Friday, March 26, 2010


Before I leave tomorrow on another tour guiding German-speaking guests through our beautiful country, I'd like to share a few more photos & some "research" I did to accompany my photos.

The large green praying mantis apparently is 1 of about 120 different species of mantis found in South Africa. They tend to inhabit our gardens, although I "found" this one in our kitchen - & happily snapped away. A mantis tends to lift its powerful forelegs in "prayer" = waiting to capture its prey (= other insects).

Did you know that infant mantises are called "nymphs"?

In direct contrast to what I think resembles a ballerina (in this photo) rather than a formidable killer, the sharply spined forelegs of a mantis can incapacitate grasshoppers, locusts, bees or wasps. Before a mantis "traps" its prey, it tends to put on a "calculated" display to strike terror into its intended victim: it opens its rear-wings, jerks spasmodically whilst emitting soft, puffing sounds, & transfixes its prey with eyes situated at either end of its mobile head.

Did you know that the Khoi-San worshipped this remarkable insect (hence the Afrikaans name, hottentotsgod)? Similarly the ancient Greeks thought of it as a prophet ("mantis" = prophet - in Greek). In Europe, many a legend is said to be attached to the mantis.

When it pounces, the mantis aims for the back of a victim's neck. Then with powerful jaws, it gnaws steadily at small mouthfuls.

In my opinion, a praying mantis (especially my specimen in these photos) has an ET (Extra-terrestrial) look about it!?

Please don't forget to "check out" my latest (A4-sized) book at: [SEE: Book cover below]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Historical Winelands

The Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl (by the architect Jan van Wyk) symbolises the wonder of South Africa's cultural & political growth. The Afrikaans language developed from Dutch but was also influenced by Malayan (= slaves brought to SA) & African languages. It still is a "young" language & was only officially accepted as such in 1925. The Language monument was built to commemorate this in 1975.

When visiting this monument, situated high on a hill, one is "greeted" by a magnificent sight of historical winelands. On a clear day, Table Mountain forms the "backdrop".

A "classical" winelands-tour includes the quaint little town of Franschhoek - with a monument dedicated to the French Hugenots, who came to South Africa in 1688 & really "set the ball rolling" with regard to the wine production in this region.

Situated next to the monument is a museum also dedicated to the French Hugenots. The building is a reconstruction of Saasveld, a mansion which once "graced" Kloofstreet in Cape Town - with the majestic Hottentots-Holland mountains in the background.

In the historical town of Stellenbosch, many restored houses line especially Dorp Street - like Saxenhof, a double-storey Georgian house.

Another well-preserved house is La Gratitude, which was built as the private residence (> parsonage) for a reverend. His deep religious belief is illustrated in the gable of the building in the form of the "All-seeing eye of God".

The Powder House (= ammunition magazine), situated at The Braak (= parade ground) in Stellenbosch was built in 1777. The neo-classical bell-tower was added 20 years later.

A tour of the winelands always includes visiting a wine estate - in this case Neethlingshof with its attractive tree-lined entrance.

Rural bliss = attractive scenery of vineyards, cattle grazing unperturbed & with magnificent mountains forming the backdrop - that's all part of a typical winelands tour!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Small Creatures

When yesterday I saw this gecko basking in the sun whilst eyeing me suspiciously, I "naturally" went to fetch my camera, because I wanted to record "the moment".

After some "research" on the internet I learned that the toes of geckos are are specially adapted to adhere (= cling) to most surfaces. Also that geckos are found in warm climates around the world & that there are about 2 000 different species worldwide. Apparently the name "gecko" stems from the Indonesian/Japanese word Tokek, inspired by the sound these animals make!

Inspired to "record" more small creatures, I "discovered" this mosquito in our kitchen & duly photographed it. Mosquitoes are said to be around for 100 million years (!!) & in that time have diversified into about 3 000 species. Mosquitoes apparently do not feed on blood but instead, a female mosquito requires a "blood meal" for the development of her eggs = it's only the female, which "bites" us (!!), although humans are not their preferred/favourite target; instead their more common "victims" (hosts) are mammals or birds.

Spiders are like "pets" in our home (because they are "well-represented") whilst I learned that there are about 3 000 known species from 69 families in South Africa alone! Spiders play an important role in nature yet are widely feared - even if the greater majority is harmless to humans. An interesting fact is that for a male spider, mating is an "exercise in caution": he deposits his sperm on a web, then scoops it up & transfers it carefully to the female - because normal copulation would run the risk of his being eaten by his mate.

Talking about mating - these flies weren't shy or feeling restricted in any way :)

Other insects in the garden were also "at it", like these shield bugs. Although people tend to call any offensive insect a "bug", in scientific "language" the word has a precise meaning: bugs are insects, which have sucking or piercing mouthpieces in the form of a beak.

Shield bugs are often brightly coloured & are recognised by their shape, which resembles a shield. They are also often referred to as stink-bugs, because they produce a foul-smelling liquid.

From flies to bugs to ants - I found this "hard-working" group in our bathroom dragging off a fly.

This "scene" reminded me of something I've observed twice before - of a spider-hunting wasp. I "dug into my archive" & found this duly recorded photo. Is the "victim" a baboon spider? In the case of spider-hunting wasps, their sole diet is spiders, as well as the diet of their larvae. These wasps paralyse their prey with a sting before dragging them off to a ready-made hole. I learned that here, the female lays a single egg on the spider's abdomen, then buries both, so that the emerging larvae has a ready supply of food.

Did you know that male wasps can't sting? Compare this with mosquitoes (& apparently also bees) - only the female "bites" = can sting!

Last but not least a photo I took a while ago on a beach in Plettenbergbay (Western Cape Province). This time a wasp (or is it a bee?) is the prey and not the aggressor!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book in Print

My Photo-Story (= Book) is now available (via the internet) at:
OR just Google "Impi The Impala" to find a book-distributor near you. [Right-Click on photo above to enlarge]. In South Africa this book is available on - unfortunately they have spelled my surname with an M (instead of a B) at the end :)

The book is an A4-size & printed on glossy paper.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alive & Kicking

After accompanying a few representatives from the Bayerischer Landtag (parliament Bavaria, Germany) visiting our country on a "fact-finding" mission for a few days, I also had the privilege to guide them through the Pilansberg Game Reserve (in the North-West province).

As usual my camera was "close at hand" so I "recoded" a series of photos of a young kudu male exuberantly jumping & running "all over the show".

It kicked "up a storm", tail characteristically curled up to reveal/display its white hair underneath ...

... which appeared to amuse a herd of Blue wildebeest standing around.

Don't ask me why but I was reminded of this kudu "kicking up a storm" when I saw these (very large) soccer boots on display in the garden-area of the German Trade & Investment (in SA) building.

Talking about soccer - I also had the privilege to see the inside of Soccer City because we went on a guided tour of this magnificent stadium representing a typical South African Calabash [SEE: last blog-entry = Durban soccer stadium; also on 4 January 2010 - what Soccer City looks like on the outside].

The pitch looks ready but we were told that 2 different grass types will be added to the present cover of kikuyu grass to adhere to the FIFA specifications.

We had the opportunity to see what the "shell" looks like on the inside apart from viewing the changing rooms, showers, etc for one of the opposing teams, as well as "visiting" one of the suites.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Final Countdown

I only have a day at home after a pleasant & successful 7-Day tour but I'd like to share a few of the photos I snapped along the way - like these wet young elephants (after a muddy bath in the river) in the Kruger National Park ...

... or this cute baby Vervet monkey ...

... as well as yet another magnificent-looking leopard in a tree close to the road ...

... and a giraffe "licking its lips".

Birds were also aplenty & characteristically I happily photographed what was "on display" - like this gorgeous Lilac-Breasted roller ...

... or this "willingly" posing Fish eagle during a boat trip on the St Lucia lagoon (= a UNESCO World Heritage site).

Along the way we passed the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban - "ready" & looking splendid for the upcoming Soccer World Cup.

A "counting billboard" at the airport in Durban acts as a reminder that that the FINAL COUNTDOWN has begun - only 90 days are left until kick-off on 11 June 2010.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Diverse Species

This will be my last "posting" for a while because I'm going on tour again tomorrow.

Since tourists to our diverse country are mostly interested in what our nature "has on offer", I'm sure the next group will not be disappointed - & experience scenes like this: of elephants leisurely moving on after a refreshing drink & bath at a river.

Other than concentrating on "recording" as many bird species as possible [SEE: previous blog-entry] I do "aim my lens" at whatever is on display - like this small bat, which was lying on the ground - had it accidentally fallen down? I'm not able to identify bats - but I do know that amongst a large number of bat-species in South Africa, some are insect-eating whilst others are fruit-eaters.

Although I can't identify the previous species of bats, I'm very familiar with this fruit-eating bat also known as "flying foxes" - because a quite large colony hang down from grass-roofs in the Skukuza Camp (Kruger National Park).

Also in Skukuza, a large variety of lizards are "at home" - like this colourful terrestrial skink with its typically smooth & shiny scales, as well as well-developed eyes & ears (not the case with burrowing skinks).

Skinks can shed their tails in an "emergency" = to distract a predator, which can regrow like a gecko's can (in contrast to agamas, whose tails don't regrow). This skink didn't shed its tail and only hastily scuttled away when it detected me, so I guess it doesn't depict humans as predators. Then it reappeared & inquisitively "eyed" the intruder (me).

Chameleons are arboreal lizards (= living in or connected to trees) & have the ability to change colour in response to their environment. Some chameleon species lay eggs (which they bury to incubate), whilst others (especially the various dwarf species) produce live young. We came across this small chameleon whilst hiking in the Drakensberg & I assume it's one of the Dwarf species!?

By now you know that in contrast to birds & wild animals, I'm no good at identifying smaller creatures - as is the case with this spider. It became my "target" mainly because I was fascinated by the intricate colour patterns on its back [Click on photo to enlarge].

Its a similar case with this "creature" - until recently I would have called it a grasshopper but in the mean have learned that it actually is a locust. Again it was its colouring & patterning that caught my attention.

What a relief! Finally an animal I can identify. Although I always tell the visitors I guide through our country that the dassie (= hyrax) is an elephant's closest relative, I still find that fact amazing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Birds for Africa

By now everybody "following" my blog knows that my main photographic target are birds - of which I'm pleased to say I've already "recorded" (= photographed) more than 400 different birds! This Brown Snake eagle isn't a first but nonetheless represents a good "visual".

Although I've "reported" that it was extremely hot most of the time during the last tour [SEE: blog-entry 27 February] this Woodland kingfisher was one of a few which didn't pant as a result of the heat as many other birds & animals did.

I don't know exactly why but I love photographing a Redbacked Shrike - and this one "posed" so nicely with the wind "stroking" across & through its feathers.

I was similarly pleased, no, actually excited, when I noticed this Yellowthroated longclaw on the ground right next to our open safari vehicle.

One can't help but conclude how much this impala female "appreciates" that the Redbilled oxpeckers are around to assist her in getting rid of undesirable ticks - I detect an expression of utter bliss!

When ostriches pose like these 2 young ones, I can't resist the urge to take a photo - even if I already have a large collection of ostrich photos.

And then there was this Cape sugarbird in the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden - actually there were quite a few but unfortunately this time around it was cloudy, so the photos aren't all "clear".

Soon after a flock of Helmeted guineafowls "grazed" past - and I happily snapped this female & its youngster.

When this sunbird unexpectedly "landed" right in front of me I happily took a "shot" - but I think it got a fright because it flew off as suddenly as it had "entered the picture". I've tried to identify it but all I can conclude is that it's either a female Black sunbird or a female Marico sunbird (both species occur in the Drakensberg region, where I encountered this bird). Of course it could also be an immature sunbird.