Thursday, August 4, 2016

Winter (May, June, July 2016) High and Low: Wet and Dry

Leopard captured on camera trap at Medike outside the accommodation.
In general winter is not a great time for biodiversity. Mammals and birds are still quite active, but reptiles, amphibians and inverts tend to lay low. In order to find anything one needs to work that much harder. At the SCBC we did pretty well this season and found one new frog, a new spider, a new scorpion and seven new reptiles, this brings our reptile list for the Soutpansberg to 84 species.

Northern Forest Rain Frog (Breviceps sylvestris taeniatus), Lajuma. A Soutpansberg Endemic.

A large Natal Rock Python (Python natalensis) in ambush mode next to the Sand River.
Harpactira gigas (Common Baboon Spider), Lajuma. Photo Melissa Petford.
Hatchling Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) about the size of a golf ball, Lajuma. Photo Melissa Petford.
The activities this winter for the SCBC were focused on finding burrowing species of reptiles. This took us to a few different locations namely Lajuma and Entabeni and to a lesser degree the arid northern slopes at Bergpan. Most work was done in the day as the nights have been too cold for our herpetological purposes.

Soutpansberg Purple-Glossed Snake (Amblyodipsas microphthalma nigra) Bergpan.
White-bellied Dwarf Burrowing Skink (Scelotes limpopoensis albiventris), Bergpan. New for the SCBC.
Cregoi's Legless Skink (Acontias cregoi) Entabeni. New for the SCBC.
Acontias cregoi, close up of the head showing enlarged rostral. Photo Melissa Petford.
Limpopo Dwarf Burrowing Skink (Scelotes limpopoensis limpopoensis), Lajuma.
View from eastern slopes of  Mount Lajuma looking west.
Lajuma is a high altitude location and an important part of the newly proclaimed Luvhondo Nature Reserve. The elevation on the site ranges from about 1300-1700 at Lajuma peak (the highest point in the Soutpansberg). Notable new finds at Lajuma this winter were Cregoi’s Legless Skink, Northern Forest Rainfrog, Montane (Cross-marked) Sand Snake, Natal Green Snake, Wahlberg’s Snake-eyed Skink, Harpactria gigas (Common Baboon Spider) and an undescribed species of scorpion. Thanks to all the "Barnies" at Lajuma for your help and company in the field.

Soutpansberg Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus soutpansbergensis) Lajuma, Photo Melissa Petford.
Wahlberg's Snake Eyed Skink (Afroablepharus wahlbergii) Lajuma, new for the SCBC. Photo M. Petford.
East African Shovel Snout (Prosymna stuhlmannii) Lajuma. Photo Melissa Petford.
Hatchling Vanson's Gecko (Pachydactylus vansonii). Lajuma.
Wahlbergs Velvet Gecko (Homopholus wahlbergii) enraged after a seven meter fall, Lajuma. Photo Melissa Petford.
Montane or Cross-marked Sand Snake (Psammophis crucifer) Lajuma. Photo Melissa Petford.
Entabeni scene showing high altitude grassland and afromontane forest.
Entabeni is another high altitude location but is on the eastern side of the Soutpansberg and receives the highest rainfall in the region. It is composed of Afromontane forest and Grassland. Up at Entabeni we recorded loads of Cregoi’s Legless Skink and also finally caught up with the Northern Dwarf Chameleon. We finally manged to get some photographs of the abundant Montane Skink. Another interesting find from Entabeni was spotting a Tree Agama in the pine forest, another first for our lists.

Montane Speckled Skink (Trachylepis punctatissima), Entabeni (Photo Melissa Petford).
Common Girdled Lizard (Cordylus vittifer) Entabeni. Photo Melissa Petford.
Northern Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion transvaalense) Entabeni. New for the SCBC. Photo Melissa Petford.
Vanson's Gecko (Pachydactylus vansoni) Entabeni.
Another area we started sampling was Bergpan on the arid northern slopes of the Soutpansberg. Here we were hoping for some of the more xeric species and found a new lizard, the White-bellied Dwarf Burrowing Skink (Scelotes limpopoensis albiventris). This lizard has an extremely limited distribution and is classified as near threatened. The SCBC hopes to work more closely with species in the future to determine the limits of it’s distribution and the animals ecology.

Crested Guinea Fowl, one of the most charismatic birds at Medike.
Of course most of the winter was spent at Medike and the time was quite productive. The local crocodile was spotted after not having seen it since March, nice to see this living fossil surviving. We found a second lacertid species for the property, Nucras intertexta and managed to get some beautiful pictures. Other highlights from this winter have been finding two pythons one large adult and a juvenile; photographing a beautiful serrated hinged terrapin and capturing a beautiful leopard on camera trap (thanks to Dr. Chris Broeckhoven for making this possible).

Hatchling Natal Rock Python (Python natalensis) found one cold morning. Photo Melissa Petford.
Spotted Sandveld Lizard (Nucras intertexta) a first for Medike. Photo Melissa Petford.
The endemic Soutpansberg Flat Lizard (Platysaurus relictus) a colourful part of life at Medike.
Serrated Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus) Sand River, Medike.
A new Scorpion species for the SCBC, an undescribed Opistophthalmus species, western Soutpansberg.
Uroplectes planimanus, Sand River.
Our scorpion work has been going well and the SCBC has been finding some exciting species and expanding known ranges. The most notable find this winter has been the undescribed Opistophthalmus species found in the western Soutpansberg. This species is awaiting description by taxonomists and we look forward to having another endemic scorpion in the area. Thanks to Ian Engelbrecht and the rest of the 'scorpalerts' group for help and motivation. Watch this space for some more information on these fascinating arachnids.

Uroplectes vittatus Medike. Photo Melissa Petford.
Hottentotta trilineatus, Sand River.
Uroplectes triangulifer, two females fighting, Lajuma.
Opistophthalmus lawrenci, Sand River, south of Waterpoort.
Uroplectes vittatus, Medike.
We look forward to a productive season starting in August. Our aims for the coming summer are to sample even more locations and work on our behavioural biology research on living reptiles. Other aims for the coming season are to work on amphibians, continue our scorpion work and begin some more focused work on mygalamorph spiders. Watch this space!

Sharpes Grysbok, Sand River, Medike.

No comments:

Post a Comment