Victory is sweet for the dominant male African penguin: territorial space, mating rights, future chicks. Posturing is one tactic, but the fight can get bloody if the opponent does not back off.
Victory is sweet for the dominant male African penguin: territorial space, mating rights, future chicks. Posturing is one tactic, but the fight can get bloody if the opponent does not back off.
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.
The striking colours and size make a gorgeous ‘ornate’ species.
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.
A close-up of the flowers, Trachyandra hirsutiflora (Veldkool).
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.
In a previous post “Mid-winter Chat”, a pair of wagtails started nesting and six weeks later a single chick fledged from the nest :
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inspired by this week’s WordPress photo challenge topic “Connected”.
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
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
Originally posted on 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.
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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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 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:
Inspired by this week’s photo challenge: Twist
On 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”.
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.
It 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.
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.
As soon as the alpha male arrives, he beats it and leaves the scene.
Savvy 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.
Would you rate this from the baboon’s point of view, or from the motorist’s?
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.
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
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 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.
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 www.wildaid.org
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.
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.
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.
Their wings appear to be perfectly formed for flight, although their tail feathers must still increase in length.
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.
Both parents are providing a variety of insects including – moths, worms, coachroaches, flies, ants.
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.
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.
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.
The everyday stuff :
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 somber light of dawn, we view the terrible destruction caused by the runaway fire which raged through Simon’s Town over the last two days. The acrid scent of scarred vegetation greets us, but luck is on our side with welcome rain last night. Thirteen ‘structures’ were affected with three homes being totally destroyed and the homeowners lives shattered. It is doubly disastrous as arson is suspected as the cause of the fire. A heartfelt tribute goes to the City of Cape Town’s fire crew and the emergency teams who worked round the clock to extinguish the blaze and keep the residents safe.
They did it!! The wagtail pair have successfully produced their second brood of the season. After the bad luck of losing the last nest and having to abandon four eggs they triumphed by fledging three little chicks today.
There was a lot of wriggling in the nest, the dominant chick stands on two siblings.
The two larger chicks ventured further and flew off over the garden wall, while this little one found shelter under the garden bench. The parent birds started rebuilding their third nest on the 7th October and five weeks later the chicks have fledged. They will continue feeding them for another couple of weeks and I hope that they will stay awhile in the shelter of the backyard.