Winter Herping In the Western Cape.

With a long weekend looming I took another day off and made it an extended long weekend for my trip to Cape Town for some Winter Herping. Arriving on Friday evening to a particular cold Cape Town we made plans for Saturday.

I met with a friend Theo Busschau and we headed west along the R27 and headed into the park not before stopping a long the way for breakfast at one of the local rooster koek pad stalls. We arrived at the park paying R64 pp to enter and headed towards our first area which we were hoping to find Breviceps namaquensis on three previous visits to the park I’ve blanked on finding these – hopefully this would be the time! Within minutes of arriving at this spot with dew still laden across the sand and vegetation and found a nice looking Black Thread Snake but in the process of containing it for photos it disappeared! Moments later I found a nice looking Rhombic Skaapsteker.

We continued to search the area for another hour or so without success and we decided to relocate to another region in the park winter herping isn’t always the easiest!

Arriving at another site we turned up a Cape Skink and Gronovi’s Dwarf Burrowing Skink whilst walking we spotted another friend Courteney Hundermark and Hanna driving in the park so we waited around and met up and chatted about plans.

We reconvened and heading out as a group and managed to turn up several Herald Snakes, Occelated Geckos, Striped Pygmy Gecko, Bloubergstrang Dwarf Burrowing Skink, Cape Sand Frog and a group of Delalande’s Beaked Blind Snakes. After photographing the animals we released them and headed out separated ways towards Jacobaai’s via Langebaan still dipping on the Namaqualand Rain Frog.

Searching a particular spot Theo had previously seen several Cape Sand Toads, we saw again a number of Striped Pygmy Gecko, Clicking Stream Frogs and I flipped a young Karoo Sand Snake under some plastic sheeting. We travelled further west up to Jacobsbaai in search of the Namaqua Rain Frog but after an hour or two and sun set we had to admit defeat again!

Heading back down towards Cape Town somewhat defeated we made our way through to Somerset West via Klapmuts where we shone for a few Cape Dwarf Chameleons and found several within 10-15minutes in the frigid cold. We tried for a few locations for Caco’s but they were just not calling so we dipped on those. We stopped at the 24/h PicknPay got some dinner and headed home.

In the morning I photographed a few chameleons in the garden while we waiting for Courteney to join us from Cape Town, we stopped off at the local Checkers to grab some supplies for the day and heading towards Pringle Bay. We took a short walk along the trail but the area has been herped previously and many of the rocks had been turned and not put back – classic rookie herpers.

We didn’t see much expect a Cape Legless Skink and a few Marbled Lead Toed Geckos, we headed out towards Kogelberg Nature Reserve in search for a few more frogs.

We arrived at Kogelberg Nature Reserve and was a nice surprise that being Youth Day entrance was free – score! It looked like major portions of the reserve has been burnt from the fires that raged across Betty’s bay earlier in the year so large portions of the reserve where in recovery mode. Although there was not a lot of water as we were expecting in the side channels alongside the road although we could hear frogs call in the dense thickets in the distance.

We walked a fair way and saw hordes of Clicking Stream Frogs but not the species we were after, I found two Mountain Rain Frogs which was a species I’d not seen before so that’s always welcome! A number of Southern Rock Agama, Raucous Toads and we managed to pin point a strange call in the grass which turned out being a Banded Stream Frog which was also a new species for me so I can’t complain.

Whilst photographing some of the frogs on the road side pools we were practically asked to leave the reserve for photographing the frogs by what seemed to be the reserve managers wife. Many Europeans and American herps often email me and ask for locations and spots to go herping and I often explain its tricky in the Cape due to their laws and unwillingness to allow herpers to do their thing due to  threats of poaching/collecting.

We made the long walk back to the car where we we packed up and heading into Betty’s Bay to search around some of the now abandoned houses from the fire.

In Betty’s Bay we found a few Cape River Frogs which I managed to only get hands on one to photograph. The main objective was to see the Arum Lilly Frogs. We drove around the small roads and I asked Theo to stop so I could check out the first clump of Lillies i saw, he laughed and said there won’t be any frogs in this small patch nestled right between two houses.

The first flower I looked in and sure enough what I had been longing to see for YEARS was one right there. Score! We drove around again for a good hour before heading back and the Caco’s weren’t calling just again hordes of Clicking Stream Frogs. We arrived back in Somerset West around 8pm and called it a night.

After a really good day the day before we had a rather slow start out as we headed into town to meet Courtney, Hanna and her friend Gabbi at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where we would set off on our hike up the slopes of Table Mountain in search of one of our main targets the Table Mountain Ghost Frog.

The walk up is pretty steep in some parts and being a Sunday the trail was busy and we often had to stop on our way up allowing people to get a distance away before overtaking large groups which is frustrating at times. We settled at a spot and Courtney managed to spot the first one within 10mins or so, following with Theo finding a large adult then they started to stream in I found 5/6 in a single fissure.

The water flows right of the cliff so essentially we are searching and taking photos in the rain which isn’t so great fro camera equipment but fortunately most of our equipment is weather sealed.

Courtney and Hanna photographing the Table Mountain Ghost Frog

Theo taking about 7 working days to get his photos.

After a much shorter walk down the slopes, Theo and I had another quick photographic session with some chameleons and headed to the Tokai area where we wanted to search for the Cape Rain Frog. Not the typical habitat where you’d expect to find them but within 15mins or so we had success! Another lifer for the trip I turned one up and minutes later Theo found another, we managed to turn up several Marbled Leaf Toed Geckos although they’re exceptionally common around Cape Town I photographed two of the larger ones.

Thanks for looking!

(Photo: Theo Basschau)

Species List:

Acontias meleagris – Cape Legless Skink
Afrogecko porphyreus – Marbled Leaf Toed Gecko
Agama atra – Southern Rock Agama
Amietia fuscigula – Cape River Frog
Bradypodion pumilumCape Dwarf Chameleon
Breviceps gibbosus – Cape Rain Frog
Breviceps montanus – Mountain Rain Frog
Chersina angulata – Angulate Tortoise 
Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia – Herald Snake
Goggia incognita – Pygmy Leaf Toed Gecko
Heleophryne rosei – Table Mountain Ghost Frog
Hyperolius horstockii – Arum Lilly Frog
Leptotyphlops nigricans – Black Thread Snake
Psammophis notosticus – Karoo Sand Snake
Psammophylax rhombeatus rhombeatus – Rhombic Skaapsteker
Rhinotyphlops lalandei – Delalandies Beaked Blind Snake
Scelotes grovnovii – Gronovi’s Dwarf Burrowing Skink
Scelotes montispectus – Blouberg Strand Dwarf Burrowing Skink
Sclerophrys-capensis – Raucous Toad
Strongylopus grayii – Clicking Stream Frog
Strongylopus bonespei – Banded Stream Frog
Trachylepis capensis – Cape Skink
Tomopterna delalandii – Cape Sand Frog

by Tyrone Ping

8 thoughts on “Winter Herping In The Western Cape

  1. Sophia says:

    Wow! These are amazing shots and it looks like these little critters just know when you are there and then they come out for their photoshoots. 😀

    Thanks for sharing all this beauty with us. 🙂

  2. Juanita says:

    Love your article. Thank you for sharing. I’m desperate to find a rain frog. Please can you guide me if u do find one. We live in cape town, and happy to help accommodation if need be.
    Pls do get in touch. And we’ll done on your findings!
    Kind regards Juanita

    • Tyrone Ping says:

      Hi Juanita,

      Rain frogs are quite common in the cooler winter months with the onset of rain, both in the low sandy areas as well as the higher mountainous areas of Table Mountain. When there has been heavy rains or light misty rain is the best time to go out and search for them.

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