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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A hive of activity

As it is getting warmer, the garden is becoming a hive of activity. Right outside my window, there is an Albizia tree which get these little balls of flowers, each one being up to just over 1/2 inch in diameter. The insects really love this tree.
This extremely tiny bug seemed as if he was rolling around on it. Unfortunately, this is the only shot I could get of him before he flew off.
Then there are butterflies...

....and lots and lots of bees.....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rain Locust

(Lamarckiana) These are normally nocturnal and sluggish with the male calling from the trees to the females on the ground. They avoid grass patches and are strong fliers. They prefer sub-tropical climates.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Citrus flowers and insects

When the cirtus flowers are in bloom they attract all kinds of insects like this Banded Blowfly.
 An unkown one......
 A beautiful bee...
 An ant and a crab spider....
 and a common house fly...... what would we do without them to pollenate the flowers for us?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Airshow - Part 3B Pitts Special

The aerial acrobatics were fantastic and the weather played along to make it a most enjoyable winters day. There were two teams of Pitts Specials plus a few private planes and each one put on a performance which left the spectators mouths open.

Aerobatics is the practice of flying maneuvers involving aircraft attitudes that are not used in normal flight. Aerobatics are performed in airplanes and gliders for training, recreation, entertainment and sport. Some helicopters, such as the MBB Bo 105, are capable of limited aerobatic maneuvers.

Most aerobatic maneuvers involve rotation of the aircraft about its longitudinal (roll) axis or lateral (pitch) axis. Other maneuvers, such as a spin, displace the aircraft about its vertical (yaw) axis. Maneuvers are often combined to form a complete aerobatic sequence for entertainment or competition.
 Aerobatic flying requires a broader set of piloting skills and exposes the aircraft to greater structural stress than for normal flight. In some countries, the pilot must wear a parachute when performing aerobatics.

While many pilots fly aerobatics for recreation, some choose to fly in aerobatic competitions, a judged sport.

In the early days of flying, some pilots used their aircraft as part of a flying circus to entertain.

Maneuvers were flown for artistic reasons or to draw gasps from onlookers. In due course some of these maneuvers were found to allow aircraft to gain tactical advantage during aerial combat or dogfights between fighter aircraft.
 Aerobatic aircraft fall into two categories — specialist aerobatic, and aerobatic capable. Specialist designs such as the Pitts Special, the Extra 200 and 300, and the Sukhoi Su-29 aim for ultimate aerobatic performance. This comes at the expense of general purpose use such as touring, or ease of non aerobatic handling such as landing. At a more basic level, aerobatic capable aircraft, such as the Cessna 152 Aerobat model, can be dual purpose—equipped to carrying passengers and luggage, as well as being capable of basic aerobatic figures.

Flight formation aerobatics are flown by teams of up to sixteen aircraft, although most teams fly between four and ten aircraft. Some are state funded to reflect pride in the armed forces whilst others are commercially sponsored. Coloured smoke trails may be emitted to emphasise the patterns flown and/or the colours of a national flag. Usually each team will use aircraft similar to one another finished in a special and dramatic colour scheme, thus emphasising their entertainment function.
 Teams often fly V-formations (otherwise known as echelon formation)— they will not fly directly behind another aircraft because of danger from wake vortices or engine exhaust. Aircraft will always fly slightly below the aircraft in front, if they have to follow in line (the "trail formation").

Aerobatic maneuvers flown in a jet-powered aircraft are limited in scope as they cannot take advantage of the gyroscopic forces that a propeller driven aircraft can exploit. Jet-powered aircraft also tend to fly much faster which increases the size of the figures and the length of time which the pilot has to withstand increased g-forces. Jet aerobatic teams often fly in formations which further restricts the maneuvers that can be safely flown.

To enhance the effect of aerobatic maneuveres smoke is sometimes generated; the smoke allows viewers to see the path travelled by the aircraft. Due to safety concerns, the smoke is not a result of combustion but is produced by the vaporization of fog oil into a fine aerosol, achieved either by injecting the oil into the hot engine exhaust or by the use of a dedicated device that can be fitted in any position on the aircraft. The first military aerobatic team to use smoke at will during displays was Fleet Air Arm 702 Squadron "The Black Cats" at the Farnborough Air show in September 1957.

Aerobatics are taught to military fighter pilots as a means of developing flying skills and for tactical use in combat. Aerobatics and formation flying is not limited solely to fixed-wing aircraft; helicopters are also used—the British Army, Royal Navy, Spanish Air Force and the Indian Air Force, among others, have helicopter display teams. All aerobatic maneuvers demand training and practice to avoid accidents. Such accidents are rare but can result in fatalities; safety regulations are such that there has not been an airshow spectator fatality in the USA since the 1950s. Low-level aerobatics are extremely demanding and airshow pilots must demonstrate their ability before being allowed to gradually reduce the height at which they may fly their show.

Competitions start at Primary, or Graduate level and proceed in complexity through Sportsman, Intermediate and Advanced, with Unlimited being the top competition level. Experienced aerobatic pilots have been measured to pull +/-5g for short periods while unlimited pilots can perform more extreme maneuvers and experience higher g levels -possibly up to +8/-6g. The limits for positive g are higher than for negative g and this is due to the ability to limit blood pooling for positive g maneuvers, but it is generally accepted that +9 g for more than a few seconds will lead to loss of consciousness (also known as GLOC).
Information supplied: Wikipedia

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Roodeplaat Dam - Part 4

A nest of tiny Assassin bugs in a hollow of a tree.
 In one section they have burnt off the grass and I found this turtle shell laying there. I wonder what happened to the turtle?
 This time of year is the best time for getting pictures of nests, eggs etc. A tree cockroach is gaurding eggs.
 With all the leaves off the trees, this one clings steadfastly to its branch.
 Some plants have leave and flowers for most of the year. Soon these will open to a riot of purple flowers.
 This is a good example of how some things survive. This rock fig has wormes it way into the rock and cracked it. Just thinking about it now, I should have collected it as it would make a beautiful bonsai dont you think?
 There are many species of Acacia thorn in SA and some trees like this are covered in them. Yet, many animals like giraffe and Impala eat the leaves and I wonder that their shin must be tough enough to withstand the picks they must get from the thorns.
 The last of the wild flowers before they die off, all of them forming seeds.
 A Swamp Bluet still found in the cooler days.
 Looking for a place to spend the winter? Time to find a sheltered spot.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Roodeplaat Dam - Part 3

This early on a winters day still sees dew on a beautiful spiderwb with the spider tucked away in the top, right hand corner.
 Close to the water, the grass is still green and Impala feed on it quite undisturbed by my presence.
 The aloes which are winter flowering are starting to bloom.
 They add a bit of color to the otherwise dreary landscape.
 This is the strangest looking insect nest I have found and I do not have a clue what it belongs to as I could not see anything inside.
 A Bagworm has closed up shop for the cold winter to come.
 A hardly caterpillar still looking for something to eat before pupating.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sickle Bush (Dichrosachys cinerea)

Unmistakeable to identify as no other tree has a seedpod which curls up like this and the flowers are half pink and half yellow. This tree also belongs to the Mimosoideae family and is restricted to the central to northern parts of South Africa.

They do not grow to great heights being 5-6 m at most. The pink half of the flower consists of sterile staminodes while the yellow half is fertile flowers.
 Cattle and game eat the pods of this tree with relish and various parts feature in African folk-medicine.

The roots are chewed and placed on sites of snake bites and scorpion stings and the leaves are believed to produce a local anaesthesia and used for the same purpose and also as a remedy for sore eyes and toothache.

The wood is extremely hard and durable and poles and axe handles are made from it.

 It has limited uses though as the pieces obtainable from it are small.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Passion and calling

 I have been sorting out pictures for the website and the TV is on with the final Oprah Winfrey show. Funny how her programs always makes one think and contemplate. One of the things she says is that everyone has a calling and a passion and it is up to us to find it and do something with it. How true!!

It took me many years to find my passion and figure out what it was but eventually, at the age of 28, I discovered my love of wild animals and teaching people about it. I eventually discovered the world of insects and I was born again in a world so fascinating, it became the very air that I breath.

At first, it was just a job I thought I would enjoy doing but it eventually became my life!!

A while back someone wrote of me:

“Joan is one of the most passionate critter lovers I have ever known. Great attention to detail and research, along with stunning photography”

To me, this has to be the biggest and best compliment I have ever received (thank you Craig). The more I learn about nature the more I want to share this information with everyone. I could never have been a teacher in a classroom but I have always thought of myself as being in the same category, wanting to teach.

I have had many doubts along the way as to what I want to do with my life and in trying to progress from where I am now, there are and have been many setbacks. Each negative answer I receive in looking for sponsorship in order for me to do research on biodiversity makes me think I am not worthy of following my dream but after a few days, I know in my heart that this is my passion and calling and I continue to strive towards my goals. Sometimes I get very despondent and think about giving up photography and the whole idea of recording my findings but then I look at the stats on my page and see how many people are finding the pictures and info useful and I realize that when something like this is in your blood and your heart, you can never give it up. It is easier to give up eating, smoking and drinking, than to give up something which is so ingrained in your very soul.

Who knows, maybe someday soon someone will realize the importance of recording what we have in nature now before it disappears and is never even discovered. Maybe with global warming, tsunami’s and all the rest of the crises this world is facing, my pictures and blog will be all there is left to show of what there once was. At least I will know that I tried to record what I could for posterity.

There is untold excitement in the prospect of giving new discoveries a name and endless advertising possibilities for sponsors in all of this. We tend to be concerned with loosing the bigger things like forests which are visible but does anyone know the important role insects play? Not very many! Take just one out of the circle of life and the rest comes crashing down. Yeah I know, I am ranting and raving again but someone out there feels the same as I do and I will do anything I need to in order to connect with him/her.