Some Spring Sightings

Palmiet Nature Reserve is ready for Spring! We’ve had a cold winter, some early rain, wind storms and today a hot ‘Berg wind.’ Nature lovers in the Palmiet Rangers group have been spotting all sorts of interesting life in our valley.

Then some Palmetians went to Roosfontein and shot a Nightjar!

Meantime, Pigeon Valley in Glenwood has also been busy, with ‘Friends of PV’ honcho Crispin Hemson keeping us all up-to-date about his patch as always:

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Oh, and babies! I forgot about the babies. When Spring springs, babies pop out . . Warren Friedman is the host daddy to these two broods. And the videographer.

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Palmiet Feathered Beauties

Palmiet neighbour Roger Hogg takes bird photography to amazing heights. We are so happy to receive his regular contributions to our little Palmiet Rangers whatsapp group.

This week he sent three stunning additions:

– female black cuckooshrike –
– dark-backed weaver –

top: half-collared kingfisher

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Beautiful Skies

Jupiter and Saturn below the full moon put on a special show. A whatsapp message from an old schoolfriend sent me outside to take a picture, but the moon was too bright for my camera to deal with. Hence the annotated internet picture.

We’ve been having such beautiful skies – night and day – that I added some recent daytime skies.

. . and some birdbath pics:

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and just for good measure, some beaut pics from neighbours in the valley:

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Bird Bathing

A red-capped Robin-chat, a vervet monkey and a Purple-crested Turaco visit the birdbaths. Then later:

More vervets, Red-eyed Dove, Dark-capped Bulbul and Black-bellied Glossy Starlings. And then no birds, but a nice shadow:

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– some more recent visitors – Red-eyed Dove, Laughing Dove in the tree, Red-backed Mannikins and Olive Sunbird –
– Brown-hooded Kingfisher, PC Turaco, Olive Thrush, Black Flycatcher, Black-bellied Starlings, Red-capped Robin Chat –

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Lockdown – In Our Lucky Valley

Random pictures from lockdown in our valley.

I won’t get all the credits right, but for starters, lots of bird pics from Roger Hogg, lots of butterfly, moth and caterpillar – and many other creatures – from Suncana. And a few from me:

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Morning Sun from the West!?

I suddenly realised yesterday that the Yellow-bellied Greenbul was in bright light, as was the Purple-crested Turaco that was the next lady for a shave. It was 8am and the trouble with my birdbath is that it’s in deep shade and the morning light from behind makes photography difficult.

Took me a while to work it out. So this morning I recorded what happened. Watch how the sun is behind the trees, then suddenly appears between the pickup and left of the trees! Then the sunlight moves from left to right till the birdbath is bathed in its glory.

What the heck? I walked out onto the lawn and looked back:

– the sun from the east beating down on my chair – the reflected sun shining back on my birdbath –

The building behind us on the crest of the hill reflects the winter morning sun down onto my birdbath! Whattapleasure! It’ll only last a little while as the sun moves towards winter solstice. I’ll try’n get a good picture while it lasts. This morning was windy and nothing came to the bath while I watched. Not a sausage!

Whattahoot! Just last week I had used a shaving mirror to reflect the sun onto a butterfly in shade. Here it was being done for me!

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One Day

I know I should work to earn money so I can one day sit on my arse and listen to the birds and photograph butterflies. And see two gory kills within minutes, with two animals dying before my very eyes to satisfy the hungry needs of their predators.

So this morning:

– Forest Queen – ‘rare south of the Tugela’ –

Flies don’t even have to be buttered to be photographed:

– some diptera or other – big fly –

A drongo zapped an insect in mid-flight and a sunbird nabbed probably a spider off the mistletoe, killing them mercilessly for food in the great cycle of nature. Someone has to be sitting on his arse to witness these things.

butterfly Forest Queen
– remote camera setup – pics triggered from my cellphone –

This time I was determined to concentrate. I gazed at my cellphone fiercely for hours. Once I had to change the camera’s battery. This Forest Queen thought he could outwit outplay outlast me!? Huh! I was determined to catch him opening his wings to make sure he was a male. I was occasionally distracted. Had to make coffee, had to reply to some slights on whatsapp, had to take these photos to show the remote setup and my impressive camera (you’ve heard about okes with small willies having to compensate with big cameras, right? Well.). And once I was also – fatally – distracted by Tommy who NEEDED me to transfer cash to his eWallet.

Done. Then back to the app:

– BLIKSEM!! –

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Lawn Butterfly

I always have little ‘blues’ on my lawn; small butterflies, some tiny that flit about too small, too fast and too pale for my camera to get a decent shot. They usually look little pale grey beauties.

But yesterday one was different, bigger; so I out with the camera and managed to get two fuzzy pics:

I thought ‘Hairtail;’ iNaturalist got back in seconds and said ‘Hairstreak;’ Now I’m thinking maybe one of the Sapphires? The fascinating thing about identifying creatures is . . names change! Knowledge is constantly being updated. Often the only real way to know what you’re looking at is to ask an expert, as even the most recent books are out of date to different extents. They keep up to the minute and usually instantly have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking at, taking image, location, time of year, etc into account.

I’ll update when I find out what this beauty is. And I’ll keep an eye out for a better picture.

Ah! Suncana says its Iolaus silas, the Southern Sapphire! Sun is our in-house entomologist on our Palmiet Rangers whatsapp group, and has a Palmiet project on iNaturalist, which I have now joined. She sent a better pic – Steve Woodhall’s from biodiversityexplorer.info

– tiny yellow meadow flower – while I was down there –

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Bonus! Pictures from a Palmiet neighbour who’s a great photographer. Most (all?) taken right here in our valley:

– Roger Hogg photos –
– red-fronted tinker – Roger Hogg –

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Experimenting with a Canon

I’ve learned a bit more about my little pocket Canon camera. updating the firmware and software and checking all the settings seems to have helped better, quicker focusing.

I’ve taken my first lightbox picture – the nest of a potter wasp who obligingly built it in the neglected lightbox, thank you.

And learned to set the zoom so it’ll focus more easily. It was glitchy. Here’s the bedroom doorknob, zoomed out and zoomed in!

– butterfly African Monarch –

Remote Cam Adventures

– hadeda ibis –

I got the remote setup working again: Canon on a tripod, targeted on the tap birdbath in the shrubbery, and viewfinder on my cellphone. Then I waited. The same problem I noted before is still evident: my attention span.

Eventually a rare bird strolled by and seemed quite interested.

Hours later the underbrush eagle, who today has been playing a Klaas’ Cuckoo, came for a shower.

– bracing! – a red-capped robin-chat – famous mimic – has a bath –
– red-capped robin-chat – notorious eagle and cuckoo mimic –

Later an Olive Sunbird arrived and then two White-Eyes – both blending too well with the background and too quick for my camera – just blurs and water droplets! That’s another challenge: the delay between my finger firing the button on my phone and the camera firing – I’d guess near a quarter second. So the bird has often flucked or flitted – or at least changed his pose!

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I made a .gif of the pics and – 😉 – froze the lil bird in mid-moon for three frames!

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Blue-Banded Bee

A gorgeous Aussie!

What a beaut Aussie bee! Snapped in flight in a Brisbane garden by Saffer-Kiwi-Aussie ace photographer Steve Reed.

Solitary bees, they don’t hang around in groups. They nest in tunnels in clay or sandstone – but don’t trust me, do some research.

Which reminds me of one of Aitch – Trish – don’t say Patricia! – ‘s favourite songs:

– they hang around in groups like battle-weary troops –

Yielding To The Camera

Excuse me! You with the paintbrush! Camera coming through!

I was posting our wedding pics when I saw one we’d taken of our photographer Keith and his assistant. Being in 1988 there would have been a few other cameras there like the one that took a pic of him holding his large-format Hasselblad-like beauty and his first cold beer on that blistering hot day.

Wedding Helle Hella Ken Photographers

Nowadays you can almost guarantee every guest has a camera and a video camera in their pocket! Quite a challenge for the guy being paid:“Um, please stand aside, I’m trying to get a picture of the bride”. So are we! comes the answer from all the other guests.

Coincidentally wikipedia featured the top pic today, so I got to thinking of the poor portrait painters of yore. Used to being the main man around and very important, here he was probably asked “Won’t you paint a backdrop for me old chap? Any old thing will do. I’m taking portrait daguerrotypes, what!” But, but . . 

“That’s all, we won’t be needing you after that.”

I bet the early photographers made people stand way longer than actually needed so they wouldn’t feel short-changed after being used to sit for days for their portrait.

I think paintings often outshine daguerrotypes:

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Feature pic Interior with Portraits by Thomas Le Clear 1865, features siblings posing for a photograph in an artist’s studio. The painting has been read as representing the tension between its medium and the emergent medium of photography.

 Hold still, would you!

Portrait Camera

The Photo Archives

I hardly ever carried a camera back when I was beautiful and had just the one chin. “I’m video’ing it in my head” I would say.

Of course now I’m really grateful other people carried cameras and I could get pics from them. Even in the days when you loaded a roll of film in the dark and wound it on by hand frame-by-frame some people carried cameras. I salute them!

And I admit I would grumble when they said “Stand closer together” “Smile” “Hang on! Just one more!”. Of course some people would think they had put in the roll of film when they hadn’t and all our posing (“poeseer!” remember SanMarie the game ranger’s joke?) was in vain. Yes, I’m thinking of you Taylor. He posed us in various ways on a buffalo carcase and when we eagerly asked for the photies weeks later (they’d had to go off “for development” of course) he had to sheepishly admit he hadn’t had a roll of film in his steam-driven camera. Luckily Trish had been there and took this:

 

Anyway, my memory of that moment was much better than his pic would have been: I remember a bloody carcase with glistening red meat still on the bone and lion prints around the sandy scene. We were posing looking over our shoulder, worried the lions might chase us off their prey at any minute. When later we did get a pic from someone better organised than Taylor – Trish – the truth was far more mundane. The photo spoilt a good story! Here we were, not one of us looking over a shoulder:

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Intrepid non-photographer on the left with impressive camera bag, no fillum

So although I do have some slight regrets I still think I was generally more “in the moment” than many camera-occupied companions over the years – and I saw more birds. Anyway, my memories of what happened are usually far better than boring reality. Usually I play the starring role in them.

Once I met Aitch things changed of course and we had a fulltime photographer in the house. The years from 1986 are well documented. Then the kids arrived and the number of pics went through the roof. Thank goodness for digital! Even now when we drive through a game reserve Jess will say “Mom would have said ‘Stop! Go back!’ and you would have to reverse and she’d take a picture of a flower, remember?”

With cameras as ubiquitous as they now are all this smacks of days gone by. I was prompted to write this post when I read this yesterday: ‘If a millennial goes to a beautiful place but doesn’t get a photo, did they ever really go?’…

To end, some advice for Taylor:

Life like Camera.jpg

Here’s a graph showing camera sales in 1000’s since 1933:

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Luxury Birding

Bird Collages

Finally got round to making a collage of some of the birds we saw up in Zululand a few years back. Aitch and I went for a breakaway luxury weekend. It was dry – very dry – and the lodge had a water feature running right under the sundeck. Every bird from miles around (as well as all the animals) had to come here to drink.

It was perfect! Aitch was not so strong, so we chose to skip the game drives and ensconced ourselves comfortably on the deck, binocs, camera and telescopes handy. Tea or beer or coffee or gin would arrive at regular intervals. Mealtimes we walked ten metres back into the dining room!

Thanda Zulu (birds) (2059)

Thanda Zulu (birds) (1346)

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Photographing Giraffe

Photogiraffing? It’s hard to photograph giraffe in Ithala Game Reserve when you have a Jack-in-the-Box popping up in the jeep right in front of your lens every time you’re ready to depress the shutter. And then the laughter gives camera shake.

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Ithala with Kids-001