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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Solanum rantonnetii (Potato bush blue)

The Potato Bush is very common in our gardens. Other names: Potato bush blue, Paraguay nightshade, Blue lycianthes
 S. rantonnetii is a deciduous shrub forming purple-blue flowers throughout the summer, followed by red decorative fruit in autumn which is popular with the birds and is semi evergreen.
 Toxicity: All parts of plant are poisonous. If is ingested, may result in severe discomfort.
 They flower in summer and autumn.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bongo (Antelope) - Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus

The Bongo sports a bright auburn or chestnut coat, with the neck, chest and legs generally darker than the rest of the body. Coats of male Bongos become darker and buffy as they age until they reach a dark mahogany-brown colour. Coats of female Bongos are usually more brightly coloured than those of males.

A white chevron appears between the eyes and two large white spots grace each cheek. There is another white chevron where the neck meets the chest. The large ears are to sharpen hearing, and the distinctive coloration may help Bongos identify one another in their dark forest habitats. Bongos have no special secretion glands and so rely less on scent to find one another than do other similar antelopes. The lips of a bongo are white, topped with a black muzzle.
 Like other forest ungulates, bongos are seldom seen in large groups. Males, called bulls, tend to be solitary while groups of females with young live in groups of 6 to 8. Bongos have seldom been seen in herds of more than 20. Gestation is approximately 285 days (9.5 months) with one young per birth with weaning at 6 months. Sexual maturity is reached at 24–27 months.

Like many forest ungulates bongos are herbivorous browsers and feed on tree/bush leaves, bushes, vines, bark and pith of rotting trees, grasses/herbs, roots, cereals, shrubs and fruits.
 Bongos require salt in their diet, and are known to regularly visit natural salt licks. Examination of bongo feces revealed that the charcoal from trees burnt by lightning is consumed. They have been known to eat burned wood after lightning storms. This behavior is believed to be a means of getting salts and minerals into their diet (See Animal Diversity link 2). This behavior has also been reported in the Okapi. Another similarity to the okapi, even though the bongo is unrelated, is that the bongo has a long prehensile tongue which it uses to grasp grasses and leaves.

Suitable habitats for bongos must have permanent water available. A large animal, the bongo requires an ample amount of food, and is restricted to areas with abundant year-round growth of herbs and low shrubs. Such restrictions have been said to account for the animal's limited distribution.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Walk 7/31 - Part 4

The Brown Heart Beetle (Family Scarabaeidae - Subfamily Cetoniinae - Plaisir)
To date, I have only seen these brown ones but found some which are black too. I cannot find out if the difference in coloration is due to the age of the beetle or maybe a difference beween male and female.
 Caterpillars and more caterpillars. Even in winter there are some to be found but once again, no identification.
 Flowers are always a welcome find and make a nice find during the winter.
 We do have many different kinds which bloom the whole year round.
 I am keeping my eye on this egg sack but I know what is going to happen, it will wait for me to go past (or the day I don't check it) and then some lovely critter will pop out and guess what, I will have missed it again. :)
 There is a large tub of water where the animals come down to drink and I always stop by to see what is breeding in it. Needless to say, many insects drown in it too like this fly.  Now I know flies are not supposed to be pretty but you must admit it has a lovely pattern on it?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gasteruptiidae - Wasps

The Gasteruptiidae family of wasps are small in body length and usually brown or black in color.
 They are easily identified by the abdomen arising from the top of the thorax and getting larger towards the tip. The females (as shown here) have a long ovipositor sometimes marked by a white tip.
 The hind portion (tibiae) of the leg is narrow at the base and swollen at the base. They are parasites of nests belonging to solitary wasps and bees.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Elephant Museum - Part 4 Shingwedzi

Shingwedzi (c.1934-1981)
Origin of Name: Shingwedzi was named after the river and rest camp where he spent the last few years of his life. (Shingwedzi means, “place of ironstone” referring to the gabbro rock outcrops common to the area. Shingwedzi is derived from the Tsonga word Ngwetse which means ‘the sound of metal objects rubbing against each other’).
 Range: Shingwedzi was known to move as far west as Nkokodzi and Chugamila hills and as far as the Lebombo’s in the vicinity of Shingwedzi Rest Camp.

Special Features: Shingwedzi’s ivory offers a good example of the classic master servant tusks. He had a large right servant tusk and a shorter left master tusk.
 General: Shingwedzi was found dead under a Sycamore Fig and short distance from Shingwedzi camp in January 1981, and as far as can be determine he died of natural causes. The age of an Elephant can be fairly accurately determined from the state of wear of the teeth. In the case of Shingwedzi the last molar (molar 6) was well worn down, giving him an estimated age of 65 (56) years.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Air show - Part 7 Impala

The Aermacchi or Macchi MB-326 is a light military jet aircraft designed in Italy. Originally conceived as a two-seat trainer, there have also been single and two-seat light attack versions produced. It is one of the most commercially successful aircraft of its type, being bought by more than 10 countries and produced under licence in Australia, Brazil and South Africa. It set many category records, including an altitude record of 56,807 ft (17,315 m) on 18 March 1966. More than 600 were built.[1]

In the 1950s, before the advent of the turboprop, many countries operated small jet trainers with a similar performance to their full-blown aircraft. Some nations started to develop aircraft like the Fouga Magister, the T-37, the Jet Provost, and the Aero L-29. Italy, still recovering from the war years, could not afford the development of a supersonic interceptor or bomber, and developed light fighters and trainers - a lower-cost solution.

The MB-326 was designed by Ermanno Bazzocchi at Macchi. Bazzocchi considered many configurations, the one chosen was a single-engined design. The airframe was a robust and light structure, metallic, simple and cheap; powered by an efficient engine, the Armstrong Siddeley Viper. This engine was designed as a short-life unit originally destined for target drones, but showed itself to be far more reliable. This airframe and engine combination led, in 1953, to the MB-326 project.

 The Italian Air Force was quite interested, and so the MB-326 took part in the contest.

The contest specifications were:

• Max load 7 g at maximum weight

• 5,000 hours lifespan, 50–60 hours between servicing, stall-alert (at 15 km/h (9 mph) more than stall speed)

• Take-off at max load in 800 m (2,625 ft) over a 15 m (50 ft) high obstacle, or 500 m (1,640 ft) at light weight, landing in 450 m (1,480 ft) at minimum weight

• Speed (min-max): 110/130–700 km/h

• Rate-of-climb must be at least 15 m/s (2,950 ft/min) and endurance should be three hours at 3,000 m (9,840 ft).[2]

There were several modifications to the MB-326 project: the horizontal tail surfaces lost their negative dihedral angle, the airbrakes (two in the wings) became one, in the ventral position. In 1956 the AMI approved the project and requested two prototypes (MM.571 and 572) and one airframe for static tests. No weaponry or pressurization was needed, but Bazzocchi introduced them.

The first prototype made its maiden flight on 10 December 1957,[3] flown by chief test-pilot Guido Carestiato, and the second flew the following year.[4] The plane showed very good characteristics, but the modifications affected the weight, which was 400 kg (880 lb) more than the initial estimates. The original Viper 8 engine produced 7.8 kN (1,750 lbf) of thrust, so the Viper 9 was adopted, which had 0.7 kN (147 lbf) more of thrust.

 I-MAKI, the prototype, was first demonstrated in France. The second prototype first flew on 22 September 1958. It had a new Viper engine, the '11' model, updated to produce 11.1 kN thrust (1,134 kg, 2,500 lb).

On 15 December 1958, the AMI placed an order for 15 pre-series examples. In 1960, an order for 100 aircraft was placed, establishing Aermacchi's supremacy in jet trainers.

Direct competition came from the Fiat G.80, being more powerful and the first real Italian jet, having flown five years earlier, but it was also heavier, bigger and more expensive. It lost the contest, remaining without a market.


The MB-326 was a low-wing monoplane with an all-metal (light alloy) structure. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Viper non-afterburning turbojet with low air-intakes in the wing roots. Each wing had 22 ribs and two spars. The fuel system had one large tank in the middle-fuselage and two in the wingtips. The aft fuselage was almost entirely dedicated to the engine, from just behind the wings. The cockpit had a tandem configuration, which was chosen to give a better aerodynamic fuselage (slimmer) than the more usual side-by-side arrangement. There was a long, low bubble canopy. The rear of each wing had flaps, and ailerons with a trim surface. An anti-sliding winglet was added to increase stability at the mid-wing.

 Operational history

The MB-326 was one of the last Italian aircraft to set any records, when Guido Carestiano set the C1D group 1 category altitude record of 15,489 m during August 1961.

In the meanwhile, the first machines, after a very long development, finally arrived at the 214° Group's Lecce-Galatina school; temporarily fielded at Brindisi. The type entered service with 43° Flyer course on 22 March 1962. These machines replaced T-6 Texans, and within 130 hours the pilots were as ready as after having 210 hours training in T-6s. This solution was much costlier, but the enthusiasm was great and, with G-91T advanced trainers, there was an "entirely-jet" training course for AMI pilots, and moreover they were all national aircraft. Differing from G.91s that were never convincing as light fighters, the MB-326s immediately scored several export successes.

Eight MB-326Bs were ordered by Tunisia in 1965. These were developed from basic MB-326s with a weapons capability, with the 37th series AMI aircraft being converted (it had civilian markings I-MAKC). The main innovation was its ground attack capability, with six underwing pylons, holding a maximum of 907 kg of stores. In the same year, Ghana ordered nine similar MB-326Fs.

The "A" and "C" models were never realized. The "A" was intended as a light attack aircraft, with two 7.62 mm machine-guns in the nose, but was never built. Later, some MB-326s were called "A", but this only meant that they were fitted with an ADF Marconi AD-370. The "C" version was to have the NASARR radar in the nose, to train F-104 pilots, but it only appeared as a mock-up.

Alitalia ordered four aircraft as trainers in the "D" version; demilitarized and equipped with special instruments to train pilots in preparation for the new jet-liners.

 Pilots also provided publicity for the MB-326: Riccardo Peracchi, working for AMI, displayed the MB-326's controllability at many airshows; while Massimo Ralli set many records:

• 8 February 1966, climbing records: 2 min 2 sec to 3,000 m, 3 min 56 sec to 6,000 m, 6 min 39 sec to 9,000 m, and 12,000 m in 10 min 53 sec.

• 18 March 1966, 15,690 m altitude record in horizontal flight, and 17,315 m with a launched climb.

• 18 July 1966, endurance record, with 970 km

• 2 August 1966, speed record over a 3 km straight: 871 km/h

• December 1966: speed of 880.586 km/h over 15–25 km, 831.007 km/h over 100 km, 777.667 km/h over 500 km, and another endurance record at 777.557 km

These successes showed the MB-326's performance, and established it as one of the best in its category. Peracchi displayed its agility, while Ralli concentrated on performance; there were already some customers well-satisfied with this machine.[2]

A7-043 (MB-326H) at the RAAF Base Wagga in Australia.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) used the MB-326H as a jet trainer. A total of 97 were ordered: 12 were delivered by Macchi, 18 assembled from kits in Australia, and another 67 were built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and Hawker Aircraft with the designation CA-30. They were essentially similar to the MB-326G but with improved avionics. The RAAF's aerobatic team, The Roulettes, flew the MB-326H from December 1970 until 1989. Although widely liked for its excellent handling and well-suited to its task, the service career of the MB-326 was cut short because of structural fatigue problems. The Australian fleet, for example, had a life of type extension program in the 1980s and were then re-winged in the early 1990s after a fatigue-related crash. Even so the MB-326 was supplemented by new Pilatus PC-9 trainers to reduce flying hours, and the last examples had been withdrawn by 2001.

 Other MB-326Gs used the Viper Mk 20 engine which provided 1,524 kg of thrust, and were consequently faster and had an increased payload of 1,814 kg max. Argentina ordered eight, initially as the MB-326K, later called the MB-326GB.

Brazil was the main customer for the MB-326, in 1970 ordering two prototypes and 166 MB-326GCs, called the AT-26 Xavante. It was produced under license by Embraer with a further six for Togo and 10 for Paraguay. Another 17 were built in Italy for Zaire (Force Arienne Zairoise) and 23 for the Zambian Air Force.

The MB-326K (originally known as the MB-336) was the last generation model, fitted with the Viper Mk 600 engine, capable of 1,814 kg thrust to give an even better performance. The first flight took place on 22 August 1970. The two prototypes were I-AMKK and I-KMAK, the MB-326G was converted to this new model.

Dubai bought three in 1974, and a further three in 1978 (MB-326KD), Tunisia eight (MB-326KT), Ghana nine (MB-326KB) and Zaire eight (MB-326KB).

The MB-326L was essentially the MB-326K with two seats. Two MB-326LD were supplied to Dubai and four MB-326LD to Tunisia.

One of the last buyers was, again, AMI, who ordered 12 MB-326E, comprising six MB-326 updated to MB-326G, and six newly produced (MM.54384/389). They had provisions for armament, but the engine was the Viper 11 Mk 200 and not the Viper 20 Mk 540.[2]

 The measures to save costs led the MB-326 to be substituted by propeller-driven models, but the Macchi was flexible enough to act as a medium trainer and light attack aircraft. RAAF pilot training in 1985 consisted of 60 hours pre-selection on CAC Winjeels, 150 hours medium and another 75 hours advanced training on MB-326s, before finally progressing to the Mirage IIIOD.

In Italian service, the MB-326 was replaced by the MB-339 between 1981 and 1984, acting after that as fast linkage aircraft, replacing the old T-33s that were slightly faster. Unusually the MB-326 did not see service with the Frecce Tricolori aerobatic team, who kept their faster G-91R PANs (they were later replaced by MB-339s).

The MB.326 failed to impress other NATO airforces, but it did have some success amongst many Third World countries, being used as a front-line machine in local wars.

The MB-326, like its competitors the Cessna T-37 and the BAC Jet Provost, was designed and ordered in the period when the "all-through" jet trainer was a fashionable concept in many air forces. The idea was to provide a single type that could be used for both elementary and advanced training right through to near combat-ready standard. In practice it was soon discovered that the simplicity and economy of scale of operating just one type for all training purposes was far outweighed by the purchase and operating costs of a large all-jet training fleet. Most operators quickly added a cheaper piston-engined type for basic training, and the MB-326 found its primary role as a lead-in trainer to prepare pilots for transition to very high performance fighter aircraft.

The aircraft was important also for two developments: from the MB.326K the MB.326L was produced, this was the direct ancestor of the Aermacchi MB.339. With license-building in Brazil, the MB.326 opened the field to further collaborations, leading to the AMX. Neither the MB.339 nor the AMX were as successful as the MB.326, but this machine was capable of further steps in technology and commerce.

South Africa

South Africa obtained a license to produce the MB-326M (similar to the 'G' model), as the Impala Mk I in 1964 with production starting in 1966.[5] It received 40 Italian-built aircraft followed by about 125 built locally by the Atlas Aircraft Corporation,[6] using them both as trainers and in an armed configuration. Seven examples of the MB-326K were also bought as light attack aircraft, with a further 15 assembled from kits,[7] while around 78 were license-produced and known as the Impala Mk II.[2] Licence production of the single seat version began in 1974.[5]

South Africa used its Impalas in combat against the Angolans, the Cubans and several militia movements. They typically flew at 550–650 km/h at a height of 15 m to avoid the risk of being shot down or even sighted by AA defenses. One was shot down by a SA-7, another returned with a unexploded missile (SA-7,8 or 9) in its exhaust.[8]

The aircraft had many advantages over high performance jets. Although slower, it could operate from primitive, short airfields and strike within minutes. The South African Air Force (SAAF) used up to 6 x 120 kg or 4 x 250 kg bombs. The main armament consisted of 68 mm SNEB rocket-launchers (four x 6 or two x 18), and two 30 mm guns (with 300 rounds).[9] These guns were the real bonus for the Impala Mk II, helping to give a superior performance compared to the two-seat versions. The latter could carry a pair of 30 mm DEFA guns in under-wing pods. However, the dual capability as trainer-attackers was better appreciated, as was the availability of six hard points and so dual-seat versions were the most produced. Six squadrons were equipped with the Impala Mk. II in the SAAF during the 1970s and 1980s. The situation over Angola and Namibia in 1987 and 1988 was such that the Impalas were withdrawn from the front line, leaving the work to Mirages and Buccaneers.[10]

Impala Mk. IIs were also used as interceptors although it was only opportunistically, not intentionally. In several encounters in 1985 with Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters, they shot down a total of six. This happened during a crucial phase of the ground war, when Angolan and Cuban troops were checked in an offensive against UNITA bases. This ended in disaster when the supplies were cut off by UNITA and the SAAF and front line troops ran out of ammunition. Helicopters were being used to supply the besieged troops and the SAAF cut off this link. Two Mi-24s were shot down in the first encounter while escorting Mi-17s.[11] The MiG-21s that escorted them flew too high and did not know what was happening. Two days later the Impala Mk IIs struck again, downing two Mi-24s and two Mi-17s. The attacks on the unsuspecting helicopters were carried out with only two guns per aircraft. The Impala Mk. II, built in South Africa from an Italian design with a British engine and French guns were highly effective, they also had some Electronic Counter Measures to defend themselves. The single seat Impala Mk. IIs were also sometimes armed with Matra R550 Magic air-to-air missiles for self defence.[5] The Impala Mk II operated at extreme ranges and had to fly very low, climbing only when helicopters were seen at medium altitude. After each attack they had to return to low level to avoid interception by MiGs.

The Silver Falcons, the SAAF aerobatic team, were equipped with Impala Mk Is.

The flying school for Impalas was Flying Training School at Langebaanweg while operational squadrons were 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 Squadrons while 85 Advanced Flying School also had a small number of Impalas to supplement their Mirage trainers.[5]

Information supplied by:

Friday, September 16, 2011

A birthday wish for someone special

Happy birthday!! May your day be filled with smiles and happpiness!!
 May all your dreams come true and your life be filled with sunshine!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Walk 7/31 - Part 3

Once again all these pictures except the last one are not the correct way up but for some reason this has now become a constant problem in Blogger and there is no way to fix it. SO sorry!!

Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) contain several species of caterpillars that are armed with stinging hairs and/or fragile spines. These modified hairs serve as an effective means of protection against predators interested in the soft bodied caterpillars. Skin contact with these specially equipped caterpillars can produce severe irritation and inflammation which is often referred to as lepidopterism. 

The body surface of various urticating (irritating) caterpillars are adorned with microscopic dart hairs, or rigid bristles, or long and flexible tapering hairs. Hairs may be arranged in a pattern or tubercle on the side or dorsal surface of the caterpillar, depending on the species. The location and structure of the hairs, or group of hairs on the insect, can be used as a diagnostic tool to identify the species of caterpillar.

Urticating hairs can be of two distinct types. The first are envenomating hairs, which are tubular or porous spines capable of holding a venom or irritant produced by a gland at the base. On contact, the tips of the hair break under pressure and release their fluid contents, which is generally a mixture of histamines. There are only two families of lepidoptera within Australia that have caterpillars which possess these stinging hairs; they are the Limacodidae ("cup moths" or "Chinese junk" caterpillars) and the Nolidae (gumleaf skeletonisers). Other hair types on caterpillars are referred to as non-envenomating hairs and these produce a mechanical irritation on contact. These hairs are fragile and easily dislodged from the caterpillar, they adhere to the surface of skin when the caterpiller is contacted, or they become airborne and on settling the barbed or dart hairs easily fragment and penetrate clothing or skin.

Hairs that are air-borne can drift and settle on nearby washing or other surfaces which humans will contact. Accidental disturbance or handling of old larval skins and spent cocoons, deposited under leaf litter, bark, wood piles, timber or any other material that caterpillars have had contact with, can result in irritation. These hairs retain their urticating properties long after the caterpillars have pupated. The families of Lepidoptera that contain these special hairs include, the Arctiidae (tiger moths), Anthelidae (white stemmed gum moth), Eupterotidae (bag shelter moths), Lymantriidae, the tussock moths (mistletoe brown-tail moth and the white cedar moth) and Notodontidae (bag shelter moth and processionary caterpillars).

The above information supplied by:
 A pretty Hairtail.
 The garden which I started planting in the begining was decimated by frost this winter so I will have to start from the begining again. How frustrating!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Winter garden birds - Part 4

Even if there is nothing else to see in winter, the garden still hosts a large variety of birds such as this Weaver without its yellow breeding colors.
 Yellow Canary.
 Yellowbilled Hornbill.
A Brown Robin - it is the first time I have seen this bird anywhere and it took me a long time to identify it. As it walks, it also bobs its tail up and down like the Wagtails do and is about the same size as them.
A Groundscraper Thrush.
 Natal Francolin. This pair of mother and her ofspring are now becoming quite tame and almost demand their bread when I get home. :)
 African Hoopoe.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Walk 7/31 Part 2

Nature can be so astounding at times!!
 This weed is now covered with very tiny seeds and is so pretty and fine in design.
 A Crane fly with a delicate pattern on its wings.
 A White Pearl Moth (Palpita unionalis)
 It is so tiny it can almost hide behind a blade of grass.
 I never realized until now that the Impala Lily (pictured below), has or gets seed pods. This plant is very easy to grow as you can break off a piece, stick it in the ground and it will shoot out.
 This is normally a small shrub not more than a couple of feet in height but this specimen must be very old as it is about 5 feet in. They are extremely slow growers too but what a delight to have in a garden.