February 2015

The Raptor is what YOU make it so please do keep sending all the sightings and information through.
In line with current eco-trends and aiming for a 'greener' lifestyle this is an e-newsletter - it does not conform to traditional page sizes and is not designed to be printed.

In This Issue
Frogs at Jack's Causeway 9 species identified
Spider Hunting Wasp A closer look at this amazing insect
Protecting our Natural Heritage The beautiful Flame Lily
Counting Bushbuck A RV Project
Events on the Estate Notes from our Farm Manager
Interesting Sightings Observations from our residents
Photo Gallery Great results from our photographers
A Final Word The Flora of Raptor's View

Frogs at Jack's Causeway - Lee Gutteridge, RV164
During the late December rains in Raptors View, we took our children, Kellen and Savannah, to go to the causeway one night to see what types of frogs we could find. We saw and heard quite a bit of activity when we arrived, with frogs and fish crossing the road in the small flow of water. We got our shoes off and headed in to catch some of the frogs for identification. We found at least 9 different species in total, including the following species:

Foam nest frog – Chiromantis xerampelina
Common river frog – Amietia angolensis
Guttural toad – Amietophrynus gutturalis
Eastern olive toad – Amietophrynus garmani
Russet backed sand frog – Tomopterna marmorata
Bubbling kassina – Kassina senegalensis
Knocking sand frog – Tomopterna krugerensis
Snoring puddle frog – Phrynobatrachus natalensis
Painted reed frog – Hyperolius marmoratus taeniatus

Knocking Sand frog Painted Reed Frog
Knocking Sand Frog
Painted Reed Frog (juvenile)
Russet Backed Sand Frog Snoring Puddle Frog
Russet Backed Sand Frog
Snoring Puddle Frog

Spider Hunting Wasp - Derek Solomon, RV254
These great images by Hanna Camelas, RV215 have inspired this short note.

Spider hunting wasps belong to the family Pompilidae, and are small to large, long-legged wasps. Most species are black or blue-black in colour and usually have orange legs. The name of the wasps refers to their unique behaviour of hunting spiders. They are solitary wasps, and create their nests in crevices or burrows. Much of their time is spent running around on the ground searching for prey under rocks and leaves or flying around making a characteristic rattling sound with their wings which helps to identify them. Once a spider is located it is injected with a powerful cocktail of nerve poisons that paralyses the spider. It is then dragged to the pre-prepared nest where a single egg is laid on the spider. The spider remains alive but paralysed and will be eaten by the wasp larva once it hatches.
Larger species often hunt baboon spiders that are larger than themselves and despite the size of the equally dangerous prey the highly agile wasp is quite able to defend itself and inject its venom into its prey item. Once the egg has been laid on the paralysed spider, the wasp seals the nest and moves on to look for another victim.

wasp wasp

Protecting our Floral Heritage - Hilna & Dave Berry, RV65
flame lily

The above photo of a Gloriosa superba was taken on the roadside along Tawny Eagle Road (just before the turn-off into Snake Eagle Road), a while ago. The following day, when we wanted to get a better picture, it was gone. It had been picked, possibly because of its well-known longevity as cut flowers, with scant thought given to the future well-being of the plant which could well have died through this thoughtless act.

The deep tuberous rootstock sends out just one slender stem which carries both the leaves and the flowers on it. If there is an accidental or deliberate breakage of the link between the photosynthesizing leaves and the rootstock (possibly by picking), it will then mean that no nutrition can get to and be stored in the rootstock. This could well result in the death of the plant if it hasn’t enough stored energy to send up another stem with leaves, or to keep the plant going till the following season. And, with this in mind, we appeal to all not to pick these beautiful flowers. They are far prettier in their natural setting.

In KwaZulu-Natal, a similarly growing plant called Sandersonia aurantiaca (Christmas Bells/Geelklokkie) is almost completely extinct in the wild because of the ongoing thoughtless harvesting of the stems as cut flowers and effectively killing the plants in their natural habitat. Fortunately though, far-sighted horticulturists in New Zealand have saved the plants from complete extinction by successfully cultivating them (and Gloriosas) there for the commercial market. And, some years back, when we ordered a flower arrangement to be sent to our daughter in Taiwan, lo and behold, her day was made because the arrangement contained New Zealand-grown Flame lilies and Christmas bells, to our utter amazement!

Living here in Raptor’s View, let us show others our conservation ethic by promoting and encouraging the growth of such lovely flowers in our midst.

Counting Bushbuck & their Spots - Byron Wright, Farm Manager
bushbuck Over the last year we have had numerous reports of bushbuck sightings. These antelope seem to frequent specific houses and I have also had some amazing sightings in the vicinity of the Causeway crossing. A comment to a bushbuck picture posted on the editors' Facebook page had me thinking.
The comment was that perhaps one could identify bushbuck by their spots in a similar manner as leopards? I would like to try this for RV's bushbuck and request broad side photos (left and right) of any bushbuck on the estate, along with the following information:
1. Date
2. Time
3. Location
We will then be able to establish the number of bushbuck on the estate, the species composition as well as their distribution to some degree. Photos can be emailed to me at byron@raptorsviewhoa.co.za

Events on the Estate - Byron Wright, Farm Manager
zebra Zebra Foal
We received a phone call one morning about a zebra foal that had an injured leg and was being harassed by a jackal. We responded to the call and found a juvenile stallion cornered against a boma with his right hind leg a bloody mess and the foal in a weakened state. It appeared that the young stallion had been chased into the fence - presumably by the jackal.

We caught the little guy by hand, loaded him up and took him to Dr Rogers at Pro-vet. Although the main tendon had been almost severed and his chances of survival did not look good Dr Rogers decided to operate. We were privileged to watch the whole procedure and what an amazing experience it was!
The main tendon was sown up and custom splints were fabricated to keep the leg in one position. The Pro-vet team did an extraordinary job and the little foal is now recuperating at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre.

zebra zebra

Chameleons (Chamaeleo dilepis)
This summer I have noticed more chameleons on the road than all the other years that I have been on the estate. Sadly not all of them have been alive!
Flap-necked Chameleon
This is the species we have here and according to the guide to reptiles of Southern Africa (Alexander and Maria) the common name of this chameleon is derived from the large occipital flap that extends from the posterior edge of the head, covering part of the neck. Adults are found in trees and shrubs and hatchlings are often found perching on grass stems. They feed mainly insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, flies, and butterflies that are caught by means of the sticky tongue which can be equal to the length of the total body of the chameleon. Chameleons forage by means of ambush or slow patrolling through the vegetation.
Camouflage by means of their cryptic coloring plays a large role in avoiding detection. Chameleons put up an impressive display when threatened. They inflate their bodies, hiss and gape their mouths. Male chameleons can be identified by a pronounced swelling at the base of the tail and a small spur projecting backwards on each hind leg.

Interesting Sightings on the Estate
mopane worm Mopane Worm
I received a message from the owner of RV33 asking if we have mopane trees on the estate as he had a mopane worm on his deck. This was fascinating as no mopane trees occur on the estate, other than perhaps the odd one planted at individual homes. What was even more interesting was the fact that the worm was feeding on a Weeping Boerbean (Schotia brachypetala).

Numerous literature mentions that although mopane worms have a preference for mopane trees; they do not solely feed on them. None of the literature makes mention of the Weeping Boerbean.
I have photographed the mopane moth on the estate in early December, and have since learned that other residents along the Sandspruit have occasionally also seen mopane worms feeding on a Jackalberry.
Byron Wright - Farm Manager

crowned eagle crowned eagle
Crowned Eagle
In mid-February a nyala lamb was born just outside our study and in the late afternoon we heard loud alarm cries and as I went outside I saw the mother and lamb making a mad dash through the bush. I did catch a fleeting glance of a large bird flying low to the ground in between the trees and bushes. I followed the cries of the lamb, assuming that it had been caught. Within a few minutes I located the mother and lamb, both seemingly safe and unharmed. There was no sign of the large bird.

The next morning we saw this juvenile Crowned Eagle perched nearby and although it cannot be confirmed that this was the same bird as the previous afternoon we wonder if it was - and possibly attracted by the blood/afterbirth.
Dave & Bernie Spencer, RV276
Eds - this is an unusual sighting as Crowned Eagle habitat is predominantly forest but it had probably moved out of the parents territory and was looking for somewhere to establish its own home while passing over Raptors View. Being hungry, a newborn nyala lamb is an ideal prey item for this powerful raptor..

wild cat Wild Cat Kittens
We discovered these two little Wild Cat kittens in the bottom of a big deep clay pot when their mother scattered as we were working in the parking yard at our house in December. She must have decided to move them overnight as they were gone the next morning.
Keith Hartshorne, RV298

flycatcher flycatcher
flycatcher flycatcher
Ashy Flycatcher
We are delighted to report that our Ashy Flycatcher has successfully raised 3 chicks!
Keith Hartshorne, RV298

zebra scorpion
Deformed Zebra
I have seen this zebra stallion with a deformed hoof several times.
Caryn Bowie, RV274
I photographed this Parabuthus transvaalicus outside our house in early February.
Simone Braun , RV255

gecko gecko woodpecker
Tiny Dwarf Gecko
Simone Braun, RV255
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Rob Severin, RV240

bees bees
Mystery Insect - Simone Braun, RV255.
Eds - These photos from late November have caused some head scratching...a type of bee? Any further identification and clarification welcome!

Photo Gallery
Our First Rains
The very welcome (and now a distant memory) December rains brought relief to all residents - both human and otherwise as these following 8 sightings confirm!
baby nyala warthog
Newborn Nyala - Mirjam Elbertse, RV206
Warthog mudbath - Simone Braun, RV255

warthog impala
Warthog babies - Jackie Preston, RV288
Impala lamb - Simone Braun, RV255

Nyala lamb Lily
Nyala lamb - Lawrence Morgan, RV283
Candy-striped Crinum - Mirjam Elbertse, RV206

tortoise kudu
Leopard tortoise - Simone Braun, RV255
Kudu and calf - Jan Neveling, RV29

nyala nyala
2 male Nyala - Lawrence Morgan, RV283
Nyala lamb - Ole Ahrens, RV203

comb duck snail
One of the many Comb Ducks at Osprey dam
in early December - Glenda Sparks, RV195
Giant Land Snail - Jackie Preston, RV288

monitor monitor
Rock Monitor - Varianus albigularis This large Rock Monitor came to visit in early February and climbed the tree by my studio, nearly giving me the fright of my life! He/she stayed in the tree for about an hour and a half and then ambled off under our deck. The coloration is really beautiful.
Jackie Preston, RV288

We are lucky to have a family of Lesser Bushbabies living in our bird nesting box (having taken over from a pair of Crested Barbets that were sadly consumed by a Black Mamba) outside our office window - they provide endless entertainment! They are, surprisingly, usually awake during the day and spend their time gazing out at the world - this photo was taken when they were disturbed by something and left the box for a while - they returned safely a short while later.
Derek & Sarah Solomon, RV254

A Final Word - Flora of Raptor's View Facebook Page

The estate has an amazing variety of flowering plants ranging from trees, to shrubs and a wide range of flowers, many that were particularly visible this year after the rains in November and December. Many of them need to be identified and our plan is to create a database of these plants that can eventually go onto the estate website for all owners to access.

Joël Roerig has done a fabulous job creating a Facebook page “Flora of Raptors View” that will allow everyone to post photos of the various plants they see during the year and this will form the basis of the eventual database of our flowering plants. Only a few weeks old, there have already been some very interesting submissions to the page and we hope that many of you will participate or simply access the page to see what is flowering on the estate.
See the page here - https://www.facebook.com/groups/888327171217899/

Please also post photos of plants that require identification. We have access to a panel of specialists who hopefully will be able to assist with ID on most of the plants posted. Often leaf structure is important for identification of flowers, so where possible include some of these details as well, and not just a close-up of the flower itself. We look forward to your submissions and comments.
Joël Roerig and Derek Solomon