Tag Archives: indigenous plants

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;

03 Flora Flower Gazania krebsiana IMG_6307

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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?

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

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

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The leaves of this Boophane have just abandoned the bulb.

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Phymaspermum acerosum, still flowering, but faded.

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A solitary Aristea stands tall amongst the autumn golds.

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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?

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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?

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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

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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

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Gaudy commodore

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Greenbanded swallowtail

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Painted lady

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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

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a female Malachite or Amythest Sunbird? (not sure)

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Male Malachite in eclipse

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

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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.

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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.

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

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The Long-crested Eagle is still around

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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.

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

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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

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Juvenile Amethyst Sunbird who now has his amethyst throat

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Grey Crowned Cranes and African Spoonbills

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Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Sunset over the now very low Mavela Dam

Sunset over Mavela

Dargle Wildlife Sightings – March 2016

Pat & Sandra Merrick – Albury Farm, Lidgetton

Gaudy commodore

Garden Commodore or Garden Inspector Butterfly (Precis archesia)

It’s been a dry month – 80 ml in total. I saw the Blue Crane juvenile flying for the first time on 27th February. We see them almost daily mostly at sunset where they wade in the dam which is dropping at an alarming rate. One hot midday I watched in fascination as it seemed the blue crane adults were trying to teach the youngster to swim.

Crane 1 - Come on junior – this is how you swim

Come on junior – this is how you swim

They were swimming all over the dam while he just stood and watched. Not too interested but he suddenly decided to start running through the shallow water in wild abandon.

Crane 2 - Check this, I’m dancing on water

Check this, I’m dancing on water

Then up and down the side of the dam, wings widespread while his parents stood and watched the antics. At one stage mom or dad started running after him. I watched for an hour before they eventually wandered off to look for some lunch. They are a very close knit family and there is a lot of touching of beaks between them. They are such incredible parents. 5th youngster they have raised now.

Crane 3 - Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

Awe come on – give me a peck goodnight

A malachite baby flew into the verandah door one day – as we had folk for lunch I did not take photos. I put him in a box for awhile and let him loose later where he flew off quite contented.

There have been dozens of moths this month and the frogs have been having a feast on the verandah. No snakes yet!

One morning while having tea on the stoep, we saw 2 Common Reedbuck fighting down at the dam.

Reedbuck 1 - Female reed buck either playing or fighting

Female Common Reedbuck either playing or fighting

We presumed they were males fighting over the females as usual. But as they parted we were surprised to see they were 2 females. A chase ensued and then another charge and more head butting and pushing.

Reedbuck 2 - The Chase

The Chase

It did not look friendly and I wondered if they were fighting over a male!!! But he was nowhere in sight. They eventually parted on friendly terms and carried on grazing. I was surprised at this behaviour between 2 females who are usually so docile.

Reedbuck 3 - The Charge

The Charge

Pat saw an African Jacana at the dam 2 days in a row, but every time I looked for him he was nowhere to be seen.

The Martial Eagle returned to the same dead gum tree a few days after the stork kill. It was a stifling day. His beak was ajar and his wings pulled away from his body. I was so thrilled to see him once again, but that was the last time. A number of raptors around.

Pat saw a black sparrow hawk eating a rat along our driveway. We went for a walk one evening around the dam and found 2 Blacksmith Lapwing eggs lying out in the open a few metres from the dam edge.

Blacksmith plovers eggs

Blacksmith Lapwing eggs

One morning I saw a strange coloured raptor on our dead tree – I went outside to get closer for a photo shoot.

Unknown Raptor 1

Then I heard another raptor making a sort of “peeeoooo” noise which went on for a few
minutes. This one was somewhere in the gum trees opposite our house. The raptor left the dead tree and flew up to the gum trees, found a perch, and he too started his “peeeoooo” calling.

Unknown Raptor 2

Then suddenly the other raptor flew in and joined him a few metres away on the same level. There was a chorus of whistling to and fro and then the one flew off and the other followed shortly after.

Unknown Raptor 3

I have no idea what raptors these are but think they are juveniles because of their light coloured eyes. They are both differently coloured yet whistled the same song. I have asked Ashley to please see if he could find someone to identify them for me. I googled juvenile steppe and jackal buzzards, and also forest buzzards, but got so confused after a few hours gave up.

The skinks (lizards) round the house have become very friendly and enjoy the morning sun in our study. They love the warmth of the sun and sit for some time on the carpet wherever the sun touches it. Strange little creatures and very social. They have now found their way into our bathroom too.

Skink in our study enjoying the morning sun

All day long they slip under the aluminium doors into the study and our bedroom which adjoins both sides of the verandah. The dogs ignore them and they run around freely looking for and eating the dead moths from the previous night and anything else that’s edible.

Skink eating all the dead moths from the night before

They always seem to know how to get out of the house which amazes me. At one stage I used to shush them out the door until I found that they definitely know their way around. Amazing.

Heard several African Fish-Eagles crying this morning over the house – they were miles up – the sky was so blue and bright that I could see nothing, but that wonderful sound lingered in the thermals – a sound that one does not forget – this is our beautiful country, Africa.

 

Nikki Brighton – Old Kilgobbin Farm

The Yellow-billed Kites have gone, but the Barn Owls are back in their box in the farmyard – hope they breed successfully again. I saw just one Reedbuck doe all month and one Common Duiker. Jackal Buzzards, Cormorants, Egyptian Geese, a small brown duck, wagtails, hadedas, a Giant Kingfisher and an African Fish-Eagle watch as we enjoy the last swims of the season in a not yet full dam.

Autumn changes always seem the most obvious, and are much loved by most Midlanders – the chilly ground underfoot in the mornings, perfect afternoons and gentle light of the evenings.

grassland view of Inhlosane

View of Inhlosane

Disperis fanninaea, appears quite at home in the understory of wattle or pine woodlots. Flowers are borne on stems of up to 40cm tall, sometimes singly or in clusters of up to eight. Petals are joined to form a white helmet-shaped hood, flushed with pink speckles and rimmed in green. Dormant during winter, with new shoots emerging from the underground tuber in spring. The pollination of Disperis is interesting; it is carried out mainly by specialized oil-collecting bees, Rediviva coloratat, this is a rare phenomenon in plants. The bees collect the oil as food for their larvae. Once pollinated, the fruit capsule ripens and thousands of minute, dust-like seeds are released and dispersed by wind. As is the case with most orchids, they have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi that live in their roots – supplying them with nutrients absorbed from decaying organic matter.

disperis fanninaea

Disperis fanninaea

Leonotis intermedia and Pycnostachys reticulata are flowering in grasslands.

pycnostachys reticulata

Pycnostachys reticulata

Plectranthus laxiflorus, Hypoestes triflora, Desmondium repandum and Plectranthus dolichopodus flower on forest edges.

desmodium repandum

Desmodium repandum

Ashley Crookes – Copperleigh Farm

Rain has been minimal this month, sometimes we do still get a bit of dew on the grass though.

Dew on the veld grass

This grass was being burnt from the heat of the rocks, until we had a tiny bit of rainfall.

Grass burnt from the heat of the rocks before the rains arrived

Some pink Everlastings and Watsonia flowering in the veld.

 

Sunset over the Dargle

Sunset over the Dargle

Spiky Caterpillar

Spiky Caterpillar

Some kind of worms found whilst digging a hole in the ground, they managed to burrow quickly under everytime I turned the soil over, pretty sure they weren’t maggots

Worms in deep soil
Rainforest Brown Butterfly

Rainforest Brown

A few different kinds of fungi and mushrooms sprang up after the rains at the beginning of the month.

Malvina & Evert van Breemen – Old Furth Estate

March has been extremely busy on Old Furth Estate with multiple celebrations and hordes of visitors, so we have been battening down the hatches more than usual!

No sooner had the dust settled from the last carload of visitors than we had the call we have been waiting for from Free Me that the two Serval were on their way for release on the farm.

Serval 1

Never a dull moment here! We went over to the other side of the Furth River and released there as we know that we have Serval near our dams already and didn’t want to cause a territorial problem.

Serval 5

Serval 2

The male was released first, rather groggy after his antidote, and then the female.

Serval 3

We were very surprised that neither of them bolted, they just took their time sniffing the new territory and then gradually melted away into the surrounding vegetation.

Serval 4

On some of the walks showing everyone around we found some lovely fungi in the forest

Fungi

and a really large bulb which had been disturbed – any guesses on what it could be?

mystery bulb

Jen Fly – Kildaragh Farm

The swallows have been gathering since the 1st March. On a couple of evenings the sky over us has looked just like Mt Moreland . Literally 1000’s. Almost in competition with the Amur Falcons at Mooi River.

This extraordinary “nest” is growing out of or is stuck to a wall in the garden. The fluff looks like human hair clippings. At the top of the nest there is a white lava and below it is the brown pupa. I think we need Dr Jason Londt ‘s expertise again…

Strange Nest

Dr Jason Londt’s Response: “Many caterpillars incorporate their long hairs into their cocoons – I think that is what we see in the photo – the pupal case left behind by the emerged adult moth is frequently found inside the cocoon – or bits of it should it break up. I wouldn’t like to guess at the species that made these cocoons but maybe a Monkey Moth.”

I found this gay fellow on Grandpa’s Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

Colourful Caterpillar

The dehisced seed capsule of the Kigelaria africana and below the unopened capsules. The seeds in the capsules are very pretty, black with red flesh. The birds always beat me to it and I didn’t manage to get a photo. The Acraea butterfly breeds on this tree and at times it is crawling with caterpillars. The fruit and larvae attract a huge number of birds and there is constant activity. It is a really worthwhile tree for a larger garden. Cuckoos and Black Headed Orioles feast on the caterpillars. The doves scratch round under the tree picking up seeds, the toppies, sparrows, weavers and white eyes strip the capsules of the fruit. Thrushes and boubous too.

Kigelaria Africana

Wyndham Robartes – Wana Farm

Wyndham sent in a video of some “Processionary Worms”, here is a still from that video.

Caterpillars

David Mann – Knowhere Farm

Rode on the bike up to the top of the farm last week with Ben (the Ridgeback) and as we got to the top a Jackal took off and Ben decided to give chase. He returned a while later looking a bit tired, obviously the Jackal gave him a good run!

Louise Bolton – Robhaven Farm

I recently took a walk up Inhlosane mountain this week and took a few pictures.

Inhlosane View from the top

The weather was perfect as we were up there by 7am. Here is a picture of the view from the top plus a panorama.

Inhlosane Panorama

There were many flowers in bloom but this one caught my eye, Crassula alba.

Crassula alba

Crassula alba

Also saw this lizard basking in the sun. Love how the shadow reveals the jagged edge of its tail.

Lizard

Threatened Plant Species – Nerine pancratioides

AMARYLLIDACEAE: Nerine pancratioides [Near Threatened]

Nerine pancratioides, commonly referred to as the White Nerine, is a plant that grows up to 600 mm long. It was previously observed in parts of the Midlands, south-western KZN as well as in north-eastern Lesotho. This gorgeous flower is also featured in the Midlands Conservancies Forum 2016 Wildflowers Calendar.

RB

Nerine pancratioides photographed in the Karkloof by Richard Booth

Habitat loss and destruction has caused a significant decline in the species population size in several of its localities, and in some instances even resulting in extinction. Deterioration of wetlands in the form of overgrazing, invasive alien plant infestation and damming are major concerns for the population’s survival.

Nerine pancratioides

Nerine pancratioides photographed by CREW

The plant grows in moist areas with acidic soils, on banks of streams, in grassy depressions and in seepage areas on steep hillsides. The flowers appear between March and April and are known to respond well after fires have occurred.

Nerine pollinator

Nerine pancratioides photographed in the Karkloof by Richard Booth

The leaves grow to 300 mm long, are narrow, round at base and almost flattened towards the top. The stalk is robust growing to 600 mm long. The sheathing bracts are narrowly egg-shaped with sharp tips. The pedicels are densely covered with hairs, 300−450 mm long. The inflorescence is umbel, 10−20. Tepals are ± 25 mm and white.

Nerine pancratioides seed

Nerine pancratioides photographed by CREW

If you have seen this plant, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager S.Parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

REFERENCES:

  • Baker, J.G. 1896. Amaryllideae. In: W.T. Thiselton-Dyer (ed). Flora Capensis VI (Haemodoraceae to Liliaceae):171-246. L. Reeve & Co., London.
  • Craib, C. 2004. Nerine pancratioides. Degradation of grassland habitats by exotic plantations are threatening the beautiful white Nerine with extinction. Veld & Flora 90:105-107
  • Mtshali, H. & von Staden, L. 2015. Nerine pancratioides Baker. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2016/03/16
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Threatened Plant Species – Huttonaea woodii

ORCHIDACEAE Huttonaea woodii Schltr. [Vulnerable]

Huttonaea woodii II

This beautiful upright orchid is up to 300 mm tall, with a strong straight stem and two leaves. It is known from grassland on two farms in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and in Giants Castle Game Reserve. Leaves directly attached, clasping the stem up to 50 mm long. Flowers small, pale green or whitish, Petal heavily marked with reddish-purple. It is said to flower in February. Threats to this species are habitat transformation due to agriculture and forestry plantations in the Midlands.

Photograph caption: CREW

If you have seen this plant, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References:

LINDER H.P & KURZWEIL H. 1999. Orchids of Southern Africa: 297. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Von Staden, L. & Victor, J.E 2006. Huttonaea woodii Schltr. National Assessment: Red List of South Africa Plants version 2014. 1. Accessed on 2015/01/13