Saturday, 17 September 2016

Vying with vultures at Oribi Flats

Our group was considerably boosted in numbers for the walk at Oribi Flats, as Benny Bytebier and three students from UKZN joined us as did Dineo Dibakwane and a colleague from the Millenium Seed Bank. We gathered for tea at the Neethling's farm and proceeded to a grassland patch, which we have been monitoring for some time. This patch was burned in May and this was a second visit post burn.

Initially we saw many of the usual suite of grassland flowers. However we were very lucky to find a small population of the vulnerable species Turraea pulchella and hopefully Dineo will be able to collect seed for the seed bank in due course.

Commelina africana
Heliophila rigidiuscula
Hibiscus pedunculatus
Turraea pulchella
Hilliardiella aristata
Indigofera pondoensis
Ledebouria ovatifolia
After completing our routine survey of this grassland, we then drove over to the vulture restaurant (Mike's Restaurant - Mike Neethling's pride and joy) and meandered along the cliff edges above the Umzimkulu River gorge, all the while being observed by lots of magnificant wheeling Cape Vultures. 

Gibraltar pinnacle serves as a fine backdrop to a soaring Cape Vulture

These cliff edges provide a good example of the rich biodiversity of the area and we were soon finding interesting examples. One of the more rewarding of these was Cadaba natalensis with its rather elongate flowers. Obetia tenax invites one to get closer to examine its small flowers but you do so at your peril as this tree-nettle packs a powerful punch.

Osyridicarpus schimperianus
Agelanthus kraussianus
Cadaba natalensis
Obetia tenax

Lycium acutifolium
Streptocarpus haygarthii
Eriospermum flagelliforme
Aspalathus abbottii - an endemic to these clifftop rock plates
Homalium rufescens
Crotalaria capensis
Wahlenbergia madagascariensis
Several of our visitors were impressed with the size of the tubers developed by some of the Petopentia natalensis. These creepers with their shiny leaves and yellow-green flowers were climbing over many of the shrubs and trees at the edge of the cliff.

Pondoland CREW with the UKZN team
Participants: Anne S, Benny B, Dineo D, Gail B-W, Graham G, Heidi N, Kate G, Nicky, Nkosana G, Sachin D, Tanya, Uschi T.

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