Saturday, February 28, 2015

January 26 - February 26

First animal I got on my new camera trap was this Leopard. The camera was placed right outside my hut.
After being away from the Soutpansberg for nearly two months I finally returned to Medike on the 26th of January. The first thing that struck me when I saw the veld was the dryness and the water stress the plants were going through – a physical reminder that it is an El Niño season. During the first ten days there was a little rain, but since then it has been hot and dry with a prevailing desiccating wind.
A flock of Red-billed Quelea. Said to be the most abundant wild bird species in the world.
Despite the climate life, being as robust as it is, was in a high state of energy and vitality. Birds were breeding and were very active; insects, especially flies, dragonflies, butterflies/moths and beetles were abundant and I managed to get some good species; reptilian life was also peaking during this period and I found many tortoises, chameleons and had some good snake sightings. All in all it was a good month generating numerous new species for our lists.

Bark-gnawing beetle (Trogossitidae). First time I had seen this type of beetle.
The greatest developments of the month was the beginning of using camera traps for data capture. I was lucky enough to be loaned a camera and I also managed to buy one for the centre. I also received a donation of two Sherman Traps. These are non-lethal traps for small mammals. Just trying out these Sherman Traps around my hut, I caught a few small murids.

Wahlberg's Velvet Gecko (Homopholus wahlbergi) consuming a Tiger Moth.
With the camera traps I got some really interesting footage of a Gambian Pouched Rat foraging. I also captured two leopards, one right outside my hut. It was special to finally see the cats that walk around at night.

Dicronorrhina derbyana, a large scarab beetle.
At the moment one of research objectives is to catalougue butterflies. This is the Netted Sylph (Metisella willemi).

During the month I undertook many night hikes. The great thing about walking at night is that because your sense of sight is limited other stimuli become prominent. You smell different things, the sounds of nature come to the forefront and even small changes in atmospheric temperature are felt on your skin. One also doesn’t see much in terms of biodiversity, but when you do see things they are usually extraordinary.

Bat with Jupiter and Sandstone. Nightwalks are about the ambience.
I had an amazing nocturnal encounter with a pair of Cape Clawless Otters. That is something you wont experience in the day. Another good thing I got on my night walks was a pair of Cape Eagle Owls calling. Nice to know they are in the area.

A large Parabuthes transvaalicus. A highly venomous and active scorpion.
Conservational activities during the month were directed at alien invasive plant control, snare hunting and also clearing some paths for the benefit of eco-tourism. Priority sites of alien invasive plant control were identified and work in these area will commence in the months to follow. The most exciting development in terms of conservation during the month was the establishment of a nursery with some area specific plants. These plants will be used for fund-raising and the raising of consciousness for conservation and environmentalism in general.

Entandrophragma caudatum, under cultivation for conservation purposes.

This 112 species of birds were recorded. Many new species were added to our growing list. The SCBC bird list currently stands at 148 different species.

Greater Painted Snipe found in an opening in a flooded reed bed one night. Not something one sees too often.
Natal Spurfowl; Crested Francolin; Crested Guineafowl; Eqyptian Goose; Golden-tailed Woodpecker; Bearded Woodpecker; Black-collared Barbet; Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird; African Grey Hornbill; African Hoopoe; Green Wood-hoopoe; Malachite Kingfisher; Brown-hooded Kingfisher; Giant Kingfisher; Pied Kingfisher; European Bee-eater; Narina Trogon; Red-faced Mousebird; Speckled Mousebird; Black Cuckoo; Red-chested Cuckoo; Jacobin Cuckoo; Klaas's Cuckoo; Burchell's Coucal; Alpine Swift; African Black Swift; Little Swift; Purple-crested Turaco; Barn Owl; Pearl-spotted Owlett; Cape Eagle Owl; Spotted Eagle Owl; African Wood Owl; Fiery-necked Nightjar; Freckled Nightjar; Speckled Pigeon; Laughing Dove; Cape Turtle Dove; Red-eyed Dove; Emerald-spotted Wood-dove; Tambourine Dove; Black Crake; Greater Painted Snipe; African Fish Eagle; Cape Vulture; African Goshawk; Steppe Buzzard; Verreaux's Eagle; Crowned Eagle; Rock Kestrel; Lanner Falcon; Grey Heron; Green-backed Heron; Hammerkop; Hadeda Ibis; White Stork; Black-headed Oriole; African Paradise Flycatcher; Fork-tailed Drongo; Brown-crowned Tchagra; Black-back Puffback; Southern Boubou; Tropical Boubou; Orange-breasted Bush-shrike; Gorgeous Bush-shrike; Grey-headed Bush-shrike; Retz's Helmet-shrike; White-crowned Helmet-shrike; Chinspot Batis; Pied Crow; Black Cuckoo-shrike; Southern Black Tit; Lesser-striped Swallow; Barn Swallow; Rock Martin; Dark-capped Bulbul; Eastern Nicator; Terrestrial Brownbul; Sombre Greenbul; Yellow-bellied Greenbul; Long-billed Crombec; Willow Warbler; Cape White-eye; Rattling Cisticola; Tawny-flanked Prinia; Bar-throated Apalis; Grey-backed Cameroptera; Kurrichane Thrush; Spotted Flycatcher; Grey Tit-Flycatcher; White-throated Robin-chat; Red-capped Robin-chat; White-browed Robin-chat; White-browed Scrub-robin; Familiar Chat; Mocking Cliff-chat; Red-winged Starling; Violet-backed Starling; Amethyst Sunbird; White-bellied Sunbird; Red-headed Weaver; Spectacled Weaver; Red-billed Quelea; White-winged Widowbird; Swee Waxbill; Green-winged Pytilia; Red-billed Firefinch; Village Indigobird; Long-tailed Paradise Whydah; SouthernGrey-headed Sparrow; African Pied Wagtail; Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

The Crowned Eagle. One of the most powerful birds of prey in the world.
Python natalensis, the Southern African Rock Python. 

Reptile List

A good month for reptiles with the addition of a few more species to our species list. In the month 29 different species were found. This brings our reptile species list up to 45 different species.

The Flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) a very common species in the area. Easy to spot at night.

Kinixys spekii                                       Speke’s Hinged-back Tortoise
Stigmochelys pardalis                          Leopard Tortoise
Afroedura broadleyi                             Soutpansberg Flat Gecko
Chondrodactylus turneri                      Turner’s Gecko
Hemidactylus mabouia                         Common Tropical House Gecko
Homopholis wahlbergii                        Wahlberg’s Velvet Gecko
Lygodactylus capensis capensis           Common Dwarf Gecko
Smaug warreni depressus                     Flat Dragon Lizard
Platysaurus relictus                              Soutpansberg Flat Lizard
Broadleysaurus major                          Rough-scaled Plated Lizard
Gerrhosaurus flavigularis                    Yellow-throated Plated Lizard
Matobosaurus validus                          Common Giant Plated Lizard
Afroablepharus maculicollis                 Spotted-Necked Snake-Eyed Skink
Trachylepis margaritifer                       Rainbow Skink
Trachylepis varia                                  Variable Skink
Trachylepis sp.1
Varanus albigularis albigularis            Southern Rock Monitor
Varanus niloticus                                  Nile Monitor
Chamaeleo dilepis dilepis                    Flap-Necked Chameleon
Agama armata                                      Northern Ground Agama
Python natalensis                                 Southern African Python
Bitis arietans arietans                          Puff Adder
Aparallactus capensis                          Black-headed Centipede-Eater
Boaedon capensis                                Common House Snake
Hemirhagerrhis nototaenia                  Eastern Bark Snake
Psammophis subtaeniatus                    Stripe-bellied Sand Snake
Naja mossambica                                 Mozambique Spitting Cobra

The Puff Adder, Bitis arietans. A snake that relies on its excellent camouflage to escape detection from predators.  

Speke's Hinged Tortoise, Kinixys spekii, commonly encountered during the month.  

Acomys subspinosus, the Spiny Mouse. A commonly seen rodent.

Mammal List

With the introduction of trap cameras our mammal list has really begun to take shape. This month 22 mammal species were recorded.

Thick-tailed Bush baby. A nocturnal primate.

Greater Dwarf Shrew (?)
Eastern Rock Sengi
Thick-tailed Bushbaby
Chacma Baboon
Vervet Monkey
Cape Porcupine
Tree Squirrel
Gambian Pouched Rat
Spiny Mouse
Bushveld Gerbil
Cape Clawless Otter
Dwarf Mongoose
Water Mongoose
Large-spotted Genet
African Civet
Rock Hyrax
Bush Pig
Sharpe's Grysbok

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