🐾 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, 31 December 2011

This is life...

As the year draws to an end and I stroll through my garden, it always amazes me the peace I find here. I'm grounded here, on my own tiny piece of African paradise...

The White Karees (rhus viminalis) and Black Karees (Rhus lancea) have now grown to about 15m, offering shade to the plants and home to all the lovely birds that have chosen this as their home. I feel honoured.

Every morning as I step outside to fill the bird feeders and give my special whistle, they sit watching me intently, hardly able to wait for me to finish. Then I spend a while sipping my coffee at the patio table watching as they flit from one table to the other, not being able to decide what to try first - the suet and fruit section or the mixed seeds. There's a lot of scrambling and busyness for a while, but it soon quietens down as they settle into the serious business of eating.

I finish my coffee with a sigh and head for my studio.

I just want to say thank you to all of you for stopping by, reading, commenting and sharing my experiences of the past year as I whirl through this journey called life. It means a lot to me.

May your new year also be filled with JOY, LOVE, SPARKLING LIGHT and INSPIRATION.

Camera : Kodak EasyShare C195. Flowers of the Acacia 'karroo' - Pic taken in my garden in Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Speckled Emperor Moth

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
~ Richard Bach

A Speckled Emperor Moth, (Wattled Emperor Moth, Mopane worm) resting on a Restios plant in my garden. It is from the Saturniidae (Silk Moths) family. I actually found her inside the house and brought her out to safety (not sure how SAFE it is...?) and she seemed quite content to just rest a while before disappearing into the thickets.
Camera : Kodak EasyShare C195 Digital

This moth is widely distributed throughout southern, central and east Africa. Across most of its distribution, the species is bivoltine, with the first generation emerging from pupation in November to December and the second in February to March, only in more arid areas is it univoltine.

Adult moths lay a single cluster of 50 to 200 eggs around twigs or on the leaves of host plants over a two month period. After approximately ten days, the larvae emerge and then pass through five instars before pupation. Instars I to III of the caterpillars are strictly gregarious and will forage together in aggregations of 20 to 200 individuals. After moulting into instar IV, caterpillars disperse immediately to become solitary. The larval stage lasts approximately 6 weeks, during which time the caterpillars undergo a 4000 fold increase in body mass. At the end of the larval stage, the fifth instar caterpillars burrow into the soil, where they undergo a period of diapause. Eclosion occurs either one or six to seven months after pupation, depending on the generation. The non-feeding adult stage lasts only two to three days, during which time the only function of the imago is to find receptive mates and to oviposit.
Info from "Mopane.org"

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Starling and Christmas in Africa 2011

A bit of festive fun with one of my sketches - The CAPE GLOSSY STARLING (Lamprotornis nitens) having a wonderful festive season with his friend Tweetie in my garden! (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa).

Starling to Tweetie : Have you heard Tweetie? Maree has already bought all our presents! Suet, peanuts, minced meat, mealworms, wild birdseed, mixed birdseed, apples, bananas, paw paw and peanut butter!
  • A Merry African Christmas and a stunning 2012 to all my blogging friends!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Pippin, the Bushbaby

W&N watercolour in my Moleskine Nature Journal

This is Pippin, whom I was lucky enough to have in my life for a few weeks after I rescued him from children who were stoning him, as a result of which he lost the use of his left eye. After nursing him back to health, he spent a couple of weeks living in my indoor garden in my lounge, often bounding onto my shoulder for a snack. When I was satisfied that he had fully recovered, I released him in the thickets on the banks of the Magalies River, which was in the vicinity where I had found him. I just hoped and prayed that he had learnt a lesson about people and would stay out of reach of the children ...

Galagos, also known as bushbabies, bush babies or nagapies (meaning "little night monkeys" in Afrikaans), are small, nocturnal primates native to continental Africa and
are almost exclusively seen only at night.

I did this sketch from a photograph I took of him, as he NEVER sits still long enough to be able to sketch him!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Hedgehog Country


Hedgehogs like to live where their food - largely insects and soil animals - is abundant, and where there are plenty of broad-leaved trees, whose dead leaves they need for making their nests. This means that hedgehogs are widely found in forest and traditional urban farmland, and also in that most artificial of habitats, suburbia.

They are scarce in wetlands, conifer forests, moorlands and mountains, where there are few nest sites and often little food.

But is the hedgehog running out of space, as the bricks and concrete spread across our countryside?

Cemeteries are an ideal habitat for hedgehogs - plenty of nooks and crannies, plenty of food, little disturbance, and no deadly traffic.

Although it is better able to cope in built-up areas than many other animals, it needs parks, gardens, cemeteries and other open spaces in which to forage and nest. If these get built over or tidied up too much, hedgehogs will die out.
Info from "Everything You Want To Know about Hedgehogs - Dilys Breese"Align Center

Monday, 12 December 2011

My Acacia 'karroo'

My Acacia Karroo (Soetdoring - Vachellia karoo) after the Springs rains October 2009
- Camera : FujiFinepix 2800Zoom

My thorn trees (Acacia) are just coming into bloom and for those that suffer from hay-fever, this is really a bad time of the year, especially if we haven't had much rain. Spring started off very dry, and we have only had some decent rain late in November this year.

During Winter I'm able to prune the tree's low-hanging branches a bit and I just love keeping some of the branches with the HUGE thorns for display around the house - they become quite a conversation piece!

This is one of South Africa's most beautiful and useful trees. It is integrally part of our country's history having been used for everything from raft-making to sewing needles and fencing for the houses of the royal Zulu women. The thorns were even used by early naturalists to pin the insects they collected! It is very widespread throughout southern Africa and there are different forms in some places, which can be confusing. Acacia karroo may be found from the Western Cape through to Zambia and Angola. In tropical Africa it is replaced by Acacia seyal. The name Acacia is derived from Greek "akis" a point or barb. Karroo is one of the old spellings of karoo which cannot be corrected because of the laws governing botanical nomenclature (giving of names).

The sweet thorn makes a beautiful garden specimen. The bright yellow flowers look very striking against the dark green foliage. The rough, dark brown bark is also most attractive. The flowers are sweetly scented and are renowned for attracting insects which are essential to any bird garden. Birds also like to make nests in thorn trees as the thorns offer them some protection from predators. These thorns can grow up to 6" (15cm) long and if they are very thick, it's an indication of an abundance of water. Caterpillars of 10 species of butterflies are dependant on the tree for survival. These include, the club-tailed charaxes (Charaxes zoolina zoolina) and the topaz-spotted blue (Azanus jesous). In cold and dry areas like where I live, the tree is deciduous.

Regions where the Acacia Karroo can be found - I can be found approx. where the red dot is at the bottom of Southern Africa. (Click on pic to enlarge)

Vachellia karoo - Acacia 'karroo' flowers" Watercolour sketch - Maree©

Acacia karroo also known as the Sweet Thorn (Vachellia karoo), is a species of Acacia, and the tree is especially useful as forage and fodder for domestic and wild animals. Apparently, there is no risk of poisoning from it. Goats seem to like A. karoo better than cattle. The flowers appear in early summer in a mass of yellow pompons and make a very good source of forage for honey bees; honey from it has a pleasant taste.

An edible gum seeps from cracks in the tree's bark. The gum can be used to manufacture candy and it used to have economic importance as "Cape Gum". In dry areas, the tree's presence is a sign of water, both above and underground.

It is a tree of open woodland and wooded grassland. It grows to its greatest size when rainfall of 800-900mm is received but can grow and even thrive in very dry conditions such as the Karroo region of western South Africa. The requirement here is for deep soils that allow its roots to spread. Everywhere in its range, however, the tree is easily recognised by its distinctive long white paired thorns and coffee coloured bark, both of which are very attractive. In the tropics it shows little variation but at the southern end of its range it becomes more variable in appearance.

Common names in various languages include Karoo Thorn, Doringboom, Cape Gum, Cassie, Piquants Blancs, Cassie Piquants Blancs, Cockspur Thorn, Deo-Babool, Doorn Boom, Kaludai, Kikar, Mormati, Pahari Kikar, and Udai Vel


Friday, 9 December 2011

The Hedgehog's Future


What will be the future for hedgehogs as the countryside changes at such an amazing rate? We can only guess, of course, but some changes can only be for the worse as far as hedgehogs are concerned.

Farmlands are not popular with hedgehogs. Insects are controlled by pesticides, so food is short. And there are few trees, meaning that there is little nesting material, and the open fields hold few nesting sites.

The conversion of pasture to arable land means that crops will be sprayed with chemicals, which destroy insects, slugs and worms, the main parts of the hedgehog's diet. And the grubbing-up of hedges and clearance of small patches of waste ground will destroy many good sites for hedgehog hibernation nests.

But as long as hedgehogs prosper in gardens and suburbs, the future isn't entirely bleak!
Info from "Everything You Want To Know about Hedgehogs - Dilys Breese"


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