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!
The heat of summer is scorchingly upon us – along with the absence of much-needed rain. Bird baths require filling more than once a day and current restrictions prevent the garden from receiving the watering it needs to flourish, yet most plants are surviving. I have already shown the beautiful blossoms of the Cape Chestnut and the Pompon trees, so will look much lower.
Field Bindweed – so difficult to eradicate owing to their long underground runners – twists its way between the lavender bushes and climbs up the Spekboom. It has a beauty of its own.
The small clump of Gladiolus dalenii has increased over the years and is now providing beautiful colour outside the kitchen.
Numerous butterflies are flitting about – most are too high for me to photograph. Many of them are (I think) Acara Acraea.
All over the garden self-sown Crossberries are blooming.
As are scented pelargoniums.
Lastly, the Plumbago blossoms are looking particularly beautiful right now.
Why ‘green-banded’ when this visitor is obviously blue? According to my newly-acquired Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa by Steve Woodhall, the upper side bands can be either green or blue – that is useful to know. A number of these butterflies have been passing through our garden since May – most far too high up or too quick on the wing for me to photograph. That was until my eye was caught by this one while I was having tea with my cell phone at hand:
It obligingly stayed put when I had a closer look:
Whereupon it closed its wings:
Then opened them slightly before continuing its journey:
We have been in lock-down for ninety-five days already – despite having moved to Level Three (‘advanced’ Level Three nogal!) that allows more businesses to open, we still cannot visit family and friends nor can we cross provincial borders without a permit – and you require a very good reason to get one of those. National Parks are now open for day visitors, yet the above-mentioned restrictions make visiting the Kruger National Park out of the question. In the spirit of the photograph below, I will look back to share some of the delights of the Addo Elephant National Park which we hope to visit again before much longer.
Naturally, one goes to the Addo Elephant National Park to see elephants – they seldom disappoint. We have seen herds of over a hundred individuals congregating around the Hapoor waterhole; been surprised by single elephants right next to the road; and have enjoyed watching small groups – such as the one these two are part of – at the Domkrag waterhole. Here we are able to get out of our vehicle and look down at these magnificent animals as they go about their daily life.
You might be fortunate enough to come across a Secretary Bird striding through the grasslands. They occur singly and in pairs – it is always worth scanning the veld to see if you can spot another one.
Zebras grace the landscape in Addo – they might occur in small groups or in much larger ones that stretch across the side of a grassy slope. They are always a delight to observe.
I am always pleased to come across the large Mountain tortoises that lumber through the grass or patiently cross rocky areas. This one was taking advantage of a puddle in the road after rain.
Then there are the beautiful Cape Glossy Starlings that brighten the landscape.
By keeping an eye open for more than just animals, you get to enjoy some of the many butterflies too.
When you are a soft and squishy larva of a butterfly you need to send out a clear message to potential predators: DON’T EAT ME – rather find something else looking less fearsome and palatable! This message is loud and clear in these four examples: