As the venue for this year’s Botanical Society of South Africa’s Winter Gardens, visitors were able to witness the magnificent bird and butterfly life attracted to the Renishaw Hills mature lifestyle village. Located within the Mpambanyoni Conservation Development on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, this estate boasts some of the area’s most diverse indigenous flora and fauna – largely due to the work done by Dr Elsa Pooley and her team.
“The Renishaw Hills mature lifestyle village has been designed with a focus on conservation and natural habitat rehabilitation,” explained Phil Barker, managing director of Renishaw Property Developments. “Elsa and the Renishaw Hills landscaping team have established some of the region’s finest indigenous gardens, resulting in a rich biodiversity, with residents enjoying an abundance of local bird and butterfly species.”
One such resident is Mary Lindsay, a butterfly enthusiast who has photographed more than 100 butterfly species at Renishaw Hills since taking up residence in 2017. Her interest in these beautifully-adorned insects was sparked back in 2004 when she was planning her daughter’s wedding and needed to collect butterflies for a release.
“I started noticing butterflies more and more and was always amazed at how people could identify a butterfly that was furiously flying overhead!” recalled Mary. “The more I noticed the more interested I was and my husband and I started visiting the butterfly farms.”
To date, Mary has photographed 343 different species in 30 different locations, many of these in and around the Renishaw Hills area. Commenting on the abundance of these winged creatures, Mary said: “Indigenous plants and grasses – and even a few weeds – attract a large number of butterflies to the gardens. Because I post images to the virtual butterfly museum, I am always looking for new locations, but I do not have to move away from our Renishaw Hills gardens and the communal areas to photograph many different butterflies.”
She’s even managed to identify some unusual residents such as the Forest Queen which isn’t often found so far down the coast: “I have an Acraea butterfly that I photographed which was not on record in the reference books, but on identification was told that it was unusual. Most of our butterflies here are found elsewhere on the coast – north or south – and even some are found in the Midlands.”
Peter Small, who has been residing at Renishaw Hills since the start of the year, has quickly become enamoured of the incredible butterfly species and believes that, as the vegetation matures, the bird diversity will continue to grow as well.
“There is an amazing diversity of indigenous vegetation that has been introduced, and butterfly distribution is dependent on specific host plants so a diversity of plants contributes to butterfly diversity,” explained Peter. “Birds too are attracted by botanical biodiversity but have additional needs other than food, such as nesting sites and roosting areas. The bird diversity will undoubtedly increase.”
Another enthusiast of winged creatures is Renishaw Hills’ resident, Tim McClurg, who’s interest in birds and butterflies originated during his upbringing in Zimbabwe: “My interest in Natural History led me to a career in ecology and an understanding that effective environmental management is critically dependent on species identity. I have recently adopted digital photography as a non-invasive tool to identify species.”
He said that the wide variety of habitats in the Renishaw Hills’ vicinity provides ‘ample scope for high regional biodiversity’.
“The positive steps being taken to plant indigenous flora and restore degraded habitats bodes well for the future,” said Tim. “The relatively secure environment, and presence of access paths within the broader Renishaw Hills estate, allows residents to safely enjoy and participate in the ecological restoration.”
Alongside the incredible butterfly sightings, Tim said there were many amazing bird viewings from the estate including Crowned Eagles, Long-crested Eagles, Black Sparrowhawks, Jackal Buzzards, Lanner Falcons, Ospreys and Little Sparrowhawks: “The pair of nesting Crowned Eagles near the Renishaw Chapel is particularly exciting. The presence of so many raptors is encouraging and suggestive of a robust ecosystem.”
The Renishaw Hills community organizes a number of social groups and activities with plans in place to establish a formalized birding and butterfly group. For more information about this naturally enticing development, visit www.renishawhills.co.za