December 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.

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In This Issue
New Life Summer brings new life onto the estate
Day Flying Moths 2 species out now
New Arrival A zebra birth
The Virtual Museum A new RV record submitted
Interesting Sightings Observations from our residents
Photo Gallery Great results from our photographers
A Final Word Beautiful RV sunset

Summer Brings New Life onto The Estate
Summer has arrived and with it, new life - there are babies everywhere! Giraffe, zebra, warthogs, birds... it is a good time to enjoy our surroundings.

impala zebra
photo - Derek Solomon, RV254
photo - Hugh Preston, RV288

giraffe warthog
photo - Derek Solomon, RV254
photo - Jan Neveling, RV29

robin flycatcher
White-browed Scrub Robin calling to parent.
Derek Solomon, RV254
Grey Tit Flycatcher (juvenile).
Derek Solomon, RV254

Day Flying Moths - Derek Solomon, RV254

Right now there are huge numbers of little black moths flying around the estate, particularly obvious when you drive down the roads heading for town. Stop and take a close look and you will see that it is actually a very brightly coloured, day-flying moth known as the Gold-spotted Burnet (Arniocera auiguttata).

Gold-spotted Burnet
It belongs to the family Zygaenidae and there are approximately 100 species of burnet moths in southern Africa. They generally have a metallic sheen and often have prominent spots of red or yellow all of which serves as a warning to predators that they are distasteful. They are distasteful because their bodies contain cyanide that is present throughout their lifecycle. The larvae obtain the toxins from certain plants that they feed on and this is retained in their bodies when they become adults. What is really amazing is the fact that some researchers have shown that the moths can produce their own toxins when living in environments poor in cyanide-producing plants. The larvae apparently have cavities in which they store the cyanide and this is excreted as defense droplets when molested by predators.

Favoured food plants include the flowers of shrubs such the Velvet Wild-medlar (Vangueria infausta) and Buffalo-thorn (Ziziphus mucronata). Are the larvae able to obtain cyanide from these plants? I havenít been able to find out. During November I photographed them visiting the bright yellow flowers of the Weeping Wattle (Peltophorum africanum).

The Burnet moths are often confused with the day-flying Superb False Tiger (Heraclia superba) which is much larger but also uses it vivid colours to indicate its distastefulness.

Superb False Tiger

Zebra Birth - Di & Frank Wichman, RV169
On 22 November we were very lucky enough to witness the birth of a zebra just behind our house. What a special moment!

zebra zebra

The Virtual Museum - a new Record for RV Submitted, RV169
The Virtual Museum (VM) forms part of the Animal Demography Unit, a research unit of the University of Cape Town which provides the platform for citizen scientists to contribute to biodiversity projects. Unlike a standard museum with collections of stuffed specimens, the Virtual Museum maintains a massive database of digital photographs and members of the public are encouraged to submit their digital recordss for the various sections listed below, along with certain basic information. Species identifications can be made by the observers, and are confirmed by a panel of experts. Distribution maps for each species are available online and serve as conservation and education tools. These maps include Virtual Museum records and sometimes also other distributional records which are contained within the ADUís databases.

The range of projects for which the VM is responsible includes not only birds, but also mammals, butterflies and moths, dragonflies and damselflies, reptiles, scorpions, spiders, frogs, trees, orchids, and mushrooms. Derek Solomon and JoŽl Roerig are regular contributors to the VM submitting many records from Raptors View and would be happy to submit more from other residents should they be unable to do so themselves. Flowers are already well covered on the Flora of Raptors View Facebook page and once again we encourage residents to visit the site and hopefully submit their own photos.

Derek and JoŽl were both very excited to record a new butterfly species for the estate, The Mimosa Sapphire (Iolaus mimosae) photographed by Derek. The VM distribution map shows that there are actually very few records country-wide for this butterfly and none in our area as far as we can see. This certainly shows the importance of recording any little piece of information including the very common species, as it all helps to build up a database that has important conservation benefits.

butterfly butterfly

Interesting Sightings on the Estate
Rainbow over Raptor's View on 29 October - Richard Braun, RV255

Painted Snipe
photo - Sarah Solomon, RV254
New Birds for the RV Checklist
Rael Loon, RV38 first reported a Painted Snipe at Osprey Dam in October and it was seen again by Cameron Blair and Ant de Boer on the Southern Cross Schools Birding Day on 29 November.

This birding duo added several new species for the list at the dam that day including - Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Little Stint, Brown-throated Martin, Marsh Sandpiper and Village Weaver.

vine snake vine snake
A Vine Snake showing its distinctive red tongue. Di & Frank Wichman, RV169

porcupine moth
This visitor rummaged around the house under the deck for about 30 minutes one evening.
Sean Flynn, RV271
We're hoping someone can help with the identification of this unknown moth?
Jackie Preston, RV288

We took this photo of a pair of Reitz's Helmet Shrikes displaying at our office window. There was just the pair and they spent about a week displaying persistently at the windows all around our house. We have since seen a small group of Reitz's feeding a youngster at the Traverse Gate, so probably not the same pair.
Hugh and Julie Marshall, RV243

helmet shrikes

nyala nyala
A nyala mother and her newborn calf spent sometime around our house. Simone Braun, RV255

Saddle-billed Stork Woodland Kingfisher
Many residents were lucky enough to see the pair of Saddle-billed Storks that were at Osprey Dam for several days in late November. Byron Wright The Woodland Kingfishers are back - no doubt many residents will have heard their unmistakable trill! Byron Wright

shoes millipede
Contractor's Shoes - an artistic and poignant take.
Joan Arnestad, RV230
Orange Millipede
Byron Wright

We have had the Stierlings Wren Warbler building two separate nests (busily dismantling the spider web from the first nest to construct the second). However both nests were somewhat inaccessible and although the second one is still intact, we did not see if breeding was successful in the first one. We were interested to watch what we assume was the little male, frantically attacking millipedes climbing up near the second nest, until they dropped to the ground, after which he left them alone. Interesting, as you wouldn't think that millipedes would be any sort of threat to the nest.
Hugh and Julie Marshall, RV243
photo - Derek Solomon

Brown Button Spider - Simone Braun, RV255

catepillar mongoose
Another species needing identification.
Simone Braun, RV255
Dwarf Mongoose.
Mirjam Deurloo, RV119

Photo Gallery
Blue Waxbill
Blue Waxbill. Derek Solomon, RV254

Grey Heron zebra
Grey Heron, Jof McLean, RV163
Zebra, Jof McLean, RV163

Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher, Jof McLean, RV163

Sunset over RV

A fitting end to the newsletter and 2015 - a beautiful sunset taken on Martial Eagle in late November; and the opportunity to wish all residents an excellent festive season!