A leopard navigates its way down a tree - off to find a cooler resting place to hide from the noonday sun. Once a leopard lies down in a shaded grassy area its camouflage is so good that it's likely to utterly blend into the scenery, hence the anecdotes about tourists who take photographs of themselves in what seems to empty bush - only to discern later the mottled outline of a leopard lurking in the background of the photograph.
This rather fearsome-looking beetle has similar characteristics to the species of beetles with the Latin name of Tenebrionidae. There are thought to be about 20,000 species of beetles in this family! They are colloquially called 'darkling beetles' because they are attracted to dark spaces. These beetles are scavengers and omnivores and may feed on decayed leaves, rotting wood, fresh plant matter, dead insects, and fungi.
A herd of very healthy-looking oryx trundles across brittle scrubland. These antelope are at home in arid areas and don't need drinking water, surviving on the moisture they find in roots and tubers. Their Latin name is 'oryx gazella' and it is the large dark-chocolate patch on their rumps that makes them very distinct from 'oryx beisa' - the east African species. 'Oryx gazella' are more commonly known in southern Africa as gemsbok. Male gemsbok are huge and may weigh up to 240kg.
Cicadas are tinnitus in insect form. They are famed for their intense, piercing 'song' which they produce by vibrating the rib-like tymbals on their abdomens. There are about 150 different kinds of cicadas in South Africa and about 2000 worldwide. Cicadas have an unusually long lifespan for an insect - they stay in nymph form for about 13 to 17 years before venturing above ground.
A Spotted Eagle Owl demonstrates its brilliant camouflage: its mottled brown and white feathers closely resemble the bark of the tree next to it. This owl is also demonstrating the famed ability of its kin to rotate their heads up to 270 degrees. Spotted Eagle Owls are found throughout southern Africa and are very adaptable. While they are seldom seen during the day because of their nocturnal habits, they are found urban, rural and wild areas. They mate for life.
A gloomy day in the Overberg is anything but grey. Here, the regions beautiful rolling golden hills are strikingly contrasted with the dramatic blue Hottentots Holland mountains in the distance. The two birds flying over the fields are probably Crowned Cranes, as these large birds have distinctive black and white patterns on their wings. The Overberg is a very crane-friendly area. It has particularly high concentrations of Blue Crane - the national bird of South Africa - which use the Overberg's wheat fields as breeding grounds.
Leopards earned their place in the famed 'Big Five' by being one of the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot. This is not only because of the fearsome teeth seen in this photograph but also because of their incredible mobility and the eighteen sharp claws with which they capture and lacerate their prey. They are mostly peaceful creatures but can be somewhat unpredictable if cornered, injured or old and hungry.
This worm looks quite similar to the Mopane Worm - one of the most famous worms in South Africa. The Latin name of the Mopane Worm is Gonimbrasia belina and it is a species of emperor moth. During the worm stage of the emperor moth it can almost defoliate mopane and mango trees. However, mopane worms are a reliable source of protein in some African rural areas and it is quite a fun communal event to gather these worms. They are dried and eaten as a snack, or cooked with onions, and are also available canned in tomato sauce.
A spectacular photograph of a Pink-backed Pelican skimming the water of a lake. These birds struggle to take off because of their large size, but once they are airborne they can soar for more than 100km looking for food. These pelicans prefer quiet, shallow waters where they fish for cichlids and amphibians, eating about a kilogram of food a day. On the eastern coasts of southern Africa they are often seen in the company of the Great White Pelican.
It is amazing when, even in the driest and most arid of lands, one finds beetles like this one scuttling over the rocks with somewhere important to go. Whether gathering dung or breaking down the local plant matter, these beetles play an important role in balancing the ecosystems around them, not to mention providing substantial snacks for the predators that feed on them.
A male red hartebeest crests a grassy hill. Red hartebeest are the most colourful hartebeest. Their rufous fur contrasts fetchingly with their creamy bellies and black flanks, shanks and tails. They are skittish animals because their eyesight isn't very good, but their sense of smell and hearing is excellent. They can escape from danger at a respectable 55kph and run in zigzag patterns
The aching blue of the Wolwedans skies are not often disrupted by clouds, but occasional periods of high rainfall are enough to sustain these hardy camelthorn acacias. The inselbergs seen here are one of four habitats typically found in the arid NamibRand Nature Reserve - along with sand dunes and sand and gravel plains. Despite the harsh conditions there are many creatures that thrive here. This image shows one of these - the Sociable Weaver - and there are also fluctuating populations of oryx, springbok, kudu, Hartman's and Burchell's zebra, giraffe, klipspringer, steenbok, hartebeest and baboon.
This vervet monkey has the look of a very old soul. Vervets actually look quite grave most of the time, even when they are happily snacking on the food they nicked from your picnic table. Interestingly, they actually do have a tendency towards anxiety which manifests in high blood pressure. This is not surprising given that they are preyed on by leopards, eagles, pythons and baboons, as well as the odd trigger-happy human. When vervets are frazzled they can destress by having a nice mutual grooming session.
The word caterpillar designates any worm-like larvae of the butterfly or moth family, whether they are juicy and bald or thin and bristly. However, the word 'caterpillar' (which dates from the early 16th century) actually refers specifically to hairy caterpillars, because 'pillar' is derived from the Latin word 'pilosus' meaning hairy. This hairy caterpillar was one of hundreds crossing the road in the Karoo near Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Many of these unfortunate creatures end up as roadkill before they manage to turn into beautiful furred moths at the end of their life cycle.
An Olive Woodpecker peers out from behind a lichen-covered tree trunk. These birds can easily be mistaken for tree stumps when they perch like this. Olive woodpeckers have very few of the white and black speckles that are so typical of other southern-African woodpeckers, and are therefore quite easy to identify. They have a limited range, confining themselves to evergreen forests and coastal or riverine bush where they subsist on insects.
These mauve and rust colours are very typical of the dry areas that quiver trees are found in. This forest of aloe dichotoma grows near Nieuwoudtville on the Bokkeveld Plateau in the Northern Cape province in South Africa. Quiver trees thrive in the Mars-like, rocky terrain of the Northern Cape and Namibia, forming small forests of these aloes which lend interest to the rather barren-looking landscape.