Through the mist

Chacma baboons_03

It was a lucky sighting: in the cool mist of the early morning, my path crossed again with a troop of baboons. They were on a mission, moving towards a favoured foraging ground and came padding by as I was out cycling in the Cape Point reserve.  It’s a thrill to observe such a big troop, 65 plus animals.   The alpha male is a magnificent animal heading up the front of the troop.  It’s interesting to note the comparative size between the males and females.   The females are smaller with shorter jaws.  The juveniles make up the bulk of the numbers and there they were clowning around, romping and jostling while the adults set the pace going forward.   Fortunately I could keep a good distance using an 80 – 400mm telephoto lens.

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Chacma baboons subjected to “Selfie” portraits

The "Selfie" with Chacma baboons

Picture the scene: the Smitswinkel baboon troop (23 individuals) going about their daily routine.  There they are minding their own business, foraging for food along the scenic route to Cape Point when along come some eager tourists looking for photo opportunities.  Granted, generally the baboons are protected by the Human Wildlife Solutions rangers who are contracted to manage their movements but today the animals give them the slip and they roam freely.   Usually the rangers successfully keep them off the road.  In the past this troop has suffered badly through the negative impact of visitors encroaching into their space and through motorists feeding them.  I have blogged in previous posts here and here and in December last year.

So what is it about this narcissistic obsession of taking “Selfies”?   The visitors in this scene are Spanish speaking and are obviously not familiar with keeping a respectful distance from wild creatures.

Baboons: foraging on pinenuts

Deconstructed, well gnawed.

A baboon troop forages along Plateau Road near the Cape Point Nature reserve.

The otters came calling

Night noises can sometimes be quite unsettling.  A high-pitched wailing sounded eerie and threatening:  the Cape clawless otters had arrived in dynamic form.   Their squealing sounded full of quest.  We’re guessing that they are the young adults from the family group which range this section of the coast.  What a rumpus as they called through the night, but it bodes well to know that they are back as the vegetation sheltering their holt was partially destroyed in the recent fire.

The otter holt

We had a lucky to sighting in the morning as they made they way back to the water.

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More otter accounts can be found here.

Baboons climb trees


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It’s quite a sight to see baboons perched up high looking more like birds  on a roost. But what goes up must come down: even though they are adept at climbing trees they spend most of their time on the ground. They belong to family of Old World monkeys and in fact do not have prehensile tails.   For the adults it’s a useful way to scope out the scene while the juveniles will clamber about testing strength and climbing coordination.  Here gravity dictates that they will drop to the ground.

Ben’s subject this week for the  WP photo challenge is:  Weight (less)    Why not pop over to the site to have a look at other responses to the challenge?

Mountain dahlia: Liparia splendens

Mountain dahlia_APR4566

Today I was lucky to discover a plant I’ve been keeping an eye out for years: a mountain dahlia and it lives up to it’s description ‘splendens’.  It’s a showy flower, pollinated by sunbirds especially the little Orange breasted.   Found on a mountain slope in the Silvermine reserve, it grows in an area which was ravaged by fire in March. It’s interesting to see that there are young plants around the more mature shrubs.

Mountain dahlia_APR4566

The striking colours and size make a gorgeous ‘ornate’ species.

Fire flower series: Trachyandra


My early morning  cycle ride in the Cape Point reserve came to a halt as I came across a large family of ostriches.   Pa flapped his wings at me so I backed off to watch at a distance.  The adults are protective of their young and there were at least 12 chicks.


Pa returned to foraging and I noticed that he was feeding on the showy Trachyandra hirsutiflora, a plant which generally flowers after fire.  The tall flower spikes bear multiple white flowers on a headlike raceme and the hairy fruits are bunched below.



The young are well camouflaged against the sandy background and have the same graceful gait of the adults.

Trachyandra hirsutiflora

A close-up of the flowers, Trachyandra hirsutiflora (Veldkool).

Ostrich chick

The chick is eating one of the fruits from the Trachyandra hirsutiflora.

The parting shot shows the comparative size between adult and chick as the last chick follows the female over the rise.


The Cape wagtails: a nesting saga

Wagtail eggs

In a previous post “Mid-winter Chat”, a pair of wagtails started nesting and six weeks later a single chick fledged from the nest :

The rotund little chick on 13 September.
The rotund little chick on 13 September.

It became self sufficient quickly with the full attention from both the parent birds and within ten days it had flown the backyard coop.

The parents were soon back in the nest with a second batch of eggs when disaster struck.  After a bout of galeforce winds, the nest came adrift from it’s position on a broad aloe leaf and collapsed to the ground spilling the four beautifully formed eggs.

Wagtail eggs

A costly disaster for the pair; but a couple of days on the resilient pair were building a new nest from scratch higher up in the aloe plant:

New nest 9 October

It’s a little over two weeks now and soon I expect to hear the first cheeps.  The nest is too high for a glimpse to check out the numbers, but I’m eager to know whether they aimed high with four again.


Ready for take-off


Moth_01 Moth_02 Caterpillar

Solving the riddle of matching up moths and their larvae is always a nice little challenge.  I haven’t yet got a positive identification on this moth which fluttered through the open kitchen window a couple of nights ago.  I was chuffed to see it’s rather elegant markings and aimed to take photos the next day.  It looked very sluggish in the morning and I didn’t think it would revive.  Yet once outside I managed to take a couple of shots when it’s antennae started vibrating and with a revving up of the wings it was off, winging it’s way over the garden hedge.   Meanwhile I’m taking a guess that this is the larva.  I think the species belongs to the Tussock’s and that the colours and design cross match rather nicely.  During autumn the caterpillars were pretty active devouring a patch of statice plants situated quite close to the kitchen  so the odds are good that this could be a positive match.

Fire flowers

Ixia dubia

Circular Drive, Cape Point

Slowly the fire-scarred land is transforming into a wonderland with a vigorous blooming of lesser known flower species.  Fire cleared out the overgrown vegetation where the taller plants had cut off the light to those which grow near the ground. Given the light and the space, geophytes are taking centre stage.   The colours are gorgeous and like fire come in vivid hue.

Moraea ochroleuca

As if born of fire, a design of orangey-red flames contrast against yellow.

Here’s another, the yellow Ixia dubia.  A nuance of fire glows like embers through the petals.

Ixia dubia

Ixia dubia

Macaques in fine detail


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An item breaking news this week is the discovery of 15 partial skeletons found in a burial chamber deep in a cave system here in South Africa’s “Cradle of Mankind”.   Scientists believe they may have discovered a new human-like species.   They claim that the discovery will change ideas about our human ancestors.

Named “Homo Naledi” they are at pains to avoid the term “missing link”, but they use the phrase “a bridge between more primitive bipedal primates and humans.    Excitement stems from the fact that the skeleton bones are in good condition, and  the smaller bones are still intact.  Laid out and photographed is a complete skeleton,.  What i find intriguing is the comparison between the structure of the bones of a modern human hand and this ancient “Naledi” group.  If you’re interested in reading more here’s the link to an article from the BBC detailing the find.

With those images on my mind, I’m inspired to post primate photos showing the close-up details of macaques.     I’m linking to Jen’s “Monochromatic” – the theme for this week’s photo challenge.


Inkblom White Harveya

The links to nature’s fragile networks are connected through a fine balance of dependence. Plants need polinators, predators and prey pit their skills of survival, and we humans depend on nature for her bounteous services for our very existence.

Though some relationships are a little more complex than others.  Take this beautiful inkblom flower (Harveya Capensis) it’s a cheat, a parasite feeding off other plant hosts by latching onto the roots or stems to absorb ready-made food.

Inkblom White Harveya

The erica plant below is one of the host species associated with inkbloom.


The dreaded Witches Tresses  (Cuscuta) is an invasive vine, wrapping tendrils round it’s host.  It produces haustoria which penetrate into the host’s vascular system and sucks out it’s lifeblood.

Witches Tresses Cuscuta

While parasitism harms the host,  a commensal, or a mutually cooperative relationship benefits one without detriment to the other.   As shown here through the compatibility of this ‘odd couple’, the Spoonbill stirs up the mud in the river bed with a ‘built-for-purpose’ broad bill, while the Sacred Ibis is on standby to pick up any crustaceans on the move.

The spoonbill and the ibis.

Inspired by this week’s  WordPress photo challenge topic “Connected”.

The Companions: From Every Angle

Showing off the hairstyle.

Shane challenges us this week to play with angles: “Once I place my subject, I shoot him or her from every angle I can think of: high, low, wide, tight, left and right. By altering your angle, and not your subject’s, you begin to see the power in the story that you are aiming to capture.”  Click on the link to see more examples of this week’s WP challenge

The wildflowers of Namaqualand

Namaqualand daisies in bloom.

This week’s photo challenge,”Beneath Your Feet” coincides with a wonderland of early spring wildflowers in spectacular display in Namaqualand, an area 500 kms north of Cape Town. There is a rich heritage of some 3,800 plant species and an extravagance of colour.  It’s a paradise for a photographer and Cheri’s suggestion of capturing the world beneath one’s feet fits the bill for me this week :)

Chewing gum – a human habit?

Chewing gum_2

A couple of weeks ago after returning from a beach hike, I came across this young male baboon ‘hanging out’ in the car park.   As he was on his own, I guess he has just reached maturity and is pushing new boundaries, rather like the adolescent teenager ranging further and further from home.  Baboons have a natural curiosity and will investigate and pick up discarded litter … risky business this, living alongside humans.

In Memory of Merlin

Now deceased.
Now deceased.

Merlin, the old warrior, battle scarred, arthritic and possibly the oldest baboon on the Peninsula.  He was earmarked for culling two years ago but was given a stay of execution until some weeks ago.  Sad.  He may not have been in the best of health, but one wonders if he could not have passed away quietly up on the mountain somewhere rather than be put down by a vet. His crime –  being a “raider” or should we say a savvy forager?  There are many legends about him, mostly his daring strategies in taking dining opportunities at the Black Marlin Restaurant. He’d always spot the gap, sometimes just walk in with the patrons.  I enjoy the tale of the kitchen staff having to keep the kitchen door locked and responding to a knock one lunch time, to find Mr Merlin looking all polite and may I come in please?  Another of his ploys was to sit on top of cars, and wait until the desperate motorists would throw out ‘decoy’ food to get him off.  Generally he’d get the goods.  Observing him with his troop, he was a gentle old soul.  The one who would fetch errant juveniles, or wait for the straying older females to catch up.  He had endless patience with the junior members and juveniles would always be around him.  And then he raised Little Grace after her mother mysteriously disappeared. How uncommon to see a male baboon with a small baboon riding below his tummy, her little hands locked into his fur or jockey style on top.  The photo was taken at Miller’s Point, and for me it’s a poignant scene.  I found Merlin on his own, staring out to sea into the far distance. He stayed for ages, not moving.  Was there some call to those yonder distant mountains?  He held the troop together through the distressing times of losing one adult male after another – Fred, Rudeboy, Crowbar, Jimmy, Manuel, Force…   We recognise that elephant pay heed to their dead; perhaps if you read this you may give some thought and tribute to the effect of loss on non-human primates.

Otters 1 – Wotta Lotta Otters

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In this post Wilf describe’s our otters … ” otters are handsome creatures … blunt faces like a jovial innkeeper’s , they radiate intelligence and they are inquisitive.” Read on to discover the charm of these urban-edge visitors.

Our Urban Wild

The face peering at her was hairy and disapproving. Two small, baleful eyes set wide in a large furry head round as a ball. Ridiculous button ears. A broad black nose above stiff whiskers. The mouth curled down at the corners left no doubt she was intruding. And the face was sodden with sea water, compounding the impression of irritation.

Leaving was not a bad idea. What Liz had bumped into was pretty intimidating close up, however amicable it may have seemed from a distance.

... and who are you? … and who are you?

It was a Cape clawless otter. They are all over Southern Africa except in the arid regions, and a sizeable number are right here in the surrounds of the city of Cape Town – a good many of them often in our backyard.

Liz was clambering round the rocks and came around a truck-size boulder to find herself almost face…

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Iceland Series: Waterfowl


Lake Mývatn, in the north of Iceland has a reputation as the best place to see wild ducks in northern Europe.  They congregate in their thousands, and here you can spot at least 18 different species.  Their beautifully coiffed plumage comes in an array of colours, and patterns  – harlequin duck, Barrow’s golden eye, tufted and longtailed and scaup, mallards, pochards, gadwall, teals; such exotic water birds.

Iceland Series: Birds, Birds, Birds.

Millions of puffins come to breed in Iceland.  A most endearing creature.

Iceland has some three hundred recorded bird species.  It’s extraordinary – some areas teem with birds – thousands of them.  Whenever we stopped the car, the rush of bird calls were indicative of the high activity, the haste in getting through the breeding season.  As we travelled the ring road we noticed the varying stages of nesting, and chick rearing.  The seabird colonies were the most impressive, guillemots, fulls, fulmars,  puffins, arctic terns.

Here are some of the stars of the show:

A dispersing male

Ready for the roadOn the move?  Being a dispersing male comes with it’s challenges; particularly for a baboon.  They get the itch to wander when the testosterone kicks in:  it’s blueprinted in their genes to set off to find a new troop and mate with females of a different group.  So what happens when there’s urban sprawl to negotiate?   When the landscape is rife with food opportunities?  It’s not so easy for the remaining wild baboons living on the edge of the Cape Peninsula, many of the males fail to make the transition into a new troop and land up being euthanised.  How’s this for a mode of transport?

This post is in response to this week’s photo challenge: “On the Move”.




Down on the Beach

Stop for a nibble or two.

The element of surprise is the part i look forward to most when walking on our favourite beach.  Yesterday I set off hoping to get some better photographs than the one below of some of the European swallows which like to inhabit an area near the coastal pathway.  I admire these hardy little visitors who cover a long distance to spend summers on our shores.

European SwallowsIt was a heavenly day, but the wind picked up and the wise little birds were sheltering in a different area.   Meanwhile the surfers, fishermen, and kite boarders looked to be revelling in the freshning spindrift.

Surf angling is popular when the yellowtail run.
Surf angling is popular when the yellowtail run.
The surf was up with a good curl for the local surfers to ride.
The surf was up with a good curl.
The baboons were happily foraging on the dune vegetation while family hike along the dunes.
A lone baboon passes a family hiking in the dunes.
A small family of baboon are peacefully enjoying their habitat.
While the baboon family are peacefully moving along a foraging route.

The swallows are forgotten as the antics of the baboons catch my attention.  The three juveniles and baby can’t resist sliping and sliding down the dune and in their indulgence of the rough and tumble of everyday play :

Pa, the Alpha male comes padding by on a mission to get across the sand to the car park.

_DSC2571The family follow, romping along.

_DSC2580Meanwhile one of the sub-adult males is engaging in a reconnaisance of a different kind.

As soon as the alpha male arrives, he beats it and leaves the scene.

_DSC2689Savvy baboons: they have learned that where there are people and cars, there is a possible source of easy food.   Leaving bags on car seats and in sight through the windows will certainly attract their attention.   Lay out a picnic or light a barbeque in their domain and they will come to investigate and even make off with food that’s laid out for the taking.   We could take better care not to tempt them with human food when we come into the areas which overlap with their homerange.

In support of an Anti-poaching Campaign: Elephant Tusks!


At year end, the WordPress Team puts out a review for each blogger on their year’s blogging statistics.  It reveals some surprising information, who visits the blog, which posts were most liked etc.   I was pleasantly surprised by the ‘crunchy numbers’ and the statistics which revealed my blog had been viewed about 16,000 times.  I was more surprised by the information on which posts were the most popular:  Culture and Love ; and which post attracted the most comments  “Penguin Chicks:  From Fluff to Tuxedo”.

During the year i’d not really paid too much attention to the ‘backroom’ details, although i’d noticed that “elephant tusks” came up regularly via search engine queries.   I wrote a post about the odd relationship between three of the most unlikeliest mammals,  The Dassie, Dugong and Elephant  .  They have a fascinatingly evolutionary history which ties them back to a common ancestor.  They share various, if disproportionate, physiological similarities in teeth, leg and foot bones, testes, and other more obscure details.  In the post I assigned ‘elephant tusks’ as a tag to this photo.Elephant-tusks

How sad, (and devastating) it is to realise that there is a sinister connotation to the fact that this tag had the most hits on my blog via search engines.  Here in Africa, the poaching of elephants for their ivory and rhino for their horn remain the biggest and most devastating scourge in wildlife conservation.  Much is written in the press and across the international wildlife community in raising awareness on the diminishing numbers of these majestic animals through this wholesale slaughter of illegal poaching. The elephant tusks mostly land up in China, and i do believe that there is a possibility that the stats on my blog for visitor traffic from that country, could well tie into this issue.

I would like to share this following article, reblogged from Africa Geographic, as a reminder to all who do land up on my blog searching with bad intent, that all animals, no matter whether they are pandas, snow leopards, tigers, elephant or rhino, all deserve our respect for their continued existence.

Anti-elephant poaching story goes viral in China

Original Source: Mongabay

A newspaper story about the impact of the ivory trade has gone viral in China, raising awareness among millions of Chinese, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The story, published on November 15 2013 in Southern Weekly, has been shared widely across Chinese web sites and social media, according to the conservation group. ”The total views of the original Southern Weekly Tweets and Retweets on Weibo (China’s Twitter/Facebook hybrid) exceeded 10 million. Most of these “netizens,” or members of the Chinese online public, were from Tier 1 Chinese cities (Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong), the most significant consumers of ivory,” said WCS in a statement.

“The article was reposted on 24 online discussion forums or Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) including Mop and Tianya, two of the most popular in China. Thousands of comments were generated on the Tianya BBS forum alone. Overall over 5 000 comments on the article were posted on Weibo, BBS fora, and other websites.” The story received wide play outside environmental news, being picked up on finance sites, according to WCS. ”This represents an important shift for the topic of ivory from the specialist environmental pages to the mainstream debate,” said the group.

The poster reads: Protect the pandas of Africa - elephants. When the buying stops the killing can too. Image courtesy of WildAid.

The poster reads: Protect the pandas of Africa – elephants. When the buying stops the killing can too. Image courtesy of WildAid.

The article, titled “The Blood Ivory: Behind the Largest Ivory Smuggling Cases in China”, identified Chinese consumption as the main driver of elephant poaching. It noted links between the ivory trade and terror and rebel groups in Africa.

The ivory trade has exploded in recent years due to surging demand from middle class consumers in China. Conservationists estimate that up to 35 000 elephants may have been killed in 2012 alone. The carnage has spurred several NGO’s, including WCS, to step up campaigns targeting both the supply and demand sides of the trade. In September, the Clinton Global Initiative gave these efforts a boost when it launched a massive push to catalyze support for stopping “blood ivory”.

The poster reads: Do you want to own ivory dripping with blood? When the buying stops the killing can too. Image courtesy of WildAid.

The poster reads: Do you want to own ivory dripping with blood? When the buying stops the killing can too. Image courtesy of WildAid.

But reaching Chinese buyers has remained a challenge. Therefore WCS welcomed the news that elephant ivory is now garnering attention in China. “To have the influential mainstream media make the link between the elephant crisis and the Chinese demand for ivory is hugely significant,” Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, said in a statement.

“In China, it’s not just what is said but who says it,” added Joe Walston, Executive Director of WCS’s Asia Program.“To have the Southern Weekly give its front page to an article highlighting China’s role in the ivory trade is monumental. This is no longer a fringe topic.”

Photo Credits – Posters are the work of Asher Jay.
For more information on WildAid and their anti-poaching campaign visit

Dassies: Safety in Numbers

Rooikat, West Coast Park
A six-pack of baby dassies, huddled together.
A six-pack of baby dassies, huddled together.
Rooikat, West Coast Park
Rooikat, West Coast Park

The prey and predator – the dassie brood are skittish at the moment; they make a very tasty snack for the caracal.  Our neighbours have sighted a caracal (rooikat or lynx) in their garden.  At the slightest of disturbance our resident dassies are quick to take cover between the rocks.  The rooikat likes to hunt at dawn or dusk, but occasionally we get glimpses during the day.  Probably 50% or last year’s dassie brood have survived; this year at this point there are about 15 babies in the colony.   The Rooikat (Caracal caracal) is a well-built animal with strong legs, remarkably large paws and a relatively short tail.   It is elusive and shy and not easily spotted.  The photo above was taken by a friend on a hike in the West Coast Coastal Park.

Cape Wagtail Fledglings

Two of the chicks puffed up and secure, waiting for their next snack.

The windy season in the Cape has arrived with a vengeance.  The South Easterlies pump in over the south Atlantic hurling in at gale force and are ever challenging for the residents of the Peninsula.    Here in our backyard a small drama unfolds as three fledgling Cape wagtails battle to cope with the elements.  As it happens the yard is a sheltered haven, but risky in that the downdrafts have an equally upward motion, and the first of the fledglings out of the nest got scooped up and deposited way downstream.  The other two luckily, landed plump-side up and have stayed within the confines  of the walls for the last couple of days, trying out short flight paths between the garden terraces.  We admire their hard-working industrious parents who must provide the meals.   The whole process of choosing the nesting site, to construction material highlights their experience in parenting skills.

The first sighting of the chicks was 10 October.
The nest is built in a sturdy yucca,  and here is the first sighting of the chicks on 21 October.

This is their second brood of the season, the first hatch produced one strong, rotund dumpling of a chick.  It was independent within a fortnight and thereafter the parents went straight back to producing their next hatch.

Flying lessons
Flying lessons

Their wings appear to be perfectly formed for flight, although their tail feathers must still increase in length.

Two of the chicks puffed up and secure, waiting for their next snack.
Two of the chicks, waiting for their next snack.

The parents worked hard that first day, relaying food to the two above as well as locating the chick which had been whisked away by the wind.   By nightfall they managed to ‘fly’ it back to the nest.

Lunch - a good mouthful of moth.
Lunch – a good mouthful of moth.

Both parents are providing a variety of insects including –  moths, worms, coachroaches, flies, ants.

No hanging around in queues here, the quickest trumps.
No hanging around in queues here, the quickest trumps.
Crunchy roaches, all part of an insectivore's diet.
Crunchy roaches, all part of an insectivore’s diet.

Robert’s Birds of South Africa record that incubation averages 13 -14 days; nestlings 14 – 21 days – both parent feed.  Two broods a year are recorded in the Cape, while generally three in Gauteng.

WPC: Layers

Well wrapped and protected by the outer bracts.

Peel back the outer, protective layers of a protea flower and be amazed at the powerhouse of internal workings for seed production.  The outer layers are tough and leathery to withstand the fierce,drying winds and the flower head must also contend with dehydration from the baking sun.

Well wrapped and protected by the outer bracts.
Well wrapped and protected by the outer bracts.
A cross section of the internal structure.
A cross section of the internal structure.
Pollinating tools, the setting of stamens, pistols and other pollen gathering structures.
Pollinating tools, the setting of stamens, pistols and other pollen gathering structures.

The Protea family is named after Proteus, the sea-god of Homer’s legends who could change his shape at will. Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish botanist was impressed by the amazing variation of this group of plants and was responsible for the naming back in 1735.  The Proteaceae are a fascinating family of ancient plants with a lineage which goes back 135 million years to the super continent, Gondwanaland.

To join in the fun and check out other examples of this week’s Photo Challenge. “Layers”, connect here.

WPC: Habit

A daily grooming

The everyday stuff :

Stretch to keep limber A daily stretch in the morning to keep limber.

Drinking waterKeep up a healthy habit of drinking water to keep well hydrated during the day.

A daily groomingThe habit of a life time – the daily groom.

This post was in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Habit.  Head over to the WordPress site to see what else is offered as a daily habit ….

The Shoreline


The Cape Peninsula has some stunning beaches and quite dramatic shorelines. The wild Atlantic differs quite considerably from the warmer more placid False Bay due to the influence of the two major currents. The cool Benguela rules the West Coast with high dynamic energy as opposed to the Agulhas current which sweeps warm water from the Subtropics along the East Coast via the Indian Ocean. So where do the two currents meet? Even the scientists disagree on the issue, because the retroflection of the Agulhas Current moves back and forth and it’s hard to define an exact boundary. With the differing water temperature come changes in the marine life, and that makes for some fascinating beach-combing and poking around in rock pools.







The rocky shoreline on the Atlantic side
The rocky shoreline on the Atlantic side

WPC: Horizon

This week’s photo challenge is “Horizon” – The space or line where the sky meets the earth. So many places where the sky meets the earth around the world, and millions of interactions between two elements. It can be water, a city skyline, a forest, a wasteland, a desert, a sunset outside your bedroom window. Is there a particular horizon which speaks to you? Visit the link here to find out more on the subject.

Sunrise over False Bay.
Sunrise over False Bay.
Some horizons appear expansive, especially over the ocean, but here in False Bay the mountains define an edge. I’m drawn to this eastward view looking towards the Hottentot Holland range where a magician conjures up the magic of dawn. Sometimes morning comes thundering in, filling the sky in unbelievably rich hues. Other days it just pops up in a sparkle. Light plays a part too. At times a crystal-like quality brings out every wrinkle in the mountains weathered hide. Then there are days where the colours recede into a cloud-blue cocoon.
Mist shrouded,  cloud wreathed.
Mist shrouded, cloud wreathed.

Looking out over the bay towards the same distant mountains is one of the peninsula’s baboons. They are trapped in confined areas, their movements curtailed by urban sprawl and no longer able to wander at will. I often wonder about the call of the ‘wild’ baboon.
Merlin looks across the bay towards the distant mountains.
Merlin looks across the bay towards the distant mountains.

Where the grass sings

High in the escarpment of Mpumalanga (1500 kms from Cape Town), lies an area of rugged mountains where crystal clear streams tumble into wide, reflective ponds. There is a town called Mashishing – the place of the long grass. At this time of the year the grass is as dry as a bone after the long winter months without rain. As the wind shifts through the reeds, imagine the sheerest of songs, the rustle of spring, (with apologies to Sinding) as the sound flits and rises through arpegios of rising tones. Come, stay a while here and still the mind.





Good Morning False Bay!

As much a part of the early morning cuppa, is the sight of Cape Cormorants flying past and out to sea.

The commuter buzz outside my windows in the morning always has me smiling. As the first rays of sun peep up over the Hottentot Holland mountain range, batches of cormorants set out to sea to catch a meal of shoal fish for the day. Their numbers are intriguing, thousands fly past in a morning and return at dusk

As much a part of the early morning cuppa, is the sight of Cape Cormorants flying past and out to sea.
As much a part of the early morning cuppa, is the sight of Cape Cormorants flying past and out to sea.
This post is in response to Michlle’s WPC: Good Morning. For further pictures visit here and take a peek at other participants’ morning rituals.

Ezo Higuma: Bear Mountain

Visitors can get close up views of the bears from the viewing platforms or through the bus windows.

There we were on a deserted mountain road in thick vegetation examining a butterfly aggregation on Bear Mountain. Though i’m a city girl, i’ve spent enough time in wilderness areas to know about respecting bush lore. In a previous post on our adventures in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island i mentioned that ‘alarm bells’ should be ringing. I should have been registering that the butterflies were on a scat pile bigger than a cow-pat, and about the size of an elephant’s. As that fact dawned there was a rustling in the trees, and a shadowy shape took off beyond our peripheral vision. Could it have been a sika (deer) or was it one of the free roaming brown bears? I’d like to think it was the latter, and if the scat was anything to go by then it confirmed the size and diet. Nevertheless we beat a hasty retreat and returned to the car. We were to learn that the Ezo Higuma bears (Ursus arctos yeoensis) are on the red data list of endangered species and that their existence is in a precarious state. It appears that their numbers are unknown and the population may well be less than 1000. We wondered what kind of conditions we would find as we proceeded towards the Sahoro Bear Sanctuary. Tourism publicity rates it highly as a place of refuge for bears existing in their natural habitat.
The 'sanctuary' houses 30 male bears in 15 hectares of natural vegetation – a far cry from the cement cells and performing bears at Noribetsu. It appears to be a humane setting for the bears; there is space, cooling pools, dens in which to withdraw. The guides are informative, and proud to show off these incredibly powerful creatures. Yes they are free to roam and are well fed …. but why then the collars? Ah, they're training collars to keep them away from the fence. Eh? Yes if they get too close to the fence then they receive a slight electrical shock – just like dog training collars, they're harmless. Just then one of the bears leans up against the viewing glass, scratching at the neck collar where it chafes and has rubbed through the skin.
Are they neutered, I wonder? If not, how crazed it would drive the males should a free roaming female in estrus come visiting on the other side of that electrified fence.
Oh! we humans are a cruel lot.

Ezo Higuma,  the Japanese Brown Bear of Hokkaido.
Ezo Higuma, the Japanese Brown Bear of Hokkaido.

Cooling down in the heat of the day _ Sahoro Resort.
Cooling down in the heat of the day _ Sahoro Resort.

Visitors can get close up views of the bears from the viewing platforms or through the bus windows.
Visitors can get close up views of the bears from the viewing platforms or through the bus windows.

Bear Mt_02

The Snow Monkey Macaques


Dear Readers, for the next few weeks you’ll notice a change in location and subjects as I head off on a magical mystery tour. The adventure starts in Japan, and here are some shots of the magnificent Japanese macaques – those famous “Snow Monkeys”. Although the summer temperatures here are in the upper 20’s C, they appear to relish being in the water (which is regulated to a cooler temperature). What a delight it’s been to watch their antics around the pool. I was surprised at their ability to swim and dive below the water holding their breath. If you’re interested in seeing them via Live-cam with a view of the pool, go to – There are about 160 members in this particular troop. Visitors are warned not to display food, or to feed the creatures. Although they are habituated to humans, they display no interest in these inquisitive primates and get on with their daily routine without being bothered by the close proximity.

Cape Clawless Otter



We don’t often get to see the otters as they’re shy, elusive creatures, preferring to keep their distance from people.  In a rare moment as the sun peeped above the horizon I had a glimpse of a mum and pup.  Over the months I’ve  been keeping a look out for this pair.   Now the pup is almost fully grown. In-the-morning-light

Still life: Cape Dutch trade items

Still Life

Using natural lighting, I experimented with this still life portrait in an attempt to express a setting similar to the art style of the Old Dutch Masters’ using a dark background.  Portraying historic artefacts  in a Cape venacular – the symbolism relates to the colonial past when the Dutch arrived in the Cape (South Africa) in 1652 to set up a halfway station between Holland and their colonies in the East.  The Dutch were masters of the seas in the 17th C plying their trade to Batavia and beyond. The various items have relevance to that narrative: lemons to prevent scurvy, VOC – porcelain from Arita, wine jars, onion-shaped bottles, wine glasses, silver pieces of eight the coinage of the time, and local items of interest.  At the time of their arrival the “Kwekwe” a cultured, wealthy clan of people had lived along the coast for thousands of years. Little is known of their ancient culture.  Within fifty years of the arrival of the first Dutch colonists their culture had been wiped out.

WPC: “Life imitates art”

Haemanthus sanguineus or the April Fool

The fire razed veld in the Circular Drive area of the Cape Point reserve continues to beguile.  It’s become an exhibition arena for plants which are usually crowded out by the dominant ericoids, proteoids and restionaceae.  And nature’s moving along smartly here with a fabulous showing of these geophyte paintbrush lilies / April fool flowers.  Each day brings further rewards as they bloom forth in prolific form.

It’s interesting to note that this species of Haemanthus blooms profusely after fire.

Fabulous vygies


“Vygies” (little figs) are the local name for the succulent family of Mesembryanthemaceae (Aizoaeae).  Other common names are ice plants, fig mairgold, mesembs, midday flower.  They steal the show with their fabulous display of vibrant colours.   Having adapted to conditions of great aridity some of their bizarre designs account for coping with lack of water and high temperatures.  The metallic sheen of their petals adds to their richness of  colour by reflecting the rays of the sun to deflect it’s heat.  Amazing too is their diversity showing up in 127 genera and about 1700 species.

Click here for further posts on WPC: “Vibrant” .