Adventure into the Western Cape.

Relatively speaking it’s been a quieter year for a multitude of reasons, the usual suspects – time, work and a few others all hinder the ability to make it back into the Western Cape it’s been almost a year since I was last in Cape Town so it was about time I return and tick a few more species off the lists.I left Durban late on Thursday evening and arrived in Cape Town International Airport sometime after 21:30 pm I meet up with Andries and we made out way back to his place in Durbanville for the evening. We searched the surrounds for the resident Cape Dwarf Chameleons but surprisingly blanked on those!

We set off early the next morning to visit Hanlie to collect some keys for the house we’d stay in at Britannia Bay, she took us briefly around her indigenous garden and spotted a handful of her resident Cape Dwarf Chameleons.

Cape Dwarf Chameleon - Tyrone Ping1Cape Dwarf Chameleon - Tyrone Ping1
We made a quick detour to Butterfly World in Klapmuts for Andries to collect a view things, while I waited in the car I spotted this beautiful Cape Dwarf Chameleon in a hedge alongside the parking lot. We were eager to get to Worcester so I didn’t photograph this specimen so a quick Instagram post would have to do.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnLE9TGl7Pd/We stopped briefly at a shopping mall in Worcester to grab some supplies and breakfast before heading out to a koppie just outside of town. We photographed this beautiful Sundevals Shovel Snout but didn’t see much else so we carried on towards Grootvaderbos Forest. Not before taking a massive detour for Andries to look at some plants along the way.

Prosymna sundevallii_Worcester_Tyrone_Ping_Prosymna sundevallii – Sundevals Shovel Snout
Prosymna sundevallii_Worcester_Tyrone_PingProsymna sundevallii – Sundevals Shovel Snout

The Overberg

Just as we reached the beginning of the Overberg Andries made a stop to investigate one of his plant sites.

Overberg Western Cape

Welcome to the Overberg,Western Cape.

A few natural bridges made crossing the river a little easier.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Ble32uGlYOn/I scratched around a few loose rocks on the base of the slopes but didn’t turn up much besides a few Agma atra and some Cordylus cordylus.

Cordylus cordylus | Cape Girdled Lizard | Tyrone PingCordylus cordylus – Cape Crag Lizard.A few hours later we arrived in Robertson picked up a few more supplies at the local Spar before we finally headed into the Grootvaderbos Forest. Once we arrived it was just past 17:30 the wind had picked up and I was beginning to think finding chameleons in a windy forest wasn’t going to be easy.

We quickly set up our camp, threw together some food and tea (of course) and heading out into the forest where our main targets where the Strawberry Rain Frogs and Ghost Frogs.

These forests are much unlike the damp, humid coastal forests of KZN I’m used to. These densely wooded forests have a thin layer of leaf litter but is incredibly dry and the soil beneath it rather hard and clay like. Within a few minutes I found two of the frogs under a log, shortly after followed Andries and within 10-15minutes we had unearthed 10 or so.

Breviceps acutirostris | Strawberry Rain Frog | Tyrone PingBreviceps acutirostris – Strawberry Rain Frog

Breviceps acutirostris | Strawberry Rain Frog | Tyrone PingBreviceps acutirostris – Strawberry Rain Frog

Breviceps acutirostris | Strawberry Rain Frog | Tyrone PingBreviceps acutirostris – Strawberry Rain Frog

Breviceps acutirostris | Strawberry Rain Frog | Tyrone PingBreviceps acutirostris – Strawberry Rain Frog

Breviceps acutirostris | Strawberry Rain Frog | Tyrone PingBreviceps acutirostris – Strawberry Rain Frog

Breviceps acutirostris | Strawberry Rain Frog | Tyrone Ping Breviceps acutirostris – Strawberry Rain FrogWe walked along a that cuts through the forest and turned up a small Clicking Stream Frog, not the Ghost Frog we’d hoped for but something to photograph none the less.
Strongylopus grayii | Clicking Stream | Tyrone PingStrongylopus grayii – Clicking Stream 

We returned to our camps, killed some time for it to get dark. Which can seem like a lifetime when you need to head out looking for chameleons.

Walking through dense forests looking for a chameleon you’ve never seen before or know which areas of the forest they like can be challenging. We had probably walked about an hour and hadn’t seen a single chameleon so It began to dawn on me we may luck out on these ones – not a favourite of mine to hit and miss.

A little while later I spotted a juvenile hanging over the pathway about 3-4m above me. After improvising a stripped down branch we were able to gentle extract it bring it down and photograph it. A few metres away I saw another and then within 200m found another 9 chameleons – success!

Bradypodion_sp_grootvaderbos | Tyrone PingBradypodion sp grootvaderbos 

Bradypodion_sp_grootvaderbos | Tyrone PingBradypodion sp grootvaderbos 

Bradypodion_sp_grootvaderbos | Tyrone PingBradypodion sp grootvaderbos

Bradypodion_sp_grootvaderbos | Tyrone PingBradypodion sp grootvaderbos 

After a successful photo session we called it a night and headed back to our camp and we set off for Robertson early the next morning.After a few hours we arrived in Robertson picked up a few things for the 5 hour drive through to Elandsbaai on the west coast.
Arriving at the spot where we wanted to check out for a few lizards and some geckos with only about an 1.5 hours left of daylight we made quick work.We quickly began to ascend a small koppie behind an abanded building, as I walked up I saw what appeared to be a large black bicycle innertube amongst a small shrub growing out the side of the rock face. I stopped looked at it and then only realised I was staring straight at a large +-1,6 Black Spitting Cobra.  No hook, no tongs or goggles…I called out to Andries to get over here (I used slightly more colourful languge!) he laughs and shows me a small house snake he just found – At this point, I’m less than amused!

By this time the snake had managed to slowly slip into a hole in the rock face, I took teh tongs from Andries but could only just touch the snake and it began to spit from it’s concealed position.

The Black Spitting Cobra.

We decided against trying to forcefully extract the snake as most likely would have landed up injuring the snake and after it being manhandled wouldn’t have photographed well in any case but a fantastic sighting all the same! The small Brown House Snake that Andries found beneath a small rock on the was moments before our Black Spitting Cobra encounter.
Boaedon capensis | Brown House Snake | Tyrone PingBoaedon capensis – Brown House Snake

Moments later Andries found yet another Prosymna sundevallii – Sundevall Shovel Snout quite a contrast to the animal we had seen from Worcester
Prosymna sundevallii | Sundevall Shovel Snout| Elandsbaai | Tyone PingProsymna sundevallii – Sundevall Shovel Snout

Prosymna sundevallii | Sundevall Shovel Snout| Elandsbaai | Tyone PingProsymna sundevallii – Sundevall Shovel SnoutWe discovered a good population of Armadillo Lizards deep within the vertical and horizontal rock cracks but again they were deep within the cracks and didn’t give them much attention as extracting them from these deep cracks more often than not caused damage to the animals. We headed back down to the vehicle and scratched amongst some building rubble and turned up a few good lizards and geckos.

Chondrodactylus bibronii | Bibrons Gecko | Tyrone PingChondrodactylus bibronii – Bibrons Gecko 
Chondrodactylus bibronii | Bibrons Gecko | Tyrone PingChondrodactylus bibronii – Bibrons Gecko 

Pachydactylus formosus | Southern Rough Gecko | Tyrone PingPachydactylus formosus – Southern Rough Gecko 

Pachydactylus formosus | Southern Rough Gecko | Tyrone PingPachydactylus formosus – Southern Rough Gecko 

Pachydactylus formosus | Southern Rough Gecko | Tyrone PingPachydactylus formosus – Southern Rough Gecko 

Scelotes caffer | Cape Dwarf Burrowing Skink | Tyrone PingScelotes caffer – Cape Dwarf Burrowing Skink

Acontias litoralis | Elandsbaai | Tyrone PingAcontias litoralis – Coastal Dwarf Legless Skink

Typhlosaurus caecus | Southern Blind Legless Skink | Tyrone PingTyphlosaurus caecus – Southern Blind Legless Skink

Goggia incognita | Tyrone PingGoggia incognita – Incognito Gecko.

Not a bad haul for a quick stop before we lost out to the light.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Blhb-mgF-6R/We headed out from Elandbaai towards Britannia Bay where we’d be spending the night and searching for the Western Dwarf Chameleon. After about an hour and a half we arrived in Britannia Bay made a line to Spar before it closed and grabbed a few things for dinner. The previous time I’d spent here the wind had been howling and makes searching for these chameleons difficult as they bunker down into the thicker parts of the small shrubs that litter the coastline.

Within 10 minutes I found a large adult about 45cm off the ground in its night time perch position.
Bradypodion occidentale - Western Dwarf ChameleonBradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf Chameleon

Over the next hour or so we turned up in excess of 40 individuals mostly adults and subadults.
Bradypodion occidentale | Western Dwarf Chameleon | Namaqua Dwarf Chameleon | Tyrone PingBradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf Chameleon

Bradypodion occidentale | Western Dwarf Chameleon | Namaqua Dwarf Chameleon | Tyrone PingBradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf Chameleon

Bradypodion occidentale | Western Dwarf Chameleon | Namaqua Dwarf Chameleon | Tyrone PingBradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf Chameleon

Bradypodion occidentale | Western Dwarf Chameleon | Namaqua Dwarf Chameleon | Tyrone PingBradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf Chameleon

Early the next morning before sunrise, I went out to see where some of teh adults where the night before to get photographs as they started to move.

Bradypodion occidentale | Western Dwarf Chameleon | Namaqua Dwarf Chameleon | Tyrone PingBradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf Chameleon

Bradypodion occidentale | Western Dwarf Chameleon | Namaqua Dwarf Chameleon | Tyrone PingBradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf Chameleon

Bradypodion occidentale | Western Dwarf Chameleon | Namaqua Dwarf Chameleon | Tyrone PingBradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf ChameleonWe packed up and heading back down the coast stopping briefly in Langebaan to check out an out for a few more species before I needed to get to the airport and head home.

Pachydactylus austeni | Austens Dune Gecko | Tyrone PingPachydactylus austeni – Austens Dune Gecko.

Pachydactylus austeni | Austens Dune Gecko | Tyrone PingPachydactylus austeni – Austens Dune Gecko.

Pseudaspis cana - Mole SnakePseudaspis cana – Mole Snake

Species list for the trip:

Acontias litoralis – Coastal Dwarf Burrowing Skink
Boaedon capensis – Brown House Snake
Bradypodion occidentale – Western Dwarf Chameleon
Bradypodion pumilum – Cape Dwarf Chameleon
Bradypodion sp. Grootvaderbos – Undescribed Dwarf Chameleon
Breviceps acutirostris – Strawberry Rain Frog
Chondrodactylus bibronii – Bibrons Gecko
Cordylus cordylus – Cape Girdled Lizard
Goggia incognita – Striped Pygmy Gecko
Pachydactylus austeni – Austen’s Dune Gecko
Pachydactylus formosus – Southern Rough Gecko
Prosymna sundevallii – Sundevall’s Shovel-snout 
Pseudaspis cana – Mole Snake
Naja nigricollis woodi – Black Spitting Cobra
Scelotes caffer – Cape Dwarf Burrowing Skink
Strongylopus grayii – Clicking Stream Frog
Trachylepis capensis – Cape Skink
Trachylepis variegata – Variegated Skink
Typhlosaurus caecus –  Southern Blind Legless Skink

by Tyrone Ping

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