Threatened Plant Species – Curtisia dentata

CORNACEAE: Curtisia dentata (Near Threatened)

Curtisia dentata, from the family Cornaceae is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s Near Threatened trees, occurring from Ngome Forest to KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. This tree is commonly known as Assegai, and threatened by over-exploitation and bark harvesting.

Curtisia dentata4

The tree grows between 15m and 20 m tall with leaves that are leathery, shiny and dark green in colour. The leaves are opposite, 120mm long and 75 mm wide, with dense bunches at the base. The under leaf is pale green with noticeable veins.

Curtisia dentata3

The stalks are about 25mm containing fine red hairs. The flowers are small, cream-coloured and velvety, with about 10-25 flowers per umbel, varying from yellow to brownish red.

Curtisia dentata2

The fruit are drupe, one or two seeded, and white to red in colour.

Curtisia dentata1

REFERENCES:

  • Notten, A. (2004, July). Curtisia Dentata. Available on: http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/curtisdent.htm [Accessed on 2 June, 2016]
  • Pooley, E. (1998). A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
  • Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M. and Ngwenya, A.M.(2008). Curtisia dentata (Burm.f.) C.A.Sm. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. [Accessed on 2 June, 2016]
  • Images by A. Rebelo; D. Turner; C. Lochner and A.E. Symons

Boston Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

May has been a Furry-beasties, Ferns and Fungi month. A light overnight snowfall dusted the mountains on the 1st May.

02 Cover Snow IMG_5368

Winter chill, fairly frequent frosts, not much rain but a few damp days and in between smoky sunsets from tracer-line burning.

02 Cover Smoky sunsets IMG_5408

Cool winter skies with beautiful prefrontal cirrus cloud effects. The grass and ground are very dry for this time of year, and the water table is very low.

02 Cover Prefrontal cirrus cloud IMG_5431

At last I have managed to take a photo of the very dear Lesser Savanna Dormouse, one of two in residence… albeit with a cell phone and not a good one, I just hoped I’d captured it in the dark… It had found an unopened packet of peanuts and raisins, tore a hole in the packet and was delightedly eating, making contented chirpy noises at about two in the morning… I know they will have to be relocated, just haven’t the heart to turf them out into winter. All foodstuff has to be carefully put away otherwise it is nibbled.

03 Animals Lesser Savanna Dormouse IMG_2212

The Lesser Savanna Dormouse, Grahiurus kelleni, is only 14cm in length, 6cm of that being the tail. They are definitely nocturnal in habit, extremely agile climbers, scampering up and down furniture and curtains. They eat insects, plant material, seeds and in a house love fruit, bread, cake and almost anything they can find. They are frequently found in association with man-made structures. According to literature local species are supposed to hibernate, or become less active in winter. No one told these two!

The Duiker family, Bushpig and Vervet Monkeys all enjoy the fallen Pin Oak acorns along the driveway.

03 Animals Duiker IMG_5398

Birds flock to the birdbath on the verandah and the one in the garden, often needing a refill by early afternoon. I spotted a juvenile Black-headed Oriole, with dark flecks on his yellow breast. Cape Crows; Dark-capped Bulbuls; Cape Robin-chats; Cape White-eyes; Black-backed Puffbacks; Speckled Pigeons; Amethyst Sunbirds; African Stonechats and the call of a Fish Eagle from the valley. A small nest was exposed when the leaves turned and fell from the Japanese Maple tree.

03 Bird nest IMG_5447

Very interesting Fungi were spotted after a sprinkle of rain and misty conditions. I observed the unfurling of two different fungi; Blusher, Amanita rubescens and The Miller, Clitopilus prunulus; also seen were a False Earth-star and an unidentified, 20mm high mushroom.

04 Fungi Blusher Amanita rubescens IMG_5445

Blusher – Amanita rubescens

04 Fungi Blusher Amanita rubescens IMG_5410

Blusher – Amanita rubescens

04 Fungi The Miller Clitopilus prunulus IMG_2216

The Miller – Clitopilus prunulus

04 Fungi The Miller Clitopilus prunulus IMG_5417

The Miller – Clitopilus prunulus

04 Fungi False Earth-star  IMG_5377

False Earth-Star

04 Fungi IMG_5412

Unidentified fungi

The Fern Allies species Lycoodium clavatum had many strobili, cone-like structures that bear the spores. Two ferns seen, though browning off quickly in the dry weather, were; Cheilanthes involuta var. obscura and Mohria nudiuscula.

05 Fern Allies Lycoodium clavatum  IMG_5425

Lycoodium clavatum

05 Fern Cheilanthes involuta var obscura IMG_5430

Cheilanthes involuta var. obscura

05 Fern Mohria nudiuscula IMG_5426

Mohria nudiuscula

Almost all the flowers are over, all that remains are the dried bracts like those of the Berkheya setifera; or seeds of Plectranthus calycina;

06 Berkheya setifera IMG_5420

Berkheya setifera

06 Plectranthus calycina seeds IMG_5419

Plectranthus calycina

there are however a few hardy ones still flowering, Senecio madagascariensis and Stachys aethiopica.

06 Senecio madagascariensis IMG_5438

Senecio madagascariensis

06 Stachys aethiopica IMG_5433

Stachys aethiopica

A few of the insects seen were: the tiny Common Blue butterfly; Giant Carpenter Bees; a tiny Grasshopper; Green Vegetable Bug, Nezara viridula; an unidentified Moth; very busy Paper wasps, Polistes fastidiotus; and a very small Twig wilter sp.

07 Insects Common Blue butterfly IMG_545807 Insects Giant Carpenter Bee Xylocopa flavorufa IMG_545507 Insects Grasshopper IMG_545607 Insects Green Vegetable Bug Nezara viridula IMG_540507 Insects Moth IMG_545007 Insects Paper wasps Polistes fastidiotus IMG_537307 Insects Twig wilter sp P1070316

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Once again my time in Boston was limited this month. While out birding, it was special to come across a bushbuck doe delicately walking on the side of the road.

image1

The drought continues to bite, which means that any time spent at the edge of dwindling dams are guaranteed to provide sightings of birds. The Red-knobbed Coot chicks are growing up

image2

And the African Spoonbill was on its post as usual

image3

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: White-breasted Cormorant, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Secretarybird, African Fish-eagle, Grey Crowned Crane, Reed Cormorant, Cape Glossy Starling, Speckled Mousebird, Common Moorhen,

image4

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Pin-tailed Whydah, Long-crested Eagle, Olive Thrush, Black-headed Oriole, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-eyed Dove, House Sparrow, Helmeted Guineafowl, Village Weaver, Cape Wagtail, Cape White-eye, African Firefinch, African Stonechat, Common Fiscal, Greater Honeyguide, Red-knobbed Coot, White-necked Raven, Bokmakierie, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Malachite Kingfisher,

image5

South African Shelduck, Blacksmith Lapwing, Brown-throated Martin, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, African Sacred Ibis,

image6

Little Grebe, Jackal Buzzard (juvenile),

image7

Black-headed Heron, Cape Robin-chat, Cape Canary, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Boubou,

image8

Common Waxbill, Hadeda Ibis, Pied Crow, Red-necked Spurfowl, Yellow-billed Duck,

image9

Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Crow, Southern Double-collared Sunbird.

image10

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – May 2016

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin

I do love ‘butterfly season’ in Dargle! My garden seems to be constantly on the move, with spots of colour flashing between Hypoestes, Kniphofia, Senecio, Polygala and Leonotis.

Things are a bit quieter in the hills. Has anyone else noticed that there are seldom jackal calling at night? I still hear owls, but no jackal. Have seen a few groups of reedbuck – about 8 in total, during my grassland walks and one bushbuck.

r autumn 2016 reedbuck hiding

A couple of times I have come across Jackal Buzzards sitting quietly on hay bales waiting for a snack to show itself in the newly shorn fields. Unsure who this little brown fellow is in the tall grass?

r autumn 2016 bird on grass 1

I adore the subdued colours of this season. Lots of orange Leonotis leonaurus and the last of the Berkheya flowers

r berkheya

Most of the Gomphocarpus physocarpus pods have popped releasing their fairy seeds to float away.

r autumn gomphocarpus seeds1

The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

r autumn 2016 boophane bulb1

Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

r autumn 2016 phymaspermum 1

A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

r autumn 2016 Aristea 1

Clutia cordata, the grassland clutia, which grows to about 70 cm tall. The plants are single sex. Tiny pale green male and female flowers on separate plants clustered along the stalks.

autumn clutia cordata

Loved this twirled grass – anyone know which variety it is?

r autumn 2016 twirly grass

Shadows in the very scarce pools of water are spectacular. How on earth are animals to survive this winter when the streams have already stopped trickling?

r autumn shadows in pool

Michael Goddard – Steampunk Coffee

Not sure if these little guys have been spotted this far inland but this morning I saw this pair. Common myna (Acridotheres tristis), sometimes spelled mynah, also sometimes known as “Indian myna”

Indian Mynah

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

At the beginning of the month we had Gurney’s Sugarbird in the garden revelling in the abundant blooms of the Leonotis. However they disappeared after a day or so. Probably off to the locally grown proteas, that they much prefer. A Greater Honeyguide was calling in the garden a couple of weeks ago. His unmistakable call of ” vic – tor ” rang out clearly, but I was unable to find him. Another uncommon sight for Kildaragh was a Purple Heron at our little dam. We have recorded one there before,but that was a few years ago. Below is the ribbon bush. Orthosiphon labiatus, a very worthwhile plant for the indigenous garden and the bees love it.

Ribbon bush (Orthosiphon labiatus)

Can anyone out there help me with the identification of the plant below? I know it is African and that it is perhaps a Halleria elliptica (E. Cape), which grows to about 2m. However I am not convinced that it is…
Comment by Nikki Brighton: Looks exotic. Pretty sure it is not indigenous.

Unknown

Andrew Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Skaapsteker on the road

Spotted skaapsteker 1

Spotted skaapsteker 2

Nola Barrett – God’s Grace

I took this picture of this minute little frog on the inside of my veranda window (~ a Painted Reed frog perhaps? Ash)

Frog 1

Then we put him in the garden. The frog is about 2 – 3 cms long but he jumps very far , over a meter maybe almost 2 metres. My gardener says he’s been on the window about 2 weeks. You’ll have to look closely to see him in the garden.

Frog 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

The 3 Wattled Crane have been regular visitors on our farm over the past couple of months now, here are a few pics of them with the Grey Crowned Cranes making an appearance too.

Wattled Cranes 1Wattled Cranes 2Wattled Cranes 3Wattled Cranes 4Wattled Cranes 5

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We have been away for most of May. All these photos were taken in April. Our dam is now just a puddle, so no more crane and water birds unfortunately.
There were dozens of butterflies this year.

Blue pansy

1

Gaudy commodore

2

Greenbanded swallowtail

3

Painted lady

4

The sunbirds were showing their eclipse colours. We have quite a number of sunbirds, now feeding off the proteas and aloes.

Greater collared sunbird in eclipse

5

a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)

6

Male Malachite in eclipse

7

An arum lily frog was hiding amongst the pot plants for a couple of days during the cold weather.

8

Our skinks have disappeared now. Have a photo of the skin of one of them who was shedding his skin in our study. He was actually pulling off the skin of his legs with his mouth. He ran under the couch, hence only pic of body skin left on carpet.

9

Have not seen our Blue Crane for 6 weeks now but early one morning, beginning of may, woke to see 8 Grey Crowned Crane and 3 Wattled Crane at the dam. They flew off at sunrise.

10

The Wattled Crane swam around the dam for a while foraging with their long necks. The dam was quite shallow at this stage.

11

The Long-crested Eagle is still around

12

The African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) arrives on the farm at about 07:30 on most days hopping around the rocks. With the lizards (skinks) which seem to have vanished around the house, he must be eating mice and rats.

13

Pat saw a pair of Oribi running through the farm. There are still a few Reedbuck and Duiker around.

14

At about 10pm one night the dogs started barking, (in that special way when something is amiss) and we went out to find a huge porcupine around our pond area next to the stone wall. He was trying to hide behind a tree to get away from the dogs. We put the animals away and tried to shush the porcupine out the gate, but he was having none of it and proceeded to try and climb the stone wall. This ended with him falling down, and nearly on top of Pat. He raced off with speed and we could not find him after that. He must have come through the culvert as our whole garden has bonnox fencing to keep the animals from encountering our dogs and prevent them from destroying my garden.

Bokmakierie

15

Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat

16

Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills

Untitled

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

Dargle Wildlife Sightings -April 2016

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Autumn is officially here with winter trying to sneak in early and this frost we had a couple of weekends ago.

Autumn frost on leaves

A very beautiful black caterpillar with red and yellow markings on the sides and blue spines on the top.

Black red and yellow caterpillar with blue spines

Some sort of brown mantis sitting on my arm. Comment from Dr Jason Londt: “It is a mantid (family Mantidae). Don’t know the species (we have over 180 species in SA). Unfortunately I am not aware of a local specialist who could give us a species name – most of the literature on the group seems to be in French! Anyway – nice twig mimic!”

Brown Mantis 1Brown Mantis 2

Flying ants inside the house which appeared after the recent rains in Dargle

Flying ants which appeared after the rains in Dargle

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

Junonia orithya madagascariensis or Eyed Pansy

I was moving a feed tyre out of the grass and suddenly noticed a whole family of little mice scurrying around. I managed to capture a pic of this guy before they all disappeared into the grass.

Mouse running away

A beautiful Oribi ram, spotted on our farm. The first and only time that I have ever seen one.

Oribi Ram

Not the best pic, but trying to capture a Pied Kingfisher with a cellphone camera in mid dive is a bit of a challenge!

Pied kingfisher taking a dive

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

Wild dagga or Leonotis leonurus

A whole field of them on Dolf Jansen’s property

Wild dagga 2

I nearly stepped on this orange and black Rinkhals, and had just 3 seconds to capture this pic before he disappeared into the long grass.

Rinkhals in the grass

A very cold, wet and miserable Black-headed Heron which I drove closer and closer to in the Landrover, before it got a little jumpy and flew away.

Very cold and miserable Grey Heron

3 Wattled crane which came to visit our little dam

Wattled Cranes 1

The Wattled crane is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

Wattled Cranes 2

A very large Puffadder which we saw crossing the tar road near Avanol.

Puffadder

Justin Fly – Kildaragh Farm

I have recently been hearing an African Scops owl calling in the evenings just as it gets dark. It’s an uncommon resident in this area . A couple of nights ago, the evening started with the Scops calling and later when we went to bed we heard Jackal yelping close by. They haven’t been heard for a few months . Waking in the early hours a Spotted Eagle Owl was hooting nearby. Just as sleep had come again we were woken by the raucous call of the Natal Francolin, and finally the Fish Eagle’ s lovely call at dawn, got me out of bed. Who would live anywhere else.

Mary-Anne Pridgeon – Copperleigh Farm

Found this Spotted Skaapsteker in the garden.

Spotted Skaapsteker 1

Comment by Pat McKrill: “Your diagnosis (Spotted Skaapsteker Psammophylax tritaeniatus) is quite correct, even though those occurring further north are more spotted – as the name implies – than striped. They’re a pretty common grassland snake up your neck of the woods, and because their food preference is pretty wide-ranging, some of it is not necessarily temperature dependent – rodents, skinks – they tend to ignore the hibernation rule and hunt year-round as long as the sun is shining. The concave indentation in the individual dorsal scales is a useful diagnostic. Thanks for the pics, great!”

Spotted Skaapsteker 2

David Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

A Grey Heron fishing in the very shallow Mavela dam

Grey heron

The Otter was out hunting for food too…

Otter 1

Here his head was right out the water

Otter 2

A beautiful Grey Crowned Crane paid us a visit

Grey crowned crane 1

Preening time

Grey crowned crane 2

Are you still checking me out?!

Grey crowned crane 3

A family together on Mavela Dam

Grey crowned crane 4

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

We were blessed this month to see 7 wattled crane on the farm for a week – they would feed on our neighbours oats during the day and arrive at the dam early evening and sometimes midday to wade around the dam which is drying up daily. We could not see any tags on their legs.

wattled crane

One morning just one appeared and walked around the vlei area for a few hours and then sat down. We got very excited as thought perhaps she was thinking of making a nest there but when the cattle arrived to drink, she changed her mind. Like the plovers eggs which never hatch out as cattle always drinking around the edges of dam where they lay.

Our yellow bill ducklings are down from ten to five in number. We also have 6 Red-billed Teal who swim with them.

yellow billed duck and ducklings plus redbilled teal at sunset

Two pairs of South African Shelduck now. They did not have chicks this year as dam only started to fill late December. Our 3 Blue Crane have been here the entire month. The fledgling still with his parents. 5 months old now. Sometimes another pair of blue crane join them but they never stay long. 3 african grey crowned crane have been arriving at sunset. We love watching their antics – they always dance in and out the water and sometimes the spoonbill and plovers join them in wild abandon. At first the fledgling would run off when he saw his parents making fools of themselves but lately he joins in the prancing. They are the only cranes that I have not seen swimming. The wattled cranes love to swim and stick their long necks down underwater to see what they can forage. One day we had all 3 cranes visit us.

We have noticed that the crowned cranes have been chasing the blue crane away from the dam – we are not sure why this is as they both have one fledgling. Shame, the 3 of them stand on the hill looking forlornly down at the dance show.

crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 1crowned crane showing off and juvenile taking to the hills 2

The gymnogene has been arriving early in the morning hunting amongst the rocks in front of the house – one morning there were 2 of them flying around.

When we woke early one cold overcast morning we found a Herald snake trying to swallow a large toad on our front verandah.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 1

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 2

He just could not swallow it and regurgitated it. He then lay next to it. This did not go down well with me as everyone by now knows how terrified I am of snakes. Pat put snake and frog in a box and released them at the bottom of the farm.

herald snake trying to eat bull frog 3

Went down to the dam one hot day and saw thousands of dragonflies.

darner dragon fly

There were also a few red ones but I couldn’t get a pic of them as would not perch for long. There were also hundreds of brown ones but don’t know their name.

We saw a black shouldered kite eating a huge rat one morning on our dead tree – took him one and half hours to finish eating.

black shouldered kite eating rat 2

He kept stopping for a few minutes and would then continue to feed for awhile.

black shouldered kite eating rat 1

Found a new ant bear hole in kikuyu paddock near the dam. There was a Barn Owl on our verandah early one morning and on my approach he flew off. Not sure if this was a fledgling learning to fly. There are a couple in our chimney now which is very awkward if wanting to light a fire. A few years ago one was suffocated from the smoke and fell into the fire. It was horrible and I don’t want that happening again. A bokmakierie visited us for the first time. He sang to us for a good ten minutes. Beautiful start to the day.

There have been dozens of butterflies each day. Citrus swallowtail, Green-banded Swallowtail, Gaudy Commodore, Garden Commodore and for the first time a Blue Pansy.

 

garden commodore – dry season formcitrus swallowtail

We have seen a couple of Reedbuck around the dam and in the hill behind us and a female sleeps in our garden each night in the long grass.

reedbuck in a hurry

Also a couple of duiker eating the acorns from the oak trees. Pat has seen 7 Reedbuck and one duiker eating rye grass and veld on our neighbours farm across the stone wall. On our walks in the evening we have seen signs of a Common Fiscal in the area with the surprises left along the fenceline. A small snake

fiscal shrikes larder – snake

and a dung beetle on the barbed wire fence.

dung beetle on wire

I received a lot of comments on the identification of my raptors last month – Dr David Allan said they were European Honey Buzzards – female adult with juvenile – very rare in this area. I have not seen them again. The Steppe Buzzards have left, not seeing any Jackal Buzzards, but still see the Long-crested Eagle. Often hear the African Fish-Eagles.

André Stapelberg – Crab Apple Cottages (sent in by Helen Booysen)

The photo of the Drakensberg Prinia was taken at Whispering Waters in its usual Leucosidea-habitat.

Drakensberg Prinia photographed at Wispering Waters

Terrestrial Brownbul

Terrestrial Brownbul

African Crowned Eagle

Boston Wildlife Sightings – April 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani:

02 Cover 01 Sunrise IMG_1974

Sunrise, Sunset, the most beautiful and varied skies. Golden grass and sunlit days. Unfortunately the very late summer rain was not enough to replenish the water table, already our well is down to late winter levels.

02 Cover 02 Sunset  IMG_5327

My most exciting sighting was an unusually dark coloured, juvenile, Puff Adder. At first I thought it might be a Berg Adder, due to its colour and length.

03 Reptile Puff Adder IMG_535403 Reptile Puff Adder IMG_5363

The flower of this season is Leonotis leonurus, bright orange swaths splash the hillsides. Other autumn flowers seen were Alectra sessiliflora, Sutera floribunda and Wahlenbergia appressifolia. What I always think of as thatching grass and is used for that purpose locally, Cymbopogon validus, Giant Turpentine Grass, has responded to the dry season well, and flowering profusely. A Fungi that looks just like a stone caught my eye, Rhizopogon luteolus, Pale Brown False Truffle.

Birds are very active, amongst those seen during April were Buff-streaked Chats sunning on rocks in the early evening; Cape Crows; Dark-capped Bulbuls catching early morning sun on tree tops; the liquid call of Black-headed Orioles in flight; Cape White-eyes; Black-backed Puffbacks; Speckled Pigeons; Amethyst Sunbirds; African Stonechats and an African Harrier-Hawk.

06 Birds Buff-streaked Chats IMG_533506 Birds Cape Crow IMG_508402 Cover 03  IMG_534206 Birds Dark-capped Bulbul IMG_5065

Some interesting insects, a Shield Bug species Aspongopus nubilis; two different flies of the Tababidae Family; a Lunate Ladybird larvae, Cheilomenes lunata; and a Robber Fly, Alcimus tristrigatus eating a Blowfly of the Chrysomya genus. Just one moth, not identified.

Most evenings the Black-backed Jackal yip and call. A Duiker mum and her young one are seen regularly, one early morning the young one frolicked and feint charged his mother. The Dormouse is still around, one morning I woke up to see it watching me with very beady eyes, making chirripy noises. A lovely Serval sat at the side of the road in the early predawn light as I drove by.

Wayne Muller of The Drift:

I was surprised one morning to see a Red-necked Spurfowl surrounded by what I at first thought were Common Quail, except they were far too small. I then realised they were newly hatched spurfowl chicks.

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye:

Due to circumstances I had limited time at Boston during April, but did manage to do one bird atlas list with 68 species. The Pin-tailed Whydah has lost its long tail feathers, and with it some attitude.

image1

The Southern Red Bishops also looked much less assertive without their breeding colours and perching on the abundant weeds bordering the fields.

image2

Strutting its stuff in the stubble remaining in the maize fields after harvesting was a Cape Crow

image3

When I looked at my pictures of a Lanner Falcon, I was once again struck by the power and size of its eyes and claws in relation to the rest of the body

image4

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: African Darter, Red-collared Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Pied Crow, Greater Honeyguide, African Hoopoe, Red-necked Spurfowl, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cape Canary, Jackal Buzzard, African Spoonbill,

image5

Cape White-eye, Black-headed Oriole, Common Waxbill, Common Moorhen, Cape Longclaw, Brown-throated Martin, Bokmakierie, Speckled Pigeon, Spectacled Weaver, African Wattled Lapwing, Barn Owl, Village Weaver, White-breasted Cormorant, Spur-winged Goose

image6

Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-chested Flufftail, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Long-crested Eagle, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Cape Wagtail, Olive Thrush, Greater Striped Swallow, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Crow, Blacksmith Lapwing, Reed Cormorant, South African Shelduck, Red-knobbed Coot (with a youngster in tow)

image7

Pied Kingfisher, Drakensberg Prinia, Purple Heron,

image8

Black-headed Heron

image9

Yellow-billed Duck, Little Grebe

image10

African Sacred Ibis, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Egyptian Goose, Hadeda Ibis, Common Fiscal, Lanner Falcon, Red-billed Quelea, Red-winged Starling, Amethyst Sunbird, Red-eyed Dove, Black-backed Puffback, Southern Boubou, Cape Robin-Chat

image11

Sombre Greenbul, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Turtle-dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Stonechat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Grey Crowned Crane – the juvenile at Gramarye is now flying strongly with its parents when they come home to roost at night.

image12

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon – Bradypodion thamnobates

– By Nick Evans –

The Midlands is home to a vast array of amazing animals, including many species of reptiles and amphibians. One of the most striking and beautiful of the lot is the Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates).

Howick

Photographed in Howick by Nick Evans

This gorgeous, colourful chameleon is one of many species of dwarf chameleons of the genus Bradypodion. It is actually quite large for a supposedly dwarf chameleon, and can get to a length of around 20cm (including the tail)!

Chameleons, usually, are popular amongst people and most people adore them! How can you not? They’re very cute and loveable animals, with an interesting persona. People are generally often fascinated by their many interesting features. It’s usually the oven mitt- like ‘hands and feet’ and the way they move about, or the constantly rotating eyes, that people find most interesting.

Nottingham

Photographed in Nottingham Road by Nick Evans

The way chameleons hunt is truly amazing. They move slowly through the bush, blending in with their environment very well, and move like a stick in the wind, with the eyes constantly scanning for food or threats around them. They also use their long, prehensile tail for balance. In fact they can even hang off branches while clinging to it using just the tail! Once they have spotted a tasty grasshopper, both eyes focus on the insect, and it then shoots its long, sticky tongue out which hits the insect, and acts like a suction cup. It’s an incredible sight to behold! That tongue of theirs can be as long, or even longer than their body!

Nottingham 2

Photographed in Nottingham Road by Nick Evans

Chameleons exhibit interesting behaviour. Did you know:

  • Chameleons don’t generally climb down to a pond/stream to drink. They actually drink dew or rain drops off the leaves of the shrubs that they’re on.
  • Chameleons cannot shed their tails like a gecko.
  • Like all reptiles, chameleons shed their skin. Most reptiles just leave their skin to peel off, but the chameleon will eat its shed skin! This is to supply their diet with calcium.
  • Chameleons are famous for changing colour, but this is partially a myth. If you put a chameleon on a red/blue/purple or any colour clothing, contrary to popular belief, it won’t change to that colour. Their natural colour allows them to blend in to the environment already. However, a chameleon’s colour can change to lighter or darker shades. So, for example, if a chameleon is stressed, it will become very dark.
Howick (2)

Photographed in Howick by Nick Evans

The Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon is currently listed as Vulnerable, but it is locally common in some parts of the Midlands. The reason why it is listed as Vulnerable, is due to habitat loss, which is an ongoing problem. Please remembers that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s)  are not optional, as they are required only for certain listed activities.

We consulted Gareth Mauck at Hogarty Attorneys who informed us: “According to the National Environmental Management Act’s EIA regulations (2014), certain listed activities will be subject to an EIA. There are two streams of EIA. The first and least onerous is the Basic Assessment (BA). BA is required where environmental impacts are not likely to be significant (generally listing notice 1). The second more onerous process is the Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment – This more onerous procedure is required where the activities fall under listing notice 2 and 3 and are generally significant environmental impacts.”

You can download the following documents:

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleons are also popular pets, especially overseas where they are commonly bred. These slow and crinkly friends are often collected by kids or people that think it’s a ‘cool’ animal to keep. Rather don’t do this, they are not easy animals to keep and are best left in the wild.

Rosetta

Photographed in Rosetta by Nick Evans

 

Consider yourself lucky should you find one of these remarkable reptiles in your garden. If you want to encourage them to your garden, plant indigenous plant species which will attract chameleon food! Don’t use pesticides, the chameleons will do that job for you!
The Midlands Dwarf Chameleon is definitely one of the gems of the area!

To find out what Nick does, you can visit his website: www.kznamphibianreptileconservation.com

Boston Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye:

A GROUP of Grey Crowned Cranes made good use of a pivot at Elandshoek farm, demonstrating their perching skills.

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And it is very pleasing that the resident pair on The Willows, Gramarye and Elvesida has once again managed to raise one youngster. The surviving chick is making good progress. The parents were taking extra safety precautions by sleeping on a little island in a dam at night.

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I love the nests of Thick-billed Weavers, very beautiful, and woven with great skill

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and it was good to spot the inhabitants as well

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A female was visiting a stand of Leonotus elsewhere

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The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 also included: African Black Swift, African Wattled Lapwing, Village Weaver, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, Grey Heron, South African Shelduck, Steppe Buzzard,

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Southern Boubou, Common Quail, Red-necked Spurfowl, Bokmakierie, Diderick Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher,

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African Hoopoe, African Firefinch, Red-throated Wryneck, African Darter, Spur-winged Goose, Amethyst Sunbird,

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Brown-throated Martin, Cape Robin-chat, Hadeda Ibis, African Sacred Ibis, White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Black Saw-wing, Greater Striped Swallow, African Paradise-flycatcher, Speckled Mousebird, Zitting Cisticola, Cape Crow, Speckled Pigeon, Malachite Kingfisher, Cape Grassbird,

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African Olive-Pigeons and Pied Starlings forming strange bedfellows on overhead wires

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Black-headed Heron, White-throated Swallow, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Pied Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Duck, Little Grebe, Common Waxbill, Blacksmith Lapwing, Southern Red Bishop, Three-banded Plover,

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Egyptian Goose, Cape Longclaw, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Long-crested Eagle, Wailing Cisticola, Common Fiscal,

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The last of the Amur Falcons before migration, both male and female

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Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-billed Quelea, Red-collared Widowbird, Cape Canary, Pin-tailed Whydah, Barn Swallow, African Stonechat, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Turtle-dove, Red-winged Starling, Dark-capped Bulbul, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-eyed Dove, Cape White-eye, Sombre Greenbul, and Cape Wagtail.

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Christeen Grant of Sitamani:

There has been a mellowness of autumn creeping in, in milder days between very hot ones, cool mornings and golden tones in the grasses. Beautiful light effects at dawn and sunset.

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Flowers are almost over for the season subtle shades of autumn grass make a perfect foil for silhouetted flowering grasses. However bright yellow Berkheya Echinacea and Helichrysum cooperi shine and it’s also the season for Hesperantha baurii and masses of Plectranthus calycina.

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Berkheya echinacea

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Berkheya echinacea

03 Flower Helichrysum cooperi IMG_4816

Helichrysum cooperi

03 Flower Hesperantha baurii IMG_4824

Hesperantha baurii

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Plectranthus calycina

For the first time I saw what I think is a Drakensberg Crag Lizard, it was very wary; also at a distance, so not a perfectly sharp photo.

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A lovely Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly found it’s way inside and I managed to get a couple of photos before setting it free.

05 Insects & Spiders Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly  IMG_478305 Insects & Spiders Bush or Forest Beauty butterfly IMG_4776

One of my favourite insects, the Mottled Veld Antlion, settled in the grass near the house one morning.

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A sparkling dew beaded spider web after rain caught my attention.

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A pair of Malachite Sunbirds flitted busily over the hillside for a couple of weeks. Cape White-eyes, Cape Robin-Chats and the Black-backed Puffback have been enjoying the verandah birdbath. The Village Weavers have dispersed, abandoning their summer nests. A Long-crested Eagle has used the Eskom poles as a vantage point. Several times after an absence I’ve heard the Spotted Eagle Owl hooting.

Most evenings the Black-backed Jackal yip and call. A pair of Duiker are still seen regularly along the drive and in the garden. A Doormouse had a narrow escape, somehow it had fallen into the toilet bowl during the night. I managed to rescue it in the morning and set it free outside. However for a while there was evidence in nibbled fruit and moth wings, that it had come back inside again.