29 November 2010

Pepper tree and Clematis

Near the top of the No. 1 Line track, not far from where I live, the native Clematis is nearing the end of its flowering. One might be forgiven for thinking this was the flower of the pepper tree (Pseudowintera colorata) in which the Clematis vine is entwined, but they're completely separate plants (other than the support provided by the pepper tree, of course).

Those two tiny specks just above the centre of the flower are small flies (on the full size photo they're clearly discernible), perhaps feeding on the pollen.

[24 November 2010, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 400, 1/800 at f5.6]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

26 November 2010

Muscid fly, Ruahine Range

Update:  Well, this is embarrassing! As Stephen points out (see comments), this belongs to the family Muscidae, not Tachinidae.

Flies in the Family Tachinidae ("TackIN-id-ay") parasitise other insects (and, rarely, other invertebrates). Their larvae grow inside the host until they finally kill it (the Alien had a similar lifestyle); consequently, some tachinid flies have important roles as biological controls for pests of agricultural and horticultural crops. New Zealand has a comparatively large tachinid fauna; this, which I photographed a couple of days ago at the top of the No. 1 Line track, is an individual of just one of the hundreds of species.

[24 November 2010, Canon 20D, 100 mm f2.8, ISO 800, 1/500s at f11, flash (strobe)] 

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

24 November 2010

Langur at Ranthambore

In the evening along the entrance road to the park, a troop of langurs hung out among the sere, sparse forest beneath the cliffs where friends had seen leopards, twice. I wasn't so lucky, but the langurs enjoyed an evening in peace.

[2 March 2007, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 400, 1/640 at f4]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

21 November 2010

Honey badger (ratel) at South Luangwa

In Africa I was mostly happy to enjoy whatever wildlife I was lucky enough to see. Still, I did have a few animals I would have particularly loved to encounter (lions were NOT on that list), and at South Luangwa the subject came up in conversation. Jack and Annie, the Glaswegians I was fortunate enough to share my trip with, asked whether there was anything special I'd love to see. A honey badger, I said, and explained how they'd become part of my family's folklore — our byword for ferocity, irascibility and tenacity (some of those undoubtedly unfair on honey badgers). I didn't expect to see one, of course.

But only a few minutes after beginning our night drive, this is what the spotlight picked out. He (yes, it was obvious) trotted through the low scrub, paused on the edge of the track to look towards us, then crossed over and disappeared into the night. Achim had been guiding at South Luangwa for fourteen years. This, he told us, was only the second honey badger he'd seen in that time.

[13 May 2007, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 1600, 1/100 at f4]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

19 November 2010

The beauty of blowflies

Blowflies — who among us thinks twice about them, other than as revolting, disease-carrying, sheep-molesting pests? Blowflies do have ways of life that appear disgusting to us, and they do annoy us ( fortunately not in the same way they annoy sheep). But do think again; think about what the world would be like without blowflies. Probably a festering mess of slowly rotting carrion, among other things. Think of all the things that eat adult and larval blowflies: spiders, birds, rove beetles, mantids, and so on: what would happen to them if blowflies suddenly vanished? Then think of some of the things blowflies evoke, mostly without our being conscious of the association — drowsy summer days, for example.

Finally, look closely at this photo. This is Calliphora stygia, the brown blowfly (our Australian neighbours, clearly more sensitive to the glory of living things, call it the eastern golden-haired blowfly). Tell me it's not beautiful.

 [19 November 2010, Canon 20D, 100 mm f2.8, ISO 200, 1/500s at f11, flash (strobe)]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

17 November 2010

Hamerkop, Lake Malawi

On the shore of Lake Malawi, a pair of hamerkops (Scopus umbretta) preened each other, rested, or padded about at the lapping water's edge. Strange birds, with a wealth of folklore and unresolved scientific questions.

[25 May 2007, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 200, 1/200 at f6.3]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

15 November 2010

Patricia Nkhoma memorial, Nkhotakota Game Reserve

From my journal, Sunday 27 May 2007:
"I drive to Nkhotakota and through the Game Reserve, stopping at the Patricia Nkhoma memorial. The only sound is the wind the long grass. Somewhere between the reserve and Lilongwe, a white rabbit scampers at the side of the road. Where am I, and when? Who, or what, is writing the strange story?"

[27 May 2007; Canon 20D, 24–105mm f4 L at 24 mm, ISO 200, 1/200 at f11]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

11 November 2010

Is this a dragonfly?

At the Cove of Giants, late in the evening on the last day, the headless remains of a large dragonfly (Uropetala carovei) perched on the beached tree. How had it arrived there; how had it remained there? A slight breeze would have plucked it into the evening air. Is this still a dragonfly? When did it stop being a dragonfly?

I photographed it, and stood listening to the sea for a long time while the light faded.

[12 February 2010; Canon 20D, 24–105mm f4 L at 105 mm, ISO 200, 1/125 at f11]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

09 November 2010

Evening on Te Awaoteatua

In its lower reaches shortly before joining the Pohangina river, Te Awaoteatua stream flows among poplars ("cottonwoods" in the US). On a walk one evening a few days ago, I stopped at a bend in the road and looked towards the stream, the poplars, the road leading up to where I live. Day had begun to change to night; the last of winter was leaving, replaced by spring.

[5 November 2010; Canon 20D, 10–22 mm f4 at 19 mm, ISO 200, 1/4 at f8]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

07 November 2010

Survivor [Old apple]

Another old apple tree survives as little more than a cankered stump. Half dead, riddled by beetles, bark flaking, it nevertheless hangs on, and still puts out a few flowers on a handful of thin, wiry branches. One winter it'll probably be turned into firewood, and another inspiration will pass into memory.

As I walked past, it held out this bouquet like an offering. "Here,"it said, "remember me."

[4 November 2010; Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 200, 1/1600 at f4]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

05 November 2010

A photo about a poem about a painting

This is a photo in response to a poem by Dave Bonta in response to a painting by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

I had the big lens on the camera as I walked along the edge of the bank. A sudden burst of wings and furious language. I looked down, and saw this. The thrush continued to abuse my past as I quickly photographed its future. After five photos I moved on, apologetic about the brief disturbance. (I don't attempt to photograph or even search for nests; the consequences of discovery for the birds can be disastrous. This was opportunistic.)

[4 November 2010, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 400, 1/40 at f6.3]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor

03 November 2010

Tokeawa Stream, running low

After a spell of dry weather, Tokeawa Stream is running low. Apparently October was unusually dry, but the endless rain still seems strong in my memory.

[1 November 2010; Canon 20D, 10–22 mm f4 at 18 mm, ISO 100, 1/10 at f5.6]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor