Monday, 26 December 2016

Why do wasps love my oregano?

So I googled ‘why do wasps like my oregano/oreganum flowers’ and found nothing. Only pages with advice on how to keep wasps away from gardens.

But what I’ve been observing this week is rather interesting: within half an hour I recorded at least ten species of wasp visiting my oregano bush, together with honey bees, solitary bees and what appear to be some flies imitating wasps. By contrast, the prolifically flower sage next to the oregano is attracting very little attention.

All the species of wasps were docile at the least: all these photos were taken with my macro lens. Also, Charlie got in there to point out some of the more interesting ones.

Fairly regularly the wasps are observed to ‘pee’, and from their behaviour, they love drinking oregano nectar.

Hover fly on sage

Fly or Wasp?

Little one only caught in flight

Mr Small Black

Solitary bee

Where's the wasp, Charlie?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A year in the life of a camera trap in the Fynbos

Last year, October 2015, members of Biosphere Expeditions stuck out a Bushnell camera trap on a fence line on a remote part of the Kouga Mountains, in land adjacent to Blue Hill Nature Reserve. Due to its remote location, it was not collected until October this year: it had spent an entire year deployed snapping away wildlife of the fynbos. While we were expecting the batteries to be flat after only a few months of recording, incredibly, the camera still had power to snap a shot of the person removing the camera.

The camera recorded 240 photos; including setting up and taking down the camera: several events either side. Over 70 photos were associated with a fire; which the camera survived; and it also survived being rearranged by a baboon. In the latter case, only just: one of the cable ties had been snapped during the encounter with the baboon, which clearly had made a long and dedicated effort to ripping it off its post.

As in many cases, many photos were blank, or unidentifiable; but otherwise apart from baboon the camera recorded klipspringer, red-tailed rock-rabbit, sengi, Cape rockjumper, striped polecat and a black-backed jackal; the last being the only species recorded in the 2 months post fire period.

Here are some of the highlights.

Setting up the camera
Red-tailed Rock Rabbit was quite common

The only antelope recorded was Klipspringer, here a female

Juvenile, female and male Cape Rockjumper were the only birds recorded

There was no clear reason the camera took a photo of this pretty sunset
The approaching juvenile delinquent

At least 20 photos of him fiddling with the camera

Giving up just in time

Striped Polecat was recorded surprisingly frequently: more so here than at any other Blue Hill NR location

Sengi, or Elephant Shrew

Male Cape Rockjumper

The approaching Fire

In the post fire months, only Black backed Jackal and Polecat were recorded.

... and the resident male Klipspringer

Taking the camera down after 1 year.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Birds of Senegal

So the trip to Senegal was all about the birds. I presented in the ringing symposium, organised by Dieter Oschadleus of SAFRING, who has summarised the event nicely here:

Here are some highlights of the trip; with photos from around Dakar, the Sahel to the north with Turaco Birding, and then a few days in the woodlands to the east, each with its own special avifauna.

Beautiful Sunbird

Black-headed heron

Purple Swamphen and a Black Crake admire their reflections

Black-headed Weaver

Black Tern (non-breeding)

Black Scrub Robin

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, juv

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Black-billed Wood Dove

Brown-throated Wattle-eye

Caspian Tern

Common Redshank 
Common Ringed Plover

Red-cheeked Cordonbleu

Crested Lark

Cut-throat Finch


African Finfoot

Woodchat Shrike

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Sudan Golden Sparrow

Grasshopper Warbler

Grey Heron and friends

African Grey Hornbill


Laughing Dove

Allen's (Lesser) Swamphen

Little Bee-eater

Little Egrets

Long-tailed Starling

Female Northern Wheatear


Great White Pelican

Python swallowing a roller, possibly juvenile Abyssinian 
Red-billed Firefinch

Red-billed Quelea

Red-throated Bee-eater

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Ruddy Turnstone


Something special about seeing Senegal Coucal in Senegal

Senegal Parrot

Senegal Thick-knee

Juvenile Short-toed Snake-eagle

Spur-winged Lapwing

Stone Curlew

Variable Sunbird

Vieillot's Barbet

Village Indigobird

Village Weaver, male

Village Weaver, female

Several Hooded Vulture, and a White-backed Vulture

Wattled Plover

White-breasted Cormorant

Western-banded Snake-eagle

Whiskered Tern

Western Red-billed Hornbill

Western Reef Heron

Yellow-billed Kite

Orange-breasted (Zebra) Waxbill

Black Kite

Hooded Vulture

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