CAPE AUTUMN WIDOW III

It is that time of the year again when the season has changed. The sun rises later and sets noticeably earlier; there is a chill in the evening air and a crisp edge to the days. Autumn has arrived and so have the Cape Autumn Widow (Dira clytus) butterflies. This year they seem to be more abundant than ever: I counted over fifty of them congregated just above the lawn in our back garden this morning.

Despite their numbers, I assure you they are quite difficult to photograph as they’re never still for long. They flutter here, there, and everywhere. I have encountered them on our back lawn every morning from early on until about mid-morning, when they seemingly disappear. Fewer of them appear on our front lawn and I suspect this is because I have deliberately allowed a variety of wild grasses to grow round the back. After all, if I cannot grow vegetables during this drought, why not let the natural grasses take over and cover the ground at least.

The Cape Autumn Widows are dark brown with numerous eye-spots on their wings which are thought to confer some protection against predatory birds – although I watched a Fork-tailed Drongo feasting on them the other morning!

I mostly see these butterflies almost floating on the air, flying low over the grass. I understand the females do this to scatter their eggs, which are then attached to the grass stems. I certainly hope most of them have chosen the wild grasses, for our lawn will need to be mowed once more at least before the winter sets in!

TWO AUTUMN LEAVES

Most of the trees in my garden are evergreen. The curled up, stressed looking leaves of the Dais cotinifolia are beginning to turn yellow and will be shed over the next few weeks. The Natal fig is also stressed through lack of water and is shedding leaves, although it is never bare. The Erythrinas are rapidly losing their leaves, which turn yellow and then brown very quickly before carpeting the ground nearby. We tend not to get the showy autumn colours so prevalent in photographs taken in the northern hemisphere. The closest I can come to that is the Virginia creeper:

In sharp contrast to that is the sun shining through these leaves close by:

This is autumn in my garden.