Lichen and Sand Fleas

A walk along the Onrus/Vermont Coastal path this morning in search of a Southern Tchagra was unsuccessful, in that we did not find the bird.  It was, nevertheless, a very enjoyable outing and I was fascinated by the beautiful lichen growing on the weathered quartzites.

Another sight that caught my eye was a pool full of dead Sand Fleas.  There must have been many thousands of them and I was left wondering why.

A Walk in Fernkloof

This morning 8 Hurriers arrived at the Visitors’ Centre for our weekly walk.  We covered 5.2 kilometres in perfect walking weather and it was pleasant to walk on wet ground for a change, after the recent light rain.

A pair of Victorin’s Warblers made for a lucky sighting and we later saw a wonderful spider, which I am unable to identify, possibly a yellow-coloured Bark Spider. Its abdomen was around 25 mm across.

Hermas villosa

The Hermas villosa or tontelblaar, is currently putting on a wonderful show in Fernkloof Reserve, especially in the areas that were burnt a year ago.  The plants have shiny, rigid leaves at ground level and hemispherical flower heads on long smooth stems.  Seen at a distance they look fairly mundane, but by using a Macro lens, one can get really close up and see the myriad of small flowers that make up the globose flower clusters.  They are certainly very photogenic!

Another Day in the Burn

There were eight participants in this morning’s post-fire plant monitoring walk in Fernkloof Reserve.  We set off early so as to avoid some of the day’s heat and were up on the Jeep Track by 7:00 am.

Sadly, the Orchids appear to be somewhat static, with no new species in evidence.  There were, however, many Disa cornuta, now in full flower, abundant D. bivalvata, some D. racemosa and a few D. atricapilla.

Walking in the burn provided its fair share of entertainment and I think I can safely say that Renee and Liz won the prize for the dirtiest trousers!!

I attach a selection of photographs which will give the reader some idea of what we saw. Perhaps the most interesting plant was a parasite,  Cuscuta angulata, which most of us had never seen before.  Of special note was the vast number of Hermas villosa, in full flower and providing a wonderful spectacle, especially on Adder’s Ladder.

Flowers …. or Insects?

Looking at the flower head of a Nanobubon capillaceum, one sees only flowers, but photography allows one to look more closely and I was surprised to see no less than 23 insects in this picture – most of them ants.  Callan, who walked with us yesterday, spoke of how shaking a plant can reveal a vast array of insects.  Well, he was certainly right about that!

Life in an Orchid

When we found the Acrolophia lamellata yesterday, I was wondering why some of the flowers were seemingly knotted.  Closer inspection of the flowers in question shows a Crab Spider has made a nest there and if one looks closely at the top flower, one can see a tiny spider, presumably its offspring, at the entrance to  the nest.

Crab Spider with offspring (about 2 mm across)

Another long day in the ‘Burn’

No less than 12 orchid fanatics set out from Hermanus this morning at 6 o’clock to see what we could find in the burn in Fernkloof.  These included Herbert Staerker and Callan Cohen, both experts in their field, so we were in very good company!

It was a perfect summer day with virtually no wind, although we welcomed the slight breeze to cool off a bit.  We had not gone far when we came across a good specimen of Acrolophia lamellata, followed by a Holothrix cernua.  Soon we were surrounded by Disa bivalvata  and we must have seen thousands of them as we progressed our search for it’s near relative, Disa atricapilla. We found a few hybrids, before eventually coming across two small ones, suggesting that this is only the beginning for this species.  Disa bodkinii, which was one of our targets was past its best and we only found a few old specimens, but we did see many Pachites bodkinii.

In total, we saw at least 18 different orchid species, which was pretty good, but most of us were well and truly finished after a 10 hour day on the mountain…..but it was well worth it, as nothing can compare to knowing that we were standing in fields of orchids enjoying a spectacle that we will probably never see again!