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Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: December 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

The 2020 has finally drawn to a close. One aspect that continues is the cycles of nature and has been one of my greatest solaces. During December many wonderful and varied life forms revealed themselves here, a time of growth, renewal and beauty.

On the last night of December, 31, I measured 39,5mm of rain, this brought the total for December to 207,5mm. The highest daytime temperature was 30C on two days, 27 and 29 December, the lowest nighttime temperature was 8,5C on the 2 December. A sultry, warm summer month with rapidly growing foliage.

Now that the Summer Solstice has passed, 21 December, we begin the gradual passage to winter, though usually our warmest month is February.

Here are some of the wonderful flora and fauna seen during the month.

Wednesday 2

A soft misty day.

A very large Common Cannibal snail, Natalina cafra, was resting in the passage way.

Monday 7

This unusual moth had avoided being eaten by the early birds.

Tuesday 8

Whilst doing alien Bramble eradication I came across this stunning

Pineapple Lily, Eucomis autumnalis

Vernonia natalensis

Dipcadi viride

and spotted these Cicada, Family Cicadidae, nymphal skins

Thursday 10

This lovely unfurling Fern caught my eye.

Anthericum cooperi

Stachys aethiopica

Friday 11

A simply stunning sunrise

The last of the waning moon in the brightening sky
Soft morning predawn light over a mist filled valley
Finally the sun popped over the far hill

A gorgeous, small spider, moving very quickly, I learnt was of the Family Theridiidae, a Tidarren species.

Saturday 12

A short walk was rewarded by these lovely finds,

Orange Poppy, Papaver aculeatum

Berkheya setifera and Silene bellidioides

Silene bellidioides

Cyanotis speciosa

Searsia species

and this lovely moth

Later that morning I was astounded to see a Narina Trogan in a tree near the house, I grabbed my camera, pointed and clicked, but didn’t manage to capture this special sighting! The distribution does cover this area, my guess is that now the trees and shrubbery have grown up near the house it has become more inviting for forest birds. Two days later I saw a Bush Blackcap in the Buddleja next to the sitting room window. Both were first time sightings here.

Sunday 13

Gaudy Commodore, Junonia Octavia

Pelargonium luridum

Aristea woodii

A small bee species on Aristea woodii

Albuca setosa (=pachychlamys)

Common Sandman, Spialia diomus ferax

Agapanthus campanulatus buds

A delightful hairy caterpillar

Hirpicium armerioides

Xysmalobium involucrum

Indigofera hilaris and Aristea woodii

Senecio isatideus

Alepidea natalensis

Aspidonepsis diploglossa

Hypericum lalandii

A myriad of tiny creatures in the Eucomis autumnalis flowers

Koppie Foam Grasshopper, Dictyophorus spumans

A striking black and orange Grasshopper

Haemanthus humilis

Asclepias albens

Aster bakerianus

A bee-mimic fly, Phytomia incisa

One of the most perfect Orthochilus foliosus orchids I’ve seen

The top view of a Schizocarphus nervosa (=Scilla nervosa)

Ornithogalum graminifolium

Monday 14

It is always so exciting for me to find this glorious moth

Wounded Emperor, Neobunaeopsis Arabella

After a stormy afternoon the sun reappeared before setting

A double rainbow to the east refracted in the last of the rain showers

Tuesday 15

Family Mantidae, Common mantids

This amazing, Family Ascalaphidae, Owl Fly,  was perched on the veggie garden gate

Friday 18

Bladder Grasshopper, Pneumora inanis

Saturday 19

A Carpet Bell flower, Craterocapsa tarsodes, that I usually associate with Sani Top

Fern, Ophioglossum vulgatum subsp. africanum

Mammatus, meaning mammary cloud, is a cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud

Wednesday 23

Handmaiden moth, Family Ctenuchidae

I discovered this hatched Fork-tailed Drongo eggshell beneath the Japanese Maple in the garden.

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: November 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

November has been a gloriously wet and verdant month, we’ve recorded rain on 22 days of the 30, a total of 196,5mm. The hillside is green with a wealth of flowers. The only flowering plant that doesn’t seem to enjoy the wet, cool conditions are the orchids, only one seen this November. The coolest temperature was on the 19th at 8C and the warmest 33.5C on the 8th. Most days were overcast and often misty.

Here are some of the wonderful flora and fauna seen during the month.

Monday 2


Trachyandra saltii


Eriosema kraussianum amongst the rock


Bagworm on Hypoxis

Tuesday 3

Although the light was poor, I couldn’t resist taking these late afternoon photos


Speckled Mousebirds


Male Red-collared Widowbirds almost in full breeding plumage


A soft end to the day

Saturday 14


Lotononis corymbosa


Vernonia hirsuta


Berkheya macrocephala


Caterpillar


Schizocarphus nervosus (=Scilla nervosa)


Dipcadi viride


Indigofera hilaris


Indigofera hilaris


In the KZN Drakensberg swathes of spectacular flowering, neon orange Watsonia socium, have covered the mountain slopes, our hillside has also glowed.


Watsonia socium


Striga bilabaiata


Striga bilabaiata


Wahlenbergia krebsii


Ledebouria sp.


Yellow-spotted Ground Beetle, Craspedophorus bonvouloiri


Cyphia elata


White Bramble, Rubus rigidus

Monday 16

I was so excited to see that an Ochna arborea had self-seeded in the little indigenous shrubbery I planted. Normally I’ve seen these beautiful, slender trees with beautiful ‘dappled’ bark in the mountains, their distinctive red and grey green, turning to black, seeds sparkling in the green foliage.


Ochna arborea


Ochna arborea

Tuesday 17


Cool dawn colours

Monday 23

Although I didn’t manage to take a photo, as we were having early morning coffee a russet orange Slender Mongoose, with a black tipped tail, darted across the lawn into the longer grass, so lovely!

Thursday 26


This interesting invertebrate was on the kitchen doorstep.

Friday 27


My find of the early morning was this large Granular Agate Snail, Archachatina granulata


I was on my way to look at the hillside covered with Silene bellidioides, in overcast conditions, they were still open. They are night flowering plants.


Silene bellidioides


Amongst the forbes, where there is good grazing, was this pile of Common Reedbuck droppings


Soft light and light mist in the valley below


Pill Millipede


Sisyranthus trichostomus


Pelargonium luridum


Vernonia natalensis


A delightful hairy caterpillar


Mariscus congestus


Hypoxis iridifolia

As I was wandering through the grasses I disturbed a Common Reedbuck. He stood up, watched me, then cavorted, before settling to observe me once again.


Common Reedbuck


Haemanthus humilis


Silver Bramble, Rubus ludwigii


Arrow-leaved Arum, Zantedeschia albomaculata


Lobelia erinus


Ajuga ophrydis


Otholobium polysictum


Cyanotis speciosa


Asclepias albens


Watsonia socium


A Bagworm on Cyanotis speciosa


The only orchid flowering this November Orthochilus foliosus


Clutia cordata


Pentanisia prunelloides


Ficinia cinammomea


A delightful spotted moth

Saturday 28

The most gorgeous dawn

Monday 30

To round off the month, the sky was filled with vibrant colour in the evening after a storm.

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Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: October 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

Last October we only had 37.5mm of rain, this year the total rainfall for the month is 129mm, almost 100mm more! Being optimistic I had planted out the vegetable garden in the middle of October and it has been worth it, seedlings appearing and in the last few days seem to grow visibly! Over the 30 and 31 October we have had 46.5mm of rain. The coldest morning was on the 11th, 4C and the warmest day on the 28th and 29th October, 29C. As the ground moistened wildflowers started appearing in greater abundance, with some, for me, unusual species seen.

Friday 9 October:


To my delight I spotted an Emperor Swallowtail, Papilio ophidicephalus, feeding on Jasmine flowers.

Monday 12 October:

Although Swee Waxbills, a fairly common endemic, are around all year, they are very ‘shy’ and this is the first time I’ve managed to take photos, not great, but a record.

Swee Waxbills
Swee Waxbills

It was a misty morning after a shower during the previous night

Wednesday 14 October:

I hadn’t observed this species, Euphorbia striata, here before, though have seen other Euphorbia species here

Thursday 15 October:

During October there have been many Ladybird beetles on the wing, this one came indoors, and is not one of the alien species usually seen.

Saturday 17 October:

Soft predawn light in the haze.

Sunday 18 October:

I managed to spend time wandering our hillside, finding a wealth of flowers and other natural discoveries.

Acalypha glandulifolia, male

Ledebouria sp.

Hebenstretia dura

A Grass funnel-web spider web

Helichrysum cephaloideum
Helichrysum cephaloideum

Kniphofia bracystachya
Kniphofia bracystachya

Eriosema kraussianum

Gebera ambigua

Acalypha glandulifolia, female

A bee laden with pollen and Oxyopidae, Lynx spider, on Senecio macrocephalus

Senecio macrocephalus

Oxyopidae, Lynx spider, possibly Peucetia on Senecio macrocephalus

Sisyranthus trichostomus

Red Grass, Themeda triandra

Tulbaghia leucantha
Tulbaghia leucantha

Spiral unfurling of a new leaf, Common Tree Fern, Cythea dregei

Anemone fanninii

Aspidonepsis diplogossa

Hermannia woodii

Ledebouria cooperi

Twig Wilter, Holopterna sp.
Twig Wilter, Holopterna sp.

Olive Thrush

Speckled Pigeons, who are raising two fledglings

A dark velvety spider, possibly Ctenus corniger

Psammotropha mucronata

Moraea graminicola

Monopsis decipiens

Helichrysum aureum

A bagworm on Helichrysum aureum

A beautiful, elegant, striped Grasshopper

Gladiolus longicollis

Dwarf Everlasting, Helichrysum chionoshaerum

An unusual Fungi

Hibiscus aethiopicus

Dwarf Spikethorn, Gymnosporia uniflora
Dwarf Spikethorn, Gymnosporia uniflora

Schizoglossum flavum, I think it is the first time I’ve observed this here
Schizoglossum flavum

Albuca pachychlamys, unfurling spiral of buds

Polygala virgata
Polygala virgata

Tulbaghia ludwigiana, definitely a first observation
Tulbaghia ludwigiana

Eriosema salignum, orange form
Eriosema salignum, yellow form

Soap Aloe, Aloe maculata, seed pods

Raphionacme hirsuta

Pachycarpus natalensis

Drimia elata

Caterpillar Grass, Harpochloa falx

Rumex woodii, the flowers are tiny, more visible later in the season are the red ‘paper heart’ seeds

Tuesday 20 October:

Cherry Spot moth, Diaphone eumela

Asparagus africanus

Thursday 22 October:

Glowing cloud effects at dawn

Friday 23 October:

Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor moth, Bunaea alcinoe

Wednesday 28 October:

Once again, I saw an Emperor Swallowtail, Papilio ophidicephalus, rather battered, possibly the same one seen earlier in October

Evening light after the storm

Thursday 29 October:

Family Megachilidae, Leafcutting and Mason bees, possibly a Mason bee, Megachile sp.

Friday 30 and Saturday 31 October:

Rain and more glorious rain!

During the month Greater Striped Swallows have returned, I heard the distinctive call of a Black Cuckoo and had several sightings of the Common Grey Duiker and a male, female and juvenile Common Reedbuck.

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: September 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

September marks the official start to Spring, by the Vernal Equinox on the 23 September most of the exotic trees had a raiment of new leaves and the hillsides were clad in grass with wildflowers appearing. However between light rainfalls there were many days of strong, hot, dry berg winds. During the month we had a total of 21,5mm of rain, very welcome.

The coldest mornings were on the 27 and 28 September, at 4C, the hottest day was the 20 September, reaching 27C. On the morning of the 7 September a light dusting of snow was revealed on the top of the Drakensberg, but a relatively warm 9C here!

Wednesday 2 September:

A glorious atmospheric dawn!

Thursday 3 September:

The moon a day off full in predawn light tinged cloud wisps

Friday 4 September:

The flock of Cape White-eyes were a delight to watch in the Wisteria branches

Monday 7 September:

A snow dusting was revealed on the Southern Drakensberg
A snow dusting was revealed on the Southern Drakensberg

Tuesday 8 September:

Light mist filled the valley below with hill ‘islands’ rising proud
Light mist filled the valley below with hill ‘islands’ rising proud

A Speckled Pigeon gathering fresh twigs for her nest

Wednesday 9 September:

While preparing the vegetable garden for planting Siphmandla discovered a rather large, sleepy Puff Adder in a nest of leaves beneath a fern, in a warm protected spot. It was probably in semi-hibernation, taking it’s time to move sluggishly to the Jasmine hedge. A day later it had moved on.

Puff Adder
Puff Adder
Puff Adder
Puff Adder
Puff Adder
Puff Adder
Puff Adder
Puff Adder

Thursday 10 September:

While wandering over the hillside I came across

An Antlion larvae funnel in sandy soil

A delightful Asclepias stellifera

Chrysanthemoides monifera subsp. canescens, Bush-tick berry

Dimorphotheca jucunda

Drimia elata

Eulophia parviflora (short-spurred form), half open
And quite a few Eulophia parviflora (short-spurred form) where the buds had been eaten

Fresh pink Graderia scabra

A Spotted Eagle-Owl feather

Tritonia lineata
Tritonia lineata and

Watsonia socium
Watsonia socium

Friday 11 September:

One of the first moths this season

Saturday 12 September:

A gorgeous sunrise ‘path’ over the mist at dawn

Monday 14 September:

We watched a Common Duiker grazing as we drank early morning coffee

Tuesday 22 September:

Dramatic grey clouds hovered over an apricot predawn sky

Wednesday 23 September:

On the Vernal Equinox I heard the Piet-my-Vrou, Red-chested Cuckoo call for the first time.

We had an unusual visitor come to sample our lemons.

Chacma Baboon
Chacma Baboon
Chacma Baboon
Chacma Baboon

The birdbath on the verandah is the social spot for birds.

The common endemic Cape Weaver and his wife have been around for a while, though I haven’t yet seen any sign of nest building.

An Olive Thrush dried off in the sunshine, then took another dip!

Olive Thrush
Olive Thrush
Olive Thrush
Olive Thrush
Olive Thrush

Southern Boubou

Wednesday 30 September:

Each year I wait for the small patch of minute flowers to appear in the lawn.

Helichrysum caespititium

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: August 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

August has been very dry, with more typical August wind. On the 30th we had the wettest day, over 5mm of rain, bringing the total to over 10mm, so hopefully now new spring growth will really start appearing. Despite the dry conditions there has been some new growth and a few flowers have blossomed.

 

The temperature dipped to 0,5 Celsius on the 6th, the warmest days were on the 15 and 25 August, 24 Celsius.

2020 08 07 IMG_6941

2020 08 07 IMG_6943

2020 08 07 IMG_6944

A cold front passed revealing a snow covered Drakensberg on the 7 August.

 

Friday 7 August:

2020 08 07 IMG_6947 Reedbuck young male

A young male Reedbuck watched cautiously from the hillside

2020 08 07 IMG_6951

Stunning golden light in the evening.

 

Friday 14 August:

2020 08 14 IMG_7102Reedbuck young female

A young female Reedbuck feeding on new grass on the hillside.

 

Saturday 15 July:

On a walk I found an

2020 08 15 IMG_7107 Owl feather

Owl feather

 

2020 08 15 IMG_7110 Common Hottentot male Gegenes niso subsp niso on Gazania krebsiana

A Common Hottentot male Gegenes niso subsp. niso feeding on Gazania krebsiana

2020 08 15 IMG_7112 Artemisia afra

Artemisia afra new shoots

2020 08 15 IMG_7114 Apodolirion buchananii Natal Crocus

Apodolirion buchananii, Natal Crocus

2020 08 15 IMG_7115 Moraea and Senecio leaves

New Moraea and Senecio leaves

 

2020 08 15 IMG_7118 a young grasshopper juvenile eating a Ledebouria ovatifolia

A young grasshopper juvenile eating a Ledebouria ovatifolia

2020 08 15 IMG_7120 Urginea capitata

Urginea capitata

2020 08 15 IMG_7121 Snail shell

A snail shell

2020 08 15 IMG_7122 Ledebouria ovatifolia

Ledebouria ovatifolia

2020 08 15 IMG_7127 Asclepiad sp seeds dispersing

Asclepiad sp. seeds dispersing

2020 08 15 IMG_7130 Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja salviifolia flowering

The Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja salviifolia are still flowering

 

Wednesday 19 August:

2020 08 19 IMG_7338

A stunning sunset

 

Friday 21 August:

2020 08 21 IMG_7364

Smoky skies created a pink glow sunset

 

Tuesday 25 August:

2020 08 25 IMG_7415

A sea of clouds in the Boston valley at dawn

2020 08 25 IMG_7416

A sea of clouds in the Boston valley at dawn

2020 08 25 IMG_7425

A sea of clouds in the Boston valley at dawn

 

Wednesday 26 August:

2020 08 26 IMG_7426 Dark-capped Bulbul

In the cool evening, two Dark-capped Bulbuls cuddled together out of the wind

 

Thursday 27 August:

2020 08 27 IMG_7435

A stunning watercolour cloud effect in the evening

 

Friday 28 August:

A walk revealed signs of spring

2020 08 28 IMG_7441 Bee on Ursinia tenuiloba

Bee on Ursinia tenuiloba

2020 08 28 IMG_7445 Bee on Ursinia tenuiloba

Bee on Ursinia tenuiloba

2020 08 28 IMG_7450 Gazania krebsiana

Gazania krebsiana

2020 08 28 IMG_7465 Nemesia caerulea

Nemesia caerulea

2020 08 28 IMG_7466 Cussonia paniculata

Featherduster new leaves on Cussonia paniculata

2020 08 28 IMG_7467 Cyrtanthus tuckii

Cyrtanthus tuckii

2020 08 28 IMG_7468 Peucedanum caffrum leaves

Peucedanum caffrum leaves

2020 08 28 IMG_7469 Bracken Pteridium aquilinum

New leaves unfurling on Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum

2020 08 28 IMG_7473 Dimorphotheca jucunda

Dimorphotheca jucunda

2020 08 28 IMG_7475 Ursinia tenuiloba

Ursinia tenuiloba

2020 08 28 IMG_7477 Eulophia hians var inaequalis

Eulophia hians var. inaequalis

2020 08 28 IMG_7480 Aloe maculata seeds

Aloe maculata seeds

2020 08 28 IMG_7482 Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard hovering high above

2020 08 28 IMG_7483 Hypoxis sp

Hypoxis sp.

2020 08 28 IMG_7484 Pentanisia prunelloides

Pentanisia prunelloides

2020 08 28 IMG_7485 Eulophia hian var hians

Eulophia hian var. hians

2020 08 28 IMG_7487 Eulophia parviflora (short-spurred form)

Eulophia parviflora (short-spurred form)

2020 08 28 IMG_7494 unknown invertebrate on Urginea capitata

An unknown invertebrate on Urginea capitata

2020 08 28 IMG_7495 Woolly bee fly

Woolly bee fly

2020 08 28 IMG_7497

Dry hillside with a tinge of green grass

2020 08 28 IMG_7498 Reedbuck droppings

Reedbuck droppings

2020 08 28 IMG_7502 Reedbuck spoor

Reedbuck spoor

Sunday 30 and Monday 31 August:

2020 08 30 IMG_7551

Finally cold wet conditions overnight and all day and continuing on the last day of August!

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: July 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

We have now been 127 days in Lockdown here in South Africa. July is the quietest month of winter. Firebreaks are burnt, smoky skies with vivid dawns and sunsets as the sun rises and sets behind a veil. Despite this, new life is already appearing, small green leaves, winter flowering plants, birds spring cleaning nests as the days grow longer.

 

The temperature dipped to 0,5 Celsius on two mornings, 14 and 17, the warmest day was on the 10 July, 22 Celsius. As a cold front passed over we had 3mm of rain, the total for the month.

 

As I have been working hard to launch my website, Christeen Grant Creative Arts www.christeengrant.com on the 25 July, I haven’t walked the hillside as often as in the past couple of months. Before dawn on the 7 July I heard Common Reedbuck whistling, and we have seen one, then two on our hillside on the 14 and 30, so they have eluded the poachers so far. In the early evening of 7 July I had a wonderful close encounter with a male duiker wandering into the garden, special moments.

 

 

Sunday 5 July:

2020 07 05 Bulwer Mountain IMG_6613

The full moon setting behind Bulwer Mountain

 

Tuesday 7 July:

2020 07 07 IMG_6729

Golden Sunset

 

Friday 10 July:

2020 07 10 IMG_6747

Dawn splendour

 

Thursday 16 July:

2020 07 16 IMG_6785

A smoky evening

 

Wednesday 22 July:

2020 07 22 IMG_6818

Winter beauty, setting sun through winter branches and smoky skies…

 

Friday 24 July:

2020 07 24 IMG_6831

Gilded leaves welcome the sun

 

2020 07 24 IMG_6832 Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou having an early morning drink

 

2020 07 24 IMG_6837 Olive Thrush

An Olive Thrush enjoying the mild sunshine just outside my studio as I work.

 

 

Wednesday 29 July:

On a walk over the burnt hillside I spotted

2020 07 29 IMG_6847 Black-winged Lapwing

A Black-winged Lapwing

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6850 Ouhout Leucosidea sericea

2020 07 29 IMG_6851 Ouhout Leucosidea sericea

2020 07 29 IMG_6854 Ouhout Leucosidea sericea

Ouhout, Leucosidea sericea, are starting to flower earlier this year

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6855 Buddleja salvifolia

A lilac form of Buddleja salvifolia

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6859

A nest from last season revealed

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6861Buddleja salvifolia

2020 07 29 IMG_6862Buddleja salvifolia

The Buddleja salvifolia have flowered spectacularly this year, the heady honey fragrance filling the air

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6871 African Monarch Danaus chrysippus aegyptius

An African Monarch, Danaus chrysippus aegyptius, warming up in the sunlit grass

 

I found two beautiful downy feathers

2020 07 29 IMG_6872 Spotted Eagle-Owl feather

2020 07 29 IMG_6873 Spotted Eagle-Owl feather

Spotted Eagle-Owl feathers

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6875 Greater Double-collared Sunbird nest

Beneath the Greater Double-collared Sunbird nest

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6876 Greater Double-collared Sunbird nesting material

I found  scattered piles of nesting materials, and for a few days thought maybe an African Harrier Hawk had raided the nest. Happily I’ve seen both the male and female since, so assume they had a spring clean and turfed out old materials.

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6877 Halleria lucida

The Halleria lucida are still flowering profusely, a fire-glow in each tree

 

2020 07 29 IMG_6878 Cape White-eye on Greyia sutherlandii

Cape White-eye feasting on Greyia sutherlandii 

 

Friday 31 July:

2020 07 31 IMG_6894

Soft morning mist in the valley below

Sometimes in life the way that was so clearly laid out is changed, like a mist enveloping the path in front of you. The path is still there, the path of life. However we need to adapt our thinking to negotiate it, possibly change the route to continue. Sometimes we need to trust to move forward, as each step reveals itself. Life is change.

 

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: Christeen Grant Creative Arts

Today I launched my new website

01a 2020 CGCA Cover photo

www.christeengrant.com

05 Trees Chinese maple leaf

This watercolour painting of a Chinese Maple Leaf (Private Collection). It was part of a Joint Exhibition, Trees, held in 2008 and is now my logo.

Few things excite me more than to be faced with a clean sheet of paper or canvas, pencils, paint and brushes. This is one of my earliest memories and today the feeling is as strong! Form and colour inspire and challenge me to explore their depths. A more recent passion is photography, particularly of the wealth of stunning indigenous flowers and landscapes in South Africa and Lesotho.

I am an artist, illustrator and photographer, as well as a Nature, Culture and Mountain Walking Guide. All these activities enrich each other and inspire new artistic avenues.

Mediums used: Oils, watercolours, pen & ink with washes, gouache, photography (excluding computer graphics)

Due to Covid-19 guiding has ceased in South Africa, so with grateful anticipation I’m returning to my first career, art. Hopefully in time I will be able to resume guiding, particularly hiking in the Drakensberg and Lesotho and have a more balanced life, as each discipline acts as inspiration to the other.

The website has launched with an online exhibition,

Playing with Light.

The three sections within the exhibition (an example of each),

01b Crocosmia aurea Crop 300dpi

Botanics

01c Within the spiral Crop 300dpi Watercolour & Pencil 100x147mmPostcards

01d Giants Castle 01 IMG_2526Oils

reflect my passions. In each I have been playing with light, creating illusions of form and mood, from delicate watercolour flowers, whimsical postcard sketches and wider views of mountain vistas in oils.

​All the paintings and digital images are at reduced prices for this opening online exhibition.

 

Here are some examples of images in the Gallery section:

02 Portfolio Ellie 02

Children’s Illustration

03 Birds 02 Collared Sunbird on Ajuga ophrydis watercolour

Nature Artwork

04 FCB Draft uShaka Marine World Green MambaGeneral Artwork

11 Robert DSCF2849Oils

06 2018 10 29 Vaal Dam IMG_5438Landscape Photos

07 2018 01 06-08 St Lucia 08 IMG_0946Animal Photos

08 2016 02 02-05 Mtentu 16 IMG_4671Plant Photos

09 2017 12 19-21 3 Day Pony Trek 24 IMG_0404People Photos

10 2015 07 17 Durban Rose P1050248Texture Photos

 

Building the website has taken many hours and my son Robert has kindly taught and tutored me, I am so grateful!

 

I would love to share it with you, so please click on the link:

www.christeengrant.com

 

I hope you will enjoy browsing!

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: June 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

We have now been 96 days in Lockdown here in South Africa. Winter has set in, but the shortest day has passed. Just after the Winter Solstice a small spark ignites, although it is a slow return to Spring and Summer, the darkest hour is past. Bared branches begin to proffer tight buds, gradually loosening, to eventually unfurl into brilliant rainment.

2020 06 10 IMG_6319

I love the quiet moment when the balance swings; hope, new life and warmth will return. June colours have been a rich warm range of hues, belying the cool winter days.

 

2020 06 15 IMG_6376

Our coldest mornings were the 15 and 16 June at 1 degree Celsius, as a cold front was moving through we also had some frost, however only 5mm of rain fell on the 17, our total for June. The warmest daytime temperature was 21 degree Celsius on the 2, 3 and 26 June. The average temperature for the whole month was a cool 11 degrees Celsius.

 

Wednesday 3 June:

2020 06 03 IMG_6195

A golden dawn

 

I found two different discarded snail ‘homes’,

2020 06 03 IMG_6590 Common Cannibal Snail Natalina cafra

Common Cannibal Snail, Natalina cafra

 

2020 06 03 IMG_6591 Turreted Awl Snail Euonyma turriformis

Turreted Awl Snail, Euonyma turriformis

 

 

Monday 8 June:

Every June I wait in anticipation for frothy white drifts of flowers to appear on the

2020 06 08 IMG_6300 Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja dysophylla, the minute, delicately fragrant flowers are simply magical.

 

2020 06 08 IMG_6305 Buddleja dysophylla

Buddleja dysophylla, the minute, delicately fragrant flowers are simply magical.

 

2020 06 08 IMG_6312 Halleria lucida

Halleria lucida flowers are bursting forth.

 

Thursday 11 June:

2020 06 11 IMG_6335

A spectacular dawn started the day.

 

Saturday 13 June:

 

2020 06 13 IMG_6340

Pastel shades at sunrise looking west

 

A surprising number of flowers on my walk

2020 06 13 IMG_6341 Common Soap Aloe Aloe maculata

Common Soap Aloe, Aloe maculata

2020 06 13 IMG_6342 Common Soap Aloe Aloe maculata

Common Soap Aloe, Aloe maculata

 

 

2020 06 13 IMG_6344 Otholobium stachyerum

Otholobium stachyerum

 

2020 06 13 IMG_6347 Watsonia lepida

Watsonia lepida

 

2020 06 13 IMG_6349 Watsonia socium

Watsonia socium

2020 06 13 IMG_6352 Watsonia socium

Watsonia socium

neither of these Watsonia species ‘should’ be flowering, a bit confused?

 

The scent is so evocative of winter, the

2020 06 13 IMG_6354a Buddleja salviifolia

Buddleja salviifolia

2020 06 13 IMG_6354b Buddleja salviifolia

Buddleja salviifolia

2020 06 13 IMG_6354c Buddleja salviifolia

Buddleja salviifolia

have started flowering.

 

2020 06 13 IMG_6359 female African Stonechat on a Cussonia spicata seedhead

A female African Stonechat used a Cussonia spicata seedhead as a vantage point

 

2020 06 13 IMG_6362 Searsia (=Rhus) discolor

Gorgeous shades of autumn in the Searsia (=Rhus) discolor leaves

 

2020 06 13 IMG_6367 African Monarch Danaus chrysippus aegyptius

An African Monarch, Danaus chrysippus aegyptius, warmed up in the sunlit grass

 

Monday 15 June:

2020 06 15 IMG_6375

On one of the two coldest mornings even the high cloud was a soft rainbow of ice crystals

 

Tuesday 16 June:

The second frosty morning revealed ice decoration on

2020 06 16 IMG_6388 Berkheya setifera

Berkheya setifera

 

2020 06 16 IMG_6393

and cool layered clouds

 

Thursday 18 June:

2020 06 18 IMG_6402

Neon colour streaks lit the evening clouds

 

Saturday 20 June:

This year the Winter Solstice was as often happens a truly stunning sunshiny winter’s day.

2020 06 20 IMG_6403 Natal Red Grass Themeda triandra

Natal Red Grass, Themeda triandra, living up to its name

 

2020 06 20 IMG_6407

Predawn the grasses glowed bright.

 

2020 06 20 IMG_6408 Giant Turpentine Grass Cymbopogon validus

Giant Turpentine Grass, Cymbopogon validus

 

2020 06 20 IMG_6409

Gorgeous shades of purple and grey, last season’s Watsonia leaves in the grass

 

2020 06 20 IMG_6420

Then without fuss the sun popped over the horizon

 

2020 06 20 IMG_6426

And sunset was also a quiet affair

 

Thursday 25 June:

2020 06 25 IMG_6460

 

Tuesday 30 June:

2020 06 30 IMG_6580 Ouhout Leucodidea sericea

All the Ouhout, Leucodidea sericea, have yellowed leaves, definitely more this year, perhaps cold stress in May.

 

2020 06 30 IMG_6587

The calm quietness of winter landscape

 

2020 06 30 IMG_6588 Common Soap Aloe Aloe maculata

By the end of June the only bright spots on the hillside are Common Soap Aloe, Aloe maculata

 

The African Hoopoes forage regularly, though I’m certain they will move on soon.The Black-backed Jackals continue to call every night from the valley. On a few mornings I have seen Common Gray Duiker, but not the Common Reedbuck that usually graze around here. We found a fresh bone on a walk, this ties in with intensified poaching that is occurring  in the area. I can only hope that some survive.

 

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: May 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

We have now been 66 days, 31 in Level 4, Covid-19 Lockdown here in South Africa; if the figures released are accurate, we have not had the very high infection rate, or mortality that was originally predicted for Covid-19; however the economic toll has been dire, there are many people without food or the means to earn money to buy it, generous volunteers collect and distribute to those most in need. More than ever the key to long term food security for most of our semi-urban population, is encouraging sustainable, organic food / vegetable gardens. Troubling is the increase in poaching, we can only hope the animals that call this place home will survive. Watching the natural world continue without interference is a soul restorative.

 

We are now definitely in early winter, temperatures have dropped, the minimum temperature was 0 C on the 26 May and the maximum 21 C the day before the cold front, on the 25 May. It’s as if the rain tap was turned off, from the April 129.5mm, May saw a total of only 6.5mm. Although a cold front moved through on 26/27 May, there was no snow and hardly any rain.

2020 05 05 IMG_5735

2020 05 05 IMG_5737

2020 05 05 IMG_5740

The tail end of April’s moisture resulted in a soft misty morning then atmospheric sunset on the 5 May.

 

As there has been positive reaction to the day-to-day diary format here are the highlights:

 

Tuesday 5 May:

2020 05 05 IMG_5767

On an evening walk we came upon this Net-wing Beetle.

 

 

Friday 8 May:

2020 05 08 01 Leonotis leonurus IMG_5796

The evenings are drawing in quickly now, but the Leonotis leonurus glowed in soft light.

 

2020 05 08 02 IMG_5801

The grassy hillsides have turned a rich rose-golden hue.

 

2020 05 08 03 Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp canescens Bush-tick berry IMG_5803

Most flowers are over, this Bush Tick-berry, Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp canescens, is an exception.

 

2020 05 08 IMG_5809

Cool pink and blue sunset.

 

 

Saturday 9 May:

2020 05 09 IMG_5812

The reward for my early morning walk was the spectacular moon just past full.

 

2020 05 09 IMG_5827 Coltricia perennis

Delicate concentric rings decorate these soft bodied mushrooms, probably Coltricia perennis.

 

 

Sunday 10 May:

2020 05 10 Grasshopper IMG_5870

Normally I see this bright red and blue Foam Grasshopper in the Drakensberg, so it was a poignant reminder of places I am missing.

 

2020 05 10 Twig Wilter IMG_5867

I hadn’t seen a Twig Wilter for some time, so was delighted to come across this one.

 

2020 05 10 Yellow Pansy Junonia hierta cebrene IMG_5874

The bright yellow and blue of this Yellow Pansy butterfly, Junonia hierta cebrene shone in the clear light.

 

 

Tuesday 12 May:

2020 05 22 IMG_6015

A truly golden dawn.

 

2020 05 12 IMG_5887

Then I discovered this tiny, about 4mm, orange and black bug strolling over the sink.

 

 

Saturday 16 May:

2020 05 16 IMG_5973

2020 05 16 IMG_5974

2020 05 16 IMG_5976

2020 05 16 IMG_5977

On an early morning walk I watched amazed as these two Black-backed Jackal crossed my path, neither of them spotted me. So I have now ‘met’ two of the night time vocalists.

 

2020 05 16 IMG_5985

A Common or Grey Duiker watched me curiously.

 

 

Tuesday 19 May:

2020 05 19 IMG_5992 African Hoopoe

One of my favourite, locally migrant, visitors are the African Hoopoes that pass through in Autumn and Spring. A pair have been around for a couple of weeks.

 

2020 05 19 IMG_5993 the Cape Glossy Starling

The beady orange eye, keeping a watchful gaze, alerted me to the Cape Glossy Starling in the birdbath.

 

 

Wednesday 20 May:

2020 05 20 IMG_6003 Southern Double-collared Sunbird nest

Now most of the leaves have fallen, bird nests are revealed. I was fortunate to see the male Southern Double-collared Sunbird exiting, so know this largish, rather untidy nest belongs to the pair that have taken up residence this last season. They are endemic to the Southern African region.

 

 

Friday 22 May:

2020 05 22 IMG_6015

A calm, cool sunset.

 

 

Sunday 24 May:

2020 05 24 IMG_6085

These Black-backed Jackal droppings seem to be territory markers, as they are regularly ‘renewed’.

 

Some more nests revealed in bare branches and exposed crannies,

2020 05 24 IMG_6089 Fork-tailed Drongo

Fork-tailed Drongo nest

 

2020 05 24 IMG_6091 Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou nest

 

2020 05 24 IMG_6094

Possibly a Dark-capped Bulbul nest

 

2020 05 24 IMG_6101

A delightful, lacey, fungi

 

 

Monday 25 May:

2020 05 25 IMG_6113

Even on cold mornings birds flock to the bird bath on the verandah, a Dark-capped Bulbul pair take their turn.

 

2020 05 27 IMG_6124

2020 05 27 IMG_6127

2020 05 27 IMG_6135

A short time later a Speckled Pigeon had an unhurried feather soak and drink.

 

 

Thursday 28 May:

2020 05 28 IMG_6140

A soft vague sunset

 

 

Friday 29 May:

2020 05 29 IMG_6149 Glow worm larvae

We came across this curious insect on the road and realized it was a Glow worm larvae.

 

2020 05 29 IMG_6163

2020 05 29 IMG_6172

A wide range of birds enjoyed the warmer evening, the African Hoopoe pair flitting from tree to grass foraging.

 

2020 05 29 IMG_6178

The Fork-tailed Drongo family, quiet for a change, basked.

 

2020 05 29 Speckled Mousebird IMG_6159

Speckled Mousebirds take advantage of the last sun rays to warm up before settling for the night in the Buddleja salvifolia shrubbery.

 

 

Saturday 30 May:

2020 05 30 IMG_6182

The vibrant flock of Cape White-eyes splash happily on a cold morning.

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: April 2020 Sitamani Country Diary

We have now been in 35 days of Level 5 Lockdown here in South Africa. Apart from the devasting economic effect as a Tourist Guide, having previously spent most of my working hours in the KZN Drakensberg and Lesotho for 13 years, with over 95% of the clients being international tourists, I am now home based with no work; life has continued. Lessons learned in how fragile humankind is; how we really need so little in our daily lives; that there IS time to ‘smell the roses’; there IS still beauty and compassion in our world; how we can downscale our existence and live more sustainably; how very vulnerable many are on the margins of our economy. That for me, nature is a healer and teacher bringing joy each day.

 

Autumn is drifting into winter, temperatures remaining very similar to those in March, the minimum temperature was 7C and the maximum 26.5C. In much the same pattern as last year, we’ve had a relatively good late season rainfall in April 129.5mm. Two light snowfalls have already been experienced in the KZN Drakensberg, 15 and 27 April, with chilly days after the cold fronts have moved on.

02 2020 04 12 IMG_5479

On the 12 April we experienced the most spectacular sun set.

 

Friday 3 April:

A walk around our hillside revealed some delightful finds.

2020 04 03 IMG_5385 Podoscypha parvula

A dead branch was covered in beautiful orange fungi, Podoscypha parvula.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5387 Cheilanthes buchananii

In a shady corner Cheilanthes buchananii ferns and moss glowed green against a rock.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5390 Berkheya setifera

Heavy dew glistened in the grass dotted with dried Berkheya setifera seed heads.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5392 Amanita rubescens

An Amanita rubescens mushroom.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5394 Common Hottentot male Gegenes niso subsp niso

The unusual looking butterfly, Common Hottentot, male, Gegenes niso subsp. niso, feasted on nectar.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5403 Eyed Pansy Junonia orithya madagascariensis

An Eyed Pansy, Junonia orithya madagascariensis butterfly rested in the drying grass.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5406 Stinkbug nymph 5th instar before adulthood

This miniscule jewel, a Stinkbug nymph, 5th instar before adulthood, was a special find.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5412 Alectra sessiliflora

There were still some sunshine yellow Alectra sessiliflora flowering.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5414 Leonotis leonurus

Leonotis leonurus stand tall and vibrant.

 

2020 04 03 IMG_5415 Lobelia erinus

Closer to the ground Lobelia erinus sparkle.

 

 

Saturday 4 April:

2020 04 04 IMG_5422 Sunset

Moody skies with a glimmer of light above the mountains at dusk.

 

 

Monday 6 April:

2020 04 06 IMG_5432

Early morning mist first created a halo round the waxing moon,

 

2020 04 06 IMG_5517

then later added atmosphere to the dawn.

 

2020 04 06 IMG_5521

Sparkling dew gilded the spiderweb.

 

 

Thursday 9 April:

2020 04 09 IMG_5434 Ladybird beetle possibly of Epilachna genus

A tiny Ladybird beetle, possibly of Epilachna genus, caught my eye.

 

 

Friday 10 April:

2020 04 10 IMG_5436 juvenile Mantid

I spotted this tiny juvenile Mantid while cleaning windows.

 

2020 04 10 IMG_5440 Softly sunset

A gentle soft sunset of pastel cloud and sky

 

 

Saturday 11 April:

On a wandering stroll I discovered some flowering and fruiting plants and other treasures.

2020 04 11 IMG_5444 Berkheya rhapontica

Berkheya rhapontica

 

2020 04 11 IMG_5446 Cussonia spicata

Cussonia spicata

 

2020 04 11 IMG_5451 Cussonia spicata

Cussonia spicata fruit

 

2020 04 11 IMG_5452 Sutera floribunda

Sutera floribunda

 

2020 04 11 IMG_5454

A discarded Snail shell

 

2020 04 11 IMG_5456 Plectranthus calycina

Plectranthus calycina

 

2020 04 11 IMG_5457 Two-striped Skimmer Orthetrum caffrum female

Two-striped Skimmer, Orthetrum caffrum female, dragonfly resting on grasses.

 

2020 04 11 IMG_5458 Polygala hottentotta

Polygala hottentotta

 

Sunday 12 April:2020 04 12 IMG_5460 Clouds

Stunning dawn cerise clouds in the morning.

 

2020 04 12 IMG_5481

Then the most spectacular sunset in the evening.

 

 

Wednesday 15 April:

2020 04 15 IMG_5496 Snow on the berg

2020 04 15 IMG_5504 Snow on the berg

2020 04 15 IMG_5506 Snow on the berg

With dawn light, a dusting of snow was revealed over the Southern Drakensberg.

 

2020 04 15 IMG_5509 Citrus Swallowtail Papilio demodocus

During the afternoon a Citrus Swallowtail, Papilio demodocus, settled briefly to feed.

 

 

Friday 17 April:

2020 04 17 IMG_5534 male Common Reedbuck

2020 04 17 IMG_5537 male Common Reedbuck

We had a dinner guest feeding just beyond the window, a male Common Reedbuck.

 

 

Sunday 19 April:

Philip and I carted water in preparation for burning tracer lines. One of the responsibilities of living in the countryside is fire safety management of grassy hillsides. With Autumn comes the time to burn tracer lines, which become the edges or outlines of the wider firebreaks towards the end of Winter / early Spring. Tracer lines need to be burnt while the grass is still relatively green, this helps contain the fire. Even though we are in lockdown these measures still need to be put in place, so Philip and I devised a plan to carry the 20 liter (=20kgs) water containers, which need to be placed at intervals along the tracer lines before they are burnt. Our multi-day hiking experience came in handy. Philip adapted an old external frame backpack, by removing the bag. We then secured the water containers with straps, and took turns to ‘hike’ them across the hillside and place them next to the tracer lines. This was our workout over the weekend!

2020 04 19 IMG_5549

2020 04 19 IMG_5552

2020 04 19 IMG_5555

 

 

Friday 24 April:

A few visual delights while moving around the garden,

2020 04 24 IMG_5576 Deceptive Mushroom Lepista caffrorum

A Deceptive Mushroom, Lepista caffrorum, in the compost bin.

 

2020 04 24 IMG_5579 Black and white hammock-web spider, Microlinyphia sterilis, family Linyphiidae

Black and white hammock-web spider, Microlinyphia sterilis, family Linyphiidae.

 

2020 04 24 IMG_5594 Cheilanthes buchananii

A Cheilanthes buchananii fern.

 

 

Saturday 25 April:

2020 04 25 IMG_5597 Small Pine Cap Gymnopilus penetrans

A Small Pine Cap, Gymnopilus penetrans, in the lawn.

 

2020 04 25 IMG_5600 Speckled Pigeon

A Speckled Pigeon sunning on the roof.

 

2020 04 25 IMG_5614 Jumping Spider

A delightful, very small, about 3mm in size, Jumping Spider.

 

 

Sunday 26 April:

In the early morning just outside the kitchen door underneath the light, there is usually a host of moths, that is if you get there before the birds start their breakfast feast.

2020 04 26 IMG_5631 Maruca vitrata

Maruca vitrata, a moth I hadn’t seen before.

 

2020 04 26 IMG_5634 Cape Wagtail

A Cape Wagtail that had just selected a tasty treat.

 

2020 04 26 Lacewing species possibly Chrysemosa genus IMG_5627

Sometimes other invertebrates are also attracted by the light, like this lovely Lacewing species, possibly Chrysemosa genus.

 

 

Monday 27 April:

The light display at Dawn was breath taking,

2020 04 27 IMG_5644

looking to the east clouds were tinged with softest pink,

 

2020 04 27 IMG_5649

the horizon sky dramatic red through, orange, yellow and clear blue with floating white cloud,

 

2020 04 27 IMG_5652

and in the south west, rays of light reaching down in front of grey clouds to the palest pink sky above sunlit Bulwer Mountain.

 

2020 04 27 IMG_5659 Sundowner Moth Sphingomorpha chlorea

Near the kitchen a Sundowner Moth, Sphingomorpha chlorea,

 

2020 04 27 IMG_5660 Fulvous Hawk Moth Coelonia fulvinotata

Fulvous Hawk Moth, Coelonia fulvinotata,

 

 

Tuesday 28 April:

2020 04 27 IMG_5664

A beautiful pale green moth,

 

2020 04 28 IMG_2509 Cream-striped Owl

Cream-striped Owl moth

 

2020 04 28 IMG_2511

a very striking patterned brown moth.

 

Wednesday 29 April:

A quick wander revealed

2020 04 29 IMG_5676 Watsonia confusa

A late flowering Watsonia confusa

 

2020 04 29 IMG_5677 Otholobium polysictum

Otholobium polysictum

 

2020 04 29 IMG_5680 Ladybird beetle on Otholobium polysictum

Ladybird beetle on Otholobium polysictum

 

2020 04 29 IMG_5682 Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp canescens Bush-tick berry

Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp. canescens, Bush-tick berry

 

2020 04 29 IMG_5684 Common Reedbuck droppings

Common Reedbuck droppings

 

Thursday 30 April:

Throughout the month Black-back Jackal have been particularly vocal. A pair of Bokmakieries have taken up residence near the house in the thick Ouhout, Leucosidea sericea and Buddleja salvifolia shrubbery, hopefully I’ll manage to take a photo of them, they are very shy. It has been over a year since I last heard Cape Eagle Owls calling, the other morning just before light started creeping in, I heard them close to the house, and now each morning I hear them calling.

2020 04 29 IMG_5690 Drakensberg Prinia locally common endemic

Last a Drakensberg Prinia, locally common endemic, fluffed out against the chill breeze.