The third and final blog post about my recent Cape trip…
On our third and final full day in the Western Cape was spent in West Coast National Park. After two sensational days of ‘frogging’, we decided to spend this day searching for reptiles. After all, there weren’t many frogs to find in WCNP. But reptiles, there were plenty!
Along with my two Durbanite friends, Nick Schaller & Darren Van Eyssen, we met up with Trevor & Margaret Hardaker, and later in the day, Faansie Peacock. It was yet another hugely successful day in the Cape for us!
Our first reptile of the day was Gronovi’s Dwarf Burrowing Skink (Scelotes gronovii). I really like this genus of lizards, Scelotes. They’re small, snake-like lizards (as you can see), with most of them having the tiniest of limbs. They’re fossorial reptiles, meaning that they spend most of their time underground. S.gronovii is listed as Near Threatened.
Our next find was a common species, but a ‘lifer’ for me. Occelated Gecko (Pachydactylus geitje). The Pachydactylus genus is another one which I’m fond of. It consists of the cutest little geckos! We don’t have many species at all in KZN (a measly two species). In the Western and Northern Cape, there are dozens more. So finding one more for me was special. I’d love to make a trip to the Northern Cape to see the gecko diversity there!
One of our targets for the day was a Spotted Harlequin Snake (Homoroselaps lacteus). Everyone in our group had found them before, except me. Well, my friends and I had seen one with a group in Mpumalanga, but the Harlequins there look totally different to the Cape specimens. I believe they’re going to be split into different subspecies. Thankfully, Darren managed to find one for me. What a stunner of a snake! Those colours are exquisite! This small snake is mildly venomous, and if you read this post (https://faansiepeacock.com/faansie-versus-harlequin/ ), you’ll want to avoid letting one bite you. I must say, it wasn’t the most co-operative of models, but its looks made up for that frustration.
I have long wanted to see a Parabuthus scorpion. This genus of scorpion consist of the most venomous species in South Africa. To my knowledge, most if not all of these species have stings that can definitely be considered life-threatening. They have a very distinctive appearance. Small, dainty ‘pincers’, and a really thick tail! On the West Coast, one can find Parabuthus capensis, which is what we found.
Delalande’s beaked blind snake (Rhinotyphlops lalandei) . Yes, it is a snake, not a worm!
And then, the most exciting find of the trip (reptile-wise): Bloubergstrand Dwarf Burrowing Skink (Scelotes montispectus). This amazingly-coloured, legless skink, was only described as recently as 2003, and has only since been seen a handful of times. To be able to say “We’ve seen that” is a real honor! It’s currently listed as Near Threatened. What an awesome-looking animal!
Another great lizard find: Large-scaled Girdled Lizard (Cordylus macropholis). Yet another species listed as Near Threatened. Dragon-like, isn’t it?
Our third Scelotes species of the trip: Silvery Dwarf Burrowing Skink (Scelotes bipes). It looks identical to S.gronovii, but on their tiny limbs, but unlike gronovii, they have two minuscule digits rather than one. My macro lens came in handy when looking for the two digits!
Spotted Skaapsteker (Psammophylax rhombeautus). I’ve seen plenty of Spotted Skaapstekers here in KZN, but they look nothing like this! While our KZN specimens are pretty, they do not compare to the specimens from the Cape. The pattern and colour variation between the two is crazy! Skaapsteker’s have a mild venom. I personally have never had any effects shown from the venom.
Black Thread Snake (Leptotyphlops nigricans). Differentiating Thread Snake species apart, but where we were, this is the only species found there. ‘Lifer’ Thread Snake! And to think, these snakes, which are usually less than 15cm long, cause panic and fear among some people.
Karoo Girdled Lizard (Karusaurus polyzonus). Another dragon-like lizard! This lizard is the only species of its genus, despite its very similar appearance to other Girdled Lizards.
Angulate Tortoise (Chersina angulata). I was so chuffed to see this! I’ve only ever seen two species of tortoise in the wild. I’ve seen captive Angulate’s in Durban, but those are in rehab centers- they were escaped/unwanted pets. This species of tortoise is extremely common in the Cape. Unfortunately, people pick them up thinking they’d make a cute pet. This is illegal, firstly, and secondly, these animals often get sick and die from not receiving the correct care. Please, if you see a tortoise in the wild, leave it there! By all means, help it across a busy road, but don’t take it anywhere. For the animals sake.
Striped Pygmy Gecko (Goggia incognita). The last lizard we would see on our trip. Note the red mites on its legs. This species abundant near Langebaan.
Bird book author, Faansie, took us around the area in which he lives, looking for birds. We saw a few West Coast specials, but not just birds, snakes too! We saw a juvenile Puff Adder, notoriously common in the Cape, as well as a juvenile Mole Snake, which are supposed to be very common too. I was hoping to see an adult in my time there. These large snakes, in the Cape, are pitch, shiny black, as opposed to our KZN ones, which are a dull-brown colour. Mole Snakes do not have the best of attitudes, but they are extremely efficient for rodent control! I didn’t manage to photograph these two snakes, but I’m hoping to get another opportunity on my next Cape trip (whenever that may be).
Regrettably, I only managed to photograph one bird, a bird which was a delight to see! A Chestnut-banded Plover. What a cute little animal! This was one of 28 bird lifers for me.
And so that concludes this 3 part series of blog posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them, and most of all, I hope you learnt a thing or two.
We owe a massive thanks to our brilliant hosts/guides: Cliff & Suretha Dorse, Trevor & Margaret Hardaker, and Faansie & Ronel Peacock. It was the most hectic but most productive trip I’ve ever been on! I cannot wait to return to the Cape!