Birding Blog – January 2021

A new bird, not quite qualifying for the Cavern list, is the Banded Martin. It’s easily seen perched on the roadside fence about a kilometre beyond the Cavern entrance. Otherwise birding was fairly quiet with one exception; the Red-chested Cuckoo did not let us down. It’s quite late in the season to hear it – in most years it falls silent by the end of January. One guest vouched that high humidity gets it going; that’s new to me, but worth thinking about. Even better was finding a nestling. A Cape Wagtail had built a nest tucked into the corner of a braai-place on a disused stoep. A forlorn egg lay ejected outside the nest, while a fat cuckoo chick oozed over the side.

A Yellow Mongoose was a new mammal for this neck of the woods. It did all the usual “mongoosy” things – standing tall on hind legs checking for danger, scrabbling under grass tufts, trotting purposefully with conspiratorial expression to the next dining site.

Fan Falls

Mountain Reedbuck, mother and half-grown young, appeared beyond the tennis courts on the opposite side of the stream. They are well-named, easily negotiating a broken slope of 80 degrees or so. This species is endemic to South Africa, so a good “tick” for mammal spotters.

The most common butterfly at the Cavern is Acraea horta – smallish with one set of wings dark orange spotted black, the other transparent. All life stages were present this last weekend. The last of the caterpillars were munching their favourite (and only) food – Kiggelaria leaves. Others were wandering off looking for a safe place to pupate. Some had found it under the flanges of roadside lights. New hatchlings fluttered feebly as their wings hardened. Fully fledged adults were supping the nectar of Eucomis flowers.

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