Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictures)

Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictures)

Postby rvanhuyssteen » Thu May 12, 2016 8:21 am

January 2016 I had the opportunity to travel to the Northern Cape for three weeks. Having never visited the area before I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was going to be arid and hot, I knew I was going to experience wide open spaces and unique biodiversity but nothing could prepare me for the unique fauna and flora and the immensity of the spaces.

A round trip of 4448 kilometers, starting in Johannesburg and vaguely aiming west to reach the Atlantic Ocean, took us through some very interesting environments and biomes. I cant believe the biodiversity I saw (see end of post for lists). First I will do post the reptiles and then scorpions after for the benefit of those who don't like them. Basically all the fauna was new to me, so any help with my identifications will be appreciated.

Highlight of the trip. Desert Mountain Adder (Bitis xeropaga). The very first wild dwarf adder I have seen.
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The first stop was in the Kalahari, a site called Witsand. Witsand is famous for its roaring dunes called die brulsand. When it is hot and windy and conditions are just right, the sand is said to hum while moving. During our stay the conditions were quite wet, so we never experienced the phenomena. But we did experience rain in the Kalahari which was unforgettable. My highlight for Witsand was just walking around the dunes and enjoying the exotic desert landscape.

Desert scene - Witsand Nature Reserve (photo: Melissa Petford).
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Male and Female Western Rock Skinks (Trachylepis sulcata sulcata)
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Varigated Skink (Trachylepis variegata)
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Giant Ground Gecko (Chondrodactylus angulifer angulifer)
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Spotted Sandveld Lizard (Nucras intertexta)
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Bibron's Gecko (Chondrodactylus bibronii)
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Common Wolf Snake (Lycophidion capense capense)
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Southern Rock Agama (Agama atra). These really look different to others I have seen. They are massive!
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Western Ground Agama (Agama aculeata aculeata)
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Western Three Striped Skink (Trachylepis occidentalis)
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Kalahari Tree Skink (Trachylepis spilogaster)
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Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis)
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After Witsand we continued our westward trajectory and drove towards Augrabies National Park. This is a scenic park in a very arid environment and it is famous for its waterfall were the mighty !Garib (Orange River) is forced through a gap and cascades 56 metres into the gorge below. The power of the water moving is incredible and it seems to make the surrounding rocks and cliffs tremble.

Augrabies Landscape (photo Melissa Petford)
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Augrabies Falls (photo Melissa Petford)
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Augrabies Flat Lizards (Platysaurus broadleyi) these are delightful.
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Black Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricincta woodi), Massive snake, probably two metres long. This individual was raiding a birds nest. Watched it for about half and hour before it disappeared into the hollow trunk of the tree. Was really hoping to see this species.
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Plain Sand Lizard (Pedioplanis inornata). Hot and fast!
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Western Three Striped Skink (Trachylepis occidentalis)
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Western Rock Skink (Trachylepis sulcata sulcata)
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Dwarf Plated Lizard (Cordylosaurus subtessellatus). One of my personal highlights.
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Augrabies Gecko (Pachydactylus atorquatus). Strangely beautiful Geckos.
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Namaqua Mountain gecko (Pachydactylus montanus)
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Purcell's Gecko (Pachydactylus purcelli) - not 100% on this one.
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Haake's Gecko (Pachydactylus haakei). These were really large and slow, really reminded me of the Homopholis back home.
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Western Thread Snake (Namibiana occidentalis). Beautiful little snakes.
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Turner's or Bibron's. I cant really tell the difference without catching them.
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Spotted Barking Gecko (Ptenopus garrulus maculatus). Photo Melissa Petford. Due to the cold weather this was the only one we managed to see.
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Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus). Photo Melissa Petford.
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The next destination after Augrabies was Springbok. The area is an important for it’s unique floral diversity and is part of the Namaqua Highlands. The nights in the region were cold but we managed to get out and photograph some interesting animals. The Springbok area was one of my favourite places on the trip, I will not hesitate to visit again.

Night Scene
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High Blue Southern Rock Agama (Agama atra)
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Karoo Girdled Lizard (Karusasaurus polyzonus)
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Namaqua Gecko (Pachydactylus namaquensis). Perfectly camouflaged on it's massive boulder.
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Western Sandveld Lizard (Nucras tessellata). These lizards are beautiful.
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Namaqua Sand Lizard (Pedioplanis namaquensis)
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Dark Western Rock Skink (Trachylepis sulcata sulcata)
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Giant Ground Gecko
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Not too sure on this one. Thought it might be Pachydactylus weberi, but P. montanus has been suggested. It doesn't look like the other P. montanus I have seen. Also it was rather large.
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Quartz Gecko (Pachydactylus latirostris)
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Aspidelaps lubricus found two in one night.
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Beetz's Tiger Snake (Telescopus beetzii). I was really hoping to see one of these.
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After Springbok our destination was the Atlantic and we drove to Port Nolloth. In former times this must have been one of the most beautiful regions in Southern Africa. The area is arid and the plant life consists predominantly of small succulents and small hardy shrubs. Plants and animals in the area derive most of their water from the fog that comes off the cold Atlantic Ocean. The unique fauna and flora and the area’s natural beauty has been severely damaged due to the mining of diamonds in the dunes and on the shore. Large tracts of pristine dunes have been churned up in the search of these little rocks. Paradoxically there is one advantage to the natural environment that the mining has brought and that is the protection of land through strictly controlled restricted access. For some species like the Namaqua Dwarf Adder this may contribute to its protection as the snake is over harvested by poachers.

Desert Scene Port Nolloth
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Giant Desert Lizard (Meroles ctenodactylus) These were really big and fast. Very interesting lizards to watch.
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Knox's Desert Lizard (Meroles knoxii).
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Angulate Tortoise (Chersina angulata). Common as muck, but always nice to see.
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Cape Skink (Trachylepis capensis)
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Striped Pygmy Gecko (Goggia lineata). These were really small.
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Having reached our journey’s western limit the next step was to drive north into the desert and visit the Richtersveld National Park. This region exhibits the most remote and rugged landscapes I have ever encountered. The desert is brutal and unforgiving. The only respite from the brutality of the heat and rocks was being able to swim in the !Garib and walk at night. The natural beauty of this rocky and mountainous desert landscape was humbling and we were lucky enough to catch up with some beautiful animals.

Desert Scenes -Richtersveld National Park
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Monica's Gecko (Pachydactylus monicae). Beautiful and shy little geckos.
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Richtersveld Gecko (Pachydactylus carinatus). These were abundant.
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Haake's Gecko (Pachydactylus haakei).
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Our next and final destination was to visit a farm near Aggenys in the hope of seeing some interesting scorpions and reptiles in the semi desert environment. It was a great end to a long and busy trip. Not only did we see a lot of reptiles, we also saw loads of scorpions, including the mosnster scorpion - Opistophthalmus gigas - this is one of the largest species I have ever encountered (See scorpions below).

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Delalande's Beaked Blind Snake (Rhinotyphlops lalandei)
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Quartz Gecko (Pachydactylus latirostris).
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Common Egg Eater (Dasypeltis scabra)
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Giant Ground Gecko - common but delightful creatures.
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DOR Coral Snakes were very common. I found a quite a few on the trip. This one was quite beautifully marked. It was a big specimen.
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Southwestern Shovel-snout (Prosymna frontalis). This was a real treat to see. Very docile snake.
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Good's Gecko (Pachydactylus goodi). I really wanted to see one of these. Really beautiful geckos. (Photo: Melissa Petford).
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Pedioplainus sp. Maybe Plain Sand Lizard?
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This trip was amazing. We saw so much beautiful and unique biodiversity. The amount of birds, mammals, reptiles and scorpions we encountered and the spaces we drove through and stayed in made this trip one of the most memorable I have ever had the privilege of doing. Just about everything was new and different to what I am used to. I will always remember this trip fondly.

Reptile List (49)
Chersina angulata
Stigmochelys pardalis
Chondrodactylus angulifer angulifer
Chondrodactylus bibronii
Chondrodactylus turneri
Goggia lineata
Pachydactylus atorquatus
Pachydactylus carinatus
Pachydactylus goodi
Pachydactylus haackei
Pachydactylus latirostris
Pachydactylus montanus
Pachydactylus monicae
Pachydactylus namaquensis
Pachydactylus purcelli
Ptenopus garrulus maculatus
Meroles ctenodactylus
Meroles knoxii
Nucras intertexta
Nucras tessellata
Pedioplanis inornata
Pedioplanis lineoocellata pulchella
Pedioplanis namaquensis
Karusasaurus polyzonus
Platysaurus broadleyi
Cordylosaurus subtessellatus
Trachylepis capensis
Trachylepis occidentalis
Trachylepis punctatissima
Trachylepis spilogaster
Trachylepis sulcata sulcata
Trachylepis variegata
Varanus albigularis albigularis
Varanus niloticus
Chamaeleo dilepis dilepis
Agama aculeata aculeata
Agama atra
Agama hispida
Rhinotyphlops lalandei
Namibiana occidentalis
Bitis xeropaga
Lycophidion capense capense
Prosymna frontalis
Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus
Naja nigricincta woodi
Naja nivea
Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia
Dasypeltis scabra
Telescopus beetzii

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Scorpions


Anyone who knows me knows I am a scorpion fanatic! The Northern Cape is certainly a scorpion hotspot. Below are some of the amazing scorpions seen.

Opistophthalmus carinatus, Witsand.
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Opistophthalmus wahlbergii, Witsand.
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Parabuthus raudus, Witsand.
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Hottentotta arenaceus, Witsand.
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Opistophthalmus pallipes, Springbok
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Parabuthus schlechteri, Springbok
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Parabuthus granulatus, Springbok.
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Parabuthus capensis
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Uroplectes schlechteri, Richtersveld National Park.
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Parabuthus schlechteri, Richtersveld National Park.
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Opistophthalmus haackei, Richtersveld National Park.
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Parabuthus capensis, near Spektakal Pass.
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Opistophthalmus granicauda, near Spektakal Pass.
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Opistophthalmus peringueyi, near Spektakal Pass.
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Parabuthus granulatus, Springbok area.
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Opistophthalmus gigas, near Aggenys.
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Opistophthalmus lornae, near Aggenys.
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Parabuthus laevifrons, near Aggenys.
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Parabuthus granulatus, near Aggenys.
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Hadogenes zumpti, near Aggenys.
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Thanks for looking.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Fooble » Thu May 12, 2016 10:24 am

Killer posts man, this diversity of Pachydactylus you found were incredible.

Really love all the insitu lizard and skink images. Thanks for taking the time to post and share.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby levi_20 » Thu May 12, 2016 11:46 am

Amazing post and great finds. I spent quite a bit of time in the area (and further north of Augrabies) last year. I didnt have time to look around much but its amazing to see what is there.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby jka » Thu May 12, 2016 1:21 pm

Nice post. Tha's weird to see a flapneck in the Karoo
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Mitton » Thu May 12, 2016 3:13 pm

I love these types of posts, such a beautiful part of our country.

Thanks for posting.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Ruan Stander » Thu May 12, 2016 4:23 pm

Crazy finds Ryan, I'm so jealous. Looks like it was a really insane trip. That xeropaga still gets me every time.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Emerald » Thu May 12, 2016 4:42 pm

Really awesome post man......Just love those Aspidelaps lubricus :smt007 :smt007 :smt007
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Thanks

Postby rvanhuyssteen » Fri May 13, 2016 9:14 am

The Northern Cape is a beautiful place. I think we saw so much because we were lucky enough to go up during some crazy rains. One can't actually believe how the desert can flood.

Fooble, I was surprised at the high Pachydactylus diversity we managed to to see.

JKA the Flap-neck was just past Kuruman, so not Karoo yet. But you would certainly find them in the northern karoo.

Thanks again.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Allen G. Liebenberg » Fri May 13, 2016 4:46 pm

Fantastic photos and wonderful experience.This is so much better than the usual rat rack and used kombuis posts! :-D (sorry Guys)
Can we get these pics in album form or so from you?
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby rvanhuyssteen » Sat May 14, 2016 8:54 am

Hi Alan. Thanks.

I don't know what you mean by album form?
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Allen G. Liebenberg » Sat May 14, 2016 10:37 am

These photos are so good that it would be great to be able to buy them legally on a cd or stick etc.A
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Chopper 1 » Wed May 18, 2016 3:55 pm

Lovely pics. That Black spitter is very "brown" for the species - I have only ever found shiny pitch black ones. Is that not a cape? I cannot see the pic so well.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby rvanhuyssteen » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:52 pm

Thanks Allen. I see what you mean now, that is quite a compliment!

Chopper, the snake was very large for a cape cobra and looked blacker in real life (my equipment is very basic) , but maybe you are right.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Bushviper » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:47 pm

Makes me want to undergo another field trip. However the carefree days are over. Worrying about the locals and then the farmers suspecting you of poaching makes it something I doubt I will ever get to do again. Being held at gun point is not something I want to go through again.
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Re: Northern Cape January 2016 Creature Feature (many pictur

Postby Chopper 1 » Wed Jun 08, 2016 1:20 pm

rvanhuyssteen wrote:Thanks Allen. I see what you mean now, that is quite a compliment!

Chopper, the snake was very large for a cape cobra and looked blacker in real life (my equipment is very basic) , but maybe you are right.


I personally have not seen a black spitter longer than 1.5m and have on plenty occasion seen cape cobras over 2 meters. Either way it is a lovely snake and if it is a cape then it is a very dark specimen of which I personally have not seen a live one!
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