July 2014

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
Bushveld Birds, Part 4 Grey Tit-Flycatcher
Euphorbia Action! A Closer look at this Unique Plant
Interesting Sightings Observations from our residents
Photo Gallery Great results from our photographers
A Final Word Content for The Raptor

Bushveld Birds, Part 4 - Grey Tit-Flycatcher - Derek Solomon, RV254
This little bird (previously known as the Fan-tailed Flycatcher) is actually quite common on the estate but is easily overlooked unless you know its rather plaintive call that is well described in Robert’s Bird Guide to the Kruger National Park as a high-pitched, drawn-out 'peely-peeerr'.

Easily confused with the very similar Ashy Flycatcher, the little Tit-Flycatcher has distinctive white outer tail feathers that are obvious when it raises and lowers the tail while fanning it at the same time. This is clearly seen in the photo of a bird caught during a recent ringing session on the estate with Rael and Helene Loon. Its behaviour is rather warbler-like, gleaning insects from the leaves and twigs in the tree canopy.

Grey Tit-flycatcher

tit flycatcher tit flycatcher

Euphorbia Action! - Derek & Sarah Solomon, RV254

euphobria A few years ago Lee Gutteridge penned an excellent article on the insects using the Euphorbia’s on the estate and, because they are in full flower and attracting a huge range of insects right now, we have decided to re-look at this amazing family of plants.

World-wide there are over 2000 members of the Euphorbiacae family; and it is the fourth largest genus of flowering plants. The family includes well-known species such as Tamboti, various species of Croton, the Lebombo Ironwood and the Potato-bush. Mexico’s Poinsettia, cultivated in many South African gardens is another member of the family. Within this group are 850 species belonging to, what is called, the succulent Euphorbias.
723 of these are found only in Africa and Madagascar and 188 of these are distributed through South Africa where they are widespread and occur in different habitats ranging from deserts to forests. Our Euphorbia cooperi, commonly known as the Bushveld Candelabra, and E. ingens, the Naboom, are two of South Africa's largest succulent trees. Lee’s excellent book 'The Bushveld' describes the many species that occur in the bushveld areas.

All Euphorbia’s produce a milky latex when cut or damaged. Meg Coates Palgrave stresses in her book 'Trees of Southern Africa' that this latex is toxic and can cause damage to the eyes and intense irritation and inflammation to the skin. The latex of the two species mentioned above is particularly dangerous but no euphorbia can be considered safe and caution should always be exercised by wearing gloves and safety glasses so as not to come into contact with the latex while handling any Euphorbia.

This latex evolved as a deterrent to herbivores; and one use from both species is as a fish poison where grass is soaked in the latex and thrown into a pool to kill the fish. The fish are apparently safe to eat when caught this way.

We have had an amazing variety of insects coming to the Bushveld Candelabra growing in front of our house. In addition to the many species coming to collect nectar are several tiny spiders (no luck photographing them so far!) and a Dwarf Gecko that is making good use of a regular supply of victims together with a minute Assassin Bug. The most common species are flies, particularly Regal Blowflies, and a range of wasps.

assasin bug gecko
Assassin Bug
Dwarf Gecko

Butterflies come and go and surprisingly although Lee found many African Monarch butterflies using the plants during his time photographing, we have not seen one of them around our Euphorbia. Of particular interest were the Delagoa Sandman and Natal Bar (thanks to butterfly expert Steve Woodhall for ID) as both of these species apparently favour hill tops and rocky ledges, so did they come down from the mountain?

delagoa sandman natal bar
Delagoa Sandman
Natal Bar

common scarlet black pie spotted jocker
Common Scarlet
Black Pie
Spotted Joker

Minute black and white Shield Bugs are on the Euphorbia every day whereas the much larger brown coloured one was only seen once. It is commonly known as a Yellowheart Love Bug (there are some interesting theories about the name lovebug!).

shield bug shiled bug
Shield Bug
Yellowheart Lovebug

potter wasp

Potter wasps (left) construct their nests on vertical or horizontal surfaces such as banks, branches of and trunks of trees as well as man-made structures such as walls.

The tiphiid wasps are a family of large solitary wasps who are parasitic on various beetle larvae, especially those in the superfamily Scarabaeoidea. The Stizus Wasp is known as a Sand Wasp and they burrow into friable (loose) soil to make their nests and lay a single egg on the prey placed into the nest, usually various species of fly.

yellow potter wasp tiphiid wasp stizus wasp
Yellow Potter Wasp
Tiphiid Wasp (male)
Stizus Wasp

blowfly This photo of the Regal Blowfly shows the amazing proboscis that is used to mop up nectar from the food plant as well as the phenomenal compound eyes.

As Lee mentioned in his article males of this species tend to be found frequently on flowers, as seen here, lapping nectar. Females are found on rotting carcasses, where they lay their eggs, which hatch within a day or so and these maggots feed for a while and then migrate as a group into the ground to pupate.

Interesting Sightings on the Estate
caracal giraffe
We've seen a caracal several times in the last few weeks; drinking at our bird bath, attempting to catch guineafowl and just wandering past - all in daylight hours.
Derek & Sarah Solomon, RV254
A pair of giraffe tussling over an impala bone. It is thought that the giraffe obtain extra calcium from chewing on these bones and it is a behaviour known as osteophagia.
Caryn Bowie, RV274

On Sunday 25th May we were enjoying a late breakfast outside when a Gabar Goshawk suddenly swooped down from its perch in a tree very close to our bedroom wall and attacked an unfortunate Kurrichane Thrush which was foraging on the ground. It forced the squealing thrush onto its back and stood on it with outspread wings, but then suddenly flew up to the tree again, upon which the thrush took the opportunity to escape. The Goshawk was still in partly immature plumage, so perhaps it did not really know what to do with its intended prey (Roberts states that a thrush is about the maximum sized prey item for a Gabar Goshawk).
The following day the usual pair of Thrushes were still close to the house, so we can only assume it survived to tell the tale.
Jeremy & Jill Brown,RV192

monitor snake
We have two uninvited but mostly welcome 'sub-letters' around the house, one being Steve (named by the kids) - a monitor lizard who usually lives on the roof but recently spent three days basking in a tree; and the other is a beautiful little Spotted Bush Snake (named Ian by the kids), who lives in a hole in our Marula tree in front of our deck. I recently had the privilege of watching him catch a gecko and drag it off backwards into the thicker bush to feast! Chantal Welman, RV290

flood flood
More flood flashbacks - Linda Parsons, RV216

Photo Gallery
dwarf mongoose nyala
Dwarf Mongoose - Lawrence Morgan, RV283
Male Nyala Sparring - Lawrence Morgan, RV283

A typical Raptor's View scene... Lawrence Morgan, RV283

A Final Word - Content for The Raptor
writers block Thanks to those few who contributed to The Raptor for this issue; and to those who regularly submit content.

Without input from the editors it would be a VERY short issue - so please send sightings, stories, photos, comments.... there is a lot going on out there!