|2013-05-05 ||Doug Harebottle |
|SABAP2 workshop: Intaka Island, Century City – ths Saturday 11 May, 09h00 – 15h30 |
Together with Intaka Island Eco-Centre, the ADU will be hosting a bird atlasing workshop at this popular Cape Town birding venue on Saturday 11 May. So if you would like to learn more about atlasing, SABAP2 and citizen science, or just brush up on some of your atlasing skills please register for the workshop by confirming your attendance with Dirk Lombard at email@example.com before Wednesday 8 May.
There is no charge for the workshop and space is limited so book your place as early as possible. Please note that lunch will be for your own account and we recommend bringing a light picnic lunch which can be enjoyed at some of the picnic areas within the reserve many of which overlook the constructed wetlands in the reserve as can be seen in the image on the left.
There will be opportunities to do some birding and/or photography so bring your binos and cameras.
Here is the breakdown of the programme for the day:
- 08:30 - 09:00 Arrival (Coffee/tea will be available)
- 09:00 - 10:30 Introduction and atlas protocols
- 10:30 - 11:00 Tea/coffee break (mugs will be provided but you are welcome to use your own)
- 11:00 - 12:30 Capturing and submitting data, ORFs and website demonstration
- 12:30 - 13:30 Lunch break
- 13:30 - 15:30 Discussion time/Loading software
What to bring?
- Your laptop/tablet (to load software)
- Binoculars, birdbooks, camera etc.
We look forward to meeting a whole bunch of new people and perhaps seeing a few old faces too!. Any enquiries can be directed to Doug Harebottle
|2013-05-02 ||Les Underhill |
|April, the best month ever for the ADU Virtual Museums |
The Virtual Museums of the ADU are helping to construct the 21st century distributions for thousands of species. They had a record month in April. A total of 2758 submissions was made in the month.
The photograph of a snake was the last record that was formally accepted into the Virtual Museum during April. It was taken by Vaughan Jessnitz in Limpopo and it is Record 8350 in the ReptileMAP Virtual Museum. April was also the best month for reptile uploads to the Virtual Museum since the new system was implemented in June 2010. The reptiles in fact provided the impetus to start the initial Virtual Museum, and the first records were submitted on 10 May 2005, eight years ago. In the first years, submissions were made by attaching photos to emails. By 2010, "broadband" had become commonplace, and the mode of submission was transformed to the internet upload system we are using now.
The ReptileMAP Virtual Museum now totals 134909 records. Besides the photographic record, the database contains the specimen record data that goes back to 1834. So we are building onto the database that contains all the museum records. The advantage that this gives ReptileMAP is the abiliy to plot maps through time, and to examine range changes.
Please keep your submissions coming in to all the Virtual Museums. It does not matter if your collective upload power exceeds that of the identification panels for the various project – the important thing is the information is uploaded into the Virtual Museum, and is therefore curated and available. In contrast, the large numbers of photos that are uploaded into the social media such as Facebook are lots of fun, but they are ephemeral, and fade into oblivion within a relatively short space of time.
Uploading to the Virtual Museum is a bit more time consuming than uploading a photo to Facebook, but that is only to be expected. The spatial information is critically important to the Virtual Museum projects, otherwise the distribution maps cannot be made. Put your biodiversity photos to the ADU Virtual Museums, and make your photography count for conservation.
|2013-04-24 ||Dieter Oschadleus |
|Weaver Wednesday: Golden Palm Weaver |
The Golden Palm Weaver Ploceus bojeri is a common weaver of the coastal palms in East Africa. The black eye is in striking contrast to the orange (male) or yellow (female) head. The adult male has the head uniform orange, shading to a chestnut patch on the lower throat - in the similar male Eastern Golden Weaver P. subaureus the orange face pales onto the ear-coverts and sides of the neck. The Golden Palm Weaver shows no seasonal change in plumage. The subadult male has a yellow head with developing orange on the nape and lower throat - the similar Taveta Golden Weaver P. castaneiceps differs in having a well-defined occipital crescent and rufous upper breast, and their ranges do not overlap. The female Golden Palm Weaver is entirely yellow below (theÂfemale Eastern Golden has a white belly) and the back is indistinctly streaked (heavily streaked in Taveta Golden Weaver).
No subspecies of the Golden Palm Weaver are recognised (see map right, based on Birds of Africa). There are few records from Ethiopia, near the border with Somalia. In Somalia, it occurs on the Jubba and Shabeele Rivers and in Boni Forest. In Kenya it is found on the coast and inland along the Tana River, with a separate localized inland population. Records from Tanzania are now considered misidentifications and the species has been deleted from the Tanzanian list.
The Golden Palm Weaver inhabits palm savanna on the coast, as well as riverine habitats and it extends into savanna in areas below 1200 m and with more than 500 mm annual rainfall inland. Food consists of seeds and insects. It is gregarious and roosts in flocks when not breeding.
The Golden Palm Weaver is colonial, and suspected to be polygynous. It may occur in mixed colonies with Eastern Golden Weavers or with Village Weavers P. cucullatus. The male displays while hanging below the nest entrance, with his wings spread vertically, but wings usually move very little; the head may be bowed slowly.
The nest is spherical with no entrance tube. The male weaves the outer shell of long grass strips or strips from palm fronds and builds a complete inner shell of short grass strips. The female lines accepted nests with leaf fragments and fine grass heads. Nests are usually suspended under palm fronds or over water in thorn trees.
Clutch size is 2. The eggs are green, mottled with grey or reddish markings; sometimes eggs are white, overlaid with fawn. The introduced House Crow Corvus splendens raids colonies for eggs, young and adults in Mombasa.
The Golden Palm Weaver has 4 PHOWN records from Kenya and two of these colonies low nest counts - 1 and 10 nests. Many more PHOWN records are needed for this species (see PHOWN summary), especially to determine range in colony size. Submit any weaver nest records to PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) via the Virtual Museum upload site.
PHOWN summary Previous Wedn: Speke's Weaver Full weaver species list
|2013-04-17 ||Dieter Oschadleus |
|Gravit8 Weaver Wednesday : Speke's Weaver |
The Speke's Weaver Ploceus spekei is a large weaver with a long, heavy bill and pale eye in both sexes. The breeding male (see above) has the black mask extending to the upper breast where it is fringed with chestnut. The similar male Village Weaver P. cucullatus has a red eye. The similar male Heuglin's Weaver P. heuglini is smaller and does not overlap in range. The female Speke's Weaver is dull coloured and lacks the prominent yellow supercilium and bright yellow breast of the female Village Weaver.
No subspecies of the Speke's Weaver are recognised (see map right, based on Birds of Africa). Speke's Weaver is common in East Africa, occurring in western Ethiopia, north and east Somalia, south-west and central Kenya to north central Tanzania.
Speke's Weaver inhabits bushed country and woodland with available water - nesting colonies may be abandoned if local water supplies run out. It is common in urban and suburban areas in Kenya. It feeds on seeds including those of crops such as maize, and is regarded as a crop pest in some areas. It also feeds on insects, including alate termites, especially when feeding its young. It is generally found in small flocks.
The Speke's Weaver is polygynous and colonial, but sometimes nests singly. It may breed in large mixed colonies with Lesser Masked Weavers P. intermedius or Chestnut Weavers P. rubiginosus. Of 40 colonies in Nairobi, 60% were near a busy road or occupied building, and 65% were sited in acacia trees (40% were in fever trees Acacia xanthophloea). Some nests have been built in Eucalyptus trees. Usually the entire colony is in a single tree, with 22-205 nests. More than half of the permanent colonies are active twice a year (breeding periods (Mar-May and Oct-Dec). Males arrive at the colony first to start nest construction.
The nest is a bulky, oval structure, with the entire upper surface attached to the underside of a twig. The entrance is narrow, with a short spout. The nest is roughly woven of grasses, including grass stems, stems with leaves and grass heads attached. There is an interior ceiling of grass heads and some acacia leaves. The chamber floor is lined with different grass heads. Unused or incomplete nests are torn down, to litter the ground below the nesting tree. The male builds a nest in 8-10 days, and a female adds lining once she has accepted a nest and male. One male may have 4-14 nests within a colony.
Breeding success is reduced in nests with fly larvae Passeromyia heterochaeta, and some nests suffer from mites and fleas. Some colonies experience mass desertion, as shown by many dead chicks in colonies. Predators include Augur Buzzard Buteo augur, Yellow-billed Kite Milvus migrans and Gabar Goshawk Melierax gabar.
The Speke's Weaver has 5 PHOWN records from 3 countries and many more PHOWN records are needed for this species (see PHOWN summary). Newly-built nests, active or old nests may be used for breeding or roosting by a variety of species including Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau Uraeginthus bengalus, Northern Grey-headed Sparrows Passer diffusus, Cut-throat Finches Amadina fasciala, or Superb Starlings Spreo superbus, so keep a look out for such ecological records. Submit any weaver nest records to PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) via the Virtual Museum upload site.
PHOWN summary Previous Wedn: Speckle-fronted Weaver Full weaver species list
|2013-04-17 ||Richard Sherley |
|Colour Rings on Swift Terns |
A team from the University of Cape Town studying the Southern African population of Swift Terns Thalasseus bergii has recently put engraved color-rings and metal rings on ca. 300 chicks at Robben Island (location in the image below, left) in order to better understand changes in the population numbers of this species. With your help, we will be able to estimate survival, dispersal and movement patterns in this species. Any reports from inside and outside South Africa of color-ringed Swift Terns (dead or alive) are crucial to this program and to the conservation of seabirds.
If you see a tern with a ring and are willing to help, please report the sighting to our team at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In your report please note:
1) Location of birds as accurately as possible (GPS if possible).
2) Date and time of sighting.
3) Color of the ring.
4) Characters on the ring, e.g. A7 (majority of rings are top-down and all are on the right leg).
5) Age class (immature or adult).
6) Number of metal ring (if found dead).
Ring colors are: - Yellow with black text - White with black text - Green with white text - Blue with white text and the specific codes used can be found here.
Thank you for your help!
The Swift Tern Team
|2013-04-16 ||Megan Loftie-Eaton |
|Sappi Tree Tuesday – we are featuring the African Wattle |
Hooray! Today is Sappi TREE TUESDAY!!! And we are featuring the African Wattle Peltophorum africanum tree. Peltophorum africanum is one of South Africa's most wonderful flowering indigenous trees. With its dense, spreading, rounded crown and showy golden yellow flowers the African Wattle is a great tree to plant in dry or windy areas. The spectacular flowers of this hardy tree provide a high yield of pollen and nectar which is perfect for bee keeping. One of the common names for this charming tree, 'Weeping wattle,' refers to the moisture that drips from the branches before the first rains. This is caused by nymphs or small frog hoppers called spittle bugs that suck sap from the trees which they excrete as almost pure water. Butterflies, bees and birds are all attracted to this tree which provides them with food and shelter, especially in urban settings. The bright yellow flowers with crinkled petals appear at the ends of the branches in showy upright sprays from November to February.
|2013-04-11 ||Les Underhill |
|Threat Thursday – Juanita's Hairtail, a "Critically Endangered" butterfly |
For Threat Thursday this week we consider the "Critically Endangered" Juanita's Hairtail Anthene crawshayi juanitae. This butterfly was originally known only from the type locality at Manoutsa Park below the Strydom Tunnel in the Abel Erasmus Pass in Limpopo, where it had not been seen since its discovery – hence its "Critically Endangered" status in the previous Red Data Book for butterflies. During 2011, Mark Williams found it in numbers at Lekgalemeetse Nature Reserve and this locality has since been visited by other lepidoterists confirming that a strong colony exists there. This may ultimately lead to a revision of its "Critically Endangered" status, which has been maintained in the forthcoming Conservation Assessment of Butterflies of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland: Red List and Atlas since it is secure in a nature reserve, and a real possibility exists that other colonies will be found. In November 2012 Reinier Terblanche relocated a male and a female at Manoutsa Park (see picture).
This attractive small hairtail was originally found in riverine vegetation on the banks of the Olifants River in the vegetation type designated as Granite Lowveld in the Savanna Biome, surrounded by Ohrigstad Mountain Bushveld, Limpopo. At this locality two females were captured while sucking fluid from wet mud and a male and three females were found as pupae under a rock in a clearing.
Investigations by Andre Coetzer during February 2013 have revealed that this butterfly breeds on Acacia polycantha and a number of larvae and pupae were photographed in the wild and reared in captivity (see pictures).
What are the threats and conservation actions needed for this species? The habitat at the Manoutsa Park holiday resort appears to have been modified, and is occasionally subjected to severe flooding. Manoutsa Park is not protected but it should receive priority as a butterfly conservation area. The Lekgalameetse locality is in a nature reserve and is thus more secure. Renier Terblance is the LepSoc COREL "custodian" for this species.
Note that you only have until Monday to order the Conservation Assessment of Butterflies of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland: Red List and Atlas.
|2013-04-10 ||Dieter Oschadleus |
|Weaver Wednesday: Speckle-fronted Weaver |
The Speckle-fronted Weaver Sporopipes frontalis is one of the smallest weavers. It is finch-like, with a short stubby bill. The head pattern is distinctive (see right) - the black feathers on the crown are tipped white, giving a speckled effect, which gives rise to its name. The nape is chestnut and there is a black moustachial streak surrounding the broad pale grey face. The sexes are alike. The juvenile is like the adult but paler, especially on the nape, which is tawny rather than chestnut. The Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser superciliosus is much larger and has a chestnut crown and ear-coverts.
Two subspecies of the Speckle-fronted Weaver are recognised (see map left, based on Birds of Africa):
S. f. frontalis from Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia across the West African savanna belt to Ethiopia and Eritrea (see red on map).
S. f. emini, South Sudan and Uganda south to Tanzania (see blue on map). The mantle of this subspecies is darker grey than in the nominate.
Projected climate change is thought likely to increase its range in the future.
The Speckle-fronted Weaver inhabits dry bush and open thorn-scrub savanna, and thickets, often around villages. It roosts in groups in old nests throughout the year. When not breeding, it is generally gregarious. Birds allopreen, mainly the head. It moves locally during the rains in Mauritania and is apparently present only during the wet season in the sahel zone of Nigeria. Post-breeding wing moult starts in mid-March, and lasts at least 5-6 months in Nigeria. In occurs in pairs during the breeding season and in flocks of 5-10, sometimes 20, at other times. Its fFood consists of seeds, some small insects (picked up on the ground), and termite alates. It feeds mainly on the ground in open gravelly patches, often alongside waxbills. The Speckle-fronted Weaver moves by hopping.
The Speckle-fronted Weaver is a monogamous, solitary nester, or it may form small colonies. The nest is a large, untidy ball of dry grass with a long entrance tunnel on the side. The nest is lined with finer material and a few grass seed heads, and rarely with feathers. The nest chamber is formed by trampling material. The nest is sited in Ziziphus shrubs, or in branches of acacia trees, 2-6 m above the ground. Nests may be sited near wasp nests. Clutch size is 2-4 eggs, with generally 2 near its northern limits and 3-4 further south. In one record of nest predation, 4 nests in Kenya were raided by a pair of wood-hoopoes which ate several eggs.
The Speckle-fronted Weaver has 2 PHOWN records - see news about the first PHOWN record. Many more PHOWN records are needed for this species (see PHOWN summary). Active or old nests may be active nest taken over by Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau Uraeginthus bengalusSubmit any weaver nest records to PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) via the Virtual Museum upload site.
PHOWN summary Previous Wedn: Black-chinned Weaver Full weaver species list
|2013-04-10 ||Les Underhill |
|Sappi Tree Tuesday this week in April Aliens features the Black Wattle |
It is "April Aliens" here at the Animal Demography Unit, so we are taking a look at some of the alien/invasive species in South Africa. For Sappi Tree Tuesday this week, we are featuring the Black Wattle tree Acacia mearnsii. Within southern Africa, Black Wattle, an indigenous tree of south-eastern Australia, is perceived differently depending upon country and stakeholder. The species was first introduced to the southern Africa region through South Africa in the 1860s, and systematic plantation establishment began in the early 1900s. The main attraction of this fast-growing alien invasive species was its commercial value within the timber and tannin industry and lack of indigenous forest species within southern Africa for commercial and subsistence use.
During the 1950s it is estimated that wattle plantations in South Africa covered 360 000 ha, these supplied tannins which lead to the development of an extremely competitive tanbark industry particularly in South Africa. However, wattle has the capacity to spread outside of plantation areas, and has established self-reproducing, invasive populations in natural ecosystems, and thus the call for management and control of the species. The negative impacts of the species relates to reducing indigenous biodiversity, reduced water run-off for agriculture, towns and biodiveristy, and the conversion of communally managed grazing areas to bushland – encroaching wattle excludes grasses and herbs. All in all, Black Wattle has a negative impact upon ecosystem goods and services. It is listed by the IUCN as one of the world's 100 Worst Invasive Alien Species.
In South Africa, the government classifies wattle as a category two invader plant, and it may not occur on any land other than a demarcated area or a biological control reserve (CARA Act No 43 of 1983). The estimated cover of Acacia species infestations in South Africa is 719 950 ha, with the greatest threat occurring within the endemic rich Cape Floristic Kingdom (fynbos), savanna and grassland biomes of South Africa.
Reference: Traynor, C.H., Hill, T., Ndela, Z., and Tshabalala, P. (2008). What'll We Do With Wattle? The Dualistic Nature of Acacia mearnsii as Both a Resource and an Alien Invasive Species, Swaziland. Alternation 15(1): 180–205
|2013-04-07 ||Les Underhill |
|April Aliens – the Common Myna continues its march across the southern African landscape |
With 396 BLUE quarter degree grid cells (QDGCs) on the range-change map, the Common Myna has displayed more range expansion than any other species during the gap between the SABAP1 and SABAP2 projects. That is in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland alone. The recent extension of the bird atlas project to Zimbabwe will reveal a scary range expansion to that country.
The best account of the early history of the Common Myna in South Africa is probably in the first bird atlas book, in Adrian Craig's species text. He considered that although it was first introduced to South Africa in Durban in 1888, it was a release by bird dealers in 1900 which was the first to be "successful."
Common Mynas have not only been introduced to South Africa. They has also been introduced to parts of South East Asia, New Zealand, eastern Australia and Madagascar. They are also present in many islands in the Atlantic Ocean (including the Canary Islands, St Helena and Ascension Island), Indian Ocean (including Réunion, Mauritius, Rodriguez north to Lacadive and Maldive Islands and east to Andaman and Nicobar Islands) and Pacific Ocean (including Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Cook Islands, Society Islands and some other French Polynesian islands). There are also more recent accounts of an introduction in France.
The Common Myna features on the IUCN list of the 100 worst invasive species. Their short explanation of why it is one of the worst invaders is here and the longer version is here. They four key impacts of Common Mynas are a consequence of them being communal, often in huge flocks, and being commensal, living in close association with people. (1) They are a public nuisance. They are raucously noisy. Their droppings foul buildings and streets. (2) They are a human health hazard. "Their droppings can spread Psittacosis, Ornithosis, Salmonellosis and arboviruses." "Mynas fearlessly steal food off plates" which is a hygiene risk. They also carry mites associated with human diseases. (3) They damage fruit crops, and especially "grapes, apricots, apples, pears, strawberries, figs and gooseberries." (4) They are known to have significant impacts on threatened bird species in Australia, New Zealand, Saint Helena, French Polynesia, Cook Islands and the Comoro Islands.