The Rainbird Calls

Outramps CREW Diaries
Tuesday
27th November 2018

Waboomsberg
If you were looking for floral display on Waboomsberg on Friday, you were doomed to disappointment. There was very little in flower and the vegetation was showing evidence of the long and crippling drought. Our main targets were the Cyclopias and the Orchids usually seen flowering at this time of the year.

In order to cover a larger area, Nicky and Mike scoured the eastern slopes above the Pass. Sandra explored the peak opposite to the summit ridge and then Evie and Sandra went up to the summit. (See reports below) They all did a thereandback to the Pass.

Having developed severe cabin fever over the preceding weeks, I needed a strenuous outing to get my biorhythms in sync. So I opted for the circular that ends at Ou Tol and includes a circuit around the west-facing slopes, a long downhill to the north, before turning south to cross the nek and descend to the cottages at Ou Tol. I had my rewards.

There were 2 miserable specimens of Disa schidioides (Rare) on the western slopes. Also in a remnant of unburnt veld, both Cyclopia bolusii (Vulnerable) and burtonii (Vulnerable) were in flower, although they looked a bit dessicated and dry. I was pushed for time so didn't do a thorough exploration for new plants in the burnt patch. The rare Helichrysum saxicola and Felicia oleosa were present, but all the Berkheya francisci (Rare) plants were past flowering. We found a couple in full flower further down the Pass. At Ou Tol, I found some Otholobium swartbergense (Rare) in full flower.

I had a marvelous day out in my beloved Swartberg, despite the rather muted floral display.
Tanniedi

Waboomsberg Summit
Hat Evie reports
Having reached the saddle, and feeling hot, sticky and lazy it seemed the summit was not all that desirable on this hot November day in the Swartberg. A quick nap (HAT Tony style) with my head tucked in under the rocks for shade was required. Possibly the new little Erica nervata (back after a burn 3.5yrs ago) close to my nose must have eventually said- “the summit is waiting”. I scoured under this overhang to see whether any other Erica’s were lurking- not so. Sandra found the interesting hairy Erica’s - under other overhangs.

Getting towards the summit there were pretty clumps of Erica fimbriata filling the gaps between the rocks; clumps of Erica discolor seemed to be perched on the rocks above. It was an amazingly shiny and sticky variety. On the more westerly edge there were still a few flowers of Cyclopia bolusii (VU) in bright yellow. And even further west – smoke on the horizon.

Around the summit we saw Leucadendron dregei (EN ) with the cones older in orange/brown. They were very pink /red new season cones when I last visited in March 2018). Small spots of yellow Hippia pillosa appeared in level patches; Felicia oleosa (R) in flower; more Erica nervata with flowers almost over, while the numerous plants of Erica petraea were also covered in spent flower heads.

The sad plant though, was Protea montana(VU). Hardly recognizable – spreading around just like “ tufts of dry winter Highveld grass”. I guess these plants, commonly known as the “Snow Protea” are particularly ‘shattered” after an exceptionally dry Cape winter with little moisture in the form of either winter rainfall, snow, or air/cloud moisture swirling around the summit.

Evie

Ericas in the clouds
Elevation 1600-1910m above sea-level
Make no mistake. Nature junkies and plant addicts do exist. It probably beats the before, during and after of any however-long-flight to Dubai hands down. Admittedly it takes more effort to hike up the Swartberg from the top of the pass (1570m) to the nek below Waboomsberg (1890m)… than up the stairs into a jumbo jet.

Erica sightseeing up Waboomsberg reveals the altitudinal range, pollination strategies and position in the landscape of several species. Coming out tops as an individualistic all-rounder is robust Erica discolor ssp. discolor. It is seen at all altitudes, mostly as single plants, here and there, far apart, toes in the rocks and its back tightly to it, often facing west. Sturdy structure and tubular flowers are engineered for bird pollination?

Little Erica fimbriata occurs as small round bushes in social stands higher up on the eastern slope and on the neck (between the Waboomsberg peak and a lesser peak & ridge to the north). Prolific in flower, one wonders what the full role of the collective mass of white flowers is and whether light reflection plays any role in its life strategies.

Once on the neck, a very gently east facing slope, Erica glandulipila (Rare) is scattered all over, but certainly not cosying up to one another. They are small upright plants with grey-green leaves absolutely covered in glandular hairs. Brush past it - and it puffs clouds of pollen. In Erica-land the size of the stigma would qualify as a satellite dish! Clearly master manipulators of their environment, they are just perfectly positioned to catch all the prevailing winds for wind-pollination of the dusky pink flowers. So clever!

‘See me, see me’! We explore the neck and ridge to the north and always visit Protea venusta (EN), sprawled like leopards over the rocks. Now, two bushes of Erica nervata grow right in the middle of the one of the basking leopards. Flowering is a bit over, but it is duly greeted. Ja, ja Nervata – hi, cool to see you again! Another rock hugger, Erica petraea, is not in flower and is but a demure onlooker to this blatant attention seeking.

For spectacular northerly views - first a quick hi to Protea montana (VU) and Leucadendron dregei (EN) before some rock scrambling onto the ridge. Here in a sheltered rock passage one finds two more Erica species. It looks as if the rocks tore apart and their debris fell into a little crevasse. Tread carefully to meet these plants, there are gaping holes between the wedged rock fragments! Meet the ‘Erica in the clouds’!

Erica nubigena is floriferous, its shiny pink flowers in tiny flasks of threes on long stalks (nubigenus = born of clouds, Lat.). The flowers are incredibly sticky and stick to one another and whatever else they touch. Again, I wonder why. Would they be as sticky once they had set seed, to aid dispersal? I have to admit that I am very in love with this Erica (too)! Faithful to the genus, but not so on species level ;-). Oh, over there! A lone Cliffortia on the ridge, maybe C. montana (Rare)?

Just over the neck, facing west, are some neat compact bushes of Erica humifusa. There are just a couple of plants, in a relatively small patch. They are set apart from one another, it looks somewhat formal. Just beginning to flower, the branch tips curve and dip the flowers into a nod. Everything about it, the leaf arrangement and flowers is neat and tidy. Sort of Japanese, I think. My heart is still with the ‘Erica in the clouds’ on the ridge and I am not, yet, wondering about this wax-like Japanese cutie and exactly how it makes its surroundings bow to its survival.

On the way down we see only one Erica imbricata in flower. Evie sees Erica anguliger and shows me that, whilst setting seed, the plants can be recognised by the tiny white spots seen all over. Thank you Evie ;-).

A heady haul of only some of the high altitude Ericas! Off, home, fueled by plant excitement which lasts quite a while; but it is time to admit: “I am So-and-So and I am a Nature junkie and a plant addict. And, yipiiieee, there is no cure for that!!!!”

Sandra (probably mostly in the clouds! ;-)

Visit to Stillbay area
The day was sunny with only a cloud or two in the sky and LOT knew it would be hot. This weather however is super for getting the best out of flowering species.

What we were looking for was Tritonia squalida (NT) which I had found the previous year in full flower along the Riethuiskraal road a bit earlier in the year, but as I always say “There is always a naughty one”, which turned out to be true.

We decided to visit the Pauline Bohnen Nature Reserve first, as we wanted to check on the “progress” with the widening of the airfield there. We found numerous plants of Tritonia squalida (NT), just at the end of their flowering season. A worrisome thing was that very few had set seed. Also there we found Muraltia depressa (LC). Just past flowering were Agathosma geniculata (NT), Acmadenia obtusata (LC), Oedera uniflora (LC), Diosma echinulata (LC) and Dianthus thunbergii forma maritimus (not evaluated). A dwarf-shrub Psoralea was also found with only one bloom. A Selago flowering in abundance needs further identification.

We had lunch looking out over the estuary and a huge flock of (what we thought were) sunbathing terns. We then proceeded along the river towards Riethuiskraal. Here we found the population of Tritonia squalida (NT) severely bulldozed as a result of wall-building. They had finished flowering completely and had become dormant but very few had set any seed at all, possibly due to low rainfall this season. There were populations of Crassula ciliata (LC) also in threatened spots ready for the bulldozer to claim. We were on the lookout for Relhania garnottii (VU) but alas it eluded Rusell’s hawk eyes. We did get a Delosperma sp. on the way back to the N2, which will need a bit of teasing to end up with a species name.

By the time we had collected our data it was too late to visit the Gin-tasting joints on the way home. Every journey requires a reason for a return...next time.

Priscilla

The Black of Blacks
Hat Evie reports
Normally my reports are all about colour- not this one. On Sunday 18th Nov HAT Tony and I decided it was time to investigate the Outeniquas on our doorstep. What are they like after the fires of late Oct -almost 3 weeks ago? The landscape is certainly black and ashen grey as we walked up along a track towards Paddakop, which forms part of the ridgeline to Melville Peak.

This track passes up to higher ground - through the old plantation area of Groenkop. Trees ( both Pines and Fynbos) are mostly still standing, but pitch black from burning. Many of the old ringbarked Pines are also still standing. They have already stood as ringbarked trees for many years! Some trees (Pines, Leucadendron sp. and Berzerlia intermedia) have only brown badly singed leaf cover. Higher up we noted green “Bulls eye” patches of indigenous bush in the steep gullys surrounded by a perimeter of brown burn.

Looking back, it is very gratifying (especially as a local resident) to note that the thickly treed indigenous forests of both Groenweide and Groenkop form a natural fireproof boundary. This forest only burnt in a narrow band along the entire perimeter from East to West. I guess this is the drier band of pioneer trees along the edge, such as Keurboom sp; as well as the tall Erica and Phylica trees.

Great to notice that nature is as ready and alert as ever. Short tails of green are appearing on the Sedges, Restios, and shoots from bulbs, which are probably Watsonia. In a small old quarry area, we saw a lonely Erica discolor; a few Lobelia tomentosa and 2 Metalasia bushes.

It just goes to show – if you really want to avoid a home fire, maybe surrounding your house with enough gravel or concrete would work??

Evie

Waist-Deep in the Mudgat
I have been walking the Dune Molerat Trail since 1970 on an average of 4x a year. I have therefore seen a lot of it, but I have never seen the river or the track on the eastern side so high. The river was in full spate, the track was knee-deep in water, but it was the mudgat about 200m from the second boardwalk that produced the most adventure.

En route to Dune Molerat with WAGS, there was a rockfall on the Seven Passes Rd just west of the Silver River, which was in flood for the first time in ages. Not surprising! We'd had 90mm at Strawberry Hill overnight. Despite the odd spit and a spot from the heavily clouded sky, the rain was on its way out. Having made an early start before the rest, wet vegetation overhanging the path made for damp going and the sight of a full mudgat was not totally unexpected.

Boots and all, with camera bag lifted high,I gingerly prodded my way through the muddy water with the crutches, trying to assess the depth. There were anxious moments, when the water reached my waist, but that was the worst of it. Drenched and muddy, I went on my way. There was lots more wading to do and when I reached the beautiful new jetty on the western banks of Swarvlei, I again waded in up to my waist to get rid of the mud acquired at the mudgat. Any chance observers watching an old white-haired crone on crutches heading into Swartvlei fully clothed, would have suspected dementia and they may just have been right.

The only plant worth mentioning was Lebeckia gracilis (Endangered) on the western side of the Reserve. I have not seen it there before.The wild rambling rose on the site of an old cottage was covered in raindrops and was a delight to the eye. Orange poppies (Papaver aculeatum) were bright spots of colour in the landscape. During the whole walk along the wetland on the northern side, the haunting call of Burchell's Coucal (Centropus burchellii) was in the background. "You're on the late side bird - the rain is over for the moment".

SANPARKS, the long boardwalk to the east of the mudgat needs urgent repairs. One section has collapsed entirely and was under water. Also a boardwalk over the mudgat has now become almost a necessity and the path needs clearing. Over the coming months, there is going to be lots of hiking pressure on Dune Molerat, as the burnt mountains are rather unappealing to the general public, although we will have to do lots of post-burn monitoring. And Cape Nature, the hiking trails at Goukamma also need to be opened to fill the gap left by the most recent burn. It's now over 2 years since Goukamma was closed?
Tanniedi

The photo above was taken by Hans Delport of WAGS and shows the first of the hikers at the entry to the mudgat - ed

Sundowners with the Kingfishers
Taking advantage of a warm late afternoon and an absentee neighbour, we repaired to the large river pool on his property, taking along a bottle of bubbles for good measure. To entertain us while we quaffed was a family of five Half-collared Kingfishers - parents feeding 3 sturdy youngsters, (frankly, they looked old enough to feed themselves) and the phrase "failure to launch" did pop into my head.

After each feeding the birds would sit and bob on the branch, looking for all the world as if they had an attack of collective hiccups.

Sally and Pam

Snippets
Climate scientists have long pointed to Africa, as one of the places in the world that is most vulnerable to global warming impacts, especially drought. And if there's one thing that even climate denialists don't dispute, dry things burn. (with apologies to Jeff Goodell. I substituted Africa for California).

The vagaries of my computer meant that I missed this note last week. On the basis of "Better Late than Never", here it is. A WHOOP WHOOP to Nicky. It is her groundwork to record local data over time, which made the Brenton ‘VERGE Art for Species’ walkie-talkie a success. Thank you Nicky! Fun and a pleasure to do this together!

Sandra

Forthcoming Field Trips
We have permission from Heine Muller to explore the north-western corner of Spioenkop on Friday. It won't be a very long day, as he has asked us to be out just before 3 when they close the area. With this field trip, we have covered most of the plantation sites that were burnt in the Knysna fires in June 2017. Unfortunately we missed the crucial Orchid period, because of the George Fires and the heatwave that caused them. Next year?
Hamba Kahle
Groete en dankie

Di Turner
Outramps CREW Group
Southern Cape

All id’s subject to confirmation by Doc Annelise and Jan Vlok, Steven Molteno, Dr Tony Rebelo, Nick Helme, Prof Charlie Stirton, Dr Robert Archer, Dr Robert McKenzie, Dr Ted Oliver, Dr Christopher Whitehouse, Adriaan Grobler, Prix Burgoyne, Dr Kenneth Oberlander, Dr Pieter Winter, Dr David Gwynne-Evans and Mattmatt on iNat. Thank you all for your ongoing help and support.

Outramps Places on iNaturalist – You can browse through the observations or refer to the checklist which is in alphabetical order eg. Animals, birds etc.
Cola Conservancy - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/cola-conservancy
Dune Molerat Trail - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/dune-molerat-trails
Featherbed Nature Reserve - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/featherbed-nature-reserve
Gouriqua - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/gouriqua-private-nature-reserve
Gouritzmond - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/the-gouritsmond-commonage
Heaven in the Langkloof - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/heaven-in-the-langkloof
Herolds Bay - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-herolds-bay
Kammanassie - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-kammanassie-reserve
Klein Swartberg - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/klein-swartberg
Knysna - Westford Bridge https://www.inaturalist.org/places/westford-bridge-estate-knysna
Kouga Mountains Kliphuis - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-kouga-mountains
Kranshoek - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-kranshoek-
Langeberg Grootvadersbosch - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/grootvadersbosch-nature-reserve
Masons Rust - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/masons-rust-32-ptn-4-gezwinds-kraal-41-ptn-0
Mons Ruber and surrounds - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/mons-ruber-and-surrounds
Mossel Bay Aalwyndal - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/aalwyndal
Mossel Bay Diosma Reserve - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/diosma-reserve
Mossel Bay - :https://www.inaturalist.org/places/hartenbos-heuwels

Mossel Bay - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/erf-14072
Mossel Bay - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/erf-19201
Mossel Bay St Blaize Trail - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/st-blaize-trail
Natures Valley - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/nature-s-valley-south-cape-south-africa#page=2
Outeniquas Bobbejaanberg - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-bobbejanberg-in-the-outeniquas
Outeniquas Camferskloof - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-camferskloof
Outeniquas Doringrivier East - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-doringrivier-east-in-the-outeniquas
Outeniquas East - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-eastern-outeniquas-from-bergplaas-to-gouna
Outeniquas Eseljagt - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/ezeljagt-eseljagt-and-surrounds
Outeniquas Eseljagtpoort - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/ezeljagts-poort-72-ptn-0-eseljagt-poort
Outeniquas Flanagans Rock - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/flanagans-rock-rsa
Outeniquas Lange Berg - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/lange-berg-112
Outeniquas Paardekop - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/paardekop-13
Outeniquas Paardepoort East - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-paardepoort-east
Outeniquas Paardepoort West - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-paardepoort-west
Outeniquas Southern Traverse - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-outeniqua-southern-traverse
Robberg Corridor - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/robberg-coastal-corridor-krans-hoek-432-ptn-5
Robberg Corridor - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/robberg-coastal-corridor-e8267c6b-9263-4a87-a721-a24619be6dc8
Rooiberg - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-rooiberg-reserve
Spioenkop - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/ruigtevlei-plantations
Strawberry Hill - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/strawberry-hill-7-passes-road-wilderness-south-africa
Swartberg Spitskop - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/outramps-crew-spitskop-to-meiringspoort-swartberg
Swartberg Waboomsberg - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/waboomsberg-in-the-swartberg
Uitzicht Portion 39 - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/uitzigt-216-portion-39
Uitzicht - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/uitzigt-216-ptn-65
Western Head - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/walker-s-point-215-portion-1-buffalo-bay
Western Head – https://www.inaturalist.org/places/walker-s-point-215-portion-2-buffalo-bay
Western Head - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/walker-s-point-215-portion-3-buffalo-bay
Western Head - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/western-head-knysna
White Heather - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/white-heather
Wilderness Brown Hooded Kingfisher Trail – https://www.inaturalist.org/places/brown-hooded-kingfisher-trail
Wilderness Kingfisher Trail - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/kingfisher-trails
Witteberg Kromme Rivier - https://www.inaturalist.org/places/kromme-rivier-72-ptn-0-willowmore

Outramps Projects on iNaturalist
Lianes and Creepers in the Southern Cape and Little Karoo - https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/lianes-and-creepers-of-the-southern-cape-and-little-karoo

Veg Types of South Africa - https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/vegetation-types-of-south-africa

Abbreviations Glossary

MCSA – Mountain Club of South Africa
MSB - Millenium Seed Bank based at Kew in the UK
WIP – Work in Progress
HAT – High Altitude Team
LOT – Lowland Team
SIM – Somewhere in the Middle Team
WAGS – Wednesday Adventure Group
VB – Vlok Boekie “Plants of the Klein Karoo” and our Plant Bible
ITRTOL – Another thread “In The Rich Tapestry Of Life”(It describes a challenging situation, usually to do with the Buchu Bus)
ITFOT – In the fullness of time
WOESS – Fair Weather Hiker
FMC and JW – too vulgar to translate, but the equivalent is “Strike me Dead” - An expression of surprise and delight on finding a new “Rare”
Kambro – same as above
Fossick – A meter per minute, scratching around looking for rares
SIDB – Skrop in die Bos – Another name for a field trip, this one coined by Prix
BAFFING – Running round like a blue-arsed fly
SYT – Sweet Young Thing - Anyone under the age of 40
TOMB – Get a move on
Mayhem - Needless or willful damage or violence
SESKRYNG – “Sit en staan kry niks gedaan” ,with thanks to Brian
SOS – Skelms on Scramblers
FW – Idiot
BOB – Another name for the Buchu Bus when she’s misbehaving.
CRAFT – A symptom of Old Age
DDD - Metalasia tricolor (Damned Diabolical Daisy)
VP – Vrekplek – Retirement Village
Qàq – Self-explanatory Inuit word describing some of our local problems
Mr Fab – Our Fabaceae specialist, Brian Du Preez – originally Boy 1
Muisvoel -The Mathematician – Peter Thompson
Boy 2 – Kyle Underwood who works on Orchids and is still at school
Sharkie – Finn Rautenbach – Our latest SYT is a surfer in his spare time and is now the Curator of the Garden Route Botanical Garden
Sicko – Someone who suffers from Car Sickness. With 4 in the Group, allocating seating in the Buchu Bus is tricky
VAG – Virgin Active Garage, which is our meeting place when we head north
MATMUE – Meet At The Mall Under E - Meeting place when we head West
WG – Waves Garage in Wilderness East. - Meeting place when we’re going east.
VU- Vulnerable
DDT – Data Deficient and Taxonomically ?
NT – Near Threatened
EN – Endangered
CR – Critically Endangered
PE – Presumed extinct
LC – Least Concern
TBC – To be Confirmed
TLC – Tender loving care
JMS – An expression of absolute disdain
FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
Milk – the fruit of the vine
Condensed Milk – Scotland’s finest export
Full Cream Milk or Fat Milk – Any product of Humulus lupulus eg. Milk Stout
Milk of the Gods – Rooibos and Brandy
Milk Shake - Sparkling Wine
NS – Species of conservation concern new to the Outramps
PS -Priority Species allocated to the Outramps by our CREW Cape Co-ordinator , Ismail Ebrahim
iNatFD – iNaturalist for Dummies as compiled by Sally
Mizzle – Mist and drizzle combined. A regular feature of George in the ”good old days”.
FE – Fire Ephemeral – only appears immediately or after a couple of years after fire
Squirrel – aka President Ramaphosa
WOG – Wrath of God – eg. incurred when you put a young Pine tree on iNat as Leucadendron album
Skedonk - A banger - old, battered motor car more than 30 years old
Hoedown - redneck gathering, usually involves shouting catchy phrases like "yee-haw" and "the south will rise again"
VHF - Vat Hom Fluffie - our nickname for furry or woolly plants
OTL - Out To Lunch is used to describe the Buchu Bus when she's taking a break after she's behaved badly

Posted by outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi, November 26, 2018 13:09

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