Wildlife Sightings - January 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Dargle Conservancy Wildlife Sightings. As December is a disruptive month for many people, and we receive far fewer sightings in the last month of the year we have combined December 2017 and January 2018 contributions in this bumper report.

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 reported 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.


Michael Goddard - Riverdale

Michael and friends climbed Inhlosane to greet the rising sun on the first day of 2018

Sunrise from Inhlosane on New Year's day Sunrise from Inhlosane on New Year's day

Michael also sent us these pictures: Boomslang


A vlei spider - one of the water orb-web spiders (Tetragnathidae family, Leucauge sp.)

Barry and Rose Downard - Oaktree Cottage

At the end of December Barry submitted the following photo and comment:

Shaggy mane mushroom

"Right, sit up straight and face the front... time to learn something (in case you didn't know). Found these guys in the garden yesterday. It's known as the Shaggy Mane mushroom (Coprinus comatus). When I went to look for them today, they'd vanished. Some research (thank you Mr Google), indicates that this mushroom actually eats itself (autosuggestion). Autodigestion begins at the edge of the cap and proceeds inwards. The cap opens and the edge curls upward as digestion takes place, exposing successive layers of spores to air currents. You're welcome."

In the previous Wildlife Sightings Barry reported seeing a Spotted Eagle Owl on the roof of their home. On the first day of the year Barry followed up this sighting, writing:

"Well, well... some say that owls are omens of bad fortune... if so, I'm in big trouble. Personally, I think this is a wonderful omen on the first day of a new year. Looked out the window to see a Spotted Eagle owl, in the rain, sitting on one of my original Koos Malgas concrete owls from the Owl House (in Nieu Bethesda)".

Cape Eagle Owl Cape Eagle Owl Cape Eagle Owl

Barry also sent us this photo of millipede assassin bug nymphs feeding on a dead 'songololo'.

Assassin bug nymphs feeding on dead millipede  

Christeen Grant - Sitamani, Boston - December sightings

December has been the month of water in varying forms, soft mist, layered clouds, light showers, torrential thunderstorm rain and hail, often ending the day with a rainbow in the evening light.

Although the hills are vibrant green, flowers are sparse, though most species are represented, the exception being the usual variety of orchids, only one species flowering. A Wild Pomegranate, Burchellia bubalina, that I planted over twenty years ago, has flowered for the first time, a wonderful memory of Mum.

Wild Pomegranate Burchellia bubalina

Some of the flowers in bloom are: Anthericum cooperi, Anthericum cooperi Asclepias albens, Asclepias albens Berkheya speciosa, Berkheya speciosa Commelina africana, Commelina africana Cyanotis speciosa,Cyanotis speciosa Haemanthus humilis, Haemanthus humilis Hibiscus aethiopicus with an ant drinking from a dew drop,Hibiscus aethiopicus Lobelia erinus,Lobelia erinus Nemesia caerulea,Nemesia caerulea Orthochilus foliosus, the only Orchid in flower,Orthochilus foliosus Papaver aculeatum, Papaver aculeatum Pelargonium luridum, Pelargonium luridum Pentanisia prunelloides, Pentanisia prunelloides Silene bellidiodes,Silene bellidiodes Silene burchellii, Silene burchellii Striga bilabiata, Striga bilabiata and Spotted-leaved Arum, Zantedeschia albomaculata.Zantedeschia albomaculata Spotted-leaved Arum

Two mushrooms appeared in the moist conditions:

Amanita rubescens,Amanita rubescens and Psathyrella candolleana.Psathyrella candolleana

On summer mornings, the bird dawn chorus is one of my favourite times of day! An African Hoopoe delicately stalked the grass for tasty morsels. Cape Canaries flit in flocks, singing as they move through the grass.Cape Canary The verandah birdbath is still a firm favourite for a Dark-capped Bulbul.Dark-capped Bulbul The Greater Striped Swallows surveyed the misty landscape from a railing.Greater Striped Swallow

At last a handful of Brown-veined White butterflies,  Belenois aurota aurota, flew through on their annual migration in late December.Brown-veined White Belenois aurota aurota

A Long-Tailed Blue,  Lampides boeticus, sunned itself one early morning. Long-Tailed Blue Lampides boeticus

A daytime flying moth, one of the tiny Handmaiden moths perched on grass seeds.Handmaiden Moth

A pair of Grasshoppers posed on leaves.Grasshoppers

A first sighting on Sitamani was a Large Green Longhorn beetleLarge Green Longhorn beetle .Large Green Longhorn beetle

From Questions and Answers, Insects and Spiders of southern Africa; published by Struik in 1993; Author: Susan Matthews, Consultant: Dr Mike Picker, Illustrator: Christeen Grant.

Millipedes are on the march across the grassMillipede and I spied a small crab spider (Thomisidae family, Thomisus sp.) beautifully camouflaged on flowers.small crab spider

I’ve heard Black-backed Jackals on most nights. Two pairs of Common Reedbuck are seen frequently below the house and the Duiker are feasting on fallen plums.


Sandra and Pat Merrick - Albury Farm

The past two months have produced many hatchlings which has provided us with many hours of enjoyment watching their growth and eventual freedom on leaving the nest.  Two Blue Crane chicks were born on our neighbouring farm at the end of November.  Pat checked the progress on most days.  It was very exciting  watching the growth of the two chicks and seeing what marvellous parents the adults were. They did hatch out two chicks about six years ago but the weakest one drowned while trying to swim from the island(on which they had hatched) to firmer ground.  They walked down to our farm on the 12th day. I was fortunate to view this.

Blue Cranes and chicks

For the first two weeks the parents dig  holes around the paddocks looking for grubs to feed the chicks. The next two weeks the parents took them to neighbouring farm where there is lots of long seeded grass. 

Blue Cranes and chicks Blue Cranes and chicks

Our farm is all pastures. The parents  then took them to the  cattle tyres with feed. They would eat here morning and evening and then they would come down to the dam at approximately 6pm each evening where the juveniles would run about in the water flapping their little wings. They would then collapse with exhaustion next to some bushy reeds next to the dam for protection. We presumed that this is where they slept each night as more protective from predators, especially the jackal.  Due to the adults fierce protection over their young, we watched some amusing incidents. Whenever they moved towards the dam area, the one adult (I presume it was dad) would fly ahead and clear any birds around the edge.  There is a gully where the stream runs into the dam where  they particularly enjoy splashing and wading. A time to relax and chill and then settle down for the night. Dad would chase the Spoonbill, Egyptian Geese and Spurwings away.  No bird was allowed anywhere near.  One morning we saw him flying across the dam towards the wall and then we saw the jackal. He gave a couple of loud screeches and chased him away.  Another day a fish eagle arrived at the dam and sat  watching the ducklings in the water.  Dad would have none of this. Fish eagle sent on his way and so too the pair of Crowned Cranes who visited us daily.  They would have to move away to some other part of the dam.  The chicks have grown so quickly as they always do. Almost the same height as their parents but no tails yet.

Blue Cranes and chicks

We have seen the jackals running around the farm during the day now.  Must have young to feed.  On our walk one evening we heard our dachund yelping and there ahead of us was the jackal chasing him down the hill.  We chased him away. Shame this same dog was attacked by a pack of jackals while we walked through the natural forest about four years ago.  By the time Pat got to him they had bitten him on his legs and private parts.  He has never forgotten that experience and is rather scared of them.

The second batch of Wagtails (three) were born on 7th December in the same pot on the verandah.  Wagtail chicks The wagtail parents are the hardest working birds – up before dawn they feed their hungry chicks, and still walking around until quite dark. I watched quite intently how the parents go about feeding.Wagtail and chicks The two strongest chicks sit on the third weakest chick – I don’t know how it doesn’t get suffocated.  The last few days before they flew off, I noticed that when mom arrived  with food, she would feed the chick  who  would then turn its back to her, lift its tail, and poop into her opened beak.  Aaaagh  Never seen this before. The chicks left the nest after 14 days and lived under the red rose bushes for a week while being fed.  The weakest one kept following mom around. She understood that this little chick was unable to fend for itself.Wagtail and chicks Then all three chicks disappeared.  I always wonder where they go. 

The Amythest Sunbird started feeding her chicks  on the 9th December. Amythest Sunbird in nest I only saw one chick a few times with its head peeping out of the nest opening.  This mom would lean into the nest and come out with little balloons of white poop and fly off.  They keep the nests so clean.  Sunbird chick

Sunbird chick ready to fly off

Mom stopped feeding  the chicks about two weeks later but I never saw the chick or chicks leave the nest.

The Greater Striped Swallows took five weeks to finish their nest – lots of rain and too muddy – it was not adhering to the nest and not drying out.  I did  not realise that they lined their nest until one day the one swallow was trying to pull Pat's bandage off the line.  They started feeding the chicks about the 5th December. Then a week later a huge piece of the underside of the nest fell down exposing the lining.  I knew that there were chicks there and prayed very hard that the whole nest wouldn’t plunge down as the chicks grew larger.  Thankfully, these birds make such strong nests that it stood firm. A few days before the chicks flew off they would peer out of the tunnel looking around. Greater striped swallow peering out of mud nestThen mom arrived, sat on courtyard wall  and encouraged them with loud tweetings. One flew out and joined her, The following day the second chick flew out and all three of them sat on the courtyard wall. Shame the first thing they did was to start grooming their feathers which were matted together after being enclosed in a dark place  for two weeks. Must be a huge shock coming out into the light and flying instantly. Nature is mind blowing.  These Striped Swallows have blended in with the White Throated Swallows and they all fly around  together quite happily. Whenever it rains they swoop onto the verandah and sit either on the hanging basket or on the lampshade.  They still fly into the courtyard looking for their nest but its been taken down.

There were three lots of four Yellow Eyed Canaries hatched in the standard roses.  Two Olive Thrush chicks in a shrub in our formal garden and three Cape Robin-Chat chicks in a large pot.  Found a dead juvenile Southern Boubou on the verandah that had flown into the glass door. There are about five White Storks wandering around the farm behind the cattle.  A Red-necked Francolin pops into our shrubbery occasionally.Red-necked Francolin and the African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene) comes into the garden to raid a few nests.  African Harrier HawkA pair of Secretary Birds flew over the house. Pat saw a pair of Whiskered Terns at the dam.

A male reedbuck visited our garden.


Christmas day should have been a day of peace and joy but we got home from church to find our Rottweiler had been bitten by a puff adder. Swollen jaw and saliva pouring from his mouth. Frantic phone calls to find a vet on Christmas day. Fortunately there was a vet on standby and Pat rushed the dog back to Howick, where an anti venom injection and drip etc was administered.  The vet phoned us next morning and asked us to please collect our dog as they could not get near him. Oh yes, he was so much better.  In fact eating his food as well. The following day the swelling had gone. It really was amazing. But what was even more amazing was the bill when we received it! It cost a little less than the knee operation that I have just had for a torn cartilage!  The good news though is that my dog is 100% alive.  He has killed 2 puffies this season and he obviously got caught unawares by this wily snake.  I am praying that this has taught him a lesson and to leave these snakes alone.

Other photos received from Sandra:

Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard


Male oribi

female black sparrow hawk

Female Black Sparrow Hawk

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Sprurwing Geese family

Spurwing Geese family



A pair of Crowned Cranes

A pair of Crowned Cranes

Lesser Double-collared Sunbird

Lesser Double-collared Sunbird

Southern Masked or Spotted Backed Weavers

Southern Masked or Spotted Backed Weavers

Male Malachite Sunbird

Male Malachite Sunbird

Emperor moth

Emperor moth? - very large.

Emperor moth

Emperor moth? - very large.

Garden commodore butterfly

Garden commodore butterfly

Nikki Brighton

Nikki submitted these photos taken on Inversanda and Inhlosane

pelargonium luridum

Pelargonium luridum

silene burchellii

Silene burchellii

A wasp on Gomphocarpus

A wasp on Gomphocarpus

asclepias cultriformis

Asclepias cultriformis

aster bakerianus

Aster bakerianus

Berkheya with beetles

Berkheya sp. with beetles

cycnium racemosum

Cycnium racemosum

delosperrma caespitosum

Delosperrma caespitosum

epilobium capense

Probably Epilobium capense

hebenstretia comosa

Hebenstretia comosa

hypoxis parvula

Hypoxis parvula


Indigofera sp.

jamesbrittenia breviflora

Jamesbrittenia breviflora

morea brevistyla

Morea brevistyla

mysotis semiamplexicaulis

Mysotis semiamplexicaulis


Protea sp.

senecio macrocephalus

Senecio macrocephalus


Tulbaghia sp.

zaluzianskya microsiphon

Zaluzianskya microsiphon

Mossy gorge

Mossy gorge

Berg adder

Berg adder - photo: Philani Ngcobo

Rock Hyrax

Rock Hyrax - Dassie

Jenny Fly - Kildaragh Farm

Surprisingly I have something to report. It has been so hot and dry, that this Lesser Striped Swallow's nest just crumbled off the wall. Sadly I found this little chick, his gape still prominent, still alive but there was not much hope for him and he was dead by the evening. To the right of him is the contents of the nest and an unhatched egg can be seen. Swallow chick

Walked in the Dargle Forest and found a number of these little Streptocarpus. Streptocarpus

Carlene Bronner - Old Kilgobbin

Red Stinkhorn fungi....have found about eight of these under the gum trees Red stinkhorn fungus

The joy of living next to a forest is the invasion of the locusts every spring....these little guys wanted to see how the other half live... Locusts