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Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: December 2018 Sitamani Country Diary

01b IMG_1889

During December we had 192mm of rain, to late to make a real difference to the natural vegetation, but very welcome. It’s interesting that the ‘normal’ summer weather pattern is not in place, most of the rain and thunderstorm activity is the result of abnormal cold fronts reaching way north. Our well water has risen again yoyo fashion! The hottest temperature was 31C and the lowest 7.5C

 

01b IMG_6380

The hillsides have turned a verdant summer green, though seeding grasses gild the slopes. There have been several mornings when the valley below is filled with a sea of rising mist.

 

One of our joys is the resident group of Common Reedbuck that we see on a daily basis as they move around the property.

02 a Common Reedbuck IMG_6171

I saw this beautiful male Common Reedbuck settling down for his daytime nap just as the sun rose one morning.

02 b Common Reedbuck IMG_1985

Often they graze below the orchard near the driveway.

02 c Common Reedbuck IMG_2000

One evening three came right up near the house to graze.

02 d Bushpig IMG_2013

Evidence of a very large Bushpig, which we have seen a couple of times, is clear where he uprooted a beautiful clump of Grassland Arums, Zantedeschia albomaculata and cleaned up all the fallen plums under the tree near the house.

 

03 Bladder Grasshopper Pneumora inanis IMG_1957

03 Bladder Grasshopper Pneumora inanis IMG_1959

03 Bladder Grasshopper Pneumora inanis IMG_6215

A very striking Bladder Grasshopper, Pneumora inanis, with a very loud call, perched on bare branches near the kitchen door.

 

03 Chafer beetle of Family Scarabaeidae IMG_1921

A Chafer beetle of the Family Scarabaeidae was spotted munching the florets of a Berkheya setifera flower.

 

03 Fly IMG_1972

The pollen of a Papaver aculeatum attracted an unusual brown fly.

 

03 Gaudy Commodore Junonia octavia IMG_1890

The vibrant orange of the summer form of the Gaudy Commodore, Junonia octavia, shone brilliant in a sea of purple Vernonia.

 

03 Grasshopper Lentula sp IMG_1898

I almost missed this dainty little grasshopper, a Lentula species. They don’t have wings in their adult form.

 

03 Koppie Foam Grasshopper Dictyophorus spumans IMG_1900

03 Koppie Foam Grasshopper Dictyophorus spumans IMG_1976

On several occasions I saw Koppie Foam Grasshoppers, Dictyophorus spumans, in two colour variations. One was deliberately hiding itself from me under the grass.

 

03 Lunate Ladybird Cheilomenes lunata IMG_1906

The Lunate Ladybird, Cheilomenes lunata, is one of my favourites, usually I see the exotic Ladybirds.

 

03 Net-winged Beetle Family Lycidae IMG_2009

This stylish Net-winged Beetle, Family Lycidae, was settled on Helichrysum buds.

 

03 Pill Millipede IMG_6505

03 Pill Millipede IMG_6504

Pill millipedes fascinate me and I was delighted to have an opportunity to see it’s friendly face, often tightly hidden when they roll themselves into a pill ball.

 

03 Robberfly species IMG_1931

A very cryptic Robberfly blended into the rock.

 

03 Tri-coloured Tiger, Rhodogastria amasis, moth caterpillar IMG_6154

At the beginning of December I saw many Tri-coloured Tiger, Rhodogastria amasis, moth caterpillars,

03 Tri-coloured Tiger, Rhodogastria amasis, moth IMG_1975

and then the other day I saw a moth.

 

04 Bagworm of Family Psychidae moths IMG_1910

A very neatly constructed Bagworm, Family Psychidae of moths, jutted from a Vernonia flower.

There is lots of spider activity,

05 False button spider with babies newly hatched Theridion IMG_9589

from the egg sac of a False button spider, Theridion, young emerged.

 

05 Spider IMG_1927

A delightful tiny spider sat sunning on a leaf.

 

05 Spider web IMG_1960

05 Spider web IMG_6376

Webs of all kinds festoon branches and corners.

 

06 a Bird egg IMG_1873

One morning after a windy storm this small broken egg lay beneath a tree, not sure which bird.

 

06 African Stonechat IMG_6197

An African Stonechat,

 

06 Fork-tailed Drongo IMG_1942

06 Fork-tailed Drongo IMG_1944

Fork-tailed Drongo

 

06 juvenile Fiscal IMG_6206

and a juvenile Fiscal use the fence to spot prey.

 

06 Speckled Mousebird IMG_6157

Speckled Mousebirds foraged for fallen plums in the mist.

A first sighting this month on our property was a Secretary Bird!

 

Two orchids were in flower;

07 a Orthochilus foliosus IMG_1920

Orthochilus foliosus

 

07 a Pterygodium magnum IMG_1886

07 a Pterygodium magnum IMG_2002

07 a Pterygodium magnum IMG_2004

07 a Pterygodium magnum IMG_2008

and for only the second time in 25 years I have watched a single Pterygodium magnum plant grow and develop an inflorescence which has just started opening.

 

Some of the other flowers seen and photographed are: 07 Agapanthus campanulatus IMG_6183

07 Agapanthus campanulatus IMG_6187

Agapanthus campanulatus;

 

07 Ajuga ophrydis IMG_6191

Ajuga ophrydis;

 

07 Ascelepias albens IMG_6181

Ascelepias albens;

 

07 Berkheya setifera IMG_1915

Berkheya setifera;

 

07 Craterocapsa tarsodes IMG_6207

Craterocapsa tarsodes which I usually associate with higher parts of the Drakensberg;

 

07 Dipcadi viride IMG_1887

Dipcadi viride fruit;

 

07 Gerbera piloselloides IMG_1949

Gerbera piloselloides;

 

07 Hibiscus aethiopicus IMG_6189

Hibiscus aethiopicus;

 

07 Hypericum aethiopicum IMG_1913

Hypericum aethiopicum;

 

07 Monopsis decipiens IMG_6212

Monopsis decipiens;

 

07 Otholobium polystictum IMG_1923

Otholobium polystictum;

 

07 Papaver aculeatum IMG_1971

Papaver aculeatum;

 

07 Pearsonia sessilifolia IMG_1934

Pearsonia sessilifolia;

 

07 Polygala hottentotta IMG_1936

Polygala hottentotta;

 

07 Polygala refracta IMG_6182

Polygala refracta;

 

07 Watsonia socium IMG_1893

the last of the Watsonia socium;

 

07 Zaluzianskya microsiphon IMG_1935

Zaluzianskya microsiphon

 

07 Zantedeschia albomaculata IMG_1878

07 Zantedeschia albomaculata IMG_6177

07 Zantedeschia albomaculata IMG_6179

and Grassland Arums, Zantedeschia albomaculata, this is the clump that the Bushpig feasted on!

 

With the rain, fungi have appeared;

08 Amanita rubescens IMG_1950

Amanita rubescens;

 

08 Fungi IMG_6501

this dark solid fungi;

 

08 Fungi pos Termitomyces species IMG_1973

a beautiful mushroom, possibly of the Termitomyces species

 

08 possibly Paxillus involutus IMG_6498

08 possibly Paxillus involutus IMG_6500

and possibly a Paxillus involutus.

 

 

 

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Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: November 2018 Sitamani Country Diary

01b IMG_1614

We experienced mainly hot dry spells with a few overcast days and some thunderstorms during November.

01b IMG_1776

We measured only 53.5mm of rain, almost half of October’s rainfall. The Maximum temperature during the month was 30 C and the coldest a Minimum of 5 C during the early hours of 1 November. Our well water has dropped way down again!

 

Growth has slowed down, flowers are not as prolific as usual and there are still open patches of soil in between the grass.

01b IMG_1630

 

The highlight was finding a

02a Common or Rhombic night adder IMG_1577

02a Common or Rhombic night adder IMG_1580

02a Common or Rhombic night adder IMG_1584

02a Common or Rhombic night adder IMG_1585

02a Common or Rhombic night adder IMG_1588

Common or Rhombic night adder

on a morning walk. It didn’t move off, merely flattened it’s body and allowed me to take a series of photos. It was very camouflaged amongst the grass.

 

Some insects caught my eye,

02b Blow fly sp Family Calliphoridae IMG_1825

this metallic coloured Blow fly sp. Family Calliphoridae;

 

02b Hairy caterpillar IMG_1597

02b Hairy caterpillar IMG_1598

a delightful small Hairy caterpillar;

 

02b Stripey caterpillar IMG_1572

a vibrantly striped caterpillar

 

and a small butterfly,

02b Wichgraf's Brown Stygionympha wichgrafi IMG_1816

02b Wichgraf's Brown Stygionympha wichgrafi IMG_1820

Wichgraf’s Brown, Stygionympha wichgrafi.

 

02c Common Duiker female IMG_1594

A female Common Duiker observed me from beyond the fence

 

02c fresh Eland droppings IMG_1613

and a most exciting find was fresh Eland droppings, probably the old, one horned male that is seen from time to time along the ridge.

 

Some of the flowers seen and photographed are:

Alepidea natalensis 01 IMG_1620

Alepidea natalensis 02 IMG_1619

Alepidea natalensis;

 

Aristea woodii IMG_1796

Aristea woodii IMG_1798

Aristea woodii IMG_6149

Aristea woodii;

 

Aspidonepsis diploglossa IMG_1847

Aspidonepsis diploglossa;

 

Berkheya macrocephala 01 IMG_1621

Berkheya macrocephala 02 IMG_1626

Berkheya macrocephala 03 IMG_1618

Berkheya macrocephala, such shining yellow, happy flowers;

 

Chlorophytum cooperi IMG_1569

Chlorophytum cooperi;

 

Cyanotis speciosa IMG_1573

Cyanotis speciosa;

 

Cyperus rupestris IMG_1812

Cyperus rupestris IMG_1813

Cyperus rupestris;

 

Cyphia elata IMG_1853

Cyphia elata;

 

Delosperma hirtum IMG_1831

Delosperma hirtum;

 

Dicadi viride brown var IMG_1863

Dicadi viride green var IMG_1867

Dipcadi viride;

 

Eriosema kraussianum IMG_1593

Eriosema kraussianum;

 

Haemanthus humilis 01 IMG_6145

Haemanthus humilis 02 IMG_1783

Haemanthus humilis;

 

Harpochloa falx Caterpillar Grass IMG_1612

Harpochloa falx, Caterpillar Grass;

 

Indigofera hilaris IMG_1571

Indigofera hilaris IMG_1800

Indigofera hilaris;

 

Indigofera veluntina IMG_1857

Indigofera veluntina;

 

Kniphofia brachystachya IMG_1599

Kniphofia brachystachya IMG_1602

Kniphofia brachystachya IMG_1603

Kniphofia brachystachya flowers at the beginning of November

Kniphofia brachystachya IMG_1845

and fruits at the end of the month;

 

Kohautia amatymbica Tremble Tops IMG_1568

Kohautia amatymbica, Tremble Tops;

 

Lotononis corymbosa IMG_1610

Leobordia (=Lotononis) corymbosa;

 

Merwilla (=Scilla) nervosa IMG_1815

Schizocarphus (=Merwilla & =Scilla) nervosa;

 

only two Orchids,

Orchid Eulophia hians var hians IMG_1561

Eulophia hians var hians;

 

Orchid Orthochilus foliosus IMG_1804

Orthochilus foliosus;

 

Pachucarpus natalensis IMG_1567

at the beginning of the month the Pachycarpus natalensis buds had formed

Pachucarpus natalensis IMG_6146

Pachucarpus natalensis IMG_6148

and by the end of November they were in full bloom;

 

Pentanisia prunelloides IMG_1627

Pentanisia prunelloides IMG_1629

Pentanisia prunelloides;

 

Peucedanum caffrum fruits IMG_1858

Peucedanum caffrum, Wild Parsley fruits;

 

Raphionacme hirsuta IMG_1575

Raphionacme hirsuta;

 

Scabiosa columbaria IMG_1849

Scabiosa columbaria;

 

Searsia (=Rhus) discolor IMG_1810

Searsia (=Rhus) discolor IMG_1811

Searsia (=Rhus) discolor has minute little flowers;

 

Stachys aethiopica IMG_1560

Stachys aethiopica;

 

Striga bilabiata IMG_1802

Striga bilabiata

looks very similar to Stachys aethiopica of the Lamiaceae – Sage/Mint Family, but is of the Scrophulariaceae – Snapdragon Family and is a parasitic herb on grasses;

 

Thesium pallidum IMG_1562

Thesium pallidum fruit, flowered in October;

 

Vernonia natalensis IMG_5491

Vernonia natalensis;

 

Vernonia sp IMG_1605

Vernonia sp.;

 

Wahlenbergia cuspidata IMG_1631

Wahlenbergia cuspidata IMG_1830

Wahlenbergia cuspidata;

 

Watsonia socium 01 IMG_1781

Watsonia socium 02 IMG_1789

Watsonia socium 03 IMG_1794

Watsonia socium 04 IMG_1794a

Watsonia socium carpeted the hillside and

 

Xysmalobium parviflorum 01 IMG_1841

Xysmalobium parviflorum 02 IMG_1840

Xysmalobium parviflorum.

 

The Red-winged Starlings try to come into the kitchen to roost on top of the pantry cupboard on misty days, and are very indignant when chased out!

 

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: 04 November 2018 Wildflowers at Impendle Nature Reserve

2018 11 04 INR 01 Cover IMG_5551

It was an unexpected treat to wander the hillsides at Impendle Nature Reserve with three fellow flower enthusiasts, Christa Gadd, Sharron Berruti and Ansell Matcher. Philip had arranged a day hike and very kindly suggested that the four of us break into a separate flower group, meeting up with the hikers at lunchtime.

2018 11 04 INR 01 Cover IMG_5547

With the recent rain the hillsides were gardens of free growing indigenous flowers, literally carpeting the slopes. Time slowed as our pace slowed, every few steps there was another floral delight to inspect, enthuse over, photograph and identify. We were in heaven.

 

Below is a selection of a few of the hundreds of species we saw. I was particularly interested to notice how many species of the Milkweed family were flowering.

 

The following is from the online Encyclopedia Britannica https://www.britannica.com/plant/Asclepiadoideae

 

“Asclepiadoideae, formerly Asclepiadaceae, the milkweed subfamily of the flowering-plant family Apocynaceae (order Gentianales), including more than 214 genera and about 2,400 species of tropical herbs or shrubby climbers, rarely shrubs or trees. It was formerly treated as its own family (Asclepiadaceae). However, molecular evidence suggests that the group is evolutionarily derived from Apocynaceae, and thus it has been recategorized as a subfamily by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group III (APG III) botanical classification system.

Most members of Asclepiadoideae have milky juice, flowers with five united petals, podlike fruits, and, usually, tufted seeds. Male and female parts of each flower are united in a single structure, and the pollen is characteristically massed in bundles called pollinia, pairs of which are linked by a yokelike bar of tissue contributed by the stigma of the pistil. Parts of the pollinia stick to visiting insect pollinators, which then carry them to other flowers to facilitate cross-pollination. The silky-haired seeds are drawn out of their pods by the wind and are carried off. In some species the fertility is low, and many-flowered plants often produce few fruits. Many milkweed butterflies, including monarch butterflies, rely exclusively on Asclepiadoideae plants as a food source for their larva.”

 

Ansell was the first to spot an Asclepias concinna plant in flower. First found here by Isabel Johnson when we were together with a CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) group on 20 October 2007, but in a different part of the reserve. We had been following the UKZN University Herbarium notes for possible locations. Asclepias concinna, Family: Apocynaceae, Status: Endangered, Habitat: Stream bank, forest margin, Flowering time: Oct, Nov, Known localities: Impendle NR and Nkonzo forest.

 

2018 11 04 INR A Asclepias concinna a IMG_5525

Asclepias concinna

2018 11 04 INR A Asclepias concinna b IMG_5533

Asclepias concinna

2018 11 04 INR A Asclepias concinna c IMG_5528

Asclepias concinna

2018 11 04 INR A Asclepias concinna d IMG_5536

Asclepias concinna

The population we found this time was on an open grassy slope, so quite unexpected! Altogether we saw ±15 flowering plants and there were quite possibly more. Really an exciting find!

Some of the other Milkweeds seen were:

2018 11 04 INR A Asclepias fulva =dregeana a IMG_5545

Asclepias fulva (=dregeana)

2018 11 04 INR A Asclepias fulva =dregeana b IMG_5543

Asclepias fulva (=dregeana)

2018 11 04 INR A Asclepias fulva =dregeana c IMG_5542

Asclepias fulva (=dregeana);

 

2018 11 04 INR A Aspidoglossum glanduliferum IMG_5509

Aspidoglossum glanduliferum

 

2018 11 04 INR A Pachycarpus concolor a IMG_5563

Pachycarpus concolor

2018 11 04 INR A Pachycarpus concolor b IMG_5560

Pachycarpus concolor;

 

2018 11 04 INR A Pachycarpus dealbatus a IMG_5540

Pachycarpus dealbatus

2018 11 04 INR A Pachycarpus dealbatus b IMG_5541

Pachycarpus dealbatus;

 

2018 11 04 INR A Schizoglossum flavum a IMG_5501

Schizoglossum flavum

2018 11 04 INR A Schizoglossum flavum b IMG_5502

Schizoglossum flavum;

 

2018 11 04 INR A Schizoglossum stenoglossum a IMG_5499

Schizoglossum stenoglossum subsp. flavum, mainly green flowers,

2018 11 04 INR A Schizoglossum stenoglossum b IMG_5500

Schizoglossum stenoglossum subsp. flavum, mainly green flowers,

2018 11 04 INR A Schizoglossum stenoglossum c IMG_5495

Schizoglossum stenoglossum subsp. flavum, one plant had brighter yellow colouring;

 

2018 11 04 INR A Xysmalobium involucratum a IMG_5503a

Xysmalobium involucratum

2018 11 04 INR A Xysmalobium involucratum b IMG_5503

Xysmalobium involucratum

2018 11 04 INR A Xysmalobium involucratum c IMG_5505

Xysmalobium involucratum;

 

2018 11 04 INR A Xysmalobium parviflorum a IMG_5552

Xysmalobium parviflorum

2018 11 04 INR A Xysmalobium parviflorum b IMG_5553

Xysmalobium parviflorum.

 

Another exciting find was a flowering 2018 11 04 INR Brachystema barberae a IMG_5565

Brachystema barberae

2018 11 04 INR Brachystema barberae b IMG_5568

Brachystema barberae, gorgeous maroon velvet with cream ‘lace’, as described it has a very pungent odour!

2018 11 04 INR Brachystema barberae c IMG_5572

We also found a Brachystema barberae with buds about to open.

 

In amongst the myrid of flowers on the slopes were:2018 11 04 INR Adhatoda andromeda IMG_5564

Adhatoda andromeda;

 

2018 11 04 INR Ajuga ophrydis IMG_5548

Ajuga ophrydis;

 

2018 11 04 INR Barleria monticola IMG_9133

Barleria monticola;

 

2018 11 04 INR Berkheya setifera IMG_5519

Berkheya setifera;

 

2018 11 04 INR Convolvulus natalensis IMG_9113

Convolvulus natalensis;

 

2018 11 04 INR Dychoriste setigera IMG_5514

Dychoriste setigera (thank you Sharron for the ID);

 

2018 11 04 INR Hibiscus aethiopicus IMG_5517

Hibiscus aethiopicus;

 

2018 11 04 INR Merwilla nervosa a IMG_5512a

Merwilla nervosa

2018 11 04 INR Merwilla nervosa b IMG_5512b

Merwilla nervosa

2018 11 04 INR Merwilla nervosa c IMG_5511

Merwilla nervosa

 

2018 11 04 INR Satyrium parviflorum a IMG_5559

Satyrium parviflorum

2018 11 04 INR Satyrium parviflorum b IMG_5558

Satyrium parviflorum,

the only other orchid seen on that morning was Eulophia hians var. hians.

 

2018 11 04 INR Z Dung Beetle burying a Millepede IMG_9120

As we walked we also spotted a pair of Dung Beetles dragging a dead Millepede into a hole, we guess in the absence of dung this would be suitable material to lay eggs in.

A simply magical morning in great company!

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: October 2018 Sitamani Country Diary

Beautiful rain with hot dry spells in between, during October. We measured 102.5mm of rain, the Maximum temperature during the month was 30 C and the coldest a Minimum of 3.5 C during the early hours of 4 October when

01 Cover IMG_1492

snow fell on the Southern Drakensberg. Our well water is starting to rise slowly again!

 

Due to the moisture and warmer temperatures grass is growing and flowering, wildflowers appearing and a feeling that Summer is on its way.

02 Fern Mohria vestita IMG_1527

The delicate fern Mohria vestita has popped up in shady places near rocks.

 

I felt uneasy about identifying Anemone fanninii for the August 2018 Diary, it didn’t feel correct, and when I spotted

02 Flora 05 10 18 Anemone fanninii IMG_1542

Anemone fanninii flowering this month

02 Flora 24 08 17 Anemone fanninii 02 IMG_9647

Anemone fanninii (2017/08/24)

I was certain that in August it was actually

02 Flora 29 08 18 Anemone caffra IMG_1339

Anemone caffra

02 Flora 29 08 18 Anemone caffra IMG_1332

Anemone caffra flowering,

which means a new ID for Sitamani, and that both species are found here on the same hillside. The flower forms are definitely different, the A caffra have shorter rounded sepals and A fanninii longer, more ragged sepals. In both cases the leaves are not present or only starting to appear when they flower. (I have corrected the August 2018 Diary).

 

Other flowers seen and photographed are:

02 Flora Aspidonepsis diplogossa IMG_5003

Aspidonepsis diplogossa;

 

02 Flora Aster bakerianus IMG_1498

Aster bakerianus;

 

02 Flora Clutia cordata IMG_1521

Clutia cordata;

02 Flora Clutia cordata IMG_4994

Clutia cordata;

 

02 Flora Cyrtanthus tuckii IMG_1539

Cyrtanthus tuckii;

 

two Dieramas,

02 Flora Dierama cooperi IMG_1547

Dierama cooperi

02 Flora Dierama cooperi IMG_1550

Dierama cooperi

02 Flora Dierama latifolium IMG_1559

Dierama latifolium;

 

02 Flora Eriosema salignum IMG_1524

Eriosema salignum;

 

02 Flora Gebera ambigua IMG_1507

Gebera ambigua;

02 Flora Gebera ambigua IMG_1509

Gebera ambigua;

 

on a cooler morning as the mist rose

02 Flora Gladiolus longicollis 01 IMG_4987

Gladiolus longicollis;

02 Flora Gladiolus longicollis 02 IMG_4982

Gladiolus longicollis;

 

02 Flora Graderia scabra IMG_1504

Graderia scabra;

 

masses of

02 Flora Hebenstretia dura IMG_4988

Hebenstretia dura

02 Flora Hebenstretia dura IMG_4991

Hebenstretia dura on the top of the hill;

 

02 Flora Hypoxis argentea IMG_4993

Hypoxis argentea;

 

02 Flora Ledebouria cooperi IMG_4974

the delightful Ledebouria cooperi;

02 Flora Ledebouria cooperi IMG_4978

Ledebouria cooperi;

 

02 Flora Moraea graminicola IMG_8944

Moraea graminicola;

 

02 Flora Sisyranthus trichostomus IMG_1553

Sisyranthus trichostomus, Hairy Grass Flower, as the tube entry on each floret is thickly hairy;

 

02 Flora Thesium pallidum IMG_1513

minute flowers only ±2mm each on Thesium pallidum;

 

02 Flora Tulbaghia leucantha IMG_1537

Tulbaghia leucantha

02 Flora Tulbaghia leucantha IMG_4997

Tulbaghia leucantha, Wild Garlic, the leaves are very tasty in salad;

 

02 Grass Possibly Eragrostis species IMG_1525

and a flowering grass caught my eye, possibly an Eragrostis species, if anyone knows the ID please let me know!

Sadly the weather this spring season has not been good for Orchids, and I haven’t seen any flowering yet.

 

03 Insect Common Metallic Longhorn beetle Promeces longipes IMG_1546

A shiny Common Metallic Longhorn beetle, Promeces longipes, glistened on an Aster bakerianus flower.

 

Some interesting moths have appeared,

03 Moth IMG_1489

03 Moth IMG_5096

and it took lying down on my stomach to photograph the tiny

03 Moth Orange Plume Moth Crombrugghia wahlbergi IMG_4980

Orange Plume Moth, Crombrugghia wahlbergi.

 

Fossicking on the hilltop early one morning I spotted a

04 Bird Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis IMG_1518

Cape Longclaw, Macronyx capensis.

It was about 17 years ago that I last saw one here. Once the pine trees had grown up on the neighbouring Mondi plantation, they seemed to have disappeared, so it was an absolute delight to discover there is at least a pair on our grassy hill!

 

The Common Grey Duiker are regular visitors to the garden, and the Common Reedbuck are loving the new grass near the well, we often see them when driving home at dusk. The Black-backed Jackals call frequently in early evenings and mornings.

 

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: September 2018 Sitamani Country Diary

September has seen temperatures of over 30 C with hot dry berg winds and

01 Cover IMG_8713

dipping to -2 C when we had a snowfall on the 9 September. Although the grass has responded to the moisture and the hillsides have greened up, not many wildflowers have bloomed yet. Our well, our water supply, has virtually dried up, so hoping rains will come soon.

01 Cover IMG_8836

On the 28 September there was a particularly beautiful sunset.

 

I haven’t had much time to roam around our hillsides but have noticed that the orchid that showed signs of flowering,

02 Flora Eulophia parviflora 01 (short-spurred form) IMG_1474

Eulophia parviflora (short-spurred form) last month has had all the flowering stalks neatly nipped off, so we won’t see them this year;

 

02 Flora Grasses covered in snow IMG_1429

after the snowfall the grasses were blanketed in a light cover of snow;

 

02 Flora Helichrysum caespititium IMG_8818

02 Flora Helichrysum caespititium IMG_8820

02 Flora Helichrysum caespititium IMG_8822

the minute, dainty Helichrysum caespititium was covered in blossom;

 

02 Flora Raphionacme hirsuta IMG_1475

bright purple Raphionacme hirsuta glowed against the reddish soil and

 

02 Flora Tritonia lineata IMG_1465

02 Flora Tritonia lineata IMG_1468

delicately elegant Tritonia lineata fluttered in the breeze.

 

One morning I discovered a miniscule

03 Insect Soft-winged flower beetle Family Melyridae IMG_1400

Soft-winged flower beetle of the Family Melyridae on the edge of a cup.

 

A large moth,

03 Moth Fulvous Hawk Moth Coelonia fulvinotata IMG_1404

03 Moth Fulvous Hawk Moth Coelonia fulvinotata IMG_4584

a Fulvous Hawk Moth, Coelonia fulvinotata, rested on the backdoor mat.

 

While walking on the hillside I found a weathered snail shell, which I think is a

03 Snail shell Many-ridged shuffler Tropidophora plurilirata IMG_1471

Many-ridged shuffler Tropidophora plurilirata.

 

The Common Grey Duiker are regular visitors to the garden, and the Common Reedbuck are loving the new grass on the hillsides.

 

On the 25 September I heard the Piet-my-vrou, Red-chested Cuckoo, calling for the first time this spring. The Spotted Eagle-Owls have been calling at dawn and dusk, I hadn’t heard them for some time.

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: August 2018 Sitamani Country Diary

This August we have experienced contrasting weather, hot dry berg winds and very cold, misty and wet cold fronts passing through.

02 Cover IMG_1268

02 Cover IMG_1273

Snow fell on the berg and foothills on the night of 9th and morning of the 10th, then again on the 17th / 18th August. Although very cold, and a few fat, wet flakes fell on the morning of the 18th snow didn’t settle here, instead much needed light rain. We had the first proper frost of winter on the 4th of August and again on the 16th and 27th , these conditions have delayed the Spring flowers here compared with the last few years. However a general greening of the grass and a few flowers are starting to appear.

02 Cover IMG_1325

The hazy conditions after the warm berg winds

02 Cover IMG_4444

and then crystal clear air after the cold fronts passed through created beautiful light at sunset!

 

One of my favourite Spring flowers always makes an early appearance, though only just started flowering, so their petals are not yet ragged flags, on further invesigation I have edited to Anemone caffra, see the October 2018 Sitamani Country Diary;

03 Flora Anemone fanninii IMG_1332

03 Flora Anemone fanninii IMG_1339

Anemone caffra;

 

03 Flora Apodolirion buchananii IMG_1345

Apodolirion buchananii sparkle;

 

03 Flora Cyrtanthus tuckii IMG_1334

03 Flora Cyrtanthus tuckii IMG_4581

Cyrtanthus tuckii are bright red flames in new green grass growth;

 

03 Flora Eulophia parviflora (short-spurred form) IMG_1357

only one orchid shows signs of flowering, Eulophia parviflora (short-spurred form);

 

03 Flora Gazania krebsiana IMG_1330

Gazania krebsiana flowers create spots of cheerful yellow;

 

03 Flora Ledebouria ovatifolia IMG_4564

03 Flora Ledebouria ovatifolia IMG_4567

the stunning, delicate purple Ledebouria ovatifolia are prolific this year;

 

03 Flora Nemesia caerulea IMG_1368

the occasional Nemesia caerulea is in bloom;

 

03 Flora Ouhout Leucosidea sericea IMG_1379

03 Flora Ouhout Leucosidea sericea IMG_1381

masses of Ouhout, Leucosidea sericea, blossom cover the small trees;

 

03 Flora Senecio sp IMG_1372

a very unassuming Senecio sp was almost overlooked;

 

03 Flora Urginea capitata IMG_4546

03 Flora Urginea capitata IMG_1349

then this season there are many small clumps of the tiny, stunning Urginea capitata

 

03 Flora Ursinia tenuiloba IMG_1370

and the clumps of Ursinia tenuiloba have expanded creating mini insect hot-spots!

 

The birdsong at dawn is beautifully varied, birds in general are very active at the moment, busy courting and no doubt starting nest building.

 

A few of the insects I have spotted are:

04 Insects Bee IMG_1395

Bees busy foraging in the available flowers;

 

04 Insects Ladybird IMG_1319

a Ladybird beetle on the kitchen sink, I haven’t seen the usual large hibernation groups in sheltered corners this year

 

04 Insects Milkweed Bug Spilostethus sp IMG_4548

and a wonderful Milkweed Bug, Spilostethus sp..

 

Two Vervet Monkeys range over the rocky hillside regularly in search of food, they also raid the unripe Granadillas from the veggie garden, several times there have been ‘calling card, territory markers’ on the verandah.

05 Fauna Common Reedbuck IMG_1301

Most evenings Common Reedbuck have been seen grazing on the new grass on the hillside, on one evening they were there together with the Grey Duiker and the Vervet Monkeys.

05 Fauna Common Reedbuck IMG_1343

I also came across a group of three on the hillside late one afternoon.

 

05 Fauna Grey Duiker IMG_4526

The Grey Duiker was feeding close to the house during the day, when the weather cleared after the last cold front passed through.

 

 

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: July 2018 Sitamani Country Diary

02 Moon Eclipse 27 IMG_4359

The total moon eclipse on the 27 July was a highlight, for once the skies were clear, littered with myriads of stars, and I watched entranced.

02 Moon Eclipse 28 IMG_1225

The following morning as dawn crept in the orb was a faint pink glow through the smoky air. There were only two mornings when there was a real chill of winter, the 4 and 16 July. A quiet, dry, hibernating month, but still nature persists and there were some magic moments.

 

The first was the delightful

03a African Humming Bird Moth Macroglossum trochilus ssp trochilus IMG_1155

African Humming Bird Moth, Macroglossum trochilus ssp. trochilus

03a African Humming Bird Moth Macroglossum trochilus ssp trochilus IMG_1158

African Humming Bird Moth, Macroglossum trochilus ssp. trochilus

flitting over and amongst the Rosemary flowers. It moved really quickly, a quick sip here and there, so felt happy to capture these images.

Towards the end of July I came across this

03a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui IMG_1212

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, sunning on Buddleja salviifolia.

 

03b Spider web IMG_1246

In a burnt firebreak I found a beautiful Spider web.

 

Then one evening as I was going to bed I saw what I thought were tiny specks of dust about 2mm long, near the bedside lamp. On closer inspection I realised they were

03b Spiderlings IMG_4424

newly hatched Spiderlings! Already they had constructed fine lines of spider web from the lamp to the bedstead and were moving busily up and down.

 

Also in a burnt area

03c Ant Nest IMG_4394

03c Ant IMG_4395

an Ants nest was revealed,

 

03c possibly a Wasp nest IMG_1248

as was what I think is a Wasp nest.

 

04 Black-headed Oriole IMG_1228

Black-headed Orioles are back visiting the verandah as they do every July.

 

04 Cape White-eye IMG_1165

Cape White-eyes flit frenetically in bare branches.

Many birds love using the small birdbath on the verandah including the

04 Dark-capped Bulbul IMG_1179

Dark-capped Bulbul

04 Dark-capped Bulbul IMG_1181

Dark-capped Bulbuls.

 

04 possibly a Southern Boubou nest IMG_1199

About a meter from the ground, well concealed in the thick foliage of a Tree Fuschia, Halleria lucida, I found a nest, which I think was made and used by Southern Boubous.

 

04 Yellow-fronted Canary 04 IMG_4005

On the really chilly morning of 4 July I found a dead Yellow-fronted Canary lying on the ground.

 

05 Common Reedbuck male IMG_4379

On an early evening walk I spotted a young male Common Reedbuck, lying very still, watching me, very camouflaged in the dry grass.

 

05 Grey Duiker IMG_1195

In early predawn light a Grey Duiker stood quietly surveying the stillness.

 

July is a month when there are very few flowers out, however

06 Buddleja salviifolia IMG_1205

Buddleja salviifolia have finally started to blossom, a heady sweet scent fills the air and they are a magnet for many insects. We have two colour varieties,

06 Buddleja salviifolia IMG_1214

a cream Buddleja salviifolia and

 

06 Buddleja salviifolia IMG_4387

a lilac Buddleja salviifolia.

 

06 Euryops laxus IMG_1143

Euryops laxus sparkle in cool sunshine.

 

06 Gazania krebsiana IMG_4377

Gazania krebsiana have also started to appear.

 

06 possibly Pachycarpus natalensis IMG_1233

What I think are Pachycarpus natalensis seeds have burst from seedpods and drift over the dry landscape.

06 possibly Pachycarpus natalensis IMG_1242

 

 

06 Ursinia tenuiloba IMG_4378

There were a few clumps of the delicate Ursinia tenuiloba.

06 Ursinia tenuiloba IMG_4381