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

April 1, 2019

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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8 Comments
  1. Wow! A fantastic post Christeen. I loved all the photos and all the species you came across. It was especially nice to see such a variety of moths. I appreciate too that you identify so many of the creatures and plants you photograph. This is such a great time of the year with many changes afoot.

    • Thank you Carol, yes the change in season always seems to bring out more variety. A pleasure to try and identify species, don’t get them all, but in the end the name to me isn’t the most important thing, it’s the magic of coming across the organisms! xxx

      • Yes I agree. The benefit of thinking about identification is that it makes one more observant of detail, but I also don’t get too anxious about it. Often it is enough for me to get to the genus or family as I am not nearly expert enough to get to species level. But often too I don’t worry about even that, unless I have a photo
        I might look at later.

  2. I am amazed at how such an ugly spikey black orange caterpillar can turn into such a beautiful butterfly. (Precis octavia sesamus)

    I was once looked at as if I am crazy when I said I love ugly trees but I cannot say the same about the moths (laughing at myself). I really find them ugly. My back shrinks at looking at the fur on their wings and those long tentacles except for the red and white Pretorian moth (Cyana pretoriae). I am cursing whoever taught my brain that lines and symmetry are beauty.

    I had to google ‘why flies sit on flowers’ and am surprised they are also pollinators. Your posts always enlarge my horizons.

    • Maps I love your reaction! For me it is simply magical to observe and see all these diverse forms of natural life, we live in such a manicured world that we tend to forget what is real! It took me a long time to see beauty in some creatures, but now I am so grateful to know they are still here… xxxx

  3. That first caterpillar image is amazing!

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