🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Season's Greetings 2009!

A very merry festive season to all and may 2010 be all you expect of it!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Black Velvet Spider

If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.
~American Quaker Saying

This black Velvet Spider has lived in the bark of an old log in my garden for approximately 2 years now and she lets me coax her out for a photographic session every now and then. These spiders are robust and deliberate in the way that they walk and she even allows me to gently stroke her abdomen and thorax, which is covered in thick, smooth, velvety hairs.

The velvet spiders (family Eresidae) are a small group (about 100 species in 10 genera) of almost totally Old World spiders (exception: a few species are known from Brazil).

Velvet spiders are found under rocks or bark resting in a sheet of dense white silk and are often confused with baboon spiders. They can live up to 5 years. Free living but rarely leave the safety of their webs.

12mm to 15mm in length. These robust spiders colouration may be from black, grey or a rich red. Body covered with hairs which give them a velvety appearance, hence their name. The abdomen is often lighter in colour than the rest of the spider. Abdomen may have 4 dimples on the top. The eyes are close together and the mouthparts are very robust looking for a spider that size. Legs are short and strong and they are widespread throughout Southern Africa.

These spiders build their webs under rocks, under loose bark. Their retreats consist of flat candy floss like dry sheets of silk. The silk is tough and has interwoven prey remains. Their nest-like webs are attached to the ground using silken anchor lines. Silken lines radiate from the entrance to their shelters. These lines are used to detect prey.

Even though these spiders can be large in size they very rarely bite. Not much is known about the affects of their venom. It is highly unlikely that this spider’s venom is of importance to humans.

Females seldom leave their webs in order to hunt. Instead, they prefer to wait for prey to wander into their webs and radiating silken lines. They prey upon tough skinned insects and other large prey items.
Camera : Fuji FinePix 2800Zoom


Monday, 9 November 2009

Southern Red Bishop

The Southern Red Bishop Male

The Southern Red Bishop ( Euplectes orix ) is common within Southern Africa, found in marshy grasslands and wetlands, with a height of around 13 cm’s and weighing in at around 23 Grams. The Bird feeds on Seeds and insects. These birds normally build their nest over a water body and are slightly different to the Black-Winged Bishop on their Face.

Every spring they return to my garden, the male's buzzing song alerting the female to the nest he's building for her. It also has various twittering calls and a nasal contact call.

It is 10-11 centimetres long and has a thick conical bill. Breeding males are brightly-coloured with red (occasionally orange) and black plumage. The forehead, face and throat are black and the rest of the head is red. The upperparts are red apart from the brown wings and tail. The upper breast and under tail-coverts are red while the lower breast and belly are black. The non-breeding male and female have streaky brown plumage, paler below. Females are smaller than the males.

Red Bishop Female on Agapanthus

'Red Bishop' watercolour in Daily Journal - Maree©

Saturday, 24 October 2009


The GEMSBOK or gemsbuck (Oryx gazella) is a large African antelope, of the Oryx genus. The name is derived from the Dutch name of the male chamois, Gemsbok. Although there are some superficial similarities in appearance (especially in the colour of the face area), the chamois and the Oryx are not closely related.

Gemsbok are light brownish-grey to tan in colour, with lighter patches to the bottom rear of the rump. Their tails are long and black in colour. A dark brown stripe extends from the chin down the bottom edge of the neck through the join of the shoulder and leg along the lower flank of each side to the brown section of the rear leg. They have muscular necks and shoulders and their legs have white 'socks' with a black patch on the front of both the front legs and both genders have long straight horns.

Gemsbok generally live in herds of up to 40 individuals, often in association with other species of antelope or with zebras. The males are often solitary animals, however. Active from dawn through nightfall, it feeds on grass and leaves, and can survive long periods without drinking any water. The horns are effective weapons. When fighting, the head is lowered between the forelegs in order to impale the enemy.

Introduction to North America

In 1969 the New Mexico State Department of Game and Fish decided to introduce Gemsbok to the Tularosa Basin in the United States. The introduction was a compromise between those who wanted to preserve nature and those who wanted to use it for profit and promotion. 93 were released from 1969 to 1977. The current population is estimated to be 3,000. The reason the Gemsbok thrived is because their natural predators, including the Lion, are not present.

They are also to be found in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, which is located between the borders of Namibia and Botswana. The park covers an area of a little less than 10,000 square kilometers. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and the adjacent Gemsbok National Park of Botswana together occupy as much as 36,000 square kilometers. Since there is no barrier separating the two parks, the animals move freely from park to park.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Safe & Sound


Unlike most mammals, hedgehogs lack the insulation of a warm fur coat. And keeping the body warm requires a lot of energy, so as it goes into winter and it gets ready for hibernation, the hedgehog's temperature drops from the normal 35ºC to that of its surroundings: 10ºC or less.

The hedgehog's winter nest, known as a 'hibernaculum', is made of grass and especially of leaves, which are weatherproof and long-lasting. The hedgehog brings leaves to the nesting site in its mouth, a few at a time. It makes a pile, adding new leaves to the centre; they are held in place by the surrounding support of twigs, brambles, brushwood, etc. It then burrows inside and turns round and round, packing the leaves flat and ending up with a warm chamber with walls up to 10cm thick.

Next winter, the hedgehog will make a new nest, even if the old one is still usable.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Our Aardwolf in South Africa

(Photo © Ken Watkins)
When early Dutch colonial settlers arrived in Southern Africa, they were confronted by a strange sight, a small wolf-like creature that lived below ground and spent a large amount of time digging. They named it the ‘earth wolf’ or ‘aardwolf’. Although some farmers hunted it believing it to be a killer of livestock, and others hunted it for its pelt, many came to appreciate the animal, for one simple reason: in a single day it could eat hundreds of thousands of the termites that devastated their crops.

Unlike other hyenas, the diet of the aardwolf almost completely consists of termites and other insect larvae and carrion. Termites are the aardwolf's main dish and it is guided to them by its sharp hearing and keen nose. Using its incisor teeth, the aardwolf  laps up the termites with a large tongue which is covered with sticky saliva.

Aardwolves are shy and nocturnal sleeping in underground burrows by day. They usually use existing burrows of Aardvarks and porcupines, despite being capable of creating their own. By night, an aardwolf can consume up to 200,000 harvester termites using its sticky, long tongue. They take special care not to destroy the termite mound or consume the entire colony, which ensures that the termites can rebuild and provide a continuous supply of food. They will often memorise and return to nests to save the trouble of finding a new one.

Mice and ground birds are also included in its diet, and it is partial to the eggs of ground nesting birds.

Often mistaken for hyenas and struggling to survive in farmlands, aardwolf numbers have dwindled to worrying levels.

SIZE: Shoulder height 50cm, mass 9 kg.

The Aardwolf has a Sandy to yellow brown body with four to eight dark brown vertical stripes. Black feet and tail tip; a thick dorsal mane from the back of head to base of tail, which is tipped with black.

They are gentle and very timid animals, and are primarily nocturnal, although they may be active during the late afternoon if termites are available at that time. They often get caught in the beam of car headlights: many aardwolf are killed accidentally by cars. Due to its clumsy and slow movements it is often caught by predators. Aardwolfs generally do not drink surface water, as they get all of their water requirements from termites. They have been known, however, to drink water during cold spells when termites are not available.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Bliss of Pets and Animals

Some of my pets, current and past, as well as some garden residents ...

Jacko and I, our Fox terrier x - he's just turned 3 in September '09. Rescued him from a road-side vendor trying to sell him. Selling animals next to the road is illegal in South Africa and should also not be supported, as it creates a market for poachers to catch wild animals to sell at the road-side.

Danny and I - he's still young -about 5 - considering they live to the ripe old age of about 50 or over!

Mai, the Mynah, as a youngster - found her after she had fallen out of her nest. Spent 6 wonderful months with us before she mysteriously disappeared.

Mai, after having a bath

Mai roosting on my MAC speaker

Pippin, my Bush baby. Rescued his as a baby from people throwing stones at him and trying to kill him. Was released back into the wild after he recuperated.

Hedgie, the Hedgehog - spent 8 blissful years with us.

Flutterby, my Laughing Dove, keeping an eye on me whilst in the garden. Saved her from certain death when I rescued her from the Fiscal Shrike who had ideas of spiking her in his pantry.

Duffy, my pigeon, investigating the new nest box. Reared him from a baby straight out of the egg after being abandoned by his parents.

Pappa Goose, with his hobble foot caused by fishing gut cutting off the tendons and nerves - he was found at Florida Lake and brought to me for care and safe-keeping.

Mamma Goose taking a stroll around the garden

My pair of Carolina Ducks (American Wood Duck) investigating their new next box. They're not impressed, because it's supposed to be raised off the ground and they actually turned up their noses and wandered off to inspect one of the other boxes.

Malistic, my Mongolian Ringnek Pheasant saved from certain death when I confiscated him from someone hawking him in the shopping mall as Christmas lunch.

Wynona, Malistic's wife

Black Shouldered kite juvenile with 2 broken wings and a broken coccyx being nursed back to health. Unfortunately he would never fly again.

Kiki and Tweeti, the two Cockatiels, each one with a very different character. Kiki, the grey one, is gentle and soft-hearted, Tweeti very cocky and sure of himself.

Mr. Silky Rooster and his wife - the most gentle chickens ever with the softest, silkiest feathers and unable to fly.

A Mountain tortoise rescued from the pot and released in the Game Reserve.

Chester, our Rottweiler, whose looks belied a totally gentle nature, but who was a fully trained guard dog and followed every command. Unfortunately Chester succumbed after a Puff Adder bit him.

A resident striped field mouse in my garden, recovering from an accidental dosing with the hosepipe!

Two striped field mice snacking on some bird seed in my garden.

The Finches enjoying the bird table.

Mai again, eyeing out the bird bath...

and then deciding to take the plunge.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Cosmos in South Africa

Cosmos in Mpumalanga, South Africa

Every March and November respectively our countryside explodes with colour when pretty pink and white cosmos flowers bloom in late summer. They grow easily in the soil at the side of the roads disturbed by the road scrapers widening the verges.

Cosmos is a genus of about 20-26 species of annual and perennial plants in the family Asteraceae, native to scrub and meadow areas in Mexico (where the bulk of the species occur), the southern United States (Arizona, Florida), Central America, South America south to Paraguay and South Africa

They are herbaceous perennial plants growing 0.3-2 m tall. The leaves are simple, pinnate, or bipinnate, and arranged in opposite pairs. The flowers are produced in a capitulum with a ring of broad ray florets and a center of disc florets; flower color is very variable between the different species.

Cosmos next to a stream

Cosmos, along with many of our succulent and aloe species, have become regarded as indigenous in South Africa and bloom in various colours - white, pink, cerise and red - no yellow in South Africa.

It's against the law to pick the flowers next to the side of the road, but Cosmos seeds are now packaged and available at most nurseries. Growing them in the garden is easy and they make a wonderful country-style cut-flower arrangement.

"Cosmos" - watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - Maree

Cosmos flowers is a favourite subject of, and has inspired, artists throughout the years and have been depicted on many a canvass.

Cosmos growing wild in the country-side (photo by Jo-Ann Kruger)

White Cosmos

Cosmos growing wild next to a stream



Thursday, 17 September 2009

Pappa Goose Condolences

(Click on image to enlarge to read it)

A note of condolence I received from the Vet where I had Pappa Goose euthanized on the 5th September 2009.

"Remember me
When I was at my best
Please do not mourn
For I am at rest
Where I feel No pain"

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

South Africa's Flowers

'Namaqualand Daisies' watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - Maree©
(Click on image to enlarge)

In nature there are many phenomenon's but very few as spectacular as the Namaqualand daisies.

Namaqualand! 100% Big sky country. Extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the west of South Africa to the small town of Pofadder in the east, north from the great Orange River and south beyond Garies, Namaqualand is indeed a vast and varied region.

During the arid summer months it is difficult for the tourist to imagine the phenomenon of the yearly wild flower appearance.

After the winter rainfall, Namaqualand dons her coat of many colours and for a brief moment, the wildflowers invade the countryside. Countless poems, novels, paintings and prose have been dedicated to this annual shower of God's colour.

Before the flowers appear

At the end of winter (Click on image to enlarge)


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