Category Archives: Environment

Bountiful Butterfly Garden

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

As summer draws to a close, our neighborhood butterfly garden is now a flowering paradise finally crowded with bugs and animals. During June, July and August, the garden reminded me of a dinner party where few of the guests showed up, despite the mass of plants that bloomed all summer. We did get a lot of rabbits, who found the young plants very tasty and ate them almost to the dirt.  Joan, one of the hardest working neighborhood gardeners, built cages around the tender coneflowers and tropical milkweed plants so that they’d have a chance to provide food for other animals, and of course to be beautiful for our enjoyment.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

I’ve seen many types of butterflies in the garden this week.  The two species I plant specifically for are the Monarch Butterfly and the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.  We plant food plants for the caterpillars and lots of flowering plants that butterflies and other pollinating insects prefer for nectar. For Black Swallowtail caterpillars, we plant bronze fennel and parsley. Monarch Butterfly caterpillars will only eat milkweed, and they sometimes are picky about which kind of milkweed.  Tropical milkweed is the most popular milkweed in our Kansas City area garden, and it has lovely scarlet and yellow flowers, too. Unfortunately, it’s an annual in our climate so it has to be re-planted every spring. I buy my plants from Monarch Watch on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas, at their plant sale in May. Monarch Watch sells a lot of plants for butterflies and other pollinators.  Their butterfly garden is worth visiting.  They also have an open house in September every year.

Protecting and fostering pollinators is good for the environment and for our food supply. A large percentage of our food plants must be pollinated to produce a crop. On a recent visit to the garden, a ruby-throated hummingbird whizzed by me. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, which are also pollinators, also visit the feeder at my house.

The Monarch butterfly population is in serious decline, so I would encourage everyone with a yard to plan a butterfly garden.  To find out more click on this link: Monarch Watch.

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn't provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn’t provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

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Filed under Butterflies, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography

Great Blue Heron at Watts Mill Waterfall

   A Great Blue Heron watches for fish at the base of a waterfall at the Watts Mill Historic Site in Kansas City, Missouri.

A Great Blue Heron watches for fish at the base of a waterfall at the Watts Mill Historic Site in Kansas City, Missouri.

I’ve driven by the Watts Mill Historic Site a thousand times. Although it’s somewhat hidden,  it’s across from where I bought groceries for many years and down the street from my stylist’s former salon. I’d picked up my husband many times at the nearby car dealer when he was getting his car serviced. Favorite restaurants were nearby. How could I have missed this idyllic spot? I even knew about it. I just didn’t realize how peaceful and lovely it would be, nestled as it is among shopping centers and car dealerships.

My friend Lynn and I were on a photography expedition, and she pulled into the parking lot to check out the falls for a photography opportunity. We’ve had a lot of rain, so the water was really flowing.

The park, at 103rd and State Line, was a campsite for people heading out on the Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails. The area that is now a park was the site of gristmill, built in 1832, known as Watts Mill (first known as Fitzhugh’s Mill), and then Watts Mill. The park is situated on the banks of Indian Creek where the creek flows across flat rocks and tumbles over a waterfall. This location was dedicated June 10, 1974, as a historic site.

Also enjoying the creek were plenty of Canada geese and mallard ducks, as well as songbirds.

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North America and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galapagos Islands.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Environment, History, Kansas City

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Galapagos Islands Tourists

Tourists at a Tortoise Sanctuary in the Galapagos Islands.

A Galapagos Giant Tortoise retreats into his shell as tourists in another group gather in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands to learn more about this magnificent creature.

I visited the islands with my family in April 2015, and we toured the highlands was our first day.  It was truly thrilling to see these giant tortoises in their natural environment. I remember seeing one in a zoo when I was a child. Children even rode them (I think I even did), which is a bad idea, and of course no longer allowed. They aren’t afraid of humans, but do make a chuffing noise if you startle them.

The nasty little fire ant has invaded the Galapagos Islands.  Here's a fire ant hill in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos.   The ants found me before I found them, unfortunately.  There are efforts in the Galapagos to rid the islands of invasive species, which have caused great damage to the native animals and plants.

The nasty little fire ant has invaded the Galapagos Islands. Here’s a fire ant hill in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos. The ants found me before I found them, unfortunately. There are efforts in the Galapagos to rid the islands of invasive species, which have caused great damage to the native animals and plants.

The tourists in the pictured group are wisely wearing rubber boots. Our guide offered us boots, too, but I was happy wearing my comfortable “sporty” flip flops, relieved to let my feet breathe after a long trip.  Bad idea.  I successfully evaded puddles and tortoise poop, but I stepped right onto an ant hill teeming with fire ants, an invasive species in the Galapagos. This was within two hours of my arrival on the island of Santa Cruz. I got about six painful, itchy stings on my toes. I’m no stranger to fire ants, so I know enough to wear closed shoes in grassy areas in Texas, but I wasn’t prepared for the little devils in the Galapagos.

Galapagos is an old Spanish word for tortoise. The signs at this ranch warn visitors not to feed or touch the “galapagos.” The tortoises are now more commonly known as “tortuga” in Spanish. (At the bottom of this post is a link explaining how the islands were named.)  The Galapagos Island archipelago has been described as one of most scientifically important and biologically outstanding areas on earth, according to UNESCO in 2001.  My week there was amazing, wonderful and incredible, despite fire ants (and various other mishaps.)

Galapagos Giant Tortoise Poster

This Giant Galapagos Tortoise paused to give us a questioning look as he crossed the road in front of our car in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. He is king in this place! (Or perhaps she is queen!)

Baby Galapagos Giant Tortoise Postcard

A yearling baby Galapagos Giant Tortoise, being raised at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. Introduced predators threaten the eggs and young of the Giant Tortoise, so tortoise eggs are gathered, hatched and reared at the station.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Wise old Galapagos Giant Tortoise.

About the Galapagos Islands.

How the Galapagos Islands Were Named.

The Difference Between Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins.

About Lonesome George.

GIANT TORTOISE FACTS: The Galapagos tortoise or Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise and the 14th-heaviest living reptile. Modern giant tortoises can weigh up to 5oo pounds (250 kg); even larger versions, now extinct, roamed every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Today, they exist only the Galapagos Islands, and Aldabra in the Indian Ocean. The tortoise is native to seven of the Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago about 620 miles (more than 1,000 kilometers) west of the Ecuadorian mainland. With life spans in the wild of over 100 years, it is one of the longest-lived vertebrates. One of the most famous was “Lonesome George,” who died in 2012, the last Pinta Island Tortoise.

Shell size and shape vary between populations. On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed shells and short necks – on islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with “saddleback” shells and long necks. Charles Darwin’s observations of these differences on the second voyage of the Beagle in 1835, contributed to the development of his theory of evolution. Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970s. This decline was caused by exploitation of the species for meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and introduction of non-native animals to the islands, such as rats, goats, and pigs. Conservation efforts, beginning in the 20th century, have resulted in thousands of captive-bred juveniles being released onto their ancestral home islands, and it is estimated that the total number of the species exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century. Despite this rebound, the species as a whole is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Environment, National Parks, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Travel

The Rainmaker in San Diego

“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”  Mark Twain made famous this quote by his writer friend Charles Dudley Warner.

According to an account in Wikipedia, the citizens of San Diego so appreciated Warner’s flattering description of their city in his book, Our Italy, that they named three consecutive streets in the Point Loma neighborhood after him: Charles Street, Dudley Street, and Warner Street.

Interestingly, San Diego leaders later proved Dudley’s quote wrong by actually hiring someone to change their weather.  In 1915, the San Diego area was suffering a drought.  They asked Charles Mallory Hatfield to produce rain to fill the Morena Dam Reservoir. Hatfield, who was from the San Diego area, had already achieved some acclaim for bringing rain to other areas, including Los Angeles. Hatfield was a “pluviculturist,” a fancy term for rainmaker.  By 1902, he had created a secret mixture of 23 chemicals in large galvanized evaporating tanks that, he claimed, attracted rain. (He took this recipe to the grave.) Hatfield called himself a “moisture accelerator.”

The Original Rainmaker, Charles Mallory Hatfield was hired to cure California's drought.

The Original Rainmaker, Charles Mallory Hatfield was hired to cure California’s drought.

A Kansas native, but raised in California, Hatfield traveled western North America promising to bring rain to areas suffering a drought.  One of his biggest “successes” was San Diego, although he didn’t get paid because he “created” too much rain and was lucky he didn’t have to pay for damages.  Hatfield was hired by the city to fill the reservoir, which was only a third full.  Not long after he set up his apparatus filled with his secret chemical connection, it began to rain, and eventually the reservoir was filled  to overflowing and other areas flooded.  At least 20 people were drowned.

It’s likely the rain wasn’t the result of Hatfield’s efforts, but it was certainly a coincidence that more rain fell than usual.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rain is most likely in November through March, with January, on average, measuring 2.28 inches.  NOAA didn’t mention January 1916 as being particularly rainy, though. When I visited my daughter in Huntington Beach, California, in January 2010, we had several days of perfect weather during which we watched a surfing competition and then a couple of days of really hard rain and high winds, something I’m no stranger to in Kansas, but golly, I came to California for the sun!  There was even a small tornado on the beach, which flipped over a car. (Click the link to my “Outgunned” post at the bottom of this post to see surfing competition photos.)

This car flipped over in a Long Beach, California, tornado in january 2010.

This car flipped over in a Long Beach, California, tornado in January 2010.

From the text associated with the YouTube video above about Charles Mallory Hatfield: “In 1915 the San Diego city council, pressured by the San Diego Wide Awake Improvement Club, approached Hatfield to produce rain to fill the Morena Dam reservoir. Hatfield offered to produce rain for free, then charge $1,000 per inch ($393.7 per centimetre) for between forty to fifty inches (1.02 to 1.27 m) and free again over fifty inches (1.27 m). The council voted four to one for a $10,000 fee, payable when the reservoir was filled. Hatfield, with his brother, built a 20-foot (6 m) tower beside Lake Morena and was ready early in the New Year.

On January 5, 1916 heavy rain began – and grew gradually heavier day by day. Dry riverbeds filled to the point of flooding. Worsening floods destroyed bridges, marooned trains and cut phone cables – not to mention flooding homes and farms. Two dams, Sweetwater Dam and one at Lower Otay Lake, overflowed. Rain stopped January 20 but resumed two days later. On January 27 Lower Otay Dam broke, increasing the devastation and reportedly causing about 20 deaths (accounts vary on the exact number).”

Despite Hatfield’s flood, San Diego is said to have one of the most ideal climates in the world.  When I learned that my paternal grandparents lived in the San Diego area in the 1920s, I took an interest in the area’s history.  My grandfather Jack Sherman was a civil engineer surveying projects there, including orchards. My grandparents left California when my father and his two sisters were still young, returning to the Sturgis, South Dakota, where my grandmother’s parents owned a hotel. My grandmother missed home and her mother was sick, but when I first heard about that, I thought, leave sunny southern California, hmmm?  They had good reasons to leave. In addition to my maternal great-grandmother’s poor health, my grandparents’ Escondido house had burned down after a worker knocked over a lantern, but the Black Hills of South Dakota are cold! Of course, had they stayed, my parents wouldn’t have met, and I wouldn’t be telling this story.
My blog post on the Surfing Competition called “Outgunned.” My lens envy.
Wikipedia History of Charles Mallory Hatfield.
San Diego History Journal Biography of Charles Mallory Hatfield.
Charles Hatfield is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.
Southern California Tornado in January 2010.

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Filed under Environment, History, Journalism, Life

Elephants in the Mist

In the video above, about two dozen elephants move quickly and silently through the forests in MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa on their way into Kruger National Park in January 2013 (Video by Mike L).

On a misty morning in January 2013, our group climbed into a Land Rover for a game drive through MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa.   January is one of the rainiest months in this area of South Africa.  That morning, we were lucky that it was only sporadically sprinkling.  Birds were calling, but it was otherwise very quiet except for the rumble of the Land Rover’s engine.  We never knew what we’d see.  There was a surprise around every bend in the road. That morning we’d already seen a pride of lions lounging by a creek bed after a night of feasting (We’d seen some of the feasting, too).

We rumbled along, feeling raindrops, scanning through the trees and in the clearings.   Then we saw an elephant.   Soon more appeared.  About two dozen elephants of all sizes were moving very quickly in a line in the morning’s mist.  The herd made no sound. A few elephants grabbed small leafy limbs to eat as they passed through the forest.  It was an awe-inspiring sight. We watched them for about ten minutes until they disappeared into Kruger National Park.

Moses, our guide, explained that the elephants could walk so silently because their circular feet are spongy with cushion pads, which also distribute the elephant’s weight.

When I was a child racing around with other children, I used to hear adults say, “You sound like a herd of elephants.”  Of course, the adults meant that we were thunderingly loud, because that’s what they expected such huge animals would sound like.

Moses also explained how the size of the tusks vary a lot.  However, no elephant, whether she or he has  short or long tusks, is safe from the poachers, who even trespass into protected areas.

I knew elephants were endangered, but I had no idea how much slaughter was happening until I got home and start seeing so many stories about massive poaching, partly due to a loophole permitting artisans, mostly in Asia, to carve ivory for trinkets. Many are religious objects.  These so-called religious objects are definitely unholy. DO NOT BUY IVORY, EVEN IF YOU ARE TOLD THAT IT’S LEGAL. THOSE WHO BUY IVORY ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE DEATH AND POSSIBLE EXTINCTION OF ELEPHANTS.

We saw this herd of elephants as it traveled out of MalaMala Game Reserve into neighboring Kruger National Park, South Africa, in January 2013.

We saw this herd of elephants as it traveled out of MalaMala Game Reserve into neighboring Kruger National Park, South Africa, in January 2013.

On a misty morning in January 2013, a herd of elephants in MalaMala Game Reserve moves quickly as it heads into Kruger National Park in South Africa. Elephants are highly endangered and are being slaughtered for their tusks.

On a misty morning in January 2013, a herd of elephants in MalaMala Game Reserve moves quickly as it heads into Kruger National Park in South Africa. Elephants are highly endangered and are being slaughtered for their tusks.

About Elephants.

New York Times Article (3-17-13) Slaughter of the African Elephants.

The Social Behavior of Female Elephants (The Meanest Girls at the Watering Hole)

Smithsonian Magazine Articles and Videos about Elephants.

National Geographic: A Voice for Elephants.

National Geographic: Battle for the Elephants.

New York Times Article: No Species is Safe from Burgeoning Wildlife Trade.

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March 17, 2013 · 2:08 pm

Of Elephants and Alcohol

Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?

Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?

I love fruit, but I’d never heard of marula fruit until a friend (Thanks, Anita!) introduced me to Amarula, a creamy liqueur made in Africa from fermented marula fruit.

Elephants like to eat the marula fruit, which when fermented makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans, called Amarula.  Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it's a myth that they'll get drunk.  They couldn't eat enough to get inebriated.  The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa.  This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fermented marula fruit makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans in a liqueur called Amarula. Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it’s a myth that they’ll get drunk. They couldn’t eat enough to get inebriated. The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa. This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit and are Amarula’s symbol. Folklore through the ages told of elephants getting drunk on fermented marula fruit, but that tall tale has been debunked.  I don’t want to be a party pooper, but elephants couldn’t eat enough fermented fruit to get bombed.  According to a 2006 scientific study cited in Smithsonian Magazine, “Elephants do have a taste for alcohol, but when scientists sat down to look at the claim, they found several problems. First, the elephants don’t eat the rotten fruit off the ground. They eat the fresh fruit right off the tree. Second, the fresh fruit doesn’t spend enough time in the elephant to ferment and produce alcohol there. And, third, even if the elephant did eat the rotten fruit, the animal would have to eat 1,400 pieces of exceptionally fermented fruit to get drunk.”
Smithsonian Magazine: The Alcoholics of the Animal World.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested.  Here, some marula fruits have passed through an elephant.  The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested. Here, some marula nuts have passed through an elephant. The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.

While the elephants don’t get soused from fermented fruits, elephants are among the many species that enjoy the versatile marula fruit for its flesh and its nut, which is full of protein. The marula fruit and its nut have been important source of nutrition in Africa for eons. The fruit has eight times the Vitamin C of an orange, too. Among the animals that eat the marula fruit and nut are antelopes, including impalas, kudus and nyalas. Baboons, warthogs, zebras, porcupines, vervet monkeys, small mammals and even millipedes also feed on the marula, which belongs to the same plant family Anacardiaceae as the mango, cashew, pistachio and sumac. Browsing animals eat the leaves. Marula nut oil is also supposed to have rejuvenating effect on your skin, so the marula can give you a glow both inside and out. About the Marula Tree and Fruit. About Marula Oil for Your Skin.

While reading this post I recommend an Amarula cocktail, which has a mild creamy citrus flavor. If you can’t find Amarula, you can sip Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua. Drink responsibly, of course!

Amarula.

Amarula.

Here’s My Recipe for a Wild Elephant, which is really a White Russia, replacing the Kahlua with Amarula:
2 oz vodka
1 oz Amarula liqueur
light cream

Pour vodka and Amarula liqueur over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass. Fill with light cream and serve.
Serves one.
For other recipes. click on Cocktail Recipes. 

In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit.  Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit.

In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit. Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit. Click on the photo to get a better view.

The long-time belief that elephants and other animals get drunk on fermented marula fruit was popularized in the 1974 documentary “Animals are Beautiful People.” Some smaller animals can get drunk from fermented fruit, but people have claimed that the supposedly drunkenness of the animals from fermented marula was staged in the movie, after alcohol had been added to their food.  If so, that’s animal abuse. The narration is over the top, too, but the video does show the types of animals that eat the marula fruit. It also shows elephants shaking marula trees to knock down the fruit.
Scientific American: Do Animals Like to Get Drunk?
Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth
About “Animals are Beautiful People.”

The marula fruit on this tree is not quite ripe.  It'll turn yellow.

The marula fruit on this tree will turn yellow when ripe.

Owls don't eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. And perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl's dinner.

Owls don’t eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. Perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl’s dinner.

Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the South African game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.

Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.

I’m going to be party pooper again by listing this new Study from the Boston University School of Public Health that shows links of alcohol to cancer. Darn it!

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Filed under Animals, Drink, Environment, Life, Nature

How Many Ostriches Do You See?

How many ostriches do you see sitting in the fynbos (fine bush) of the Cape Peninsula near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa?  I saw only one when I took the photograph. Although the ostrich is the largest of all birds, it hides very nicely in these bushes.

How many ostriches do you see sitting in the fynbos (fine bush) of the Cape Peninsula near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa? I saw only one when I took the photograph. Although the ostrich is the largest of all birds, it hides very nicely in these bushes. Click on the photo to get a better look.

I saw only one ostrich when I took this photograph near the Cape of Good Hope on the Cape Peninsula of South Africa in January 2013.  The ostrich is the largest bird in the world. How did I miss the other ones when I was taking the photo? Maybe because I ran back to the car as soon as I clicked the shutter a few times! Do you see the beak on that bird in front? He looks mad! (My companions took photos, too. I wonder how many ostriches were in their photos.)

I knew not to get close to this irascible bird. I was nearly pecked in the face by an ostrich in a zoo.  He came to the fence where I stood. He looked me in the eye and then attacked.  (He had big, beautiful brown eyes.) Thankfully, the fence stopped him from making contact with my face.

An ostrich struts his stuff near Cape Point in South Africa.

An ostrich struts his stuff near Cape Point in South Africa.

The ostriches in my photo were well disguised while sitting in the fynbos (fine bush) vegetation, which includes proteas, heath and reeds.  The Cape of Good Hope is part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, which includes 1,100 species of indigenous plants, many of which only occur naturally in the Cape area. There is also a lot of wildlife in the area, including baboons and antelope. Several species of whales can be spotted offshore, although we had missed the season, which is June to November.

A Cape Sugarbird sits in a Protea bush near the Vasco Da Gama monument near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

A Cape Sugarbird sits in a Protea bush near the Vasco Da Gama monument near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The Cape Peninsula is home to 250 species of birds, including the African penguin.

Before visiting the Cape, I didn’t know much more about the area than the names of some European explorers, such as Bartholomeu Dias, who first rounded the Cape in 1488.  The Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship from Europe, following the western African coastline, begins to travel more eastward than southward. Portugal’s King John II named this area “Cape of Good Hope.” Bartholomeu Dias first named it the “Cape of Storms” in 1488 (it is very windy here). In 1580 Sir Francis Drake who called it the “The Fairest Cape in all the World.”

Europeans began exploring the African coast in the last 15th century after the Turkish empire blocked routes to the Far East. Limestone pillars (padrao) dedicated to two early Portuguese explorers Bartholomeu Dias and Vasco Da Gama are in the Cape Point area.

Europeans began exploring the African coast in the last 15th century after the Turkish empire blocked routes to the Far East. Limestone pillars (padrao) dedicated to two early Portuguese explorers Bartholomeu Dias and Vasco Da Gama are in the Cape Point area.

This display in the Buffelsfontein Vistors Centre shows flowers that are in bloom in January 2013 on the Cape Penisula. The Cape Floristic Kingdom is the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, which includes 1,100 species of indigenous plants, many of which only occur naturally in the Cape area.

This display in the Buffelsfontein Vistors Centre shows flowers that are in bloom in January 2013 on the Cape Penisula. The Cape Floristic Kingdom is the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, which includes 1,100 species of indigenous plants, many of which only occur naturally in the Cape area.

This is the hearth from a farm near Cape Point in South Africa that Charles Darwin visited in May 1836 while on the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. The hearth is now in the Buffelsfontein Visitors Center in the the Cape Point area of Table Mountain National Park in South Africa. The Beagle set sail from England in 1931. The Cape's enormous floral and fauna diversity must have fascinated Darwin.

This is the hearth from a farm near Cape Point in South Africa that Charles Darwin visited in May 1836 while on the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. The hearth is now in the Buffelsfontein Visitors Center in the the Cape Point area of Table Mountain National Park in South Africa. The Beagle set sail from England in 1931. The Cape’s enormous floral and fauna diversity must have fascinated Darwin.

Cape of Good Hope, looking northwest  from Cape Point.

Cape of Good Hope, looking northwest from Cape Point.

Cape Point in South Africa.

Cape Point in South Africa.

There's a traffic jam at the Cape of Good Hope sign as people wait to get their photos taken at this landmark.

There’s a traffic jam at the Cape of Good Hope sign as people wait to get their photos taken at this landmark.

The Cape Peninsula is a fascinating place. Cape of Good Hope.

Read more about the ostrich here.

Check this out!  Panoramic View of the Cape of Good Hope

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Filed under Animals, Birds, Environment, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Travel