The month of March often highlights change in the Kruger landscape; and as it does, so does the opportunity for me to guide through it. March sees a sudden surge in greenness, surface water and insects.
The spiders, scorpions and rarely seen snakes such as burrowing adders and giant blind snakes are seen more often.
It’s great to talk about the different orb web spiders – even had to get my books out to re-look at a bright green orb web spider which I think was a female Araneus apricus.
But it’s the stabilimentum in the web of garden orb web spiders that fascinate me. Why? Is it there to simply stabilise the web as its name suggests, or is that the very white threads of the stabilimentum reflect ultra-violet light which attracts insects toward their peril? Is it a warning bell for birds and animals so that the spider doesn’t spend unnecessary time rebuilding the web, and if so, doesn’t it do the same by advertising the spiders presence to birds and animals wanting to eat the spider? I noticed that the small spiders were very well camouflaged by the stabilimentum.
Whatever it is – I noticed the golden orb lacked the white zigzag of the garden orb – perhaps the threads are different. The golden orb web seems to reflect the sunlight so much more than the garden orb. For me it is fantastic to guide in among all these wonderful questions.
Butterflies dance across the grasses and flowers like living confetti. Especially the plain tiger (we know it as an African monarch) Danaus chrysippus – a butterfly that dances leisurely, close to the ground – not too worried about attacks from predators because of its chemical defenses. Alkaloids are ingested during the larval stages and, as experienced predators know, will cause serious vomiting if eaten. The African monarch flies slowly giving would be predators time to recognise the danger.
Sunsets and sunrises add splendor to cooling afternoon temperatures and migrant birds begin filling up for the journey to warmer places.
Reptiles are more active – so are other insect eaters, the dwarf mongoose, the bats and swallows, swifts and geckos.
Fragrances combine to present an aromatic lure; our senses are stimulated and active. We listen to the sounds of night, smell the sweet grasses and herbs, feel the warmth of the day, cool breeze in the evenings and see the garden – littered with golden orb webs reflecting dew and sunlight in the mornings.
Impala lilies, hibiscus flowers and the splash of purple sage and a wild jasmine white all meet between the knotted spear grass, herringbones and clusters of yellow thatch.
It really is a good time to guide during March (just don’t mention the ticks!)