Boston Wildlife Sightings – December 2014

Rose Dix – guest at Boston T-Party

Our New Year was spent at the beautiful premises of Rory and Sue (such warm and welcoming hosts, despite the varied needs of 20 hikers!). Jon led us on the Nhlosane hike –  which  presents us with a steep climb which  had the younger ones racing ahead, while we plodded sedately and breathlessly after them. For me, the cherry on the top, was meeting up with Nikki Brighton on top and we exchanged a rapturous greeting which remains a highlight of my trip.

rose and nikki

After a brief respite , we went down the back way to the Waterfall on Furth Stream. At this point, we were joined by a lovely dog who wouldn’t respond to our efforts to get him to return from whence he had arrived.  After lunching at the Waterfall, we climbed up yet another steep incline which brought us to  the Impendhle Road and started the long plod towards home – being Everglades Hotel where we had left our cars. By now, we were all worried about our Dog-Friend because he wouldn’t leave us, and he  was looking very concerned about his whereabouts.  So it was with infinite relief that the owner of Everglades welcomed him home with open arms. A lovely end to a lovely day.

inhlosane dec 2014 210

For those of us who consider a days rest a fate-worse-than-death, Rory came to our rescue the following day and most kindly took our diminished party of  6 on a magnificent hike on Edgeware across the road from Boston T Party.

boston hike with rory

Our hiking companions – and Rory – were indulgent  of my enthusiasm and patiently waited  in the misty dizzle while I rolled around in the wet grass photographing various flowers – the most exciting of which was this Bonatea speciosa. As my enthusiasm far surpasses my knowledge, a  many friends were bombarded with requests for an ID. Thank you to those who came to my rescue. I had taken my Mountain Flowers book and this beautiful plant wasn’t in that one – it was in the book which I had left at home (naturally).

bonatea.speciosa close up jpg

The following day, Rory again led us (this time, the full contingent of about 20) on yet another hike – on Mondi property. Taking in a magnificent waterfall where we saw Eucomis, Sandersonia and even a Littonia. As this was a HIKE (in capital letters), there wasn’t much chance to photographing flowers in detail.

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The  stiff climb out of the waterfall valley drowned out all thought, except for the delicate call of an Emerald Cuckoo and TWO Red Chested Cuckoos who  persistently communicated with each other. I identified two Jackal Buzzards as Crowned Eagles and Rory gently corrected me…eek!!! (Well, they do SOUND vaguely similar don’t they?) Thank you to Rory and Sue for all you did to make this New Year one of the Very Best we have had for many years. Boston is brilliant!

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Crystelle WIlson – Gramarye 
Once again I realised there is always something new to be found when out birding even in an area done many times before. This time I spotted a bird that behaved like a Tawny-flanked Prinia, but because I haven’t seen it during the SABAP2 period over the past seven years, I paid closer attention and saw it was a Lazy Cisticola – “a bird with prinia-like behaviour”. The giveaway is that the prinia has a grey head, while the cisticola has a rufous-coloured head.

Boston_3062_Lazy-Cisticola

In my garden I investigated the alarm calls of a party of birds and discovered a Spotted Eagle-Owl sitting in a tree outside my bedroom window. I saw it several times during the month and really hope it will take up residence.

Boston_3107_Spotted-Eagle-Owl

Before Christmas we watched pairs of African Paradise Flycatchers Boston_3215_African-Paradise-Flycatcher

and Cape White-eyes building nests in the same tree within metres of each other outside the kitchen and I am keeping a close watch on the breeding developments.

IMG_4697_3275_Cape-White-eye

The Greater Striped Swallows are feeding their chicks in the nest under the kitchen verandah.

IMG_4161_2966_Boston_Greater-Striped-Swallow

I am concerned about the lack of Amur Falcons I’ve seen in the district, only a handful at most instead of numbering close to a hundred in past seasons.  In the wetland I was pleased to find the butterfly gladioulus, Gladiolus papilio and the small arum lily, Zantedeschia albomaculata.

IMG_4169_2974_Boston_Zantedeschia-albomaculata

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 was: Wing-snapping Cisticola, Cape Canary, Forest Canary, White Stork, Blue Crane, African Fish-Eagle, Brown-throated Martin, African Darter, Red-capped Lark, African Hoopoe, Black-headed Oriole, Pied Crow, Brimstone Canary, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Natal Spurfowl, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Red-winged Starling, Yellow Bishop, Pale-crowned Cisticola,

Boston_3058_Pale-crowned-Cisticola

Lazy Cisticola,

Boston_3077_Lazy-Cisticola

African Emerald Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo, Wailing Cisticola, Common Moorhen, Sombre Greenbul, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Firefinch, African Pipit, Cape Wagtail, Long-tailed Widowbird,

Boston_3107_Long-tailed-Widowbird

Jackal Buzzard, Pied Starling, Steppe Buzzard, Amur Falcon, Zitting Cisticola, Olive Thrush,

Boston_3249_Olive-Thrush

Pin-tailed Whydah, African Sacred Ibis, Fork-tailed Drongo, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Cape Weaver, African Dusky Flycatcher,

Boston_3263_African-Dusky-Flycatcher

African Paradise-Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Long-crested Eagle, Speckled Mousebird, Buff-spotted Flufftail, House Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Sunbird, Amethyst, Cape White-eye, Dark-capped Bulbul, Black Saw-wing, Cape Longclaw, Yellow-billed Kite, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Malachite Kingfisher, Common Waxbill, Spur-winged Goose, Barn Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Burchell’s Coucal, Cattle Egret,

IMG_4170_2975_Boston_Cattle-EgretAfrican Black Duck, Common Quail, Diderick Cuckoo, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-fronted Canary, African Stonechat, Egyptian Goose, Cape Crow, Yellow-billed Duck, Bokmakierie, Greater Striped Swallow, Red-billed Quelea, Common Fiscal, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Turtle-Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, Drakensberg Prinia, Red-necked Spurfowl, Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Grey Crowned Crane, Village Weaver, Little Rush-Warbler, African Reed-Warbler, Red-chested Flufftail, Black-winged Lapwing, Amur Falcon.

Bruce and Bev Astrup – Highland Glen

The sight of the month was when a great noise was heard from the free-range fowls – rushed to their rescue as Mongoose and a variety of other predators have been known to help themselves. We found a juvenile Monitor Lizard, making its embarrassed way along the path with a whole flock of the fowls behind, escorting it off the premises. Now it is not known whether it had already snacked on a few newly laid eggs or not, thereby having no further appetite, but the scene was unusual. The pair of Reedbuck remain in evidence, next to the garden fence.

Barbara and David Clulow were visiting Boston at the request of CREW representatives from Durban, who asked to be shown how to enter Edgeware to seek the elusive Asclepias bicuspis and Schizoglossum bidens near the summit at 1500 metres. Together with Chris Wahlberg and we two, the party included Hlengiwe Mtshali and Mbali Mkhize of CREW staff. The Midlands Conservancies blog post is available for viewing, so details are not repeated, but the successful finds of the two plants sought, justifies repetition.  Here is Barbara’s photo of the Schizoglossum of which 12 were found in the limited area searched

Schizoglossum-bidens

and only one sample of the Asclepias.

Asclepias-bicuspis

Temptation to show photos of two other flowers amongst the masses of species on the hill – a Sandersonia aurantiaca, blooming in timely proximity to December 25

Sandersonia-aurantiaca

and a new species for Edgeware, four plants of the Disa crassicornis, with the eager CREW folk admiring them.

CREW-with-Disa-crassicornis

Christeen Grant – Sitamani

Recently I heard a snippet of information, December in KwaZulu-Natal statistically has a cooler average temperature than November. That seems to be true this year, combined with being in the ‘mist-belt’, there have been many rainy overcast days and nights when we haven’t seen the sun, moon or stars. For the wildflowers on our hillsides it has been perfect and they have blossomed profusely!

02 Cover Rocky Hillside IMG_2424

Some of the sparkling jewel-like flowers seen this month: Agapanthus campanulatus;

02 Cover Flower Watsonia Socuim & Agapanthus campanulatus IMG_2479

Aristea woodii,

Flower Aristea woodii IMG_2412

Asclepias albens,

Flower Asclepias albens P1020017

Cyanotis speciosa the aptly named Doll’s Powder-puff;

Flower Cyanotis speciosa IMG_2366

Dipcadi viride;

Flower Dipcadi viride IMG_2369

Eucomis autumnalis Pineapple lily, with it’s distinctive tuft of green leafy bracts topping the inflorescence, traditional medicinal uses include treatment of low backache, assisting in post-operative recovery and healing of fractures, as well as urinary disease, stomach ache, fevers, colic, syphilis and to facilitate childbirth.

Flower Eucomis autumnalis IMG_2460

Fewer ground orchids than usual in December but these were flowering Eulophia foliosa and

Flower Eulophia foliosa IMG_2387

Eulophia ovalis;

Flower Eulophia ovalis IMG_2467

dainty Geranium schlecteri;

Flower Geranium schlecteri IMG_2473

Hypoxis parvula;

Flower Hypoxis parvula P1020008

Indigofera alpina (a new ID);

Flower Indigofera alpina IMG_2413

Papaver aculeatum;

Flower Papaver aculeatum IMG_2477

Pearsonia sessilifolia;

Flower Pearsonia sessilifolia IMG_2396

Pentanisia augustifolia;

Flower Pentanisia augustifolia IMG_2389

Senecio isatideus;

Flower Senecio isatideus IMG_2378

two sp. of Silene commonly known as Gunpowder Plants, as the seed capsules ‘explode’ when ripe, dispersing the fine black seeds, the flowers are open in the late afternoon or in dull light, quickly wilting in direct sun, Silene bellidioides

Flower Silene bellidioides IMG_2350

and Silene burchellii a very much smaller species with all the flowers held on one side of the flowering stem;

Flower Silene burchellii IMG_2376

Stachys aethiopica;

Flower Stachys aethiopica IMG_2362

Vernonia natalensis;

Flower Vernonia natalensis IMG_2402

Watsonia lepida;

Flower Watsonia lepida IMG_2384

Zaluzianskya elongata (another new ID)

Flower Zaluzianskya elongata IMG_2416

and Zantedeschia albomaculata the Spotted-leaved Arum.

Flower Zantedeschia albomaculata IMG_2436

A very attractive Mushroom grew rapidly in the damp conditions.

Fungi IMG_2341

A Cicada nymphal skin remained attached to the shade-cloth and just below a newly emerged Cicada waited to ‘harden’ before flying off to join the earsplitting chorus in the tree above.

Insect Cicada nymphal skin IMG_2356

Insect Cicada P1010985A surprise sighting of a Pamphagidae Transvaaliana playing hide and seek in the long grass.

Insect Pamphagidae Transvaaliana draconis IMG_2382

One early morning a Bladder Grasshopper Pneumora inanis was spotted on the lawn, it’s distinctive loud call, a screech followed by repeated ‘khonia’ is a typically Summer sound!

Insect Bladder Grasshopper Pneumora inanis P1020211

Two moths caught my eye, Plume Moth sp.

Insect Moth Plume Moth sp IMG_2401

and a Translucent Ermine.

Insect Moth Translucent Ermine IMG_2440

A delightful Bee fly Australoechus hirtus flitted from flower to flower, resting very briefly on a stone.

Insect Bee fly Australoechus hirtus IMG_2478

A vibrantly striped caterpillar munched hungrily on it’s favourite, Albuca flowers.

Insect caterpillar IMG_2372

Many Millipedes and Pill Millipedes track their many footed way.

Invertebrate Millipede  P1010954

Invertebrate Pill millipede IMG_2347

On dewy mornings the tall grass is festooned with sparkling webs, the underside view of this tiny (3mm) Orb-Web spider waiting patiently in the centre of it’s web.

Spider Orb-Web Spider IMG_2358

On a walk through the grasses I spotted a tiny juvenile Striped skink sunning on a rock.

Reptile Striped skink juvenile IMG_2391

Beneath shrubs and trees there is evidence in empty eggshells that baby birds are hatching, and high-pitched calls seem to echo through the garden. The frenetic parents clear the ‘nightly crop’ of moths that settle near the light outside the kitchen. The Striped Swallows haven’t managed to make their dabbed nest ‘stick’ this year.

Bird Striped Swallow IMG_2439

One evening I watched a duiker eating fallen plums. Compressed ‘beds’ in the grass show where the Reedbuck rest during the day.02 Cover Flower Watsonia Socuim & Agapanthus campanulatus IMG_2479

 

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5 thoughts on “Boston Wildlife Sightings – December 2014

  1. Meriel mitchell

    Birds, insects or flowers? Which group of photographs gets my vote? They all do! Absolutely amazing photos. The spider web is the one I’d like on my screensaver!

    Like

    Reply
  2. ozztam

    Such stunning photographs, bringing back to life many wonderful memories growing up in these beautiful rolling lands…. thank you for sharing, Christine!

    Like

    Reply
  3. Rob Crankshaw

    What an enjoyable and informative post! And a lot of work too. Thank you. I see Indigofera alpina is endemic to the Cape – I’m assuming it’s very rare in the Midlands.

    Like

    Reply

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