Crocodiles: The Hot Sex Edition

We saw a crocodile on game drive this morning! Isn’t that fun? We don’t see them often, so it’s a pretty big deal.

  
But did you know…

… That temperature determines a crocodile’s sex? Yep, the temperature that the crocodile’s eggs sit at in the nest will determine if those hatchlings are little boy crocodiles or little girl crocodiles.

It’s called ‘temperature dependent sex determination.’ Or TSD. It’s a reptile thing.

It’s been shown that boys (‘crocomales’) incubate within a really tiny temperature range; between 31.7 and 34.5 degrees C. Any colder than that, and you’ve got girls. Any hotter and you’ve also got girls.

It means that within a single nest you’ll have a cool female:male:female sex ratio.

Conclusion: girl crocodiles are hotter. But colder. But hotter.

I drew an exquisite diagram showing exactly how this process works.

 

artistic genius. i take all the credit for this.

 
Hoofnote: As is TSD wasn’t enough to make crocodiles interesting, you should also know that crocodiles are the only animal in South Africa that see humans as natural prey. When they eat us, it’s fair game.

This morning’s game drive sightings:

Crocodile

Zebra

Giraffe

White rhino

Elephant 

Nyala 

Buffalo 

Impala

Woolly necked stork

Gorgeous bush shrike

Black backed puffback

Am Reading… Between The Tides, In Search of Sea Turtles by George Hughes

 

beautiful book…

 
I’m so in love with this book! After my trip to the beach, I fell madly in love with all things sea turtle. In an attempt to learn more, I scoured the internet for for any great looking books, but couldn’t find any! Then as I was checking out of Thonga Beach Lodge, I found this little gem tucked away in a dark corner of the gift shop. How lucky!

George Hughes is a frequent visitor to Thonga and I hope to catch up with him one day.

Can’t wait to love my way through this book.

More on sea turtles to come very soon at Safariosophy, once I’ve been further endowed with some of Hughes’ wisdom and knowledge (and once I have time to get down to some serious writing.)

Love.

it’s even signed – how cool!

An Accidental Indian Ocean Sunrise…

So this morning, I got up deliciously early with one objective in mind. I wanted to go and chase (and photograph, maybe) ghost crabs. I didn’t know what a ghost crab was until I arrived here at Thonga Beach Lodge on the pristine northern KZN coast yesterday. I’d heard the name, but not met the crustacean in person. And I’m in love. Madly, wildly, crazy in love. I’m sure there’ll be more about ghost crabs to come in future posts.

Every time I tried to photograph one, they quickly tunneled themselves deep into the sand or caught the next wave and vanished. Probably because they knew I didn’t really want to photograph them; I wanted to hug them and squeeze them and love them forever. Smart crabs.

Anyway, the best I could do was this:

 

ghost crab… legs

 
What I wanted to do, was this:

ghost crab… legs

 And I accidentally glanced up while chasing crabs, and saw this:

sunrise over the Indian Ocean…

There’s nothing quite like discovering something new that gives you boundless joy. What’s your ghost crab? Go find it today. Love.
 

August 25: Christmas Trees in the Kalahari

Happy Saturday! Struggling to find something worthwhile to do? Because Saturday’s should always be spent smiling, I give you, ‘Christmas Trees in the Kalahari’.

If you just click on the link below, you’ll get to spend your Saturday in the Kalahari. There won’t be any dust, like dust in your gearbox, or on your rusks, or in your hair, or up your nose (yes, it happens), but you’ll still feel like you’re there. If dust is important to you to set the mood, then go and gather some sweepings from under the fridge. You get the Kalahari vibe and a clean floor. Saturday win.

But please read this special Kalahari trip report and enjoy it. It’s 41 pages of beautiful storytelling and shockingly good photos! Proof that if you bring along the right attitude, the Kalahari will send out all its most delightful little friends to meet you. It’s written by wonderful people and I promise it’ll uplift and inspire and make you say ‘WOW’ every few seconds. It goes well with a tub of cookies and is the very best way to spend your Saturday.

Click Here! Click click click click! Do it! Click! (Sorry, rather jumped up on Med-Lemon at present):

http://sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=62684

A little preview… all photos taken by lovely Debbie Wright, on her camera which is NOT one of those big spiffy cameras. You don’t need a big spiffy camera to make beautiful things happen. Fact.

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Three weeks of Lion sightings… (photo by Debbie Wright)

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And all the smaller fuzzy animals, like Bat Eared Foxes and Caracals… (photo: Debbie Wright)

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Very many cheetah hunts, including this one stalking in the road. (photo: Debbie Wright)

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Leopards watching lunch walk by… (photo: Debbie Wright)

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Leopards in pairs, not commonly seen! (photo: Debbie Wright)

Love Kalahari!

August 18: Birdwatching is Love.

What a day! I was on safari today. Not that i’m not always on safari, because Life is a Safari, but today for the first time in a few years, I was on safari alone. And I was back to the beautiful game reserve where it all began…

I live to take people out into the bush and show them my Africa. I’ll do it for the next few decades, until i’m too shriveled up to drive or talk. But going it alone today meant one thing– I got to birdwatch! And the kind of birdwatching I do can only be done alone. To subject others to it would be just plain unethical. And mean. It means crawling around at 3km/h, watching for the slightest flutter of a feather. It means ignoring almost everything else and switching your brain to ‘bird’. When i’m in the zone, i’m just looking to build a list. As may species as I can possibly count in a short time. I have a terrible tendency to drive right past lions, elephants and other fabulous mammals.

But…

Sometimes it’s worth stopping…

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Sometimes you have to stop…

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Sometimes something is so special you can’t not stop…

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Sometimes something is a Tsessebe. A name so wonderful i’ll be naming my first-born dog/child ‘Tsessebe’…

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Sometimes you take five minutes out to search for something else. Passing by these koppies, I was hoping to find Dassies and Klipspringers and I did…

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Today I had just three hours in the park, but managed to tick 70 bird species. Sadly no ‘lifers’ (a first-time bird), but it didn’t matter. After more than a year away, it was great to see some old friends again.

I love birding. It’s like obsessively collecting stuff, but you don’t end up on that TV show ‘Hoarders’.

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Bird Sightings:

African Spoonbill
Great Egret
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Goliath Heron
Green Backed Heron
African Palm Swift
Cape Wagtail
Crimson Breasted Shrike
Magpie Shrike
Cape Sparrow
Blue Waxbill
Chestnut Vented Tit Babler (yes, that’s its real name)
African Fish Eagle
Pied Crow
White Breasted Cormorant
Reed Cormorant
Blacksmith Lapwing
Pied Kingfisher
White Faced Duck
Egyptian Goose
Sabota Lark
Little Grebe
Kalahari Scrub Robin
Helmeted Guineafowl
Marico Flycatcher
Chinspot Batis
Arrow Marked Babbler
Cape Glossy Starling
African Darter
White Throated Robin Chat
African Grey Hornbill
Yellow Billed Hornbill
African Jacana
Red Billed Teal
Ostrich
Malachite Kingfisher
Dark Capped Bulbul
Swainson’s Spurfowl
Crested Francolin
Pearl Breasted Swallow
Striped Swallow
Violet Eared Waxbill
Fork Tailed Drongo
Grey Lourie
Black Crake
African Snipe
Neddicky
Levailant’s Cisticola
Hamerkop
Laughing Dove
Cape Turtle Dove
Red Eyed Dove
Sacred Ibis
Three Banded Plover
African Stonechat
Black Crowned Tchagra
Familiar Chat
Black Collared Barbet
Southern Boubou
Red Faced Mousebird
Grey Backed Cameroptera
Red Billed Oxpecker
Cinnamon Breasted Bunting
Yellow Fronted Canary
Brown Hooded Kingfisher
African Black Duck
Hadeda Ibis
Kurrichane Thrush
Mocking Cliff Chat

The Non-Birds

Steenbok
Springbok
Impala
Wildebeest
Zebra
Waterbuck
White Rhino
Elephant
Brown Hyena
Crocodile
Hippo
Warthog
Giraffe
Dassie
Kudu
Klipspringer
Tsessebe

Thunderbolt Flower!

This is Thunderbolt Flower. I love that name and I think it makes it sound a little like a super-hero. But It’s also known as Lady’s Slipper and Wild Sesame and probably 42 other things, which is why you can’t get away with not knowing the scientific names of plants. Grrrrrrr.  So this is Sesamum triphyllum.  Often standing 2 meters tall, it quite literally stands out on the Kalahari dunes. I have a plant book that says you’ll get a ‘flavour-filled surprise’ if you add its oily seeds to a bowl of pap. I’m truly intrigued! So i’m adding it to my list of plants that I want to try to eat.

The stem and leaves of Sesamum triphyllum also work nicely as a soap, so I like to carry a piece whenever i’m travelling across the Kalahari. When you add water to it and rub, It leaves your hands feeling all clean and soft and organic-ish. Once you’ve wiped off all the green ooze…

August 11: August Wind is Windy

It was another really cold Kalahari night! The day had been ridiculously windy and while I usually shake my fists at the wind (“Grrrrr go away wind…”) it serves an important function. So I let it be. This time.

By the time it gets to August in the Kalahari, it’s very dry indeed. The winds always come at this time of year and they help to spread about all the grass seed that’s been floating around.  And the winds get Tumbleweed on the move, and no sighting beats a genuine Tumbleweed bouncing down the road on a cold morning!

I’m recycling photos here, but this is a Tumbleweed flower from back in the days before they all dried up, broke off at the base, curled up into big balls and started bouncing around the dunes. Beautiful much?

One of my favourite Kalahari relationships is between Bushman Grass and Driedoring bushes. When the winds come, they super-fluffy Bushman Grass is often caught by the super-catchy Three-Thorn bushes. When the rains come, it means the bushman grass grows close by the bushes.  In turn, both these plants help to stabilize the sand and yet more things can grow and more little paws can burrow. Love.

Another recycled photo (red face), but this is a Three Thorn Bush (Driedoring), probably one of the Kalahari’s most important little plants, stabilizing the dunes and providing food and shelter for lots of little things.

It’s also these crazy winds that shaped the dunes over time to the relatively fixed position they’re in today. So wind is excusable in the Kalahari.

The wind may have kept some of the animals tucked up under bushes for the sunset drive, and we saw noticeably less than we’d expect to see. But with endless things to talk about, it was a fantastic drive.

Sunset Drive Sightings:

African Wild Cat
Eland
Sprinhare
Gemsbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Steenbok
Ostrich
Tawny Eagle
Spotted Eagle Owl

By the night drive, the wind had subsided a little and more nocturnal goodies came out to play!

The drive began with a Spotted Hyena right by the vehicle. We’ve been seeing them frequently the last week, which has been very exciting. This particular one was eyeing up a nervous herd of Eland across the road. Their fears were founded as 7% of Spotted Hyena kills in this part of the Kalahari are said to be Eland calves.

I noticed in this particular herd what I love most about eland herds. The size differences! Unlike other Kalahari antelopes who seem to come in fixed sizes of small and large, you often find the full range of sizes in one Eland herd, from XS to XXXL! And when an Eland is XXXL it’s really XXXL. A full grown male can be larger than a Buffalo, weighing in at more than 800kgs. In the past week we’ve been lucky to see a number of these monster eland close to camp.

An absolutely wonderful drive to end my time in this park. Love Kalahari!

A lovely poignant image. Love Kalahari 🙂

Night Drive Sightings:

Spotted Hyena
Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Eland
Cape Fox
Bat eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Dikkop
Gemsbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Spotted Eagle Owl