Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Feathers
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Feathers
After the rains last night the fairies came out to play.
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If you are afraid of spiders, you might want to skip this one. However, knowledge is power and learning a little more about these fascinating creatures may help you to overcome your fear.
Winter, such that it was, ended overnight. We woke up one morning with the electric blanket on and went to bed that night with the air conditioner set to its coldest.
The heat is debilitating (it does not lend itself to any form of work!) and on top of that it is very dusty and dry – the bush looks like it will never recover and seems to get browner by the minute.
Out walking yesterday morning I noticed an encouraging sign; one lone green tree, an interloper peering out through the grey. The rains can’t be far off now and I’m really looking forward to that.
When I got home and looked closer at the picture I had taken and noticed something else.
So, despite the sweltering heat and in the name of science I called the reluctant dogs and we all traipsed out again to get a closer look.
What lives in these messy nests? Looks like it could be a spider so, much to Piet’s disgust (he’s quite happy to face down a charging buffalo but the sight of a tiny spider will have him cowering and yelling for me to save him), I decided to take one home to open up and have a look.
I put the nest inside a plastic dish and the first thing that happened was a whole bunch of tiny spiders rushed out, waving their legs at me in indignation. It was like a spider village in there! They were mostly jumping spiders (Salticidae) but there were also a couple of other species, too small for my aging eyes to recognise.
On opening up the nest the first thing I saw was a wasp nest. I find this interesting as often wasps predate on spiders, usually using them as a food source for their larvae, and I wonder what the relationship is in this case. It must be quite disconcerting for the spiders to live together with an animal which may be eyeing them out as a meal for its offspring!
Next I found a nest-within-a-nest.
And inside this nest was Shelob — the true boss of the place! She curled herself up and pretended to be dead, which made closer inspection a lot easier than if she was scurrying about trying to escape.
I asked for help with identifying this spider from the Spider Club of Southern Africa Facebook page and was informed that ‘Shelob’ belongs to a family of spiders known as Araneinae , or orb spiders, and that she has a delightful common name — Hairy Field Spider.
Hairy Field Spiders are not harmful to humans, but Piet was not sure that releasing Shelob into the rose-bush which grows under the light outside the lounge was a good idea. I know she will do good, helping the geckos and frogs to catch the mosquitoes that will come when the rains finally begin.
Sadly Cee’s Which Way Challenge comes to an end next week, so this will be my last entry for this challenge. Cee will be hosting a brand new Compose Yourself Photo Challenge starting next week and I look forward to taking part in that.
I will continue to enter her other challenges and will also try to continue with my own WTF Friday theme.
After what feels like a record long dry season we are finally heading towards the rains. The dust will settle and the cooler temperatures will be a relief.
I took the next three photos while driving through the Mashonaland Province of Zimbabwe a few years ago.
It was during the rainy season.
It seems the whole of Southern Africa has retreated to the Dark Ages – literally.
In short, there is not enough electricity being generated – in the entire region – to meet demand.
There are many theories and rumours about why this has happened, ranging from ineptitude, to not enough rain to feed the rivers providing the hydro-electric power, to sub-standard equipment supplied during a dodgy tender deal. I suspect all are true to some extent but no-one is prepared to shed any light (sorry) on the matter and tell us what is really going on.
What this means is that we are now being subjected to load shedding. In my case, for six days a week we have no electricity for eight hours a day and on the seventh day – fingers crossed – the electricity does not go off at all. Last week it was only five hours off for five days of the week, so it is getting worse: the poor folk in Lusaka are enduring ten-hour cuts, with a fourteen hour cut one day a week, so I am thankful I don’t live there!
This makes keeping up to date with work – and more importantly, blogging! – very difficult and until we can make a plan with a generator and/or solar power both are going to be a bit sketchy and intermittent.
Any Zimbabweans reading this will be wondering what I am moaning about – they have dealt with severe load shedding for the last fifteen years (some are lucky if they receive two hours electricity supply a day) – and I apologise. But having thought I had left all that behind me I am taking a while to re-adjust.
In the mean time, here are my entries for this week’s Which Way Challenge.
For this week’s challenge I share with you a few of the pictures I took on the way to Munyemeshe in the Lower Zambezi.
No road trip is complete without running repairs.
Earlier this month Piet and I were invited on a trip to the Lower Zambezi, where we stayed at a self-catering lodge called Munyemeshe. This lodge is on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River where wildlife wanders freely between the Game Management Area (or GMA) and the nearby Lower Zambezi National Park.
It is a rustic place. There is no electricity, no wi-fi and – best of all – no mobile phone signal, so for seven glorious days we were cut off from the World, no worries, no cares, no constant pinging of the telephone.
Each night I would lie awake in the dark, listening to the bush sounds – the eerie call of the thick-knees, hysterical hyena scrapping over some left-over lion kill, the deep belly laugh grunting of hippos echoing across the water or the rustle and crack of elephants grazing from the tree above our chalet.
One was kind enough to leave us his calling card.
The days were spent on the boat, fishing, eating, relaxing, laughing and reminiscing with old friends about old times. And hippo watching.
In my last post I mentioned that I had rarely had the opportunity to photograph hippos out of the water. My luck changed on this trip.
I don’t recall ever having seen so many hippos at one time. At every turn in the river, in each inlet and on every sand bank we were met with the glowering stare of at least one of these beasts. Pods of fat, shiny bodies sunned themselves, soaking up the weak winter sunlight – regardless of the time of the day.
It was a hippopotophile’s dream.
Hippos spend most of the day wallowing about and grunting in the river, leaving the water at dusk to graze on land through the night. I have rarely been lucky to capture decent photos of hippos out of the water because light at that time of day is poor and I am usually bobbing about on a boat, so it is difficult to keep a steady hand. A while back I was lucky and managed to get a few decent shots, which I have shared in my Hippo Series. You can see them here, here and here.
They may look cute and cuddly but in reality hippos are not your friend.
Being territorial animals, hippos don’t like it when people invade their personal space, and like all mothers, they are also fiercely protective of their young. So woe betide anyone who looks like they might be a threat to their wrinkly offspring. We always stay far away from hippos and try not to come between them and the land (or adults and their babies).
It is reputed that hippos have caused the deaths of more humans in Africa than any other large wild animal and most of their victims have been subsistence fishermen in makoros (a canoe-type boat made from a hollowed out tree trunk). They don’t actually eat people, but they do bite – their teeth are very long. Usually the hippo overturns the boat, and since the majority of the fishermen are unable to swim, many of the deaths are through drowning. Occasionally people have been unfortunate to come across a hippo on land and if they were unable to outrun the hippo (hippos can run 23Km/h) the result is always violent and often results in death.
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