Africa, KwaZuluNatal

New Worm !

Dizzi discovered a new worm, sent a picture and asked: ‘Pete – What is this? Hamerkop Worm? About 5cm long.’

I didn’t have a clue, and guessed – incorrectly – that it might have been from the dogs. But Dizzi soon came back with an answer: Bipalium – a genus of large predatory land planarians. They are often loosely called “hammerhead worms” or “broadhead planarians” because of the distinctive shape of their head region. So Dizzi’s description was spot-on!

– from Georgia USA – wikipedia –

Land planarians – flatworms – are unique in that they possess a “creeping sole” on their ventral (‘under’) side. And they’re hunters! They’ll stalk their prey, following their tracks and then pounce on an earthworm or snail! Some earthworms will react violently and wriggle vigorously, but the Dizzi planarium bipalium flatworm uses the muscles in its body and sticky secretions to attach itself to the earthworm to prevent escape. A wrestle-and-kiss tactic! Some even have a potent neurotoxin, so goodbye earthworm or snail.

Maybe Dizzi will spend more time in her garden and film a planarian kill for us?

They vary in size from smaller than this one to over a metre. They have very few predators themselves as they seem distasteful or toxic to most other creatures. Wonderful where they belong, but can be a menace when introduced where they don’t. They’re found all over in the tropics and sub-tropics, and are now spread outside their natural areas too – mostly moving around in potplants or plant soil.

Asexual planarians can just split and form two planarians. Sexual planarians are hermaphrodites. Some can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Telling a planarium to ‘Go Fuck Yourself ‘ is pointless, as it might just do that – ‘autofecundation.’ That’s rare, though. Usually two hermaphrodites will get together and swop sperm.

Fascinating creatures! BipaliumPlanarian.

~~~oo0oo~~~

So I go looking for worms and the further I dig the less simple and – as with most things where we Homo sapiens involve ourselves – the more disheartening it gets!

Earthworms. Everybody loves earthworms, right? They do so much good . .

Well yes, earthworms do much good where they belong. But where they don’t belong they do much harm. Up in the northern hemisphere the boreal forest — the world’s most northerly forest, which ‘circles the top of the globe like a ring of hair around a balding head,’ shouldn’t have earthworms, and the introduced worms are causing a huge problem. Worms have been moved around the earth by man since we started traveling. In soil, plants and pots for plants; by air, sea and road, in moving timber on trucks, in the tyre treads of those trucks and cars, in boats, by anglers and by gardeners.

One researcher called it Global Worming! Which may add to global warming. The boreal forest is a carbon sink, but the earthworms may alter it to emitting carbon instead.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Africa, KwaZuluNatal, Wildlife, Game Reserves

New Spider !

A beautiful new button spider was found in Tembe Elephant Park and Phinda private reserve recently. The 32nd known button, or widow spider in the Latrodectus genus, of which eight are found in Africa; and – the first new one in 28 years.

And she’s a beauty:

Discovery

A single female was first found in 2014 in Tembe Elephant Park in Zululand. It was observed until its natural death two years later, when it was collected and sent to a laboratory. Way to go! More and more we should be observing before collecting! In 2017 a number of live specimens were collected from the Phinda reserve. They and their offspring were studied until 2019 when it was confirmed to be a new species.

– female hanging from her web –

Habitat

The species is only known to occur in the critically endangered lowland sand forest biome of northern KwaZulu-Natal. These forests are threatened by illegal clearing for farming as well as wood collection. The females build nests in trees and stumps more than 50 centimetres above ground, which is higher than most other members of the genus.

– tiny little male –

I haven’t been able to find out where the specific name umbukwane comes from. Will keep looking. isiZulu.net doesn’t have it as a word. Maybe the name of the person who first pointed it out?? Maybe a local place name?? No – it means spectacular! I like that!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Great photos by Luke Verburgt – own work

wikipedia

World Spider Catalogue

Africa, Family & Kids, KwaZuluNatal

Blue Lagoon

Let’s go fishing Dad – at Blue Lagoon. Just till 7pm.

As we were leaving the plaintive ‘flat battery’ cry of the Water Thick-knee (Dikkop) sounded from across the lagoon . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

again, thank you xeno-canto.org for bird sounds

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A week later the fishing bug is still strong! This time Tom goes to Doonside rocks with Ryan.

Doonside beach and rocks - Tom n Ryan

They chose the spot and Tom was surprised when I showed him it was directly below Aitch’s Mom Iona’s last place of abode: The Mooi Hawens frail care home.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Food, KwaZuluNatal, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Umhlanga Lagoon

Tom went to visit Ziggy in Umhlanga so Jess and I had a late breakfast at Europa Cafe – poached eggs, haloumi, mushrooms, bacon, tsatsiki, all-sorts, yum! Followed by delicious hot bitter black coffee and some sitting back and sighing. And then, what the hell, a chocolate milkshake!

Then off for a stroll at the lagoon in the Umhlanga Nature Reserve, a KZN Wildlife park.

A few birds – Diederik Cuckoo, Southern Masked Weaver, Bronze Mannikin, Familiar Chat, Olive Sunbird – but it was midday. I heard the cluck – cluck – cluckcluckcluck of a Little Rush Warbler while I was photographing a butterfly, so I switched to video:

– I’m guessing female White-Barred Acraea – Hyalites encedon encedon? –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Umhlanga Rocks is in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa; Umhlanga means reeds

Africa, Family & Kids, Food, KwaZuluNatal

Pre-Wash

We’re on a septic tank and a soakpit and I’m the only one who cares.

So I think about all our waste and our waste-water, as none of it leaves the property. It all stays right here and must be done right.

So whenever I had a pot or pan or plate with grease, oil, fat or protein on it, I would have it pre-washed before running the dishwater. That way less fatty waste was in the pipes and the pits.

– not actually Sambucca – just a useful cousin of hers on the internet –

Made perfect sense to me, was hygienic and made a huge difference to the gunge in the system, as Sambucca’s poop would be flushed down the toilet same as ours, and I wouldn’t need to pay for a honeysucker truck to suck.

Yet my co-habitants thought EW! and YUCK! Sambucca’s spit, Dad! – !!?? – Hello! It gets washed off at high temperature, dudes. They remained unimpressed. I remained unmoved. Sambucca’s movements were regular.

Now Sambucca has shuffled off and they’re happy and I’m not. The ants – millions of them, are also happy. And I’m not.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The pic is not actually Sambucca – this is Greg Price’s picture from Hilary Price’s cartoon website Rhymes With Orange. Sambucca got given her licking n pre-wash duties outside the kitchen door. She LURVED the job! Sometimes, though, she’d be less than thorough and I had to say Hey! Lick Up! – that was when it was olive oil. When it was dead animal juice she would lick the platter clean.

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Another cool honeysucker truck . .

Although the teenagers were critical, I received support from adults who also use the doggie pre-wash method; regrets that cats don’t do leftovers from Rita – and even evidence of the system working live, from Gayle:

– Coco Adlam earning his Epol by assisting with the rinse cycle –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Africa, Family & Kids, KwaZuluNatal, School

Our Special Road

The little uns in our cul de sac from a while ago are big now, and new little ones are making their presence felt!

Thabiso (Tabs) and Andile are big now – all senior primary school longs, shirts and ties; while little Lisa heads off for her first day of ‘Big School’ (pre-school)!!

Michael – starting school 14 years ago when we got here, now driving his Mom’s car – sent the pic.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Africa, Family & Kids, KwaZuluNatal

Kelso Rocks

Go to bed early and be up early guys! That’s Tom, Ryan and Ziggy. They want to go fishing in Kelso on the rocks in front of Tom’s happy childhood haunt Happy Wanderers.

So they get to bed at 2am and I have to roust them at 5:45am. C’mon, move! We drive off at 6:20am and get there in an hour. They go fishin’ and I go for a peaceful breakfast in Scottburgh, then birding and butterflying. No pictures, though, nothing would sit still. Luckily Ziggy took pickishas of them . .

They even catch. Shad and an eel. The eel gets released, but two shad are brought home against my wishes. Too late, by the time they get back to me they’re dead. But Dad, they’re legal and we want to have them for lunch!

I take them a mid-morning snack which is accepted with huge cries of welcome and relief like they were dying of thirst and starving. I have to interrupt Tom and tell him to write a book about the tough time he had in The Struggle!

More surprises: At the end they go for a swim in the waves and even Tom goes in! Amazing. Tom got wet in the sea! – and he wore shorts! ex Africa semper aliquid novi ! On the way home they’re bubbling over with excitement and chuffedness and tall tales and heroics and what-they-would-have-done stories.

We’re talking so crazily and over each other and laughing and shouting that I don’t see the cop till he jumps right in front of me and flags me down! Yes, YOU, he indicates. It didn’t feel like I was going fast, but I spose it never does.

I pull over in front of a big truck they have also flagged down and haul out my licence and wait. They’re all over the truck, write him a ticket and walk back to their camera. The truck pulls out past us and the passenger shouts to us in isiZulu: ‘They pulled you over for nothing! Go!’

So we go.

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As I write there’s a happy fish braai happening outside my office window. Watch the chefs perform for the camera!

Later: The fresh shad was succulent and delicious! Ziggy is a qualified chef and she seasoned it to perfection! I told the fellas to take notes . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Back at Kelso, while waiting for the fisherfolk, I lurked in the coastal bush shade.

– this cussonia trunk is a metre in diameter –

~~~oo0oo~~~

A few days before, Ryan’s Dad Andy had taken them to Durban harbour, where they caught a tiny little smelt:

~~~oo0oo~~~