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A day in the mountains with rare Southern African Butterflies

I have had a very long relationship with Chrysoritis oreas, a lovely little copper butterfly found tin top of Bulwer Mountain in the Southern Natal Drakensberg.  Discovered by Pennington on the Loteni area in the early 1900’s not much was known about this insect until the mid 1980s when Wolter Kaspers and Clive Quickleberge were on Bulwer Mountain and Wolter netted a rather worn copper.  This turned out to be C oreas at a new locality.  Since then many people have ventured up this beautiful, steep mountain.  My first trip up was in October 1993, the day that I met my wife (on the way back to Durban I stopped at Monteseel and met her!).  I climbed the mountain in October 1996 with Alan Heath and Tony Brinkman.  It was on this trip that Alan discovered the ant and food plant used by the butterfly, got it to lay and bred it through for the first time.  Later, in 2005 I climbed the hill with Steve Woodhall and we had a wonderful day photographing the butterfly.

My friend, Clive Curtis, is currently completing a DVD on Butterflies and requires more footage of rarities.  Last November we got great footage and photographs of the equally rare Chrysoritis orientalis at Bushmans Neck and since then we made plans to climb Bulwer.  The window period to see this insect is narrow, early October is the best and we were fortunate to find a weekend immediately after his return from safari in the Kalahari and before his son, Connor, was born.

We left not feeling too confident, the weather was not good, there was a lot of cloud and a very strong wind, however we decided to have a crack.  Luckily the closer we got to Bulwer the clouds began to clear and it looked like the colony might well be sheltered from the wind.

The drive up the hill was as rough as I remembered it.  We got to where the paragliders launch and then walked.  As we got out of the truck this is what greeted us…..14516447_10209423686862119_8526991535135094695_n

I find it easier walking with people who do not spend 14 hours a day tracking elephant and lion in the Kalahari sands and so I spent a lot of time “admiring” the various Moraea and other wild flowers on the way up.  On getting to the false summit I pointed out the colony to Clive, that being the little rock area in the centre of the photograph…..14641926_10209423935148326_1162358604111145167_n

We walked down to the lower part of the colony and immediately started seeing the little insects flying around.  Mostly confined to the lower rocky area they were fairly common.  Last time I was up with Steve we really battled to find specimens however this time they were not plentiful but they were there. Here are some images….. the first, the underside of a loverly fresh male…._V4A1195.jpg

Then the upperside of a male feeding….

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Then a female feeding…..

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And another female just chilling….

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And yet another…

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Higher up the slopes we came across Chrysorotis lycegenes, another beautiful opal….._v4a1237

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and Aloeides oreas…._v4a1229

and finally, a few candid shots of what we do……14492572_10209423935508335_6519075386448159188_n_v4a1242

we walked off the mountain very satisfied.  I had more photographs,Clive had photographs and video and I learned that a Canon 100 f2.8 lens requires stabilisation when shooting video!! Another great trip, thanks Clive and congratulations to you, Tarryn and Hannah on the arrival of Connor.

The Tugela Valley and its Ansellias.

A while back I posted a blog on the Leopard Orchid (Ansellia africana), an indigenous epiphytic orchid found in our area.  Nine months ago we found a large colony of about fifty huge plants averaging a meter in diameter. The site was a valley of a tributary of the Tugela River, approximately 40km inland.  I have wanted to get back to photo the plants when in flower. Last week we went through and visited the plants in the late afternoon.  Here are a few images

Close up of A africana flowers.  These are typical of the Southern types with smaller yellow faintly marked flowers  
Another close up of the flowers 

 
A medium sized plant in flower

 
Six plants high up in the tree, further up the valley we found some huge plants.

 

Another orchid post

This is a wonderful time of the year with Spring here in the Southern half of the planet and so a few more orchids…..

The first, an epiphyte from Northern India, Coelogyne flaccida. This plant has beautiful cascading flowers in early Spring and is great in baskets.  
The next is a Cymbidium species. I have to say that I am not a fan of growing Cymbidium hybrids and prefer the species as they have their own shape and aroma.  This is a beauty, Cymbidium eburneum

  
And finally a Dendrobium hybrid, D Sakura, a very easy growing and flowering plant.

  

A trip is planned into the bush.

A few months ago a posted a blog about the African Leopard Orchid, Ansellia africana, a lovely epiphyte. Here in KZN we see the smaller, yellow flowers, unlike the larger red wine spotted cousins in East Africa. Anyway, this Tuesday (weather permitting) we head to the Tugela Valley to work and hopefully photograph this beast in flower, the largest Ansellia I have seen, over 1.8 m in diameter…..hold thumbs 

 

A few more orchids…

a few more beauties flowering in my garden. The first is Birfranaria harrisonae, a lovely flower. I received this plant three years ago and it was a stubborn flowerer, finally this year it has come through with a number of lively flowers. 
Second we have one of my recent purchases (from the National Orchid Show held here in PMB). This is Pragmapedium Memoria Dick Clements, a hybrid (P besseae x P sargentianum). As far as the red hybrids go this is one of the best with an almost metallic look to it.

 And finally we have the pristine white Coelegyne cristata, an epiphyte from the Himalayah region of Northern India.  A large, lovely flower.  

Orchids, orchids and more orchids

Well, winter is over and we have Spring upon us. With Spring comes loads of flowers.  Before we visit the garden I will show you all some beautiful orchids flowering in my home at the moment.

The first is the lolly Oncidium Sharry Baby, a great plant, easy to flower and it smells of chocolate. The flowers last ages so this is a great plant for the home.

  
The next plant is Angraecum sesquipedale, Darwins orchid named as such as he predicted that an unknown moth. With a very long tongue would pollinate it. 40 years later Xanthopan morganii praedictum was discovered and named….

  

Next we have a hybrid of Cymbidium traceyanum. I got this as my wife’s name is Tracey and, like her, it is lovely…..enjoy

  

The Cape trip….Part 2….some birds

During our recent road trip to the Cape we chanced upon some lovely plants and birds. The images below were taken in Cape Town, Betty’S Bay and Knysna. Enjoy…. 

The first three images,  Black Oystercatcher, Betty’s Bay

    
  The next two, Little Egret, Leisure Isle, Knysna

  
And finally, an African Penguin, a Boulders a Beach, Cape Town

   
More birds, butterflies and fun stuff tomorrow😀