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

May 1, 2020

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.

  1. A lovely post Christeen – your sentiments on slowing down and being ‘forced’ to smell the roses ring true for most of us. A time for ‘inner’ spring cleaning too and re evaluating what truly matters at the end of the day. My business also relies on tourism and travel as I have a guest house and I am doing all I can to get by and pay my staff – I can relate to your predicament. Seeing your lovely photographs reminds me of the special mountain that has been my sanctuary and escape over the years. Your skyscapes are stunning, a poignant reminder that there is a much larger picture to all of this. Take care and keep posting your lovely inspirational pics – and paintings!

    • Thank you for your beautiful comments. Yes, ‘inner’ spring cleaning is a perfect description, something we are usually too busy to do. I’ll be thinking of you too, take care, xxx

  2. You carried about 22kgs, unbelievably impressive (20 litre water plus backpack frame plus container).

    It’s interesting when you order the photos by date. I expected more grey as days added but instead you found more blooms.

    • Oh yes, and Google told me why they’re called deceptive and Lepista Caffrorum.

      • Not good to eat, though some people have… I should add a bit more info….

    • Thanks Maps, fortunately we were only carrying them for about 500m, then returning, having a break whilst the other took a turn, before setting off again. So not quite like carrying for a hike in the Berg! In all we probably only ‘hiked’ about 6kms… Yes, I decided to start documenting by day, it does make a difference. Only when we have the first frost will almost all of the flowers die off, though there are still some which particularly flower in winter! xxx

  3. bewilderbeast permalink

    Wonderful again, thank you. I had to go and update a Mkhuze post when I saw the sundowner moth!

  4. Pamela Kleiman permalink

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and your wonderful piece of countryside

  5. Julia permalink

    Well.done on your mission to get water dilivered to the tracers..must have been quite an effort

    • Thanks Julia, not as difficult as it might have seemed, and we were taking it in turns, so was actually a lovely morning! xxx

  6. What a lovely post, Christeen. I also like that it is ordered by date. What spectacular skies you have captured! I feel a bit sad though looking at your photos of grassland species, as I wonder when we will next be able to walk in natural grassland. We are relieved we are now allowed out to walk out between 6 and 9 a.m. and although we are fortunate to have a nearby plantation to walk in, it really comes nowhere near to walking in natural grasslands and natural forest. Your photos help remind me of all the beauty and life that is still out there.
    I am so sorry that your tour-guiding work has been so thoroughly interrupted as a consequence of the pandemic.
    There certainly is a lot to reflect on during these times, and nature does indeed have a special healing power and it is worth seeking out even in more urbanised environments if at all possible. Take care.

    • Thank you Carol for your lovely message and comments. A saying ‘This too shall pass’ is true, it will be very different but wild spaces do still exist, and you will walk in the grasslands and forests again! Take care special lady! xxx

  7. So happy it helped to ID the Sundowner Moth! C xxx

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