A blog about what I love….photography and bicycles!

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An egg, some interesting portraits and a beautiful butterfly

I have, for a while now, been photographing butterfly eggs with my MPE 65. The most recent egg that I have done is that of the Banana nightfighter, Moltena fiara. This egg was found on the leaf of the host plant, Striletzia nicholai, here in my Wembley garden. It never ceases to amaze me how beautifully structural these eggs are with the ribbing to add support and allow a thinner wall.

M fiara

These next two portraits of a fly and an antlion were great fund to do, just battled with the DOF.

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Finally, a while back I noticed this mint Colotes annae annae (Scarlet Tip) male in the garden. I never thought that I would see one here as this is a bushveld bug but here it is feeding on my Pentis!

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Damsels, flies and portraits

This Christmas holiday has been great fun chasing things and getting used to the MPE 65. I have always wanted to shoot those classic portraits of insects and finally for to this holiday. Here are three portraits and a less “macro” shot. Again these were all taken with the MPE 65 and MT24EX setup attached to the Canon.

The first photograph is a fly.
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Fly portrait
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Damsel portrait
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A second damsel portrait
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A day in the Kranskloof Nature Reserve (Part 1)

Three weeks ago Steve Woohall, Chairman of the Lepidopterists Society of Africa (www.lepsoc.org.za), organised a day trip to the Kranskloof Nature Reserve in Durban.  He invited me along.  I have to say that I have always been someone who would rather fly solo, I love being around people but when it comes to working on butterflies I prefer to work alone.  I agreed to attend.  I got to Kranskloof early and, on arriving at the car park, noticed that there were a load of folks there already.  I recognised a few people (some work colleagues, others butterfly mates) and started chatting with them and new folks.  I met Ryan Edwards, one of our environmental lads who had recently moved to our PMB office and is a very keen and talented photographer, Kevin Cockburn, Greytown based Lepsoc seniority very keen and knowledgable butterflier and super bloke to spend “bush time” with, Rob Dickinson, a very interesting and interested bloke who travels Africa in his professional capacity and has a very keen interest in all things small (have to add great company and no slouch with the camera!!), Steve Woodhall, “nuff said”, and a large group of interested and interesting people.

I made it known that I had little time on the day (as I had to study etc) and Steve graciously suggested that I walk ahead and do what I had to.  We all drove to a lower car park and while waiting Rob D suggested that he and I move down to a nearby stream to look for damselflies.  He noted that he has done very well there recently.  If he had done better than we did in the 10 minuted that we were there then well done Rob.  It was very rewarding with many damselflies being photographed.

After a brief period photographing the damsels we had to move off to the real focus, Charaxes karkloof karkloof, the Karkloof Charaxes.  My old mate Wolter Kaspers had found them in the area 20 years ago and I had found them there regularly, most recently two years ago with Steve and Co.

This first part of the blog covers the walk to the Ch karkloof spot.  The walk is short and very quick through typical coastal bush.  Here are a few butterfly photos………

Pseudagrion hageni, Hagens Sprite.  Photographed with Rob Dickinson at the Kranskloof Nature Reserve.

Chilades trochylus, the Grass Jewel, a very pretty little Lyceanid.

Hypolyceana philippus philippus, the Purple-brown Hairstreak.  Rather lovely!

Euchrysops barkeri, Barkers Smokey Blue.

Colotes erone, The Coastal Purple Tip, Male.  This has to be one of my favourite “Tips”

Colotes erone, The Coastal Purple Tip, female, feeding on Leonotis sp

Colotes erone, The Coastal Purple Tip, female

The next part………………part 2 covering larvae, Charaxes and things will be posted shortly.


The miracle that is a butterfly….

 I have, over the last 20 years, bred many thousands of butterflies and am always blown away by the metamorphosis of lavae through pupa to butterfly.  I am currently breeding about 5 species.  A while ago I posted the life history of one of our Hairtails (Anthene).  Two days ago I discovered the larvae of our African Monarch, Danaus chrysippus aegyptius, feasting on my Stapeliads.  After a bit of a look I found a pupa colouring up.  I had great fun photographing the larvae, pupae and emerged adult.  So, not to bore you all with test, here are some of the photographs.

Final instar larva of Danaus chrysippus aegyptius (The Arfican Monarch) feasting on the leaves of Stapelia hirsuta, a carrion plant from the Eastern Cape.  The egg of this larva was laid, and initially fed on Adenium multiflorum (The Impala Lily) but went onto the Stapeliad when it has flattened the Adenium.  The larva is brightly coloured as a warning to birds that it is poisonous.

Pupa of D chrysippus aegyptius colouring up.  Note the wings, abdomen, eyes and antannae clearly visible.

Male D chrysippus aegyptius newly emerged from pupa.

Male D chrysippus aegyptius f. liboria, side view.

Male D chrysippus aegyptius f. liboria upper side.


A dash up the Bushmans Neck

A few weeks ago I sent an email out to my friends inviting them to join me on a dash up Bushmans Neck to photograph Chrysoritis orientalis.  A lot of interest and very little commitment was shown as the hill is very steep.  Eventually two of us went.  My old mate Clive Curtis, a professional hunter who can walk for a week before he starts panting and myself.  I collected Clive at 05h30 from his house and we headed to Bushmans Neck.  After a very misty drive we signed in at the Ezemvelo Gate and started the walk.

The path to the colony goes straight up the main ridge above the hotel, it is very steep and in some places precipitous on either side.  On the way up we came across a small colony of Aloeides oreas.  One particulary fresh male allowed us time to photograph him. 

  Clive has started a stock video company (linked to his hunting video business http://www.safari-vision.com/) and was able to get a lot of footage of this little chap.  From here (about half was up) we dashed to the top.  It took spot on an hour from the car park to the colony.  I have visited the colony on a number of occations.  Some on my own, once with Clive (where we had to sprint off the hill to avoid the huge lightning storm that appeared from Lesotho) and also once with Alan Heath where I found the larvae and Alan was able to breed the insect.  Needless to say we walked the colony flat.  We saw one very ropey female and nothing else.  I suggest that we were far to late for the brood and should head up there again in October and November next year.  That said we found two colonies of rocksitters on top.  The species amakosa of the genus Durbania has been split into a number of subspecies.  I collected a number of specimens from this locality 16 years ago and showed them to Steve Woodhall.  They were nothing like our local insect, Durbania amakosa natalensis.  I thought they were closer to the nominate amakosa however the red/orange patterning on the wings was far more extensive.  Since then we have bred them from three localities and I am fairly sure now that they deserve subspecific status.  Anyway, here are two males found in the upper colonies.

Again Clive got loads of footage of these.  We then set off down the hill to see what we could find in the Proteas.  Not long after entering the Protea stand we cam accross a male Capys alpheas, a butterfly whose larvae feed on the flower heads of Proteas.  In the Proteas we also found more rocksitters.  Further down the hill we came across a number of skippers.  Spialia skippers have always confused me and here we had two of the 10 odd species.  Anyway, I got home and IDed them (with confirmation from Steve Woodhall and skipper guru Johan Greyling).  We found two, Spialia mafa and S asteroidia.  I got a number of photos and Clive some video footage.

And finally a few candid shots of Clive photograhing the Spialia int he photograph above and on the walk home.

We got to the bottom absolutely famished and Clive treated me to lunch preceded by a iced lolly, one of those lollies where the packet should read “defrost and add 5l of water”, it was sweet but exactly what we needed.  The usual conversation on the way home was a little less enthusiastic than usual as we were both rather tired.  It is a hard climb and my cycling legs struggled!!


Decembers invited artist

Things have been pretty wild for the last few weeks getting the Agric Hall going anf people have been asking me whats happening for December.  Well December is here and the first person who will be in for the period Dec/Jan is Steve Bailey.  Steve is an award winning Eastern Cape based photographer.  A brief bio follows as do a number of photographs but please visit Steve site www.stevebailey.co.za for more information.

This December we hope to see Allen Hallett return to the Kiln after a very successful exhibition in Gaborone.

An now a brief bio :

“Steve Bailey was born in Liverpool, England and moved to Southern Africa when he was 10.
He has always had a passion for Photography – eventually studying Graphics/Photography, obtaining a City and Guilds Diploma in Graphic Reproduction.
He spent 25 years in Zimbabwe before moving to Cape Town, South Africa. He is now resident in Bedford in the Eastern Cape”, and a few photographs…..

  


Bikes, crashes, chapels and welcoming the cold front

I started this blog 6 months ago to talk bugs, macro photography and cycling. To date there has been no cycling. Here we go then……………We woke up at 6, got the cycling gear and bikes together and headed to the Garden of Eden parking spot on the N2 toward Plettenberg Bay. We got to the spot, sighned the register and had a quick ride around the board walk through the Garden of Eden before heading onto the Harkerville Red Route. The terrain was easy, but gritty with lots of decomposed sandstone. The night before had seen Mike chuckling at my back tyre, a 1.9’ Maxxis Mimo, I said it was OK but was to eat humble pie as within 5 minutes I crashed hard when everything washing away under me leaving me with a bruised hip (and ego). The Red route is wonderful. Approximately 10km of it is indigenous forest single track (read that loads of roots), about 10km is coastal fynbos single track and the balance logging roads and jeep track. The route is not as technical as the ones we have here in KZN, no massive drop offs or wild rock gardens but there is a lot of loose gravel and roots to make you keep your wits about you. It was a great mornings riding and some of the best riding I have done. This is Mecca. Attached is a map and ride long section.

Harkerville Red Route

Harkerville long section

 

The rest of the day was spent on the beach or at the famous red bridge with Mikes sons (Nick and Chris and fiend Nick2) and daughter (Robyn Anne) bailing off the bridge. The two elder Nicks are climbers and do a lot of slack lining. A bit of time was also spent discussing Physic 101 and the forces involved in slack lining. Day two started wet and miserable and Tracey took us up to Diepwalle, on the way to Uniondale. The plan was to ride the logging roads as far as the Garden of Eden and then ride back to Knysna along the N2. The ride started wet, it gradually dried out and we had a superb ride, I stayed on the bike and got home in one piece. Attached is a photo (stitch of three) taken with Mikes Blackberry.The Santa Cruz blur on the right is his.

Diepwalle to Garden of Eden Cysle route

After finishing the ride we had a fairly chilled lunch and then headed to Belvedere and Brenton. Belvedere was great and we visited the very pretty Belvedere chapel. The chapel was built by the Bishop of Cape Town, the very same man who founded the famous Bishops School. After Belvedere we went to Brenton beach. I had hope to see the Brenton Blue (Orachrysops niobe) but was told that I was out of season so we went to the beach and played touch rugby.

Belvedere Chapel

Belvedere Chapel

From Howick to Knysna via potholes, passes, plains and ridiculously expensive pasta dishes.

 

Day one, the trip from Howick to Smithfield started well. Three girls and their kit, Tracey and hers and then me (complete with Bike and photography gear) set off in the Colt. An early start saw us getting up the Oliviershoek Pass and to the approach to Golden Gate early. Despite a few (banned) articulated truck crashes on the winding road to Golden Gate it was uneventful. We drove through the beautiful area that Tracey, Isabelle and I had last visited 10 years ago. We lunched in Clarens, a beautiful little town in the Eastern Free State that has grown incredibly fast and then headed off to Smithfield. This was to prove a little more difficult than expected the first 100 or so kms to the Maseru turn off were great but the rest of the drive was sump crushing potholes and road works. We got to Smithfield late and booked into our bed and breakfast, the Bomakierie owned and run by local artist Peter Retief and his wife. The sons both went to Grey Bloem High School so we had lots of rugby to chat about. It always amazes me that all of the people who have been to the likes of Queens, Grey, Hilton etc, no matter the generation, have so much in common that there never is a quiet moment. We went to a local eatery, rather inappropriately name Pigout. The food was fantastic but horrendously priced. I was told that the prices were similar to the cities but unfortunately have to add that the portions were small and similar food in Cape Town or Durban would cost 60 to 70% of what we were charged.
Next day we headed to Knysna. I was familiar with the countryside up to Smithfield and Colesberg but had not travelled the Kamdeboo and Outeniqua areas for years. On the way to Colesberg we stopped off at the Gariep Dam (old H F Vervoerd). The largest dam south of Kariba it is very impressive. I took the girls over the wall stopped at the lookout and then headed to Colesberg and eventually Graaf Reinet through Karroo rain storms. After all the rather grubby, sad little towns Graaf Reinet was a pleasure. Well groomed gardens, lovely houses and the most beautiful well kept churches around. Anyone visiting the area should over night and the photographic potential of the area and town is incredible. I was particularly excited to drive through the area as I had just read Eve Palmers “The Plains of the Camdeboo” and wanted to see the area again.
The last part of the trip via Aberdeen and Uniondale was awesome. Long stretches of flat country followed by the Outeniquas. We were warned that the Prince Albert Pass was slow but having travelled through the Swartberg a number of times I suspected it would be spectacular. We got to Uniondale, approximately 80kms from Knysna and headed into the hills. The pass, built by mater road builder Thomas Baines well over 100 years ago is a masterpiece of engineering through massive hills and valleys. At times there was no space for cars to pass and a drop of 50m next to you. The Ericas and Proteas were in flower and I saw a number of Dira clytus flying (at this point I must add that, as driver, I was advised to spend a little less time watching the fauna and flora and more time keeping the car on the road). The Poort was spectacular, massive folded sandstone buttresses, narrow roads, cliffs, setting sun……beautiful. We found a little hamlet in a secluded valley about half way through and have attached a few shots below. I have no idea what people do here but I am sure it is a very peaceful place to live (by the look of some of the locals it was extremely peaceful and assisted with some local floral produce).

Prince Albert House 2

Prince Albert House

Pan view of the Outeniquas

 
The final drive to Knysna was down the dirt roads from the Buffels forestry to Diepvalle, past the big tree parking, all through indigenous bush and very beautiful. At this point though it was getting dark, the girls were getting tired and we were very happy to get to Knysna. We met our friends, Mike and Lee-Anne Hyslop and their children and guests at their house on Leasure Isle unpacked and settled down to a braai and a few cold beers. Plans for the next day started with a Harkerville bike ride. Something that I have looked forward to for a long time.


Back at Highmoor

 

The last few weeks have been rather hectic with me getting back to studying after not having done so for 20 years. Despite having to spend a lot of time reading we were able to get away to the Drakensberg for the mid term break. We went up to Highmoor again, the same place as we went for New Year and again went with our friends Craig and Bernie Elmer-English and their girls. We went up on Friday afternoon and were greeted by rain and hail. This was a concern as we had nearly dissolved in the rain over new year. It was not a problem though, it cleared up and we had two great days in the mountains. The Saturday started early with me heading up to the trout dams at dawn to try my hand at panorama shots of the Giants Castle. I took a number of pans and singletons and two are shown below. The first is a 5 landscape pano.

Giants Castle Panorama

Later in the day I went looking for Protea flowers. During December the low growing Protea dracomontanum and P simplex were flowering. This time the P roupelliae and P subvistita were out. Both are tree Proteas and seeing them on flower was great.

On Sunday we all went off to the higher trout dams for a picnic before heading home. I wanted to photograph the damselflies that I had seen there in January as well as the little frog in the area. It was cloudy but we found the damsels, the flogs and even a few butterflies.


Becoming amphibious in the Drakensberg!!

This New Year we decided to go to Highmoor in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg with our friends, the Elmer-English’s. Neither of our families had ever been to Highmoor before, so we were all very exited at the prospect of a new place in the ‘berg, and only an hours drive from Howick.  Highmoor is situated just south of Giants Castle. We left on New Years Eve. The Ex2’s loaded up to the gunnels and ourselves in the Colt with a trailer bursting. 
It was a short drive, only an hour, but the last 10kms were breathtaking, driving up into the Highmoor area along steep passes.
 

Photograph up toward Highmoor from half way up the road from Cleopatras.

We arrived at our camp site and noticed immediately that the clouds were gathering. No sooner had we set up camp and started our fire, than the rain started. Craig tried very hard to keep the fire going by standing over it with an umbrella, but it was all in vain, with 100mm falling in about 6 hours during a fairly spectacular thunderstorm. We turned in early and were woken to the sounds of Auld lang syne and partying at midnight as other, braver campers celebtrated the New Year.

We were woken by the sound of a waterfall some 1000m away!! says a lot for the amount of rain that had fallen. In the morning it was gloomy and very windy, but the day did brighten significantly. Craig and I decided to ride to Cleopatra Country House and back.  Getting there was easy but the 450m climb back in 6 kms is quite character building. That night was good with little rain. The next day things were different. I was able to head out early and take some pictures. A few of the early morning ones are below…

View toward Nottingham Road from Highmoor

 

Giants Castle from above Highmoor camp site

and then we went down the road and the girls swam in natural pools in the river.  I was able to photograph a number of plants and insects.  Some of them are below…

Z microsiphon

Allocnemis leucosticta, The Goldtail, a damsel fly found along the rivers in the area.

 

 

Protea drocomontanum, the Drakenberg Sugar Bush

 Soon, however, we noticed the clouds coming in again and had to retreat back up the hill to our camp. It was serious as a massive storm started and we sat in our car for two and a half hours while it banged away (we later heard that six people were killed by lightning in the nearby region!!).  This is what it looked like before it all started.

The quiet before (all hell broke loose)