November 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant
November has had the first typically summer rainfall pattern in three years. Hot humid haze days, interspersed with misty cool ones, regular thunderstorm activity and glorious rain. Finally our well has some water in it, the first time since May. Wildflowers particularly have responded and the hillside is covered in a neon orange wash of Watsonia socium.
Some of the spectacular array of flowers are: Adjuga ophrydis; Albuca pachychlamys; Asclepias albens, these amazing flower heads droop downwards, hiding the vivid lime green and pink flowers;
Aspidonepsis flava with Crab spider; Berkheya macrocephala;
Chlorophytum cooperi; Cyanotis speciosa; Cyphia elata; Dierama latifolium; Helichrysum pallidum; Hermannia woodii; Indigofera hilaris, bright pink clumps in the grass;
another different Ledebouria sp; delicate Lobelia erinus; hundreds of Merwilla nervosa; Pachycarpus natalensis; Scabiosa columbaria; Searsia discolor;
two species of Silene, Silene bellidoides and Silene burchellii;
Sisyranthus trichostomus; Trachyandra asperata; Wahlenbergia cuspidata;
I finally have a name for this beautiful Watsonia via a Facebook group: Flora of southern Africa, Watsonia meriana
and Xysmalobium parviflorum.
I managed to get a photo of a Spectacled Weaver on a nest in the Plane Tree. The Spectacled Weavers don’t seem to strip off the leaves in the vicinity of their nests as the Village Weavers do; perhaps they seek camouflage rather than being able to see their predators approach. The Striped Swallows have returned over a month later than usual. Red-collared Widows are now in full courting plumage and a large flock roams over the seeding grass. A Long-crested Eagle perches regularly on the Eskom post. The Southern Boubou’s are a delight with their varying call and quiet movements on the lawn and in shrubbery. A Bokmakierie pair are frequently heard and seen in the Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja thicket that has grown up behind the house.
With the rainfall, fungi pop up regularly. A Horse Mushroom and Star Stinkhorn with a millipede are two of them.
Butterflies are starting to be seen more frequently. I watched an African Common White butterfly feeding in Vernonia natalensis.
Bagworm larvae, of the Psyshidae Family of moths, on Vernonia hirsuta.
Insects, like these Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys, are nibbling many flowers and buds.
Finally a delight on the lawn one morning, a Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra!
November 2016 on Stormy Hill – Caroline McKerrow
I’ve seen the pair of Reedbuck a few times this month. I also had some Woodland Dormice in the ceiling until the cats dispatched them. Check the fluffy tail. The other one got eaten.
All the birds are busy in their nests. The Hadedas and Weavers have been building nests in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons are all over the place and the Red-winged Starlings are making messy nests on top of the lights in the shed. Swallows are also back making muddy nests. The Speckled Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.
December 2016 on Gramarye – Crystelle Wilson
On a trip to a Zululand game reserve in November we were lucky enough to see cheetahs. Back at Boston I was just as excited seeing a Serval on an early morning walk down to the river.
The breeding season was in full swing and juvenile birds were everywhere to be seen. At the river two Levaillant’s Cisticola fledglings tried to balance on the same stalk
And in the garden African Paradise Flycatcher parents were industriously feeding their newly fledged chicks
On the kitchen verandah there was a near tragedy when part of the nest of the Greater Striped Swallows collapsed on Christmas Day, leaving the three chicks exposed inside. Fortunately they were about to fledge and within a few days were flying strongly with the parents.
The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,
Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Amethyst Sunbird, Common Moorhen, Hamerkop, Three-banded Plover, Wailing Cisticola, Blacksmith Lapwing, Speckled Mousebird,
African Spoonbill, Black-headed Oriole, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Lazy Cisticola, Neddicky, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Canary
Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Barn Swallow,
Yellow-billed Kite, Little Grebe, White-backed Duck,
Cape Wagtail, Black Crake, Cape Weaver, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Crow, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola,
Fork-tailed Drongo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Burchell’s Coucal, White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Cape Glossy Starling,
African Hoopoe, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, Egyptian Goose, Cape Canary (well camouflaged in the summer grass)
Red-chested Flufftail, Grey Crowned Crane,
Cape Longclaw, Common Waxbill, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cattle Egret, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Bokmakierie, Village Weaver,
Southern Fiscal, Brown-throated Martin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Quail, Southern Red Bishop,
Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird,
Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Rush-warbler, African Reed-warbler, African Stonechat, Long-crested Eagle, Hadeda Ibis, Cardinal Woodpecker
Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Pin-tailed Whydah
Cape Turtle-dove, Southern Boubou, Greater Striped Swallow, Cape White-eye, Diderick Cuckoo
December 2016 Sitamani Sightings – Christeen Grant
Sultry hot days with thunderstorms have produced a vivid green landscape, however there has not been enough rain to raise the water table significantly; although there is water in the well it is a fraction of what is usually there in December.
Clouds obscured the full moon rise; however early the next morning it was visible through scudding clouds.
Summer solstice was a glorious day, ending in a beautiful sunset. Already many grasses are seeded, the red tinge of Themeda triandra softening the green.
There are still many wildflowers in bloom, some that I saw were: Agapanthus campanulatus; Aristea woodii; Berkheya setifera; Clutia monticola fruit;
Craterocapsa tarsodes, which I usually associate with the mountains grows here too on rocky clay patches;
Dipcadi viride; Epilobium capense seeds; Gladiolus ecklonii; Haemanthus humilis; Lobelia erinus;
four orchids, Eulophia hians var. nutans; Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii; Eulophia zeyheriana and Satyrium longicauda;
Papaver aculeatum; Pelargonium luridum; Rubus ludwigii; Senecio subrubriflorus; Strigia bilabiata and Zantedeschia albomaculata.
An unusual fungi was growing in stone gravel.
In the lush foliage I found some delightful insects: two Bee Fly species, a Foam Grasshopper and a lucky sighting of a Giant Forest Cicada!
Most mornings the birds find the night flying moths before I do, but I did see a few, including the wings of a Wounded Emperor, Neobunaeopsis arabella; then a rather spectacular first for me, a day flying moth, a Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp. which at first I thought must be a butterfly!
After a misty night I saw a water-beaded spider web.
Long-crested Eagles catch thermals between waiting and watching patiently from perches.
Two discarded eggshells, one from a Spectacled Weaver and the second from a Village Weaver prove that some of the nests were acceptable.
The Striped Swallows have selected a new site to build a nest, I hope this one works out. A pair of Cape Wagtails have recently taken up residence in the garden. Occasionally I hear Spotted Eagle-Owls calling at dusk and dawn.
One morning I discovered a newly excavated Antbear hole, as it was in the middle of the driveway we had to fill it in.
Sadly I will have to live-trap and relocate the Lesser Savanna Dormice that have taken up residence in the house; a hole in a carpet, wooly slippers and clothing where they have selected bedding material, and they devour any food left out… Drawers are their favoured places to make nests. I love their chirrups as they move through the house and occasional sightings as they scurry across the floor and furniture.