For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tortoise

These are too easy!! :) Almost everyone got it right again except for you know who!! It seems like he and family need to leave Florida for a visit to SA so that I can educate him. LOL!! Notice, I mentioned no names!! LOL!!

Thanks for playing everyone (even the guy from Florida. :)

Although the word turtle is widely used to describe all members of the order Testudines, it is also common to see certain members described as terrapins, tortoises or sea turtles as well. Precisely how these alternative names are used, if at all, depends on the type of English being used.

British English normally describes these reptiles as turtles if they live in the sea; terrapins if they live in fresh or brackish water; or tortoises if they live on land. However, there are exceptions to this where American or Australian common names are in wide use, as with the Fly River turtle.

American English tends to use the word turtle for all freshwater species, as well as for certain land-dwelling species (e.g. box turtles). Oceanic species are usually referred to as sea turtles, and tortoise is restricted to members of the true tortoise family, Testudinidae. The name terrapin is typically reserved only for the brackish water diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin; the word terrapin being derived from the Algonquian word for this animal.
Female tortoises dig nesting burrows in which they lay from one to thirty eggs. Egg laying typically occurs at night, after which the mother tortoise covers her clutch with sand, soil, and organic material. The eggs are left unattended, and depending on the species, take from 60 to 120 days to incubate. Hatchlings are born with an embryonic egg sac which serves as a source of nutrition for the first 3 to 7 days until they have the strength and mobility to find food.
There are many old wives tales about the age of turtles and tortoises, one of which being that the age of a tortoise can be deduced by counting the number of concentric rings on its carapace, much like the cross-section of a tree. This is not true, since the growth of a tortoise depends highly on the access of food and water. A tortoise that has access to plenty of forage (or is regularly fed by its owner) will grow faster than a Desert Tortoise that goes days without eating.
Tortoises generally have lifespans comparable with those of human beings, and some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years. Because of this, they symbolize longevity in some cultures, such as China. The oldest tortoise ever recorded, almost the oldest individual animal ever recorded, was Tu'i Malila, which was presented to the Tongan royal family by the British explorer Captain Cook shortly after its birth in 1777. Tui Malila remained in the care of the Tongan royal family until its death by natural causes on May 19, 1965. This means that upon its death, Tui Malila was 188 years old. The record for the longest-lived vertebrate is exceeded only by one other, a koi named Hanako whose death on July 17, 1977 ended a 215 year life span.

The Alipore Zoo in India was the home to Adwaita, which zoo officials claimed was the oldest living animal until its death on March 23, 2006. Adwaita (sometimes spelled with two d's) was an Aldabra Giant Tortoise brought to India by Lord Wellesley who handed it over to the Alipur Zoological Gardens in 1875 when the zoo was set up. Zoo officials state they have documentation showing that Adwaita was at least 130 years old, but claim that he was over 250 years old (although this has not been scientifically verified). Adwaita was said to be the pet of Robert Clive.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Montecasino - Bird Show - Part 4

So many of these owl shots came out nice that I could not decide which to post and so ended up with all of them...

The Cape Eagle Owl can be seen in many parts of southern Africa, but nowhere is it common. It lives in rocky, sometimes mountainous areas, in various vegetation types. Most of its diet consists of mammals, but it also feeds on birds and invertebrates. Amazingly, it can carry prey that is 4,5 kg, or 4 times its weight! It lays 1-3 eggs, and incubation lasts for 34-38 days, the female doing most of it, with the male sometimes taking over while the female feeds. After fledging, juveniles stay dependent on their parents for 2-3 months, before leaving completely.
It has an extremely fragmented range, and they are no places where you can see it easily. It prefers mountainous areas with cliffs, outcrops and gorges, and can live as high as 2500m above sea level.
Its diet consists mostly of mammals, although it varies between regions. It also eats a number of birds species, as well as invertebrates. It hunts at night, searching for prey on low perches.
It uses scrapes in the ground as nests, often on ledges, hidden by trees or rocks, in cliff recesses, regularly near streams or rivers. Females often lie in the scrape for days before laying their eggs.
It sometimes uses the same nest site repeatedly, but not every year.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Montecasino - Bird Show - Part 3

The Gymnogene (now renamed African Harrier-hawk) is found in most areas of SA. They are fairl large in size and easily distinguished by their pink beak and yellow legs. They are usually solitary and hunt by raiding nests of other birds such as weavers and swallows. In courtship flight, the male rolls over and touches the talons of the female.
Great White Pelicans breed in Africa, and in Europe and Asia from Greece to Vietman. The world's population is thought to total about 90 000 pairs, of which about 80% are in Africa.
Their diet consists of fish and some crustaceans. I love the way I managed to catch this one skimming along prior to landing in the water.
Great White Pelicans are gregarious birds and large flocks often fish together encircling and trapping shoals of fish in shallow water where all the birds are easily able to scoop up fish in the skin pouch below the bill. They are excellent swimmers and also good fliers.
White Pelicans usually nest in colonies situated on an island, or remote parts of a large pan. The nest is a stick structure placed on the ground.
A single, strange colored Peacock was sitting above the building watching the show too.
The Spotted Dikkop has large eyes as he is a nocturnal bird and is very vocal, especially after rain. They eat grass seed, insects, crustaceans and frogs.
Crested Guineafowl prefer matted thickets at the edge of grasslands. They are found in flocks of up to 30 birds and will follow troops of monkeys to feed on fallen fruit.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yellow Mongoose

Living in colonies of up to 20 individuals in a permanent underground burrow complex, the yellow mongoose will often co-exist with ground squirrels or Suricates and share maintenance of the warren, adding new tunnels and burrows as necessary. The tunnel system has many entrances, nearby which the yellow mongoose makes its latrines. They hunt for insects and birds or eggs in the daytime and sometimes at night.
They also share a broadly similar diet (mainly insects) but differ ecologically in that Suricates locate much of their prey by digging, whereas Yellow Mongooses are surface foragers.

Members of these species don't all look alike: in the warmer north, the yellow mongooses are grey and have shorter hair and tails, and smaller bodies, than their southern counterparts.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Montecasino - Bird Show - Part 2

To the casual observer the massive Marabou Stork with its balding, scabby head and pendulous pink air sac may appear to be one of the ugliest creatures in the world. If this same observer were to notice the Marabou's fondness for carrion and its habit of squirting excrement onto its own legs he or she would probably consider the original opinion to be justified. It takes a real bird lover to see past all of this stork's bizarre adornments to recognize the scruffy charm underneath.
A large male Marabou Stork, standing up to 1.5 m tall and weighing nearly 9 kg, is one of the largest flying birds in the world. Their wingspan approaches 2.9 m. Females are generally smaller.

Marabou's evolved their naked heads and necks as an adaptation for feeding on large animal carcasses without getting their head feathers soiled with blood and gore. More than 200 Marabous were seen feeding on a single elephant carcass in Kruger National Park. They rely on vultures and other scavengers to open the tough outer hides and then use their cleaver-like bills to retrieve and then swallow surprisingly large pieces of meat. They are not above stealing morsels from other smaller scavengers.
Marabou Storks will eat just about any kind of animal, dead or alive. Living prey includes termites, fish, locusts, grasshoppers, army-worm caterpillars, frogs, rodents, crocodile eggs and hatchlings, quelea nestlings, doves, young and adult flamingos, cormorant nestlings, and pelican chicks.
The principal food of the Wattled Crane is aquatic vegetation, including the tubers and rhizomes of submerged sedges and water lilies. In particular, Wattled Cranes depend heavily on the sedge Eleocharis spp. In dryer upland habitats, Wattled Cranes forage for grain, grass seeds, and insects, and they make use of agricultural fields when convenient.

In Ethiopia, Wattled Cranes take advantage of beetle larvae and other invertebrates that occur in the spoil heaps created by the giant molerat!
The Toco toucan is at home in South America's tropical forests but recognized everywhere. The toucan's oversized, colorful bill has made it one of the world's most popular birds.Their average lifespan in the wild: Up to 20 years.
The 7.5-inch-long (19-centimeter-long) bill of both sexes is made of the same substance as you finger nails and is used to catch tasty morsels and pitch them to one another during a mating ritual fruit toss. In addition to fruit, they eat insects and, sometimes, young birds, eggs, or lizards.
Toucans nest in tree holes. They usually have two to four eggs each year, which both parents care for. Young toucans do not have a large bill at birth—it grows as they develop and does not become full size for several months.