For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A visit to the zoo - Part 6

A member of the dwarf antelope group, Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris) are petite, weighing 7-16 kg and measuring 70-95 cm in length. Unlike the crouched stance of forest duikers, steenbok carry their heads high and have long legs, with a shoulder height between 45 and 60 cm. The hind quarters and lower parts/belly are pure white. The male Steenbok have upright, slender horns projecting above the eyes. Conspicuous black, facial glands are situated in front of the large, dark brown eyes. These pre-orbital glands are noticeable in both sexes.
The Bat-Eared Fox (Otocyon megalotis)has a silver-gray fluffy coat, a black-tipped bushy tail with a black stripe on top. An outstanding feature is the enormous ears, which are black on the outside and white inside. The long, sharp muzzle is black on top and white underneath. These smallish creatures are 300 mm high at the shoulders and have a length of 800 mm. Mass is about 3-5 kg. They have tiny teeth restricting their diet to insects, small rodents and fruit. The main food source is harvester termites.
Spotted Hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) weigh up to 70kg, but average between 45-55kg with the females being slightly larger than the males. Their shoulder height measures between 80 and 90 cm. Their coats are sandy or greyish brown and short with a spotted pattern. They have a very strong build with a thick neck and powerful jaws and have long front legs and short back legs causing their backs to slope. The males and females have very similar genitalia, which can make identification extremely difficult. The Spotted Hyaena has a rough coat, a reddish brown or tan colour with black spots, which gradually lightens with age.
The black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) are slender creatures, weighing 5 to 10 kg. They are cunning creatures. Their senses are extremely acute and well-developed, especially their senses of hearing and smell. If startled, a jackal will retreat a certain distance and then circle back in a wide arc in order to interpret the scent of the disturbance.
Young female cheetah usually occupy the same range as their mother although ALL females are solitary except when they have a litter. Average female home ranges extend to 833 square kilometers (322 square miles). A female raises her cubs alone since adult male and female cheetahs mix only to mate. The average life span of wild radio-collared female cheetahs is 6.9 years which compares to 11.7 years for females in captivity.
The gardens of the zoo are very colorful and there geraniums around the tree make a pretty sight.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday's walk around the nursery - Part 2

The most important criteria for success with growing Cyclamen are temperature, fresh air, and moisture.

Cyclamen will rarely succeed if the temperature goes above sixty-five degrees during the day and fifty degrees at night. Cyclamen said should be watered daily to keep the soil moist.
Ideally, they should be kept on top of a pebble fill tray of water. Never pour the water over the crown of the plant, as this will cause the corm to rot.
Because they prefer a humid atmosphere, misting is beneficial. Keep them out of drafts! They come in many beautiful colors.
In early fall the potted corm can be again moved into the house, where it should be kept in a window where it will receive a few hours of morning sun each day.
Many varieties of kale are referred to as "flowering kales" and are grown mainly for their ornamental leaves, which are brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet in the interior or the rosette. Most plants sold as "ornamental cabbage" are in fact kales.
Ornamental kale is as edible as any other variety, provided it has not been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
When uncooked, standard Kale is a popular garnish.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Arboreal Huntsman Spider Olios correvoni Sparassidae

There is a very big avocado tree outside my door and over the weekend they were trimming some of the branches off.
I think he must have crawled off one of the cut-off branches as I found him on the paving.
He is very fast and scuttled away whenever I got the camera near, so I let him crawl onto my finger and put him in my tank to take pics.
He is tiny with a body length of less than half an inch but extremely hairy as you can see.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reflection - Part 1

Sometimes it is good to sit back and look at the days and years gone by. Reflections can echo the peace and tranquility of it or the stormy, bumpy times.
In each of us, there is the longing back for “the good old days’ and we compare the quality of today’s standard of living with then. But were they so good? Is it just the memory of them which makes them seem better? Are today’s so bad?
Today’s technology makes our live much easier in many ways. For example, as a young child we had a toilet which was outside. Now this was not a bad thing in summer, but it sure was hell in the winter.
Today we go out and buy a kettle or a toaster, but it only seems to last until the day after the guarantee expires whereas before it lasted for 20 years.
When we went to visit relations who lived in the next town, you could not go for the day as just getting there would take half of it and you had to take a picnic basket to eat along the way.
Now, in the same amount of time I can fly half way around the world and not need to worry about the picnic or getting a flat tire or even the possibility of hitting a cow on the road.
Speak to any older person and they will tell you times were tough back then and guess what, times are tough now too!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stink bug (Pentatomidae)

(Dalsira costalis) There are about 300 on the species in SA and are mostly plant eaters.
They have well developed stink glands which open on the top of the abdomen in nymphs.
Stink bugs are distinguished from other bugs by the large triangular scutellum (shield) which is longer than half the length of the abdomen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A visit to the zoo - Part 5

This is such a beautiful cat (Felis Caracal), I thought I would do a post just on it. It is a distant cousin to the Lynx.

In hunting, the Caracal is mainly nocturnal, but will also use the twilight hours to search out its prey. Diurnal activity has also been observed, specially in the hunting of bird.
For its size the Caracal is strong and fast, and as well as taking smaller prey such as Jerboas, Sand Rat, Ground Squirrel and Rock Hyrax, it can also bring down the larger Reedbuck and Duiker.This Cat is able, from a sitting position, to launch 4-5 metres in the air by using its strong hind quarters and limbs. They do this to pluck flying bird prey from the air.
The Caracal moves with grace and a sense of confident power. It is an expert climber and regularly takes refuge in trees.

(The picture below is not the best I have taken as it happened so quickly but I thought I would include it anyway.)
In most parts of its range the Caracal has no set breeding period and a female may often mate with up to three males. The litter size varies between 1-6 kittens, which are born after a gestation period of approximately 78 days. The kittens have a daily weight gain of approximately 21g per day and although they reach maturity at about 16-18 months of age they are often independent from about 12 months.
Mostly nocturnal, secretive, solitary, and an aggressive animal. Due to being hunted as a problem animal by farmers, Caracal became even more elusive and thus a sighting of one is very difficult.


Because of the sensitivity of their skin, herds only come out of the water to feed at night, when it is overcast or for short periods during the day.

Males have been known to kill the young, and for this reason, females will herd the little the little ones into the water in order to protect them whenever males come near.
Hippo's canine teeth are considered finer ivory than elephant tusks and they have been widely hunted for this reason.
Their name is derived from the Greek word meaning "river horse".
They are classified as belonging to the same family as pigs.
A single calf is born at a time, weighing approximately thirty kilograms, and are capable of swimming a few moments after birth.
The average time that they can remain submerged is between five and six minutes.
If they are out of the water and in the sun for a long period of time, their skin cracks and glands at the surface of the skin exudes a liquid which looks like blood.
Hippopotamus have the thickest skin of all land mammals - five centimetres - which constitutes a large percentage of their total body weight.
Certain fish will eat hippo dung. In some African countries, the people will use this to bait their fish traps.
Mating takes place only in the water, with the coupling lasting anything up to half an hour.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Scottish Bagpipes and Dancing - Part 1

Did you know that bagpipes did not originate in Scotland??

Once a year the high schools in the region have a Scottish Bagpipe and Dancing competition. My grandfather was Scottish and I have always loved bagpipe music so this year I went to take pictures to post. Yes, I know, it is NOT an instrument most people like but the music sure had my feet tapping. :)

Some people had brought this dog with them but I am sure it was a horse disguised as a dog. I have never seen anyhting this BIG!! I can imagine how much food it must eat every day and they are sure to have no robberies at their house!!
There was a nice crowd attending and a great excuse to get outdoors and into the sun for a while.
The inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands were originally of Celtic descent, and a small number of them still speak Gaelic, an ancient Celtic language which is now being encouraged once again in schools. In the southern part of the nation, the people are descended from ancient Scots with liberal inputs by Nordic influences and a bit of Anglo-Saxon.

Each band is made up of only pipes and drums and marched onto the field.
They formed a circle in front of the judges and played their hearts out. As you can see, various tartan of the clans was worn.
The sky was really beautiful with criss-cross clouds in it.
This was "The Boss" for the day. An ex-army fellow.
The original kiltThe feileadh mor was a longer untailored garment, around five metres in length, which was gathered and then belted at the waist to provide cover for both the upper and lower body. From the waist down, the feileadh mor resembled a modern kilt while the remaining material above the waist was draped over the shoulder and pinned there. This upper portion could be arranged in a variety of ways around the shoulders according to the demands of weather, temperature or freedom of movement required. At the end of day, the belt could be unbuckled to transform the feileadh mor into a warm covering for the night. The Gaelic plaid actually means 'blanket'.

Now I wonder, what DO they wear under it?? LOL!!
Each tartan has its own specific style of hose to go with it.
Tartan has an ancient history. The earliest known tartan in Scotland can be dated to the third or fourth century AD. In other parts of the world, tartan cloth has been found dating to approximately 3000 BC. Originally, tartan designs had no names, and no symbolic meaning. All tartan cloth was hand woven, and usually supplied locally. While it may have been true that certain colors or pattern motifs were more common in some areas than others, no regulated or defined "clan tartan" system ever existed.
Tartan was so identified with the Highland Gael that after the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the British government, in the Act of Proscription, forbade the wearing of tartan (among other things) in the Highlands, in an attempt to suppress the rebellious Scottish culture.
The judges in the background looking sternly on.
Though clan tartans are the most well known, tartans can represent many different things. Some tartans represent families, towns, district, corporations, individuals, events.