Sunday, August 28, 2011

Starlings Galore

Although this Golden-Breasted starling doesn't occur "naturally" in South Africa, it is a "resident" in some of our birdparks like e.g. in World of Birds near Plettenberg Bay. Its natural home is in East Africa.

This Redwinged (female) starling certainly is a common resident in mostly the more eastern & southern parts of SA.

In contrast but the similarly-looking Palewinged starlings are found in the drier, western parts of SA & in Namibia (where this photo "originated" at Twyfelfontein).

The European starling, occuring mostly along the southern, coastal parts of SA, is an "introduced" (instead of an indigenous) starling-species.

Likewise, the Indian Myna is an introduced starling-species (= as it name stipulates, this bird "arrived" from India) & is now classified as a very common/abundant resident mainly along the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal & around Johannesburg.

Amongst the glossy starlings, the Greater Blue-Eared glossy starling is an indigenous species occuring mostly in the northern & eastern part of our country, and is a very common resident in the Kruger National park.

Another member of the glossy starlings is what I think of as quite an impressive & colourful bird - the Burchell's glossy starling, which more or less shares the same habitat as the glossy starling (above).

The Plum-Coloured starling is only a fairly common resident during summer in the northern & eastern parts of our country.

The Wattled starling is a quite rare resident, although it can be found right across our country.

When I "met" this bird, a Pied starling, for the very first time, I mistakenly thought it was an Indian Myna (SEE: above), but once I "examined" it more closely, I realised it was this quite common resident in most parts (except in the "far north") of our country.

Similar to the first bird (SEE: above) this Superb starling is a resident in East Africa - or can be found in bird parks in our country.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Animal Boycott

As usual Impalas were "out in numbers" during a visit to the Kruger National (during the last tour). Since one of these animals features as the main character in my story-with-photos book (= Impi the Impala), I tend to favour (photographing) these typical SA antelopes.

Although by now I'm accustomed to it, I'm still amazed how well-camouflaged many animals are in nature - especially in a "winter"-environment, like these kudus.

Seeing various animal species together (= a kudu female & Vervet monkeys) is also always a pleasure when visting a Game Reserve, BUT if one of them reveals how "invasive" humans are, it's a sad situation: check out the "human" article in the paws of the monkey (= at bottom of photo).

Then "along comes" the ideal photo-opportunity - a Red duiker "posing" instead of more customarily running "for cover". So this one didn't boycott a rather perfect photo-opportunity . . .

. . . and these Bushbabies (at the Bushlands Lodge, KwaZulu-Natal) also didn't boycott "their special" buffet whilst we were there.

This Striped mangoose also appeared more interested in what it saw than taking to its heels . . .

. . . but then there was this young elephant bull in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve (KwaZulu-Natal)! We were rounding a corner in an open safari-vehicle & I guess, the elephant felt threatened by our approach, because he came charging at us! The ranger hastily reversed, but still the elephant chased after us. Needless to say, we got away BUT not along the road we wanted to travel! Later, back at the lodge, we learned that this elephant had truly boycotted us, because just around the corner (= behind the vehicle in the photo) a leopard was sighted - and we just missed that special opportunity.

I guess in a sense this buffalo (& a whole herd!) also boycotted us in the sense that it/they appeared when it was already too dark to take "clear" photos.

But the "biggest" boycott can be "blamed" on the Southern Right whales, which frequent our coastline at this time of the year - this was the ONLY whale we saw (properly) in the time-frame of a whole week!

On the other hand, this whale really "performed" & therefore was a pleasure to watch AND, I guess, blaming the whales for not appearing isn't fair either - instead the weather was the actual "culprit" = windy/stormy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Colourful August

August in South Africa means spring is on its way - and whilst touring through the country we often saw many different species of aloes in bloom.

Another "type" of aloe growing "side-ways" instead of upright like candles.

Another promiment flower during the month of August is our National Flower = the King protea and we had the pleasure of "discovering" the first large blooms in the Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden (in Cape Town).

This is a King protea bud, of which there were many on display amongst the large (open) blooms.

Other than magnificent flowers we were privileged to also come across this colourful but tiny Little bee-eater sitting in the road in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve (= KwaZulu-Natal province).

Although many a colourful Crested barbet are "resident" in our garden at home in Johannesburg, I was happy to "snap" this one because it sat beautifully "framed" by twigs right next to our open safari vehicle in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve.

Even if Blackeyed bulbuls aren't very colourful birds, I was fascinated by the orange face of one of the bulbuls - the "result" of feeding on the pollen of some aloe flowers.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Language of Flowers

According to an article I read in one of our newspapers last weekend (Lifestyle - Sunday Times) Victorians used "floriography" (??) = the language of flowers - to communicate certain messages. So each month (of the year) is "marked" by certain "symbolic" flowers - for August: gladiolus, noted for moral integrity & sincerity . . .

. . . as well the poppy - the flower of magical dreams!

If your birthday falls in this month - enjoy these blooms :)


Monday, August 1, 2011

Typical SA Trees

The Mopane is a typical southern African tree with its distinctive butterfly-shaped leaves (= each leaf consists of 2 leaflets) - sometimes also said to resemble a camel's footprint. The mopane tree is also referred to as "ironwood" & is an important fodder tree for game (esp. elephants) - it's also fed upon by the so-called "mopane worm" (in actual fact a caterpillar = emperor moth) - a protein-rich 'relish' which is eaten fresh, roasted or dried.

The Mopane is a pod-bearing tree & the pods are flat & kidney-shaped. These seed-pots are nutrious & the seeds/kernels are sticky from the resin covering them, so they tend to "stick" to the feet/hooves of animals, which then "distribute" the seeds. The seeds inside the leathery pod are said to resemble tiny brains!?

A Yellowwood tree is a typical (indigenous) South African "giant" in nature - found in "rain" forests & mostly along the southern coast's Garden Route (= Tsitsikamma & Knysna forests), where some are "sign-posted" as 'Big Trees' - reaching heights of 60m & up to 800 yrs old. These are known as Outeniqua yellowwood, which is 1 of 4 local species = all 4 species are evergreen.

Yellowwood represented the chief source of timber for early colonists, who found a diversity of purposes for it. Because yellowwoods were over-exploited through the years, all species are now protected by law.

Yellowwoods are easily recognisable by what is known as "old man's beard" = lichen 'draped' over the branches of these trees.

Probably there's no other tree that embodies the spirit of Africa as a Baobab does & as legend has it, it's the tree that was planted 'upside-down' (= has that look esp. in winter, when leafless branches look like the tree's roots). In ancient times African leaders tended to meet under these trees - said not only to provide shelter but the spirit of these trees helped the leaders to make wise decisions. In actual fact these trees are succulents & consist of 80% moisture & can reach an age of a few thousand years!

Baobabs are also known as monkey-bread tree or bottle tree (resembling a "bottle" esp. when "young"). The baobab is deciduous & has large, waxy-white flowers, which only last for 24hrs, then fall to the ground, where they are food for various antelope species. It can be said that baobabs "swarm with life" = provide shelter & sustenance for various creatures - elephants browse on the leaves & bark; baboons feast on fruits; birds & bees nest in holes of the trunks (= most old trees are hollow inside); fruit bats & bush-babies pollinate the flowers.

Baobab fruit are highly nutritious (= contain lots of Vit C & calcium) & are used to produce cream of tartar = flesh of fruit contains potasium bitartrate & tartaric acid - very tasteful!