Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beauty Contest - Cat. 2

[SEE: Competion Rules = previous blog-entry]

To vote please use the comments-option (below) so that the process is completely "transparent"

Category 2 - Aerial feeders & Hole nesters (including mousebirds)

This European roller is a handsome bird (= pretty good photo); it looks as if the bird is "painted" instead of for real!?

Well, well - how did this photo of a Lilac-breasted roller "slip through"? OK, the rules don't state clearly that all photos displayed must "belong" to one + only one photographer [Explanation: this photo was "poached" from our son-in-law] - in all aspects worthy of entering the competition!

The Carmine bee-eater truly is an attractive bird BUT unfortunately, this isn't the 'clearest' of photos + doesn't 'enhance' (= warrant) this entry.

So small, so cute, + again ..... "poached" (just like the photo of the Lilac-breasted roller above) - too good to not enter into this competition; successfully photographing as small a bird as this White-fronted bee-eater, is a real mission - one needs a "powerful" camera to get this kind of "result".

This hoopoe looks gorgeous! But what are its chances of winning in this category? After all, its competing against some magnificent 'specimen' in this particular category.

This entry of a Golden-tailed woodpecker is an admirable entry, because ..... it's a female (= it's common knowledge
that amongst birds, most males are more "attractive" than their female counterparts) - definitely scoring 'brownie points' for guts!

What a strange entry, or should I say, interesting? Interesting, because a Red-throated wryneck is in a 'category' of its own - although it creeps about branches like a woodpecker (and accordingly, is listed in some bird-books together with woodpeckers); unfortunately this is not a good (= clear) photo.

Breathtaking! If this Pied kingfisher wasn't competing against the Lilac-breasted roller (see 2nd entry, above) then this bird might not only win in this category but actually 'walk off' as the overall winner!? This is also a "brave" entry because it could have competed against other (more colourful) members of the kingfisher family - as it is, no other kingfisher bothered to enter the competition.

This Speckled mousebird somehow appears "lost" in this category because of its rather 'drab' appearance (in comparison to more colourful birds) - to NO fault of its own, it must be said, because the competition (organiser) decided to include mousebirds in this category.

"You be the judge!"

Remember: only 1 (one) entry per category goes through to the final round!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Beauty Contest - Start


1) Photos of southern African birds (Adults - Male OR Female) in a natural setting.

2) 1 (one) winner per category goes through to the finals

[This contest is judged ala "Idols" = Simon Cowell OR Randall Abrams kind-of-critique]

Category 1 - Tall Birds (1m or more)

What a great way to start this competition with the entry of a Blue Crane = SA's national bird; BUT why does it hide its head instead of standing tall?

Overall an attractive photo of a Crowned crane - if rather "busy"; this entrant is also cheating - the rules clearly state that the setting must be natural! [The blue ring on its right leg is a "dead" give-away that this bird is 'marked' = belongs in/to a bird park]

So far, this photo of a Ground hornbill is the best entry in this category.

Diet aside, this Goliath heron is a magnificent bird to look at BUT like the blue crane, is 'hiding' a part of its body - very unfortunate!

The way this Grey heron poses is excellent BUT why does it 'present' its back? That certainly looses this entrant some valuable 'brownie points'!

The first reaction to this photo of an ostrich is: cute! But that's exactly why this entrant doesn't 'belong' in this category (there's a separate category for 'cute' young birds!) - even if we all know that this youngster has already reached the required height (to enter in this category). Why didn't an adult ostrich enter, which at nearly 2m is the tallest of all birds? Decision: this entrant is disqualified!

Probably the most 'colourful' entrant in this category; it's also nice to see that this Greater flamingo isn't 'hiding' its flame red wing (usually only visible during flight) BUT the long, bent bill gives this bird a rather comical instead of attractive appearance.

Well, hallo! What do we have here? Is this gannet stretching its wings to impress us OR to divert our attention, because in fact, it isn't quite 1m tall (THE requirement to enter in this category)? Only its impressive wingspan (between 170 + 185cm) just saves this bird from being disqualified.

Nothing wrong with the size of this White pelican + its wingspan (+/- 280cm); it's also a great photo BUT this bird is marred = disfigured; after all, this is a beauty contest and not a 'charity event'!

"You be the judge" - the final decision of which bird makes it through to the final round is now up to the 'voting public' [Voting open until all categories of birds are represented].

The next (blog) entry = Category 2 = Aerial feeders & Hole nesters (including mousebirds).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

Earth hour 2009: successfully completed!

My thought of star-gazing whilst "switching off" last night was unfortunately thwarted by ... clouds (= cloud covering). Since various suggestions of what to do whilst "switching off" included lighting candles (e.g. enjoying a candle-lit dinner) I did just that (but to read - since we enjoy dinner early in the evening, not 20h30 or later) - when my husband said by lighting candles I was actually defeating the object!!

What an interesting thought - because candles (at least generally) are made from paraffin! That certainly defeated the object of saving "dirty" power (mostly generated by burning coal to produce electricity in SA).

With regard to my future entries on this blog, I'm done with "story telling" (at least for now - SEE: my latest entries). Instead I've "embarked" on a new project = a beauty contest, AND you can be a judge.

Beauty Contest?? The photo (above) is a clue of what it's all about.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Earth Hour



up - have


Earth Hour 2009 is a global initiative by the WWF (= World Wide Fund for Nature) - to take a firm stand against climate change.

Meaning: we are encouraged to switch off our lights on Saturday, 28 March 2009 between 20h30-21h30

By signing up you're pledging to do that!

To sign up (if you are South African) OR to learn more: visit www.earthhour.org.za

"Your name will make a world of a difference!"

What will I do in that hour? Well, there are candles (something most of us became accustomed to after the ESCOM-fiasco last year - remember?) but probably, I'll go outside + enjoy the night-sky (we do have the most magnificent "star-sky") + with all the lights off around us (!?) we'll be able to see that EVEN in Joburg!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A covert Story




Pied Kingfisher

Giant Kingfisher




Saddlebilled Stork

Openbilled Stork

Burchell's Coucal

Thickbilled Weaver

Cape Weaver

Pintailed Whydah


Longtailed Widow


Friday, March 20, 2009

An Ostrich Story

I'm an ostrich hatchling, about the size of a big hen, but will eventually grow to an impressive height of about 2.6m - because an ostrich is the largest living bird on earth! We might not be able to fly, but "at full throttle" can reach a speed of up to 70km/hr. You'll find us distributed in West, East and southern Africa, where our habitat is low rainfall areas.

An ostrich nest is simply a hole scraped in bare ground, and an average egg weighs about 1.4kg and takes about 35-45 days to hatch. During the night, the ostrich male shares breeding "duties" with the female, whilst the female sits on the eggs during the day. You want to know why? Then check out the next photo.

Can you see? The male has mostly black feathers, whilst the female is brown = well-camouflaged during the day. Ostrich couples not only share incubating the eggs, but in nature, they also mate for life. Have you also heard the expression that ostriches "bury their heads in the sand"? Well, that's NOT true. If they feel threatened whilst sitting on a nest, ostriches only tend to press their necks and heads flat on the ground.

In nature, the male defends the hatchlings and also teaches us youngsters how and what to eat. A fully grown ostrich has a wingspan of 2m or more, which are "brought into play" during mating displays, but also, to provide shade for tiny chicks like me. Although they differ in colour, both males and females have bare necks and thighs. Since I confirmed that it's not true that ostriches bury their heads in the sand, it IS true that throughout our life we swallow large numbers of pebbles. That helps with the digestion, because in our gizzards, the stones help to grind the harder food we eat. Eventually, an adult ostrich carries approx 1kg of stones in its stomach.

Talking about food - ostriches are mainly vegetarians but occasionally, we like to nibble on insects. We can go without water for days, but when water is freely available, we enjoy "a drink" and frequently take baths. Other than having long necks, small heads, large eyes, long + powerful legs, we only have 2 toes on each foot - that certainly distinguishes us from other birds, which mostly have 4 toes on each foot.

Now let me introduce you to other members of my family. Hatchlings normally are fawn in colour with dark brown spots but sometimes, by a fluke of nature, some chicks are more white in colour than brown. We don't notice colour, but hear when humans remark about the unusual shading.

Then again, on other occasions, instead of white, there are black chicks amongst us. Until we are over a year old, one can't (generally) distinguish who is male or female, because until then, we are all brown - or all look like females. The males only start to "discolour" when we are becoming sexually mature - so seeing a black chick amongst us is as unusual as a white one.

Now to some family "portraits" - cute or ugly? You be the judge.

I did mention we liked water, right? But what this family member is trying to accomplish, beats me! Perhaps it's vain and is using the water surface like a mirror? But does it realise that by stretching its neck it tends to loose its resemblance as an ostrich?

Now this "specimen" is taking things a bit too far and out of shame, I do feel like "burying my head in sand". It seems to have lost its "bite" - pardon the pun - because ostriches don't have teeth!!

Did you know that once, ostrich feathers were considered a fashion necessity amongst ladies as far afield as London, Paris + New York? The feather boom began in the 1870's and lasted until the first World War started. Then, fashion houses changed their designs to fit the "austerity" of war - and the demand for ostrich feathers was "no more". Whilst the boom lasted, great mansions were built but eventually, many owners lost their fortune.

From 1826-1867, ostriches were hunted for their feathers. Then it became an industry (us 'birds' were domesticated), so now, you not only find us in game reserves, but can also get to know us "close & personal" on any of various commercial breeding farms, esp. in the Oudtshoorn district of the Klein Karoo. Now we are farmed not only for our feathers, but mainly for our leather and meat. Ostrich meat looks like beef but is low in fat + cholesterol, and high in calcium, protein + iron.

Did you know that in 1903, the original ostrich feather dusters were invented by (missionary + broom factory manager) Harry Beckner in (wait for it.....) Johannesburg!

Last but not least - let me introduce you to a distant cousin, the emu. This grey-brown bird with a shaggy appearance is the largest bird native to Australia, and has 3 toes on each foot. It's also a flightless bird and also tends to swallow pebbles to assist in the digestion of plant material. Whilst we ostriches are "famous" for our feathers, the emu, in contrast, is farmed for its meat, leather + oil (the latter from fat, which is used for cosmetics, dietary supplements + therapeutic products).