31 July 2010

Glossy Starling

You've seen the him in silhouette, now see him in colour, or rather those bits that are visible. This is as good as it gets I'm afraid, but maybe I'll have better luck next time


Cape Glossy Starling

29 July 2010

Skywatch Friday - Starling silhouette

Photographing birds is always a challenge. They do not sit still for more than two seconds and then there is always the question of getting the direction of the light right. This picture of a Cape Glossy Starling will never make it into a field guide for birds, but it does make an interesting Skywatch subject, against the blue sky.


Go to Skywatch for more great photos from around the world

28 July 2010

Zebra

Burchell's Zebra at the Addo Elephant National Park.

27 July 2010

Flowers of the Eastern Cape #11 - Karoo Rhigozum

My quest to find indigenous flowering plants took a good turn this week and I think I have identified this one correctly. The Karoo Rhigozum (Rhigozum obovatum), which is flowering quite prolifically in the Addo area.


The bush is quite scraggly and I imagine would hardly be noticed when it is not in flower.........


.......... but the flowers are really stunning.

26 July 2010

Kudus

The male of the species prefering to eat, rather that pose.


The female of the species beating a hasty retreat.

25 July 2010

Elephant time again

The result of a spontaneous trip to the Addo Elephant Park this morning was nothing less than elephants.


Strolling down to the Domkrag water hole for a drink.

Elephant cow and calf also heading down for a drink. The Addo elephant cows are unique, in that they do not have tusks.


A time for reflection.

23 July 2010

Flowers of the Eastern Cape #10 - More aloes

I am not sure which variety of aloe this is, but you will find many different types flowering in the Eastern Cape at the moment.


The newly established aloe garden on the Donkin, with the historic Edward Hotel in the background.

22 July 2010

Skywatch Friday - Flying the flag

Not just any flag - this is the new "giant" South African flag at the Donkin Reserve, which is a striking new feature on the Port Elizabeth skyline.


The people at the base of the 45 metre high pole and flag, as seen from the the top of the Donkin lighthouse, give it perspective.


The flag, back lit by the midday sun looks quite amazing.



For more great pictures visit the Skywatch team

21 July 2010

If houses could talk

Staring out through seemingly vacant eyes, this old labourers cottage in the Karoo could probably tell many a tale.


All that is left of the possessions of someone who once lived here, is a discarded mug in the doorway.
How many hands did it warm on a cold and frosty morning? What tales did it hear around the fire place?

19 July 2010

The Cockscomb Mountain

The Cockscomb Mountain is one of the most prominent features in this area - wherever you go you will get a view of it. This picture was taken on a farm in the foothills of the Groot Winterhoek Mountain Range.


For more pictures, follow the Cockscomb Mountain link in the side bar.

17 July 2010

Wallace takes over

Formula: 1 contented Siamese kitten in the house = 3 disgruntled older cats outside the house.
The corollary, is that the older cats will get over their sulking and come back inside and soon there will be 4 contented cats in the house.

Flowers of the Eastern Cape #9 - Arum Lily

Spotted in Albert Road, Walmer this week. The arum lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica is very common throughout in this area and has become a popular garden plant.

15 July 2010

Skywatch Friday -

This is one of a series of pictures I took at Shark Rock Pier one morning, with the flags flying in the wind, just before the start of the World Cup Soccer.


You can see many more great photos from around the world at the Skywatch site

Meet Wallace

You will be forgiven if you have mistaken Wallace for a bat eared fox. He is in fact a highly pedigreed Siamese, with a kink in his tail. This means he was given to us, because we don't go for the papers and the image trip, but love Siamese cats because they are such characters.

14 July 2010

Beetle mania

When I spotted this common or garden VW Beetle in Grahamstown, it really appealed to me. I would never have thought of converting a beetle into a station wagon. Whoever did the conversion did a great job and it looks loved.

12 July 2010

Frogs

One of the frogs I recently came across in a pool in the Karoo. They look quite cute and innocent don't they?
Don't be fooled - I think they take a perverse pleasure in tormenting humans.


We once had a fishpond in our garden, which was nice feature, until the local frog population moved in. It was like having a herd of donkeys in the yard. When they started croaking sleep was impossible.

No problem, they were easy enough to catch and relocate to the empty plot across the road or to the neighbours yard. What I soon discovered was that relocation only provided temporary relief, because frogs seem to have an uncanny ability to return. The next night it seemed that they had all come back and had probably brought a few cousins with them.

The noise was horrendous. My son and I went on a frog hunt and captured fourteen bull frogs, which we put in a bucket and relocated in a river, about two kilometres from our home. They must have been happy there, because we has peace for a while.

The lesson is simple. If you ever have croaking frog problems and need to relocate them, take them as far away as possible, otherwise they will be back.

11 July 2010

Soccer Fever - New World Champions and Paul the Octopus

It was a hard fought game and Spain did it, 1:0 against Netherlands.
Well done to Spain, the new World Cup Soccer Champions.

My only question is, "How did  Paul the Octopus know?"

Reflections on crime - United we succeed

My last serious post on crime, It was a wet and misty morning, was written on 3 January 2009 and I feel the time has come to reflect on what has happened in Richmond Hill, since my first post Never give up on 8 September 2007.

If you want to read all the related posts just follow the Crime label in the side bar.

When you look around Richmond Hill you would be excused if you forgot that the suburb was like a war zone a few years back, because we have the lowest crime rate in the city today.

Richmond Hill has become very trendy with the many upgrades that have taken place. Stanley Street in particular, has many excellent new restaurants that attract patrons from all over the city. Sue and I often stroll down to Stanley Street for a meal. With the planned upgrades that are still in progress, Stanley Street promises to become the hub of the neighbourhood.

Stanley Street "cooking" this weekend

This weekend Alliance Fran├žaise organised a music festival that flowed from the restaurants in Stanley Street, through to Vovo Telo in Raleigh Street, Alliance Fran├žaise in Mackay Street and The Cafe Deli in Lutman Street. The vibe in the neighbourhood was fantastic, with visitors coming from all over the city. We even met some German soccer fans, who had come to watch the World Cup Soccer match between Germany and Uruguay and I am sure they will take back good memories of Richmond Hill.

The current mood can best be described in this morning’s report from the Crime Forum Chairman:

“From our point of view the world cup event has been a great success with very little to report in the line of criminal activities, only the one incident that I am aware of and those guys were taken care of. The feedback I have received from amongst the tourist has been very positive with a lot of pleasant comments flying around. Yesterdays music festival went off without any hitches and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves, maybe we could start something similar.”
Enjoying the vibe at the music festival

This is a far cry from where we were a few years back.

My September 2008 post was sparked by an article in the Port Elizabeth Express on the 29 August 2007, from which the headlines screamed, “Crime takes hold of Richmond Hill”. This was not a good advertisement for a suburb that is becoming quite trendy in the city, but it was not without justification.

At that point I was filled with a deep seated anger. My family had become victims of far too many crimes. We had thwarted a burglary in our complex in October 2006, in which Sue had been stabbed and were still waiting for the matter to come to trial. Our daughter’s car had been stolen; the radio had been stolen from Sue’s car; we had experienced a number of bad incidents at our business premises and the side window of my car had been smashed, to name a few.

See Crime, crime, crime for a chronicle of criminal incidents affecting my family.

Sue and I had reached a turning point a few months earlier, when we took a decision that we were not going to be victims any longer and resolved to become more involved in fighting crime and so became actively involved in the crime forum.

Our reasoning was simple. If as private citizens acting on our own, we had managed to get traffic calming measures installed in Richmond Park and security lighting installed around the Park, how much more could be achieved if we acted with the community.

The state of affairs in Richmond Hill at the time was bad:
The intersection of Callington Road and Richmond Park, became known as “Condom Corner”. It was where the guys who picked up the prostitutes came for a quickie. Anyone walking along that pathway had to pick their way through used condoms. The other hangout was the corner of Bingley and Newington Streets.

Mackay Street was a particularly bad area. Gangs walked up and down the street with impunity looking for opportunities. One would often come across the residents out in the street, late at night, in their pyjamas and dressing gowns, responding to alarms or calls from neighbours.

The corner of St Stephens and Mackay Streets was a hot spot for muggings and hi-jackings.

Campbell Street was also a hangout for the prostitutes, who after some persuasion eventually moved to Govan Mbeki Avenue and into Central.

Drug dealers openly peddled their wares in Campbell Street. Sue and I often spotted or interrupted drug deals going down in Raleigh Street (opposite the Russell Road College), Dollery Street, Bingley Street and in Newington Street, where the dealers from the Northern areas started competing for business with the local dealers.

Groups of youth would openly smoke marijuana in the park.

Sidewalk “parties” with loud music emanating from car speakers were not uncommon.

The streets were littered with smashed beer bottles left there by weekend revellers.

At night there was a continuous stream of cars speeding through the suburb ferrying drugs or prostitutes to “clients”.

Muggings were common practice and there had been rapes and even murder in the suburb.

Car theft was a regular event. On several occasions we stumbled across thieves photographing or recording details of cars they intended to steal. On one occasion it happened to be Sue’s Opel Kadett.
Faced with this situation the inclination could be to leave for safer pastures, but we became part of the new anti-crime initiatives and started participating in the weekend patrols in our own car from 2008. As a fifty something couple, the best we could do was observe and report.

We saw a lot while patrolling and often felt impotent and frustrated, especially when intercepting a drug deal or some other crimes and got no satisfaction from the 10111 call centre or from the police. But we hung in there and the community started to see their efforts bearing fruit.

From the information supplied by the teams, many drug dealers were identified and either left the neighbourhood or were arrested. We personally upset more than one drug dealer, by driving off their customers, especially the fellow who threw his stash over the wall of the Westbourne Oval.

Condom Corner and Bingley Street have were cleaned up. It is amazing how quickly a spotlight shining through a car window by a patroller put a guy off his stroke and soon they were no longer popular stopping off points.

Many of the prostitutes live in the area, but now pedal their wares elsewhere. Sue and I stopped patrolling in Govan Mbeki, when we realised that there was nothing we could do about the prostitution. It actually got to the point where the ladies of the night would cheerily wave and greet me with, “Hello uncle,” when we drove past. What could I do but smile and wave back.

Our attention was then turned to focussing on the common thieves wandering the streets and making life uncomfortable for them. Often it would be in response to a call from a resident that we would target these characters and we would follow them, until they left the area.

Musicians play where gangs once roamed freely

In about August 2008 the crime forum was delighted to be allocated one of eight i-Patrol vehicles donated by General Motors, for a year to assist in the fight against crime. What a generous gesture this was and a valuable resource. This was part of the i-Patrol anti-crime initiative launched by General Motors and Algoa FM.

The i-Patrol vehicle was immediately put to use and the crime forum moved to a different plane, under the leadership the of crime forum chairman Alan Mounter. He acquired two radios to improve communications and instead of one vehicle patrolling he arranged for two. He also improved contact with the neighbouring crime forums and the police.

Alan’s next step was to get a dedicated team together to do the patrolling. I felt left out to start with, but these guys are out at all hours of the day or night and have got to know who is who in the neighbourhood, both savoury and unsavoury. They also got to know the cars and will soon see when something is out of place or looks suspicious.

Now when they spring in to action it is like a well oiled machine and in cooperation with the police have had many successes and have “cleaned up” the neighbourhood. The rest of the community still operates as the eyes and ears of i-Patrol. We are just one cog in this machine.

I have had reason to call out i-Patrol on many occasions over the past year and all I can say is that the response has been excellent. A few of the many incidents that come to mind are thwarting the efforts of a metal thief; following up on the guys who, unwisely, decided to snort cocaine outside our front window; checking on suspicious cars at the park; dealing with the incident where a young woman was being beaten in the park; reprimanding the louts who were making obscene overtures to some young women in the park and intervening when two unsavoury characters were trying to break into our neighbours home.

Aside from the patrolling, i-Patrol is also involved in cleaning up the neighbourhood and projects with the neighbourhood children.

All in all the introduction of i-Patrol has been a great success and its availability to us has contributed to the community making Richmond Hill a better place to live.

We will probably never eliminate crime, but by being vigilant and working together we will certainly continue to make a difference. As local residents our thanks go out to Alan Mounter, for his vision energy and enthusiasm, in leading the team that has turned Richmond Hill from one of the worst crime ridden areas, into the safest suburb in the city.

10 July 2010

Soccer Fever - Germany vs Uruguay (and Paul the Octopus?)

This is where the battle for third place, in the Soccer World Cup, will take place tonight at 8:30 pm. If we can believe the predictions of Paul the Octopus, Germany will win. If you have not heard of Paul, Google him, he has become quite a celebrity, with his accurate predictions of who the winners were going to be.

View of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium from Richmond Park

Do I believe Paul's predictions? No I don't, but I hope he is right.

POST SCRIPT: So Paul was right. Germany did win. If Paul's predictions are always right it will mean that Spain will win tomorrow? I guess we will have to wait and see.

08 July 2010

Skywatch Friday - Karoo sunrise

Windmill sunrise in the Karoo

I have always called them windmills, even though they are designed to pump water and are technically windpumps. But after doing some checking, I have found that they can still be called windmills, even though they pump water.


Visit the Skywatch site to see many great pictures from around the world.

07 July 2010

Soccer fever - The end is nigh

Ole Spain!

Well this World Cup has certainly been a time of upsets with all the "favourites" being systamatically eliminated. And what bad sports some of the nations have been, with the fans frothing at the mouth, coaches being fired, countries going into mourning and the politicians calling the soccer bosses to book.

It has certainly become more than just a game.

It is now up to Spain and Netherlands to fight it out for first spot on Sunday night. My dilemma is who to support, as these are my two favourite teams - after South Africa of course. Sundays match promises to be a good game.



Our friends are very enthusiastic supporters of Spain. This shot was taken after Spain beat Uruguay. They probably looked even happier when Spain beat Germany evening.

06 July 2010

Tuesday's Trees #23 - Karoo Acaia

A closer view of the formidible thorns of the karoo acacia.

05 July 2010

Public Art

Public art is coming to the Donkin in a big way, but at this stage only one piece has been completed. How would you rate this sculpture by Anton Momberg?

Serious art?


or fun art?

04 July 2010

Flowers of the Eastern Cape #8 - Ribbon Bush

In my pursuit of aircraft I almost forgot about this weeks Eastern Cape flowers. Growing in the bush along Albany Road, I came across this (Blue) Ribbon Bush (Hypoestes aristata) during the week.


It is usually found in dry thicket, forest and damp places from the Eastern Cape in the south through to tropical Africa in the north. They are easily grown from seeds and cuttings and make attractive garden plants.

03 July 2010

More planes

I do not know if I fall into the category of aircraft groupie or aircraft paparazzi, or shall I just say enthusiast. These photos were taken at the Port Elizabeth yesterday, when about 200 aircraft ferrying fans descended on the city.

P4-MES Roman Abramovich's Boeing 767-33A/ER. Note the cheeky smile.


I am glad to see that Kulula was flying the fans in as well, complete with their soccer branding, after their spat with FIFA over their "Unofficial National Carrrier of the "You Know What'" advertisement.



Tail and wing tips of SAA Airbus A340-200, ZS-SLB. I really like these colours. 

02 July 2010

Soccer fever - Flying in the fans

Sue and I went on a jaunt to the Port Elizabeth Airport to see the arrival of ZS-SLB, an Airbus A340-200, the largest SAA aircraft to ever land at Port Elizabeth Airport. It was bringing in Brazilian supporters for the game against the Netherlands.


Parked on the runway was P4-MES a Boeing 767-33A/ER belonging to Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea Football Club.


The planes just kept on coming in.......................... a South African Airlink BAE Avro 146-RJ85


I have never seen so many planes flying in to Port Elizabeth or waiting to leave.........


................. they were banked up down the runway, waiting for a parking space while other planes leaving made a place for them .......................


.........and the planes kept on coming


ZS-SLB taxi-ing in with its contingent of Brazilian supporters.


Brazilian players disembarking complete with the dreaded vuvuzela- world soccer will never be the same again.

01 July 2010

Skywatch Friday - Looking at the Donkin differently

The Donkin Reserve boasts two of the most prominent landmarks of Port Elizabeth. Enjoy the views from a different perspective.

The pyramid backlit by the early morning sun. It was built by Sir Rufane Donkin, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony, in memory of his wife Elizabeth. He also named the city after her 1820.


The lighthouse is no longer operational and is now used as a tourism centre


The pyramid and lighthouse seen in their comtext. The area is undergoing extensive upgrading and if you are interested in seeing other pictures, click on the link to Donkin Facelift.


Visit Skywatch for more great pictures from around the world.