Tag Archives: outdoors

African Pygmy Goose

Nettapus auritus

With a weight of only 260g, the African Pygmy Goose is one of the smallest members of the duck family to be found in South Africa. They’re seen in close association with bodies of clear water densely vegetated with water lilies, the flowers and seeds of which forms the bulk of their diet, and other floating and emergent plants amongst which they’ll often sit entirely motionless to avoid detection. When threatened they’ll more usually dive below the water surface than fly away.

African Pygmy Geese form monogamous pairs with a very strong bond and are usually seen in pairs or family groups. They make their nests in holes in trees and will readily use nest boxes erected for them. The breeding season stretches from the start of spring to the end of autumn. Clutches may number up to 13, but more usually 7-9, eggs. The female is solely responsible for incubating the eggs, which takes about 4 weeks. Soon after hatching the chicks jump from the nest to follow their mother to the water. The chicks can fly by the time they’re about 6 or 7 weeks old.

The IUCN considers the African Pygmy Goose as being of least concern. While it has a very wide distribution in sub-Saharan Africa and also occurs on Madagascar, in our country they are considered to be near-threatened and only encountered with any regularity in the wetlands along the northern coastline of Kwazulu-Natal.

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Green Malkoha

Ceuthmochares australis

Another very rarely seen bird with a limited distribution in South Africa – only found here along the coast of Kwazulu-Natal – and one that I saw for the first time on my recent trip to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park with my younger brother, is the Green Malkoha (also known as the Green Coucal or Whistling Yellowbill).

The Green Malkoha is a bird of coastal forest habitats and a member of the cuckoo-family. It feeds on a wide range of small vertebrates (with a special fondness for tree-living frogs) and insects, and also a limited selection of fruits. They are usually seen singly or in pairs, preferring to creep through the thick vegetation like a rodent rather than flying.

Green Malkohas form monogamous pairs in the spring breeding season, building rather flimsy platform nests in dense thicket on which clutches of 2-4 eggs are laid – rather unusual in the cuckoo-family, where most species are brood parasites. Aside from the fact that both parents take care of the young after they’ve hatched little else is known of this species’ breeding habits. Fully grown, Green Malkohas weigh about 70g and measure 33cm in length.

The IUCN considers the Green Malkoha to be of Least Concern. Beyond its limited South African occurrence it can be found along the Indian Ocean seaboard and adjacent interior as far north as southern Somalia, with an isolated population on the Ethiopian Highlands.

Subantarctic Fur Seal at Cape Vidal

Arctocephalus tropicalis

The Subantarctic Fur Seal is a sea living mammal that usually occurs in the chilly waters of the southern Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Finding one on the much more tropical beach at Cape Vidal in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on South Africa’s north-eastern coast, thousands of kilometers from where it belongs, was therefore a very unexpected surprise! Why and how exactly some seals roam so widely outside their usual range still is not really understood, but vagrants of this species has been recorded in South Africa before and even as far north as the Tanzanian coast. When we first noticed this individual it was lying far up the beach, trying its best to stay out of a strong wind, but I later noticed it enjoying the swell at the incoming tide. While to my opinion our visitor looked in good, energetic health I did alert the Park authorities as soon as I had connectivity again just in case they wanted to have a look themselves, as these long distance swimmers are often very tired and underfed by the time they reach our shore and are then looked after at a specialised rehabilitation centre until they can be shipped back to their natural homes.

Subantarctic Fur Seals live and breed around and on tiny islands just north of the Antarctic Polar Front at roughly 60°S latitude, including the South African territory of the Prince Edward islands. Fully grown males, at 1.8m long and 160kg in weight, is much larger than the females, which weigh only about 50kg. They feed mainly on fish and squid. Pups are born in the southern summer (most of them in December). It is estimated that they can live to 25 years of age in the wild.

With a population estimated at around 200,000 adults and considered to be stable, the IUCN lists the Subantarctic Fur Seal as being of least concern. This is a wonderful improvement as they were extensively hunted for their pelts in the 1800’s.

 

Spring on Lake Saint Lucia’s Eastern Shores

While visiting the town of St. Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park at the end of October and into early November, my brother and I set aside three days for visiting Cape Vidal and the Eastern Shores section of the Park – an area that absolutely overflows with natural beauty!

A very easy-driving tar road leads directly from the Bhangazi Gate on the outskirts of town to Cape Vidal and offers wonderful opportunities for close encounters with a wide variety of wildlife.

Don’t miss the turnoffs for the Pan Loop and then the Vlei Loop shortly after entering!

The short cul-de-sac leading to the iZindondo Pan always has something interesting on offer

Cape Vidal’s lovely setting in the dune forest is always enchanting…

and I am yet to be convinced that there is a beach more beautiful in all of South Africa!

Finding a Sub-Antarctic Fur Seal on the beach at Cape Vidal was an enormous surprise – more about that in the next installment of DeWetsWild!

Male Sub-Antarctic Fur Seal on the shore at Cape Vidal after a heavy storm

The Grassland Loop is an excellent alternative to a large stretch of the main road when heading south again towards Saint Lucia town

Don’t think that taking the short Forest Loop leading to the hides at kuMfazana Pan is going to be a quick detour – the butterflies alone will keep you entertained for a long time!

I sincerely hope this quick overview gives you a sense of all that the Eastern Shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park has to offer! If you are interested in visiting St. Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, remember that De WetsWild can assist you with reservations in the Eden Park and Sugarloaf Campsites in town or at wonderful Cape Vidal set on the Indian Ocean in the Eastern Shores section of the Park.

Map of the eastern shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from https://isimangaliso.com/)

Announcement! Gooderson Leisure reservations now available through DeWetsWild!

Announcement!

We are very excited to announce that DeWetsWild can now assist you with reservations at Gooderson Leisure’s resorts!

Gooderson Leisure Reservations

Candy-striped Veld Lily

Crinum stuhlmannii

(previously C. delagoense /C. forbesii)

The beautiful Candy-Striped Veld Lily occurs from our Kwazulu-Natal Province all along the Indian Ocean coastal plain to East Africa. It is a bulbous plant that grows best in sandy soil at low altitudes and out in the full sun. Its leaves grow up to 1.5m in length and a single plant can bear up to 30 of the distinctive flowers, typically during the months of spring.

Announcement! DeWetsWild and aha Hotels & Lodges

Announcement!

We are delighted to announce that DeWetsWild can now assist you with reservations at the fabulous properties managed by aha Hotels & Lodges!

aha Hotels & Lodges Reservations

Announcement! Pilanesberg National Park with DeWetsWild & Legacy Hotels & Resorts

Announcement!

We are very proud to announce that DeWetsWild can now assist you with reservations at the fantastic Legacy Hotels & Resorts Bush Lodges in the Pilanesberg National Park!

Pilanesberg National Park Reservations

 

White-backed Duck

Thalassornis leuconotus

Another bird of which sightings come highly regarded in South Africa is the White-backed Duck and I was very excited to finally catch sight of them during my recent trip to St. Lucia in Kwazulu-Natal.

A nomadic diving duck that feeds mainly on submerged plant material, the White-backed Duck inhabits natural and man-made dams and pans of any size and permanence with clear water and abundant floating and emergent plants, where they are exquisitely camouflaged and easily overlooked. The white patch on their backs from which they get their name is only seen in flight. They are usually seen in pairs or family groups but occasionally form larger flocks of over a hundred. White-backed Ducks rarely venture onto dry land.

Monogamous pairs of White-backed Ducks (perhaps life-long bonds) breed year-round in dense reed beds or other thick plant material standing in the water. Clutches of up to 9 eggs are laid on a nest platform built of the surrounding plant material, and incubated by both parents for 4-5 weeks. The ducklings are able to follow their parents onto and into the water less than a day after hatching and are fully grown by the time they’re 4 months old. Adults measure about 43cm in length and weigh around 650g.

In South Africa, the White-backed Duck has a rather patchy distribution, with concentrations in the Highveld grassland areas, in Kwazulu-Natal, the Garden Route and the Cape Winelands. Beyond our borders their range stretches to Ethiopia and Madagascar, with isolated populations in the Sahel. According to the IUCN it is of least concern.

St. Lucia’s Game Park Trails

Just a little to the north of the town of St. Lucia, right at the Crocodile Centre and the Bhangazi Gate into the Eastern Shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, is a small game reserve where visitors are allowed to walk and cycle unguided and at own risk – hippos and leopards count among the game park’s inhabitants after all. Hikers have a choice of trails, several kilometers in extent, that lead through and along most of the important habitats that are found in the greater Park – swamps and marshes, grasslands, woodland and forests. I packed in a couple of hikes through St. Lucia’s Game Park while visiting the town at the end of October and into early November and, as you can tell from these pictures, I was not disappointed!

If you are interested in visiting St. Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, remember that De WetsWild can assist you with reservations in the Eden Park and Sugarloaf Campsites in town or at wonderful Cape Vidal set on the Indian Ocean in the Eastern Shores section of the Park.