Feature image is a pride of Cheetah (Acinonyxjubatus) including female and her three cubs in Kenyan scrub.
Lions spend a remarkable portion of the daylight hours sleeping. I saw this typical behavior in the Florida Naples Zoo but I didn’t expect to see it so frequently in the wilderness of Africa. I expected them to be walking about and hunting and / or engaged in group activities. Seeing them sleeping up to 20 hours per day was a rude awakening. During the best daylight hours where photography would be easy, these critters were usually completely out of it. They would be sleeping in the roads and pathways without any care for traffic trying to pass. They were communally grouped, sleeping together among family members. Occasionally, they might be seen finishing off a meal from last night’s hunting but in general they were boring subjects
In the twilight hours, however, with the sun just at the horizon, the scene was dramatically different. Despite the near darkness, fog, and distance I was able to see the spine-chilling hunt of the packs in action. The pursuit could have been taken from a professional soccer coach’s play book. Each pack member had their position to play – scouting, blocking, hunting, and a final charge for the throat. Without team play all 16 lions would go hungry.
When visiting the local Naples Zoo, I imagined an animalistic sense. It was as if the captive animals knew the truth of their sheltered, human dependent relationship. At the zoo the animals pace around in their enclosures. There is nothing to hunt. There is no territory to defend. There are no mates to pursue. No families to care for. See out previous blog on the Naples Zoo. This is in contradiction to the animals seen in the African wilderness. There they were busy surviving as hunter, prey or both. On safari the animals are indifferent to the viewer. It is a sense that the people are not there because they are in a vehicle. The vehicle was of no importance. It was simply a noisy passing distraction.
From our nearly three-week visit, several species stood out as apex predators. These included lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, crocodiles, and eagles. Each of these meat-eating animals is magnificent in color, shape, skill, and speed. These animals need a large area under their dominion. The area could easily range from 20 to 400 square kilometers. Lion prides and dog packs hunted using carefully laid out strategies and roles. Of the cat and dog, it is difficult to suggest that one is superior to another as their hunting behaviors were very similar. What do they do the rest of the time? They sleep and just hang out.
African black panthers have not been photographed in 100 years until recently. The term black panther is most frequently applied to black-coated leopards (Panthera pardus) of Africa. I did not see this African animal.
A melanistic color variant of the African leopard – was filmed in Lorok, Laikipia County, Kenya, on remote cameras set up as part of a large-scale study aimed at understanding the population dynamics of leopards. Dramatic night photos of this are available at the link mentioned here. (*)
There were some Florida animals in the wild that were directly comparable to those seen in our African safari. These are birds and reptiles. The two apex predators that I saw most often were the Sea Eagles (Osprey) / African Sea Eagles as well as the Florida alligator/African crocodiles. The lizards spend most of their time cruising the water and lying on the shore waiting and watching for an opportunity to eat. The birds, on the other hand, were busy and exceptionally photogenic.
No doubt about it. The birds worked throughout the day. The African Sea Eagles and their cousins, Florida Osprey, were constantly searching and bringing fish back to eat or to feed their brood in the nest. The surprise was to see that these unfettered bird species which are different species but so similar in their size, behavior, and call.
We will spend additional time describing these bird and cat predators. The Zoo is wonderful to visit and see these animals. It is a good place to sharpen your camera skills for animal portraiture. It is a great place to show the real-life animals to children. Zoos are excellent for research and help preserve endangered animal stock. In the wild these same creatures are daily interacting with one another and their environment. There are no barriers separating them. They all struggle for survival. They pay no attention to people. If you want real understanding of the life in a giant working and evolving ecosystem you need to go out and experience it. We live in the Everglades reserve area. This is one of our National and State treasures. If you simply drive a few miles and walk into the Florida reserve area with a guide you may have an experience similar to ours in the Okavango Delta of Botswana
More than a pretty face. The Giraffes are some of my favorite animals of Africa
Check out the earlier blog posted describing the giraffes at the local Naples Zoo. How differently their wild behavior is when compared to the captive animals. In the Naples Zoo there is a group of male Reticulated giraffes.
Giraffes appear very elegant with long necks and legs, brightly patterned coats, large eyes, and a crown of horns. They seem elegant. You can see them eating vegetation and walking or gently lopping across the grass land or through the woods. They are very quiet with almost no voice. It is surprising that a 1400-pound 15-foot animal can vanish as it wanders through the brush and tree scape. We saw them nearly everywhere we went. They do seem to group together in small clutches or shorter animals may partner with them for added alert of predators. Even when they are solitary, they don’t seem to be the choice of lions. We did see the remains of one which apparently perished from dehydration or disease. Drought is a problem in eastern Kenya.
The giraffes seem more whimsical in their behavior than on casual appearance. Drinking seems almost acrobatic as they assume an oddly geometric balancing act and when done almost jump to a full standing position. The birds which pick insects from their skin may at times get a bit too aggressive. Look at the photo of a jumping giraffe. It looks like it is dancing on its hind legs as it tries to shake off the pesky bird. It was so amusing to watch this performance. The group behavior of the giraffe clan was startling. They can be tough combatants. During some sort of competitive behavior, probably mating, these animals showed some of their true skills. In a pugilistic competition two giraffes went about using their heads, necks, teeth, and bodies in a full-body contact fight. At first, they seemed to be necking which I thought to be friendly. During the next hour, they rapidly progressed into an aggressive slugfest whacking one another with their heads and horns into the torso, head, and hind quarters. They beat each other ceaselessly with full strength occasionally biting, butting, and pursuing. From our vantage point we could hear nothing except the concussive thud when they bashed each another. We moved on after what seemed to be the end where the two protagonists walked away from each other. There seemed to be a winner. The larger of them walked a little and the smaller left the field into the bush. Simply imagine the bruises incurred after the hourlong fight; a 60-pound head with horns swing on a five-foot-long muscular neck and a thousand pounds of animal force behind each blow. It was impressive and gave a completely new dimension into my imagined elegance of these creatures.
There are four giraffe species. I could easily identify two, the two others not seen are the Southern and the Northern.
The Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchii) is the tallest of all land animals and it is an extraordinary sight to see. The giraffe is known for its graceful movements and for being very picturesque. At top speed, the giraffe can run up to 50-60 miles per hour. Kenya is home to giraffe (sub)species. In northern Kenya you’ll see the reticulated or Somali giraffe. Particularly rare is Rothschild’s giraffe (about which there is ongoing discussion whether it concerns an actual subspecies). In southern Kenya, you’ll come across Massai giraffes. Massai giraffes are different from reticulated giraffes in that they have jagged spots on their bodies, instead of polygonal liver-coloured spots. Approximately 33,000 Masai giraffes live in this region and most of them live in small groups. Approximately 16 – 20 hours of their day is spent feeding. Their favorite snack are Acacia tree leaves. Their long tongues and lips skillfuly avoid the Acacia tree thorns to snack on the tree’s leaves. As long as they have fresh vegetation, they can go without water for weeks. Typically the male giraffes eat from the top branches of the Acacia trees and the females eat from the bottom branches. Their greatest enemies are hyena, lions and poachers. Their greatest defence is their ability to escape at high speed and if necessary they defend themselves with their powerful kick.
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The cover picture is sunset at the Savute safari lodge. It was our first camp site of the trip.
To give you a sense of location, distance and time this post provides maps, lodging, accommodations, and transport details
This map shows the scope of the trip:
Africa Camp sites were:
Savute Safari Lodge on the Savute Channel and water hole Linyanti, Botswana,
Camp Okavango on the remote Nxaragha Island on the edge of Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Chobe Game Lodge in the Chobe National Park on the Chobe River, Botswana
Sweetwaters Reserve, private 24,000-acre sanctuary, Kenya
Samburu Game Reserve, Kenya
Kichwa Tembo Camp in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
All of our accommodations were in “tents”. These were substantial secure structures with partial masonry walls and floors and included lavatories and toilets, electricity, beds with nets, flaps over screens that open to panoramic views of the wilderness and walking paths. The camp sites had a central hotel like area that included meeting and dining areas, full service bar, and observation decks,
We stayed two to four nights at each camp site. We took as many as four “game drive” trips from the central camp with a private driver/guide to see the surrounding countryside and wildlife. The vehicles were open sided with covered or convertible tops. In the afternoon there was always a civilized picnic from the parked car, parked in a cleared spot in the bush, with coffee, tea, mixed drinks or wine along with baked snacks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served buffet style at the camp site dining lodge.
Although the camps were fenced, animals were able to pass through the camp. Walking guests were always accompanied by staff in the twilight as they went to or from the central lodge. The animals were diverse and not threatening. On every walk in camp I saw small hippo, dic-dic, antelope, baboon, warthog or impala. Many of these were visible throughout camp during the day or night.
The travel distance between the two target areas is about 1500 miles by air. We flew from Okavango delta to Chobe by bush plane and then drove to Livingston and continued to Nairobi by jet. From Nairobi to the Sweetwater lodge we went by private car. From Sweetwater we flew to Kichwa Tembo.
The bush planes were modern single engine aircraft with a passenger capacity from 12 to 20 people. These bush planes did have a luggage weight limit of 30 pounds, however, it was not severely enforced. There were no scales and some passengers did have hard suitcases. I would not recommend pushing the regulations. There is no real need to take more as the weather is relatively constant and there are laundry options at all of the lodges.
There are other travel options such as automobile which were greater in duration and have additional risks. Driving from the Okavango to Massai Mara takes two days to cross Botswana Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. Considering the condition of the roads, questionable accommodations, and cost differential I don’t thing that it is advisable.
For more information, all of the camp sites and lodges have their own websites. They are reasonably accurate. If youconsultthe national websites they provide excellent detailed information. When we were in Zambia and Kenya no-one checked for yellow fever vaccination. There were no significant insects seen on our travel throughout our trip. We did wear long pants and shirts and hats for insect and sun protection. Most of our clothing was purchased from REI or Eddie Bauer. There was no internet service. Emergency communication services was available for guests through the business offices at most camp sites.
All of our travel arrangements were done through Nature Expedition International agency. I provided an agenda, list of desired observations and time schedule. The agent then shopped the trip to providers and agencies to build a trip. This included camp sites, accommodations and transportation. All meals were included. We arranged all of our in and out of Africa flights. These flights could be cancelled with full refund up to 24 hours prior to departure. We purchased travel insurance through Berkshire Hathaway Travel and did not include the cost of the flights.
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#Okavango #Kenya # travel #Savute Safari Lodge #Camp Okavango #Chobe Game Lodge #Sweetwaters Reserve #Samburu Game Reserve #Kichwa Tembo Camp
The previous posting on Africa showed the photographic preparation for the trip. This posting is an introduction to the upcoming blogs which will feature the animal and plant wildlife in more detail. This photo safari was planned for thirty years. It has been postponed three times. At last, this was the opportunity to go. Botswana and Kenya are the two countries we visited in sub-Saharan Africa. The reasons to go there were their diversity of wildlife, ecosystems, and safety. The month of August was selected to be timely to see the greatest density of animals in the most clement season. It was also an opportunity to look for the similarities and differences of the comparable African and US locations. Here are thoughts, impressions and recounting of the two weeks of experience there.
The title sunset image is typical of the African sky. The beautiful sunset red comes from sand and minerals of the desert suspended in the air and refracted by the light. These same sands which are blown across the Atlantic Ocean color our Floridian sunsets too.
This lengthy monologue is only a rudimentary description of a very large subject. It is intended to help understand and appreciate the reasons for these features seen on this expedition and to summarize the complexities of the climate, geology, the flow of water on the land, the interdependency of species and some similarities to areas in the USA. The two major eco systems were marshlands and savanna. In Botswana the wetlands of the Okavango delta were the focal point. In Kenya the savanna of the Maasai Mara section of the Serengeti was of greatest interest. The Okavango delta ecosystem has some similarities to the wetlands found in the Southwest Florida Everglades National and State Park systems. The Maasai Mara is more like the grasslands of Montana where, 250 years ago, buffalo, antelope, elk, and wolf roamed in their own great migration.
Climate and Geology:
The Okavango delta is 19 degrees south of the Equator. The Florida Everglades are 19 degrees north of the equator. They receive approximately the same amount of energy from the sun. The marshlands of the Okavango delta and the Florida Everglades are both essentially inland dispersions of fresh water. The Okavango is a unique feature of the Kalahari Desert. This delta is deep in the interior of the land mass and the climate is continental. Unlike the Everglades, it does not have the moderating exposure to a neighboring ocean. It has a soil basis of sand that averages 200 feet deep. On top of that is a soil of a few inches depth with mixtures of soil brought by wind, flood, and a thin organic compost. The average elevation is 3100 ft. The delta has three biome types that include savanna, woodlands, and swamp. The Okavango River supply is derived from the confluence of the Cubango and Cuito rivers in Angola. The annual flow reaches the delta between March and June with maximum flow in July. Additionally, there is seasonal 18-inch rainfall in the Okavango from November to February which adds to water shed.
Floridian Everglades are at sea level and are founded on petrified sea bottom called sedimentary rock with a high calcium carbonate basis called limestone. The Florida Everglades topsoil is an average 17-foot-thick layer of marl (calcitic mud), peat and muck. The Everglades are subtropical wetlands whose freshwater system begins near Orlando in the Kissimmee River. The average annual rainfall is 60 inches. The Everglades have a maritime weather with tropical storms and moderation of climate. Climatically, there are no hurricanes in the Okavango and in the Everglades there is no drought.
In support of the science of plate tectonics. The Americas and Africa were one land mass 200 million years ago.
The concept of moving plates of the crust of the earth suggests that at a distant time in the past the assembly of the plates separated into the various land bodies. The shapes of the land mass fragments seen today can be manipulated as puzzle pieces into a larger land mass that fits together quite well. This particular assembly is called Pangea. If this is how the continents formed then there is a strong relationship between the eastern geology of the Americas and the western African geology. This fit is not entirely perfect, however, when considering the length of time for the division to transpire it is remarkably good. This has been supported by substantial evidence of rock formations that span the continents.The science is based on continental fit, matching rocks, fossils, corals, mountains, glacial striations, magnetic lineages and direct measurement of the movement.
About 98% of the water that goes into the Okavango delta is eventually lost through evaporation and transpiration. Transpiration results when water moves through the plant and evaporates from leaves and flowers. Despite the subtropical sun generating intense evaporation, the delta’s water is fresh, not salty. I was surprised by this because non circulating ponds of water in the middle parts of the islands have very high chemical and salt concentrations. This chemical concentration occurs in thousands of islands. The reason the water is fresh is that trees on the edges of the islands create a barrier of natural filters between the inner part of the islands and the floodplain. The second reason is a process of transpiration caused by trees. Water flows into the delta and carries with it silica and soluble minerals like sodium carbonate. As the water is lost from the trees, the silica and salts remain to build islands. The center of the islands concentrates the accumulated salt and as a result the vegetation dies from dehydration leaving a central bare white mineral spot. Termites facilitate island formation when they build nests of organic material, fungus, soil and water. These mounds of soil and nutrients promote tree and other plant growth. When the seasonal water rises the termites build skyward forming islands. Eventually the nest is abandoned to form a new colony. The mound then collapses from animal invasion and erosion. Termites are the keystone species of the Okavango. Without them the delta would be like the desert. Water would be lost, and life would be less dense and less diverse.The Okavango has no palm trees and pines are also nearly absent.
The vegetation in Florida also plays an important role. The ocean barrier to salt invasion are mangroves which are salt tolerant. These mangroves are key to prevention of back flow of the salty ocean and hold the soil preventing erosion. Some fresh water flow does reach the ocean creating a relative partial positive pressure. The soils of the Everglades are rich in nitrates and farmers increase the nitrogen of a large portion of the Everglades. This has resulted in an overgrowth of a complex of bacteria species which feeds on the nitrates and deplete the nutrient value of the topsoil. The Everglades have no Acacia trees and lots of mosquitos.
The Kenyan savanna is climatically and geologically very different from the Okavango savanna. Kenya is at the Equator. It is a mile high in altitude and the soil is volcanic in origin. It is more like the area around Denver CO. It is surrounded by hills and mountains and has two rivers flowing through it. The major river flow is the Mara. The other is the Talek. It is part of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem spanning Tanzania and Kenya and has been geologically very active with ancient and recent rock formations. It is in the Great Rift Valley. It is in this valley that the million-year-old petrified remains of very early hominoids have been found.
The plants and animals are widely different in speciation in these three areas but they have similar behavior. This may be the result of adaptation to similar geologic and weather conditions. The apex predators of all locations are big cats. All have eagles, egrets, large carnivorous reptiles and cats and lots of grass.
The effect of the behavior of large numbers of modern people on the Florida ecosystem is dramatically different from the African locations. The Everglades water flow is highly engineered and not necessarily for the best. Southward flow of the Florida delta is interfered by highways and farms to the point that it does not meet the sea as it original did. The Okavango delta also does not meet the sea. In Africa the observed locations have relatively low populations and have been benignly neglected or protected from hunting, industrialization, mining or drilling and farming so that the plants and animals have survived basically unchanged for centuries or even millennia.
Romancing Wild Africa:
We went to see the animal life of Africa and did not go to see the cities, towns, or villages. We did not have much contact with the people of the areas we visited. Africa is a huge, populous, resource rich continent with a history that dates to the origin of most species. There is great wealth and great poverty. Too many people have nothing. They live an impoverished stone age existence in the space age. I acknowledge that many of these are desperately poor and politically persecuted to enslavement and/or death. The NGOs, like CARE, work to help many but must be careful to manage their limited resources. They also try not to support the migrant people in camps to a better level than the local people. The native residents also live by subsistence on gardening, raising a few cattle, contract farm working, tourism, and crafts. Some also engage in a variety of illegal endeavors such as poaching and grazing their animals on park land. You can read the newspapers for details of other antisocial behaviors such as intertribal warfare, abduction, extortion, theft, civil insurrection etc. Desperate people do desperate things.
The wilderness of the savanna of Africa is nothing like anything in eastern US. There is no sense of luxury to the plants or the soil. Much of the topsoil is sand deposited by wind and water. The stark beige color varies little by the source of volcanic mineralization. The organic content is not a rich loam of plant breakdown. It is thin and the organic content is from the sparse droppings from animals or the occasional bush or more rarely from a tree. Animal droppings are recycled by the life on the planes and provide an episodic line of trees from incompletely digested seeds. The brilliant emerald green plants, startling blue sky and the breathtaking color of twilight is such a relief from the monotony.
We will look in greater detail at the findings of this two-week photo expedition in the following blogs. They will focus more on species than locations.
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#Africa #Okavango #Botswana #Kenya #Everglades #transpiration #Maasai Mara #salt #tectonics #transpiration #evaporation #Tanzania #marsh land #savanna
Ian was a category 4.5 hurricane with a storm surge that washed over our community and much of the western coast line of Florida up to Clearwater. The worst hit community was 25 miles north of us called Fort Myers Beach. Much of that community is gone. In our county of Lee more than 50 people died. The storm demolished thousands of homes and 45000 automobiles. It devastated the lives of thousands of people who are now dependent on the government for temporary housing, food and water. Just now electricity is returning and damaged bridges and highways are in repair. Millions of tonnes of trash piles the streets and dumps with the remnants of the storms damages. The news is filled with pictures and stories of the experiences of the traumatized communities and people.
I bicycled out to see more of my favorite observation sites and made some photos of these places for comparison to their condition prior to the storm. Much of the plant life is damaged, missing or dead. The winds uprooted trees and broke branches The storm surge did much more. The direct force of the water uprooted plants and swept away the wildlife. The after effects of seawater compounded the result of the surge spreading toxic levels of salt and bacterial contamination. It is difficult to survey the animal life because or the tangled deadfall of trees. The plant life is easier to assess.
The two photos above are from a location in a swamp area photographed 4 months prior to and 10 days after the storm. As seen the photos, the plants that best survived were the monocotyledons and those with the ability to bend with the wind. Hence the palm trees are managing ok. The dicotyledons with deciduous leaves and thick stiff branches have suffered the most.
The butterfly garden showed below will need to be replanted.
What is wrong with sea water?
Unlike mangroves, plants that are not specially adapted to sea water may die from dehydration when flooded by storm surge. The salt introduced into the difusion driven circulatory system of plants causes water from the cells be pulled out of the cells because of a process called osmosis. When there is a semipermeable barrier separating salt water from fresh water the dynamics of the condition promotes a balance of both sides. The semi permeable cell wall will not let salt in but water can pass freely through in both directions. Therefore water in the cell is depleted in an effort to dilute the salty water. The imbalance is so great that cellular water is exhausted and the plant dies from dehydration. Additionally this introduces plant stress which inhibits photosynthesis and protein synthesis. No synthesis and no water = no growth.
Some places had 4 to 9 feet of water in their living g rooms. If the water had risen two more inches we would have had water in the house. We are thankful that we did not experience the extent of damage shown above.
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The orchids have been very prolific in flower production during the growing season this year. I believe that this was the result of a dedicated automated watering system, consistent generous fertilization, control of direct sunlight and pest control. In addition to the production of flowers, the leaves, air roots and stems have multiplied. This has put some of the plants outside of their designated boxes. The air roots have attached to their boxes, trellis and the wall of the house. The stems have extended themselves into the walking space and often times the blossoms overgrow one another obstructing the view. To bring some order into the orchid garden I tried something new. There are many choices to propagate plants including germination of seeds, plant division and budding/grafting. In this instance I have started two new plants by division. Below is a photo record of the process I followed.
Example one shows a phalaenopsis orchid with devision at a level well above the base of the plant. In this area, at a node, the plant has sprouted a group of air roots and three new leaves. These are substantially separated from the root and leaf ball of the main portion of the plant. Using a razor I sectioned the stem from the base of the plant and trimmed away all remaining portions of the stem system leaving just the roots and leaves.
Example two demonstrates a cattleya orchid. The growth has a clearly defined section with air roots and three leafs at the base of the plant. This area of the Cattleya is relatively new and had a well defined stem. Using a razor blade I sectioned through the stem and removed the segment.
Both new plant segments were placed into appropriately sized boxes with some of the air roots protruding through the wooden slats and gently fastened to the sides of the box for stability. The base of the box was lined with Sphagnum moss and the remainder filled with shredded rubber mulch for stability and appearance. I have found that the rubber mulch retains some moisture but does not decay. This also reduces the possibility of mould and insect growth.
The new specimens were replaced into the orchid garden and will be treated in the usual routine. In time we can check the viability and growth of these new cuttings. If successful, they may provide new blossoms for the next growing season. I feel that the new plants are a return on investment for the good care provided to the orchids.
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Mushrooms are not plants or animals . They have a classification all their own. They are fungi. This is a sample of a local SWFL mushroom that should start a discussion on fungi. The purpose is to provide a vocabulary for description and to show the various forms of these fungi. The growth that is seen above ground typified by this example is the fruit of the fungi. From this fruit spores are shed to facilitate reproduction. Below the ground is the bulk or the working organism. This undergrowth is very extensive in both size and spread. The undergrowth also provides a network of communication for further reproduction and communication with plants that share the same environment. Showed here are both the macroscopic and the microscopic structures.
From this you will also see that fungi are not plants but are a completely different life form. When entering data in the Epicollect5 database be sure to use the fungi classification and not the plant option.
Fungi form a vast, complex part of the floor of the forest, grassland, sloughs and savanas in almost all environments and on all of the continents. Unfortunately they are rarely seen or discussed. I hope that we have the opportunity to explore them in greater detail in the future,
Specifically the four of us are going on a guided safari trip to Kenya and to Botswana. The goal of this trip is multifold. This will be our first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa. We hope to have fun enjoying the experience of the sights and sounds of two very special places at a particular time in Africa. I will collect samples of images and sounds of the animals and plants which we will see on our trip. These will be our special mementos of a very personal experience in two unique eco-systems. I will share with you these images and collected thoughts and relate them to our SWFL environment.
In preparation for our African photo safari some special measures are made. The multiple camp sites are in the wilderness and have no internet connection. We will be on safari for about 18 days. There are no retail outlets for spare parts or camera repair. Therefore, some redundant equipment will be carried. The cost of this excess lies in its weight. We are allowed a total of 33 pounds/person to be carried in soft-sided bags.
Here is most of the camera gear to be taken on safari.
The total weight of this ensemble with back pack and miscellaneous is about 25 pounds. The remaining eight pounds will be for two weeks of clothing, meds, bug repellant, water flask, masks etc. Plastic bags are not allowed. Not inventoried here are protective cases for the camera gear, bubble wrap and styro-pellet camera support bag.
Some desirable equipment will not be available. This includes mono or tripod, additional lenses, audio gear, spotting scope.
All of this will go into an Osprey Stratus 24 back pack. It will go as carry-on for the transoceanic and local flights. In the field the cameras and lenses will be hand carried and a camera vest with pockets will support the in-field small stuff like note pad and pen, batteries, filter, CF cards etc.
I expect that there will be little need for fixed long lenses. The Canon lenses are 28-300 and 100-400. I expect the guides will take us into the bush and trails with close proximity to the wildlife.
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With this season we are nearing the completion of the annual cycle of the flowering trees before departing to Africa and Europe. We started this series in the first week of December of 2021 with Trees of Christmas. It has been a remarkable adventure to learn about and collect images and data for the flowering trees in South West Florida (SWFL). Nearly every hue and chroma of the rainbow has been represented in the flowers ranging from deep indigo to brilliant intense reds. See more details about them on our Epicollect5 website. The trees all have exotic origins from Europe, Africa, India and Central/South America. Perhaps we will find some similar trees in Botswana’s Okavango delta and the plaines of Kenya. If all goes as planned we will be there in August of this year.
The featured image is a Purple Glory.
Many of the Blooming Trees of Late Spring are still in flower and in part include the Royal Poinciana, Jacaranda, Plumeria, and the Mexican Tulip. Missing is the Bauhania which had been blooming since Christmas. It has, at last, given up the last flowers.
Here are the last of the newly blooming trees which I found on my last walk about.
All of these blossoms are found less frequently as the summer progresses. The neighborhoods and wilderness are definitely less colorful. The remaining flowers will probably last for two months. We will look again after returning from the safari. The interesting plants now include palms and pines. Next year adventures will focus on the palm trees more closely showing the varieties of colors, leaf patterns and fruiting bodies. We will finish the series by making the autumnal blossoms posting during the end of October.
After returning from Africa I hope to post a number of articles comparing the landscape, water features, plants and animals to those in SWFL. I expect these to be very interesting and hope that you are also interested.
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The Mottled Ducks which we described earlier in our pond departed for the north, however, there are captive ducks which are noteworthy. My favorite is the Mandarin Duck(Aix galericulata). They are originally from Asia and are very colorful. Perhaps they were named after the elite Chinese former imperial civil service. The name Mandarin may actually be derived from Portuguese.
I saw these in Central Park on Manhattan 45 years ago when I was working at the Sloan Kettering Institute. I was so surprised by their rich color. Due to the female’s lack of vibrant color I did not recognize them. The Mandarin ducks shown here are at the Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, FL. They are fun to watch and I was allowed to enter the restricted area with staff help to make these photographs.
There is an extensive complex history of traditional formal clothing in China. They were not only fashionable, but also highly regulated by the Manchu who conquered the Han, but were eventually assimilated by them. The Qizhuang design was originally developed to facilitate horse riding and archery. It evolved over the 4000-year history of Manchu influence on the Han and Qing dynasties. It is a highly stylized formal clothing form worn in multiple variations by both men and women. They can be remarkably ornate and colorful.
I really paid attention to the Plumeria when we visited Hawaii 25 years ago. The flowers are used to make leis as a garland worn around the neck especially during a greeting ceremony. There are alternate names for the plants. A common name is “frangipani”. The scientific name is Plumeria Apocyanacea. The following adage apples to my experience in finding them in Florida. “If you don’t look for them you don’t see them”. While biking I noticed a tree that was remarkable for its lack of leaves and flowers. Now my eyes are open and I see them everywhere. Plumeria plants are native to Mexico and Central America.
In the fall the tree starts out with a very unbecoming aspect. It seems to be from another planet. I wondered why anyone would have such a strange looking tree dominating their front yard. Check out previous references to these trees in this blog Blooming Trees of Spring and Trees of Christmas.
In mid summer the Plumeria are in full color and the trees are spectacular. The trees that I found here are better than the trees which is saw in Hawaii. They thrive in the heat and full sunlight therefore many of the transient winter visitors may never see the blossoms.
As you would expect with a name of Apocyanacea, the sap of the plant is toxic.
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Is a palm tree not a tree? In categorizing plants and animals for the Everglades Ark Epicollect5 data base I was conflicted in assigning the characteristics of trees to palms. I have called them palm trees forever but they really look different from oak, olive or other trees. Checking out the definition of a tree resulted in an ambiguous answer.
Featured image: In a spin about palms
Definition of tree: From a technical standpoint, palms fit American Forests’ current definition of trees, as they are woody plants with an erect perennial stem or trunk, at least 9.5 inches in circumference at 4.5 feet above the ground. They also have a definitively formed crown of foliage and a height of at least 13 feet.
This still didn’t satisfy my curiosity. I still wondered why they were so different. Here are photographs of tree aspects to show the physical differences:
Tree landscape view
Photomicrograph of leaves
Common biology of both di and mono cotyledonous plants. Both have chloroplasts for metabolism and stoma
Tree cross sections
Tree behavior to injury
There is no mechanism for healing in palm trees.
All dicots have five petals to their flowers
Here is a list tabulating differences in the characteristics between the tree types.
shallow multiple small distributed
deep, branching with tap root
the trunk is actually the stem which bends
veins beginatthebase, run parallel to the length of the leaf, stoma on upper leaf surface
central veins with multiple arborizations to leaf periphery, stoma on lower side of leaf
stumps of old growth leaves, no structured interior wood
specialized bark covering wood
fibrous without annular rings
woody, highly structured interior nutrient flow system
Comparison of plant distinguishing characteristics
A palm tree is really a palm grass.1 They are monocotyledons. Genetically they are similar to other grasses like bamboo. They are resistant to storm damage fracture because of their lack of a woody interior structure but are more subject to uprooting because of their shallow roots.
Grasses are flowering plants that are members of the monocot class that also include corn, rice, lilies, orchids and palms. Now that I understand what a palm is I can more freely post palm types, flowers and fruits. Later I will show the microscopic view of tree anatomy pointing out differences between monocots and dicots.
This subject opens a wide spectrum of ideas regarding plants. We have already broached the idea of cotyledons. There is much more to explore including the microscopic examination of cross sections of plants and their appendages or stems, roots and flowers as well as angiosperms vs gymnosperms and the role of sexual vs asexual reproduction and seed development.
The micrographs shown here are all done with simple direct bright field and transmitted light. Just wait until we get into cross sectional, stained, transmitted plane, and polarized light illumination!
These Mottled Ducks (Anas fulvigula) are commonly found in my back yard. They are spring residents in most of the local ponds of the community. They are fun to watch especially when the chicks follow the hen. Sometimes these birds are difficult to photograph because they are always on the look out for the Red Hawk which resides near by. The featured photograph is a mated Mottled Duck couple with female on left male on right.
These mottled ducks are very similar to the Mallard ducks in Michigan with which I am familiar. They are easily distinguished by the yellow bill.
Mottled Ducks form pair which bonds earlier than most other duck species. They typically pair in November well before the breeding season which starts the following spring. Male Mottled Ducks tend to remain with their mate well into the incubation period and sometimes later.
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The solution for low production is: light control, frequent water, fertilizer and pest control.
I worked diligently to encourage the orchids to grow this year because of the very poor performance of the last three years. Until last November all 12 of the vandas died. We explored the use of soap applied to control pests. The cattleya stopped all activity and what was left were leafless vertical branches. The phalaenopsis bloomed but minimally. In the face of this discouraging result I developed a new strategy. I gathered all of the plants in a protected but bright area in the courtyard with no direct sunlight and no rain. I replumbed the area to allow a garden hose attachment. I installed a timed, directed mist water spray system and I began an aggressive fertilization program. I used a soap spray to reduce the probability of pest growth. The results were prolific beyond my expectations! All of the plants grew doubling the size of the plants with new stems and leaves. In the home courtyard there are 20 phalaenopsis and 13 cattleya orchids. Most of the season has favored the phalaenopsis species where the plants have simultaneously provided at least 145 blossoms with a maximum production of over 220 during the three months. The cattleya have been growing but less prolifically with episodic blooming from some plants yielding about 30 blooms. They may still produce for the next two months. The cover picture is a cattleya with its second yield this season.
The plants were watered with an automated misting system timed to 5 minutes on alternate days. They have been generously fertilized on alternate weeks. The first blooms came in early February and have persisted until now where I expect all to be lost in the next two to three weeks. The peak blooming period was one week before Easter (approximately March 14).
The Price of Production:
Now that the wet season has begun the watering is reduced and just in time. One plant has its first outbreak of mealy bugs (Coccoidea). These showed up on the crotons on the other side of the yard about two weeks earlier. I removed the crotons from the yard and sprayed them with an insecticidal soap. None the less here we are with an infection showing up on two of the phalaenopsis plants.
I first cut away one leaf that was highest infected and explored the specimen using the microscope. After identifying bugs accurately as mealy bugs. I treated all surfaces of the plants and the surface soil with a thorough spray of 70% alcohol.1 Orchids have succulent leaves and tolerated this treatment. After the alcohol evaporated I followed up with a spray of insecticidal soap.
Plan for next season:
I think this has been a fair trade. Pest control is necessary to counteract the high fertilizer and water schedule. The ants are attracted by the mealybugs’ sugar, therefore, lowering the bug population will lower the attraction of the ants and reduce the spread of bugs. For the summer I have reset the watering timer lowering the watering rate. This is for two reasons. The plants have recovered from their earlier experiences and are now lush. The rainy season will begin soon with humid days. I also reduced the fertilizer concentration but I keep the same schedule. The plants need to rest. This will reduce the growth of the bugs. I will continue the alcohol and soap on scheduled basis to kill any remaining bugs before and during their next hatch. For next season I will Introduce new plants into the colony including dendrobium and cattleya orchids.
There are a few stragglers from the early spring flowering trees. See the previous post on Spring tree blossoms. We now have a new collection of flowering trees that have captured my attention because of their spectacular blooms. These trees are not seen by the seasonally migrating residents nor by the tourists because they have returned home to their residences in the northern States. These are the next group of trees preparing for the new summer season.
I have included five flowering trees present along the streets of the city of Naples. It is difficult to express the overwhelming verdant, colorful canopies stretched over the avenues. A later post will specialize on plumeria varieties.
The cover image is a sample of a Southern Magnolia showing the leaf, bud, blossom and seed pod.
There is a constant change in tree blooms throughout the year here in SWFL. The beauty and adventure of discovery adds delight in the journey. This is the third in a continuing series of blooming trees. All of these are located on the Everglades Ark Epicollect5 data base.
Thanks for your interest. I hope that you enjoy the trip through my eyes. Look for the Plumeria show in a post that is still to come. “Like” if you like it. Comment as you wish.
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3 responses to “Wild African Predators and Their Cousins In Florida”
That was a fascinating article! I had no idea that those animals slept most of the day. Thanks for sharing.
When visiting the Zoo I have a better appreciation why the animals are sleeping and just hanging out most of the time. It is just their nature to do so.
[…] The featured image is a male lion, “King of the beasts”. See our previous post on African Predators. […]