Solstice Full Moon

This year marked a very special winter solstice (southern hemisphere). It was the first solstice since 1967 that coincided with a full moon.

I planned this event in order to witness the full moon rise over the Tygerberg Hill close to home. I saw that the moon was set to rise at 18:50. I gathered my camera and tripod and ventured out to the field where I planned to shoot from. However, I forgot that the predicted time was when the moon rises from the horizon and not over the hill. I didn’t want to leave so I waited until 19:30 before I saw any sign of the moon rising.

While waiting I even had a local police patrol van come to check why I was standing along an open field at night. I responded that I was taking photos of the moon, even though there was no moon in sight.

After waiting a few more minutes I saw a little bit of light reflect off a nearby cloud over the hill. Finally the moon was on its way.

Just before the moon came, I realised that my tripod was not holding my full camera set up. I decided to abandon the tripod set up and go with my bean bag as a stabilising option. To my dismay, I left the bean bag at home. There was no time left to go home and fetch it. Not wanting to miss the shot, I made a plan.

In the middle of the open, freezing cold field, I took off my hoodie to use it as a support structure. I was left standing, shivering in a flimsy T-shirt.

Finally, I saw the edge of the hill start to illuminate. I got ready to start taking the shots. It was incredible to see the full moon reveal itself over the brim of the hill. What astounded me more was how quickly it rises over the hill.

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Within a very short time, the full moon had risen completely. I got a great shot of it while it was still within slightly polluted light.

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It eventually broke through the pollution layer and showed its usual greyish tone that we are accustomed to.

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Despite the cold, I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing this once in a lifetime lunar occurrence. It will sadly only happen again around the year 2062.

Camouflaged Chameleon

It has been a long while since I have seen a Chameleon. So long ago, it might have been since childhood days.

It has been wet and cold in Cape Town recently and I have been longing to take my camera out. I found a gap over the long weekend and made my way to my local reserve, Intaka Island. To my dismay there was not much happening around the viewing hides.

One of my fellow photographers came up with a great idea. “Let’s go look for Chameleons.”

I had never even thought of looking for these tiny creatures around the reserve. I had seen mice, fresh water crabs, tortoises and other animals by chance, but not the camouflaged critters.  I was really excited to see one again so off we went.

He showed me which bushes would most likely host chameleons. We ended up searching for quite a while, but the prospects of finding one looked rather slim. There was even a quick glimpse of the elusive Greysbok resident in the reserve.

We were about to throw in the towel when we decided to take a quick walk down an open deserted path. Walking along the pathway, I just happened to look up at a tall bush. Finally I had spotted one and a rather big one at that.

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I had actually forgotten how beautiful these little reptiles are. The reserve holds one species called Cape Dwarf Chameleons. They are fascinating creatures and their robotic movements provide a great source of entertainment.

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It was the first time in a long time that I actually switched between my long and short lenses. It was so much fun playing around and photographing this chameleon at different angles.

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I’ll definitely be keeping my eye open for them again the next time I take a walk around the reserve.

 

The elusive day walker

Trying to spot elusive wildlife is often a frustrating undertaking. Even more so when you’ve already seen tell-tale signs that they’re in the vicinity.

On Sunday I made my way to Tygerberg Nature Reserve in Cape Town. My aim was to visit the nesting site of the resident Jackal Buzzards and see if I could get some nice photos again. It was already mid-day and luck was not on my side, or so it seemed.

I had positioned myself behind a bush for around 20 minutes. It did not seem as if the raptors were going to arrive anytime soon. I started scanning the veld for something interesting. Quite a distance away, on the opposite hill, was a gravel trail. For some reason my eyes kept scanning the pathway. Then all of a sudden it seemed as if the path started moving.

A moving gravel path? Surely not. Again I saw the slightest movement on the pathway. I was still looking at the land without binoculars or through my camera’s view finder. I had to investigate further.

I lifted my camera and scanned the area where I imagined the ground to be moving. Finally this all made sense. I managed to spot a figure moving rather confidently along the pathway. I wasn’t sure if my eyes were deceiving me. It wasn’t a dog, and far too small to be one of the buck in the reserve.

Was it what I had been hoping to see for so long? Could it be the owner of some paw prints I discovered a few weeks earlier?

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I couldn’t believe my eyes. In the middle of the day, walking on an unobstructed walkway, was an adult Caracal (Rooikat). Not in my wildest dreams did I expect to actually see one in this reserve. Being so far away, it couldn’t see me watching it. The caracal proceeded to entertain me with a quick dust bath, a stretch on a nearby bush and even looked at some joggers who unknowingly jogged right past it.

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I was sure that it would bolt when the joggers came close, but it was completely relaxed. The feline slowly made its way up the hill and eventually disappeared into the bushes.

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This is without a doubt the most special sighting I’ve had the privilege of witnessing.