I decided to share my experience over the last two weeks as well as one from back in August. As the common is wild there are a number of animals that live there but in the last two weeks I saw one I’d never seen before. As I was walking down one of the paths something caught my eye. I went back and on closer inspection saw it to be two large spiders. I’m not sure if they were involved in some sort of mating ritual or a fight but as I was taking photos one of them dropped to the ground and left. I then continued to take photos of the remaining spider until a pack of dogs decided I looked interesting and ran through the bushes where the spiders had been.
The diversity of fynbos plants is extremely high, with over 9000 species of plants occurring in the area, around 6200 of which are endemic, i.e. they do not grow anywhere else in the world. This level of variety is comparable to tropical rainforests or large islands and is unique in a relatively dry continental area. Of the Ericas, 600 occur in the fynbos kingdom, while only 26 are found in the rest of the world. This is in an area of 46,000 km² – by comparison, the Netherlands, with an area of 33,000 km², has 1400 species, none of them endemic. Table Mountain in Cape Town supports 2200 species, more than the entire United Kingdom. Thus, although the Fynbos comprises only 6% of the area of southern Africa, it has half the species on the subcontinent – and in fact has almost 1 in 5 of all plant species in Africa.
When I got home I tried to identify the spider but the only book of spiders I had was rather small and I am not particularly knowledgeable about spiders. Going mostly from the guide’s description of the spider as having a “shiny, hairless carapace” I decided it was probably some form of trapdoor spider. I saw the same sort of spider again today, though probably not the same individual. I found this quite amazing as I’d never seen them before but now I’ve seen them twice in as many weeks. In any case I tried to measure the spider and estimated the body to be between 20 and 25 millimetres long, though it looked larger. This seems to fit for a trapdoor spider. Furthermore, when I disturbed it, it tucked itself into a hold in the ground. It may be nothing but trapdoor spiders do dig burrows so I’m thinking that’s probably what it was.A few months earlier I was also on the common, that time just after it had rained. It was in August, near the end of winter when the Western Cape, in contrast to the rest of the country, gets most of its rainfall. Although the common has no permanent water feature, after the rain many areas were underwater. What was more interesting was that those puddles were filled with tadpoles! I suspected they might belong to the endangered Western Leopard Toad which lives in the city but looking at it’s breeding habits it seems it would’ve been too early for it’s eggs to have hatched. No matter what they were they must have been waiting for quite a while for the water and hopefully matured fast because those puddles only last a handful of weeks at the most.
You can read about another of my encounters with spiders over here.