Tag Archives: Boston Conservancy

Boston Wildlife Sightings – Summer 2016

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.

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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;

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Adjuga ophrydis

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Albuca pachychlamys

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Asclepias albens

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Asclepias albens

Aspidonepsis flava with Crab spider; Berkheya macrocephala;

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Aspidonepsis flava with a well camouflaged crab spider

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Berkheya macrocephala

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Berkheya macrocephala

Chlorophytum cooperi; Cyanotis speciosa; Cyphia elata; Dierama latifolium; Helichrysum pallidum; Hermannia woodii; Indigofera hilaris, bright pink clumps in the grass;

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Chlorophytum cooperi

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Cyanotis speciosa

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Cyphia elata

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Dierama latifolium

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Helichrysum pallidum

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Hermannia woodii

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Indigofera hilaris

another different Ledebouria sp; delicate Lobelia erinus; hundreds of Merwilla nervosa; Pachycarpus natalensis; Scabiosa columbaria; Searsia discolor;

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Ledebouria sp.

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Lobelia erinus

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Merwilla nervosa

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Merwilla nervosa

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Pachycarpus natalensis

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Scabiosa columbaria

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Searsia discolor

two species of Silene, Silene bellidoides and Silene burchellii;

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Silene bellidoides

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Silene bellidoides

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Silene burchellii

Sisyranthus trichostomus; Trachyandra asperata; Wahlenbergia cuspidata;

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Sisyranthus trichostomus

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Trachyandra asperata

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Wahlenbergia cuspidata

I finally have a name for this beautiful Watsonia via a Facebook group: Flora of southern Africa, Watsonia meriana

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Watsonia meriana

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Watsonia meriana

and Xysmalobium parviflorum.

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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.

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Spectacled Weaver

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Spectacled Weaver nest

With the rainfall, fungi pop up regularly. A Horse Mushroom and Star Stinkhorn with a millipede are two of them.

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Horse mushroom, Agaricus arvensis

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Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe ruba, with a millipede

Butterflies are starting to be seen more frequently. I watched an African Common White butterfly feeding in Vernonia natalensis.

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African Common White butterfly on Vernonia natalensis

Bagworm larvae, of the Psyshidae Family of moths, on Vernonia hirsuta.

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Bagworm on Vernonia hirsuta

Insects, like these Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys, are nibbling many flowers and buds.

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Dotted Fruit Chafer beetles on Albuca pachychlamys

Finally a delight on the lawn one morning, a Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra!

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Common cannibal snail, Natalina cafra

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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.

dormouse

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.

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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.

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Serval

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

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

And in the garden African Paradise Flycatcher parents were industriously feeding their newly fledged chicks

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African Paradise Flycatcher

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.

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Greater Striped Swallows

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Greater Striped Swallows

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Dark-capped Yellow Warbler,

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Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-headed Heron, Amethyst Sunbird, Common Moorhen, Hamerkop, Three-banded Plover, Wailing Cisticola, Blacksmith Lapwing, Speckled Mousebird,

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Speckled Mousebirds

African Spoonbill, Black-headed Oriole, Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Lazy Cisticola, Neddicky, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellow-fronted Canary

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Yellow-fronted Canary

Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Speckled Pigeon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Barn Swallow,

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Barn Swallow

Yellow-billed Kite, Little Grebe, White-backed Duck,

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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,

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Zitting Cisticola

Fork-tailed Drongo, African Paradise-flycatcher, Cape Sparrow, Burchell’s Coucal, White-throated Swallow, Pied Kingfisher, Cape Glossy Starling,

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Cape Glossy Starling

African Hoopoe, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, Egyptian Goose, Cape Canary (well camouflaged in the summer grass)

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Cape Canary

Red-chested Flufftail, Grey Crowned Crane,

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Grey Crowned Crane

Cape Longclaw, Common Waxbill, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cattle Egret, Cape Grassbird, Yellow-billed Duck, Bokmakierie, Village Weaver,

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Village Weaver

Southern Fiscal, Brown-throated Martin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Common Quail, Southern Red Bishop,

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Southern Red Bishop

Drakensberg Prinia,

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Drakensberg Prinia

Red-collared Widowbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird,

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Fan-tailed Widowbird

Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Rush-warbler, African Reed-warbler, African Stonechat, Long-crested Eagle, Hadeda Ibis, Cardinal Woodpecker

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Cardinal Woodpecker

Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, Pin-tailed Whydah

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Pin-tailed Whydah

Red-eyed Dove,

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Red-eyed Dove

Cape Turtle-dove, Southern Boubou, Greater Striped Swallow, Cape White-eye, Diderick Cuckoo

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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.

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Summer solstice

Clouds obscured the full moon rise; however early the next morning it was visible through scudding clouds.

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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.

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Themeda triandra

There are still many wildflowers in bloom, some that I saw were: Agapanthus campanulatus; Aristea woodii; Berkheya setifera; Clutia monticola fruit;

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Agapanthus campanulatus

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Aristea woodii

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Berkheya setifera

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Clutia monticola

Craterocapsa tarsodes, which I usually associate with the mountains grows here too on rocky clay patches;

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Craterocapsa tarsodes

Dipcadi viride; Epilobium capense seeds; Gladiolus ecklonii; Haemanthus humilis; Lobelia erinus;

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Dipcadi viride

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Epilobium capense

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Gladiolus ecklonii

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Haemanthus humilis

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Lobelia erinus

four orchids, Eulophia hians var. nutans; Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii; Eulophia zeyheriana and Satyrium longicauda;

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Eulophia hians ver. nutans

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Eulophia ovalis var. bainesii

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Eulophia zeyheriana

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Satyrium longicauda

Papaver aculeatum; Pelargonium luridum; Rubus ludwigii; Senecio subrubriflorus; Strigia bilabiata and Zantedeschia albomaculata.

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Papaver aculeatum

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Pelargonium luridum

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Rubus ludwigii

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Senecia subrubriflorus

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Strigia bilabiata

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

 

An unusual fungi was growing in stone gravel.

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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!

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Bee Fly

 

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Bee Fly

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Foam Grasshopper

 

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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!

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Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.

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Superb False Tiger, Heraclia sp.

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Wings of an Emperor moth, Neobunaeopsis arabella

After a misty night I saw a water-beaded spider web.

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Long-crested Eagles catch thermals between waiting and watching patiently from perches.

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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.

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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.

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Boston Wildlife Sightings – October 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

October has been a busy month, not much time at home to explore, so few sightings. There was a final snowfall at the beginning of the month, then the weather settled into a summer pattern, regular thunderstorms, rain and misty days between hot ones.

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One misty day a pair of Common Reedbuck ventured close to the house, unhurriedly grazing as the passed by. I had several close-up encounters on different predawn mornings with individual Reedbuck.

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The moist conditions have produced many flowers, they sparkled at me as I passed by. The few I managed to find time to photograph were Asparagus africanus, Monopsis decipiens and Oxalis smithiana.

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Asparagus africanus

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Monopsis decipiens

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Oxalis smithiana

A tiny Lacewing sp. perched on the kitchen towel.

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Lacewing

There have been several lovely moths including these two, an Emerald sp. and one unidentified.

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Moth – Emerald sp.

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Unidentified moth (suggestions welcome)

Tiny Dunce Caps, Conocybe tenera; popped up in the lawn after rain as did a False Earth-star.

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Tiny Dunce Caps – Conocybe tenera

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False Earth-star

The Village Weavers have been very busy in the Pin Oak and in an adjacent Plane Tree Spectacled Weavers have built a few nests. The Piet-my-Vrou, Red-chested Cuckoo finally started calling on the 19 October. I also saw an African Harrier-Hawk flying by.

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

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.

dormouse

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 Mousebirds got cold one lunchtime and formed a ball.

mousebirds

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

The onset at last of the rainy season is so welcome, that one doesn’t mind days of grey, mizzling weather – which is no good for taking great photographs. It also doesn’t put a damper on the excitement of seeing a pair of Wattled Cranes looming large right next to the road.

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Wattled Cranes

And it is always pleasing to see Grey Crowned Cranes, there were a group of six on The Drift one morning, flying off north

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Grey Crowned Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Red-capped Lark, African Dusky Flycatcher, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Crake, Blue Crane, Great Egret, African Darter, Greater Striped Swallow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Grassbird, African Reed-warbler

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African Reed-Warbler

Red-necked Spurfowl, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

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Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

Burchell’s Coucal, Bokmakierie, Cape Sparrow, Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Mousebird, African Paradise-flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, , African Hoopoe, Pin-tailed Whydah, Olive Thrush, Spur-winged Goose

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Spur-winged Goose

Lanner Falcon, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, House Sparrow, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Cattle Egret (closely roosting overnight near the dam)

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Cattle Egret

Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant (also at the dam on a tree in the island where it was perching room only)

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White-breasted Cormorant

Cape Longclaw, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Crow, Cape Robin-chat, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Pipit,

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African Pipit

Red-collared Widowbird, Village Weaver, White-throated Swallow, Cape Weaver

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Cape Weaver

Brown-throated Martin, Southern Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Little Grebe, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Wagtail, African Spoonbill (taking a break from feeding)

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African Spoonbill

Common Waxbill, Cape Turtle-dove, Pied Starling, Grey Crowned Crane, Red-chested Cuckoo, Helmeted Guineafowl, Amethyst Sunbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Southern Double-collared, Sunbird, African Stonechat, Cape Canary, Cape White-eye, African Fish-eagle

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African Fish-Eagle

Drakensberg Prinia, Southern Boubou, Forest Canary, Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Goose (the gosling turning into gangling teenagers)

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Egyptian Geese

Red-knobbed Coots were feeding three newly-hatched chicks

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Red-knobbed Coot

Blacksmith Lapwing, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Duck

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Yellow-billed Duck

Boston Wildlife Sightings – September 2016

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We have had quite a lot of activity over September. Some good, some bad.

We saw a large mongoose with dark colouration run across the road on our way out one day. Possibly either a Large Grey Mongoose or a Water (Marsh) Mongoose?

The Common (Grey) Duiker is a regular visitor and then we had a wonderful sighting with the small Bushbuck herd. We saw the ram, a doe and fawn and another male (could this be last years baby?) all together.

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Bushbuck ram

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Young Bushbuck

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Bushbuck fawn

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Bushbuck doe and fawn

We were so chuffed, then about two weeks later we had a tragedy. The dogs kept barking towards nextdoors indigenous forest so we went to look. After pushing through the American Brambles, we came across what we think was the baby Bushbuck caught in a snare. We couldn’t be sure as it had got quite badly decomposed so was not too easy to identify. We think that the dogs were picking up the scent by that time as it did smell a bit. Such a shame. We have seen two of the bushbuck again but not the baby.

The Hadeda Ibis and Village Weaver birds are busy nesting in the bird tree. The Speckled Pigeons seem to be nesting everywhere and the Red-winged Starlings are in the shed. I’ve seen the resident African Paradise Flycatcher too.

We were building some better steps over the balcony wall for Pisch man who is Stormy Hill’s elderly cat when we came across the Red-lipped Herald snake in a concrete block at the base of the old steps. So now we know where he lives! We’ve named him Harry and he seems quite content living in the cat steps. Maybe he’s waiting for them to drop a mouse or two.

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Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake

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Harry the Red-lipped Herald Snake

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

September Spring has been wonderful, mostly warm days, a few thunderstorms and a surprise snowfall on the eighteenth,

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followed by a magical sunrise a few days later.

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Many flowers have sprung up through the greening grass, though the water table is still very low. Amongst those seen, Acalypha sp.; Argyrolobium marginatum; Asclepias stellifera; Aster bakerianus; Chrysanthemoides monilifera; Clutia cordata; Convolvulus natalensis; Dierama cooperi; Eriosema salignum;

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Acalypha sp.

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Argyrolobium marginatum

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Asclepias stellifera

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Aster bakerianus

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Chrysanthemoides monilifera

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Clutia cordata

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Convolvulus natalensis

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Dierama cooperi

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Eriosema salignum

Eulophia hians var. hians with an exciting sighting of an ant like insect, probably the pollinator with pollinaria stuck to it’s back;

Eulophia hians var. inaequalis;

Gerbera ambigua;

Gymnosporia uniflora, Dwarf Spikethorn, a first for me;

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Gymnosporia uniflora

Hebenstretia duraHelichrysum aureum;

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Hebenstretia dura

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Helichrysum aureum

Helichrysum caespititium and I found a new population;

Hypoxis argentea and costata;

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Hypoxis argentea

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Hypoxis costata

Kohautia amatymbica; two different Ledebouria sp.;

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Kohautia amatymbica

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Ledebouria sp.

Pentanisia prunelloides; Raphionacme hirsuta;

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Pentanisia prunelloides

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Raphionacme hirsuta

Senecio macrocephalus and oxyriifolius leaves;

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Senecio macrocephalus

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Senecio oxyriifolius

Stachys aethiopica; Thesium pallidum; Tritonia lineata; Tulbaghia leucantha; Vernonia hirsuta and another smaller sp.; plus Vihna vexillata.

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Stachys aethiopica

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Tritonia lineata

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Vernonia hirsuta

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Vernonia sp (small)

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Vihna vexillata

A few other observations were, Carpenter Bees;

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Carpenter bee

a Drone Fly, Bee-mimic;

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Drone Fly

a Marbled Emperor moth;

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Marbled Emperor Moth

a Wasp nest neatly placed in a rock crevice

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Wasp nest

and finally I nearly stepped on a rather large Puff Adder sunning himself near his hole… He slid inside it as I tried to take a quick photo, not in good focus!

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Puff Adder

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Welcome spring rain generated fresh growth on the hillsides and while out birding, I was pleased to see a snake lily (Scadoxus puniceus)

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Scadoxis puniceus

and giant anemones (Anemone fanninii)

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Anemone fanninii

Spring is also the time of year when many birds respond to the urge to reproduce. For some time I have been keeping an eye on a large nest in trees along the Elands River on the Dargle Road. It might have originally belonged to Long-crested Eagles, but has also been used by Egyptian Geese and this season by a Jackal Buzzard. The first picture show the raptor on the nest on 2 September

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Jackal Buzzard

The second picture was taken on 24 September and there appears to be a fledgling in the nest. The adult was sitting on a tree nearby.

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Jackal Buzzard fledgling

Jackal Buzzards seem to be doing very well in the district, with a number of immature birds in a variety of plumages showing up all over. The picture of one of them in flight shows the bird is in the process of moulting, and donning yet another variation in colouration.

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Jackal Buzzard in flight

Another highlight was seeing four Blue Cranes flying over the Geldarts’ newly proclaimed Boschberg Nature Reserve, with another two on the ground below them

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Blue Cranes

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Southern Double-collared Sunbird, African Pipit, Pied Starling, Common Waxbill

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Common Waxbill

Wailing Cisticola, Lanner Falcon, Egyptian Goose (already boasting a clutch of goslings)

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Egyptian Goose with goslings

Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Grey Heron

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Grey Heron

Malachite Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown-throated Martin, Lesser Swamp-warbler, Three-banded Plover, Red-knobbed Coot, Spur-winged Goose, South African Shelduck

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South African Shelduck

White-throated Swallow, Black-headed Heron, Common Fiscal, African Sacred Ibis, Greater Striped Swallow, African Fish-Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, African Firefinch, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Bulbul, Brimstone Canary

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Brimstone Canary

African Stonechat, Cape Wagtail, African Black Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Longclaw, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Long-crested Eagle, Bokmakierie, Cape Glossy Starling, Red-throated Wryneck, Bar-throated Apalis, African Hoopoe, Levaillant’s Cisticola

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

Common Moorhen, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape White-eye, Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebird, Hamerkop

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Hamerkop

Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Dusky Flycatcher, Hadeda Ibis, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Robin-chat

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Cape Robin-chat

Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, House Sparrow, Village Weaver, Cape Canary, Cape Crow

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Cape Crow

Cape Sparrow, (and a welcome back to migrants) Black Saw-wing and African Paradise-flycatcher

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African Paradise-flycatcher

Boston Wildlife Sightings – August 2016

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We saw quite a bit at Stormy Hill this August. The Bushbuck pair were visiting, as well as the Reedbuck. The resident Duiker is wandering around.

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Resident Duiker wandering around

A vlei rat was helping itself to some horse food leavings at the stables.

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Vlei rat

The Village Weavers and the Hadedas are building nests in the bird tree.

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Village Weaver working hard on his nest to impress the female.

We went on a ride and saw a huge bird at the dam which we think was a lammergeier (it’s the only bird that fits the sighting in our bird book.) I’ve also included some photos of our resident Jackal Buzzards.

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Jackal Buzzard

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Jackal Buzzard

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

There is concern about the status of Secretarybirds in South Africa, which has been uplisted from Near-threatened to Vulnerable. This is due to factors such as habitat loss and collisions with fences and power lines. BirdLife South Africa has a special research project on these birds which can be followed at https://www.facebook.com/secretarybirdconservation. It is always a highlight to spot them in the field, and especially in an agricultural setting where they appear to adapt to their surroundings.

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Secretarybird

Equally pleasing was catching sight of a Wattled Crane, a long distance away from the camera.

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Wattled Crane

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000 included: Cape Glossy Starling, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Natal Spurfowl, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Red-necked Spurfowl, Spur-winged Goose, African Firefinch, Cape Wagtail,

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Cape Wagtail

Black-headed Oriole, Southern Boubou, African Wattled Lapwing, African Spoonbill, Grey Crowned Crane, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Sparrow, Cape Longclaw,

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Cape Longclaw

Olive Thrush, Red-billed Teal, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Southern Red Bishop, Red-capped Lark, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Robin-Chat, Three-banded Plover,

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Three-banded Plover

Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-Dove, Jackal Buzzard, House Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, African Stonechat, Pied Starling, Cape Weaver, Drakensberg Prinia, Brown-throated Martin, Long-crested Eagle,

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Long-crested Eagle

White-breasted Cormorant, Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck (the male has a grey head and females black and white)

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South African Shelduck

African Sacred Ibis, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Duck,

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Yellow-billed Duck

Buff-streaked Chat,

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Buff-streaked Chat (male)

Bokmakierie, Hadeda Ibis, Black-headed Heron, Wattled Crane, Village Weaver, Red-eyed Dove, Common Fiscal, Cape White-eye, Fork-tailed Drongo, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Speckled Mousebird,

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Speckled Mousbirds

Sombre Greenbul, Amethyst Sunbird, Hamerkop, Secretarybird, Malachite Kingfisher

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Malachite Kingfisher

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

Scattered bones and new life in August. Is anyone else missing the gusty winds usually prevalent during August?

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We experienced mainly mild temperatures, apart from a couple of cold fronts that brought in some wonderful rain, between there were clear blue skies, spectacular sunrises and new green grass started covering the hillsides.

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After the rain new life in popped up almost overnight. Dried out Moss, Selaginella dregei, greened up;

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Selaginella dregei

Bracken Pteridium aquilinum and Tree Fern Cyathea dregei fronds started unfurling.

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Pteridium aquilinum

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Cyathea dregei

Colourful spots appeared in the new grass, Apodolirion buchananii one of my favourite first spring flowers,

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Apodolirion buchananii

Dimorphotheca jucunda, Graderia scabra, Green-tipped Fire Lily, Cyrtanthus tuckii vibrantly red, Ledebouria ovatifolia, Nemesia caerulea and Ursinia tenuiloba.

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Dimorphotheca jacunda

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Dimorphotheca jacunda

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Graderia scabra

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Cyrtanthus tuckii

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Ledebouria ovatifolia

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Nemesia caerulea

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Ursinia tenuiloba

A few dried out seed heads of Themeda triandra interspersed in unburnt areas.

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Themeda triandra

Masses of Buddleja salviifolia flowers scent the air,

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Buddleja salviifolia

new leaves of the Cabbage Trees, Cussonia paniculata wave like a feather dusters on long trunks

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Cussonia paniculata

and the delicate yellow Ouhout, Leucosidea sericea flowers are attracting hover flies, bees and birds.

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Leucosidea sericea

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Leucosidea sericea

I found a few huge Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris after the rain.

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Agaricus campestris

Revealed in burnt off areas were two sets of scattered bones. I think the skull is of a Porcupine and the other set was a small antelope, probably a Duiker. As there seemed to be little disturbance of the bones I think they died of natural causes.

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Porcupine skull

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Remains possibly of a Duiker

The Common Reedbuck are still keeping close to the house and one evening a female and male casually picked their way grazing as they moved.

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Common Reedbuck (female)

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Common Reedbuck (male)

An exciting find was a pile of what I’m sure was relatively fresh Eland droppings.

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Eland droppings

The Village Weavers are back at the Pin Oak in the garden and one male was very busy starting to build a nest. Black-headed Orioles, Black-backed Puffbacks, Cape Robin-chats, Fork-tailed Drongos, Cape White-eyes, Speckled Pigeons and Southern Boubous are some of the birds I’ve seen round the house and at the birdbaths. The Fish Eagle I hear regularly calling from the valley.

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Male Village Weaver building a nest

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Male Village Weaver building a nest

On my way home one day I spotted a tiny, ±2mm Crab spider, Family Thomisidae on the road. Unusual for me as I’d never seen a black one before, the ones I normally see are yellow, green or pink.

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Crab Spider

On Mt. Shannon, Mondi Plantation, Philip came across a very weak Long-crested Eagle on the ground, it had a ring on one leg. On investigation he discovered that it had been ringed by Lindy Jane Thompson, as an adult bird, on the 25th March 2015, on the Boston-Dargle Road. When he returned it had gone, leaving no trace.

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Long-crested Eagle

On another day we saw a pair of South African Shelducks, Yellow-billed Ducks and a Reed Cormorant on the dam as we walked past.

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Three Yellow-billed ducks in the foreground, two South African Shelduck in the middle (male and female), and a Reed Cormorant in the background.

Boston Wildlife Sightings – July 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

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Fire and Ice July, the first part of the month was characterized by smoky, hazy skies from fire-break burning. A cold front brought a sharp frost on 3 July, with very chilly temperatures and a few flakes of snow on the previous day.

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The dry, warmer, intervening weather was changed into a snowy winter wonderland on the 25 July, much needed moisture, including rain, soaked the dry soil for a few days.

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Aloe maculata have started fruiting, there are still some bright orange flowers on the hillside;

Buddleja salvifolia burst into flower after the snow;

as well as hundreds of bright yellow Gazania krebsiana;

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one or two Greyia sutherlandii flowers had opened earlier, now the tree is covered in red tipped branches;

03 Flora Flower Greyia sutherlandii IMG_6293

the Halleria lucida branches are dripping with flowers, the most I’ve seen in a long time;

03 Flora Flower Halleria lucida IMG_6297

now that the soil is damp Ledebouria ovatifolia rosette, flat leaves have tightly packed buds above them.

03 Flora Flower Ledebouria ovatifolia IMG_6327

We have been working at rehabilitating a hillside that had a stand of pine trees growing on it. It is a very slow process, nine years since the trees came down in a tornado. Removal of the trunks and large branches came first, then regular annual burns and weeding out alien species. We are seeing indigenous pioneer species coming in. Recently we cut down and removed Acacia melanoxylon

and were happy to identify small indigenous trees that grow in a grove, Canthium (now Afrocanthium) mundianum, which will remain there.

03 Flora Tree Canthium (now Afrocanthium) mundianum IMG_2301

This last month there have been several sightings of Common Reedbuck. A very fine male, with beautiful horns, regularly wanders quite close to the house. He rests in a patch of bracken, one evening he was emerging as I arrived home.

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Male Common Reedbuck

Then on a walk to the top of our property I saw three males and four females, the largest group I’ve seen together in recent years.

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Common Reedbuck spoor

Down near the gate I found many small pieces of fur, possibly Vlei Rat, that had been discarded by a predator, possibly the Long-crested Eagle, as that gatepost is a frequent perch.

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A pile of Porcupine droppings indicated they are still around.

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Porcupine scat

A Black-headed Oriole has taken over from the Black-backed Puffback, trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. His liquid song from the verandah, where he perched in between bouts was so beautiful.

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Black-headed Oriole

A Cape Robin-chat splashed in the verandah birdbath even though there was still snow on the ground.

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A flock of Cape Weavers sunned themselves in bare branches.

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Cape Weavers

The large group of Cape White-eyes are my favourite winter birds, they all keep together, moving constantly whether foraging or taking a drink and dip.

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Cape White-eyes

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Cape White-eye

The Speckled Pigeons have multiplied, there are about six living here, roosting and nesting in the carports. I regularly hear the African Fish-Eagle calling from the valley, took a flight up over the house.

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Speckled Pigeon

There are many Striped Skinks living among the wooden slats of an outbuilding. They enjoy the warmth of a winter sun, basking.

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Striped Skink

There are many bees and hoverflies buzzing in the few flowering plants.

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I found what I think is a Wasp nest on the ground and several huge ant nests in trees.

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Possible wasp nest on the ground

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Ant nest in the tree

A beautiful Painted Lady butterfly soaked up warmth from a rock on the hilltop.

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Painted Lady Butterfly

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We are getting quite a lot of activity at Stormy Hill Horse Trails. The buck are coming to drink at our horses’ water trough on the hill, so we have spotted a pair of Bushbuck, a Reedbuck, including a ‘teenager’ Reedbuck, and our resident Common (Grey) Duiker. We have even had a Bushbuck doe eating the rose bushes in the garden, which is great as it will save me some pruning.

We were quite excited to see a pair of Knysna Turaco (previously know as the Knysna Lourie), so I’m hoping that they have decided to nest in the area.

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Birds have evolved very efficient ways to regulate their body temperature, but in winter it is hard not to think they are feeling the cold when they are sitting all huddled up like the Speckled Pigeons on the roof of a barn

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Speckled Pigeons

or facing into the cold wind like a group of Helmeted Guineafowl

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Helmeted Guineafowl

Black-headed Herons also appeared to huddle together in supporting companionship

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Black-headed Heron

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Cape Weaver, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Red-winged Starling, Lanner Falcon, Rock Kestrel, Denham’s Bustard, Green Wood-hoopoe, Bokmakierie, Forest Canary, Pied Starling, Buff-streaked Chat

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Buff-streaked Chat

African Firefinch, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow

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House Sparrow

Cape Wagtail, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola

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Levaillant’s Cisticola

Black-shouldered Kite, Long-crested Eagle, Black-headed Heron, Cape Sparrow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-dove, Fork-tailed Drongo

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Fork-tailed Drongo

Cape White-eye, Speckled Pigeon, Village Weaver (the males beginning to practise their building skills)

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Village Weaver

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Longclaw, Yellow Bishop, Little Grebe

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Little Grebe

Drakensberg Prinia, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, White-necked Raven, African Stonechat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Canary and Southern Boubou (which appreciated having water available in the bird bath).

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Southern Boubou

Boston Wildlife Sightings – June 2016

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Winter truly arrived in June and we regularly had temperatures of -6ºC in the mornings.

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A Cape Longclaw tried its best to warm up in the first weak rays of the sun at the edge of a dam

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Cape Longclaw

A sad sighting was that of a dead Spotted Eagle-Owl lying on the path to the river. We couldn’t work out why it died, but it appeared as if its neck was broken.

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Spotted Eagle-Owl lying dead on the path

Very welcome sights were that of Denham’s Bustards on a few occasions

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Denham’s Bustards

In the frost in a maize field (above) and ponderously taking to the air (below)

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Denham’s Bustard in flight

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: White-breasted Cormorant, Long-crested Eagle, Common Moorhen, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-knobbed Coot, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Brown-throated Martin, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Starling, African Stonechat, Little Grebe, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, African Spoonbill, Black-shouldered Kite (carrying out its pest control duties)

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Black-shouldered Kite

Red-winged Starling, African Sacred Ibis, Bar-throated Apalis, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Common Fiscal, Spotted Eagle-owl, Green Wood-hoopoe, Red-necked Spurfowl, Olive Woodpecker, Speckled Pigeon, Cape Glossy Starling, Sombre Greenbul, Black-headed Heron, Dark-capped Bulbul,

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Dark-capped Bulbul

Amethyst Sunbird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Hadeda Ibis,

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Hadeda Ibis

Southern Boubou, Helmeted Guineafowl, Olive Thrush, House Sparrow, Cape Robin-chat, Village Weaver (making the most of hospitality on offer at the feeding station)

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Village Weavers

As did the Cape White-eyes

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Cape White-eyes

Bokmakierie, Drakensberg Prinia,

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Drakensberg Prinia

Red-eyed Dove, Cape Turtle-dove, African Firefinch. The Grey Crowned Crane family continued with their daily routine, the youngster is still with the parents and roost with them at night.

 

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Grey Crowned Crane family

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

There were three Mountain Reedbuck on the hill. The Common (Grey) Duiker was seen a few times and the Vervet Monkey troop have been visiting. An African Fish-Eagle cruised around overhead. An African Harrier-hawk landed in one of the trees and flew off with one of our resident Weaver birds. A Common Reedbuck was seen while out on a ride. Jackals have been heard a lot with the dogs barking to let them know that they are not welcome near the house.

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

June and fire-break burning are synonymous, tracer lines burnt earlier in April hold the fire when the breaks are burnt. A damp day preceded our burn day so fortunately we had an ideal cool burn, that doesn’t damage the plant life as severely. Jackal Buzzards, Drongos, Long-crested Eagles and Cape Crows wheeled around looking for rodents displaced from their homes. The fires are dramatic, particularly in the late afternoon.

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Despite the very dry and cool conditions some of my favourite flowers found here were blooming, bright golden yellow and orange Aloe maculata on the hillside;

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Aloe maculata

snow white, delicate Buddleja dysophylla;

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Buddleja dysophylla

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Buddleja dysophylla

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Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja salvifolia buds are swelling, almost ready to bloom;

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Buddleja salvifolia

tiny, cheerful Euryops laxus have popped up in the short grass around the house; in the tracer-lines,

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Europs laxus

early Gerbera ambigua;

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Gerbera ambigua

Halleria lucida is flowering profusely and creating a magnet for birds and insects;

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Halleria lucida

a neon coloured Ipomoea bolusiana plant took advantage of the shelter along the warm east side of the house.

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Ipomoea bolusiana

The male Black-backed Puffback is still persistently trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. When resting he is starting to display his courtship puffback. The birdbaths are very sought after and often up to 30 Cape White-eyes splash and drink together, the shy Southern Boubou, Cape Robin-chats and Dark-capped Bulbuls take their turn in the verandah birdbath. The Fork-tailed Drongos, Olive Thrushes, Canaries and Cape Sparrows prefer the birdbath under the trees in the garden. Also seen were a flock of Common Waxbills, African Stonechats, Buff-streaked Chats, Amethyst Sunbirds, a Spotted Eagle-Owl and a Cape Batis. A Fish Eagle can be heard regularly calling from the valley.

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Black-backed Puffback (male)

The Lesser Savanna Dormice, Grahiurus kelleni, are still very much in residence, though seen less frequently, particularly in cooler weather. The young Duiker has moved off on it’s own, we still see all three around, but separately.

A few butterflies seen are what I think is a Common Hottentot male,

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Common Hottentot (male)

and a Geranium Bronze, Cacyreus marshalli.

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Geranium Bronze

An unusual Katydid perched on the backstep.

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Kaytid

A spider I hadn’t seen before and rescued from the bath, was identified as a Funnel web wolf spider, Family Lycosidae.

05 Invertebrates Spider Funnel-web Spider of Agelenidae Fam Funnel web wolf spider Family Lycosidae P1070424

Funnel web wolf spider

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Blusher – Amanita rubescens

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Blusher – Amanita rubescens

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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

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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.

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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;

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Berkheya setifera

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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.

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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

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And the African Spoonbill was on its post as usual

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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,

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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,

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

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Little Grebe, Jackal Buzzard (juvenile),

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

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

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

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