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.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Colors of dawn

The start of another beautiful day.







Friday, January 20, 2012

Axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum

This is one of the most curious creatures I have come across.....

The axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, is the best known of the Mexican neotenic mole salamanders belonging to the Tiger Salamander complex. Larvae of this species fail to undergo metamorphosis, so the adults remain aquatic and gilled.

Axolotls are used extensively in scientific research due to their ability to regenerate most body parts, ease of breeding, and large embryos.
As of 2008, wild axolotls are near extinction due to urbanization in Mexico City and polluted waters and are listed by CITES as an endangered species.

A sexually mature adult axolotl, at age 18-24 months, ranges in length from 15–45 centimetres (5.9–18 in), although a size close to 23 centimetres (9.1 in) is most common and greater than 30 centimetres (12 in) is rare.
Their limbs are underdeveloped and possess long, thin digits.

Three pairs of external gill stalks (rami) originate behind their heads and are used to move oxygenated water.

Axolotls have four different colours, two naturally occurring colours and two mutants. The two naturally occurring colours are wildtype (varying shades of brown usually with spots) and melanoid (black). The two mutant colours are leucistic (pale pink with black eyes) and albino (golden, tan or pale pink with pink eyes).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kapok Tree (local name - Knob Thorn)

We have a few species here called the knob thorn but this one is popular in gardens.
They get these huge beautiful flowers on them in the begining of spring before they get leaves.
In winter, they have big seedpods on them which loose their cover when the weather turns warmer. The pods are about 6-7 inches in length.Inside each pod is hundreds of black seeds surrounded by this white, furry hairs and is easily blown about in the August winds. This is just the time the birds are starting to build their nest for summer and it is highly prized by them to line the nests.
Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) is a tropical tree of the order Malvales and the family Malvaceae (previously separated in the family Bombacaceae), native to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and (as the variety C. pentandra var. guineensis) to tropical west Africa. The word is also used for the fibre obtained from its seed pods. The tree is also known as the Java cotton, Java kapok, or ceiba. It is a sacred symbol in Maya mythology.
The tree grows to 60-70 m (200-230 ft) tall and has a very substantial trunk up to 3 m (10 ft) in diameter with buttresses. The trunk and many of the larger branches are densely crowded with very large, robust simple thorns. The leaves are compound of 5 to 9 leaflets, each up to 20 cm (8 in) and palm like. Adult trees produce several hundred 15 cm (6 in) seed pods. The pods contain seeds surrounded by a fluffy, yellowish fiber that is a mix of lignin and cellulose.

Uses

The fibre is light, very buoyant, resilient, highly flammable and resistant to water. The process of harvesting and separating the fibre is labour-intensive and manual. It cannot be spun but is used as an alternative to down as filling in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, teddy bears, zafus and for insulation. It was previously much used in life jackets and similar devices. The fibre has been largely replaced by man-made materials. The seeds produce an oil used locally in soap and that can be used as fertilizer.
In Southeast Asian countries kapok has larger seed pods and the fibre which is highly flammable is used as a fuel in fire pistons.

Ceiba pentandra bark decoction has been used as a diuretic, aphrodisiac, and to treat headache, as well as type II diabetes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lions in Kruger

Lions are social animals and touching is very important aspect of their daily lives. Mothers can be seen licking and grooming their off-spring which strengthens the bond between them.
This cub is about 16-18 months old and almost ready to start taking its pack in the pride.
This male has seen many, many battles, probably with younger males trying to take over his females.
His brother looks almost as bad. Both these males will mate with the dominant female but will not allow outsiders the chance.
Being born in the Park, they are very comfortable with vehicles around them. When the weather starts to turn cooler, they will come and lay on the tarmac during the late afternoon and spend the night there for its warmth.
Every species of wild cat has different markings behind their ears.......
and the tip of their tails by which they can be identified.