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A Trip to Silvermine

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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Gydo Pass

A couple of weeks back I travelled up the Gydo Pass near Ceres in search of a few special butterflies. I had directions to a spot on a farm called Die Kloof. After getting permission from the owners I set off. It was pretty rugged territory and a bit off a hike from where I parked the car at a dam (see below) near the end of the orchards:

I was looking for three species: Lepidochrysops quickelbergi and Lepisochrysops gydoae– both beautiful blues, Chrysoritis adonis, a lovely opal, and Thestor vansoni, a Skolly. As it turns out, I found none of these–which just means I get to make another trip!

I did find however find and photograph three species, one of which was new to me.

Duke’s Blue Lepidochrysops dukei (a lifer).

Rock Skolly Thestor petra a species which I had seen previously at Matroosberg.

Cupreous Blue Eichchrysops messapus female ovipositing on Thesium sp.

There were other insects and plants around to keep things interesting:

Queen Protea Protea magnifica on which I found this Green Protea Beetle Trichostetha fascularis:

Finally, I managed to photograph this dragonfly which has been submitted to the recently (September 2010) started Odonata of Southern Africa Virtual Museum.

It’s not a great photograph but hopefully it will allow an identification & therefore add to the Odonata data-set.

The day after the Gifberg trip, on the way home, we stopped at the West Coast National Park. We visited two sites, with our first stop being the Seeburg Lookout.

Bampton’s Opal Chrysoritis  thysbe bamptoni

Pan opal Chrysoritis pan


Marguerite’s  Copper Aloides margaretae

Silver Arrowhead Phasis thero


Sand-dune Widow Tarsocera cassina


Cape Black-eye Leptomyrina lara

There was plenty of other insect life around also, including these fantastic dung beetles:

Green Grooved Dung Beetle Scarabaeus rugosus

Male and female pairs work together to form balls of dung which are rolled away and buried as a source of food for their larvae.

A well camouflaged grasshopper.

Bladder grasshopper – Bullacris sp.

The West Coast National Park is well known for its flowers:

Angulate Tortoises Chersina angulata are common:

We then moved on to a second spot by the side of the road. Again, butterflies were plentiful:

Donkey Daisy Copper Chrysoritis zonarius

Donkey Daisy Copper Chrysoritis zonarius egg laid on Chrysanthemoides incana

Feltham’s Opal Chrysoritis felthami


Sand-dune Opal Chrysoritis pyroeis pyroeis


Unidentified Spialia – possibly Spialia nanus.

A really interesting plant – I think its an Euphorbia sp. but have as yet, been unable to identify it.

Typical West Coast territory with Andrew chasing butterflies.

A Trip to Poison Mountain

A few weeks back I headed up to Gifberg (which translates as “Poison Mountain”) in search of a few specials. The first butterfly we saw was a rather battered Spring Widow Tarsocera cassus:

There were a lot of these Tulbagh Sylphs Tsitana tulbagha flying:

Mouse Blues Lepidochrysops puncticilia were also on the wing:

It was however another Lepidochrysops, Tite’s Blue Lepidochrysops titei that was a particular target. we did find some specimens though they were not particularly cooperative when it came to photography:

That was my best shot, you can just see a hint of the beautiful blue upper wing surface. Protea Scarlets Capys alphaeus were also present. They are spectacular from above:

but I like the side view (showing the ventral surface) even better:

These are protea specialists, laying their eggs on protea buds. Upon hatching, the larvae then tunnel into the protea bud and spend their entire life-cycle including pupation inside the bloom. The newly hatched adult butterflies emerge from the larval tunnel and begin the cycle again. These were utilizing the blooms of the Waboom Protea nitida, and a number of buds with larval tunnels were found.

Protea Emperors Charaxes pelias were also present – though contrary to their name, their life-cycle has nothing to do with proteas! Rather their larvae feed on a number of plants including Rafnia sp., and Colpoon compressum. It would be better named the Fynbos Emperor or the Southern Emperor! These specimens were at the Northern edge of their range.

We found some Aloides – probably Van Son’s Copper Aloides vansoni:

As well as some Chrysoritis — including another target species Shoeman’s Opal Chrysoritis uranus schoemani (a subspecies of the Uranus Opal confined to the Gifberg and Koebee Mountains). Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of the species (Andrew saw and netted the only specimen sighted.). Here however, is the Pan Opal Chrysoritis pan which was common:

We found specimens of one of my favourite butterflies the Boland Rocksitter Durbaniopsis saga:

As well as common butterflies like the Long-tailed Blue Lampides boeticus (this is a female):

And the Fynbos Blue Tarucus thespis:

There were also lots of other insects like this interesting beetle:

And some beautiful flowers:

Ranger Redux

A previous outing to Strandfontein was in search of Barber’s Ranger Kedestes barberae bunta. (Post here). The larva of another ranger, the Unique Ranger Kedestes lenis lenis, uses the same grass – Cottonwool Grass Imperata cylindrica to feed:

This ranger begins flying a month alter in October. This week I grabbed a few hours to see if I could find and photograph this butterfly. As it turned out, there were a lot of specimens active which was great to see.

There were a few other butterfly species active also: Common Opal Chrysoritis thysbe, Silver Arrowhead Phasis thero, and another new species for me, the Silver-bottom Brown Pseudeonympha magus:

I found some Monkey Beetles for my friend Len:

This mantid was eating a bug:

It has been a while since I’ve seen a Cape Chameleon Bradypodium pumilum but I was fortunate to find this gorgeous specimen:

Yesterday I ditched work and an office full of marking headed out to Shaw’s Pass and Riviersonderend with Len. We had some success though didn’t find all that we were looking for.
At Shaw’s Pass we found numerous Aranda Coppers Aloides aranda:

We also found a few specimens of what I think is Robertson’s Blue Lepidochrysops robertsoni. A small group of what I think were males were hilltopping around a small rocky outcrop. They did not pause or rest and were impossible to photograph. I found another specimen which I think was a female & I followed her for some time for this not so great photo:

I also found this wonderfully camouflaged grasshopper. It is most likely a Betiscoides sp. and is superbly camouflaged on the restio stem:

There were other animals about also, including this colourful Southern Rock Agama Agama atra. This is a male in breeding colouration:

We then headed north to Riviersonderend where we had been told there was a spot for the Almeida Copper Aloides almeida.

These were quite common on an overgrown track in the hillside fynbos. They were even more variable than the Aranda Coppers we found earlier:

 

Len is collecting monkey Beetles and we managed to find a few including this very pale species which is as yet unidentified. It was unusual in that all specimens were found clinging to the outside of these white paper daisies. usually monkey beetles are found feeding on pollen in the centre of flowers.

Arum Lily Frog

Whilst hunting for Barber’s Ranger Kedestes barberae bunta in Strandfontein recently I came across some Arum Lily Frogs Hyperolius horstocki. These small frogs frequently inhabit the flowers of the Arum Lily Zantedeschia aethiopica. I’ve looked for these frogs a few times without success but was fortunate to find two specimens while looking for the butterflies in question.

The arum Lily Frog’s call is descried as “a harsh nasal bleat every half second”. You can hear it here.

Pictures have been uploaded to the newly opened Virtual Museum of the Southern African Frog Atlas Project.