Winter Herping In The Lowveld

With yet another long-weekend I made plans and set off for a few days in the Lowveld based in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. Where I met up with Theo Busschau and Adriaan Jordaan.

Leaving Nelspruit we heading towards Lisbon where we’d hope to find Swazi Rock Snakes and a few other reptiles and amphibians. Upon arrival it had just started raining as we searched along the river banks for Dusky Bellied Water Snakes and a few amphibians. Theo Turned up an exceptionally large Slug Eater of just over 446mm, Herald Snake, a number of Common River Frogs and Guttural Toads.

Moving up a small ridge scattered with rocky outcrops we searched the hill sides and managed to turn up several species of reptiles despite the now worsening weather. Distant’s Ground Agama, Southern Rock Agama, Peter’s Thread Snake, Walhberg’s Velvet Gecko, Spotted Dwarf Gecko, Common Crag Lizard, Montane Dwarf Burrowing Skink, Walhberg’s Snake Eyed Skinks, Rain Frog, Cross Marked Grass Snake and two Rhombic Skaapsteker.

Now after a couple of hours of being sufficiently rained out, wet shoes and everything else we headed back to Nelspruit to call it a night. Thick mist made it slow going as the route is notoriously dangerous with loads of car accidents, we headed into Graskop at the infamous “Harry’s Pancakes” for a coffee before getting back on the road. Nelspruit was cold so there was not much more herping to be done and called it a night.

Waking up to of course more rain and cold weather we had a slow start then made our way out towards Sabie where we eyed out a decent ridge in hoping to turn up some Grass Lizards, Berg Adders and the recently described White-throated Legless Skink. Being cold, misty and rainy once again made herping a bit slow yet we still managed to turn up a few decent finds including: Berg Adders, Transvaal Girdled Lizard, Spotted Dwarf Geckos, Speckled Rock Skinks, White throated Legless Skink, Common Crag Lizards and Cross Marked Grass Snake.

Our first herp of the day was this good looking Berg Adder.

For the last find of the day i turned over a small rock which at first revealed a discarded Bar one wrapper, followed by a young Cross Marked Grass Snake which when first handled immediately went into a threat pose and rolled up into a tight coil. This is the first time I’ve seen this behaviour in Cross-Marked Grass Snakes although it has been recorded a few times prior.

leaving Nelspruit early on Sunday morning I heading out north via Pongola and Zululand before stopping off for a quick break at Umkhumbi Lodge a break spot just outside of Hluhluwe near far from False Bay where I quickly managed a few photos of this young Snouted Cobra.

Full Species list included:

Acontias albigularis – White Throated Legless Skink
Agama atra – Southern Rock Agama
Agama aculeata distanti – Eastern Ground Agama
Amietia delalandii – Common River Frog 
Bitis atropos – Berg Adder
Breviceps cf mossambicus – Mozambique Rain Frog
Cordylus vittifer – Transvaal Girdled Lizard
Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia  – Herald Snake
Duberria lutrix – Common Slug Eater
Homopholis wahlbergii – Walhberg’s Velvet Gecko
Leptotyphlops conjunctus – Thread Snake
Lygodactylus ocellatus -Spotted Dwarf Gecko
Naja annulifera – Snouted Cobra
Panaspis wahlbergii – Snake Eyed Skink
Psammophis crucifer – Cross Marked Grass Snake
Psammophylax rhombeatus rhombeatus – Rhombic Skaapsteker
Scelotes mirus – Montane Dwarf Burrowing Skink
Sclerophrys gutturalis – Guttural Toad
Trachylepis punctatissima – Speckled Rock Skink

Thanks to Theo, Adriaan and Simonet for the field time.

Thanks for reading!

by Tyrone Ping

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