February 2016

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.

Please send all content directly to info@kuyimba.com

In This Issue
Mariepskop the naming of our mountain
Raptor's River Rocks geology's natural art
Operation Osprey Dam fish rescue
New RV Facebook Groups butterflies and birds
Speeding road kill casualties
Interesting Sightings observations from our residents
Photo Gallery great results from our photographers
A Final Word Raptor's View Bird Count

Mariepskop - the Naming of our Mountain - Dave and Hilna Berry, RV65

Mariepskop View

Ever since we moved to Raptor’s View in August 2014, we have been haunted by our lack of knowledge on Mariep’s Kop. It is an everyday view for most people living on the Estate and surrounding areas, and yet, up till now, no-one has been able to tell us who Mariep was, and the story of this beautiful landmark. Thanks to Maryke and Gerhard Redecker (RV100), and ultimately Wiltrud and Herbert Peter (RV167) for the following find:

“…The poort or mouth of the (Blyde) canyon lies between Swadini and Mariepskop, which was once the scene of a great battle between Swazi raiders from the south and local Bapedi and Mapulana tribesman, who used the flat crest of the mountain as a place of refuge and a fortress whenever they were attacked. The Bapedi and Mapulana tribes became tired of the continual Swazi raids and under the leadership of Chief Maripi Mashile, they climbed to the top of the mountain peak opposite Swadini and bombarded the Swazis with large boulders in what became known as the battle of Moholoholo, 'the great, great battle '. The Swazis were heavily defeated and thereafter the mountain was named Maripi in honour of the Mapulana chief”.
Taken from this website.

Raptor's River Rocks - Brendan Pienaar, RV151

rock art
Dave Berry, RV65 photographed this beautiful natural rock art in the riverbed close to the eastern boundary – many thanks to Brendan Pienaar for an explanation of the origin and formation - Eds.

The great Scottish-American naturalist, author and environmental philosopher John Muir once stated that “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” His profound statement has since become a fundamental concept for all enquiring naturalists. In essence, no single natural component or event should ever be considered in isolation. One should always look beyond the obvious, as all things are connected. So, considering Muir’s statement, let us have a brief “tug” at the striking rocks that Dave Berry observed in the Zandspruit and see what attachments we can find.

The predominantly flat terrain of the Lowveld (average 400 m a.s.l.) provides a distinct contrast to the topography of the Eastern Escarpment, which is a geological masterpiece in itself. Nonetheless, the basement rocks that underlie the Lowveld include ancient Barberton greenstone. Greenstone dates back to approximately 3 500 million years ago and is therefore amongst some of the oldest rocks formations on Earth.

Between 3 200 and 3 400 million years ago these ancient greenstones were intruded by magma. In other words, molten material had risen up from within the Earth’s mantle to settle and cool below the surface, which at that stage, comprised of greenstone. Because the magma cooled and solidified under the Earth’s surface, the cooling process was relatively slow as opposed to the rapid cooling that would take place if the lava was exposed to the less insulated atmosphere.

Rocks are simply aggregates of minerals that crystallize from a molten state. So, when a melt like this intrusion solidifies slowly, the mineral crystals in the rock are large and noticeable. This particular intrusion formed granite, which has a resultant coarse texture. Granite consists mainly of quartz, alkali feldspar and amphibole crystals.

However, pre-existing igneous rock like this granite may become subject to pressure and high temperatures at depths in the Earth’s crust, which changes the mineral composition and structure of the rock. This is also known as metamorphism. This granite was subject to metamorphism after the intrusion and changed into a range of granitic gneisses, which now make up the gently undulating terrain to the east of Mariepskop. The original greenstone surface has been weathered away over millions of years to expose the underlying granitic gneiss. Greenstone is however still present at geologically undisturbed location in the Lowveld such as the Murchison greenstone north of Phalaborwa in Kruger National Park. The rocks in the Zandspruit, which Dave Berry has drawn our attention to, has completed this entire progression to be exposed as granitic gneiss. It has most probably surfaced due to further assistance from some tectonic upheaval, as the folding in the rock would suggest.

rock art

The black (mafic) minerals separated from the light (felsic) minerals during metamorphosis, which produced the distinctive banding. This is a very common occurrence during metamorphosis. The black minerals are usually hornblende (an amphibole mineral) with a variable amount of black mica (biotite). The light minerals are usually just feldspar and quartz. As a matter of interest the pink colouration is due to the presence of orthoclase. The different properties of the exposed rock determine the rate at which they weather and produce soil. The felsic (light) minerals, especially quartz, are very resistant and it is therefore not surprising that the less resistant mafic (black) bands have been weathered away at a more rapid rate.

It is at exactly this point where we can start making some “attachments”. The underlying geology and soils, together with climate exerts significant controls on ecosystem properties, processes and functions. This is generally most evident within the vegetation community.

Different consistencies of resultant soil particle determine where they can be found within the landscape and the kind of plants that they support. When granitic gneiss weathers, it produces coarse sandy soil towards the top of a slope (felsic minerals) and finer grained clayey soils (mafic minerals) towards the bottom of the slope. Accordingly, broad-leaved trees such as Marulas favour the coarse, well-drained soils towards the top of a slope, while fine-leaved trees such as Acacias favour the clay-rich soils, which retain moisture for longer periods, towards the bottom of a slope.

Having briefly “tugged” at a striking rock and finding that it is attached to soil and plant distribution, Muir and I would like to encourage you to see if you can find any “attachments” of your own between plants and animals on Raptor’s View. Remember to slow down and look beyond the obvious.

Operation Osprey Dam - Harriet Nimo, RV78

osprey dam

catfish In late December, due to the drought and rapidly diminishing water, and consequent low oxygen levels - the fish started dying en masse in Osprey Dam. A huge number of bream/tilapia lay beached on the baked mud.

On Boxing Day, Operation Osprey Dam commenced, nobly led by Tinus from RVHOA and ably assisted by Justice and co-workers from Protrack. All the dead fish were collected and taken away, to be "recycled" as pig food. Tinus and his assistants then attempted to catch as many live fish as possible, trawling a net whilst wading through deep mud. Easier said than done - and bare feet definitely proved more successful than wellington boots!

All the live fish caught were tipped into dustbins full of water - and transported to Hammerkop Dam and another local dam with more water. The catch of the day was an enormous barbel measuring at least a meter. Despite Tinus and his team's sterling efforts, the remaining barbel soon got wily and a number evaded capture. They could still be heard at night, loudly gulping oxygen at the surface, as the water levels shrink ever lower.

The dam last dried up in August 2012, and was never artificially restocked with fish - so it is astonishing to see how many fish have naturally re-appeared in the dam since then.......nature's amazing circle of life.
osprey dam osprey dam

osprey dam
Osprey Dam in August 2012

New RV Facebook Groups

FB flower FB butterfly FB bird
There are now several Raptor's Facebook sites available to residents covering a wide range of topics. Raptor's View Wildlife Estate created by Byron Wright features many of the day to day activities on the ground including habitat reclamation, work on the various dams and photos and videos of interesting sightings.

Flora of Raptor's View is a great site created by Joël Roerig, and has been on the go for some time now and features many of the flowers and trees on the estate.
Two new sites created by Derek Solomon are Butterflies of Raptor's View and very recently Birds of Raptor's View

These sites are of great benefit for those wanting to get to know the various creatures and flora on the estate and residents are invited to submit photos to any of the sites (particularly the latter 3) to help us build up a comprehensive list of both the fauna and flora of Raptor's View.

Speeding on the Estate

dead hare dead squirrel

It is distressing to see so many residents still ignoring the speed limits on the estate. They are there for various reasons - not only to avoid accidents with other vehicles and/or people, particularly children, walking or riding along the roads, but also to protect the wildlife. It is almost on a daily basis that the estate staff find something dead on one of the roads whether it is a snake, a bird, a chameleon or frog or mammals such as scrub hares or squirrels. Unbelievably there are even records of people riding over tortoises, crushing them, shell and all, into the ground. We are appealing, yet again, for everyone to obey the speed limits, and also to pay a little more attention to the roads while driving to avoid killing so much of the smaller wildlife on our estate.

Interesting Sightings on the Estate
bees bees

The Smiths of RV166 found these Halictid bees late last year - they were resting on shaded twigs in groups, and fetching water from the nearby small wallow. Thanks to Keryn Adcock for the identification of Spatunomia rubra and the following information.
Genus Spatunomia Spatunomia was described for two widely separated, large (13-15 mm) species with a dark red metasoma without hairbands.
There is a strong preoccipital carina in the male. The pronotum lacks a carina (except on the pronotal lobe) but extends across in front of, and at the level of, the scutum, so that the scutum does not bend down to the pronotum. The most remarkable features of the genus are the simple mandibles in the female and the pedunculate last antennal segment in the male, which has a slender base and a broad flattened apical region. They occur in widely separated areas, in Sudan and southern Africa.
The Bees of the World. Charles Duncan Michener

grasshopper grasshopper

Thanks to Peter Greeff, RV148 for the photos and to Rael Loon, RV38 for the identification of Toad Grasshopper (Batrachotetrix sp), which is in the Pamphagidae family. The family is characterized by “a distinct fastigial furrow, sword-shaped antennae and a poststernal spine.” (Scholtz & Holm 2008). They are often camouflaged and hold their antennae against the head when approached. This one looks like a nymph, although in some of the generae it seems that the males have large wings while the females are wingless.

black mamba melba finch
An active birdbath - with a Black Mamba drinking followed by a male and female Green-winged Pytilia.
Derek Solomon, RV254

puff adder nest
Juvenile Puff Adder
Chris Gregory, RV221
Stierling's Wren Warbler nest
Lovelle Henderson, RV213

mongoose monitor
A Dwarf Mongoose seeing off a large monitor - nipping his tail until he got the message! Lawrence Morgan, RV283

moth Thanks to Rael Loon, RV38 for the identification of this moth submitted, for the previous issue of The Raptor, by Jackie Preston, RV288

It is an Oriental Bee Hawk moth (Cephonodes hylas). Part of the Sphingidae family, the larvae probably feed on Gardenia and Vangueria on Raptor's View (as per Picker et al – Field Guide to Insects of South Africa).

A recent new find for the reptile list is a Distance Thread Snake, a non-descript thread snake which are probably common but overlooked. Rael Loom, RV38

bushbaby warthog
One of our resident bush baby family
Ernst & Dina Marais, RV265
Thirsty warthogs
Janine Scorer, RV299

mating tortoise
mating tortoise
Our resident tortoise and her new ardent admirer - Ly Morgan, RV283

Photo Gallery
Woodland Kingfisher
Woodland Kingfisher - Jof McLean, RV163

Tiger Snake
Tiger Snake - Thomas Muller, RV175

Nyala - Jof McLean, RV163

Fish Eagle
Fish Eagle - Jof McLean, RV163

Raptor's View Bird Count

In late November 2015 Southern Cross School organized a highly successful bird count that included the area around Osprey Dam. One team, led by Ant de Boer and Cameron Blair, added five new species (including Purple Heron pictured here) to the overall Raptor's bird checklist, all seen around Osprey Dam.

To tie in with Earth Day at the school, we are organizing a late summer count (Friday 22 April)
Purple Heron
that will cover the much of the estate including the school and we hope that as many residents as possible will join in on the fun. The count will run from 6am until 10am and experienced team leaders will be stationed at the start of the 3 walks to help everyone with identification: being the school grounds and Osprey Dam, the Aardvark Trail and the Lion and Buffalo Trail. You are free to join whichever walk you want (and if you can’t make the full 4 hours it is not a problem so come along anyway).

Alternatively, how about doing a 1 or 2-hour count around your property and submitting your records to the organisers shortly afterwards.

To help everyone with identification skills we are holding a “Birds of Raptor's View” evening at Southern Cross’s Resource Centre on Wednesday 20th April (many thanks to the school for giving us permission to use this great facility), and we hope to see both adults and children attending this informative evening followed by the bird count on the Friday. The function will kick off at 6pm and will last for approximately one hour and will be presented by Derek Solomon and Ian Shoebotham.

If you are keen to attend either or both events please email Derek Solomon on info@kuyimba.com to be added to the list for further information.