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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Waterdrops - Part 2

This half open hibiscus made a pretty picture after the rain.

A high fence reflected....

I wanted to see how many song I could find with the word "rain" or "raindrops" in them and these were a few I came across. I must admit that I have not heard half of them!!
STEVIE WONDER LYRICS - Passionate Raindrops
INME LYRICS - Raindrops On Stones
MANIC STREET PREACHERS LYRICS - Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
TAMYRA GRAY LYRICS - Raindrops Will Fall
BILLY TALENT LYRICS - Standing In The Rain
DEBORAH COX LYRICS - September In The Rain
ANGIE STONE LYRICS - No More Rain (In This Cloud)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hyena/Hyaena and friends

We have three species of hyena in South Africa of which the Spotted Hyena is the largest. Second in size is the Brown and smallest the Striped.

Spotted Hyena
Spotted Hyenas are famed scavengers and often dine on the leftovers of other predators. But these hardy beasts are also skilled hunters that will take down wildebeest or antelope. They also kill and eat birds, lizards, snakes, and insects.

In an increasingly overpopulated Africa, hyenas and humans come into frequent contact. In fact, the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania actually leave their dead to be consumed by hyenas. However, these intelligent and bold animals will raid food stores and crops and are blamed for many livestock and even some human deaths. In some areas they have been heavily hunted as destructive pests.
Although hyenas appear similar to dogs, they are actually more closely related to cats. They live throughout much of Africa and eastwards through Arabia to India. Spotted hyenas live together in large groups called clans that may include up 80 individuals and are led by females.
Spotted hyenas have good hearing and sharp eyesight at night. They are fast and can run for long distances without tiring. Packs work together effectively to isolate a herd animal, sometimes one that is ill or infirm, and pursue it to the death. The victors often squabble over the spoils, either among themselves or with other powerful animals like lions.

Spotted hyenas are quite vocal and make a wide variety of sounds, including the "laughing" that has long been associated with their name. They can live in the wild up to 25 years.
Brown Hyena (please excuse the bad pictures but they are from older slides)
Brown Hyena are fairly solitary animal and mainly active at night. They have an excellent sense of smell which assists them in finding carrion. They have very powerful jaws and large strong teeth for crunching through bone which can be seen in the photographs below. Males are slightly larger than females with the average weights being 40.2 Kg for males and 37.7 Kg for females.
They are well adapted to live in arid regions where there are few herbivores. They have very keen senses, they are able to detect a carcass from considerable distances, and are able to run at high speeds for long distances to get to the carcass before other scavengers. As well as scavenging off carcasses, they will also eat fruit (e.g. Tsama or gemsbok cucumber), insects (e.g. locusts, harvester termites and dung beetles), eggs (e.g. ostrich eggs), and will prey on small animals such as rodents, lizards and poultry. When they come across an ostrich nest containing eggs the brown hyena is able to bite the eggs open even though it has slightly less powerful jaws than the spotted hyena which has to kick an egg till it hits one of the other eggs hard enough to break it open so it can consume the egg.

When not at the den, the brown Hyenas are generally solitary.
Striped Hyena
Unlike Spotted Hyena, Striped Hyena tend to be more solitary, foraging alone for food, but they are believed to share a communal den for raising cubs, and possibly at other times although little is known about this. They have a slender build which allows it to travel long distances when foraging - they are able to trot for up to 8 hours a night covering distances of up to 30Km.

In areas where both Striped Hyena and Spotted Hyena are found, the Spotted Hyena are dominant and will steal food from the Striped Hyena. They eat a range of small mammals such as hares or rodents, as well as reptiles and insects including tortoises, grasshoppers and termites. They also eat fruits such as date palms and scavenge from rubbish dumps.
Female Striped Hyena give birth to a litter of 2-4 cubs after a gestation period of around 90 days. The cubs are usually born in a rocky den or a vacant burrow dug by another species. In some areas the Striped Hyena tends to gives birth at particular times of the year but in other areas there is no pattern to their reproduction.

Striped Hyena are found throughout North and East Africa as well as the middle East and parts of India. They live mainly in arid areas including open savannah and rocky slopes, In some areas Striped Hyena are found on the coast.
The Aardwolf is a close relative of the hyena but is much smaller, about the size of a jackal or coyote and more dog-like in appearance.

It is a very specialized predator, with a diet that is made up almost exclusively of termites. The termites are located by smell and hearing when they are out of their mounds and the aardwolf then uses its long sticky tongue to lick them up from the ground. An aardwolf can eat up to 300,000 termites in a single night. They occasionally eat other insects, birds or mice.

The Aardwolf does not kill livestock - its molar teeth are not suited to a carnivorous diet. Its canines are used purely for defense if they are unable to scare their enemy away.

The aardwolf is normally nocturnal, but in the southern African summer, it is active during the day when its main prey sources are active.
When threatened, they raise the mane of hair on their neck and back to make themselves look a lot bigger. The Aardwolf does not kill livestock, but because of its resemblance to a hyena it is often assumed to be a threat to livestock and is therefore unfairly persecuted. They also fall victims to farmers who hunt jackals with packs of dogs as the dogs will also attack and kill the aardwolf.

The aardwolf is a good digger and either digs its own burrow or modifies one left behind by another species. It has 4 digits on each of its hind paws and 5 on each of its front paws. These digits are equipped with strong claws which are used when digging.

The aardwolf is generally solitary except when mating or raising young.

Apart from humans, the main threats to the aardwolf come from spotted hyenas, lions, leopards and pythons.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gaelyn's visit - Part 2

Going up the steps at God's Window in the Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) we saw a small plane flying over but it kept in disappearing behind the trees.....

...but eventually I was fast enough to capture a picture of it. What a beautiful vista they must have from up there!! Gaelyn brough me luck as this was the first time I had managed to find a red mushroom. It was super tiny about 1/2 inch in height. The bracket fungi on this tree was just starting to grow but I have seen it become the size of a dinner plate. This small wild flower reminded me of a hollyhock and I wondered if it was related. Some bug had a good chew out of it. Sunset in Kruger Park

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dung Beetles

We have many different kinds of Dung Beetles here and all belong to the Scarabaeidae (Scarab) family. They vary in length and color and be anything from 3 to 50mm in length.
Life Span: Up to 3 years.

Description: Some dung beetles are metallic blue and green and also copper in color white others are dull to shiny black in color.
This is a Spider Dung Beetle above....
Habitat: Dung beetles have many different habitats including farmland, grasslands, deserts, and forests.
Countries found in: More than 5000 species of dung beetle can be found in every continent with the exception of Antartica.
Babies: Eggs are deposited in balls of dung. Some species of dung beetles watch over the ball of dung while waiting for the young beetles to emerge. The dung beetle larvae live and feed off the dung ball.
Food: Dung, mushrooms, decaying matter such as leaves and fruit. Dung beetles do not "eat" the dung, but use their mouths to suck the juice from the undigested plant material in the manure.
Interesting Facts:
Dung beetles create dung balls and roll them with their hind legs.
The dung is eaten and also used to deposit eggs.
Dung beetles don't need to eat or drink anything else as they get all the nutrition they need directly from the dung they collect.
Most dung beetles search for dung using their sensitive sense of smell. Some of the smaller species simply attach themselves to the dung-providers to wait for their reward. After capturing the dung, a dung beetle will roll it, following a straight line despite all obstacles. Sometimes dung beetles will try to steal the dung ball of another beetle, so the dung beetles have to move rapidly away from a dung pile once they have rolled their ball to prevent it from being stolen. Dung beetles can roll up to 50 times their weight. Male Onthophagus taurus can pull 1,141 times their own body weight: the equivalent of an average person pulling six double-decker buses full of people.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The most unbelievable Grasshopper

Andrea from Sidecar, a wonderful blog on South African wildlife, send me these unbelievable pictures.

Can you see it in the first picture? No? I don't blame you. Unless you know what to look for, it is almost impossible to find.
Maybe in this one? It is a Stone Grasshopper (Trachypetrella) and are found in the western part of the country. I have only seen these in books and pictures like this. They are so well disguised, I doubt if I would ever be able to find one anyway as they mimic the rocks they are found amongst.
This is a mating pair and you can see the difference between the male and female. They are large, over 2 inches in length. Their antennae are thin and can be withdrawn into sockets. When attacked, they raise their hind legs and lash out with great strength and speed while producing a grating sound.
Thank you so much for sharing these with us Andrea. It is insects like this which peaks my interest and the more I find, the more I want to see and learn more.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gaelyns visit - Part 1

I think it is about time I completed the photographs I took during Gaelyn's visit to SA. Here is the gypsy herself (on the right) sitting at the overlook to God's Window.
God's Window offers magnificent views across the Blyde River Canyon and the Lowveld. Walk along the paths to the fissure in the mountain side, which opens up onto an awesome vista. The rocky escarpment is spread out before you, 1 000 m below disappearing through the distant haze into Mozambique. The Kruger National Park and the mountains to the west can be seen in the distance on a clear day.
This tiny musroom was growing sideways out of one of the moss covered steps.
A wild flower taken at the Dinosaur Park.
The moss was starting to seed and I managed to get a nice shot of it. This whole clump is only about 1/2 and inch in diameter.
On the rocks where it grows, there were black tracks of some which had died off and it made a pretty pattern.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Walk 18/4 - Part 1

Getting towards the end of April, there is a coolness in the air and in some places, there is frost on the ground and the grass is starting to go brown.

I found a new place to look for insects and although I was sure I would not find any this late in the season, decided to check it out for next summer.

It is situated on a small hill not far out ouf town and after parking the car, headed towards these horses which they have there. You can hire them and do the routes with them, on bicycle or walking, whichever suites you best.

This one decided that the hay in the next stall was tastier than his. :)
I think the brown one was asking me to choose him but he looked kind of old and slow and I was going to hike anyway.
The cute white one came up to be petted.
Starting out, the frost on this wild zinnia caught my eye.
This is the start of the trail. As you can see, it is quite bushy with lots of up and down hill trails. There is a lot of grass and bushes and I will definitely go back in the summer to go bug hunting as I think it will turn out to be a pretty good place for it.
In one section they were cutting down some of the invader tree species but I thought the growth rings in this very pretty. So much can be told by them from the rate it grows to nutrients in the soil.
This was a very old one and I could see the main stem plus some other all growing into one. How did it survive I wonder. It seemed a very odd way to grow.
In the part they cut off, there was recent signs of borer beetles at work with fresh wood shavings at the bottom. Must remember to check out the stump when I go again. The beetles are probably laying their eggs in there for next summer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Odds and Ends - Part 11

This has to be the smalles grasshopper I have ever found as you can see when measured with my thumb.
There are a few plants which turn beautiful colors in our atumn, but not many.
Some of the leaves were floating in this small pool.
In South Africa, our wind comes from the south east, so all the birds build their nest on the north west side of trees to avoid it.
One of the Bee Flies. They are excellent hoverers and quite small in size.
I wonder if this butterfly landed on that dead piece of grass on purpose as it tones in so well with it?
He is much easier to spot when his wings are open. This is a very small butterfly Actizera lucida Rayed Blue