Send in your photos of Nature in the Scenic South –  of wild and wonderful nature neighbours.  If you know what the phenomenon or creatures are, please share your experience and help showcase our bio-magic.  If you do not recognise the birds, insects, plants etc… let other viewers and local experts help to solve the mystery for you.


Gutsy Cape Robin-Chat on Fish Hoek Mountainside

One of the reasons I was drawn to our home on the mountainside a year ago was the established garden.  Of course it’s invariable that the more the suburbs lap up our open spaces, the more small animals are going to depend on gardens for food and shelter.  Enter one very gutsy Cape Robin-Chat who holds court from the Ivy trellis on a boundary wall…

A Congregation of Caterpillars!

Sociable or scared!  The hairy caterpillars of the Cape Lappet Moth (Eutricha capensis) congregate in clusters on tree trunks and branches during the day and venture out under cover of darkness to eat the leaves of their host plant.  This photo was taken by artist John Strickland in his Clovelly garden.  Beware the coppery coloured hairs of the caterpillars can irritate the skin so don’t be tempted to handle them.   Read more at:



Wet Weather Fungi!Mucilago crustacea Slime mould photo by evanne rothwell

While many of us associate the rainy weather with collecting edible mushrooms in the pine plantations, some fungi are pretty sick looking.  Evanne Rothwell saw this interesting fungus, a Mucilago crustacea, near her house which is a stone throw from the Silvermine River Wetlands.  After the rain it turned mushy.  On Googling it, she found that a similar one in UK was called “Dog sick” mould.  It looked pretty revolting after the rain.  Pre rain photo on RHS shows a cauliflower looking growth.  they can’t be too rare as a week later River Rover Lewis Walter photographed a second one in the wetlands area.

Glad to meet you Gladiolus!!

Gladiolus priorii photo by john wilson  Gladiolus maculatus photo by john wilson

Winter is a special time for flowers in the South Peninsula Mountains.  A host of flowering bulbs respond to the first rains by sending delicate sprays of yellow, orange, red and pink flowers.  Some of my favourites are the delicate gladiolus. 



Baby Squirrel found on Westlake Golf Course being fed by hand

Baby squirrel found on WESTLAKE golf course now in good hands!

A lucky tiny Grey Squirrel may live to eat acorns for another seven years thanks to observant golfers.

Boomslang feeding on baby Red-eyed Dove in Clovelly garden

Boomslang in clovelly feeding on baby Red-eyed Dove. Photo by Howard Langley“Despite their bite being very venomous, they are a shy back-fanged species that are very unlikely to bite unless you try and  handle them ……I stand under correction, but I don’t think anyone in South Africa (other than for the odd snake handler),  has ever been bitten by a Boomslang .” See Howard Langley’s extraordinary photographs and more about the Boomslang….

Golden Orb Spider moultingGolden Orb Spider moulting

I was watering flowers close to the Golden Orb spider’s web (see below), when I saw the spider doing a frantic ‘jig’ as if he had been stung. I watched as it suddenly ‘stepped’ out of his old skin and quickly detached it from the web to let it fall to the ground.

John Strickland

Golden Orb spiders build their webs between branches and foliage where they catch their dinner: flies, moths and other flying and non-flying insects. They are also cannibals – fully developed young spiders will eat their siblings if they don’t move off and create new webs of their own.  For more info go to:


puffer fish or blaasoppie on Noordhoek beach g 300Puffer Fish is no Beach Ball

While walking on the beach from Noordhoek to Kommetjie Feb 2012, we found at least 6 small pufferfish or blaasoppies along the high water mark.  All blown up, and spinning ashore with the oncoming waves, they looked like miniature spiked balls!!  It is quite likely that they were stressed by sudden sea water temperature changes which caused them to inflate themselves and wash ashore at Noordhoek . But where do they come from?  There are over 120 species world wide and most are tropical or sub-tropical.  This one is commonly caled the spiny puffer fish and is periodically washed down the east coast by the Mozambique current.  Pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and lethal to most fish and to humans. Tetrodotoxin is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.  This is one beach ball you do not want your dog to go anywhere near.

Conserving the snakes of the Scenic SouthSean Boddinton of the Reptile Park in Kommetjie holds up the large mole snake found at the Noordhoek sports fields

Jan Meyer, a local dog trainer and resident of the Scenic South, saw a large mole snake on the Noordhoek sportsfields while walking his dogs. Concerned for the snake’s survival he called for a local “snake man” to remove it …

Penguin Hotel at SANCCOB for Stumpie  Penguin Stumpie rescued at Fish Hoek Catwalk - Jan 2012

We collected this little guy – an endangered African Penguin – off the Fish Hoek Catwalk last week.  As you can see (red arrow), he only has one foot, so we called him Stumpie. He is in an arrested moult, a phenomena which is not entirely understood, but which means that the moult process gets stuck half way.  Penguins in this condition  can starve as they get cold without their fully feathered waterproof coats and can’t stay in the water long enough to catch their quota of fish. Stumpie did not know we were taking him to Hotel Sanccob  and did not appreciate being hauled out of a pool and into a box. He gave me a really good bite as a thank you.  He is doing very well at SANCCOB and will be released when he has completed his moult and is fully waterproofed again.  Evanne (SanccobVolunteer for Fish Hoek Area)

Paper Nautilus

A chance find of a perfect Paper Nautilus on the beach at Nature’s Valley had the whole family up before dawn the following day in the hope of finding more of the prized shells. In spite of their delicate appearance, Paper Nautilus shells survive the surf to wash up along the South African coast in winter.  Their beauty and rarity make them a beachcomber’s treasure – but for me their appeal lies in their oceanic origin and the mystery surrounding the pelagic octopus that crafts them.  The shell is the brood chamber of the female  Argonauta octopus. Argonaut is Greek, for `those who travel on the Argo’, the Argo being the ship that carried Jason on his search for the Golden Fleece.  Last week’s storm washed a small flotilla of Argonauta shells onto the beaches of the Southern Cape – our early morning search was rewarded with 16  – the trick being to find them before the seagulls destroy them while pecking at the remaining eggs inside the shells.  Although a few live specimens have been found, not much is known about Argonauta. The female secretes the shell from glands on two of her eight tentacles and on reaching maturity, lays eggs inside its protective cover.  The male octopus is tiny and shell-less.  The Argonauts float close to the oceans surface and feed on plankton, small fish and possibly jellyfish.

Dolphins cavorting at Fish Hoek beach

How blessed we are to be living in the Scenic South! In the past few weeks we have seen huge flocks of cormorants flying low over the surface of the ocean in False Bay and playful schools of dolphin cavorting close  to shore.


Walkers on Fish Hoek  beach on 30 April  were treated to the sight of  a large group of dolphins  surfing the waves. The entertainment lasted for more than an hour, until the dolphins moved towards Muizenberg when the boom of a gun sounded  from the Simon’s Town area.  These photos were taken at Clovelly corner.


Otter on video catching & eating an Octopus

There is a thriving otter community living along our coast and moving from sea to concealment between our houses and coastal infrastructure.  Masters of shy secrecy, they are rarely seen.  Derek of  KayakCapeTown was lucky enough to spot and film an otter catching, subduing and then eating an octopus on the rocks near Simon’s Town.   It is worth watching at:

Golden Orb web spider in Clovelly

These pictures were taken outside our home.

It is a Golden Orb web spider with a body about 3 cms. The little male is also somewhere on the web.

There is a Giant Golden Orb web spider in South Africa which was thought to be extinct with a body of 4 cms and legs approx 71/2 cms.

I don’t  think this quite qualifies but it must be close!

Jen Strickland Clovelly

 These spiders make huge webs spanning large areas. Although the spiders look like the stuff nightmares are made of they are harmless to humans.



Star-fish have 5 legs,  right?  Well this brittle star has 6!

Ask anyone to draw a sea creature and I can almost guarantee they will draw a familiar 5 ray shaped starfish.  So when students of Fish Hoek High found a six-legged brittle-star during a recent Eco-club outing we were all intrigued.  Count the legs in the photo. It had not been damaged and regrown new malformed limbs. It was a perfect never mind what the text books say about five being synonymous with the starfish (and the whole extended family of echinoderms), I am a six-legged model.

Is it just a random occurrence, an indication of disturbance, Nature testing new models?   Watch this spot while we ask the experts what’s up with six-legged brittle stars?

Reply from Dr. Charles Griffith (marine biologist at UCT):   “This crops up quite often. Two factors are at play here.  Some species of brittle-star (and starfish) routinely have 6 arms. “   The more common situation occurs however when the animal is injured and loses an arm. In the process of regenerating the lost arm two buds develop and you end up with 6 arms. One often sees this where the two new arms are still smaller than the 4 original ones.”

Either way, starfish with six arms are not common – so count yourself lucky if you see one.

Rare Slender Sunfish strand at Kommetjie.

The vicious south-easter winds of the past week are being blamed for the stranding of a number of rare Slender Sunfish. The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town is requesting the public to phone them on 021 418 3823 in the event that they find a live sunfish on the beach or in shallow water. Sunfish are enigmatic fish and feature in the folklore of fishermen around the globe.  Little is known about their lifestyles. They appear to cruise the oceans keeping close to the surface where they feed on jellyfish, blue bottles, juvenile fish and crustaceans etc.  Are the rare Slender Sunfish that washed up on our cold coast distant visitors that were swept too close by a quirky current or are they frequent off-shore visitors that were trapped by the unusually strong south-easters.  Is their stranding part of a natural cycle or are they victims of Climate Change?    Click here find out more about sunfish and the recent strandings.

Cardinal Woodpeckers – unusual garden guests for South Peninsula

After fifty years of bird watching in our garden in Clovelly, we saw Cardinal Woodpeckers for the first time on 15 January 2010.  We were treated to a female visiting  in the morning and a male in the afternoon. They enthusiastically attacked the dead branches of an avocado pear tree and seemed to extract a fair number of grubs – one of the medium-sized horizontal branches was particularly productive. The pair visited again on two other occassions in January and woodpeckers ( presumably the same individuals) were also seen in gardens by several other Clovelly residents. On 1 May a female woodpecker visited again but did not stay for long because while foraging she was continually harassed by a Redwinged starling. Bird Atlas information indicates that Cardinal Woodpeckers are scarce on the Cape Peninsula. By Eric Barnes

A Bluebottle beach day at Fish Hoek on the False Bay coast.

Two species of `bluebottle’ were blown ashore in huge numbers during an early season big blow.  The common bluebottle or Portuguese Man-of-war can inflict a painful sting which is best neutralized with ice or  a mild acid such as vinegar. Did you know that their floats come in `left-handed’ and `right-handed’ orientations?   This is not a So What!! for a bluebottle as it results in them `sailing’ in different directions and left-handed individuals are less likely to be stranded as a result of South East winds.  The less common By-the-wind Sailor is harmless to humans and is a warm water species.  Source: Two Oceans – guide to Marine Life of SA

Pink Ground Orchid

Satyrium Carneum is a robust ground orchid which grows to a height of between 370-800 mm.  When I moved to the Fish Hoek Valley 25 years ago, these tall deep pink flowers were a common sight in spring in what is now Peers Hill and Silverglades.   Satyrium Carneum is becoming increasingly rare and it would be interesting to know if specimens of this handsome orchid are still found in gardens in the Scenic South Peninsula.  It is pollinated by sunbirds.

The name Satyrium refers to the two horned mythical satyr, an allusion to the two-lipped flowers. Carneum refers to their pink colour. Common names are rooikappie or rooi-trewwa.  Thank-you Lewis Walter for the lovely photo.

Bietou Bush or Bush-tick Berry

You are sure to have noticed the bright yellow indigenous daisy bush in bloom all along the coast at the moment?  It is a fast growing, hardy and showy shrub that attracts birds. The green berries ripen to a purple black – or they would if the Redwing Starlings did not eat them almost as soon as they form.  According to indigenous edible plant guru, Margaret Roberts, the ripe berries were relished by the Khoikhoi and the Xhosa.  Apparently the leaves are toxic, but she recommends a `delicious cordial’  made from the ripe berries.  Gather 4 cups of ripe black berries, add 2 cups sugar, 6 cloves, 1 thumb-length of root ginger and 2 cups of water.  Simmer all ingredients together for 30 min. Strain through a fine sieve when cool.  Serve diluted with 8 parts iced water to 1 part cordial.   If the birds give me a chance, I am certainly going to give this a try.  KimK

Jellyfish Joyride

Interested beach and sea folk have been querying the recent abundance of small pink-ringed jellyfish in False Bay some of which have also washed up on Fish Hoek beach.   Prof Mark Gibbons (UWC) identified them as Pelagia noctiluca. They go by the common names Night Light Jellyfish or Mediterranean Purple Stingers and apparently they DO. He notes that: “It is a widely distributed species and has caused problems with the tourism industry in the Med, and with salmon farming in the Irish Sea. It is not common around SA but seems to have been commonly found in False Bay this last month.  I cannot give you an explanation – it is likely to reflect circulation patterns and temperatures but as I am not aware of anything unusual in False Bay it is hard to place.”   Did you know that there is a SA Jelly Watch website. Go to the website ( for more info and /or to report sightings of jellyfish.  The website is looking for a good photo of Pelagia noctiluca.

While jellyfish blooms are a natural phenomenon, the frequency and extent of blooms is increasing  – with significant negative implications for tourism and the fishing industry.  Click here to read what Gibbons and fellow scientists from around the world refer to as “the jellyfish joyride”. 

What a beauty – a long-horned grasshopper called a True Leaf Katydid!

This species a Zabalius aridus is found from the Limpopo region to about Vredendal – mainly along the coast.  Although common in gardens, they are well camouflaged. This one was found in an indigenous garden in Clovelly and given VIP status to continue feeding on its preferred diet of the leaves of trees and shrubs. It belongs to the family Tettigoniidae represented by about 160 species in the RSA, aprox 50 of which are endemic.  Why a Katydid?   Apparently the name comes from a North American cousin which endlessly calls Katy-did, Katy-didn’t at night!!!         Identification by Dr Jonathan Ball

Horse Mussel or Fan Mussel

Recent big seas  scoured our coasts and washed Horse Mussel or Fan Mussel shells up on Fish Hoek beach.   The animals are typically found in deeper water in protected bays and estuaries.   Although they are eaten in some parts of the world, they are best known for a mediteranean relative which produces gold coloured anchor threads.  Since Roman times the mussles have been harvested for their threads which were used to make a fine and highly prized cloth.  Apparently this industry still exists in parts of Italy, albeit in limited form .



Mystery fynbos flower, identified!!!

Antony Hitchcock of SANBI SOLVED THE MYSTERY and identified this plant!!!   This small fynbos shrub was found in bloom on the mountain side above Clovelly.   The red flowers are the size of a cherry and are soft and furry!!!    Antony identified it  as an Erica Cerinthoides or Fire Erica showing gall type deformation as a result of insect damage.  Normally the flowers are  tubular.    WOW – not a new species this time. fynbos mystery photo by Chris Walker Nov 17gimp

Patterson’s Curse a particularly nasty invasive alien plant

Cat 1 invader gimp Echium plantagineum Pattersons Curse gimp Echium plantaginium or Patterson’s Curse is a category one invader. It is a particularly nasty invasive alien plant as it is poisonous to livestock and also transforms the soil making it less viable for other plants to grow there.  It is becoming more prevalent in the Scenic South.  Remove it if you see it and either burn it or put it in the refuse.