Saturday, 28 April 2018

Missing vultures at Western Heights

Having seen groups of Cape Vultures on recent visits to the Western Heights and other areas in the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve, we managed to persuade Andy Ruffle to accompany us to our trip to the Western Heights to give him the opportunity to examine the cliffs and determine if there was any nesting activity. On this occasion we had another sizeable group with us, including Mark and a new addition, Colin Taylor.

We set off in three vehicles with Andy in his two wheel drive vehicle being sandwiched between two all-wheel drive vehicles to pull him out of trouble if necessary. This proved not to be necessary as the roads were dry albeit "lumpy". We reached the Western Heights and drove to the edge of the cliffs to see whether any vultures were visible - Mr Murphy must have sneaked on board one of the vehicles as there was not a single vulture in sight and nor were there any signs of nesting activity. We left Andy there in the vain hope that the birds might appear given time but we were to see none at all during our walk. Andy soon abandoned his post in disgust.

We decided to walk from where we had left the vehicles and wandered as the whim took us. One of the first notable plants we came across was Syncolostemon ramulosus (Vulnerable). There were many slender shrubs of this species poking their lax spikes of pink flowers out above the grass. Another tall species waving everywhere in the breeze was Senecio discodregeanus. Low down amongst the grass we saw Wahlenbergia huttonii and the flowers on the Endangered endemic Helichrysum pannosum were just starting to open.  

Syncolostemon ramulosus

Syncolostemon ramulosus
Senecio discodregeanus

Wahlenbergia huttonii

Helichrysum pannosum

Walking further we reached a wetter area where we saw Pimpinella caffra and many yellow-flowered Moraea spathulata. On rock sheets we saw a few Ornithogalum juncifolium, a few clumps of Rhipsalis baccifera with some pink ripe fruits and we noted that the Caputia medley-woodii were starting to flower. Also on the rocks, the Crassula obovata var obovata continued to flower.

Pimpinella caffra

Moraea spathulata

Ornithogalum juncifolium

Rhipsalis baccifera

Caputia medley-woodii

Crassula obovata var obovata

In the wetland we found a few Habenaria woodii and several Disa polygonoides. While most of the Dissotis canescens had finished flowering, the fruit capsules looked interesting - almost poppy-like.

Scanning the wetland

Dissotis canescens fruit capsules
After having our lunch in the shade of some riverine forest, we returned to the vehicles and drove down to Iron Crown to look at the view. Here we found that the Erica cerinthoides were just starting to flower.

Erica cerinthoides

Participants: Anne S, Colin T, Elaine L, Gail B-W, Graham G, Kate G, Mark G, Phakamani M, Tracy T.

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