Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gem-studded Puff-ball

The Gem-studded Puff-ball (Lycoperdon perlatum) grows up to 50 millimeters high and can be found either in clusters or on its own. The mushroom is covered in tiny wards leaving depressions and are normally found in late summer to autumn among fallen leaves of broadleaved trees.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I wanted to get a very artistic picture for my Christmas post, but just ran out of time before we had to pack for our holiday. I decided to rather post this one of what Santa should look like when visiting our shores over Christmas. As it is summer he is wearing shorts and a funky short sleeve shirt and is having a party on the beach. Drama Princess decided to pose with him for me.
MERRY CHRISTMAS everybody. May the day bring happiness and goodness in all of your lives.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bikini bottoms

The Red Hartebeest is usually found in grasslands and savanna in the drier central parts of South Africa. They are grazers which means that you would find them in the open grazing on grass, although they are known to browse as well when grass is in short supply. The Red Hartebeest is said to be the second fastest antelope in Africa after the Tsessebe.


The name Red Hartebeest comes from the fact the
Red: They are reddish in colour;
Harte: When you look at them straight on from the front, their horns form the shape of a heart; and
Beest: Either from the fact that they are beasts or because they graze like cattle and in Afrikaans (or Dutch) a cow is a bees.

Now why call the post Bikini Bottoms? Well that is what the game rangers like to call them. When they walk away from you and you look carefully, it looks like they all have white bikini bottoms on.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pole


I know this isn't the most imaginative photo I've taken, but it has something to it that I like

Friday, December 18, 2009

Black Wattle

The Black Wattle is an invader specie that was introduced to South Africa from Australia. The first Black Wattle was planted in 1928 and it was hoped that it would provide fuel, building materials, and shade In the early days the Black Wattles were also grown in a controlled environment to harvest its tannin. Unfortunately in later years they were allowed to spread through South Africa like wild fire.

Unfortunately it is estimated that invading aliens cover 10 million hectares of land in South Africa and, each year, use 3.3 billion cubic metres more water than native vegetation. In a country with acute water shortages the Black Wattle has been declared an invasive alien plant and is one of the species that the "Working for water" project is trying to eradicate.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sedge

Sedge photograped next to the Maitlands River. I was checking my The Wildlife of Southern Africa book and it seems that this may be Cyperus dives.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spotted Dikkop

The Spotted Dikkop (Burhinus capensis) must be one of my favorite birds. I was surprised to find this pair and their chick (picture below) at the bottom of the Donkin Reserve. The Dikkop is a fairly big bird with a height of 34-43cm. The are normally found in pairs and prefer walking over flying. When they do fly is usually during dusk when they are in search of water. They are also a lot more noisy in the dark than in daylight hours.

The Dikkop is mostly found in dry, open country and is mainly found in the bushveld and savanna. They pair up for life and built their nests on the ground. The nest is lined with small stones and dry plants and is placed under a bush to protect the young from predators. For more information on Dikkop, visit Birds of Eden.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Symbol of Multiculturalism

Situated next to the German Settler Memorial in East London is The Symbol of Multiculturalism. With Wednesday 16 December being Day or Reconsiliation, I thought that this is actually a very relevant post.
The Symbol of Multiculturalism was created by Francesco Perilli and was donated by the Nereto Municipality in Italy to the people of the Eastern Cape Province and for the African continent.

It quotes Nelson Mandela in saying: "We might have our differences, but we are one people with a common destiny in our rich variety of culture, race and tradition."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

German Settler Memorial


On the Esplanade in East London visitors to the city will find the German Settlers Memorial. It was erected in remembrance of the than 2000 German settlers (men, women and children) who arrived in East London in 1858 as part of the colonial government's plan to try and introduce the black Xhosa speaking people of the Eastern Cape to a European type of society.
Originally the British Government offered the colonial government the services of the British German Legion who was recruited for the Crimean war but never saw and action. After their arrival in 1857 it was found that their settlement was unsuccessful as soldiers didn't make very good farmers although they were ideally suited to defend the area from Xhosa attack if necessary.
The soldiers were followed by new immigrants who came in family groups and who were much more hard working and successfully despite all the hardships they had to endure. It is thanks to the German Settlers that there are many places in the Eastern Cape around East London that has German names as these settlers named places after where they came from in Germany. Some of the names in the area are Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Breidbach and many others.
For more information on the German Settlers, visit Knowledge4Africa and the following document.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

East London Aquarium

I spent a couple of days in the city of East London, 300 kilometers east of Port Elizabeth, the other day. I didn't have much free time, but I did get to visit the East London Aquarium.

The East London Aquarium is by no means a very big facility. It was officially opened on 2 December 1931 which makes it the oldest public aquarium in Southern Africa. The aquarium has a number of large fish tank displays that feature most of the fish population found in the oceans around East London.

Outside the aquarium is a huge deck overlooking the ocean for visitors to keep an eye out for whales. The deck also overlooks the seal pool where the resident seal does displays a couple of times a day.
There is also a number of African penguins at the aquarium. Just this week there was an interesting article in the newspaper regarding the penguins. Two of the penguins starting building a nest together and sitting on it, but no egg was forthcoming. As you can't differentiate between male and female penguins, they had blood tests done on them and it turned out that they were both male penguins. The staff provided them with an egg from a "donor" female and guess what... they hatched it. Does this mean that you actually get gay penguins as well? Very interesting.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wild orchid

I found this flower out walking a couple of weekends ago and it looks like some kind of wild orchid. Unfortunately I can't find it in my book, although you don't need to know exactly what something is to be able to photograph it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cape Rock Scorpion

On a recent camping trip one of the folk in the group encountered this little guy behind the tents. I have never had the opportunity to take a picture of a scorpion, so I was on him like a rash. It is a Cape Rock Scorpion from the family Liochelidae.

It belongs to the group commonly referred to as the thin-tail scorpions. These scorpions and are not venomous to people and a sting from one of them should, at worst, be no more than a bee sting. Did I know that when I was takin the pictures? No, but I wasn't gonna let the opportunity slip by.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mohair Museum

Not too long ago I did a series of posts regarding the International Mohair Summit in the town of Graaff Reinet. I just realised that there was still one post on it that I didn't do although I uploaded the photos.

During the summit the Mohair Meander was launched. Its basically a route map that takes visitors through the Karoo region and points mohair related places. One of the main features of the route is the newly launched Mohair Experience Museum in Jansenville. On my way home to Port Elizabeth I stopped at the museum to have a look.

The museum is the first mohair museum in the country. The theme of the museum is ‘From the veld to the fibre and the future’ and the displays follow a logical sequence of the actual production processes from shearing to yarn to end product.

The displays include historic articles, coupled with an educational experience of the mohair story. There is also a shop selling mohair products and visitors can also browse through the Jansenville town museum which is on the same premises.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gamtoos River

A couple of weeks ago we spent a weekend camping next to the Gamtoos River west of Port Elizabeth. The word Gamtoos comes from the Khoisan language and means "Place of the Roaring Lion". Its unsure if it was called that because of the wild lions that was found in this area or if there was a Khoisan tribe that lived in the area with such a name. A third explanation could be that when the river comes down in flood, it literally roars down to the ocean.

The Gamtoos River is the lifeblood of the Gamtoos Valley which is prime farming area. The bottom section of the river is a wide tidal river and ideal for fishing. In the area where these pictures were taken a guy caught a 76kg Kabeljou (Cape Cob) a couple of years ago.

The Gamtoos River was the eastern boundary of the Cape Colony in the mid 1700's. In the early days farmers had to take their ox wagons upstream quite a distance to cross the river. In the mid 1800's a pont was in use where the Gamtoos Ferry Hotel is situated and in 1896 a one lane steel bridge (picture above) was built. This was the main road from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town until the new N2 bridge was built over the river in the 1970's.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mud prawn

Mud prawns are abundant in estuaries around the low tide level where burrows are easily visible. They are filter feeders who feed from their U-shaped burrows. Mud prawns are very popular for bait fishermen are often seen on sandbanks with prawn pumps collecting them. I have to admit that they are ugly buggers and I wasn't too keen picking one up the first time I was given one, but it wasn't that bad.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Farm workers houses

Farm workers houses in the early morning light on a Karoo farm. Check out the full moon in the background.


Note: I don't know if there are actually somebody living in these, cause in the two days I was on the farm I never saw anybody there.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kouga Sunset

Sunset over the Gamtoos River Valley to the west of Port Elizabeth. The Gamtoos River Valley is prime farming area. This lower part of the valley is ideal for dairy farming while higher up in the valley they farm with citrus (mostly oranges) and vegetables (mostly potatoes). The Kouga Dam, one of Port Elizabeth's main water supply dams, are also situated higher up in the river.
For more breathtaking pictures of the sky, visit Skywatch.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Melon

Ever heard of a place called Melon? No? Well, the other day I discovered such a place. Melon is a siding on the narrow gauge line between the Gamtoos Valley and the Langkloof. Its basically a farming area and Melon itself is nothing more than two small buildings next to the railway line, a general dealer and two houses.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Campanile

Its been a while since I've climbed to the top of the Campanile. Last weekends I had to keep Chaos Boy busy for the morning while the girls went shopping and we decided to go and climb to the top of the tower.
The Campanile was built and completed in 1923 in commemoration of the centenary of the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820. The site on which it stands used to be the landing beach where the settlers were offloaded before their long journey to the Grahamstown district.

The tower is 51.8 meters high and has 204 steps to the top. It also has a carillon of 23 bells.


At the top of the tower there are windows looking out to each of the four directions. East (above) you look across the Port Elizabeth Harbour which now separate the old landing beach from the ocean. South looks towards the beachfront while West looks across the freeway which separates the Campanile and harbour from the rest of the city. Looking North one can see the new Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and the mountains beyond Uitenhage in the distance.