31 December 2012

Happy New Year

I cannot believe another year has come and gone, but I supppose that time waits for no one.

As is my custom I will not be making any new years resolutions, but will continue to live life to the fullest. Having said that I like the following quote from Paulo Coelho and think I will give it a try this year:

kiss slowly
laugh insanely
love truly
forgive quickly

Wishing all of you out there have a truly wonderful and prosperous new year.

26 December 2012

Thumpy - a kudu's tale

In more than one post in the past I have mentioned that kudu's, especially the cows, are my favourite antelope.Whenever I see one I am compelled to stop and never seem to have enough photos of them. 

This all happened on our family farm that was situated on the Lundi (Runde) River, back in the days when Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia, when we bottle reared an orphaned kudu calf.

We had a big flock of sheep on the farm in those days, which were looked after by a shepherd. He took them out in the morning and brought the home at night. During the heat of the day the shepherd would take the flock down to the river to drink, along one of the few game paths that wound themselves through the dense riverine bush to the water’s edge. The shepherd would be careful to avoid the pools where the crocodiles lurked and find a place where the river flowed over rocky areas between the pools, where it would be safe for the sheep to drink.

On one occasion the shepherd came across a kudu cow that had been caught in a snare along one of these paths. Her calf, which was only a few days old, lay curled up next to her and leapt up and bolted into the bush, as he drew alongside her. The calf did not get very far, when she too was caught in a snare.

Fortunately the shepherd was not alone that day and while he restrained the calf from threshing about and injuring itself, his sidekick ran back to our farmhouse a few kilometres away tell my folks.

I was not in on the rescue, because I was at boarding school at the time.

It was not long before the calf was rescued and safely ensconced in a pen. The surrounding bush along the river was swept by a team of labourers and was cleared of snares.

At the first opportunity my mother set about the task of bottle rearing her latest charge. We had plenty of cow’s milk but she knew that it was probably too rich for a kudu. After a few telephone calls around the country, she managed to track down a formula for blending kudu’s milk from cow’s milk. Making a few telephone calls was easier said than done in those days. We were on a party line, which was shared with about five other users, so if you wanted to make a call; you had to wait your turn if someone was on talking. To make a trunk call you would have to dial the exchange, ask for the number you wanted and then wait anything for up to an hour for the call to come through. But mother was determined and eventually got what she wanted.

And so the task of bottle rearing an orphaned kudu calf began.

To start with my step father would have to hold her down while mother force fed her, but it was not long until she grasped the concept and would voluntarily take the bottle. This developed into something of a ritual. Before taking the bottle, she would launch herself across the pen and give her benefactor a few good thumps, before eagerly latching on to the teat. This earned her the name of Thump-Thump, or Thumpy for short.

When I finished school and returned home, I immediately volunteered to look after her and this was readily accepted by my folks. My folks who knew all about her idiosyncrasies and watched with bemused smiles while their unsuspecting son climbed into the pen, bottle in hand. My feet had no sooner touched the ground when she shot across the pen and gave me a few good thumps and then started drinking. It is quite intimidating when what seems to be a docile, but nervous antelope suddenly “attacks” you. Let’s just say I was shaken not stirred, much to the amusement of the onlookers.

I then set about capturing the heart and mind of Thumpy. The way to do that was through her stomach. This was done with a variety of treats. He absolute favourite was a particular bush, with whitish berries, that grew along the river bank. I was told that kudus were particularly fond of this bush and every day I would bring her a few branches and it was not long when she would come running when I called her name. She became very affectionate and would nuzzle me and loved having her neck and ears scratched.

This is the only photo of I have Thumpy. It was scanned from an old colour slide and was taken inside the turkey run, with her buddy the goat.

When she was over her nervousness she was moved into a large turkey run, where she had a lot more space to move about and soon had a goat for a friend. Unfortunately the goat died quite suddenly one day and Thumpy was left with only the turkeys for company.

One of the daily rituals on the farm was to release the turkeys to free range in the lands. This was always a moment of great excitement. The turkeys would gather at the gate at the right time of the day and as soon as it was opened, they would charge out and run full tilt into the fields with wings flapping and a lot of noise, before settling down to their foraging.

Thumpy would usually stand by and nonchalantly look at the daily spectacle, until she too was suddenly infected by all the excitement and also made a break for freedom. In her case she did not exit through the gate, but managed to break a hole through the wire mesh fence, with the full force of her charge and kept running until she disappeared in the bush.

I immediately went looking for her but she was nowhere to be found. It was a devastating time for us as she had become such a part of the family. I thought that being a wild animal she would go back to her roots. How wrong I was.

Thumpy was gone for several weeks and during that time we received more than one report about a mad kudu that kept chasing the people from the communal lands, who used to take shortcuts through our farm. Thumpy saw people as friends and a source of food. They only saw her as a kudu that was doing what no wild kudu had done before and so when she approached then, they assumed she was mad and fled in terror.

Then came the day when our shepherd arrived out of breath to let me know Thumpy had joined the flock of sheep. I rounded up some help and quickly collected some of the branches of her favourite berries and headed out in the Land Rover to hopefully bring her home.

Sure enough, she had joined the sheep, but she was already very thin and extremely nervous and it was only after a lot of coaxing and bribery with the berries that she came to me. Looking at the state she was in, I knew she would never survive on her own in the bush and as soon as she was sufficiently calm I quickly tackled her around the front legs and brought her down. The labourers and I loaded her into the back of the Land Rover and returned her to her original pen. 

She was never the same after that experience but I am sure that given enough time she would have overcome her new found nervousness, but that would have meant keeping her in a small fenced off area. As a family we decided that would not be right, wild animals are meant to be free. We had given her life and it was now time to give her freedom.

We gave her to a neighbour who had developed a small game park that was well fenced and where we knew there was plenty of space she would be safe. I made sure that her new owner knew which treats to give her and the last time I heard she had become a firm favourite with him and had returned to her affectionate ways.

23 December 2012

Life with Suzie - T'is the season to be jolly

Metal thieves have been stealing the cast iron manhole covers around our city for a while now and we knew it was just a matter of time before they hit Richmond Hill. For the sake of a few rands these thieves have no qualms about putting the lives and property of their hapless victims at risk. And what contributes to the problem is that there is always an unscrupulous scrap metal dealer who is willing to buy these ill-gotten gains.

Whole streets have been left with gaping holes that could cause serious damage to car tyres. Residents have been up in arms because of the slow pace at which this problem was being attended to.

Then in a matter of a few nights Richmond Hill was missing 28 manhole covers and warnings went out via our Facebook neighbourhood watch page to watch out for these new hazards in our roads. All sorts of impractical temporary solutions were suggested, like filling the holes with gravel - "Hello, what happens if there is a fire and you have to connect a hose to one of the fire hydrants?"

This was not problem for a creative soul like Suzie, who comes up with ideas and is prepared to carry them through.

"Let's plant trees in the holes," she suggested, "that will provide a good warning to motorists and get the attention of the municipality." No sooner were the words uttered and she had sourced a good supply of pine saplings and some willing helpers, took my bakkie (truck, ute) the next day and set about her mission with her usual verve.

The result was that by that afternoon every open hole in the streets of Richmond Hill had its own Christmas tree. Not to be out-done the local residents and shop owners captured the vision and started decorating the trees....and the neighbourhood  was looking very festive for a few hours.

By the next morning, much to our indignation, reports started coming in that many of the trees had gone missing,  but on closer inspection we found that the manholes were covered with new plastic covers. Within less than 48 hours there was not an open hole in any of the streets in our neighbourhood.

"How did you get it right so quickly?" residents from neighbouring suburbs wanted to know after passing through Richmond Hill.

"Easy," came the reply from all and sundry, "just plant a tree."

That is the power of a fun and creative protest. One person with a vision and the passion to carry it through and a bureaucrat who does not like the embarrassment of being shown up.

19 December 2012

Flower power - Jacaranda

One of the exotic trees that South Africans love is the jacaranda with its magnificent display of mauve flowes and the mauve carpet it puts down.

The few jacarandas of Richmond Hill have just past their peak, but if you want to see a really spectacular display, Pretoria is the place to be.

16 December 2012

Life with Suzie - Bling in the bush

Suzie and I can go on a jaunt to the same place and when you look at the photos we have taken you could be excused for wondering if we had actually been to the same place.

I tend to see the big picture and include as much of the scenery in my pictures as possible. For many years my pictures were typical holiday snapshots. If there is a bird or insect in the vicinity I will find it and photograph it.

"Where did you see that bird?" she will ask when looking at my photographs.

"It has a nest above the first door we entered," I reply.

"Oh," she says as she shows me the picture of a subtly back-lit stained glass window that she was photographing at the time I found the bird, "I never saw them.".

Suzie has an artistic eye and will find subjects that I miss every time. She focusses in on interesting details and sees things from a different angle to most people. She gets high on colour and interesting patterns. When we are travelling  she will always be the first to see the sun beams radiating through the clouds.

All I can do when I see her pictures is scratch my head and wonder how I missed that.

Then recently when we were on one of our many trips to the Addo Elephant National Park I noticed that she was stopping to photograph birds. "This is unusual," I thought, but said nothing until we rounded a corner and with great enthusiasm she exclaimed, "Look at that bird!"

At the same time I said, "Wow, look at the sun beams coming through the clouds!"

We looked at one another and laughed. There had been a role reversal.

"Since when did you develop an interst in birds," I asked.

"I don't mind birds," she replied, "As long as they have bing on them. I am still not interested in little dull grey and brown birds."

The result of that encounter is that the name of the cape glossy starling has been changed to "bling bird" aka the LBBB or the little blue bling bird.

13 December 2012

Skywatch Friday - A patch of sky

I had some difficulty this week finding a suitable Skywatch picture, but after some searching I came across one with a patch of clear blue sky showing.

This was about all I could capture of this elephant it was so close. I do so enjoy the intimacy of the Addo Elephant  National Park.

Visit Skywatch for more great skies from around the world.

12 December 2012

Flower power - Zantedeschia

Zantedeschia, or the arum lily as it is known in South Africa is neither a lily nor an arum. If you use them as cut flowers just remember that beneath the outer veneer of beauty they are poisonous, because of the presence of calcium oxalate.

My one field guide says that it does have medicinal uses. The leaves are warmed as a poultice for sores and boils and warmed leaves are placed on the forehead for headaches. Not being into traditional medicines, I have never tried it and don't recommend that anyone does.

09 December 2012

Ticks on the hoof

With the onset of summer and after the good rains the ticks at Addo started to flourish and it did not take long for the game to be invested with these parasites. But one animal's misery is another's opportunity. 

This warthog stood around contentedly for ages, while the Cape Glossy Starlings picked away at the ticks that covered his body. They provided a feast for these enterprising birds.

06 December 2012

Skywatch Friday - Bleak skies and hadedas

It was a bleak afternoon at Addo, when I came across this hadeda ibis sitting on the branch of a dead tree. They are very common in this part of the world and very noisy when they take off and let rip with their raucous cry.

Visit Skywatch for more great skies from around the world.

05 December 2012

Flower power - Gazania

Gazanias occur naturally throughout the Eastern Cape and put on a glorious show at this time of the year - when the sun is shining.

02 December 2012

Felis leo - the king

Coming across lions in the wild is always a thrill. I don't know what it is. Maybe its their size or their raw power, or the fact that they are just plain dangerous. But whatever it is these big cats do have a certain aura about them.

There are nine of them in the Addo Elephant National Park and if you know more or less where they hang out, you may just see them. But they spend about sixteen hours of the day sleeping or just lying about and if they are in the thick bush you will never find them.

This is one of two young males that lives in the Southern part of the Park that happened to be walking along the road we were driving along. On this occassion he was on a mission. The sighting was a fleeting before he and his brother disappeared into the thick bush.

01 December 2012

Flower power - Morning glory

I arrived at the conclusion a while back that I needed to change the way I photographed flowers, because I felt I was missing something. Flower pictures are good and I will still capture them in the conventional way, when I want a botanical record. But what do you have to do to capture the essence or soul of a flower?  How do you bring in the wow factor - this is what I will be exploring in my latest series "Flower power."

29 November 2012

Skywatch Friday - Zebra crossing

This is what one can call a "zebra crossing" against a perfectly bleak sky. This shot as taken at Vukani Loop in the Addo Elephant National Park.

Visit Skywatch for more great skies from around the world.

28 November 2012

City lights

The Port Elizabeth beach front at night. Conditions were perfect for night photography, a full moon, no wind and a spring low tide.

27 November 2012

Cape Buffalo

The buffalo were grazing very conentedly on the side of the road, competing with each other as they looked for the best patches grass.  For us this was great as it provided some good photo opportunities. There was the occassional "moo," not as strident as the bellow of cattle but a low, gentle almost imperceptable sound that belied their size.

The peaceful mood was suddenly disrupted by a loud scuffle, as these two buffaloes somehow got entangled. The one with its nose pressed in the dirt was trying frantically to lift its head, while the other one was intent on pushing its head down, so that it could move off. It was an interesting tussle, almost like a yo-yo going up and down, but they eventually extricated themselves and resumed their grazing as though nothing had happened.

26 November 2012

New life - Cape Buffalo

For a long time the buffalo herds have eluded us, when we did see them they were in the distance, or quickly retreated into the dense bush. We have often come acoss a mean and manky looking old lone bull on the side of the road, who would fix a beady eye on us as if to say, get out the car and let me show you what I am capable of.

Well finally our luck changed when we met a herd with a good sprinkling of calves that were willing to let us photograph them. It was almost like watching a herd of cattle grazing. It was a delight to watch this calf as she pranced along beside her mother, as they headed into the wide open spaces.

25 November 2012

New life - Elephant

There are a lot of new elephant calves in Addo at the moment. This one cannot be more than a few days old.

I always find it so amazing how protective the herd is of its calves - it is not only the mothers who takes care of the little ones, but there is always a group of willing helpers. They can often be seen protectively surrounding a little one in open spaces, or gently drawing one back when it tries to leave the safety of the herd.

24 November 2012

New life - zebra

For the past five months my focus has shifted away from much of what I enjoy doing, as I have been involved in a protracted dispute in our community, which I have decided is now going to take a back seat.

It is now a time for renewal for me, to look around and enjoy the beauty of the Eastern Cape and for doing the the things I enjoy most, like indulging myself in photography and spending time in nature, especially the Addo Elephant National Park.

The Park has a harsh climate, but after good spring rains the green countryside is interspersed with large expanses of yellow flowers and splashes of pale blue where the plumbagos ramble through the bush.  In some areas where the park was extended there is still evidence of the former farm lands, where the bush was cleared, with the alien thistles making a  make a statement all of their own. I know they should not be there, but I am still captivated by their beauty.

Wherever you look there is new life like this zebra foal that momentarily separated itself from the safety of the herd, as it frolicked through the bush.

For many of us Addo holds a special appeal, because of its enormous bio-diversity and yet many people visiting the area choose give it a miss, in favour of the game parks up North. We don't only have the big five, we have the big seven - when we throw whales and great white sharks into the mix.

15 June 2012

Autumn Leaves

This was one of those “wow” moments on a recent road trip, when we drove around a corner into a grove of poplar trees, on the road to Die Hoek, near Oudtshoorn, in the Western Cape. The leaves were a blaze of yellow and the wind was gusting through them and whisking them away flurries.

31 May 2012

Skywatch Friday - Big skies and open spaces

The wide open spaces and big skies of the Great Karoo are quite breath taking. 

This scene was taken at the Karoo National Park where you can get as much enjoyment from the scenery as from the animals.

Visit Skywatch for more great sky pictures from around the world.

25 May 2012

Skywatch Friday - The Donkin

Sunrise at the Donkin Reserve with two iconic symbols of the city. The old lighthouse and the pyramid, built by Sir Rufane Donkin in memory of late his wife Elizabeth, after whom the city is named.

This is one our favourite spots to watch the sunrise over Algoa Bay.

Visit Skywatch for more great sky pictures from around the world.

20 May 2012


The Addo Elephant National Park is not just about elephants. This Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk was one of the gems I managed to capture on our last trip there.

17 May 2012

Skywatch Friday - Afternoon sky

View in the Klipspringer Pass, in the Karoo National Park, looking up at the late afternoon sky just before sunset, against the backdrop of the Nuweveld Mountains .

Visit Skywatch for more great sky pictures from around the world.

13 May 2012

The little guy

A new born elephant calf at the Addo Elephant National Park, He seems so small and fragile amongst the bigger guys.

11 May 2012

Skywatch Friday - Super Moon

This week saw the arrival and the departure of the super moon. I did not bother with any close ups of the moon, because my efforts at moon photography are usually a disaster.  Having said that I did include the moon, albeit bright and fuzzy, in this picture taken at Hobie Beach, at the spring low tide.

Visit Skywatch for many great sky pictures from around the world.

05 April 2012

Skywatch Friday - Sapphire Skies

Sometines you get a gem in the sky. It is there for a fleeting moment and then in the blink of an eye it is gone - but if you happen to capture it, you can enjoy it for a lot longer.

Visit Skywatch for more great sky pictures from around the world.

03 April 2012

The witching hour

I was up early one morning to capture an image of the park across the road from us, as it was shrouded in the mist and looked quite eerie. I felt the shots were somewhat bland to start with, until Wallace, our Siamese cat, decided to join me.

Cats are not the easiest of animals to photograph at the best of times, but try it in the dark when they are on the prowl and refuse to cooperate and it is almost impossible. Here he paused long enough to coincide with the shutter speed and give me a nice silhouette.

30 March 2012

Skyatch Friday - Don't crane your neck

One of three large cranes being used on the construction of the new conference centre at the Boardwalk.

Visit Skywatch for more great sky pictures from around the world.

24 March 2012

Portrait of a tortoise

This mountain tortoise reminds me of a grumpy old man. He was nonchalantly chewing away at the grass, on the side of the road at the Kragga Kamma Game Park, the last time we visited and paused long enough for me to take a photograph.

18 March 2012

Life with Suzie - The arty one is back

When I say that the arty one is back, it is not that she left, but rather that her focus for the last three years has been on her role as chairlady of EPSAC, the Eastern Province Society of Arts and Crafts. Now called ArtEC (Art Eastern Cape) the society has been transformed into a vibrant gallery and organisation that is relevant to the whole art community in the region and the reigns have been handed over to a new team to take it forward to the next level.

It has been a hectic three years for her, leading the society with fresh new ideas and moving forward towards positive change. But as in any organisation where fresh ideas are brought in, there were also times of putting out fires and smoothing ruffled feathers, but that did not hinder the progress and the end result is positive.

ArtEC now has a new look and a fresh face and is very relevant in the community.

So now when I notice that there is an empty place in the bed next to me, at 3.00 in the morning, it is not because Suzie is preparing a news letter or a funding proposal or doing one of the many other tasks that kept her busy, it is because the creative juices are flowing and she is back in the studio, doing what she loves.

This is "Shelter" a mixed media art work, in a new body of work she is creating. To see more of Suzie's art go to Arty Farty Musings.

17 March 2012

Addo Trip #5 - Buzzards and Behemoths

I just love Africa. Where else can you capture a view like this one of a steppe buzzard and an elephant.

15 March 2012

Skywatch Friday - Smiley plane

A smiley plane (aka a McDonnell Douglas MD-80/90) coming in to land at the Port Elizabeth Airport.

Visit Skywatch for more great skies from around the world.

14 March 2012

Time out from the skies

Feral pigeons taking time out at the Horse Memorial, against the backdrop of a bright blue sky.

11 March 2012

New life - Impala

When it comes to favourite antelope, impala are on the top of my list. This impala fawn is probably one of the newest residents of the Kragga Game Park.

08 March 2012

Skywatch Friday - High Flier

I was trying to photograph aeroplanes when this egret flew over over me. I thought his colour made a good contrast against the bright blue sky.

Visit Skywatch for more great skies from around the world.

06 March 2012

Addo Trip #4 - Guinea Fowl

Guinea fowl are so common that they are often overlooked, but I find them interesting and comical and a challenge to photograph. That is because they don't ever seem to stop moving and always seem to be interacting with each other.

When you try and photograph them in the early morning drizzle when the light is not so good, it is even more challenging. We followed this damp hen and her chicks for quite a distance, before I was satisfied that I had at least one resonable shot. The other chicks were scurrying around somewhere in the grass, so I had to be content with this one.

25 February 2012

I must go down to the sea again

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is ............to be able to enjoy it from terra firma, because that way I do not have to endure getting sea sick or getting covered in spray.

Apologies to John Masefield, and I do enjoy the sea but when I go there it must be on my terms.

These pictures were taken on the wild side at Cape St Francis, on a day when the sea was not too rough and the sun was at the right position to bring out the different shades of blue and green.

 I stood on the shore, like the good land lubber I am, and just fired away as the waves came rolling in.

Exploding wave................it might not be rough but there was enough power in the waves for some spectacular effects.


I love the colours in the swirling foam and water.......

That's how I like the sea. Close enough to enjoy it but not close enough to get wet, with both feet on solid ground.

23 February 2012

Skywatch Friday - The grey is not in the sky

A bright blue sky at Addo Elephant National Park and a few ellies

Visit Skywatch for more great skies from around the world.

22 February 2012

Addo Trip #3 - Getting back to the lions

This is the young male who waited at the water hole the day before, for the hartebeest to arrive. This morning he was enjoying basking in the early morning sun.

After looking for the lions for four years, it was nice to get up close and personal - well not too close and personal.

21 February 2012

Addo Trip #2 - The big and the small

When I head out into the bush I enjoy all the animals, from the smallest to the largest, whether it is striped field mouse or an elephant. They all have their own beauty, strange behaviours and appeal and I can spend hours watching them.

This striped field mouse was hanging around us at Jack's picnic spot, hoping for a handout. Of course being near the bottom of the food chain he also makes a nice meal for a raptor. We had in fact observed one of his relatives being devoured with great gusto a few minutes earlier, but never told him.

We got to know these young bulls over the two days of driving around. They were like naughty young boys, who were the best of friends, yet were constantly sparring, to see who was the strongest. They were quite amusing to watch and I will post more pictures of their antics one of these days.

Here they were enjoying a mud bath to cool of from the heat of the day, at the same water hole where the lions were reigning supreme the day before.

Addo Trip - Time for the lions #1

I don’t enter many competitions and generally don’t win anything, but, last year I was delighted to win a weekend away for two at the Addo Elephant National Park.  All I had to do was post a picture of me that was taken at the Park, and the rest is history.

This weekend Suzi and I claimed our prize, which was a two night stay at the Matyholweni Camp. The camp is set on the side of a hill in a valley, where the only sounds to be heard were the songs of the birds and frogs and crickets around us. What a pleasant change from the sounds of the city.

This turned out to be one of our most memorable trips to the Park ever. It was almost as though a special show had been put on for us.

For the past four years we have been on the lookout for lions and were beginning to believe they were a myth, but on our last trip we did get to see two rather large males, which gave us hope. This time we had four sightings of six lions during our two day stay.
The highlight was coming across these three young lions. Well it did not seem like it at first.

After spending so much time looking for them I casually remarked to Sue, “Lions are such boring animals; all they do is lie around doing nothing.”
But Mother Nature must have heard me, for it was not a minute later that an unsuspecting hartebeest came strolling down the hill for a drink of water. When he was still a long way off the seemingly comatose large male suddenly came alive and all the sat up fully alert. The three seemed to have a quick confab.

The large male then he ran off into the bush to the left of the waterhole and the female ran off to the right. The third fellow just made himself comfortable and remained where he was. “Lazy bugger,” I thought.

It was only when the unsuspecting hartebeest arrived that I realised I was witnessing the lions hunting strategy first hand. By this stage the young male was crouching low ready to launch himself, at what he must have believed was his dinner.

The hartebeest quickly realised his blunder and only had one option open to him and that was to make good his escape through the field in front of him – not realising there were two more lions lying in wait, for that exact move.
When the lion launched himself, the hartebeest took off, as only a hartebeest with a lion in pursuit can take off. In a matter of seconds there was nothing to be seen as hey disappeared over the ridge and we were left wondering whether the poor creature had been caught or not.

A few minutes later we had the answer, as the three unsuccessful and disconsolate hunters returned to the waterhole quite breathless.

They were soon stretched outagain, as only cats can, as though nothing had ever happened. Anyone who arrived after the hunt could be excused for thinking that butter would not melt in this fellow’s mouth.