Tuesday, December 16, 2014

November 2- November 22

Bead Bean Tree (Maerua angolensis) with train in background.
Due to other commitments I was only able to spend twenty days of November at the Soutpansberg Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation. The twenty days were very productive and many new species were added to our bird and reptile lists.

Flowers of the Baobab, Adansonia kilima
Reticulated Centipede-Eater, Aparallactus lunulatus lunulatus. Possibly a first for the Soutpansberg.
The first rains began around the 15th and this marked the end of a long dry season. The rains brought some of the lesser-seen burrowing snakes to the surface. The highlight being a Reticulated Centipede-Eater, Aparallactus lunulatus lunulatus. This record is, to my knowledge, a first for the Soutpansberg. With the rains come countless invertebrates, for November millipedes and different types of Chafers began to come out.

A large black and white Millipede (Spirostreptida).
Emerald Fruit Chafer (Rhabdotis intermedia), one of six species from the genus Rhabdotis in Southern Africa.
Anisorrhina algoensis, a beautiful Chafer.
Small Goliath Beetle (Cheirolasia burkei), another nice looking Chafer beetle.
Diversity of Odonata in the Soutpansberg has proved to be relatively high, this is a Portia Widow (Palpopleura portia).
Libanasidus, a large cricket. These are known in Johannesburg as Parktown Prawns.
Large group of Pachycondyla ants.

The daily activities during the twenty day period were biodiversity hikes with an emphasis on butterflies and reptiles. The month brought seven new species for our reptile list (Eastern Striped Skink, Brown House Snake, Soutpansberg Rock Lizard, Rock Monitor, Rhombic Egg-eater, Southern Rock Agama and Bibron's Blind Snake) and two unusual bird sightings, the Tropical Boubou and White-browed Robin Chat.

Cape Batis, a species often seen in forested areas of the Soutpansberg.

Bird List for November

Natal Spurfowl; Crested Francolin; Helmeted Guineafowl; Crested Guineafowl; Golden-tailed Woodpecker; Cardinal Woodpecker; Bearded Woodpecker; Black-collared Barbet; Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird; Acacia Pied-Barbet; African Grey Hornbill; African Hoopoe; Green Wood-Hoopoe; Malachite Kingfisher; African Pygmy Kingfisher; Brown-hooded Kingfisher; Pied Kingfisher; Giant Kingfisher; European Bee-eater; Narina Trogon; Red-faced Mousebird; Speckled Mousebird; Red-chested Cuckoo; Black Cuckoo; Jacobin Cuckoo; Diderick Cuckoo; Klaas’s Cuckoo; Burchell’s Coucal; Little Swift; African Black Swift; Alpine Swift; Purple-crested Turaco; Barn Owl; Wood Owl; Spotted Eagle-Owl; Freckled Nightjar; Fiery-necked Nightjar; Speckled Pigeon; Laughing Dove; Red-eyed Dove; Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove; Tambourine Dove; Three-banded Plover

Brown-hooded Kingfisher, a common bird at Medike Mountain Sanctuary
African Fish-Eagle; Cape Vulture; Brown Snake-Eagle; Verreaux’s Eagle; Steppe Buzzard; Rock Kestrel; Cattle Egret; Grey Heron; Hamerkop; Hadeda Ibis; Black-headed Oriole; African Paradise Flycatcher; Fork-tailed Drongo; Black-backed Puffback; Black-crowned Tchagra; Brown-crowned Tchagra; Tropical Boubou; Southern Boubou; Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike; Grey-Headed Bush-Shrike; Gorgeous Bush-Shrike; Retz’s Helmet-Shrike; Chinspot Batis; Cape Batis; Pied Crow; Black Cuckooshrike; Southern Black Tit; Barn Swallow; Lesser-striped Swallow; Rock Martin; Dark-capped Bulbul; Eastern Nicator; Terrestrial Brownbul; Sombre Greenbul; Yellow-bellied Greenbul; Long-billed Crombec; Arrow-marked Babler; Cape White-Eye; Rattling Cisticola; Tawny-flanked Prinia; Bar-throated Apalis; Yellow-breasted Apalis; Grey-backed Camaroptera; Kurrichane Thrush; Ashy Flycatcher; Grey Tit-Flycatcher; White-throated Robin-Chat; Red-capped Robin-Chat; White-browed Robin-Chat; Bearded Scrub-Robin; White-browed Scrub-Robin; Familiar Chat; Mocking Cliff-Chat; Red-winged Starling; Cape Glossy Starling; Violet-backed Starling; Common Myna; Amethyst Sunbird; Collared Sunbird; White-bellied Sunbird; Red-headed Weaver; Lesser Masked-Weaver; Red-billed Quelea; Blue Waxbill; Jameson’s Firefinch; African Pied Wagtail; Cape Wagtail; Yellow-fronted Canary; Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.

Verreaux's Eagle, a magnificent bird of prey.

Mammal List for November

Elephantulus brachyrhynchus (Elephant shrew). These are fast moving insectivores, not related to "true" shrews.

Aardvark; Rock Hyrax; Bushpig; Sharpe’s Grysbok; Klipspringer; Bush Buck; African Civet; Large-spotted Genet; Slender Mongoose; Banded Mongoose; Dwarf Mongoose; Leopard; Brown Hyaena; Chacma Baboon; Vervet Monkey; Thick-tailed Bush Baby; Tree Squirrel; Porcupine; Bushveld Gerbil; Spiny Mouse

Bushveld Gerbil (Gerbilliscus leucogaster), very common at Medike.
Soutpansberg Rock Lizard (Vhembelacerta rupicola), a Soutpansberg endemic. Delightful little lizards.

Reptile List for November

Sundevall's Writhing Skink (Mochlus sundevallii subsp. sundevallii). This species was found to be active just after sundown.
The Southern Rock Agama, Agama atra, beautiful lizards.

Speke’s Hinged Tortoise Kinixys spekii
Flat Gecko Afroedura sp.
Turner’s Tubercled Gecko, Chondrodactylus turneri
Common Tropical House Gecko, Hemidactylus mabouia
Wahlberg’s Velvet Gecko Homopholis wahlbergii
Common Dwarf Gecko, Lygodactylus capensis capensis
Soutpansberg Rock Lizard, Vhembelacerta rupicola
Flat Dragon Lizard, Smaug warreni depressus
Soutpansberg Flat Lizard Platysaurus relictus
Yellow-throated Plated Lizard, Gerrhosaurus flavigularis
Giant Plated Lizard, Matobosaurus validus
Spotted-necked Snake-eyed Skink, Afroablepharus maculicollis
Sundevall’s Writhing Skink, Mochlus sundevallii sundevallii
Variable Skink, Trachylepis varia
Striped Skink, Trachylepis striata
Rainbow Skink, Trachylepis margaritifer
Nile Monitor, Varanus nilotica
Rock Monitor, Varanus albigularis albigularis
Flap-necked Chameleon, Chamaeleo dilepis
Peter’s Ground Agama, Agama armata
Southern Rock Agama, Agama atra
Bibron's Blind Snake Afrotyphlops bibronii        
Southern African Python, Python natalensis
Reticulated Centipede-eater Aparallactus lunulatus lunulatus
Bibron's Stiletto Snake Atractaspis bibronii
Brown House Snake, Boaedon capensis
Stripe-bellied Sand Snake, Psammophis subtaeniatus
Black Mamba, Dendroaspis polylepis
Rhombic Egg-eater, Dasypeltis scabra 

Bibron's Stiletto Snake, Atractaspis bibronii, a burrowing snake with a potent venom.
The inoffensive Rhombic Egg-eater, Dasypeltis scabra, these snakes prey exclusively on bird eggs.

 Some Amphibians
 With the Sand River running through Medike Mountain Sanctuary, there are a fair number of amphibians in the area. We are busy generating an amphibian list and will put one up on the 'Species List' page soon.

Hemisus marmoratus, a burrowing species that lives on river banks.
Tomopterna cryptotis a burrowing species that is active during the wet season.
Schismaderma carens, the Red Toad. Possibly the most abundant amphibian in the area.
Keywords for the Month: Lightning, Night Walker, Crepuscular, Cuckoo, Green

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

September 10 - October 10

Baobab Trees (Adansonia kilima) in a dry Soutpansberg valley
This was the first month of SCBC operations in the area and it was a productive month. The weather was hot and dry, often with a warm desiccating wind, interspersed with cool overcast days. The dry veld exposed the landscape making the beauty of the underlying rocks and contours of the mountain visible.

Colours at sunset
 During the month, in anticipation of the wet season, many plants began to flower. Most notable were the Albizia trees, Cassia trees and Combretum creepers. The Ficus ingens trees also put on an impressive display of red leaves.

Cassia abreviata
Combretum mossambicense
Albizia anthelmintica in bloom
New red leaves of Ficus ingens
The activities during the month were varied. Biodiversity hikes took up the majority of the time, these were done in the day as well as a few night hikes. There was alien invasive clearing and some horticulture. Another successful activity was snare removal, many of these nasty contraptions were picked up. The idea with the removal of snares is to try and stay ahead of the poachers until they give up putting them up on the property.

A good days hunting - seven snares picked up in thick bush.
 During the month contact was made with Lajuba and Ian Gaigher and we spoke about the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve, conservation in the area now and the future and also different projects and needs in the surrounding area. It is my hope that the SCBC can be an energetic force in the area.

The Dassie, also known as Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis), a heavily targeted animal for bush meat.
 The month provided some excellent animal sightings, the highlights were a nocturnal observation of a Cape Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis) and an amphisbaenian (worm lizard).  Looking forward to getting camera traps to begin monitoring the larger mammals in the area.

Soutpansberg Wormlizard (Chirindia langi subsp. occidentalis)
Walking in the drying out river I saw high concentrations of fish. At the moment the fish are being fished out by people coming on to the property. As long as they fish using rods it is fine, but we will not tolerate fish traps and nets because they are indiscriminate.

Tilapia one of the native fish species that occurs on the property
Soutpansberg Flat Lizard (Platysaurus relictus), a Soutpansberg endemic, abundant on the property


Natal Spurfowl; Crested Francolin; Crested Guinea fowl;  African Black Duck; Golden-tailed Woodpecker; Cardinal Woodpecker; Bearded Woodpecker; Black-collared Barbet; Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird; Acacia Pied Barbet; Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill; African Grey Hornbill; African Hoopoe; Green Wood-hoopoe; Malachite Kingfisher; Brown-hooded Kingfisher; Giant Kingfisher; Pied Kingfisher; Little Bee-eater; European Bee-eater; Narina Trogon; Red-faced Mousebird; Speckled Mousebird; Red-chested Cuckoo; Klaas's Cuckoo; Burchell's Coucal; Alpine Swift; African Black Swift; Little Swift; Purple-crested Turaco; Barn Owl; Spotted Eagle Owl; Fiery-necked Nightjar; Freckled Nightjar; Speckled Pigeon; Laughing Dove; Red-eyed Dove; Emerald-spotted Wood-dove; Tambourine Dove; Three-banded Plover; African Fish Eagle; Cape Vulture; African Goshawk; Verreaux's Eagle; African Hawk Eagle; Green-backed Heron; Hammerkop; Hadeda Ibis; Black Stork; Black-headed Oriole; African Paradise Flycatcher; Fork-tailed Drongo; Brown-crowned Tchagra; Black-back Puffback; Southern Boubou; Orange-breasted Bushshrike; Gorgeous Bushshrike; Grey-headed Bushshrike; Retz's Helmet-shrike; Cape Batis; Chinspot Batis; Pied Crow; Black Cuckooshrike; Southern Black Tit; Lesser-striped Swallow; Rock Martin; Dark-capped Bulbul; Terrestrial Brownbul; Sombre Greenbul; Yellow-bellied Greenbul; Long-billed Crombec; Cape White-eye; Rattling Cisticola; Tawny-flanked Prinia; Bar-throated Apalis; Yellow-throated Apalis; Grey-backed Cameroptera; Kurrichane Thrush; Ashy Flycatcher; White-throated Robin-chat; Red-capped Robin-chat; White-browed Robin-chat; Bearded Scrub-robin; White-browed Scrub-robin; Familiar Chat; Mocking Cliff-chat; Red-winged Starling; Red-billed Oxpecker; Amethyst Sunbird; Collared Sunbird; White-bellied Sunbird; Red-headed Weaver; Lesser-masked Weaver; Spectacled Weaver; Swee Waxbill; Blue Waxbill; Jameson's Firefinch; Bronze Mannikin; SouthernGrey-headed Sparrow; African Pied Wagtail; Cape Wagtail; Yellow-fronted Canary; Golden-breasted Bunting.

Swee Waxbill (Coccopygia melanotis subsp. melanotis)


Rock Hyrax; Sharpe's Grysbok; Klipspringer; Kudu; Bush Buck; African Civet; Cape Clawless Otter; Slender Mongoose; Dwarf Mongoose; Water Mongoose; Large-spotted Genet; Leopard; Baboon; Vervet Monkey; Thick-tailed Bushbaby; Tree Squirrel; Porcupine; Jameson's Red Rock Rabbit; Spiny Mouse; Pouched Mouse; Senghi.
(Note on list - list was compiled using visual observations of the animal itself or track and sign. Many animals (rodents and bats) were left out due to unsatisfactory identification.)

Saccostomus campestris, Pouched Mouse.


Agama atra - Peter's Ground Agama
Chirindia langi occidentalis - Soutpansberg Worm Lizard
Aparallactus capensis - Cape Centipede Eater
Philothamnus semivariegatus - Spotted Bush Snake
Psammophis subtaeniatus - Western Yellow-bellied Sand Snake
Platysaurus relictus - Soutpansberg Flat Lizard
Smaug warreni depressus - Flat Dragon Lizard
Dendroaspis polylepis - Black Mamba
Homopholis wahlbergii - Wahlberg's Velvet Gecko
Afroedura - Flat Gecko (Taxonomy unresolved)
Chondrodactylus turneri - Turner's Gecko
Hemidactylus mabouia - Common Tropical House Gecko
Lygodactylus capensis - Common Dwarf Gecko
Broadleysaurus major - Rough-scaled Plated Lizard
Gerrhosaurus flavigularis - Yellow-throated Plated Lizard
Matobosaurus validus - Giant Plated Lizard
Afroablepharus maculicollis - Spotted-neck Snake-eyed Skink
Scelotes limpopoensis limpopoensis - Limpopo Dwarf Burrowing Skink
Trachylepis varia - Variable Skink
Trachylepis margaritifer - Rainbow Skink
Varanus nilotica - Nile Monitor
Pelusios sinuatus - Serrated Hinged Terrapin
Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus), a massive reptile.
 Keywords for the month: Horticulture, Carnivore, Snare, Baobab, Night Animal.