16 March 2011


Tree xenophobia is common in South Africa and people cut down trees for no real reason like blaming the tree for making leaves that fall in the swimming pool or the roots making the lawn lumpy (Africa is not for sissies).

It is actually heart warming to see an effort being made to save an alien (it does not occur here naturally) Norfolk Island Pine in the village of Schoenmakerskop where I live. I call it a great architectural innovation but I suppose it is just a gap in the wall to allow the tree to continue standing where it has been for some sixty years. Does this happen elsewhere in the world? It is the first time I have seen this. The tree, being mature, won't expand that much more and the gap in the wall between the wall and the tree is so small that even a Dachund on a weighless programme would not get through.

Incidentally another Norfolk Pine got struck by lightening and I was expecting to get some great images but there was only some damage to the bark and a meter long shallow gauge on the trunk. I expected more and in the back of my head I seem to remember that the sap in the tree is heated by the bolt, expands and can cause the tree to shatter. I suppose I can blame the drought.

8 March 2011

True Confessions of a Naturalist/Photographer

I am supposed to earn my living from photography and writing but sometimes the naturalist in me takes over. Driving in a small municipal nature reserve along a fence I saw a small antelope and managed to switch off the engine and coast to a silent stop, grab a camera and fall silently out of the car. The small antelope continued feeding along the fence and eventually passed me.

Watching I realised it was a Blue Duiker, the smallest antelope found in Southern Africa. You seldom see them and in some 35 years of photography the only ones I have seen were dead alongside the road or dead in a snare. My camera sounded like a machine gun in the quiet of the morning and the antelope quickly realised it was not alone. It nervously approached the road and hesitatingly stepped over to the other side. Still using a slow almost ponderous walk it went to a track leading into thick bush and in a blink skipped down the path and disappeared.

Wonder how long it will take before I see another. Interesting how large the hooves seem, an expert (thanks Ayesha)(will tell the world to visit the Kragga Kamma Game Park!) told me that it was the result of the soft sandy habitat it lives in. If the surfaces it walks on are not abrasive the hooves will grow. They are not rare but are seldom seen because of their secretive habits and dense habitat of dense coastal dunes. They are most active early in the morning and late at night.

Sadly they make good eating and are easily snared. Crossing roads is also not their forte and I chose this picture because it shows how secretive they are and how hard they try to avoid being seen. This antelope walked back to the shadow across the road and crossed in the shadow. Good camouflage but not good road sense.

I do like the white edged tail which makes identification easy. It is almost like a little flag that identifies it. Next time I will remember that I am a professional photographer and will take more than just a few pictures. I might never see another one.