EnviroQuest

Photography by Larry A Lyons

Posts tagged ‘Nature’

Hidden Habitats! Who Knew?

Never underestimate what a nature park can offer and teach you. Take for example a nature park situated in New Jersey just across from the City of Philadelphia.

'View of Philadelphia' © Larry A lyons

‘View of Philadelphia’ © Larry A Lyons

The Palmyra Cove Nature Park (www.palmyracove.org) is a 350 acre site located within a highly developed urban and commercial area in southern New Jersey. The park is bordered along the Delaware River just south of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

'Tacony-Palmyra Bridge' © Larry A Lyons

‘Tacony-Palmyra Bridge’ © Larry A Lyons

Five field trips to the Palmyra Cove Nature Center during the spring of 2013 provided an opportunity to observe and photograph an amazing diversity of organisms and their behavior.

'Great Horned Owl and Fledging' © Larry A Lyons

‘Great Horned Owl and Fledging’ © Larry A Lyons

Let’s begin with the Great Horned Owl. This owl is one of the largest owls in North America and one of the most ferocious birds of prey. Both sexes tend to look similar, but the female is 10 to 20 percent larger than the male.

'Female Great Horned Owl' © Larry A Lyons

‘Female Great Horned Owl’ © Larry A Lyons

Distinguishing features of the great horned owl are long ear tufts, intimidating stares with their yellow eyes, and densely feathered toes with dark horned claws. General coloration does vary between the owls.

'Male Great Horned Owl' © Larry A Lyons

‘Male Great Horned Owl’ © Larry A Lyons

A pair of Great Horned Owls selected a nesting site high up in the crotch of a cottonwood tree. Nesting begins as early as January or February and the female will typically lay two eggs. After hatching the nestlings are unable to fly for ten to twelve weeks, but the owlets will venture to nearby trees.

'Owlet One' © Larry A Lyons

‘Owlet One’ © Larry A Lyons

One of the owlets remained in the original nesting site while the other owlet had moved to a lower a branch.

'Owlet Two' © Larry A Lyons

‘Owlet Two’ © Larry A Lyons

Both owlets are being cared for by both parents and remain dependent for food until the fall.

'Ferocious Predator' © Larry A Lyons

‘Ferocious Predator’ © Larry A Lyons

Great horned owls are ferocious predators and will hunt and eat all sorts of small and medium sized mammals (mice, squirrels, opossums, bats, and skunk). It will also eat small and large birds, including Canada geese, herons, ducks, and turkey. Owl prey can also be raccoon.

'Young Raccoon' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young Raccoon’ © Larry A Lyons

It was amazing but only 20 feet away from the tree where the owlets were being raised were raccoons residing within a tree hollow.

'Raccoon Sleeping' © Larry A Lyons

‘Raccoon Sleeping’ © Larry A Lyons

Raccoons, like great horned owls, are nocturnal and tend to sleep during the daytime. This one was resting in a vertical position in the hollow of the tree.

'Tree Hollow Home' © Larry A Lyons

‘Tree Hollow Home’ © Larry A Lyons

Trekking around the ponds at Palmyra Cove Nature Park can provide some great opportunities to observe birdlife and some interesting and bizarre behaviors. One such encounter involved a courting encounter amongst blue-winged teals.

Blue-winged teals are known to be the last duck to migrate north in the spring throughout most of the United States. Once they arrive in their northern breeding areas, pairs of teals will settle in vegetated wetlands and ponds to begin the next generation.

'Pair of Blue-Winged Teals' © Larry A Lyons

‘Pair of Blue-Winged Teals’ © Larry A Lyons

Blue-winged teals are monogamous during the mating season and are known to have some exaggerated behavior when courting. One such encounter was when another male attempted to intrude upon this pair of teals.

'One Male Too Many' © Larry A Lyons

‘One Male Too Many’ © Larry A Lyons

The paired male quickly made it quite clear by grasping the beak of the intruder.

'The Attack' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Attack’ © Larry A Lyons

The intruder was able to pull its beak away from the grasp and then was aggressively chased away.

'The Chase' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Chase’ © Larry A Lyons

Blue-winged teal are so named because both sexes have some blue feathers on their forewings, but really cannot be seen until they are taking off or in flight. The male, on the other hand, is distinguished with slate gray head and neck and white crescent in front of the eyes.

'Phew! Got Away' © Larry A Lyons

‘Phew! Got Away’ © Larry A Lyons

Palmyra Cove Nature Center has a frog pond that is inhabited or utilized by several different amphibians. One unusual amphibian that only visits the pond once a year to breed is the Fowler’s Toad.  The Fowler’s Toad is generally terrestrial and nocturnal except when this amphibian is in breeding mode. So, come spring to early summer, Fowlers’ Toads will venture out from the nearby woods to a wetland or shallow pond to breed. The male toad, measuring about two to three inches in size (5.1 to 7.5 cm.), will produce a call to attract the females.

'Fowler's Toad Calling' © Larry A Lyons

‘Fowler’s Toad Calling’ © Larry A Lyons

The toads will proceed into what is referred to as amplexus, also known as the “Latin Embrace”. This embrace is a form of pseudocopulation where the male grasps the female with his front legs. The male then releases a fluid with sperm into the water and externally fertilizes the female eggs. The female lays eggs in clutches up to 25,000 eggs.

'Latin Embrace' © Larry A Lyons

‘Latin Embrace’ © Larry A Lyons

There were hundreds of toads in the pond participating in this breeding ritual on this particular day. However, on a return trip of the following week, there was not a single toad to be seen, but there must had been thousands of tadpoles (about one half inch in size) swimming in the pond. Metamorphosis from tadpole to young toad occurs within two months.

The frog pond is also shared with other amphibians, such as, the green frog. This green frog surely would have found the eggs and the tadpoles of the Fowler’s Toad a tasty meal. It is all part of nature.

'Green Frog' © Larry A Lyons

‘Green Frog’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese are so common that their increasing populations have become a nuisance at some locations.  However, even though their presence is often taken for granted, their behaviors and their life history are quite interesting.

'Canada Goose' © Larry A Lyons

‘Canada Goose’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese do pair for life and will remain together over the entire year. In the spring, pairs of Canada geese will separate from their flocks and establish territories to start the next generation.

When a goose intrudes into a pairs’ territory, a lot of commotion will evolve in which the male will aggressively challenge the intruder by honking loudly, hissing with their beaks open wide and will even grab and collide between each other.

'No Intruder Allowed' © Larry A Lyons

‘No Intruder Allowed’ © Larry A Lyons

The female is responsible for building the nest and incubating the eggs while the male will be nearby guarding the nest. After the goslings hatch they will remain close to their parents.

'Canada Goose Goslings' © Larry A Lyons

‘Canada Goose Goslings’ © Larry A Lyons

Canada geese are herbivores and will feed on grasses, sedges, berries, etc. This gosling has learned quickly what is good to eat.

'Gosling Browsing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Gosling Browsing’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer is another common resident not only at the Palmyra Cove Nature Center, but also throughout the woodlands and suburbs particularly within northeastern United States. The deer are usually best seen in the early morning or at dusk when they are browsing along the edges of woodlands.

'Young White-Tailed Deer' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young White-Tailed Deer’ © Larry A Lyons

Their winter or early spring coats are brownish grey but they will turn to reddish-brown in the summer. The female deer (doe) stands at about 3 feet at shoulder height and will weigh up to 100 pounds.

'White-Tailed Deer' © Larry A Lyons

‘White-Tailed Deer’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer are herbivores and will forage on a wide diversity of plants, including agricultural crops, at a rate of 2 to 7 lbs. per 100 lbs of body weight each day.

'Doe Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Doe Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

White-tailed deer populations do present significant concerns that have caused negative effects to the deforestation of woodlands. Deer-related collisions with vehicles have also been an increasing problem with the overpopulation of deer.  Attempting to maintain or manage deer populations at densities that will not be detrimental has become more and more challenging.

'Drake Mallard' © Larry A Lyons

‘Drake Mallard’ © Larry A Lyons

No nature park is without mallards, the most common duck in the United States. The female mallard lays an average of nine eggs and is responsible for incubating the eggs and taking care of the ducklings.

'Female Mallard and Ducklings' © Larry A Lyons

‘Female Mallard and Ducklings’ © Larry A Lyons

To reiterate the take home message of this post: Don’t underestimate what a nature park can offer and teach you. Here was a nature park situated in a highly dense urban area that provided an incredible assortment of habitats. The combination of these habitats allowed for the propagation and sustainability of a diversity of wildlife from amphibians to owls, ducks, songbirds and geese to deer and raccoons.

Let’s get our children outdoors and away from their electronic devices.  Let them find hidden habitats and enjoy the many wonders of nature. It is “our” next generation that will be responsible for continuing efforts to protect wildlife and maintain a commitment for preserving habitats.

Observe, enjoy, learn and, if you are so inclined, photograph them.

"A Birder' © Larry A Lyons

“A Birder’ © Larry A Lyons

References:

http://www.palmyracove.org

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/

http://srelherp.uga.edu/anurans/buffow.htm

http://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/fs1202/white-tailed-deer.asp

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/

 

The Osprey Comeback

Osprey populations were decimated from the 1950’s to the 1970’s resulting primarily from the widespread use of a persistent insecticide, known as DDT. There were regions in the United States where 90 percent or more of the breeding pairs disappeared. Over 500 osprey nests were present in New Jersey prior to the effects of DDT. By 1974 only 50 nests remained in New Jersey.

'Osprey Comeback' © Larry A Lyons

‘Osprey Comeback’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey has become the symbol of how nature can recover from environmental atrocities. DDT was banned in New Jersey in 1968 and banned almost entirely in the United States by 1972. Recovery of the osprey populations began once these bans were implemented.

'The Food Chain' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Food Chain’ © Larry A Lyons

The mechanism of toxicity resulting from DDT to predatory birds, like the osprey, is quite complex that ultimately affects their reproductive success. DDT is a persistent organic pollutant that tends to concentrate as it moves through the food chain. Fish that could be contaminated with DDT from eating shrimp or crabs would further magnify the concentration of DDT in predatory birds, like the osprey. The accumulation of DDT and its metabolites in the osprey prevents calcium metabolism causing the thinning of the eggshells. As a result of the eggshell thinning, the osprey would crush the eggs when sitting on them during incubation.

'Protect The Osprey' © Larry A Lyons

‘Protect The Osprey’ © Larry A Lyons

The 1962 landmark book “Silent Spring” authored by Rachel Carson clearly expressed how important it is to maintain a vigilance on the use of chemicals and their fate in the environment. This book is often attributed to the environmental movement that was initiated in the 1960’s.

'Birds of Prey Socializing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Birds of Prey Socializing’ © Larry A Lyons

All of the osprey images were photographed at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge located on the southern coastline of New Jersey. This refuge, situated just north of Atlantic City, NJ, encompasses 47,000 acres of coastal habitat and is an important sanctuary for a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife. A future post will present many other birds that utilize this refuge.

The osprey, also referred to as the fish hawk, has a diet that is almost entirely made-up of fish.

'The Fish Hawk' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Fish Hawk’ © Larry A Lyons

Ospreys have gripping pad on their feet that aids in plucking the slippery fish from the water with their long curved talons. The osprey will orient the fish head first to reduce wind direction when carrying the fish in flight. Here a flounder is being carried back to the nest.

'Entree of Flounder' © Larry A Lyons

‘Entree of Flounder’ © Larry A Lyons

The osprey stands between 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm.) and has a wingspan of up to six feet (1.8 meters).

'Six Foot Wingspan' © Larry A Lyons

‘Six Foot Wingspan’ © Larry A Lyons

They do require suitable tall structures for building their nests. Platforms are often constructed to allow a suitable structure for nest building.

'Osprey Platform' © Larry a Lyons

‘Osprey Platform’ © Larry a Lyons

Osprey nests are built of sticks and lined with grasses or seaweed. The male usually fetches most of the nesting material and the female arranges it. At the Forsythe refuge there are at least eight to ten platforms for the ospreys to build their nests.

'Nest Building' © Larry A Lyons

‘Nest Building’ © Larry A Lyons

Males and females do appear similar in appearance, but there are some slight differences that can distinguish between the sexes. Males have a slimmer body and narrower wings. Also, the coloration of the breast band is either lighter or not present in the males.

'Osprey Pair' © Larry A Lyons

‘Osprey Pair’ © Larry A Lyons

Ospreys mate for life and return to the same nest year after year. They migrate back north in the Spring usually around the beginning of March.

'Feeding The Chicks' © Larry A Lyons

‘Feeding The Chicks’ © Larry A Lyons

The female typically lays three eggs and both parents help to incubate the eggs. Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once, but rather hatching is staggered in time so some siblings are older and more dominant. The pair works together to raise the young.

'Peek A Boo' © Larry A Lyons

‘Peek A Boo’ © Larry A Lyons

The young fledge at about eight weeks of age and then remain in the area of the nest for about two months.

'On Watch'  © Larry A Lyons

‘On Watch’ © Larry A Lyons

Juvenile ospreys have buff fringes to the plumage of the upper parts, a buff tone to the underbody, and streaked feathers on its head. Juveniles also have orange pupils that turn yellow when they reach adulthood.

'Juvenile Osprey' © Larry A Lyons

‘Juvenile Osprey’ © Larry A Lyons

The adults and the juvenile ospreys will begin their southern migration by the end of August or beginning of September to their wintering grounds in Florida, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

'Are You Ready To Head South?'© Larry A Lyons

‘Are You Ready To Head South?’© Larry A Lyons

Ospreys are a conservation success story. Both the pesticide bans and the construction of artificial nest sites continue to allow for the comeback and growth of osprey populations.

'Enjoy, Don't Endanger' © Larry A Lyons

‘Enjoy, Don’t Endanger’ © Larry A Lyons

Leave you with a quote by Rachel Carson: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

References:

http://www.fws.gov/refuge/edwin_b_forsythe/

http://www.conservewildlefenj.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/osprey

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/osprey/id

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/osprey/

http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/osprey.html

The Cheetah

Previous posts about the wildlife of South Africa focused on “The Big Five” animals and “Everyday Faces” .  This post will focus on an exquisitely beautiful cat, the cheetah. Cheetahs are best described as graceful and elegant.

'Cheetah Profile' © Larry A Lyons

‘Cheetah Profile’ © Larry A Lyons

All of these cheetah images were captured while volunteering for the African Impact organization at the Thanda Game Reserve in South Africa from mid-September through October 2012. During this period the Thanda Reserve had two adult males and one female. A second female was introduced on October 28th.

Distinguishing features of the cheetah are the tan and spotted fur, a small head, sleek frame with deep chest and narrow waist, and a long tail.

'Elegance' © Larry A Lyons

‘Elegance’ © Larry A Lyons

The small head has high-set eyes, large nostrils and black tear marks that extend from the corners of its eyes to its mouth. These tear marks aid in keeping sunlight out of their eyes that is advantageous when hunting and seeing long distances.

'Cheetah Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Cheetah Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

The cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal with speeds as fast as 60 to 70 miles per hour (112 km/hr).  They have the ability to accelerate for short distances obtaining speeds of 62 mph in 3 seconds. It is suited for short bursts, but not long distance running. It is amazing to think that these cheetahs strolling along here could in the next three seconds be moving at such high speeds.

'Out For A Stroll' © Larry A Lyons

‘Out For A Stroll’ © Larry A Lyons

These two cheetahs are brothers and were constant companions at the reserve. Male cheetahs are often social and will often be seen living together.

'Brotherly Love' © Larry A Lyons

‘Brotherly Love’ © Larry A Lyons

The males are quite territorial.  They will attempt to kill any intruders.

'Grooming Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Grooming Time’ © Larry A Lyons

Females, on the other hand, are solitary and tend to avoid each other. Females do not establish territories and tend to have large home ranges. This female cheetah was introduced to the Thanda Reserve in July 2012. It was fitted with a collar to keep track of its whereabouts.

'Stealth' © Larry A Lyons

‘Stealth’ © Larry A Lyons

Cheetahs are often found in open savannah and rely on tall grasses for camouflage when hunting. The tan and spotted fur provides good camouflage while hunting.  The cheetah gets as close to the prey as possible and then with a burst of speed springs after the prey.

'On The Prowl' © Larry A Lyons

‘On The Prowl’ © Larry A Lyons

Cheetahs are carnivores that will hunt impalas, gazelles, hares, and the calves of wildebeests or zebras. When cheetahs hunt in groups, they can also bring down adult wildebeests and zebras. While other cats like the lion and leopard tend to hunt at night, the cheetah will hunt in early morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot.

'Cheetahs Prancing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Cheetahs Prancing’ © Larry A Lyons

Cheetahs are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list as vulnerable species. It is estimated that only between 9,000 and 12,000 cheetahs remain wild in twenty-five African countries.

'Save The Cheetah' © Larry A Lyons

‘Save The Cheetah’ © Larry A Lyons

Update: A second female cheetah was acquired by the Thanda Game Reserve at the end of October 2012 in the hopes that mating would succeed with the two brothers. In December 2012, the two brothers were seen courting the new female. The cheetah has a gestation period of about 90 days. Four cubs were born in March 2013.

Cheetahs are difficult to successfully breed at zoos or in captivity. The cheetah thrives best in vast expanses of land where prey is readily available. The immense importance of conserving habitat like the Thanda Game Reserve is critical for protecting wildlife.

Everyday Faces of South Africa

Like seeing squirrels or rabbits in our backyards, the wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, impalas and warthogs were common everyday faces observed at the Thanda Game Reserve. They help depict the diversity of life on the African prairie. All five of these species are herbivores and also become an important food source for lions, leopards, wild dogs, cheetahs and hyenas.

All of these images were captured in South Africa at the Thanda Game Reserve while volunteering for six weeks with the African Impact Organization (www.africanimpact.com) in September through October 2012.

'Everyday Faces of South Africa' © Larry A Lyons

‘Everyday Faces of South Africa’ © Larry A Lyons

The wildebeest is an antelope, but it looks like part buffalo, part horse, and part antelope. They are primarily grazers with grasses being their predominant choice.

'Wildebeest Profile I' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wildebeest Profile I’ © Larry A Lyons

'Wildebeest Profile II' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wildebeest Profile II’ © Larry A Lyons

'Wildebeest Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wildebeest Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

At the Thanda Game Reserve, the wildebeests are often seen in small herds of about eight to ten cows.

'Small Wildebeest Herd' © Larry A Lyons

‘Small Wildebeest Herd’ © Larry A Lyons

Time for a dust bath says this wildebeest.

'Got An Itch' © Larry A Lyons

‘Got An Itch’ © Larry A Lyons

Wildebeests can spend one-third of their day grazing with the remainder roaming about or taking a rest.

'Taking A Break' © Larry A Lyons

‘Taking A Break’ © Larry A Lyons

Wildebeest predators include lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas. Everything is recycled on the African savanna.

'Yesterday's Dinner' © Larry A Lyons

‘Yesterday’s Dinner’ © Larry A Lyons

Wildebeest prefer to stay close to water. They cannot go without water for more than a few days, particularly during dry seasons.

'Drink Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Drink Time’ © Larry A Lyons

The giraffe, the tallest in the animal kingdom reaching heights of 18 feet (5.5 m), is just simply a gentle giant.  Often observed on the reserve’s roadways, it is, of course, given the ‘right of way’.

'Right of Way' © Larry A Lyons

‘Right of Way’ © Larry A Lyons

Giraffes are social with other animals (zebras, wildebeest, impalas). Their size allows them to overlook the landscape for predators and provide an early warning for all.

'Size Matters' © Larry A Lyons

‘Size Matters’ © Larry A Lyons

Because of their long necks, giraffes can feed on foliage from trees and shrubs that would not be accessible to other herbivores. The principal food source at the Thanda Reserve is the leaves of the Acacia tree with its long spikes.

'Feeding Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Feeding Time’ © Larry A Lyons

The giraffe has a long prehensile tongue that is able to pull branches even with these long spikes into their mouth and then strip the leaves off the branches with their teeth.

'Tongue Envy' © Larry A Lyons

‘Tongue Envy’ © Larry A Lyons

This baby giraffe is less than one month old and already stands six feet tall. Baby giraffes will drink milk from their mother during the first few months. After that time, the babies will begin eating leaves. If the baby cannot reach trees with leaves, mothers will pull leaves off and feed them to the babies.

'Staying Close to Mother' © Larry A Lyons

‘Staying Close to Mother’ © Larry A Lyons

Baby giraffes will gain most of their height and weight during the first three years of life. Giraffes are considered fully mature at four years of age.

'Frolicking Youth' © Larry A Lyons

‘Frolicking Youth’ © Larry A Lyons

'Young Giraffe Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young Giraffe Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

Usually the giraffe calves are more vulnerable to predation by lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas. However, this adult giraffe became the feast of a lion pride from the previous evening.

'A Lion Feast' © Larry A Lyons

‘A Lion Feast’ © Larry A Lyons

Here is a yellow-bellied oxipecker clearing the ticks off of a giraffe.

'Personal Tick Remover' © Larry A Lyons

‘Personal Tick Remover’ © Larry A Lyons

One of the most wonderful encounters is when you can meet-up with male giraffes while they are engaged in necking. Necking is a ritual in which male giraffes are establishing dominance with their necks swaying and touching each other. You think of “Fantasia” while watching these encounters.

'Fantasia I' @ Larry A Lyons

‘Fantasia I’ @ Larry A Lyons

There is almost absolute silence when this necking is occurring and then they just seem to gently make-up.

'Necking' @ Larry A Lyons

‘Necking’ @ Larry A Lyons

The zebra belongs to the horse family. Zebras are sociable animals and are often seen with other herbivores, like giraffes, wildebeests and impalas.

'Zebra Profile' © Larry A Lyons

‘Zebra Profile’ © Larry A Lyons

Zebras live in small family units, called harems, led by a stallion.

'Harem' © Larry A Lyons

‘Harem’ © Larry A Lyons

Stallions disputing over dominance of the harem.

'Stallion Dispute' © Larry A Lyons

‘Stallion Dispute’ © Larry A Lyons

Each zebra has its own striking pattern of stripes. They are like the fingerprints of humans. Members of a family supposedly can recognize each other by their patterns. The stripes provide good camouflage, particularly from a distance, from predators.

'Zebra Patterns' © Larry A Lyons

‘Zebra Patterns’ © Larry A Lyons

'Zebra Patterns II' © Larry A Lyons

‘Zebra Patterns II’ © Larry A Lyons

Zebras are prey to lions and hyenas. This zebra has a visible scar on its neck. The scar is its’ “badge of courage” from escaping a lion attack.

'Badge of Courage' © Larry A Lyons

‘Badge of Courage’ © Larry A Lyons

The greatest threat to the zebra is habitat loss from farming and ranching, as well as, competition for water with livestock. Game reserves, like Thanda, provide an important refuge for their livelihood.

'Young Zebra' © Larry A Lyons

‘Young Zebra’ © Larry A Lyons

Beauty only a mother can appreciate. The warthog is a wild member of the pig family.

'Oh So Pretty' © Larry A Lyons

‘Oh So Pretty’ © Larry A Lyons

'Proud To Be A Warthog' © Larry A Lyons

‘Proud To Be A Warthog’ © Larry A Lyons

Male Warthogs have two large pairs of warts that are situated below the eyes and between the eyes and the tusks. The female warthog has one pair of warts below the eyes. Two pairs of peculiar looking tusks protrude from its mouth. The tusks are used for digging, combat between each other, and defense.

'My Better Side' © Larry A Lyons

‘My Better Side’ © Larry A Lyons

At the Thanda Reserve, warthogs can never be missed since they are commonly seen browsing within the camp.

'Warthog Gathering' © Larry A Lyons

‘Warthog Gathering’ © Larry A Lyons

This warthog was observed exiting a tunnel during a night safari drive.

'Spelunking' © Larry A Lyons

‘Spelunking’ © Larry A Lyons

Predators of the warthog are humans, lions, leopards, crocodiles and hyenas. The warthog’s primary defense is to quickly sprint from the scene.

'Sprinting' © Larry A Lyons

‘Sprinting’ © Larry A Lyons

Impalas are one of the most common antelopes in South Africa. Male impalas are quite distinct with their graceful lyre-shaped horns.

'Proud Impala' © Larry A Lyons

‘Proud Impala’ © Larry A Lyons

Female impalas look like the males without the horns.

'Female Impala' © Larry A Lyons

‘Female Impala’ © Larry A Lyons

Impalas graze on grasses and shrubbery.

'Impala Grazing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Impala Grazing’ © Larry A Lyons

Male impalas become quite territorial shepherding females about their land. These dueling males are displaying a common ritual over maintaining dominance of the herd of females.

'Dueling Impalas' © Larry A Lyons

‘Dueling Impalas’ © Larry A Lyons

'Herd of Female Impalas' © Larry A Lyons

‘Herd of Female Impalas’ © Larry A Lyons

Most large carnivores will prey upon impalas. They are always on the alert and will snort an alarm when there is danger. The whole herd will scatter.

'Alarmed' © Larry A Lyons

‘Alarmed’ © Larry A Lyons

Impalas have a distinct scent gland that is covered with tufts of black hair on the back of their hind legs. The scent gland releases signals that aids in keeping the herd together particularly when they are rapidly running away from a predator.

'Rams Dueling' © Larry A Lyons

‘Rams Dueling’ © Larry A Lyons

So were you able to imagine these “Everyday Faces” roaming in your backyard. There is nothing like a wildlife experience in Africa.

There will be forthcoming posts on South Africa and the Thanda Game Reserve. So stay tuned.

The Big Five of South Africa

“The Big Five” animals of South Africa are the elephant, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo and lion.  The term “Big Five” game was a term derived by hunters designating the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt. The impressive conservation practices and extensive national and private reserves in South Africa has significantly aided in protecting the survival of these animals. However, poaching of rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks continues to be a significant problem for the survival of these species.

All of these images were captured in South Africa at the Thanda Game Reserve or nearby reserves while volunteering for six weeks with the African Impact Organization (www.africanimpact.com) in September through October 2012.

The Big Five of South Africa  © Larry A Lyons

The Big Five of South Africa © Larry A Lyons

This family portrait of a baby, young teenager and two adult female elephants was photographed from a boat when a herd of 50 or more elephants gathered at the lake for a drink and bath. Herds of elephants are made-up of related females and their young. Male elephants usually leave the herd when reaching adolescence forming bachelor herds. Later, the adult male elephants lead a solitary life.

'Family Portrait II'  © Larry A Lyons

‘Family Portrait II’ © Larry A Lyons

Calves are the primary focus of the family unit and are cared for by their mothers during at least their first three years.

'Family Portrait III'  © Larry A Lyons

‘Family Portrait III’ © Larry A Lyons

These dueling male elephants were photographed from a boat with a long lens. Male African bush elephants weigh up to 12,000 pounds and have periods of extreme aggression not only between each other, but anything that comes across its path. Here the two bulls are fighting for dominance. Besides fighting, tusks are also used for marking, feeding, and digging.

Poaching of the tusks for the ivory trade is one of the greatest threats to the elephant populations.

'Dueling Elephants' © Larry A Lyons

‘Dueling Elephants’ © Larry A Lyons

The elephant’s trunk has many functions including breathing, feeding, smelling, touching, grasping, producing sound, drinking and bathing.

'Bath Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Bath Time’ © Larry A Lyons

Elephants are herbivores and will consume leaves, fruit, twigs, bark and roots. They also will consume up to 11 gallons (40 liters) of water each day.

'Thirsty'  © Larry A Lyons

‘Thirsty’ © Larry A Lyons

Elephants prefer to stay near water.

'Wait For Me' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wait For Me’ © Larry A Lyons

Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild. This bull elephant has a crust of bark on its forehead probably from recently mowing down a tree for consumption.

'The Big One'  © Larry A Lyons

‘The Big One’ © Larry A Lyons

The leopard is the most secretive and elusive of the large carnivore cats. They are basically solitary and go out of their way to avoid one another. Leopards are primarily nocturnal and their spotted coat provides almost perfect camouflage. They move about their home ranges and seldom stay in an area for more than two or three days. Subsequently, leopard sightings tend to be rare. While at the Thanda reserve, the opportunity to see a leopard on three different occasions was most fortunate.

'Leopard Posing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Leopard Posing’ © Larry A Lyons

'Leopard Portrait I' © Larry A Lyons

‘Leopard Portrait I’ © Larry A Lyons

'Seated Leopard' © Larry A Lyons

‘Seated Leopard’ © Larry A Lyons

Leopards are opportunistic hunters that will consume a wide variety of animals including antelopes, monkeys, foxes, jackals, rodents, amphibians, and birds. The leopard’s stealth, rapid speed, and strength to drag their prey up into a tree provide a forbidding predator.

'Leopard Prowling' © Larry A Lyons

‘Leopard Prowling’ © Larry A Lyons

Leopard is a stunning beautiful animal.

'Pensive Leopard' © Larry A Lyons

‘Pensive Leopard’ © Larry A Lyons

Lions are the only cats that live in groups called prides. Lions once roamed most of Africa, but today they are only found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Two prides co-exist at the Thanda Reserve. It is the through the conservation efforts of South Africa and private reserves like Thanda that make it possible for lion prides to roam free.

This young adult male with its mane still growing in and the two females perched in the tree belong to the North pride. Male lions defend the pride’s territory while females are the pride’s primary hunters.

'Born Free" © Larry A Lyons

‘Born Free” © Larry A Lyons

This female lioness is staking some high ground to keep vigilance over the savanna. Female lions, being the pride’s primary hunters, often work together to prey upon wildebeest, antelopes, zebra and other large animals of the open grasslands. Many of these animals are faster than lions, so teamwork pays off.

'Eyeing You" © Larry A Lyons

‘Eyeing You” © Larry A Lyons

The roaring sound of these lions when mating was quite intense. The rolling eyes and their display of teeth further imply that nothing interrupts this activity.  This image was captured from a safari jeep at a distance of 20 feet.

'Savannah Love' © Larry A Lyons

‘Savannah Love’ © Larry A Lyons

These cubs were about one month old.

"Family Reflection" © Larry A Lyons

“Family Reflection” © Larry A Lyons

Lions within a pride are quite affectionate and attentive between themselves and their cubs.

'Quality Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Quality Time’ © Larry A Lyons

'Mother and Cub' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mother and Cub’ © Larry A Lyons

'Ferocious' © Larry A Lyons

‘Ferocious’ © Larry A Lyons

Hunting is often a nocturnal event. Here a team of female lions stalked and ambushed this wildebeest.

'Wildebeest Kill' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wildebeest Kill’ © Larry A Lyons

Everything is recycled on the African savanna. Here are the remains of that wildebeest.

'Yesterday's Dinner' © Larry A Lyons

‘Yesterday’s Dinner’ © Larry A Lyons

Lion populations have been reduced to 21,000 in all of Africa and are now only found in parts of the south Sahara desert and parts of eastern and southern Africa. Reserves, like the Thanda Game Reserve, are crucial for their survival.

'Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

Don’t let this smile fool you, the African buffalo is known for its unpredictable behavior.  It is regarded as a very dangerous animal and is supposedly responsible for killing 200 people per year.

'Smiley' © Larry A Lyons

‘Smiley’ © Larry A Lyons

Adult bulls can be observed sparing quite regularly. Most sparing seems to be harmless and short-lived.

'Rumble Time' © Larry A Lyons

‘Rumble Time’ © Larry A Lyons

'Watch Out' © Larry A Lyons

‘Watch Out’ © Larry A Lyons

'My Turn' © Larry A Lyons

‘My Turn’ © Larry A Lyons

Yes, Buffalos do it too! Mating occurs between March and May.

'Time to Mate' © Larry A Lyons

‘Time to Mate’ © Larry A Lyons

Single Calves are born between January and April.  They are gregarious with herds varying in size of up to several hundred.

'Buffalo Family'  © Larry A Lyons

‘Buffalo Family’ © Larry A Lyons

Buffalos are herbivores. These female beauties are distinguished by their smaller horns.

'Buffalo Beauties' © Larry A Lyons

‘Buffalo Beauties’ © Larry A Lyons

This older looking bull posing here had just come from a mud bath. Its particular thick horns would indicate that it is a dominant bull within the herd.

'The Elder' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Elder’ © Larry A Lyons

The African Rhinos, both the Black Rhino and the White Rhino, are facing extinction.  This White Rhinoceros, which is actually grey in color, has a square muzzle that is adapted for grazing on grasses.

'White Rhino Close-up" © Larry A Lyons

‘White Rhino Close-up” © Larry A Lyons

This Black Rhino, photographed during a night safari drive, has more of a beak shaped lip that is used for browsing leaves, buds and shoots of bushes and trees. The cause of the injury to this rhino is unknown, bit it appears that it may have been gored by one of its own.

'Black Rhino' © Larry A Lyons

‘Black Rhino’ © Larry A Lyons

Both White and Black Rhinos are at risk of extinction because of poaching of their horns. There is a fallacy that the horns have some medicinal value, even for curing cancer (in Asia), and as a result there is market that provides a premium price for the horns. However, Rhino horns are simply made of keratin, the same material as our fingernails. Poachers brutally kill the rhinos and remove the horns. An averaged sized rhino horn can bring a quarter of million dollars in Vietnam.

'Rhino Horn' © Larry A Lyons

‘Rhino Horn’ © Larry A Lyons

Rhinos are also in trouble because of the lack of habitat from agriculture and deforestation. The importance of game reserves, like Thanda, is crucial for their survival.

'Rhinos Grazing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Rhinos Grazing’ © Larry A Lyons

The female gestation period lasts 15 to 16 months and usually only one calf is born.

'White Rhino and Calf' © Larry A Lyons

‘White Rhino and Calf’ © Larry A Lyons

Baby rhinos begin to grow their horn when they are only a few weeks old. During the first year the calf only feeds on the milk from the mother. A calf remains near its mother for the first four to five years for protection.

'Rhino Calf Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Rhino Calf Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

Rhinos have no natural predators, except for man.  Rhinos are considered critically endangered. There are several organizations, including the African Wildlife Foundation, that have programs working to “Save the Rhino”.

'Save The Rhino'  Larry A Lyons

‘Save The Rhino’ Larry A Lyons

See the Big Five of South Africa gallery