An Armrest Kink

You need to kick back with Binocs, Beer, Telescope on Tripod and – lately – Camera to do your front porch birding justice, and I have just the chair for it on my porch – a Lazy Boy thingamiebob. Newish . .

An Argentine-African United Nations veterinarian writes a lovely blog he calls A Bush Snob Out Of Africa. In it he has a feature called Spot The Beast in which he shows a picture of a cryptic or camouflaged creature and invites you to find it. Then he zooms in to reveal an insect on bark, or a mantis, a leaf butterfly or moth, a frog, even a cheetah hidden in grass. I love it.

So go back to the picture above and see if you can spot the dragon or dinosaur sharing my chair today. Only then scroll down:

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A Striped Skink waits for flies to approach

While I’m at it, I may as well mention some other lizards I have seen . .

A snake?

No, a Legless Skink, on the road in Hluhluwe Game Reserve

A snake?

No, A Grass Lizard – The Cavern, in the Drakensberg
Spot three of his tiny legs

A snake? About the size of an earthworm . .

Yes, a Thread Snake at home in Westville. The sharp tip is his tail

Maybe Peters’ Thread Snake Leptotyphlops scutifrons – known to be found in the Durban area.

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Here’s the birding spot in full operational mode:

Hluhluwe Day Trip

One sane and sober adult and three girls. Yikes! Man, they were full of nonsense. And rude!? Ha! Ha! We played ‘I Spy’ and you can imagine what they were guessing for B and P and F and all. We laughed till the tears ran. I reminded them of the days we played with Tommy. Whenever A came up he would immediately say ‘anus’ and Aitch would say “Tom!’

The only animal that came close to us in the park caused Jess to burst into tears ‘Dad! Reverse!’ and so we didn’t get what would have been frame-filling shots of a calm, peaceful elephant.

Luckily the camera did its surprise unknown video trick. I’m growing to like it! It records video without you knowing it while you’re focusing on taking stills.

While making lunch the girls spotted this tiny larva moving with his house on his back. The cone-shaped shelter was 10mm long and about 1mm diameter. He was like a hermit crab or a caddisfly larva, but on dry land:

At a pit-stop on the N2 highway on the way there I saw a lovely mushroom trail across the lawn. Is it along a termite track, I wonder?

Old Man’s SWA Memories

The ole man’s first visit to South West Africa was by train in 1939. The trip cost six pounds return. His father being a railway man, he probably got a good family-rate deal. He would have ‘entrained’ here. where Oupa worked:

Pietermaritzburg station – Oupa’s workplace

. . crossed all of South Africa to Upington, then passed through Keetmanshoop, Rehoboth and Windhoek:

Keetmanshoop station
Rehoboth station
Windhoek station

.. and arrived at his destination station: Okahandja. The last stretch on a narrow gauge line.

Okahandja station

He remembers a lovely wooden dining car, wooden tables, wooden carriage walls. Maybe like this?

His destination was his uncle and aunt’s farms. His aunt Isabel and her husband Theunis van Solms farmed on Engadien or Engadine. They did a lot of hunting.

‘Skiet hom!’

The farms were clustered east of Okahandja – about fifty miles east, he says.

One farm called Nooi Bremen – Was originally owned by a German Count someone – a scion of the Staedtler pencil family and fortune. Or was it the Faber-Castell pencil family? They had more counts.

Daantjie’s farm Uitkyk – original name Onjombojarapati (meant ‘giraffe fell in a hole’)

Sarel’s farm Hartbeesteich – he left his father (or got kicked off the farm?) when he couldn’t stand the abuse any longer. Was sent away with nothing, but rounded up 600 cattle and drove them off to a widow’s farm near the village of Hochveld, 70 miles ENE of Okahandja, where he farmed for her and with her. When she died he bought the farm. Hartbeesteich. ‘teich’ = German for pan.

Japie’s farm was a dry farm; he drilled eighteen holes but never struck water. Dad can’t remember ithe name of the farm.

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Brasil in 1988

Aitch took me to Brasil. She had done well as usual in her sales for Scherag and so off we went. First a flight to Manaus in Amazonas province, then a long drive eastward along the Amazon River towards a lake just off the river, then by ferry to a pousada on Silves Island.

We weren’t married, but I was on my best behaviour and just watched as the bachelors (actual and temporary) in the party would trumpet every night ‘TooDooDoot TooDoo’ “we’re going fox-hunting!” they would announce at dinner and troop out with huge grins on their dials.

I stuck to feathered birds like oropendolas, huge toads, caymans and a fresh, very sad ocelot skin the lodge staff had proudly recently shot! Aaargh!

oropendola call

Then we headed way south to the coast, to Angra dos Reis – the Cove of Kings. A booze yacht trip to the islands and beaches and swimming. One night Aitch felt ill and announced she’d go to bed early, I must go to supper alone. Yes!? I said. Sure, she said. Enjoy yourself. Ha HAAA! I was off – after dressing in my warrior fox-hunting regalia. At supper I tooted the fox-hunting horn with the best of them and announced my newfound freedom. We were off.

We found a bar with a wonderful barman. He gave you anything you wanted and all you had to do was scribble your name! It was first-class. Another round! I’d yell and we’d throw down another marvelous caipirinha and fling the glass over our shoulder. No! No! said the barman, grabbing his broom and sweeping up the pieces. MORE BEER! I’d yell, getting into my stride now.

Of course, I can handle my liquor but some of the guys were less capable. In fact, they dropped me twice on the way back to my chalet. And once there they just propped me up against the door, knocked and ran away. So Aitch found me closely inspecting the door mat and mumbling how I’d have to have a word with them about their service.

She says she dragged me into the shower and ran the cold water full blast and threw me into bed but of course that could all be rumours I don’t know I wasn’t there.

I got up early and made breakfast, feeling sprightly. And where were all the culprits? Nowhere to be seen. All indisposed, it was said. That’s what drinking too much will get you. We checked out that day and I was made to pay a bill a metre long with some complete stranger’s signature on all the slips. A signature that got less and less of something until it was just a short downward line with what looked like drool on it. I just paid. Rumours were going around and I didn’t want to cause a scene. I was there as merely spouse-of, so I had to behave.

Yacht at Angra dos Reis, Brasil

On to Rio! To the Copacabana! I was sure there’d be some licenced premises there too. There were! Aitch turned thirty high up on the roof of our hotel, with her colleagues giving her a huge festive bash. We had a banner made to string above the bar “THIRTY! and UNMARRIED!” it said. We had a roaring party that had the hotel guests below us wanting us to hush and the favela okes on the hills above us wanting to join in!

Copacabana Beach from our hotel roof
the cantagalo favela seen from our hotel roof (wikipedia pic)

pousada – Lodge or Inn

Angra dos Reis – cove – or inlet or creek – of kings

caipirinha – wonderful cold drink; refreshing; then tiptoes around behind you and taps you on the shoulder

favela – informal housing; shacks on the steep hill slopes

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Another pic pf an oropendola, this one by blogger Eduardo Libby.

chestnut-headed oropendola

Mfolosi Day Trip

A drizzly day, not much to report. I was learning about the new little Canon pocket camera. Haven’t worked it out yet. When we got home I saw it took video all the time we thought we were just focusing for still shots!

So aiming for this:

Cape (glossy) Starling

We got this (except much longer):

Martial Eagle and Common (steppe) Buzzard

Also, I lost my tracker! Jess is normally heads-up, spotting everything and saying “What’s that?” and all I have to do is ID what she’s spotted. Today her head was firmly down, eyes glued to her cellphone. “Dad, there’s no signal!” and “Omigod! I got two bars! Oh, they’re gone!”

There’s a boyfriend, see.

Bummer. That’s why I made the feature pic an Impala bum.

Mfolosi day trip Jan 2019

Ah! Now I see: I had the camera on Hybrid Auto mode, “whereby 2-4 seconds of video is captured before each still image and later combined into a 720p digest movie chronicling your day.” That’s what I saw and wondered where it came from!

Labour of Love – nudge wink

Crispin Hemson was concerned. The locquat wasn’t getting any action. It happened since the streetlights murdered the hawk moths. He himself is a man of action, so he sprung into same.

Every fetish has its paraphenalia. This case it was stepladders and camel hair brushes. Handlangers were rustled up and we went a-fertilising. I was a keen volunteer as I hadn’t had much to do with sexual parts and sperm and ova myself for some time; and even if this was actually pollen and stamens, hey, you take what you can get.

Crispin knew where our targets lived. We crept up to and up them, tickled their upright stigma and style delicately with the soft camel hair brush and bang! pregnant! one shot! The candle flower, Oxyanthus pyriformis, natal locquat didn’t know what hit it. For all it knew it may even have been a hawk moth fondling it with its moustache.

Other new life elsewhere in Pigeon Valley

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handlangers – nogschleppers; hangers-on;

flower parts – check if I got them right;

Hover

There are about 6000 species of hoverfly. They disguise themselves as wasps but they’re harmless little buggers and they do a great deal of good pollinating and eating pests like aphids. They love flowers and nectar so they hang around lovely perfume-smelling things:

A rose by any other name on the deck at Mogotlho Lodge

My cellphone pics and videos of the Khwai River hoverfly weren’t great so I didn’t post this until my ex-Saffer-turned-Kiwi, now in Aussie, mate Stephen Charles Reed sent a better picture of a Brisbane hoverfly.

Steve’s pic you can see the wings
Stunning Hoverflies

They are amazing hoverers! They can hold dead still in mid-air and then flick to another spot in any direction, zip! just like that. They can do anything mid-air:

. . . even get it on! If that’s the female below, she’s like Ginger Rogers, who could do everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in high heels!

All this made me go looking and I found a new hero. Fredrik Sjöberg lives on Runmarö Island in Sweden and looks for hoverflies, butterflies, beetles and anything that else that might flit by. He wrote a wonderful book on hoverflies, life the universe and everything which his publishers thought might sell 1600 copies in five years. Well, he sold 30 000 and has since published it in numerous other countries! Then – I told you he’s my hero – he won the IgNobel Prize for Literature in 2016!!

IgNobel LITERATURE PRIZE [SWEDEN] — Fredrik Sjöberg, for his three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead. REFERENCE: The Fly Trap is the first volume of Fredrik Sjöberg’s autobiographical trilogy, En flugsamlares väg (“The Path of a Fly Collector”), and the first to be published in English. Pantheon Books, 2015, ISBN 978-1101870150.

Learn more and see some beautiful pics here.

We humans finally started to learn how to hover in 1907 when the French brothers Breguet flew the Gyroplane No.1 quadcopter about 0.61 m above ground for a minute. Hoverflies all around the world laughed at us.

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Years before I had been fascinated by proboscis flies.