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Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: March 2019 Sitamani Country Diary

02 IMG_2276

March has been milder, though there have been thunderstorms most evenings. Although there has been less rain fall this month, 116mm, there haven’t been long hot spells between, so the soil has remained moist. The lowest and highest temperatures recorded were 10 and 28 degrees Celsius.

02 IMG_2314

In the mornings there is now a crispness in the air, the sun rises after 6am since the Autumn Equinox on 21 March, and the leaves on the exotic trees have started turning colour.

 

A first for me was finding

03a i Caterpillar of Gaudy Commodore Precis octavia sesamus IMG_2330

a caterpillar of the Gaudy Commodore, Precis octavia sesamus on one of its host plants, Plectranthus calycina. Throughout the year we see adult butterflies in their

03a ii Caterpillar of Gaudy Commodore Precis octavia sesamus IMG_0593

Gaudy Commodore, Precis octavia sesamus, summer form

03a iii Caterpillar of Gaudy Commodore Precis octavia sesamus IMG_0941

Gaudy Commodore, Precis octavia sesamus, winter form; a visual delight, they are the butterflies of our home!

 

03a iv Common Blue group of butterflies Leptotes sp IMG_2360

Another small butterfly seen on a Geranium schlechteri was of the Common Blue group of butterflies Leptotes sp., not certain which one.

 

As often happens in Autumn there have been many moths, ready to lay their eggs for the next Spring season;

03b Duster Pingasa abyssinaria IMG_8051

Duster, Pingasa abyssinaria;

03b Handmaidens moth Family Ctenuchidae IMG_8164

one of the Handmaidens moths, Family Ctenuchidae;

03b IMG_2300

03b IMG_8052

03b IMG_8055

a few unidentified ones;

03b Longhorn moth Family Adelidae IMG_8116

Longhorn moth, Family Adelidae;

03b Many-plume moth Family Alucitidae IMG_2306

Many-plume moth, Family Alucitidae;

03b Pretoria Red Lines Cyana pretoriae IMG_2308

Pretoria Red Lines, Cyana pretoriae

03b The Horn Moth Ceratophaga vastella IMG_2304

and the very small The Horn Moth, Ceratophaga vastella.

 

On my wanderings I discovered some lovely insects;

04 Antlion Hagenomia lethifer IMG_2291

an Antlion, Hagenomia lethifer;

04 Flower Mantid Harpagomantis tricolor IMG_2337

a stunning Flower Mantid, Harpagomantis tricolor;

04 Grasshopper IMG_2387

a vibrant Grasshopper;

04 Leafcutter Bee Family Megachilidae IMG_8198

a Leafcutter Bee, Family Megachilidae;

04 Museum Beetle Anthrenus verbasci IMG_8193

some tiny Museum Beetles, Anthrenus verbasci with an even smaller thrips;

04 Paper wasps Polistes fastiotus IMG_2416

a new colony of Paper wasps, Polistes fastiotus

04 Stick grasshopper Acrida sp IMG_2388

and a Stick grasshopper, Acrida sp..

 

04a Millipede IMG_8188

I always enjoy watching Millepedes!

 

In protected places I spotted some lovely spiders;

04b False house button spider Theridiidae Theridion sp IMG_8168

a False house button spider, Theridiidae theridion;

04b Hairy Field Spider Araneidae Neoscona sp of blondeli IMG_8058

a delightful Hairy Field Spider, Araneidae Neoscona sp. of blondeli, its abdomen looked like a miniature tapestry,

04b Pisauridae Nursery web spider IMG_8171

and the discarded exoskeleton of a Pisauridae Family, Nursery web spider.

 

05 Juvenile Striped skink IMG_2294

This juvenile Striped skink caught my eye, sunning on the edge of a step.

 

On the last day of March I had a wonderful fleeting glimpse of a male Cryptomys mahali Mole-rat as it scurried, unusually, over the ground. In 2005 Prof. Nigel Bennet came and spent a few days here looking for Cape Mole-rats, Georychus capensis, as we had found a dead one and he thought it might be part of a remnant population. They eluded him, but he did find

06a 05 12 14 Cryptomys mahali male

Cryptomys mahali male (2005),

06a 05 12 14 Cryptomys mahali female

and Cryptomys mahali female (2005).

06a Cryptomys mahali male IMG_2419

06a Cryptomys mahali male IMG_2420

Cryptomys mahali male. This is the first time I have seen one since then, so although the photos aren’t perfect it’s a special record!

 

06 Common Reedbuck in the mist IMG_2297

One misty evening the male Common Reedbuck paid a visit close to the house.

 

Several used, and now abandoned bird nests have become visible,

07 Malachite Subird nest IMG_2386

beneath a Plane tree I found a Malachite Sunbird nest, the interior beautifully lined with soft cobwebs.

07 Nest IMG_2368

Then there was a nest about 2 meters up in a tree which is unraveling when the wind blows.

 

There are still quite a variety of flowers out,

08 Alectra sessiliflora IMG_2334

Alectra sessiliflora;

08 Berkeya rhapontica IMG_2322

Berkeya rhapontica;

08 Berkeya rhapontica IMG_2324

Berkeya rhapontica;

08 Berkeya setifera IMG_8184

Berkeya setifera;

08 Crassula vignata IMG_2338

Crassula vignata, can you see the Flower mantid at the top right?

08 Dwarf Spikethorn Gymnosporia uniflora IMG_2340

this fruiting Dwarf Spikethorn, Gymnosporia uniflora looked festive;

08 Dwarf Spikethorn Gymnosporia uniflora IMG_2341

Dwarf Spikethorn, Gymnosporia uniflora;

08 Dwarf Spikethorn Gymnosporia uniflora IMG_2342

Dwarf Spikethorn, Gymnosporia uniflora;

08 Geranium schlechteri IMG_2362

Geranium schlechteri;

08 Helichrysum cooperi IMG_8190

Helichrysum cooperi;

08 Helichrysum cooperi IMG_8191

Helichrysum cooperi;

08 Helichrysum umbraculigerum IMG_2325

Helichrysum umbraculigerum;

08 Helichrysum umbraculigerum IMG_2327

Helichrysum umbraculigerum;

08 Hesperantha baurii IMG_2319

Hesperantha baurii;

08 Otholobium polysictum IMG_2353

Otholobium polysictum;

08 Printzia pyrifolia IMG_2375

Printzia pyrifolia;

08 Schizoglossum bidens subsp bidens IMG_2356

Schizoglossum bidens subsp. bidens seedheads;

08 Silver Bramble Rubus ludwigii IMG_2321

the last of the Silver Bramble, Rubus ludwigii berries;

08 Stachys aethiopica IMG_8187

Stachys aethiopica;

08 Sutera floribunda IMG_2346

Sutera floribunda;

08 Sutera floribunda IMG_2349

Sutera floribunda

08 Watsonia confusa IMG_2352

and Watsonia confusa.

 

Tall clumps of

09 Giant Turpentine Grass Cymbopogon validus IMG_2379

Giant Turpentine Grass, Cymbopogon validus;

09 Giant Turpentine Grass Cymbopogon validus IMG_2383

Giant Turpentine Grass, Cymbopogon validus stand sentinel on the hillside.

 

A fern I haven’t seen before popped up in a shady corner.

10a Fern Ophioglossum vulgatum IMG_2392

Ophioglossum vulgatum subsp. africanum;

10a Fern Ophioglossum vulgatum IMG_2402

Ophioglossum vulgatum subsp. africanum fertile spike;

10a Fern Ophioglossum vulgatum IMG_2404

Ophioglossum vulgatum subsp. africanum fertile spike;

it is a Pteridophyte or true fern, part of the Family Ophioglossacae, Adder’s tongues.

 

“Fossil evidence of Ophioglossacae has been traced to the Palaeocene (±64.5-55.8 million years ago). It is a primitive and isolated family and is not closely related to any other fern group. Recent molecular studies showed that Ophioglossacae is a primitive subclass of the true ferns.”

Ferns of Southern Africa A Comprehensive Guide: N R Crouch, R R Klopper, J E Burrows, S M Burrows

pub. Struik 2011 ISBN 978-1-77007-910-6

 

As often happens when we have damp conditions a number of fungi appear;

10b Amanita rubescens IMG_8179

Amanita rubescens;

10b Astraeus sp IMG_8176

False Earthstar, Astraeus sp.

10b Scleroderma sp IMG_2394

and a potato like fungi, Scleroderma sp..

 

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Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: February 2019 Sitamani Country Diary

We’ve had three seasons in one month in February. Some hot days, the highest temperature being 30.5C and the coolest 11C. Although there were several hot dry days we had 51.5mm of rain on the 15th, the total for the month was 236.5mm of rain, very welcome.

01b IMG_2165

Due to the variety of weather conditions there have been some stunning early, haze mornings,

01b IMG_2176

mist lapping the hillsides

01b IMG_2178

echoing dawn colour reflection over the Drakensberg,

01b IMG_2274

including the full moon setting on the 20th.

01c IMG_2170

Some mornings the browning grasses sparkled with dewdrops,

01c IMG_2247

but the early signs of autumn can be seen in the dulling of colour in the grasses.

 

Orchids and Mushrooms are the most visible species at the moment. The good late rains have benefited the Orchids that flower at this time of year.

02a Disa patula var patula IMG_2217

02a Disa patula var patula IMG_7780

Disa patula var. patula are a Southern African endemic, I counted a population of about eight plants in various stages of flowering.

 

02a Disperis tysonii IMG_2192

02a Disperis tysonii IMG_7766

A first time sighting of two Disperis tysonii plants was so exciting!

 

02a Eulophia ovalis var ovalis IMG_2228

Eulophia ovalis var. ovalis;

 

02a Habenaria dives IMG_2252

Habenaria dives and

 

02a Habenaria pseudociliosa IMG_2202

02a Habenaria pseudociliosa IMG_7772

Habenaria pseudociliosa are usually seen in February;

 

02a Neobolusia tysonii IMG_7759

02a Neobolusia tysonii IMG_7770

however another wonderful first time find was also two Neobolusia tysonii plants, which I saw in late January at Garden Castle, Southern Drakensberg, also a Southern African endemic.

 

02a Satyrium cristatum var longilabiatum a IMG_2226

02a Satyrium cristatum var longilabiatum b IMG_2226

Satyrium cristatum var. longilabiatum is always a delight to see with it’s cheerful candy striping! So a total count of seven different species.

 

Another first sighting here was of

02b Crabbea hirsuta a IMG_7783

02b Crabbea hirsuta b IMG_7782

Crabbea hirsuta,

 

other flowers included:

02b Killickia pilosa = Satureja reptans IMG_7768

Killickia pilosa, (= Satureja reptans), which I have nicknamed Bushman sweets as their leaves have a delicious fresh mint taste;

 

many graceful Kniphofia wands float in the grasses,

02b Kniphofia buchananii IMG_2180

the dainty Kniphofia buchananii

 

02b Kniphofia laxiflora IMG_2167

02b Kniphofia laxiflora IMG_2179

02b Kniphofia laxiflora IMG_2222

and vibrant orange Kniphofia laxiflora;

 

02b Pelargonium luridum IMG_2239

Pelargonium luridum;

 

02b Schizoglossum bidens IMG_2209

02b Schizoglossum bidens IMG_2210

Schizoglossum bidens;

 

02b Sebaea sedoides IMG_2197

Sebaea sedoides;

 

02b Tephrosia macropoda IMG_2223

Tephrosia macropoda;

 

02b Tumbling weed, Brunsvigia undulata seedhead IMG_2248

Tumbling weed, Brunsvigia undulata seedhead;

 

02b Wahlenbergia krebsii IMG_2224

Wahlenbergia krebsii;

 

02b Zaluzianskya natalensis IMG_2219

Zaluzianskya natalensis

 

02c possibly Ledebouria stenophylla IMG_2214

and possibly a patch of Ledebouria stenophylla which haven’t flowered this season.

 

Some interesting mushrooms popped up after the heavy rain,

03 Amanita rubescens IMG_2256

Amanita rubescens;

 

03 Horse Mushroom Agaricus arvensis IMG_2221

Horse Mushroom, Agaricus arvensis;

 

03 Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota zeheri IMG_2191

Parasol Mushroom, Macrolepiota zeheri

 

03 possibly Campanella capensis IMG_2253

and possibly Campanella capensis.

 

04 an Emperor moth sp, Family Saturniidae IMG_7756

This rather battered Emperor moth sp, Family Saturniidae rested at dawn, it’s torn lower wing meant I could see the usually obscured ‘eye’.

 

05 Common Cannibal snail Natalina cafra IMG_7757

It was very special to discover a Common Cannibal snail, Natalina cafra, in the lawn. I also saw a broken empty shell in different place, clearly a bird had eaten escargot!

 

Birds are not as frenetic, their broods probably fledged and more self-sufficient now. An early atumn season sighting of both a Malachite Sunbird and an African Hoopoe were a delight. One morning a Spurwing Goose perched on a rock above the valley, surveying the mist haze below.

06 African Cuckoo IMG_2236

The most exciting bird seen, was what I think is an African Cuckoo! Although it is a bit south of it’s usual summer sojourn, the broader, deeper bill with yellow at it’s base, differentiates it from the Common Cuckoo; this was also a first sighting here! It is a fairly common breeding, (Brood parasite of Fork Tailed Drongos), intra-African migrant, August-April, though not usually found here in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal.

 

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: January 2019 Sitamani Country Diary

01img_2014

New Year morning sunrise was particularly beautiful, clouds enabling colour-filled skies.

01img_2015

01img_2025

01img_2032

During January we had 158.5mm of rain, a bit less than December, but very welcome. A more usual pattern of afternoon thunderstorms occurred, however most didn’t realize much rain, there were also several misty, damp days. The hottest temperature was 31C and the lowest 10C

 

January has been a moth month:

02aafricanhandmaidenmothspfamilythyretidaeimg_2092

02aafricanhandmaidenmothspfamilythyretidaeimg_2096

a very distinctive African Hand Maiden moth sp. of the Family Thyretidae;

 

02ahandmaidenmothspfamilyctenuchidaeimg_2074

a Handmaiden moth sp. of the Family Ctenuchidae;

several of the Emperor moths were seen in the early mornings,

02acommonorcabbagetreeemperormothimg_2086

02acommonorcabbagetreeemperormothimg_9695

Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor moth;

 

02amarbledemperormothimg_2084

Marbled Emperor moth;

 

02amothimg_2062

a delightful, very small banded moth;

 

02apossiblymonkeymothspfamilyeupterotidaeimg_2099

possibly a Monkey moth sp. of the Family Eupterotidae and

 

02amothimg_2077

a gorgeously black and white marked moth.

 

There have been many stunning butterflies fluttering by, most not close enough or still long enough to photograph, however I did manage to capture an image of these two beauties:

02bcommondottedbordermylothrisagathinaagathinaimg_2069

Common Dotted Border, Mylothris agathina agathina and

 

02bstripedpolicemancoeliadesforestanimg_2039

02bstripedpolicemancoeliadesforestanimg_2041

02bstripedpolicemancoeliadesforestanimg_2044

Striped Policeman, Coeliades forestan.

 

Red-winged Starlings have been trying many different places to build a nest, for a while on top of the light fitting outside the kitchen door, it fortunately didn’t ‘stick’! Hadeda Ibis wander the lawn spearing tasty morsels.

03greaterstripedswallowimg_6663

A delight was managing to photograph a Greater Striped Swallow on the verandah railing one misty morning.

 

The single

04apterygodiummagnumimg_6526

04bpterygodiummagnumimg_6528

04cpterygodiummagnumimg_2111

04epterygodiummagnumimg_2114

Pterygodium magnum inflorescence continued growing, finally reaching ±1m, although buffeted by storms it flowered all through January, the final flowers have just opened, two young plants have come up next to it.

I spotted a few more orchids in flower:

04eulophiahiansvarhiansimg_2047

Eulophia hians var hians;

 

04eulophiaovalisvarovalisimg_2048

04eulophiaovalisvarovalisimg_2050

Eulophia ovalis var ovalis;

 

04eulophiazeyherianaimg_2053

Eulophia zeyheriana;

 

04satyriumcristatumimg_2079

Satyrium cristatum;

 

04satyriumlongicaudaimg_2078

Satyrium longicauda and

 

04satyriumparviflorumimg_2082

04satyriumparviflorumimg_2083

Satyrium parviflorum. Almost all of the flowering inflorescences are shorter than most years, possibly due to a lack of rain in the Spring.

 

Other flowers seen and photographed are:

04aagladioluseckloniiimg_6534

04abgladioluseckloniiimg_2052

Gladiolus ecklonii;

 

04abrunsvigiaundulataimg_2103

04abrunsvigiaundulataimg_2106

Brunsvigia undulata;

 

04acrocosmiaaureaimg_2107

04acrocosmiaaureaimg_2108

Crocosmia aurea, I have just learnt an interesting fact, one of the methods of seed distribution is by Vervet Monkeys, they find the seed very palatable and leave them behind in their droppings and

 

04aheliophilaformosaimg_2066

lastly Heliophila formosa.

 

After the last rain,

05starstinkhornaseroerubraimg_2109

a Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe rubra, appeared in leaf litter.

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.

 

 

 

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.