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.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Have a look at this!!

On Saturday afternoon I received a phone call from someone who said that he had caught an owl in a warehouse and it was having a problem flying, did I want it. Naturally I said yes and he brought it over very early on Sunday morning. The poor little thing was very frightened but I checked him out and could not see anything broken so decided that he was just too young. I went out and found a large cage for him and got some mice, crickets and ground beef to feed him.
He lay very passively in my hand and allowed me to stroke his feathers which are extremely soft. By the evening, he had not eaten any of the mice which were crawling around, but it did look as if he had eaten some of the beef.
Early Monday morning, I received another phone call from the same young man saying he had caught another one and should he bring it over. I said yes again, but when it arrived here I could see it was extremely sick. The young man told me that he thinks someone had put out rat poison and that the owls had eaten them. I do not expect the second one to live, but who knows, maybe he will make it. I certainly hope so. I wonder if people realize how much they affect other creatures in the food chain when they do something like this? The first one should be big enough to fly properly in about 2 weeks time, then I will take him back to that area and let him go. You cannot see it in this image, but although the one eye was closed, he was watching me with the other. Enlarge the last picture and have a look at those talons.
IfI stand near his cage, he will hiss and move his body from side to side in a threatening position with his wings raised to make him look bigger.

Update: It is now Wednesday morning and I am pleased to say the second owl which I did not think will make it has fully recovered, eating well and very active. I will continue to feed him until Saturday and then release him.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Our local museum

There is an interesting selection of pre-historic skeletons in the gardens around the museum.
While inside, a display on the evolution of man makes one reflect on days gone by.
There is a live display on how these giant crickets live and survive.
When living in the bush, the one thing you always do it shake out your boots before putting them on in the morning as the scorpions love to climb into them at night.
This petrified shell is about 18 inches in diameter.
There is a beautiful display of the shells found along our coast.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Montecasino - Bird Park - Part 3

It was a lovely day to spend outdoors. After so much rain, it was cloudy but no rain fell so it was ideal for photography.
They also have reptiles at the Bird Park. This is the Sungazer lizard which is large and can grow up to about 30cm (1 foot) in length. Their name comes from their habit of burrowing a hole and laying in it with their faces outwards and towards the sun.
The Spider Tortoise gets its name from the yellow web-like lines on its shell. They are one of the smallest of the species in the world and come from Madagascar, an island off the African coast.
The Golden Lion Tamarin or Marmoset as got to be one of the most spectacular animals around. They are small orange-yellow monkeys, weighing 500 to 600 grams. They live in the heavily populated coastal region of Brazil, where less than two percent of the forest remains.
They are endangered because their habitat has been fragmented into small, unconnected areas, each area only capable of supporting a small number of groups. Without intervention by the National Zoo, other zoos, organizations, and the Brazilian government, inbreeding would soon lead to the local extinction of many of these small populations of tamarins, and eventually of the entire species.
The Madagascar Plated lizard are normall found in the waters of tropical rain forests. They grow to the length of 70 cm (about 24 inches). Their flanks have a reddish or sometimes a yellowish tint.
The very rare Geomatric Tortoise is found in only a few surviving fynbos (fine leafed - a specific habitat in SA) areas and is regarded as the world's second rarest tortoise.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Montecasino - Bird Park - Part 2

The diet of the Yellow-billed Duck consists of seeds, grain, tubers, grass, insects and their aquatic larvae. This species is usually found in pairs or small family groups but forms larger flocks when not breeding.
Typically these birds will weigh around 800 grams. In most cases, male birds can be distinguished from females with their almost black eyes, whereas the female has a more red/brown coloured eye.
Although these Rock Pigeons are supposed to be found in the wild, they are coming more and more in to the towns as their natural habitat is build up by houses. They eat seeds and grain and build a nest on outcropping platforms of sticks and grass.
The Scarlet Ibis comes from South America and their life span is approximately 15 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.
The Spoonbill has a characteristic and distinctive feeding technique - wading about in the shallows while sweeping the partially opened bill from side to side through the water. The tip of the bill is very sensitive and the bird snaps it shut as soon as prey is detected. The diet consists of fish and aquatic invertebrates.
The Saddlebilled Stork is a common resident in the northern part of South Africa. It fishes in shallow water and will nip the spines off larger fish before swallowing it.
The males are distinguished from the females by having a yellow eye instead of brown.
Crowned Crane can be found in flock when breeding of up to 100 birds and can become quite tame.
The Black-headed Heron is very common and feeds on frogs, crabs, inscets and rodents. They will stand in the shallow water waiting for prey to come to them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Snake and lizard - not for the squeemish

Just as we were leaving work, we heard a plop in the driveway and went to see what it was. It is a Brown House snake who had found a Speckled Rock Skink.
What was amazing was the fact that no matter what the skink did, the snake made sure that part of his body was always across the skink in order to hold it down and it could not move.
All snakes have a lower jaw which they can unhinge and if you have a look at the mouth in this series of pictures, you can see how it stretches to accommodate the size of his prey which is at least 5 times bigger.

Brown House snakes are medium sized and less than 3 feet in length. They have no fangs and are not venomous an so constrict their prey.
Once the prey is ingested, the stomach fluids dissolve the prey and all which is left is a small, cylindrical pellet which they regurgitate.
Because of their slow metabolic rate, reptiles need to eat less frequently than other animals or humans and can go for long periods without food, especially in the winter.

Montecasino - Bird Park - Part 1

There is a beautiful Bird Park situated next to the Casino with the entrance by this hot air balloon. If you have not been in one of these balloons before and get the chance to try it out, do go. It is a fantastic flight.

Besides being a bird park with a show twice a day, they also have a host of smaller reptiles, monkeys etc. to be seen.
I arrived there early in the morning and this African Grey parrot was still a little bit sleepy. The history of African Grey parrots kept as pets dates back over 4,000 years. Some Egyptian hieroglyphics clearly depict pet parrots. The ancient Greeks also valued parrots as pets. This custom was later adopted by wealthy Roman families who often kept parrots in ornate cages. King Henry VIII of England also had an African Grey parrot. Portuguese sailors kept them as companions on their long sea voyages.
These two Scarlet Macaws were fighting over the feedbowl. Macaws eat nuts, seeds, fruit, and sometimes insects. They also gnaw and chew on various objects. They show a large amount of intelligence in their behaviour and require constant intellectual stimulation to satisfy their innate curiosity. They often learn tricks easily. Macaws have been said to live for up to 100 years; however, an average of 50 years is probably more accurate. The larger macaws may live up to 65 years.
The White-naped Crane is on the Endangered Species list with only about 5,000 left in the wild and 500 in captive breeding programs. The are found in Mongolia, China and SE Russia.
Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp. Their oddly-shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles, and the large rough-surfaced tongue.
Both parents nurse their chick, and young flamingos feed on this milk, which also contains red and white blood cells, for about two months until their bills are developed enough to filter feed.
The Hyacinth Macaw is third on the Endangered Species list of birds. Macaws are native to Mexico, Central America, South America, and formerly the Caribbean. Most species are associated with forest, especially rainforest, but others prefer woodland or savanna-like habitats. It has been documented that a Macaw's facial feathers are unique as a human fingerprint.
Pelicans rub the backs of their heads on their preen glands to pick up its oily secretion, which they transfer to their plumage to waterproof it.
This is the Back-necked Swan fron South America. Swans usually mate for life, though 'divorce' does sometimes occur, particularly following nesting failure. The number of eggs in each clutch ranges from three to eight.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why are new leaves red - photosynthesys

I copied this simple explination from another website as I thought it explains it rarther well.

Not all of the light from the Sun makes it to the surface of the Earth. Even the light that does make it here is reflected and spread out. The little light that does make it here is enough for the plants of the world to survive and go through the process of photosynthesis. Light is actually energy, electromagnetic energy to be exact. When that energy gets to a green plant, all sorts of reactions can take place to store energy in the form of sugar molecules.
Remember we said that not all the energy from the Sun makes it to plants? Even when light gets to a plant, the plant doesn't use all of it. It actually uses only certain colors to make photosynthesis happen. Plants mostly absorb red and blue wavelengths. When you see a color, it is actually a color that the object does NOT absorb. In the case of green plants, they do not absorb light from the green range.
We already spoke about the structure of chloroplasts in the cells tutorials. We want to reinforce that photosynthesis happens in the chloroplast. Within this cell organelle is the chlorophyll that captures the light from the Sun. We'll talk about it in a bit, but the chloroplasts are working night and day with different jobs. The molecules are moved and converted in the area called the stroma.
Chlorophyll is the magic compound that can grab that sunlight and start the whole process. Chlorophyll is actually quite a varied compound. There are four (4) types: a, b, c, and d. Chlorophyll can also be found in many microorganisms and even some prokaryotic cells. However, as far as plants are concerned, the chlorophyll is found in the chloroplasts. The other big molecules are water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), oxygen (O2) and glucose (C6H12O6). Carbon dioxide and water combine with light to create oxygen and glucose. That glucose is used in various forms by every creature on the planet. Animal cells require oxygen to survive. Animal cells need an aerobic environment (one with oxygen).
The whole process doesn't happen all at one time. The process of photosynthesis is divided into two main parts. The first part is called the light dependent reaction. This reaction happens when the light energy is captured and pushed into a chemical called ATP. The second part of the process happens when the ATP is used to make glucose (the Calvin Cycle). That second part is called the light independent reaction.

Monday, November 1, 2010

An African winter sunset

Yesterday I found myself on top of a high hill at sunset and took these pictures. Now I have taken pictures of sunsets before but wanted to try something different and came up with these. It is more a play on light, shadow and shapes than actual sunsets. The photographs have not been cropped or manipulated in any way. I am not sure if they are good or bad so would appreciate comments.