Citizen Science Week #1 from 19 to 27 September 2020: OdonataMAP in South Africa

OdonataMAP is the Odonata Atlas of Africa. OdonataMAP is one of the sections of the Virtual Museum. From September 2020, the project has been hosted jointly by the FitzPatrick Institute and the Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI). Major aspects of the OdonataMAP project are funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation through a grant that is administered by the Freshwater Research Centre. The Freshwater Research Centre has a JRS Biodiversity Foundation grant for developing a Freshwater Biodiversity Information System (FBIS) which will integrate the OdonataMAP data into its systems. The JRS Biodiversity Foundation has made a huge contribution to making biodiversity data accessible to policymakers, conservation managers and researchers.

94,000 records have been uploaded to OdonataMAP through the Virtual Museum website. Of these 82,000 (70%) have been uploaded since the beginning of 2015. That is about 15,000 photo records of dragonflies and damselflies per year. Identifications in OdonataMAP are done by an expert panel.

These 94,000 records are supplemented by 121,000 records from the ADDO database, the Odonata Database for Africa. This database was compiled by K-D Dijkstra and team, funded between 2012 and 2016 by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. When the OdonataMAP and ADDO databases are combined, the total number of records is 215,000. This is one of the largest databases of its kind, globally.

The first Citizen Science Week of the 2020/2021 season starts this Saturday 19 September 2020, and runs to the end of the following weekend, Sunday 27 September. It’s a nine-day week! The objective of the Citizen Science Weeks is to improve the quality of the distribution maps for all the species covered by the Virtual Museum, throughout Africa. There will be a Citizen Science Week every month.

This blog shows the “state of play” with OdonataMAP on 17 September 2020. This month, the focus is on South Africa.

OdonataMAP gives everyone in Africa the opportunity to contribute to the Odonata Atlas of Africa. In order to participate all you need to do to contribute is to take photos of dragonflies and damselflies. Here is guidance on how to “shoot your dragons!”. Upload the photos to the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum. Here is guidance on how to upload photos to the Virtual Museum. Members of the expert panel will do their best to identify the dragonfly or damselfly in the photo(s). There can be one, two or three photos for a single record; if you can, try to take the photos from different angles. This helps the expert panel.

Below are the OdonataMAP species richness maps for each of the provinces of South Africa. The number in each quarter degree grid cell is the number of species recorded in that grid cell so far. The grid cells with at least one species are shaded. The yellower the grid cell, the fewer species recorded in it. The aim is to first of all turn the grid cell from white to yellow, and then to shift it along the yellow-red axis until it turns bright red. The yellow to red scales vary between provinces; if the scale used for KwaZulu-Natal was applied to the Northern Cape, the latter province would be almost entirely yellow!If a grid cell has a zero in it, this means that none of the records submitted for the grid cell could be identified to species level.

We will work through the provinces in alphabetical order, starting with the Eastern Cape and ending with the Western Cape. There is a single map for Gauteng and Mpumalanga, presented after the map for Limpopo.

Before we wrote this blog, we sent these coverage maps to John Wilkinson who leads the expert panel for OdonataMAP. His comments: “It is exciting to see the species counts increasing in a lot of quarter degree grid cells. This is the result of more citizen scientists contributing but also of regular visits to the same area right through the year. The coverage map for KwaZulu-Natal is the example we should strive towards in all provinces. I know that it is Alan Manson who is mostly responsible for this superb coverage, but in recent years Ryan Tippet, Richard Johnstone, Diana Russel and many others have contributed huge numbers of records. They have both refreshed old records and made range extensions.”

John is 100% right. We should strive to make all the provinces comparable with KwaZulu-Natal.

OdonataMAP coverage in the Eastern Cape on 17 September 2020.
OdonataMAP coverage in the Free State on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in KwaZulu-Natal on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in Limpopo on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in Gauteng and Mpumalanga on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in the Northern Cape on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in North-West Province on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in the Western Cape on 17 September 2020

Winter BioMAPping and Botanizing in Venda

On Friday, 12 June 2020, my friend Ruan Stander and I embarked on a reptile-and-plant-biomapping expedition in Venda. Venda is a wonderful and wild region in north-eastern South Africa. It is a very biodiverse area and poorly biomapped.  Ruan is the expert on reptiles and amphibians; my own specialty is plants. It was the middle of winter here in South Africa, but where we went, it was warm, and at a much lower altitude than our hometown of Polokwane. The climate around Venda is ideal for cold-blooded critters. We set up our tents a short distance from the Cross Dam on the Nwanedzi River. The region is sparsely populated; we only met some folks at the dam on the first day, and on the second night some people came by our tents with flashlights and dogs; they might have been hunting, and didn’t bother us. We also went to the small settlement of Masisi, the Bende-Mutale region, and the Honnet Nature Reserve, but we slept each night at our Cross Dam camp.

Cross Dam

Ruan’s goal is to find and photograph as many of Limpopo’s reptile species as possible.  He had several goals for this outing; and we found at least some of our targets! The habitat at Cross Dam is rocky hills covered in arid woodland. There are patches of lush riverine forest with large trees bordering the Nwanedzi River. A bit to the north, there are flat, sandy areas. At Masisi there are well-vegetated rocky hills; Bende Mutale is mainly flat, dry Mopane veld. Honnet Nature Reserve has a dry climate, with a large, rocky hill and an old, huge, now-vegetated dune of red Kalahari sand.  These all gave us numerous habitats for finding different reptile species.

I was of course also interested in the plant life! The hills around Venda are a northern extension of the Soutpansberg Mountain range, one of the most plant-diverse parts of South Africa.  A tree that is very characteristic of this region is the Lebombo Ironwood, Androstachys johnsonii, an ancient species that occurs in South Africa and Madagascar.  In higher rainfall areas of the mountains, they form dense forests, but in the dry areas the trees were shrubby and stunted, only occasionally forming small thickets. Other characteristic plants of this region are the giant Baobab trees, one of which was pretty much the tallest one I’ve ever seen – close to 30 m! 

Baobab Adansonia digitata

The region is characterized by several other thick-set trees and large succulents, like Star-chestnuts, Sterculia rogersii, Sesame Bushes, Sesamothamnus lugardii, the grotesque Elephant’s Foot, Adenia spinosa, and the beautiful flowering Impala Lily, Adenium multiflorum. The impala lilies we came across were some of the largest I have ever seen, about 2,5 m tall, with trunks more than 0,5 m in thickness. The flowers were lovely amidst the dry, harsh landscape. 

Sesame Bush Sesamothamnus lugardii with Ruan for scale

Another amazing thick-stemmed specimen was of a Sesame Bush (photo above), that appeared to be two separate plants, but was actually a single plant – just as with the Wonderboom Fig tree in Pretoria, but on a more modest scale. One branch drooped to the ground, set root, and produced a second trunk with branches. It’s the first time I have seen this happening with anything other than a fig tree. I was happy to note numerous individuals of other trees I consider as fairly rare, such as the Propeller Tree, Gyrocarpus americanus subsp. africanus and the Mountain Mahogany, Entandrophragma caudatum.  

Impala Lily Adenium multiflorum
Carrion flower Stapelia getliffei

Other nice finds included two species of carrion flower in the genus Stapelia, a rare tree-like succulent restricted to the Soutpansberg mountains, Euphorbia zoutpansbergensis, and a Sand Impala Lily or Bitterkambro, Adenium oleifolium, in the sandy region to the north of our camp.  The Bitterkambro is related to the Impala Lily, and is more typical of the Kalahari Desert region. This record we found is the most easterly record as far as I am aware, so it was a wonderful find. 

Bitterkambro Adenium oleifolium

The Honnet Nature Reserve had interesting dune plants; and one of the largest Shepherd’s Trees, Boscia albitrunca, I’ve ever seen, with Ruan for comparison (seen in the cover photo).  In Afrikaans it’s known as a Witgat or Matoppie. This is an arid-adapted species, that has among the longest roots in the entire plant kingdom. A medium-sized Shepherd’s Tree can have a tap root going down into the sandy soil as deep as 60 m!

We were looking for reptiles day and night. Flat lizards, Platysaurus rhodesianus, and rainbow skinks, Trachylepis margaritifer, clung to the steep rock faces around the dam region, as well as tropical spiny agamas, Agama armata.  At night, we found flat geckoes, Afroedura pienaari, velvet geckoes, Homopholis wahlbergii, Turner’s geckoes, Chondrodactylus turneri, tropical house geckoes, Hemidactylus mabouia (using a huge baobab as a house), and one of our targets, the Tiger Thick-toed Gecko, Pachydactylus tigrinus. Young ones curl their tails up over their backs in defense, to resemble scorpions (of which we also found many!).  We also found a few geckoes during the day, including a Speckled Thick-toed Gecko, Pachydactylus punctatus, and some Bradfield’s Dwarf Geckoes, Lygodactylus bradfieldi.

Tiger Thick-toed Gecko Pachydactylus tigrinus
Spotted-necked Snake-eyed Skink Panaspis maculicollis

In the day, in the woodland, we encountered bushveld lizards, Heliobolus lugubris, common rough-scaled lizards, Meroles squamulosus, Holub’s sandveld lizards, Nucras holubi, LOTS of Damara variable skinks, Trachylepis damarana, and the small but cute spotted-necked snake-eyed skink, Panaspis maculicollis.  Under rocks and logs, we found the burrowing species.  These lizards have reduced or even missing limbs.  They’re a wonderful example of natural selection taking place almost in front of your eyes as you compare the different stages of leg reduction. Sundevall’s writhing skink, Mochlus sundevallii, a sleek and glossy species, still has small but fully-formed limbs, but the Limpopo dwarf burrowing skink, Scelotes limpopoensis, has tiny legs and mere stubs for ‘arms’.  The Richard’s legless skink, Acontias richardi, as you might conclude has no legs at all; though resembling a small snake, it is still a proper lizard – like the other two, it belongs to the skink family.  It’s a rare species, restricted to the region. 

Richard’s legless skink Acontias richardi

We did find a true snake, a tiny black-headed centipede eater, Aparallactus capensis; showing its “snakeness”, it fitfully flicked out its little tongue as we held it. One of the most special finds of the outing was made by Given, a local who joined us on the Bende-Mutale and Masisi parts of our excursion. It was a slender spade-snouted worm lizard, Monopeltis sphenorhynchus! These reptiles look amazingly similar to earthworms. They belong to a group called the Amphisbaenians, a sister group of the true lizards. 

Spade Snouted Worm Lizard Monopeltis sphenorhynchus

Apart from the reptiles, there were many other memorable moments of the trip. We encountered mammals: at night, the thick-tailed bush-babies called all around us. We found gerbils amongst the rocks and also a mouse, which I couldn’t identify, but got so close to it that I touched it! We also encountered a genet close to our car, and each morning, as we sat in the car and ate breakfast, a little rock elephant shrew came out and hopped about the rocks and stones next to the river. Elephant shrews or Sengis, are remarkable critters, actually more closely related to elephants than to other shrews. On the rocky hills, we saw what might have been a bush hyrax. And we had sightings of Chacma baboons.

Rock Elephant Shrew Elephantulus myurus
Halfcollared Kingfisher Alcedo semitorquata

We encountered birds: along the stretch of river where we had parked, there were no less than three species of kingfisher! The giant kingfishers called and flew noisily back and forth; the pied kingfisher was rather more subdued, and least obtrusive of all, but quite lovely, were a couple of half-collared kingfishers that had their territory amidst some lovely riverine forest trees. One morning a Burchell’s coucal, usually a shy bird, sunned itself out in the open in front of our car, displaying its beautiful bright reddish-brown wings. We even glimpsed a splendid Verreaux’s Eagle soaring high above the cliffs.

Dwarf Puddle Frog Phrynobatrachus mababiensis

We encountered amphibians: at night, near the river we found river frogs, some of them even mating in the middle of winter!  There were also tropical clawed frogs in the still pools, and we found a little dwarf Puddle frog, Phrynobatrachus mababiensis, as well.

Common River Frog Amietia delalandei

We encountered invertebrates galore! Looking for reptiles under rocks and logs, we often found spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, woodlice, cockroaches, ants and termites. In the photo below Ruan is holding a large scorpion.  The scorpion was quite placid and at any rate its thin tail shows that it’s not very dangerous.  An unusual sighting was that of a mole cricket (Gryllotalpa species) next to the river at night. This species is well-known for occurring in well-watered suburban gardens, but its natural habitat is that of moist grassy spots next to rivers or pools. 

We found 25 different reptile species in all.  I found some rare and unexpected plants.  It was quite a successful bio-surveying outing.  Reptiles, as well as plants, are quite vulnerable to environmental changes, and thus can serve as indicators of environmental health.  But more importantly, they are beautiful, exquisite and fascinating beings in their own right, and they all deserve as much protection as we can give them. A big thank you to Ruan, Given, and our Honnet Nature Reserve Guide, Joseph Saunders, for a lovely adventure.


Ruan Stander: Bradfield’s Dwarf Gecko, Campsite, Common River Frog, Cross Dam, Dwarf Puddle Frog, Euphorbia zoutpansbergensis with me, Halfcollared Kingfisher, Huge Baobab with me, Impala Lily flowers, Limpopo Dwarf Burrowing Skink, Richard’s Legless Skink, Rock Elephant Shrew, Spade Snouted Worm Lizard, Spotted-necked Snake-eyed Skink, Tiger Thick-toed Gecko (both), Tropical Spiny Agama.

Willem van der Merwe: Baobab, Bitterkambro, Black-headed Centipede Eater, Stapelia getliffei flower, Stapelia kwebensis plant, Elephant’s foot with Ruan, Euphorbia zoutpansbergensis, Impala lily plant, Impala lily with Ruan, Scorpion, Sesame Bush with Ruan, Sundevall’s Writhing Skink, Shepherd’s Tree with Ruan.

Citizen Science Week #1 from 19 to 27 September 2020: BirdPix in South Africa

The first Citizen Science Week of the 2020/2021 season starts this Saturday 19 September 2020, and runs to the end of the following weekend, Sunday 27 September. It’s a nine-day week! The objective of the Citizen Science Weeks is to improve the quality of the distribution maps for all the species covered by the Virtual Museum, throughout Africa. There will be a Citizen Science Week every month.

This blog shows the “state of play” with BirdPix on 16 September 2020. This month, the focus is on South Africa. We are very keen to boost the coverage of BirdPix here; Karis Daniel is going to use this dataset to make maps which can be compared with the definitive distribution maps for bird species in South Africa, emerging from SABAP2.

BirdPix gives everyone in Africa the opportunity to contribute to the African Bird Atlas Project. In order to participate in the bird atlas along the “normal” route, you need to be pretty confident of your bird identification skills in your region. But if you lack that confidence, you can still make a valuable contribution to the atlas by taking photos of birds (even really poor ones), uploading them to BirdPix, and members of the expert panel will do their best to identify the bird in the photo.

Here are the BirdPix species richness maps for each of the provinces of South Africa. The number in each quarter degree grid cell is the number of species recorded in that grid cell so far. The grid cells with at least one species are shaded. The yellower the grid cell, the fewer species recorded in it. The aim is to first of all turn the grid cell from white to yellow, and then to shift it along the yellow-red axis until it turns bright red.

We will work through the provinces in alphabetical order, starting with the Eastern Cape and ending with the Western Cape. There is a single map for Gauteng and Mpumalanga, presented after the map for Limpopo.

BirdPix coverage in the Eastern Cape on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Free State on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the KwaZulu-Natal on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Limpopo on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Gauteng and Mpumalanga on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Northern Cape on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in North West Province on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Western Cape on 16 September 2020.

Every province has quarter degree grid cells with a large species richness, and which are shaded red. do not yet have any data at all. The number of grid cells with no data at all is steadily decreasing.

Go to this blog to learn how to work out the six-character code for each grid cell: quarter-degree grid cells made simple. The grid cells have codes like 3420BB; the first two digits give the degrees south and the the last two digits give the degrees south and the two letters give the position of the quarter degree grid cell in the degree square. The blog makes it easier! If you want to see the location of a 3420BB and get the list of species recorded in this grid cell go to The grid cell here is called a locus (Latin for “place”!). If you want to see the map and list for any other grid cell, simply replace 3420BB with the code for the grid cell you are interested in. It might need a bit of trial and error to find the grid cell that covers the place you are able to visit.

The easiest strategy is simply to upload whatever bird pictures you have available. Load them up with their coordinates (or find the place on the Google map and click on the spot). Let the computer allocates them to their correct grid cell. It does not matter at all if the species is already recorded for a grid cell. We are always wanting to “refresh” old records with more recent ones. Please consider any old photo from the digital camera era as a candidate for the Virtual Museum. You need to know the date, and be able to find the place where you took the photo on the Google map.

Fanie Rautenbach’s Great LepiMAP Challenge 2020/21

Fanie Rautenbach has worked his way through the LepiMAP records for South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, has identified data gaps, and is challenging us to fill them. Fanie is the member of LepSoc Africa who takes the main responsibility for doing the identifications of butterflies in LepiMAP.

This blog does two things. Firstly, it lists all the species of butterfly for which we don’t have a photographic record in LepiMAP. Secondly, it lists the species for which there are photographic records in LepiMAP, but for which the most recent record was made more than five years ago, i.e. in 2014 or earlier. The Great LepiMAP Challenge for the summer of 2020/21 is to “refresh” the records for these species.

The LepiMAP database contains 477,000 records of butterflies, getting on for half a million. This is one of the largest databases of its kind in the world. For the butterfly atlas of South Africa, Lesotho and eSwatini (the SABCA project), we computerized every specimen record we could find. This included museums and private collections. This database goes back to the 19th century, although most of the records used for the butterfly atlas were made after the Second World War, in the second half of the 20th century, and from 2000 to 2010.

This blog consists of a series of four tables. Each table covers a time period. The first three tables are the 112 species that are not in LepiMAP as photographic records. The fourth table selects the 56 species that have not been “refreshed”, even once, since 2014. The column headers are mostly self-explanatory; the numbers in the column QDGC give the number of quarter degree grid cells in which the species has been recorded; the column records gives the total number of records for the species in the database. The two-letter codes are abbreviations for the provinces of South Africa, eS is eSwatini (Swaziland) and Les is Lesotho. The crosses show which of these political regions the species has been recorded in. Locality gives the general area where the species has been recorded. The numbers in the first column are in date order.

So Fanie’s first challenge to all LepiMAPpers is to get photographic records for these 168 species, and to upload them into the Virtual Museum. In the tables he has indicated the political regions they occur in, and there is a general description of the locality.

Fanie’s second challenge is to find the species in areas where they have not been recorded previously. (Many species have “traditional” sites where they get recorded, and for some species it is believed that they occur only on a single hilltop.) And then people have unexpectedly bumped into them at other sites, often at a considerable distance. Steve Woodhall’s talk at a BDI Citizen Scientist Hour called “Looking for butterflies” will help you learn how to go about doing butterfly fieldwork. And his book: “Fieldguide to Butterflies of South Africa” (reviewed here) gives the flight period for each species, so you know when to look. You can order a copy of this field guide by sending an email to Steve Woodhall.

We asked Steve to comment on this challenge: “This challenge is vital, as it carries on the great work done by LepSoc Africa and citizen scientists during the original SABCA project. Our understanding of our butterflies’ biogeography was increased immensely by SABCA, but LepiMAP record collecting for the project ended in July 2010, leading up to the publication of the Red List and Atlas in 2013. Environmental change has accelerated in the past 10 years, and we need to rise to this challenge to fill in the new gaps that Fanie has identified.”

This first table lists the 18 species for which there is not a single record in the LepiMAP database this century. The most recent record was made two decades ago. Amazingly, 12 of these 19 species are regarded as “Least Concern”. But this is due to the reality that many of them have wide ranges farther north in Africa. But it would be nice to know that the species persists at the edge of its range, in the southern end of Africa. (Because of the constraints of this format, you need to scroll out to the right to see the far ends of the tables – sorry! You can also download the tables as an Excel spreadsheet, or as a PDF)

  Family Scientific name Common name Status QDGC Rec-ords Last observed Li Mp Ga NW KZN FS NC WC EC eS Les Locality
1 LYCAENIDAE Deloneura immaculata Bashee river buff Extinct 1 2 29/12/1863                 X     Bashee River near Gwetyibeni (Fort Bowker)
2 NYMPHALIDAE Tirumala petiverana Dappled monarch, blue monarch Least Concern 2 2 26/06/1976 X                     Malta forest (Lekgalameetse NR)
3 NYMPHALIDAE Ypthima antennata antennata Clubbed ringlet Least Concern 4 21 03/02/1979 X                     Buffelsberg near Munnik (NE of Polokwane)
4 NYMPHALIDAE Stygionympha dicksoni Dickson’s hillside brown Critically Endangered 3 32 31/08/1985               X       Tygerberg, Kapokberg (Darling)
5 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides mbuluensis Mbulu’s copper Least Concern 3 30 20/11/1990         X       X     Mbulu (Transkei) Lotheni
6 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha southeyi southeyi Southey’s brown Least Concern 7 53 10/11/1991                 X     Joubert’s Pass (Lady Grey), Ben MacDhui
7 HESPERIIDAE Andronymus caesar philander White dart Least Concern 4 6 16/05/1993 X X     X             Kosi Bay, Pafuri (Kruger park) Swadini resort
8 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes druceanus solitarius Silver-barred charaxes Least Concern 1 4 19/07/1993 X                     Blouberg
9 LYCAENIDAE Thestor calviniae Dickson’s skolly Least Concern 1 46 11/11/1993             X         mear Calvinia, Hantamsberg
10 NYMPHALIDAE Coenyropsis natalii poetulodes Natal brown Data Deficient 3 27 06/03/1994 X                     Chuniespoort, Tubex (Wolkberg)
11 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes xiphares staudei Forest-king charaxes Least Concern 1 16 14/03/1994 X                     Blouberg
12 NYMPHALIDAE Dira swanepoeli isolata Swanepoel’s widow Least Concern 1 23 12/02/1996 X                     Blouberg
13 LYCAENIDAE Thestor protumnus terblanchei Terblanche’s skolly Vulnerable 2 8 15/02/1996           X           Korannaberg
14 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia malagrida malagrida Scarce mountain copper Critically Endangered 1 120 26/02/1996               X       Lion’s Head, Twelve Apostles
15 NYMPHALIDAE Neptis serena serena Serene sailer Least Concern 5 6 10/09/1996 X                     Near Mpaphuli Cycad Reserve
16 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis lyncurium Tsomo river opal Vulnerable 4 84 18/12/1997                 X     Mbulu Forest, Tsomo River
17 NYMPHALIDAE Sevenia rosa Rosa’s tree nymph Least Concern 5 17 19/01/1998         X             Ngoye Forest Reserve
18 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia wykehami Wykeham’s silver-spotted copper Least Concern 8 176 11/12/1999             X X       Verlatenkloof Pass (Sutherland), Nuweveld mountains (Beaufort West)

The next table contains the 19 butterfly species that were last recorded between 2000 and 2007.

  Family Scientific name Common name Status QDGC Rec-ords Last observed Li Mp Ga NW KZN FS NC WC EC eS Les Locality
19 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides carolynnae aurata Carolynn’s copper Near Threatened 5 77 21/02/2000               X       De Hoop Nature Reserve, Still Bay
20 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis thysbe mithras Common opal Data Deficient 2 48 01/09/2000               X       Brenton-on-sea, Struisbaai
21 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis oreas Drakensberg daisy copper Near Threatened 10 197 16/10/2000         X             Bulwer Mountain, Lotheni, Bushman’s Neck”
22 LYCAENIDAE Thestor petra tempe Tempe skolly Least Concern 5 73 29/12/2000               X       Elandsberg, Seweweekspoort
23 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha southeyi kamiesbergensis Southey’s brown Least Concern 5 26 03/10/2001             X         Grootvlei pass (Kamieskroon)
24 HESPERIIDAE Kedestes sarahae Sarah’s ranger Least Concern 1 13 14/10/2001               X       Cedarberg Mountains (Welbedacht)
25 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides monticola Cedarberg copper Least Concern 1 43 21/10/2001               X       Cedarberg Mountains
26 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis blencathrae Waaihoek opal Least Concern 2 72 21/01/2002               X       Waaihoek Mountains (Worcester)
27 LYCAENIDAE Zintha hintza krooni Hintza pierrot Least Concern 4 4 16/12/2002             X         Witsand
28 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia wallengrenii wallengrenii Wallengren’s silver-spotted copper Critically Endangered 1 21 17/11/2003               X       Kapokberg near Darling
29 NYMPHALIDAE Torynesis orangica Orange widow Least Concern 4 282 15/02/2004           X           Golden gate, Clarens
30 LYCAENIDAE Virachola dinomenes dinomenes Orange playboy Least Concern 17 240 18/06/2004         X             Hluhluwe False Bay Park
31 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides stevensoni Stevenson’s copper Endangered 2 64 06/11/2004 X                     Haenertsburg
32 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis adonis adonis Adonis opal Least Concern 2 186 14/11/2005               X       Gydo Mountain (Ceres)
33 NYMPHALIDAE Neita lotenia Loteni brown Least Concern 7 103 07/01/2006         X           X Bushman’s Neck, Lotheni
34 NYMPHALIDAE Torynesis pringlei Pringle’s widow Least Concern 4 42 28/01/2007                     X Rafoletsane, Sehonghong Valley
35 NYMPHALIDAE Cassionympha camdeboo Camdeboo brown Least Concern 3 35 14/11/2007                 X     Aberdeen
36 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops jefferyi Jeffery’s blue Endangered 2 160 17/11/2007   X                   Barberton
37 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops swanepoeli Swanepoel’s blue Endangered 2 140 17/11/2007   X                   Barberton
38 LYCAENIDAE Thestor barbatus Bearded skolly Data Deficient 1 13 15/12/2007               X       Spitskoppie (Herold)

This big table contains the 74 butterfly species which were last recorded between 2008 and 2011, and which are not in LepiMAP as photographic records.

  Family Scientific name Common name Status QDGC Rec-ords Last observed Li Mp Ga NW KZN FS NC WC EC eS Les Locality
39 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops loewensteini Loewenstein’s blue Least Concern 5 56 13/01/2008                 X   X Sehonghong river valley Dulcies neck
40 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops nasutus remus Nosy blue Least Concern 16 84 13/01/2008         X       X   X Ongeluksnek Sehonghong river valley
41 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides pringlei Pringle’s copper Least Concern 2 77 15/02/2008                 X     Groot Winterberg (Between Adelaide and Tarkastad)
42 LYCAENIDAE Anthene minima minima Little hairtail Least Concern 25 81 14/03/2008 X X     X         X   Mhlosinga Mkuse
43 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes marieps Marieps charaxes Least Concern 1 121 29/03/2008 X X                   Mariepskop
44 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops penningtoni Pennington’s blue Data Deficient 4 23 03/09/2008             X         Wolfhok
45 HESPERIIDAE Spialia agylla bamptoni Grassveld sandman Least Concern 4 43 21/09/2008             X         Hondeklip bay
46 PIERIDAE Colotis celimene pholoe Lilac tip Least Concern 3 6 27/09/2008             X         Tswalu Nature Reserve
47 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis turneri wykehami Wykeham’s opal Least Concern 3 78 18/10/2008             X         Hantamsberg Sutherland
48 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis nigricans rubescens Dark opal Least Concern 1 26 05/11/2008               X       Gamka nature reserve
49 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis azurius Azure opal Least Concern 11 200 21/11/2008             X         Sutherland Roggeveld escarpment
50 NYMPHALIDAE Serradinga bowkeri bella Bowker’s widow Least Concern 6 10 02/12/2008                 X     Compass berg Swaershoek Pass (Cradock)
51 LYCAENIDAE Thestor overbergensis Overberg skolly Least Concern 3 15 08/12/2008               X       De Hoop nature reserve Cape Agulhas
52 LYCAENIDAE Chloroselas mazoensis Purple gem Least Concern 17 145 21/12/2008 X X     X         X   Watervalsrivierpas (Lydenburg) Tembe Elephant park
53 NYMPHALIDAE Neita durbani D’Urban’s brown Least Concern 13 114 05/01/2009                 X     Bedford Pearston
54 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis thysbe schloszae Moorreesburg Common opal Critically Endangered 1 52 01/03/2009               X       Koringberg (Moorreesburg)
55 PAPILIONIDAE Papilio ophidicephalus zuluensis Emperor swallowtail Least Concern 5 110 10/03/2009         X             Nkandla Forest
56 NYMPHALIDAE Stygionympha geraldi Gerald’s hillside brown Least Concern 11 80 17/04/2009             X         Port Nolloth, Hondeklipbaai
57 LYCAENIDAE Capys penningtoni Pennington’s protea Endangered 6 330 26/09/2009         X             Bulwer mountain
58 NYMPHALIDAE Tarsocera cassus outeniqua Spring widow Least Concern 17 87 10/10/2009               X       Calitzdorp Anysberg
59 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis beaufortia charlesi Beaufort opal Least Concern 3 132 18/10/2009             X         Sutherland
60 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis violescens Violescent opal Least Concern 7 239 18/10/2009             X         Sutherland
61 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops jamesi jamesi James’s blue Least Concern 6 111 18/10/2009             X         Sutherland
62 LYCAENIDAE Phasis pringlei Pringle’s arrowhead Least Concern 4 78 18/10/2009             X         Sutherland
63 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides caledoni Caledon copper Least Concern 8 27 22/10/2009               X X     Lootsberg pass Shaw’s pass
64 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides merces Wakkerstroom copper Least Concern 7 49 08/11/2009   X     X             Dirkiesdorp Mhlonganvula
65 NYMPHALIDAE Dingana alaedeus Wakkerstroom widow Near Threatened 4 74 08/11/2009   X                   Kastrolnek (Wakkerstroom)
66 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides pallida liversidgei Giant copper Least Concern 3 29 11/11/2009                 X     Baviaanskloof
67 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis zeuxo cottrelli Cottrell’s daisy copper Least Concern 10 76 11/11/2009               X       Gamka Nature Reserve, Millwood NR
68 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops quickelbergei Quickelberge’s blue Least Concern 4 73 21/11/2009               X       Gydo Mountain (Ceres)
69 LYCAENIDAE Thestor camdeboo Camdeboo skolly Least Concern 4 48 17/12/2009                 X     Cambedoo Mountains (Aberdeen)
70 LYCAENIDAE Thestor compassbergae Compassberg skolly Least Concern 3 112 18/12/2009                 X     Compassberg (Graaf-Reinett)
71 NYMPHALIDAE Neita neita Neita brown Least Concern 18 211 27/12/2009   X     X             Watervalsrivierpas
72 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis daphne Daphne’s opal Least Concern 1 100 29/12/2009               X       Kammanasie mountains (Uniondale)
73 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis pyramus balli Ball’s opal Least Concern 3 110 29/12/2009               X       Kammanasie mountains (Uniondale)
74 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops brinkmani Brinkman’s blue Least Concern 1 76 29/12/2009               X       Kammanasie Mountains (Uniondale)
75 NYMPHALIDAE Serradinga kammanassiensis Kammanassie widow Least Concern 2 75 29/12/2009               X       Kammanasie Mountains (Uniondale)
76 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha penningtoni Pennington’s brown Least Concern 26 232 31/12/2009         X       X   X Ben McDhui, Mount-Aux-Sources, Moteng
77 NYMPHALIDAE Neptis kiriakoffi Kiriakoff’s sailer Least Concern 5 8 25/02/2010 X X     X             Mangusi, Mpaphuli Cycad Reserve, Kowyns Pas
78 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes karkloof trimeni Karkloof charaxes Least Concern 6 44 07/03/2010               X       Gouna Forest, Hoogekraal Pass
79 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia malagrida paarlensis Scarce mountain copper Critically Endangered 1 140 13/03/2010               X       Paarl Mountain, Paardeberg
80 NYMPHALIDAE Cyrestis camillus sublineata African porcelain Least Concern 5 19 20/03/2010 X                     Pafuri
83 PIERIDAE Dixeia leucophanes Spotless black-veined white   2 6 03/09/2010 X                     Mabelikwe
84 NYMPHALIDAE Tarsocera imitator Deceptive widow Least Concern 28 147 04/09/2010             X X       Springbok Wolfhok
85 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops jamesi claassensi James’s blue Least Concern 2 34 05/09/2010             X         Hantambsberg
86 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops badhami Badham’s blue Least Concern 10 173 02/10/2010             X         Springbok Caroulsberg
87 LYCAENIDAE Thestor dryburghi Dryburg’s skolly Least Concern 8 135 02/10/2010             X         Arkoop (N7 north of Kammieskroon) Springbok
88 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops bacchus Wineland blue Least Concern 23 158 03/10/2010               X X     Malmesbury, Coega (PE)
89 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis uranus schoemani Uranus opal Least Concern 6 41 09/10/2010               X       Gifberg
90 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops regalis Royal blue Least Concern 6 48 09/10/2010 X                     Wolkberg
91 LYCAENIDAE Thestor rooibergensis Rooiberg skolly Least Concern 2 65 16/10/2010               X       Top of Rooiberg (Calitzdorp)
92 HESPERIIDAE Spialia secessus Wolkberg sandman Least Concern 10 97 06/11/2010 X X               X   Munnik, Sheba Mine
93 LYCAENIDAE Thestor pictus Langeberg skolly Least Concern 4 71 10/11/2010               X       Garcia’s Pass
94 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides pallida jonathani Giant copper Least Concern 1 93 19/11/2010               X       Kammanassie Mountains
95 LYCAENIDAE Anthene millari Millar’s hairtail Least Concern 47 220 19/11/2010 X X X X X         X   Various locations
96 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops balli Ball’s blue Least Concern 2 98 19/11/2010               X       Kammanassie Mountains
97 LYCAENIDAE Deloneura millari millari Millar’s buff   21 218 21/11/2010         X       X     Makatini Flats, Emanguzi Forest
98 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis adonis aridimontis Adonis opal Least Concern 1 67 08/12/2010               X       Elandsberg
99 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops littoralis Coastal blue Near Threatened 14 129 12/12/2010               X       Witsand Stillbay, Mosselbay
100 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops victori Victor’s blue Vulnerable 2 53 20/12/2010                 X     Huntley Glen, Long hill (Queenstown)
101 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis penningtoni Pennington’s opal Vulnerable 6 161 21/12/2010                 X     Hogsback Mount Kubusi (Stutterheim)
102 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops nasutus nasutus Nosy blue Least Concern 17 101 21/12/2010                 X     Lundean’s Neck (Barkley East), Gaika’s Kop
103 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides dentatis maseruna Roodepoort copper Least Concern 24 145 22/12/2010           X           Heilbron
104 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides trimeni southeyae Trimen’s copper Endangered 5 64 22/12/2010               X       Albertinia
105 LYCAENIDAE Aslauga australis Southern purple Near Threatened 10 12 22/12/2010                 X     Tsomo, Cintsa Bay
106 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops oosthuizeni Oosthuizen’s blue Least Concern 17 106 23/12/2010           X     X   X Clarens Joubert’s Pass, Lundean’s Neck, Sterkspruit
107 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops southeyae Southey’s blue Least Concern 15 125 23/12/2010           X     X     Sterkspruit, Tarkastad
108 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops rossouwi Rossouw’s blue Least Concern 3 90 08/01/2011   X                   Stoffberg
109 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops outeniqua Outeniqua blue Least Concern 5 79 19/01/2011               X X     Tsitsikama National Park, Avontuur
110 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops vansoni Van Son’s blue Least Concern 12 67 12/02/2011 X X                   Loding, Kopje, Great Saltpan
111 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia malagrida maryae Scarce mountain copper Least Concern 2 110 22/02/2011               X       Near Vermaaklikheid
118 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops hypopolia Morant’s blue Extinct 1 1 26/10/2011       X X             Blue bank (Ladysmith), Potchefstroom
119 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis felthami dukei Feltham’s opal Least Concern 28 127 29/10/2011             X X       Worcester/Robertson area, Sutherland
120 NYMPHALIDAE Dingana clara Clara’s widow Endangered 4 68 30/10/2011 X                     Wolkberg

The table below the map & photo contains 56 species for which there are photographic records in LepiMAP, but the most recent record is five or more years old, and needs to be refreshed. The map and photo below are representative of this group of species. There are 56 records in the LepiMAP database going back to 1915. They come from 25 scattered quarter degree grid cells. But this species has eluded LepiMAPpers since Vaughan Jessnitz took this photo near Hoedspruit in 2011!

The map shows 55 of the 56 records for One-pip Policeman in the LepiMAP data (there is one record flagged as unreliable and it is not shown!). The green squares show the quarter degree grid cells for the species up to 31 December 2009. The two blue crosses mark the two most recent records, made in February 2010 (LepiMAP 11454) and in March 2011, featured above (LepiMAP 31045). This species MUST surely occur in many of the “in-between” grid cells in the distribution map. Maybe it occurs in eSwatini!

For a species to qualify for the table below, it needs to have a photographic record in LepiMAP. The cut-off date for being eligible is that the most recent record in LepiMAP must have been before 31 December 2014.

  Family Scientific name Common name Status QDGC Rec-ords Last observed Li Mp Ga NW KZN FS NC WC EC eS Les Locality
112 HESPERIIDAE Pyrrhiades anchises anchises One-pip policeman Least Concern 25 56 11/03/2011 X X     X             Imfolozi Nature Reserve, Linwood forest, Klaserie private NR
113 NYMPHALIDAE Ypthima condamini condamini Condamin’s ringlet Least Concern 2 2 15/03/2011 X                     Wolkberg farm at Letaba drift
114 NYMPHALIDAE Precis antilope Darker commodore Least Concern 40 72 22/04/2011 X X X             X   Nylsvley Nature Reserve, Mlawula Nature Reserve
115 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops wykehami Wykeham’s blue Least Concern 7 149 19/09/2011             X         Kamieskroon, Wolfhok
116 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha trimenii nieuwveldensis Trimen’s brown Least Concern 5 68 19/09/2011               X       Molteno pass (Nuweveld mountains)
117 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides kaplani Kaplan’s copper Least Concern 13 91 20/09/2011             X X       Sutherland, Karoo National Park (Beaufort West)
121 NYMPHALIDAE Serradinga clarki ocra Clark’s widow Least Concern 2 43 04/11/2011   X                   Long Tom pass
122 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides barbarae Barbara’s copper Endangered 2 45 11/11/2011   X                   Barberton
123 LYCAENIDAE Iolaus lulua White spotted sapphire Least Concern 5 50 07/12/2011         X             Ndumu game reserve
124 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha paragaika Golden Gate brown Vulnerable 5 148 02/01/2012           X           Golden gate
125 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops lerothodi Lesotho blue Least Concern 16 202 21/01/2012                 X   X Mokhotlong, Blue mountain pass, Lundean’s Nek
126 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes xiphares xiphares Forest-king charaxes Least Concern 12 98 19/03/2012               X X     Tsitsikama National Park, Saarsveld, Karatara
127 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes xiphares bavenda Forest-king charaxes Least Concern 10 118 29/03/2012 X                     Hangklip forest, Entabeni forest
128 LYCAENIDAE Durbania limbata Natal rocksitter Least Concern 23 426 21/04/2012         X X           Balgowan, Mooirivier, Harrismith
129 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis beaufortia stepheni Stephen’s opal Least Concern 5 351 06/10/2012             X         Hantamsberg, Wolfhok
130 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis phosphor borealis Scarce scarlet Least Concern 10 75 06/10/2012   X     X             Panorama gorge, Mhlopeni Nature Reserve
131 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides simplex Dune copper Least Concern 19 139 01/11/2012             X         Witsand, Kuruman
132 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes pondoensis Pondo charaxes Least Concern 13 159 04/01/2013         X       X     Port St. Johns, Umtamvuma reserve
133 LYCAENIDAE Alaena margaritacea Wolkberg zulu Critically Endangered 2 259 05/01/2013 X                     Wolkberg
134 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops braueri Brauer’s blue Least Concern 21 153 08/01/2013               X X     Prince Alfred’s pass, Buffelsnek, Baviaanskloof
135 NYMPHALIDAE Stygionympha vansoni Van Son’s hillside brown Least Concern 17 158 24/04/2013             X         Springbok, Kamieskroon, Carolusberg
136 LYCAENIDAE Anthene talboti Talbot’s hairtail Least Concern 73 169 14/06/2013 X X X X X   X X X X   Various locations
137 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis lyndseyae Lyndsey’s Opal Vulnerable 1 1 25/09/2013             X         Hondeklipbaai (Wallekraal road)
138 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops mijburghi Mijburgh’s blue Endangered 5 72 27/10/2013     X     X           Heilbron, Suikerbosrand
139 LYCAENIDAE Thestor vansoni Van Son’s skolly Least Concern 3 114 02/11/2013               X       Gydo mountain (Ceres)
140 HESPERIIDAE Platylesches dolomitica Hilltop hopper Least Concern 10 19 16/11/2013     X X               Utopia nature reserve, Hillshaven
141 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides molomo krooni Molomo copper Least Concern 13 93 18/11/2013             X         Kuruman, Witsand
142 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia wallengrenii gonnemoi Wallengren’s silver-spotted copper Vulnerable 3 32 18/11/2013               X       Piketberg
143 LYCAENIDAE Erikssonia edgei Erikson’s copper Critically Endangered 2 61 14/12/2013 X                     Bateleur nature reserve
144 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops montanus Golden Gate blue Least Concern 3 45 18/12/2013           X           Golden gate
145 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides bamptoni Bampton’s copper Least Concern 27 172 09/01/2014             X         Springbok, Witsand, Steinkopf
146 PAPILIONIDAE Papilio ophidicephalus ayresi Emperor swallowtail Least Concern 15 138 31/01/2014   X     X         X   Mariepskop, Nongoma Ngome Forest
147 HESPERIIDAE Spialia depauperata australis Wandering sandman Least Concern 48 211 01/02/2014 X X X X X             Utopia nature reserve, Tswaing Nature Reserve
148 HESPERIIDAE Platylesches tina Small hopper Least Concern 6 13 15/02/2014 X                     Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve
149 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis aureus Heidelberg opal Endangered 5 215 08/03/2014   X X                 Alice Glockner Reserve
150 NYMPHALIDAE Neita extensa Savanna brown Least Concern 35 193 08/03/2014 X X                   Perdekop (Jan Trichardt pass), Verloren vallei (Dullstroom)
151 LYCAENIDAE Thestor dicksoni warreni Dickson’s skolly Data Deficient 2 45 05/04/2014               X       Graafwater
152 NYMPHALIDAE Cymothoe alcimeda marieps Battling glider Least Concern 17 143 12/04/2014   X                   Mariepskop
153 NYMPHALIDAE Torynesis mintha piquetbergensis Mintha widow Least Concern 4 123 07/05/2014               X       Hill NE of Moorreesburg
154 PIERIDAE Colotis celimene amina Lilac tip Least Concern 32 191 29/05/2014 X X X X X             Various locations
155 HESPERIIDAE Teniorhinus harona Arrowhead orange   2 2 14/06/2014 X                     Mphapuli Cycad Reserve
156 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis dicksoni Dickson’s Strandveld copper Critically Endangered 1 49 09/09/2014               X       Witsand
157 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis zonarius coetzeri Coetzer’s daisy copper Least Concern 7 96 12/09/2014             X X       Nieuwoudtville, Clanwilliam
158 NYMPHALIDAE Telchinia induna salmontana Induna acraea Endangered 7 62 13/09/2014 X                     Lajuma mountain retreat, Matshavhawe
159 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops mcgregori McGregor’s blue Least Concern 4 128 19/09/2014             X         Hantam national botanical garden
160 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis thysbe psyche Common opal Least Concern 6 189 20/09/2014               X       Bitterfontein, Lambert’s bay
161 NYMPHALIDAE Stygionympha scotina coetzeri Eastern hillside brown Least Concern 6 11 25/09/2014 X X                   Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve
162 PIERIDAE Colotis doubledayi Desert veined tip Least Concern 6 173 25/09/2014                 X     Vioolsdrift
163 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia argyroplaga cardouwae Large silver-spotted copper Least Concern 4 34 21/11/2014               X       Dasklip pass (Porterville)
164 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha swanepoeli Swanepoel’s brown Data Deficient 4 43 26/11/2014 X X                   Verlorenvallei, Houtbosberg
165 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops gydoae Gydo blue Least Concern 1 87 05/12/2014               X       Gydo mountain (Ceres)
166 LYCAENIDAE Thestor petra petra Rock skolly Least Concern 4 245 05/12/2014               X       Gydo mountain (Ceres), Matroosberg
167 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis turneri amatola Turner’s opal Least Concern 12 97 14/12/2014                 X   X Gaika’s kop (Hogsback), Lootsberg pass, Mount Kubusie, Groot Winterberg
168 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops procera Potchefstroom blue Least Concern 21 181 20/12/2014   X X X X             Badplaas, Welverdiend (Gauteng), Hillshaven (Gauteng)

These 56 species have eluded LepiMAPpers since the beginning of 2015. Let us (a) refresh them, and (b) find new localities where they occur. Ten of the species are in threat categories. Two are “Data Deficient” (we don’t have enough information to classify them into a threat category). The rest are “Least Concern” (we have no worries about the persistence into the future). The way to confirm this “Least Concern” status is to get a better understanding of their distributions, and to maintain a steady stream of records, so we are certain that they are still present.

Although this blog focuses on the southern end of Africa, LepiMAP covers the whole continent, and the offshore islands. Within a few years, it would be fantastic to have sufficient data to do a blog like this for other countries and regions of Africa.


 The Seventh BDI Citizen Scientist Hour, on 9 September 2020, was devoted to butterflies and LepiMAP. Fanie did a presentation on the Great LepiMAP Challenge. You can watch it here:

There were two other presentations on butterflies during this Citizen Scientist Hour. Oskar Brattström’s title was Butterflies – Africa’s most exciting animals and you can watch it here:

And the third presenter was Steve Woodhall, talking about Looking for butterflies. Here it is:

The BDI Citizen Scientist Hours are Zoom events. The presentations are recorded, and are uploaded to the BDI’s YouTube channel, which is here. To find out when the next Citizen Scientist Hour will take place, go to the Facebook page of BDI Citizen Science, and search under “events”.

BDInsight – August 2020

Another month has flown by! We are heading into Spring here in the southern Hemisphere, although today feels more like Winter. It is rather chilly all over South Africa this week. It even snowed on Table Mountain!! But things are starting to heat up on the biodiversity front….

BestAugust for the Virtual Museum

The Virtual Museum had another record breaking month, with BioMAPpers uploading 8,173 records to the VM for the month.

The Virtual Museum is helping us build distribution maps, and keeping them up-to-date by refreshing old records as they get long-in-the-tooth. Ideally, it would be nice to refresh all records on an annual basis; in an era of rapid change, the fact that a species was recorded in a place a decade ago is not really good evidence that it STILL occurs there. We need to refresh records frequently (and this is especially true in the urban and suburban areas which appear to have lots of data).

West African Citizen Scientist Hour

On 27 August, we held the 6th Citizen Scientist Hour, with a focus on West Africa.
There was an awesome line up of talks for the evening:

Talatu is a Lecturer and Research Fellow at A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) in Jos, Nigeria ( APLORI is the only field station dedicated to ornithological research and conservation training in West Africa. The Institute contributes directly to the knowledge infrastructure, especially in West African countries, while also providing a unique base from which to set up long-term ecological research projects.

Sam is also a Research Associate at APLORI and plays a big role in the success of the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project.

Ringim has a big passion for citizen science and nature conservation. He has been a major help starting a culture of citizen science in Nigeria and contributes to the Virtual Museum and Nigerian Bird Atlas Project on a regular basis.

You can catch up on all our previous Citizen Scientist Hours and BioBashes on our YouTube Channel.

Bringing hippos back to the Karoo

In the heart of the Karoo something wonderful is happening. Nature has been given a chance to come back to an area which used to be home to wild herds of springbok and wildebeest and even hippos and rhinos. Former farmland has been set aside and formally proclaimed as a nature reserve, the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve.

On 23 September 1775, colonial explorers Robert Jacob Gordon and Baron Joachim Ammena van Plettenberg from Netherlands shot and killed as many as 26 hippo in one day on the Seekoei River (meaning Hippo River) that runs through the semi desert Karoo region of the Northern Cape of South Africa. A 1777 painting by RJ Gordon portrays one such hunting party in full flagrant sway. French explorer François le Vaillant writes at the end of the 18th century about how he fashioned a plate from the foot of a hapless hippo. 

230 years later, PC Ferreira, a passionate sheep farmer and the heart behind the KhoiSan Karoo Conservancy, realized the immense loss to the environment and conservation, suffered generations ago, when the last Seekoei River hippos were shot and killed in the late 1700’s. These were the last remaining hippos in the Karoo and the Northern Cape. PC decided to take action and initiated a hippo reintroduction project in 2000. It would eventually take 6 years for this project to bear fruit, but in 2006 a small breeding group of hippos were released on the then recently established Karoo Gariep Conservancy (est. 2005). Now known as KhoiSan Karoo Conservancy, which includes the formally proclaimed Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve (est 2015) and Hanover Aardvark Nature Reserve. 

For his contribution to conservation PC was awarded the SANParks Kudu Award in 2008. Over the next 14 years five hippos were born from the original group, but sadly the old bull killed all of them. The old bull died in 2017 and in 2019 we lost the cow. Only one strong and healthy, but very lonely, young bull remains and he is in desperate need of a family. We are raising funds to introduce three hippo cows and reestablish a healthy hippo family in the Seekoei River in the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve. This hippo family will be the only hippo family in the Northern Cape. In time our goal is to establish a viable wild hippo population all along the Seekoei River, which is 300 km in length and can accommodate at least 80 hippos. Our goal is to restore the Seekoei River valley to its pristine, wild and natural state so that wildlife and humans can thrive together and prosper. Please help us by donating to this amazing cause:

Impacts of Rhodes on Biodiversity 2 : Common Chaffinch

21 records of Common Chaffinch in BirdPix

The first blog in this series talked a bit about Cecil John Rhodes and his beliefs, which can can be summarized in this quote: “Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.” The first blog in the series actually focused on Eastern Grey Squirrels, introduced by Rhodes to his estate in Cape Town about 1900.

This blog focuses on four of the five bird species which Rhodes introduced around 1900. Three of the four went extinct fairly fast. After 120 years, the fourth is hanging on.

We can dismiss the first three species in a couple of paragraphs: Rook Corvus frugilegus, Song Thrush Turdus philomelos and Common Blackbird Turdus merula. The Atlas of the Birds of the Southwestern Cape says that Rhodes’s consignment of about 200 Rooks lasted only two years:

The species account for the Rook in the Atlas of the Birds of the Southwestern Cape, published by the Cape Bird Club in 1989

So one sentence was enough to deal with the Rook. The Song Thrush was “still holding its own in the gardens of Newlands” in 1937, but within 10 years it was extinct. So it lasted about four decades. The Song Thrush has also been introduced to New Zealand, where it are common, and to Australia, where it occurs mainly in Victoria and New South Wales. There were a few Common Blackbirds in and around Cape Town until about 1930, so they lasted about three decades. The Common Blackbird was also introduced to New Zealand, where it became one of the most widespread bird species, and to Australia, where the Atlas of Living Australia has more than 352,000 records of the species, mainly from Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. It is a puzzle that Song Thrushes and Common Blackbirds did not become established here in the same way as they succeeded in similar climates in Australia.

From the Presidential Address of Dr R Bigalke, entitled “The naturalisation of animals, with species reference to South Africa“, and published in the South African Journal of Science in 1937

The fourth of the four bird species considered in this blog is the Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs. 120 years after it was introduced it has neither gone extinct, nor has it taken off. In his 1937 Presidential Address, Dr Bigalke also wrote:

So, in about 40 years, the Chaffinch had spread about 5 km to the south, to Wynberg, and presumably around the northern end of Table Mountain, via the City Bowl to Camps Bay, a distance of about 10 km via Kloof Nek. 50 years later, in the Atlas of the Birds of the Southwestern Cape, published 1989, with fieldwork 1981 to 1985, the species account for the Chaffinch reads like this:

… A female was seen at Klaasjagersberg in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

So, between the 1930s and the 1980s, the range did not change a great deal. It was still unable to break out of the Cape Peninsula! Subsequently, with the removal of alien trees from the Table Mountain National Park, the range of the Chaffinch has possibly contracted.

At the moment, August 2020, there are 21 records of Common Chaffinch in BirdPix. Here they are:

Thumbnails of the 21 records of Common Chaffinch in BirdPix

If you plot these 21 BirdPix reecords onto a map of the Cape Peninsula, this is what you get:

Working our way from north to south along the eastern edge of mountain chain of the Cape Peninsula, the first BirdPix record was in the parking area at Rhodes Memorial, close to the University of Cape Town. A few kilometres to the south, there is a cluster of seven records in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Then there are scattered records southwards via Constantia to the Tokai Forest, where the Table Mountain National Park has its headquarters. There are four records farther away from the mountain in the suburbs. From north to south: the eastern edge of Rondebosch and Access Park, Kenilworth (these two records are immediately west of the M5 highway), then one in Bergvliet and one in Kirstenhof. Access Park is a “retail precinct”, but hosts a good scattering of pine trees, which are a Chaffinch magnet.

On the western side of the Cape Peninsula mountain chain, Bigalke mentioned Camps Bay and the atlas mentioned Hout Bay. BirdPix has a single record for this side of the Cape Peninsula, from Noordhoek, a few kilometres farther south than the earlier records.

This detailed map of distribution records provides the start of a baseline against which change can be measured. But with only 21 records, it is likely to be incomplete.

Are there still Chaffinches in Camps Bay, or Hout Bay? Are there any in the City Bowl, where there are lots of pine trees? What about Pinelands, a suburb where the stone pines were preserved when the houses were built? If you know of other places in and around Cape Town where Chaffinches occur, please try to get a photo. (This is not an easy task; patience needed.) Please upload your records to the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum. Old records are also welcome.

This male chaffinch was photographed at Groot Constantia on 28 September 2019. There is a second photograph in the BirdPix database of a female on the same day at the same place. See

Breeding records!

Off on a different track, it seems that the last record of breeding Chaffinches was made in September 1987. That’s 33 years ago, so it is worth reproducing it in full. The nest was found by David Allan, and he wrote an excellent record of the breeding event. His report is published in Promerops, the newsletter of the Cape Bird Club:

Promerops number 182, page 14, published in February 1988

Chaffinches elsewhere

Common Chaffinches occur as an indigenous species in Europe and eastwards far into Asia. In western Europe they breed from Spain and Portugal in the south to Norway in the north. A few breed in Morocco and Algeria in north Africa, so it can be claimed as an African species. As the distribution extends eastwards into Asia, the latitudinal range gets narrower. The indigenous range is characterized by trees: areas with deciduous forest, coniferous forest, or mixed forest of both deciduous and coniferous trees.

Rhodes was not alone in wanting to make the countries they had moved to, with their strange and unfamiliar biodiversity, look and feel and sound like “home”. The earliest “bird clubs” were known as “acclimatization societies“, and their objective was to bring consignments of birds from the “home country” and release them in the “new country”. The most successful acclimatization societies were in New Zealand. The list of British bird species they introduced to New Zealand is impressive. The Chaffinch is one. Several hundred were released in Auckland between 1864 and 1869, and there were similar-sized releases in towns and cities in both the North and South Islands. Chaffinches “acclimatized” slowly in New Zealand (see here), but within five decades they had overrun the country, and even expanded into the natural forests. In contrast, the acclimatization societies of Australia and North America had total failures with the Chaffinch.

Three things can happen …

The Common Chaffinch in the Cape Peninsula is a rare example of an introduction that has neither taken off nor gone extinct. Three things can happen. 1). They can bumble along indefinitely, in the way that they have done for the past 120 years. 2). They can follow the Rook, the Song Thrush and the Common Blackbird and go extinct. 3). They can all of a sudden discover the elusive secret of success, and suddenly become an invasive species. Number 3 happened in New Zealand, and Number 2 in Australia and North America. We have no idea! But what we, as citizen scientists, can do is to monitor the population carefully.

The final blog in this series will deal with Rhodes’s big “success” story, the Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris. If his vision of building a railway line northwards from Cape Town through Africa to Cairo failed, his starling has made a modest start in covering the distance!


Itxaso Quintana produced the map. Thanks to everyone who submitted records of Chaffinches to BirdPix.

Horned Talontail (Crenigomphus cornutus)

The photo above (by Bertie Brink) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.


Medium Sized

Length attains 49mm; Wingspan up to 68mm.

Very similar to Crenigomphus hartmanni (Clubbed Talontail).

The main difference is that Crenigomphus cornutus lacks the small foliations on abdomen segments 8 and 9. Additionally, in Crenigomphus cornutus segments 9 and ten are of similar length, whereas in Crenigomphus hartmanni segment 10 is roughly twice as long as segment 9.

Crenigomphus cornutus – Kabompo River, Zambia
Photo by Bertie Brink


Inhabits large, fast-flowing rivers in savanna. Favours sites with abundant grass and low bushes.


Most often seen foraging in rank grass near rivers. Crenigomphus cornutus hunts from a perch, usually a tall grass or reed stem, but sometimes also from bushes.

Status and Conservation

Listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Data deficient in South Africa.


Erratically distributed in South-Central Africa. Recorded from Southern DRC, Northern Zambia and Angola. Also recorded from the Zambezi region of Southern Zambia, Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, far NE Botswana and NW Zimbabwe.

In South Africa Crenigomphus cornutus has only been recorded once, from Malelane in the Kruger National Park.

There are no maps for this species at present.

Eastern Scissortail (Microgomphus nyassicus)

The photo above (by John Wilkinson) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Microgomphus nyassicus, the Eastern Scissortail is a dragonfly in the family Gomphidae.


Medium sized

Length reaches 43mm.

Microgomphus nyassicus is the smallest gomphid species in Southern Africa.

The Eastern Scissortail has the typical yellowish-green and black colouration of many gomphid species. It is best recognised by its small size, and distinctive clasper structure. It also has unusual, thick black, looped markings on the upper thorax.

Within the sub-region, the Eastern Scissortail is most similar to the Spined Fairytail (Lestinogomphus angustus). Both species are close in size and colouration, but Lestinogomphus angustus has a far more slender abdomen and the two have very different clasper structures.

Microgomphus nyassicus – Male
Swadini, Blyde River, Mpumalanga
Photo by Antoinette Snyman
Inset image by Andries DeVries


Recorded from rocky rivers and streams in well-wooded or forested environments. Favours flowing water with large rocks and nearby cover in the form of shady vegetation and reeds.

Habitat – Swadini, Blyde River, Mpumalanga
Photo by Andries DeVries


Highly elusive and easily overlooked. Interestingly larvae, exuvia and adult females are found more often than adult males. The males appear to spend much of their time in the shade of bushes and trees some meters from the river. Active for only a short period during the hottest time of the day, where it sits on sunny boulders and reeds close to the water. Females are found among trees and bushes not too far from the water. Despite its elusiveness, the Eastern Scissortail is fairly tame and confiding.

Status and Conservation

Very little is known about this species. The paucity of records from throughout its range suggests Microgomphus nyassicus is rare, but more data is needed. It is currently listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

An exuvia, believed to belong to this species was found at Oribi Gorge, KwaZulu-Natal in 1988. Another was found near the Komati River, Mpumalanga in 2018.

The first record of an adult in South Africa, was by Antoinette Snyman on the Blyde River, Mpumalanga in May 2019. See the identification image above.


Erratically distributed in South-East Africa. Recorded from Southern DRC, Northern Zambia and Malawi as well as the border region between Zimbabwe and Mozambique and a few scattered locations in South Africa.

In South Africa it has been recorded from the Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

There are no maps for this species at present.

Fork-tailed Bluet (Proischnura subfurcata)

The photo above (by N Hart) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Proischnura subfurcata, commonly known as the Fork-tailed Bluet, is a damselfly in the family Coenagrionidae.


Very small size

Length up to 30mm; Wingspan attains 38mm.

Most similar to Azuragrion nigridorsum. Readily differentiated from that species by its highly distinctive claspers, teardrop-shaped postocular spots and the blue abdomen base with a black dumbell-shaped marking above.

Proischnura subfurcata – Male
Makungwa River, Rwanda
Photo by Desire Darling


Frequents the grassy fringes of forested pools and ponds.


Perches low down among the grass in damp areas.

Status and Conservation

The current status of Proischnura subfurcata in South Africa is uncertain. Only known from a few old records (Pre. 1951), from KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


There is currently no map available for this species. More data is required.

Mainly an East African species that ranges from Ethiopia in the North down to Zimbabwe and Neighbouring Mozambique in the South. Its continued presence in South Africa requires confirmation.