Forests are the best spot to spend hot January days. The delicate Impatiens hochstetteri is flowering along the edges and there are fungi galore.

Streptocarpus are in bloom but difficult to photograph, so I am not including a blurry pic for the sake of it!

The white stars of Carissa bispinosa really glow in the shade

Carissabispinosa

Found lots of giant snails on the forest floor.

Giantsnails

In the grassland,  orchids have been good this season and I have been very pleased to come across these:

Habenaria dives

Habenaria dives

Satyrium longicauda

Satyrium longicauda

Another Habenaria – I think probably epipactidea, but not sure.

Habaneria possepipactidea

Also, Eulopia lentoglossa (but another fuzzy photo not worth sharing).

Vigna fructescens

Vigna fructescens

Kniphofia laiflora

Kniphofia laxiflora

Lotononis pod

And these beautiful seed heads – I think on Lotononis foliosa

I spent such a happy morning exploring Inhlosane this month. I simply had to share the loveliness. First time I have ever seen Berkheya leucaugeta, so that was a thrill. Not sure what the little pink plant beside the rocks is, I thought Erica sp. when I was on the hill, but unsure now. Can anyone help? Finding dense stands of the Parsley Tree (Heteromorpha) was also a delight, as it is one of my favourite trees. The views obviously need no mention! Do head up the hill before summer is over, to find some treasures of your own.

agapanthus and moss

Agapanthus and moss

agapanthus

Agapanthus

Berkheya leucaugeta

Berkheya leucaugeta

chironia baccifera

Chironia baccifera

craterocapsa tarsodes

Craterocapsa tarsodes

cycniumracemosum

Cycnium racemosum

erica

Erica

erica cerinthoides

Erica cerinthoides

eucomis humilis

Eucomis humilis

hebenstretia

Hebenstretia

heliophila rigidiuscula

Heliophila rigidiuscula

heteromorpha flower

Heteromorpha flower

jamesbritennia breviflora

Jamesbritennia breviflora

kniphofia laxiflora

Kniphofia laxiflora

morea brevistyla

Kniphofia laxiflora

pachycarpus natalensis

Pachycarpus natalensis

plectranthus

Plectranthus

protea

Protea

Satyriumneglectum

Satyrium neglectum

schizoglossum bidens

Schizoglossum bidens

silen

Silene

sophubia

Sophubia

Sutera floribunda

Sutera floribunda

tulbaghia leucantha

Tulbaghia leucantha

watsonia pillansii

Watsonia pillansii

Watsonia

Watsonia

Pat & Sandra Merrick - Albury Farm, Lidgetton

This has been a month of the hatching of bird chicks and the feeding of the fledglings. There were white eye chicks,
  White eye chicks
  yellow eyed canary,
Yellow eyed canary chicks
and wagtail chicks,
Wagtail chicks  
olive thrush and buff streaked chicks and lastly was so excited to see one juvenile cape robin.  I was beginning to wonder if there were any robin chicks this year. 
Juvenile Cape robin
I have had a lot of fun photographing the moms trying to feed their babies – the funniest moments were when an olive thrush mom was trying to force a long black stick like object into juveniles beak – he was having none of it and kept dropping it –

Mother  olive thrush trying to feed fledgling with some strange black stick like thing

she kept picking it up and trying again -  this went on for 5 mins without success – I just could not make out what this “food” was – either “shongololo” or the leg of a locust!!  The other time it was a dark capped bulbul female also trying to push something down fledglings throat and he was having none of it

Dark capped bulbul feeding chick

There have been an abundance of sunbirds and one in particular had me puzzled by its array of coloured feathers – can only presume a juvenile male sunbird getting its adult colours. (Please see explanation in the readers comments section below)

Unusual coloured sunbird

The white throated swallow female is back sitting on her nest on the verandah for the 2nd time this season.  About 12 days now.  The lesser striped swallows took 3 weeks to make their glorious multicoloured nest on the neon light in the courtyard. 
Completed lesser striped swallow nest
They did not like my maid staring at them through the window while she was washing dishes, so I eventually closed the curtains.  There were 3 different coloured soils – when the car was washed it left a puddle in the driveway and they used this mud until it dried up and then they used the stream. They actually slept in the nest long before completion which I found strange – perhaps they were testing the strength of it or just more comfy than outside.
Lesser striped swallow building her nest on neon light in court yard
I am not 100% sure that she is now sitting but have found a feather below the nest - a few days ago the pair of them came and groomed once more on the hanging basket for 15mins.

The birds have been chasing each other around a lot and 2 have flown into the doors on the verandah – one was a blue billed firefinch – very beautiful but the light was wrong and couldn’t get its scarlet red colours. 
Blue billed firefinch
It sat stunned for 15 mins and then flew off.  The other was a southern bou bou which we placed in a box.  When the box started vibrating, we released it unharmed.
One morning 2 blackheaded herons decided to walk around the garden – not 100% sure if they were perhaps juvenile grey herons

The pair of blue cranes have returned periodically to the dam but sadly no sign of a chick this year.  It may have been due to lack of rain.  The crested cranes arrive quite often.  The steppe buzzard is a regular visitor.  The fish eagles fly overhead quite often and their cry is always so special.

Rainfall for January was 116ml – 3rd lowest in 28 years

Amythest malesunbird

Amythest male sunbird

Either female malachite or lesser collared sunbird

Either female malachite or lesser collared sunbird

Juvenile buffstreaked chat

Juvenile buff streaked chat

Male lessercollared sunbird or Southern double collared sunbird

Male lesser collared sunbird or Southern double-collared sunbird

Malachite male sunbird with yellow pectoral feathers

Malachite male sunbird with yellow pectoral feathers

Spectacled weaver

Spectacled weaver

Disa chrysostachya Red torch orchid

Disa chrysostachya – Red torch orchid

Ashley Crookes - Copperleigh Farm

A black-backed jackal I've managed to get quite close to over the past couple of months, here he was only about 20m away when I snapped his pic with the cellphone.

Blackbacked jackal

Too cold and misty to fly, so all the birds were sitting in the shed for protection

Birds sheltering from cold

A shell from an insect I found in our indigenous forest

insct exoskeleton

Beetles that were making a meal out of the pumpkin flowers

Beetles eating pumpkin flower

A beautiful male Malachite sunbird that was being chased by two Amethyst sunbirds, he flew into the glass window so I picked him up and put him in the flower pot to recover. He flew off about 30mins later.

Malachite sunbird

Orange and black moth

OrangeMoth

I found two spiders this month which I've never seen before, so if anyone knows what they are please let us know! The first, this black one with a yellow stripe on the top of his abdomen

steatoda

and the second came in with some of the vegetables which were picked, the only reference I've found online was to the Australian Redback Spider which is related to the Black widow, so not sure if it has now made it's way here...

Redbackspider

Some scat found in the middle of our farm, possibly from an otter as it has lots of bits of crab in it

Scat possibly from Otter

The grassland in the Dargle is looking a lot better than last year...

grassland

...which also means that alien invasive plants such as this American bramble are going crazy all over the area. Please do your best to get rid of it, even though it is so tasty!

bramble

The little springs were still just managing to keep going

stream

Brunsvigia Natalensis or Natal candelabra Flower

Brunsvigia Natalensis Brunsvigia Natalensis

I found this in the veld one day and wasn't sure what it was, so asked Nikki for help:

Sand Apple Pygmaeothamnus chamaedendrum

Response from Nikki Brighton : "I think it is probably Sand Apple - Pygmaeothamnus chamaedendrum. What a fabulous find! I have only ever seen this plant at Verkykerskop."

 

Rose & Barry Downard - Oak Tree Cottage

Boomslang in our Cape Chestnut, we think? Probably about 1.5m long.

Boomslang Boomslang

As I was getting the shot of this crowned crane sitting on a neighbour’s tree, another 4 crowned cranes flew past, heading south towards Hopedale.

Crowned crane

Josh Field - Mount Park Guest Farm

Josh rented out one of the Dargle Conservancy trail cameras for two months and here is some of the wildlife he managed to capture. If you would like to view the great videos he also managed to capture, then please go onto the Dargle facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/dargle.kzn

Some bushbuck does walking through the forest

Bushbuck

Bushbuck Ram walking along the trail

Bushbuck ram

Another bushbuck ram looking behind him

Bushbuckram

A large bushpig

Bushpig 

Comments from our readers:

Antoinette McInnes: "Awesome, thank you so much, love seeing the beautiful pics and brings such gratitude for living here xx"

Sandra Merrick: " I would like the experts opinion on this birds colouring which has blue, green, yellow and rust colouring."

is this a malachite sunbird?

Response from David Allan, Durban Natural Science Museum: "Malachite Sunbird.

The light can play tricks with the iridescent green plumage, making it appear bluish/purplish is some lights. There is also some individual variation in this regard, with some males having decidedly bluish/purplish plumage in places  and recently an all-blue Malachite sunbird was photographed in southern Africa!

Males of this species also moult into a non-breeding plumage which is similar to that of the female and while in transition can appear decidedly strange. As can juvenile males (which look like females) moulting into adult breeding dress." 

Colin Whittle: "Good afternoon to you!

Took me a while to get round to opening up all the waiting emails; but what a joy when I got to Dargle Conservancy Wildlife.

Such a wide variety of flora and fauna. Outstanding photography. Awesomely committed conservation-minded contributors!

Is it at all possible to get more information for me on the bagworm which was attached to the window pane?  I am only familiar with the Wattle Bagworm.

Many thanks and congratulations on your superb ‘publication’."

Response from Dr Jason Londt: "Sorry – but no – there are about 30 species in the family Psychidae (Bagworms). I’m not sure if there is a specialist in SA – if so I am not aware of the person. It’s not the common wattle bagworm."

Response from Paul Van Uytrecht: "Ash, your first spider is a false button spider genus Steatoda. The second spider, would have been a cousin of the Australian red-back, most likely Laterodectus cinctus or East coast black button".