Dear Nature's Child
Grasses look beautiful, especially when they sway in the breeze or the sun shines through their delicate flowers. Indigenous grasses are not only lovely to look at, they are also very important to our wildlife.
If you have a patch of wild grass in your garden or near to where you live, take some time to just stop and watch and you will be amazed at the busy buzz of life around you.
The grassland biome is the second largest of the 8 biomes in South Africa. A biome is an area that has specific groups of plants and animals found in it because they are suited to the conditions in that area, which include rainfall, temperature and soil type. Grasslands cover almost a third of our country’s land surface. Most of our rivers run through these grasslands and they are where many of our country’s large dams are found, that towns and cities get their water from.
When we see the small patches of wild grasslands left in South Africa, it is hard to imagine that they once stretched for kilometres.
In years gone by, the great plains game were plentiful and herds of thousands of animals would move through areas, eating up new and delicious shoots of grasses.
Now, we have to rely on game reserves to see these species of antelope, wildebeest, buffalo, zebra and some of their predators such as lions and cheetah.
Today, the kind of wildlife we are likely to see in our gardens or nature reserves near us that have patches of grassland are birds, butterflies, spiders, frogs and toads and a myriad of insects.
If you’re lucky you might even spot a tortoise or a snake.
When the grass is long it is easy to miss the many creatures that live in and make use of grasslands. But when you look closely at a healthy grassland it is filled with an incredible amount and variety of life.
Here are just a few of the many different insects, birds, reptiles and mammals we have been lucky enough to spot in the Random Harvest Nursery Grassland.
Spiders eat many insects and help to keep the number of pests down in a grassland.
There are many different species of butterfly that we see in our grassland. Some just visit for the nectar, while others lay their eggs on the plants and they complete their whole life cycle in the grassland.
Tortoises are reptiles that need a high fibre diet and Grassland species of tortoises eat mostly grasses and other plants found in grasslands. They can walk surprisingly far in a day – up to a few kilometers.
We have many bird species at Random Harvest, particularly in the grassland area. The Thick Knees are almost invisible with their cryptic colouring and how still they stand or sit when they don’t want you to see them. They are mostly active at night.
The Guinea Fowl are such fun to watch. They constantly make a noise as they communicate with each other while they forage for bugs and grain.
The Orange Throated Longclaw is a colourful bird, and can be seen darting around looking for insects or collecting nesting material.
We are so excited to have the Crowned Lapwings breeding at Random Harvest. Their little chicks are able to run fast from almost the moment they hatch. When they lie flat amongst the grasses they are just about invisible. Their parents are very protective and dive-bomb anyone or anything that comes to close to their babies.
The Random Harvest Grassland also has many mammal species, which we don’t often see but it is very exciting to know that they are there.
The Slender Mongoose is seen more and more regularly. These little creatures move extremely quickly, and feed on small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fruit, and insects.
The Scrub Hare is seen mostly in the early evening and morning. It stays hidden during the day, escaping the heat as well as predators.
Did you know that a healthy grassland is made up of mostly but not only grasses? Other flowering plants, rocks, dead wood and in many places, watery areas help to provide places for creatures to live, feed, breed, hide, and sometimes just to rest.
Grasses, Aloes and other plants provide seeds for many seed eating birds and mammals, and nectar from flowering plants in the grassland is important food for birds, butterflies and bees. Grasses and silky seeds provide good nesting material too.
Rocks and wood provide places for lizards, snakes and spiders as well as some insects and other creatures to hide in from predators as well as from very hot and cold weather. Clumps of taller bushes provide hiding places for shy birds such as the Thick Knee.
We have a great Easter Eco-clue hunt activity happening at Random Harvest Nursery from Friday 18th March to Sunday24th April. We have arranged an activity where you can go around the nursery to collect stickers and at the same time learn about creatures of the grasslands. When you’ve collected all the stickers for your pamphlet, there’s a little gift and an Easter Egg wating for you at reception.
Below is a picture of some of the creatures one can find in a grassland. You can colour it in if you want to.
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