Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

Last Sunday Andrew & I took our families for a picnic. We did however have an ulterior motive–chasing butterflies. We stopped at Kogelberg to hunt for the coastal subspecies of the Giant Copper Aloeides pallida littoralis. After a slow start in sunny but windy conditions we were quite successful. These butterflies are among the largest of the South African Copper group and like many copper species are quite variable in colour–ranging from dull brown to bright magenta.

Freshly hatched female Giant Copper Aloeides pallida littoralis – red form.

Giant Copper Aloeides pallida littoralis – brown form.

There were a few other common butterflies present:

Cupreous Blue Eichchrysops messapus

We then visited a spot further along the coast just before Kleinmond. Only present were common butterflies:

Aranda Copper Aloeides aranda – brown form

Dickson’s Geranium Bronze Cacyreus dicksoni


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Recently I accompanied a friend to du Toit’s Kloof Pass. I had been there back in January in pursuit of Holmes’ Skolly Thestor holmesi. It is too early for that butterfly and this time we were hunting a scarce butterfly called Irene’s Opal Chrysoritis irene.

Our first animal sighting was something completely unexpected, a Cape Grass Lizard Chamaesaura anguina. This was a herpetological lifer for me. These lizards are not easily seen as they usually inhabit montane grasslands where their serpentine body, reduced limbs, and rough, keeled scales, help them “swim” through thick grass.

Moving up the mountain we encountered several species of butterfly, there were plenty of common species like Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui), Citrus Swallowtail (Demodocus papilio), and Western Hillside Browns (Stygionympha vigilans).

Climbing to the top of the hill we encountered Penninsula Blues Lepidochrysops oreas junae:

At the base of the cliff face we then encountered our target species, Irene’s Opal Chrysoritis irene. I was able to get shots of both a male and a female:

There were many beautiful flowers in bloom, including this Beautiful Gladiolus Gladiolus pulcherrimus:

There were plenty of other insect life too, many beetles including this Common Metallic Longhorn Beetle Promeces longipes:

and this spectacularly coloured Slug Moth caterpillar (Family Limacodidae) found by Andrew:

We then moved to a lower elevation and found more species. Freshly hatched were lots of the common but beautifully photogenic Aranda Coppers Aloides aranda:

I also photographed these Mouse Blues Lepidochrysops puncticilia:

This female is ovipositing.

All in all a fantastic day of chasing butterflies in the beautiful Cape mountains.

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Made a quick trip to Du Toit’s Kloof Pass last week in pursuit of Holmes’ Skolly Thestor holmesi. Special thanks to Andrew for the directions! I was towards the end of their flight season though Andrew has found worn specimens in mid-February. I found a total of 6 specimens in 90 minutes – some were very worn though some were quite fresh. They were reasonably cooperative for photos though no open wing shots (I never even saw one open its wings except to fly).

Nice fresh specimen.

A slightly worn specimen – see the scales missing on the hind wing.

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Last week  I went to Greyton in pursuit of three Thestor species: T. stepheni, T. kaplani, & T. braunsi. It turned out to be an extremely hot day – 37C? or so – and was a tough hike back. I saw a number of common species on the way:
Fynbos Blue Tarucus thespis
Meadow White Pontia helice
Cupreous Blue Eichochrysops messapus
Geranium Bronze Cacreus marshalli
Citrus Swallowtail Papilio demodocus
Cape Brown Cassionympha detecta

There were a lot of Mountain Sandmen Spialia spio flying on the track also:

I only found one Thestor – T. braunsi which is a species I’ve found before though I did not have decent photographs. I found a nice active colony and was able to get some good photographs:

One final interesting find was a few specimens of Grass Jewel Blue Chilades trochylus feeding. This may be a westerly range expansion for the species.

Here is the view back over the trail from about 5km in – the farthest I went:

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Back in July I took a family holiday in the Hluhluwe area. An earlier post on butterflying around Malala Lodge is here. We visited the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (It was until recently known as the St Liucia Wetland Park.). The Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and “consists of thirteen contiguous protected areas with a total size of 234,566 hectares. The site is the largest estuarine system in Africa and includes the southernmost extension of coral reefs on the continent. The site contains a combination of on-going fluvial, marine and aeolian processes that have resulted in a variety of landforms and ecosystems. Features include wide submarine canyons, sandy beaches, forested dune cordon and a mosaic of wetlands, grasslands, forests, lakes and savanna. The variety of morphology as well as major flood and storm events contribute to ongoing evolutionary processes in the area. Natural phenomena include: shifts from low to hyper-saline states in the Park’s lakes; large numbers of nesting turtles on the beaches; the migration of whales, dolphins and whale-sharks off-shore; and huge numbers of waterfowl including large breeding colonies of pelicans, storks, herons and terns. The Park’s location between sub-tropical and tropical Africa as well as its coastal setting has resulted in exceptional biodiversity including some 521 bird species.” (Quoted from the UNESCO site here.)

In the morning we went on an estuary cruise which focuses on hippos and crocodiles as well as the larger birds. It was a very enjoyable trip and we saw plenty of crocodiles and hippos and quite a few birds – though nothing new for me.

Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius

Nile Crocodile Crocodylus niloticus

Waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus

White-faced Duck Dendrocygna viduata with a Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Great views of a Goliath Heron Ardea goliath

Up close and personal with an African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer

After the cruise we spent some time around St Lucia village – I went for a short walk on the Gwalagwala trail. We saw a group of Vervet Monkeys Cercopithecus aethiops:

On the Gwalagwala walk I also saw a Woodward’s Batis Batis fratrum which was a new bird for my life list.

Later on in the village we had fantastic views of a large group of Banded Mongooses Mungos mungo, though they moved so quickly I did not get photographs. I did get a photo of a female Trumpeter Hornbill Bycanistes bucinator:

In the afternoon we drove into the park and saw more Waterbuck as well as Warthogs Phacochoerus africanus. I found another new bird, the Eastern Nicator Nicator gularis.

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Last Tuesday I made another trip to Shaw’s Pass. This time I went with a friend, Pat. We had been trying to coordinate a trip for some time & finally found a day with good weather that suited us both. I had heard that a subspecies of the Boland Skolly Thestor protumnus aridus was flying and I wanted to get some photos. The day started a bit cloudy but the sun burned through and I had good success:

Once again there were Aranda Coppers Aloides aranda present:

These butterflies are becoming one of my favourites; this specimen had the most awesome coloration:

Once again there were Fynbos Blues Tarucus thespis present. These butterflies are ubiquitous and are seen on just about every single trip in the Western Cape. Here is a male:

There were also some flowers present:

We then headed to Hermanus in pursuit of some Lepidochrysops species. We were a little late however and I only found two worn specimens of the Monkey Blue Lepidochrysops methymna:

A spot just south of Kleinmond was the final stop for the day. I did see one species of Lepidochrysops – I think it was the Southern Blue Lepidochrysops australis but I messed up my camera settings and have no pics – ditto the unidentified species of Brown I saw. I did get some pics of the common and very beautiful Burnished Opal Chrysoritis chrysaor:

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Last Friday I went to Silvermine in the Table Mountain NP with Andrew in search of the Peninsula Skolly Thestor yildizae. This butterfly is found only on the mountains of the Cape Peninsula – it is the Cape Peninsula’s only endemic butterfly. Like all Skollys, the adults of this butterfly do not feed, and their larvae are associated with ants.

The butterflies were out and very active:

There were a few other butterflies about including the beautiful Peninsula Blue Lepidochrysops oreas, which was unfortunately quite uncooperative when it came to photography. This Burnished Copper Chrysoritis chrysaor was beautifully fresh and did cooperate quite nicely:

We moved on to a second spot where we found more Peninsula Blues Lepidochrysops oreas flying and I managed to get photographs of one individual – only closed wing shots though:

We then headed to Red Hill for a quick look but did not have great success. There were a few butterflies present including  Western Hillside Browns Stygionympha vigilans:

And Fynbos Blues Tarucus thespis:

There were a few other interesting insects around, including this Foam Grasshopper nymph:

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