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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Home away from home - Part 2

Nearing midday, and not having seen hide or hair of an elephant, I am about to follow the example of the animals and head for a shady spot. One of my ideal camps is nearby and I head in that direction. The camp is situated on the banks of a river with a lot of game feeding there and at night, if I am lucky to get a camping spot near the fence, I can hear the animals walking past. There is also a handy pool in which I can lie and soak in like a hippo. Just before reaching the camp, I stop at a waterhole. There are hippo, crocodile and many species of water birds. The crocs are mostly lying on the sandy banks with their mouths open in order for the slight breeze to cool the mucus membranes in them and so cool them down. Crocs are fascinating creatures which can slow their heartbeats down to four beats per hour and this allows them to stay for a long period underwater. I learnt long ago not to trust quiet looking pools in the middle of nowhere. These would be ideal bathing spots in areas such as Botswana where there are no showers or other water. I would sit watching the pool for a long, long time before venturing into the shallows of one to have a VERY quick wash. Mostly I would try to find a place where water runs over a fairly large area of shallow, rocky surface as this would be safest. The alternative is to remain stinky for another day until a suitable place is found or else make do with a portable shower which has hung outside in the sun while driving. A grassy spot, shower hung in a tree, stripped naked, and wow! The luxury of being clean again!
Not much is happening here because of the heat and I will return later, so I head into camp and check myself in for the night. An hour by the pool, a hamburger and coke, and I feel like a million dollars again. I set up camp in a suitable spot next to the fence and need to go for another swim. Four o’clock and I head out to find those elusive elephants. They are here somewhere, I know they are!
Two giraffe are bumping heads in a sparring session. Once again I get fabulous shots as the bush is fairly open here and good for photography. Giraffe have the second longest gestation period of all land mammals, eighteen months. Giraffe and camels have a distinctive walk. Unlike other animals, they move the right side two legs then the left side two legs, where as others use alternate sides. One giraffe is chewing what looks like old buffalo bones which are an additional source of calcium. There is a baby of about a week old. I know if I sit quietly for long enough, it will come closer as they are very inquisitive. Anyone who does wildlife photography knows that the greatest asset in this line of work is patience. I get into position where I am comfortable (using a window mount for my camera), and prepare to wait. The only thing moving are my eyes as I keep track of the youngster and also watch the continuing battle between the two males. Forty five minutes goes by, they have forgotten I am here, but the baby has started to edge closer and is now halfway between its mother and the car. Then I smell it…….the unmistakable smell of elephant! They are so quiet, walking on their toes, that one always smells them first. The giraffe are forgotten and I whip around looking for the elephants. The giraffe flees back to the comfort of mom’s side and I see a small movement behind some bushes. Yes, there he is. A big bull about to pull a branch down off a tree. These mammals must eat in the region of 300kg per day, this includes bark, leaves and grass. What an enormous male he is. I get the camera going. He is about 20 yards away. His tusks are huge and he must be at least in his 60’s. I try to see if he has mates but cannot find another one, but that does not mean they are not there, just that I cannot see them for now. The males are usually loners or with two or three other males. They only join the female herds for mating periods and believe me when I say this is quite a sight to see. On the rare occasions when I have, I actually forgot to take pictures!! He finishes his branch and reaches up for another coming more into the open and closer to the car. I hear something in the bushes on the other side and turn to find another bull not ten yards away coming straight in my direction.
This elephant is HUGE. My car almost fits under his belly! I sit as still as I can, camera forgotten (again) he is closer. I look up into his mouth as he passes right in front of me to join his companion. Camera! Grab the camera! At last I get the shots I am waiting for. He joins the other elephant and the two start grazing on the grass not ten yards away. Thank goodness I have a quiet camera! They sure do smell and as fast as they put food in their mouths, it all comes out at the back. They move slowly away and I start to breathe again. Ten minutes later they are gone from sight, but I know they are still close by. The giraffe have all but gone too and I decide to move on. My first sighting of elephant has been good and hopefully there will be many more before this trip is over.
Part three coming soon……..

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Home away from home - Part 1

I have decided to post a story which I wrote of one of my trips to a wildlife reserve called Kruger national Park. Please bear with me, as I am not a writer by any means and I sometimes forget to use American spelling as we use British, but you might find this interesting .........
I left home at 4 am on the way to a few days out of the rat race to find sanity again in the bush. It is warm and all the windows are open to allow the fresh breeze to circulate. Everything is packed, food, cameras, camping gear and most importantly, binoculars. An hour down the road, the sky starts to lighten and an hour after that, the sun peaks over the horizon. Another glorious day in Africa, but best of all, no work today. No cars, no telephones, no noise! A short stop along the way for breakfast (and the toilet of course) and arrive at the entrance to our most popular game reserve. Ah! What a feeling of peacefulness! It is like coming home after a long time away. The cameras are placed in special foam on the seat next to me. Each camera has a different size lens and it is specially cut out in the shape of each camera so that they are close at hand and will not fall or bump each other. Coffee is made and put in a thermos. Now I am ready to begin my day.
The first thing I see is impala. They are a medium size antelope and there are about 28,000 of them in the park. They are the favorite prey of cheetah and leopard and it is beneficial to watch the herds as they will give you a good indication if predators are around. The females all gave birth in November and December, so there are plenty of young ones around who are very actively jumping and running around in the cool of morning. Later on, they will be under the trees trying to find a cool shady spot to stay in until the sun goes down. But for now it is amusing to watch their antics. I feel very sorry for the males as they only have a six week period in June/July when they mate with the females, then they run around most of the time chasing other males away and this does not allow them much mating time. However, they seem to get the job done eventually, but by the end of this time, actually have black rings around their eyes from fatigue! What an advantage us two-legged creatures have!
I spot two young males play fighting and I grab my camera to record the fight, and it reminds me of the first time I brought my parents to the park. We had stopped to admire a huge herd of impala on either side of the road. “What a lovely herd of impala” I said. “Where” asked my dad. “Here, all around us” I said, impatiently indicating the herd, thinking he was mad not to see them. “Oh” he replied “all I see is biltong” I had to laugh at that. I see some blue wildebeest close by and across the road, zebra. These all live in harmony with one another. They eat different things and each species increases the others awareness to danger.
The zebra walk in single file wherever they go. Like horses, they have a gestation period of a year and can calve at any time during the year but with a peak in the springtime. No two zebra have the same markings and this is used by the young to identify their mothers. Some are grazing peacefully while others roll around in the dust to get rid of ticks and fleas.
I pour some coffee, and start slowly down the road again. It is too late to look for predators as they like early mornings and late afternoons to be active and so I will look for them this evening. At the moment I am looking for elephants. They are my favourites and always the first animals I look for.

There are more warthogs and impala, with a small herd of waterbuck grazing nearby. They are one of the larger antelope species with only the males having horns and standing at about 1.7 m tall at the shoulders. I move on and see zebra. The earlier settlers in South Africa tried to use them in place of donkeys to pull their carts, but were found not to have enough stamina as they can only run for about ten km’s. They are fairly dependent on water and are never found far away from it. My eye catches sight of a rhino. It is a white one with a square lip for grazing grass. Rhino horn is made up of a very hard fibre similar to our fingernails. If they have babies with them, black and white rhino can easily be distinguished as the white rhino herds her young in front of her, while the black rhino baby trails behind. The white rhino also holds its head close to the ground while the black, leaf eating rhino, carries its head higher. They are Africa’s third largest mammal and their only enemy is man who has hunted them in large numbers. This one is quietly grazing and comes very close to me. They are extremely short sighted but make up for it by having a very good sense of hearing.
I see beautiful Starlings feeding and come across some ground Hornbills. They are the largest of the hornbill species and stand at about a metre tall. They are black with a bright red crop. The crop is yellow (almost white) when born, turning orange and then red as they grow older. They walk along the road looking for insects, snakes, centipedes and I have even seen them trying to get at a tortoise. Stunning creatures with very long eyelashes, they are wonderful to see.
Part two coming soon………

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rhino

The most remarkable differences between the black and white rhino are:
a) the white is the larger of the two species;
b) a larger hump and head are found on the white rhino;
c) black rhino have a round lip whereas the white has a square one;
d) the grass eating white rhino carries its head close to the ground while the leaf eating black rhino hold its head higher;
e) the calf of the black rhino follows behind, while the white calf walks in front.

Oops!!! Wrong view...sorry!! LOL!!
They are Africa's third largest mammal and their only enemy is man who has hunted them in large numbers.
They will use their horns to dig for water in the dry season.
Three toes are found on each foot.
The black rhinoceros is very agile and when running, it can stop and spin around within the length of it's body.

To rid themselves if insects and ticks, they will wallow in mud and once it is dry, they will rub themselves against a tree so that the mud encased insects will fall off with the mud.
The ears are able to rotate independently of each other.
They are colour-blind and like dogs, can only see images in black and white.
Rhino horns are actually made up of a very hard fibre and are not a true horn.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Leopard

So many of you were on the right track but sorry, no cigar this week to anyone. Tom is going to be mad again and say I switched the pictures. LOL!!
The leopard is so strong and comfortable in trees that it often hauls its kills into the branches. By dragging the bodies of large animals aloft it hopes to keep them safe from scavengers such as hyenas. Leopards can also hunt from trees, where their spotted coats allow them to blend with the leaves until they spring with a deadly pounce. These nocturnal predators also stalk antelope, deer, and pigs by stealthy movements in the tall grass. When human settlements are present, leopards often attack dogs and, occasionally, people.
Leopards are strong swimmers and very much at home in the water, where they sometimes eat fish or crabs.
Female leopards can give birth at any time of the year. They usually have two grayish cubs with barely visible spots. The mother hides her cubs and moves them from one safe location to the next until they are old enough to begin playing and learning to hunt. Cubs live with their mothers for about two years—otherwise, leopards are solitary animals.
When a female is pregnant and we have a period of drought, she can actually stop the fetus developing further until conditions improve. There are only two animals I know of which can do this, the other being the kangaroo.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Odds and ends - Part 6

This flower looks like it is made of plastic.
A very attractive bush but not native to SA. The red seed pods are eaten by birds but it does not taste very interesting.
Lichen.
Beautiful Hibiscus. Many species are grown for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs. Hibiscus is also a primary ingredient in many herbal teas.
This tiny little spider s about the size of a match head.

The street where I live.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelos)

They are easily distinguished by the broad saddle on their backs and the sharp pointed ears and nose and are nocturnal and diurnal, but the best time to see them is early morning or late afternoon.
During the summer, when the grass is taller than they are, these small creatures have a most amusing habit; they will walk a few feet, jump into the air to have a quick look around, and then go on their way again. This is repeated every couple feet or so.

Old antbear holes are used by them to live in and to rear their young.
When they have their young, either the male or the female will go out to find food whilst the other stays at home to take care of the cubs.
They mate for life. Normally they are to be seen singly, a pair, or sometimes a pair with cubs.
Jackals are mainly scavengers, but will kill small antelope or birds if they need to or the opportunity arises.
Most pups are born between June and November, the litter being between one to six cubs.

As they are not dependent on water, their territory can be within a wide variety of vegetation.
While pups are still young, the parents will bring back food which they regurgitate for them.
Our jackals are the same size as your coyote and fill the same space in the circle of predators and prey as they do.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Odds and ends - Part 5

A young bromeliad starting to shoot out.
I like the small purple flowers which appear from the center out the front.
There are some very interesting bushes around the gardens with verigated leaves which look pretty.
This is called a Yesterday Today and Tomorrow. A small bush which get flowers of the three different colors on it. It is very sweet smelling and attracts a lot of insects.
A vertigated flower of a Agapanthus Flower - also known as The Lily of the Nile.
...which the bees also love. Several hundred cultivars and hybrids are cultivated as garden and landscape plants.
The bell-shaped flowers of the Australian Fire Tree.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Grandfather's Pipe

Sorry, but I could not resist posting this interesting looking flower and knew the pattern on the flower would make a good Mystery. :)

This is a very olde worlde plant and I do not see it in the shops anymore and it is Aristolochia durior and as a child we were told it was called 'Grandfathers Pipe' or 'Dutchmens Pipe.

This is a most interesting flower on a creeper. The flowers are as big as a dinner plate.
At the back it has this sack from which it gets its name.
Insects are very attracted to it and are always buzzing around for the sweet nectar in the center especially moths. This is a fast growing creeper originates in Brazil. It likes areas of high summer rainfall and is easily propagated from seed and is evergreen.

Friday, May 1, 2009

White Lions

White lions are not albinos. The first one was born in the Timbivati Game reserve in the 1980's and was herelded as an omen of great changes coming. This is a gene found in some of them and their siblings can be normal color. The other differences between the two is that the white lion has greenish eyes and does not have the black tipped tail.
These lions are roaming around in a VERY large enclosure which you drive through with your car so I am right next to them. Some of these were taken with the 200mm lens but some were too close so I took them with my point and shoot camera. There are 5 of these large camps and each one has a mixture of males and females.
The camps have high 20 foot fences around them with a space and then another fence so that the they cannot get through it and at each other. When one of the females from a camp is on heat the lions from the other camp walk up and down next to the fence and I can see they will do almost anything to be able to get through it. The males are very possessive of their females and territory.