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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vacation Time - Day 4 Part 7

It is hot and getting late and so I start to head down the road making my way home. It has been as wonderful as it always is and I long to stay there and never go home.

Along the road I see these vultures on a buffalo carcass. Whatever had killed it was long gone unfortunately but it was probably lion. These Whitebacked Vultures are very common and found almost throughout SA. They roost in trees at night and start foraging as soon as it gets warm. Often one sees them sitting in the watering holes when it is very hot.
The Hooded Vulture is much smaller than the previous species and only found in the northern areas of SA. They are mostly silent but have a thin, squealing call when feeding or on their nests. Unlike the Whitebacked Vulture which gathers in large groups, the Hooded Vulture is a solitary bird and only join up with others around a carcass where it picks up scraps from the others.
The juvenile Whiteback has not got its full colors yet. Females lay only one egg per season and it takes about 58 days to incubate. Both the male and female will take turns sitting on the egg and when it hatches, it will take its first flight when about 4 months old.
Around a carcass, great fights break out amongst the various species of vultures gathered there. You will constantly see one flying up into the air, chasing another. I have seen some lock feet and go rolling around on the ground, feathers flying.
Vultures go for the soft insides of a kill first, crawling right inside the body of the dead animal. They also eat bone fragments for the calcium content. They have long toes and claws for grasping prey and unlike most birds, the male and female plumage is the same.
At the next dam I stopped at, there was a small herd of buffalo laying back in the trees.
What was interesting to me was that the leader of the herd first went down to the water to drink by herself (the leaders are always female), then she stood there and the others followed her down, one or two at a time while she stood watching them. That is her on the right.
A hippo stood stretching its jaw muscles in a huge yawn. The males fight over territory and females like this and I have seen them tear each other to bits. Usually is does not go that far, with one backing away fairly fast.
There are colossal termite mounds there. This one is about 14-15 feet in height and I could see it was still active by the amount of fresh soil at the top. Many animals use old mounds to burrow in and raise their young. You can never get lost in the bush if there are mounds around as the hole at the top always points north, so remember that the next time you are lost in the bush. :)
And so my day ended. The feel of being back in the bush is like no other to me. To see and record all of this is always an unbelievable experience. After so many years in the bush one would think I have seen it all but never are two roads the same on consecutive days, never do animals behave in the same manner all the time. There is always something new to learn, something new to be amazed at and to see. How I miss being a tour guide!! It will always be my first and only love!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Emperor Moth (Gonimbrasia belina)

Emperor moths belong to the Saturniidae family and are probably the giants of the moth world with wingspans up to 7 inches. They are the most spectacular of all and come in brilliant colors.
This one has a wingspan of 4 inches and I found it sitting amongst the leaves of a bush early in the morning before it was warm enough for them to start flying around.
Most have elaborate eye-spots on the wings and large antennae. They are attracted to lights at night but some of the species are found during the day time.
The pupa of the species are normally found in the ground where they develop.
Mopane moths belong to this same family and are eaten as a delicacy by many people.
I sometimes think that moths are as beautiful as butterflies. There are definitely some stunning species around.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vacation Time - Day 4 Part 6

The first thing I see when I get out of camp is this mating pair of lions, but it is hot and they are lazing away the day in the shade of a tree. They will spend 3-4 days together away from their pride mating about every 20 minutes.
A little way down the road is a lovely dam which I always stop at. The water in it is fairly low right now but there is enough left for this pod of hippo’s to enjoy it. If the water dries up further, they will walk up to 10 miles at night in search of another pond or dam.
To one side, I watched the zebra come down to have a drink. I liked the reflection they made in the fairly quiet water. No wo zebra have the same stipe pattern.
Poor Egyptian Geese, not much water there to swim in is there?
Nor for this crocodile!! He is still small, only about 5 feet in length so he does not need much and can still cool down in the shallows.
I am heading for Olifants (Elephants) Camp as it has a wonderful lookout point high above the river and I can find an ice cream to cool me down a bit. As you can see, even here there is not much water flowing.
WHAT A DISASTER!! I am SO disappointed I can cry!!! Some IDIOT, let me repeat, some NINCOMPOOP IDIOT has built a wooden railing all around just at the height which interferes with your view while sitting along the benches. WHY??? People used to spend hours there getting something to eat and drink while game viewing.
There is a steep drop down to the river there and a low wall so no one will climb over. What possessed them to do this?? I will never, NEVER understand the mentality of some people!! Gaelyn will remember how wonderful it was to sit there and look at what animals came down to drink. This USED to be one of my favorite stops in the park, guess it is another I have to scratch off my list!! WHAT AN IDIOT THAT CAMP MANAGER IS!! Someone please tell him what I think of him!! GRRRRRR!!!!!
STANDING UP, I could see a couple of hippo coming to wallow in the water.
Needless to say, I did not stay long. WILL SOMEONE PLEASE GO AND TELL THE MANAGER HE IS A MORON!! I am so mad!! (as if you have not gathered that by now!!)

A little way down the road on the way to another camp, I came across this elephant having a mud bath. Oh what a glorious time he was having!!
He would slurp the muddy water and mud into his trunk and shower himself with it and move his foot back and forth stirring it up some more. :)
Then he would stomp in it and get it to splash all over the show. What fun!! LOL!! Now I have to ask, women have mud packs put on at the beauty parlor, now isn’t it obvious from his wrinkled skin it does not work, so why do we still try it? :)
He must have spent 20 minutes splashing about before he got out and was covered from head to foot in that mess. Okay, I will admit that one of the reasons for them having a mud bath is so that it dries on the skin and the stinging flies cannot bit him (as if he can feel it through that thick skin) then the rubs himself against a tree trunk and the ticks encased in the hard mud fall off. So is THAT why women do it? To get rid of the ticks? Hmmmm!! Now there’s a thought!! LOL!!
I have been asked to do a series of articles on our bugs for a magazine and was sent the proof to read. If you are interested in seeing it, please click here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Walk 18/4 - Part 5 Final

There were some fascinating tree roots in this area but this was my favorite.
Oh oh!! A roadblock!! Now do I have to climb over or under or go around? Hmmm!!
What a pretty place this was to have a picnic. I must remember to bring some sandwiches with me next time.
The Rock Fig is a most unusual tree as it onlt grows on/in rocks. Some of them can be huge too and I wonder how they are propagated. I have taken some cuttings and hope one starts growing as it would make a wonderful bonsai.
The roots find the tinest crevase in which to anchor itself.
A spittle bug!! These are such interesting critters. They make this by rubbing a secretion with their legs and then live in the middle of it to hid away from predators. What amazes me is that they are so small, who could ever think of making a meal of it? It would be like us taking one crumb of bread!! :)
I disturbed this one so it could come out while I took a picture of it. It is all of about 4mm in length.
Along the path, this small pine tree was starting out its life.
And so the path ended and it was time to go home. I was lucky on this trip and only went back with one small injury and hardly dirty at all!! :) Next time I am there it will be the rainy season so I will probably get home filthy as usual. :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vacation Time - Day 4 Part 5

Skinks can get to about 4-5 inches in body length and all have this basic skin pattern. The bask in the sun and will allow one to get fairly close before disappearing but are very fast at moving to catch prey if one comes close.
Most skinks give birth to live young and have a very rapid growth rate. They have the cutest feet and use their nails to crawl up almost smooth surfaces.
This Red-sided Skink has highly polished scales. The males develop a bright red on their flanks during breeding season.
An unknown species of dropwing skimmer. Going by the color, it is probably a female and so many of them are similar, they are difficult to tell apart.
There are about 60 species in the area and most nymphs are found in stagnant water.
The tiniest weevil, about 5mm in length. It is not in my book so I cannot tell you what it is called.
Another pretty but “no-name” moth. Although it looks very much like one I posted earlier, it is not the same as this one does not have the see-through spots on its wings.
Update: This is Paradise Skipper (Abantis paradisea) family Hesperiidae
I think it is a Handmaiden (family Ctenuchinae) which are day-flying moths.
Once again, the eyes on this fascinated me. They are of medium size with a wingspan of about 2 inches.

Before heading out, I decided to have a sandwich and some coffee as it was about 10:30am and I was starving. I placed my order and went to sit at one of the tables and felt a tap on my shoulder. A very old lady sat down next to me and said “My dear, are you and artist or something?” I was quite puzzled by this and shook my head saying “Nooo. Why do you ask?” She answered “Well my dear, I have been sitting here watching you take photographs and I though you might be taking pictures of textures and patterns.” I smiled and told her that I was actually taking them of insects and my interest in them. She said that her niece is studying to be an entomologist and off we went on a long conversation while my food came and I had my coffee. What a sweet lady. It is not often I have people asking me what I am doing, most of them just look at me and hide their kids away in case I am crazy. LOL!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Outdoor Show - Part 5 Final

There were quite a few painting on display. This is the kind of art we put on our walls and is more popular than any van Gogh.
Most of the time I do not like paintings as there are so many artists and few few of them can paint the animals in proportion. I did like this scene of the lion laying on the edge of the desert.
My favorite was this one of the zebra. It is a scene which one so often sees in the game reserve.
Now I know you are all asking yourself what on earth this is. :) We call it a "potjie" which is the Afrikaans name for a pot. However, this is not just any kind of pot. We have hundreds of recipes for things like stews and bread we bake in it. Basically the ingredients are up un layers into the pot, those which take longer to cook like carrots, at the bottom. Once this is done, the potjie is placed over a wood fire and left for 3-5 hours to cook depending on what you have put inside it. Somehow these caste iron pots make everything taste different and we all have our "secret" recipe for our best potjie. :) The come in various sizes and I do not think there is a household in SA which does not have at least one. A potjie and a barbeque is our favorite way to prepare meals.
SA has a lot of hunting areas and most men go at least once a year to shoot, with the result, taxidermy is huge here. These were some of the buck on display from one firm.
The Eland on the right is our largest buck and can weigh as much as a bull.
All in all, our life here is very different but I know of many people who have come here to retire because of it and others who come here regularly to visit our sunny country. The living is maybe primitive in some way and simple but it is a wonderful life and I would not easily change it. A trip to Africa is a must on everyones list of things to do in their lifetime. We have the best of everything here and if the Africa bug bites you, there is no place like it on earth. Just ask people like Jose and Andrea. :)