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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.

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

During this past month the world as we have known it has changed completely. With the onset of the global pandemic we enter an unprecedented age, where all humanity will be affected. I can’t help but feel that the planet is trying to shake off the excessive actions of one single species, that has brought so much harm and devastation. My consolation is observing nature, the resilience, adaptation and most of all, that all other living species only ‘take’ what they need and often have symbiotic relationships that ensure mutual survival. For me this is a profound lesson, scale down, be less frenetic and work together with all living forms on our planet, not just humans.

02 01 IMG_5339

Silence is the white space before dawn.

Silence is the white space between heartbeats of life.

Silence is the white space giving words form.

Silence is the white space between human activity giving nature breath.

Silence is the white space allowing thoughts to cease and the soul to be.

 

By the end of March Autumn had definitely settled in, cooler, with a crispness in the mornings,

02 IMG_5138

beautiful softer light as shown in this photo just after sunrise. The highest temperature recorded was 26 Celsius and the lowest 7.5 Celsius, the total rainfall measured was 189mm.

02 IMG_5151

Beautiful sunsets were observed,

and a mellowing of the grassy hillsides.

 

There were still many moths and butterflies to be seen.

03a Nyodes acatharta IMG_5150

This Nyodes acatharta moth was particularly stunning.

Two butterflies flew inside, giving me the opportunity to photograph them,

03b Bush or Forest Beauty Paralethe dendrophilus IMG_5292

a Bush or Forest Beauty, Paralethe dendrophilus and

03b Green-banded Swallowtail Papilio nireus lyaeus IMG_5288

a Green-banded Swallowtail, Papilio nireus lyaeus.

 

Some of the other insects seen when out walking were:

03c Grassland Antlion Distoleon pulverulentus IMG_5215

Grassland Antlion, Distoleon pulverulentus;

 

03d Bee Fly Bombomyia discoidea IMG_5257

a Bee Fly, Bombomyia discoidea;

 

03d Leaf Beetle species on Helichrysum cooperi IMG_5238

a delightful spotted Leaf Beetle species on Helichrysum cooperi;

 

03d Museum or Hide Beetle Family Dermestidae on Helichrysum cooperi IMG_5239

Museum or Hide Beetles, Family Dermestidae on Helichrysum cooperi and

 

03d Wasp Delta emarginatum IMG_2447

a Wasp, Delta emarginatum flew inside the house for a photo opportunity.

 

03e Millipede IMG_5278

I loved this tightly curled Millipede on a grass stalk and

 

03e Pill Millipede IMG_5251

Pill millipedes are a particular favourite, always busy tracing steps through the grass foraging.

 

03f Spider IMG_5281

This spider was very quick to hide behind the dried remains of a Berkheya flower, just his legs exposed.

 

A combination of cooler weather and enough moisture brought some fungi out:

04 Amanita species IMG_5296

an Amanita species;

 

04 IMG_5260

04 IMG_5262

some small soft looking mushrooms yet to be identified;

 

04 IMG_5299

the remains of an eaten mushroom and

 

04 Termitomyces reticulatus IMG_5202

a large Termitomyces reticulatus.

 

The areas of

05 Lycopodium clavatum IMG_5249

Lycopodium clavatum, an ancient member of the Fern Family, have spread below the house

and I came across a small population of another unusual member of the Fern Family,

05 Ophioglossum vulgatum subsp africanum IMG_5269

Ophioglossum vulgatum subsp. africanum.

 

06 Staghorn Clubmoss Selaginella caffrorum IMG_5253

The vibrant green Staghorn Clubmoss, Selaginella caffrorum, heart on a rock was a visual delight,

 

06 Staghorn Clubmoss Selaginella caffrorum IMG_5277

then I was entranced by this patch of Staghorn Clubmoss, Selaginella caffrorum, growing on a tree trunk.

 

The weather this last season suited this

07 Cussonia spicata IMG_5230

Cussonia spicata, with full leafy foliage.

 

Some of flowers seen were:

07 Alectra sessiliflora IMG_5361

07 Alectra sessiliflora IMG_5363

Alectra sessiliflora;

 

07 Berkheya rhapontica IMG_5225

07 Berkheya rhapontica IMG_5226

bright yellow spots in the grass revealed Berkheya rhapontica;

 

07 Berkheya setifera IMG_5232

Berkheya setifera;

I loved the patches of

07 Conostomium natalense IMG_5263

07 Conostomium natalense IMG_5266

07 Conostomium natalense IMG_5267

Conostomium natalense in shady places;

 

07 Crassula vaginata IMG_5208

Crassula vaginata;

 

07 Geranium schlechteri IMG_5243

Geranium schlechteri, their centers filled with small flies;

 

07 Gladiolus sericeovillosus IMG_5283

07 Gladiolus sericeovillosus IMG_5287

glorious Gladiolus sericeovillosus;

 

07 Helichrysum cooperi IMG_5218

Helichrysum cooperi, their spicy scent evokes past autumns;

 

07 Killickia pilosa IMG_5220

Killickia pilosa, which I call Bushman Sweets, as the leaves have a refreshing minty taste;

not as many

07 Leonotis leonurus IMG_5209

07 Leonotis leonurus IMG_5212

Leonotis leonurus or

 

07 Plectranthus calycina 01 IMG_5205

07 Plectranthus calycina 02 IMG_5203

Plectranthus calycina this season;

 

07 Schizoglossum bidens species seed capsule IMG_5235

the spikey Schizoglossum bidens sp. seed capsules;

 

07 Searsia pyroides IMG_5274

bright green fruit on Searsia pyroides;

 

07 Sedge possibly Mariscus species IMG_5255

a Sedge possibly a Mariscus species;

 

07 Senecio species IMG_5240

07 Senecio species IMG_5241

possibly a Senecio species and

 

07 Stachys aethiopica IMG_5245

Stachys aethiopica.

 

There was evidence of various animals around the house,

08 Bushpig foraging IMG_5259

the excavation of a foraging Bush Pig;

 

08 Common Reedbuck droppings IMG_5366

Common Reedbuck droppings where they’d been grazing and

 

08 IMG_5254

a mound of freshly excavated earth, not sure ‘who’ was responsible.

 

As always the birdsong, morning and evening is a delight and

09 Speckled Pigeon juvenile IMG_5308

the resident pair of Speckled Pigeons are busy rearing two young in the garage.

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: Sitamani Edible Plants, Imfino: Solanum nigrum: Sobosobo Berry

10 Solanum nigrum Sobosobo Berry umsobosobo d IMG_5368

Solanum nigrum: Sobosobo Berry: Umsobosobo (Zulu): Mmomoli, Lintsontso (Sesotho)

I did some investigation, these plants had grown prolifically in our compost bin. What a delight! I had a feeling they would be Sobosobo Berries. There were a few ripe ones, (black), but many more green ones. When green they are toxic, so should not be eaten before ripening. I guess we’ll be sharing with the birds, but hope we get a few to eat, they are delicious! In the meantime I’ll be adding leaves to our cooked greens, making a relish and trying them as a tea .

 

Culinary Uses
• The berries are said to be poisonous when green, but when they ripen and turn black they can be eaten fresh or made into jam or syrup for ice cream.
• The young leaves are also popular as pot herb (spinach).
• A tea made with the leaves tastes like fresh peanuts before they are roasted.

 

Solanum nigrum,a species in the genus Solanum, native to Eurasia and introduced in the Americas, Australasia, and South Africa. Ripe berries and cooked leaves of edible strains are used as food in some locales, and plant parts are used as a traditional medicine. A tendency exists in literature to incorrectly refer to many of the other “black nightshade” species as “Solanum nigrum“.

10 Solanum nigrum Sobosobo Berry umsobosobo a IMG_5367

10 Solanum nigrum Sobosobo Berry umsobosobo b IMG_5370

10 Solanum nigrum Sobosobo Berry umsobosobo c IMG_5369

10 Solanum nigrum Sobosobo Berry umsobosobo d IMG_5368

Solanum nigrum is a common herb or short-lived perennial shrub, found in many wooded areas, as well as disturbed habitats. It reaches a height of 30 to 120 cm (12 to 47 in), leaves 4.0 to 7.5 cm (1.6 to 3.0 in) long and 2 to 5 cm (1 to 2 in) wide; ovate to heart-shaped, with wavy or large-toothed edges; both surfaces hairy or hairless; petiole 1 to 3 cm (0.5 to 1 in) long with a winged upper portion. The flowers have petals greenish to whitish, recurved when aged and surround prominent bright yellow anthers. The berry, in bunches of up to 3, is mostly 6 to 8 mm (0.24 to 0.31 in) in diam., dull black or purple-black.

Although Elsa Pooley’s ‘A Field Guide to Wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region’ states that they are probably not found in this region, I am pretty certain it is Solanum nigrum not retroflexum after careful study, but am open to correction.

 

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

A touch of autumn colours in the exotic trees was visible from the first week of February, with cooler mornings. The highest temperature recorded was 29 Celsius and the lowest 8 Celsius, the total rainfall measured was 235.5mm, 21mm more than January.

02 IMG_4262

There was a glorious sunrise on the 6th and

02 IMG_4363

the last of the waning moon on the 22nd was also a very special sunrise.

02 IMG_4397

02 IMG_4422

The hillside has a lush covering of grass, though many have not seeded this year.

02 IMG_4485

Low lying mist in the valleys created a serene view.

02 IMG_4504

Bright orange Kniphofia and pink Watsonia spikes shone in the yellowing grass.

 

A highlight was seeing a

03a Common Sandman Spialia diomus ferax IMG_4448

03a Common Sandman Spialia diomus ferax IMG_4452

03a Common Sandman Spialia diomus ferax IMG_4456

Common Sandman, Spialia diomus ferax, butterfly for the first time, feasting on an Ascelpias albens.

03a Gaudy Commodore Precis octavia sesamus IMG_4505

Gaudy Commodores, Precis octavia sesamus, are definitely our most common butterfly, seen throughout the year. I saw one in its winter form, but the orange summer form are still around as well.

03b Emperor Moth species Family Saturniidae IMG_4351

There were many moths species, Emperor Moth species, Family: Saturniidae;

03b Hawk Moth species IMG_4287

03b Hawk Moth species IMG_4352

a Hawk Moth species;

03b IMG_4282

03b IMG_4353

03b IMG_4403

and several I have not yet identified.

03c Lacewing species IMG_4202

A lovely Lacewing was seen in the kitchen.

03d Spider web IMG_4480

On an early morning wander I saw several dew laden spider webs.

 

On Saturday 22nd a storm blew up quickly with strong winds and the following morning I found

04 Malachite Sunbird nest IMG_4560

a Malachite Sunbird nest on the ground, sadly the egg within had broken.

04 Southern Double-collared Sunbird common endemic IMG_4252

04 Southern Double-collared Sunbird common endemic IMG_4254

Fairly recent residents are a pair of Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, which are common endemics, the bright plumage of the male is eye-catching.

 

05 Common Reedbuck male IMG_4272

One evening the beautiful male Common Reedbuck came and grazed close to our living room window in the mist.

05 Common Reedbuck male IMG_4476

I saw him again on a bright sunny morning,

05 Common Reedbuck male IMG_4494

and disturbed a young male and female a few minutes later,

05 Common Reedbuck male IMG_4501

sharp whistles and then fleet footed, they ran further along the hillside.

06 Striped Skink IMG_4493

A Striped Skink watched from his rock perch.

 

Three different orchids were flowering during February:

07 Disa patula var patular a IMG_4444

07 Disa patula var patular b IMG_4437

Disa patula var. patula,

 

07 Habenaria pseudociliosa IMG_4435

Habenaria pseudocilios and

 

07 Neobolusia tysonii a IMG_4473

07 Neobolusia tysonii b IMG_4471

Neobolusia tysonii.

 

Some of the other flowers seen were:

08 Berkheya setifera IMG_4396

Berkheya setifera,

 

08 Crassula vaginata IMG_4414

08 Crassula vaginata IMG_4416

Crassula vaginata,

 

08 Gladiolus ecklonii IMG_4468

Gladiolus ecklonii,

 

08 Helichrysum umbraculigerum IMG_4509

Helichrysum umbraculigerum,

 

08 Hesperantha baurii IMG_4488

Hesperantha baurii,

 

08 Hibiscus trionum IMG_4410

Hibiscus trionum,

 

08 Indigofera hedyantha IMG_4507

Indigofera hedyantha,

 

08 Inulanthera calva IMG_4510

08 Inulanthera calva IMG_4511

Inulanthera calva,

 

08 Kniphofia laxiflora IMG_4388

08 Kniphofia laxiflora IMG_4389

Kniphofia laxiflora,

 

08 Pelargonium luridum IMG_4385

Pelargonium luridum,

 

08 Polygala refracta IMG_4400

Polygala refracta,

 

08 Rubus ludwigii IMG_4429

Rubus ludwigii fruit,

 

08 Schizoglossum bidens species IMG_4413

Schizoglossum bidens subsp. bidens,

 

08 Schizoglossum bidens subsp pachyglossum IMG_4466

Schizoglossum bidens subsp. pachyglossum,

 

08 Senecio subrubriflorus IMG_4470

Senecio subrubriflorus,

 

08 Tephrosia macropoda IMG_4430

Tephrosia macropoda,

 

08 Watsonia confusa IMG_4394

08 Watsonia confusa IMG_4395

08 Watsonia confusa IMG_4408

Watsonia confusa and

 

08 Zaluzianskya microsiphon IMG_4482

Zaluzianskya microsiphon.

 

I’m always intrigued by the

09 Star Stinkhorn Aseroe rubra IMG_4258

Star Stinkhorn, Aseroe rubra, a rather striking fungi with a strong, unpleasant smell.

Life Wonderings of a Nature Lover: January 16-20 2020 Wildflowers in the Southern Moluti-Drakensberg World Heritage Site

 

Three intrepid ladies, two from the UK, requested a five day Southern Secrets Hiking and Backpacking Wildflower Hike. We hiked up to Tarn Cave, where we based ourselves for four nights, from Bushmans Nek. Then we explored the Sehlabathebe Rock Gardens, Secret Garden and the area above Tarn Cave. The first two days were very hot and sunny, then an overcast cool and cloudy day coming in for rain, the fourth day was very wet and it started clearing as we made our way back to Bushmans Nek on the last day. The weather didn’t deter Rosie, Alice and Kate, it was an amazing time spent amongst the stunning array of flowers!

 

These are a few of the 232 different plants species we saw over the five days, including some landscapes to give an idea of the terrain. A full list follows at the end of this blog.

 

Day 1: Bushmans Nek to Tarn Cave

01 Schizoglossum stenoglossum IMG_3682

Schizoglossum stenoglossum

 

02 IMG_2077

 

03 Asclepias macropus IMG_3684

Asclepias macropus

 

04 Corycium nigrescens IMG_2078

Corycium nigrescens

 

05 Cussonia paniculata IMG_3685

Cussonia paniculata

 

06 Pachycarpus campanulatus subsp campanulatus IMG_2080

07 Pachycarpus campanulatus subsp campanulatus IMG_2084

Pachycarpus campanulatus subsp. campanulatus

 

08 Neobolusia tysonii IMG_3690

Neobolusia tysonii

 

09 Schizochilus bulbinella IMG_2094

Schizochilus bulbinella

 

Day 2: Tarn Cave to Sehlabathebe Rock Gardens circuit

12 Kniphofia ritualuis IMG_3701

13 Kniphofia ritualuis IMG_3703

Kniphofia ritualuis

 

14 Albuca fastigiata IMG_3705

Albuca fastigiata

 

15 Disa versicolor IMG_3708

Disa versicolor

 

16 Rumex woodii IMG_3709

Rumex woodii

 

17 Xysmalobium involucratum IMG_3710

Xysmalobium involucratum

 

18 Disa brevicornis IMG_3712

19 Disa brevicornis IMG_3713

Disa brevicornis

 

20 Corycium dracomontanum IMG_3715

Corycium dracomontanum

 

21 Eucomis autumnalis IMG_3717

Eucomis autumnalis

 

22 Schizoglossum elingue IMG_3718

Schizoglossum elingue

 

23 IMG_2104

 

24 Asclepias humilis IMG_3720

Asclepias humilis

 

26 Polygala rhinostigma IMG_3723

Polygala rhinostigma

 

30 Chironia krebsii IMG_3732

Chironia krebsii

 

31 IMG_3735

 

32 Lindernia conferta IMG_3736

Lindernia conferta

 

34 Huperzia saururus IMG_3746

Huperzia saururus

 

35 IMG_3757

 

38 Papaver aculeatum IMG_3763

Papaver aculeatum

 

39 Senecio macrospermus IMG_3769

Senecio macrospermus

 

40 Disa orephilia IMG_3771

Disa orephilia

 

41 IMG_3774

 

46 Selago galpinii IMG_3786

Selago galpinii

 

47 Satyrium longicauda IMG_3790

Satyrium longicauda

 

48 Disa nivea IMG_3792

Disa nivea

 

50 Craterocapsa tarsodes IMG_3797

Craterocapsa tarsodes

 

51 Romulea thodei IMG_2109

Romulea thodei

 

53 Dianthus mooiensis IMG_3800

Dianthus mooiensis

 

54 Pimpinella caffra IMG_3803

Pimpinella caffra

 

58 Eucomis schijffii IMG_3834

Eucomis schijffii

 

60 IMG_3847

 

61 Zaluzianskya microsiphon IMG_3849

Zaluzianskya microsiphon

 

Day 3: Tarn Cave to Secret Garden circuit

64 IMG_3864

 

65 Kniphofia caulescens IMG_3865

Kniphofia caulescens

 

70 Silene bellidoides IMG_3876

Silene bellidoides

 

71 Silene burchellii IMG_3877

Silene burchellii

 

72 Manulea crassifolia IMG_3878

Manulea crassifolia

 

73 Cysticapnos pruinosa IMG_3880

74 Cysticapnos pruinosa IMG_3881

Cysticapnos pruinosa

 

76 Gnidia compacta IMG_3885

Gnidia compacta

 

78 IMG_3890

 

80 Galium capense subsp garipense IMG_3898

Galium capense subsp. garipense

 

81 Nemesia caerulea IMG_3900

82 Nemesia caerulea IMG_3901

Nemesia caerulea

 

83 Disperis cardiophora IMG_3903

Disperis cardiophora

 

85 Satyrium microrrhynchum IMG_3909

 

Satyrium microrrhynchum

 

87 IMG_3913

 

90 Rhodohypoxis baurii IMG_2115

Rhodohypoxis baurii

 

91 Lobelia flaccida IMG_3925

Lobelia flaccida

 

92 Moraea inclinata IMG_2117

Moraea inclinata

 

95 Senecio barbatus IMG_2123

Senecio barbatus

 

97 Berkheya rhapontica IMG_3930

Berkheya rhapontica

 

99 Protea subvestita IMG_3931

Protea subvestita

 

103 Berkheya multijuga IMG_3938

Berkheya multijuga

 

105 Aponogeton ranunculiflorus IMG_3941

Aponogeton ranunculiflorus

 

107 Pelargonium alchemilloides IMG_3947

Pelargonium alchemilloides

 

108 Pterygodium magnum IMG_3949

Pterygodium magnum

 

109 Alepidea amatymbica IMG_3951

Alepidea amatymbica

 

110 IMG_3953

 

113 Dracomonticola virginea IMG_3960

Dracomonticola virginea

 

114 IMG_3961

 

115 Crassula natans IMG_3964

Crassula natans

 

120 Ornithogalum paludosum IMG_3991

Ornithogalum paludosum

 

121 Diascia barberae IMG_3993

Diascia barberae

 

122 IMG_3994

 

126 IMG_4002

 

127 IMG_4006

 

130 Lobelia erinus IMG_2126

Lobelia erinus

 

Day 4: Fossicking above Tarn Cave in the rain

133 IMG_4011

 

135 Disperis renibractea IMG_2132

Disperis renibractea

 

136 Schizochilus flexuosus IMG_2136

Schizochilus flexuosus

 

138 Disa oreophila subsp oreophila IMG_2139

Disa oreophila subsp. oreophila

 

139 Geranium drakensbergense IMG_2141

Geranium drakensbergense

 

140 Holothrix scopularia IMG_2147

Holothrix scopularia

 

142 Pterygodium hastatum IMG_2151

Pterygodium hastatum

 

143 Habenaria lithophila IMG_2153

Habenaria lithophila

 

144 Streptocarpus pusillus IMG_2156

Streptocarpus pusillus

 

151 Crassula vaginata IMG_2164

Crassula vaginata

 

152 Limosella inflata IMG_2169

 

Limosella inflata

 

154 Passerina montana IMG_2175

Passerina montana

 

158 Sebaea thomasii IMG_2180

Sebaea thomasii

 

159 Relhania acerosa IMG_2181

Relhania acerosa

 

160 IMG_2183

 

Day 5: Return hike to Bushmans Nek

163 IMG_2199

 

164 Satyrium cristatum var longilabiatum IMG_2201

Satyrium cristatum var. longilabiatum

 

165 Satyrium parviflorum IMG_2204

166 Satyrium parviflorum IMG_2205

Satyrium parviflorum

 

167 IMG_2206

 

168 Dierama argyreum IMG_2209

Dierama argyreum

 

173 IMG_2219

 

The full list of plants we identified:

Agapanthus campanulatus

Ajuga ophrydis

Albuca fastigiata

Albuca setosa (=pachychlamys)

Alchemilla colura

Alepidea amatymbica

Alepidea natalensis

Aponogeton junceus

Aponogeton ranunculiforus

Arctotis arctotoides

Argyrolobium marginatum

Aristea woodii

Asclepias cucullata

Asclepias humilis

Asclepias macropus

Asplenium monanthes

Aster bakerianus

Aster perfoliatus

Athrixia pinifolia

Athyrium schimperi

Berkheya cirsiifolia

Berkheya multijuga

Berkheya rhapontica

Berkheya setifera

Buchnera simplex

Cerastium arabidis

Cheilanthes quadripinnata

Chironia krebsii

Chlorophytum krookianum

Chrysanthemoides monilifera

Chrysocoma ciliata

Cineraria dieterlenii

Cineraria lyrata

Commelina africana

Corycium dracomontanum

Corycium nigrescens

Cotula socialis

Crassula dependens

Crassula natans

Crassula peploides

Crassula umbraticola

Crassula vaginata

Craterocapsa tarsodes

Cussonia paniculata

Cyathea dregei

Cynoglossum austro-africanum

Cynoglossum spelaeum

Cyperus ruestris

Cyperus schlechteri

Cyperus semitrifidus

Cyperus sphaerocephalus

Cyrtanthus epiphyticus

Cyrtanthus flanaganii

Cysticapnos pruinosa

Delosperma lavisiae

Dianthus basuticus

Dianthus mooiensis

Diascia barberae

Diclis reptans

Diclis rotundifolia

Dierama argyreum

Dierama dissimile

Dierama sp. small, pink flowers like D. pictum

Dimorphotheca jucunda

Disa brevicornis

Disa nivea

Disa oreophila

Disa oreophila subsp. erecta

Disa oreophila subsp. oreophila

Disa stachyoides

Disa versicolor

Disperis cardiophora

Disperis renibractea

Dracomonticola virginea

Drosera natalensis

Elaphoglossum acrostichoides

Elaphoglossum drakensbergense

Epilobium capense

Erica alopecurus

Erica caffrorum

Eriocaulon dregei

Eucomis autumnalis

Eucomis schijffii

Eulophia hians var. hians (=clavicornis)

Felicia caespitosa

Felicia petiolata

Ficinia cinammomea

Galium capense

Gazania krebsiana

Geranium drakensbergense

Geranium multisectum

Geranium schechteri

Geranium wakkerstroomianum

Gerbera ambigua

Gerbera piloselloides

Gladiolus parvulus

Gnidia compacta

Gomphostigma viratum

Gunnera perpensa

Habenaria lithophila

Harveya speciosa

Hebenstretia dura

Helichrysum appendiculatum

Helichrysum argentissimum

Helichrysum herbaceum

Helichrysum krookii

Helichrysum pagophilum

Helichrysum spiralepis

Heliophila formosa

Heliophila rigidiuscula

Hermannia cristata

Hermannia woodii

Hesperantha baurii

Hesperantha grandiflora

Holothrix scopularia

Huperzia saururus

Hypericum lalandii

Hypoxis argentea

Hypoxis parvula

Indigofera dimidiata

Jamesbrittenia breviflora

Juncus effusus

Kauhautia amatymbica

Kniphofia brachystachya

Kniphofia caulescens

Kniphofia ritualis

Ledebouria ovatifolia

Lessertia perennans

Leucosidea sericea (no flowers)

Limosella inflata

Lindernia conferta

Lobelia erinus

Lobelia flaccida

Lobelia vanreenensis

Lotononis lotononoides

Lotononis pulchella

Macowania pulvinaris

Manulea crassifolia

Mariscus congestus

Melasma scabrum

Merxmuellera macowanii

Mohira rigida

Mohria vestita

Monocymbium ceresiiforme

Moraea albicuspa

Moraea brevistyla

Moraea inclinata

Myosotis semiamplexicaulis

Nemesia caerulea

Neobolusia tysonii

Ochna arorea (tree – not flowering)

Ornithogalum graminifolium

Ornithogalum juncifolium

Ornithogalum paludosum

Orthochilus (=Eulophia) foliosus

Oxalis depressa

Oxalis obliquifolia

Oxalis smithiana

Pachycarpus campanulatus subsp. campanulatus

Papaver aculeatum

Passerina montana

Pelargonium alchemilloides

Pelargonium ranunculophyllum

Pelargonium schlecteri

Pentanisia prunelloides

Persicaria lapathifolia

Pimpinella caffra

Plectranthus calycina

Polygala gracilenta

Polygala hottentotta

Polygala rhinostigma

Protea dracomontana

Protea roupelliae

Protea subvestita

Psammotropha mucronata

Pteridium aquilinum subsp. aquilinum

Pterygodium hastatum

Pterygodium magnum

Relhania acerosa

Rhodohypoxis baurii

Romulea thodei

Rubus ludwigii

Rubus rigidus

Rumex lanceolatus

Rumex woodii

Satyrium cristatum var. longilabiatum

Satyrium longicauda

Satyrium microrrhynchum

Satyrium neglectum

Satyrium parviflorum

Scabiosa columbaria

Schizochilus bulbinella

Schizochilus flexuosus

Schizoglossum elingue

Schizoglossum stenoglossum

Scirpus ficinoides

Searsia (=Rhus) dentata (fruit)

Searsia (=Rhus) discolor (fruit)

Sebaea natalensis

Sebaea thomasii

Selago galpinii

Senecio achilleifolius

Senecio barbatus

Senecio brevilorus

Senecio discodregeanus

Senecio glaberrimus

Senecio harveianus

Senecio macrocephalus

Senecio macrospermus

Senecio rhomboideus

Senecio subrubriflorus

Silene bellidoides

Silene burchellii

Sopubia cana

Stachys kuntzei

Streptocarpus pusillus

Themeda triandra

Thesium pallidum

Trachyandra asperata

Trifolium burchellianum

Trogoglophytum capillaceum

Urginea macrocentra

Vernonia hirsuta

Vernonia natalensis

Wahlenbergia cuspidata

Wahlenbergia fasciculata

Wahlenbergia huttonii

Wahlenbergia krebsii

Watsonia confusa

Watsonia socium

Xysmalobium involucratum

Zaluzianskya microsiphon

 

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

Summer finally arrived in January! We measured 214.5mm of rain and in the first week there was finally water in our well again.

02 IMG_3569

Cloudy skies in the mornings

02 IMG_3465

and evenings created beautiful soft light effects.

02 IMG_3570

I only saw the moon once clearly on the morning on the 13th.

Warm temperatures, the highest 29 Celsius and the lowest 10.5 Celsius, combined with the rainfall

02 IMG_3566

resulted in luxurious growth of the plants.

02 IMG_3641

The hillside looked particularly lovely.

 

During January I saw three different orchids flowering;

03 Eulophia hians var hians IMG_3586

Eulophia hians var. hians,

03 Eulophia hians var hians IMG_2302

Eulophia hians var. hians, a coloured pencil drawing I drew a couple of years ago;

 

03 Eulophia ovalis var ovalis IMG_3584

Eulophia ovalis var. ovalis

 

03 Satyrium longicauda IMG_4016

and Satyrium longicauda,

03 Satyrium longicauda IMG_4020

and Satyrium longicauda.

 

Some of the many flowers blooming were:

04 Alepidea sp IMG_3652

an Alepidea sp.

04 Alepidea sp IMG_3653

an Alepidea sp.

04 Alepidea sp IMG_3654

an Alepidea sp. which I have not been able to identify yet;

 

04 Aristea woodii IMG_3604

Aristea woodii;

 

both of my favourite January flowers were out,

04 Brunsvigia undulata 01 IMG_3674

Brunsvigia undulata

04 Brunsvigia undulata 02 IMG_3665

Brunsvigia undulata

 

04 Crocosmia aurea IMG_4013

and Crocosmia aurea

04 Crocosmia aurea IMG_4014

Crocosmia aurea;

 

04 Cyanotis speciosa IMG_3614

Cyanotis speciosa;

 

04 Haemanthus humilis seeds IMG_3628

Haemanthus humilis fruits;

 

04 Helichrysum rugulosum IMG_3580

Helichrysum rugulosum;

04 Helichrysum rugulosum IMG_3581

Helichrysum rugulosum;

 

04 Kniphofia angustifolia IMG_3649

Kniphofia angustifolia;

04 Kniphofia angustifolia IMG_3651

Kniphofia angustifolia;

 

04 Kniphofia buchananii IMG_4137

Kniphofia buchananii;

 

04 Lobelia erinus IMG_3629

Lobelia erinus;

 

04 Oxalis depressa IMG_3597

Oxalis depressa;

 

04 Pachycarpus natalensis seed capsule (pos) IMG_3647

possibly Pachycarpus natalensis seed capsules;

 

04 Schizoglossum bidens IMG_3644

Schizoglossum bidens;

 

04 Searsia (=Rhus) discolor IMG_3643

Searsia (=Rhus) discolor fruit;

 

04 Sedge IMG_3615

a Sedge;

 

04 Senecio glaberrimus IMG_3605

Senecio glaberrimus

04 Senecio glaberrimus IMG_3606

Senecio glaberrimus;

 

04 Silene burchellii IMG_3592

Silene burchellii;

 

04 Stachys aethiopica IMG_3659

Stachys aethiopica

 

04 Watsonia lepida IMG_4125

and Watsonia lepida

04 Watsonia lepida IMG_4128

Watsonia lepida.

 

Ferns are popping up on the rocky hillside and in sheltered places, these are two I particularly noticed,

05 Cheilanthes viridis var viridis and Pellaea calomelanos var calomelanos IMG_3624

Cheilanthes viridis var. viridis and Pellaea calomelanos var. calomelanos; they are especially for Maps and K!

 

06 Puff ball IMG_3573

Although there have been many fungi appearing, I haven’t had the time to photograph them, one of the many species was this Puff ball.

 

Invertebrates abound, particularly moths! I had wondered why there seemed to be so few beneath the kitchen light, then realized they are being eaten before sunrise by our resident birds, so have included some of the discarded wings…

07 Clothes moths Family Tineidae IMG_4144

Clothes moth, Family Tineidae;

 

07 Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor Bunaea alcinoe IMG_4134

Common or Cabbage Tree Emperor, Bunaea alcinoe;

 

07 Grass Moth Anclolomia perfasciata IMG_4143

Grass Moth Anclolomia perfasciata;

 

07 Marbled Emperor IMG_4135

Marbled Emperor;

 

and a few as yet unidentified moths.

07 Moth IMG_2029

07 Moth IMG_3561

07 Moth IMG_3639

 

Other invertebrates included this unusual underside view of a

08 Gaudy Commodore Junonia octavia IMG_3579

Gaudy Commodore, Junonia octavia;

 

09 Ants and Ladybird beetle larvae IMG_3642

Ants and Ladybird beetle larvae on the fruits of Searsia discolor;

 

09 Dung Beetle sp IMG_3577

a stunning Dung Beetle sp.;

 

09 Fly IMG_3632

this beautiful iridescent fly;

 

09 Grasshopper IMG_3601

a master of disguise, a Grasshopper that disappeared once it had folded its bright orange legs,

09 Grasshopper IMG_3602

hidden in plain sight!

 

09 Lunate Blister Beetle Decapotoma lunata IMG_3594

although it featured last month, this Lunate Blister Beetle, Decapotoma lunata, was just so stunning

 

09 Monkey Beetle sp IMG_3621

and finally a Monkey Beetle sp..

 

10 Small crab-spider Thomisus sp IMG_3620

A Small crab-spider Thomisus sp. sat patiently waiting for its next meal.

 

There has been a sudden baby boom in the bird population, hungry, demanding Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Robin-Chat and Speckled Pigeon young fledglings follow their harassed parents, who obligingly feed them!

 

One morning as we had early morning coffee, we observed a Common Duiker mother and her baby foraging near the water tanks. On a hillside foray I came across a pair of Common Reedbuck, they watched me, but fortunately they continued grazing as I quietly moved away.

11 Common Reedbuck IMG_3611