"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 62, Boulders Beach

The Africa Journals

Chapter 62
Boulders Beach
Part Four of the Cape Peninsula

The biblical account of Noah's Ark and the Flood is perhaps the most implausible story for fundamentalists to defend. Where, for example, while loading his ark, did Noah find penguins and polar bears in Palestine?― Judith Hayes

Imagine you’re dreaming about a trip to Africa,  South Africa, in particular.   Now imagine what you expect to see while you’re there.

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets?  Oh, definitely.

Sunrise.  Check.

Sunset.   Check.

And the iconic animals of the continent?    The great cats?   Lions, leopards, and cheetahs?

Lion.   Check.

Leopard.   Check.
Cheetah.   Check.

Large, dangerous beasts like elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalos?

Elephant.   Check.

Rhino.   Check.

Cape Buffalo.   Check.


The exquisites, like giraffe, kudu, and oryx?

Giraffe.   Check.

Kudu.   Check.

Oryx.   Check.

 And flamboyant birds like ostriches, the Secretary bird, and penguins?

Ostrich.   Check.

Secretary Bird.   Check.
African Penguin.   Che.....   What?

How did penguins get in there?   They’re in Antarctica, right?   

Actually, there are several places in South Africa where penguins are right at home.   Boulders Beach along the shoreline of False Bay on the Cape Peninsula is one of the most visited.   These are African penguins, also called jackass penguins because of the braying noise that is part of their breeding behavior.  

The Simons Town shoreline is lined with homes, none of which the penguins care about.  The path to the boardwalk is one ice cream/gelato/souvenir shop after another, none of which the penguins patronize.

After a brisk walk past the sunbathers and swimmers, a boardwalk leads to the beach.   Along the way, man-made penguins nurseries offer instant digs for pregnant penguins.

The little black and white critters are everywhere—in the bushes, under the boardwalk, on the beach, and in the water.

These remarkable little creatures weigh from five to almost eight pounds, and stand between 24 and 28 inches tall.   They lay one or two eggs in the sand and after the chicks hatch, they join a communal crèche while the parents go to sea to forage for fish, hoping they don’t wind up on the menu of great white sharks, fur seals, or the occasional Orca.

On land, predators such as domestic cats, genets, mongoose, and the occasional leopard endanger the colonies.  Kelp gulls go after the eggs.

A plethora of penguins.


Isn't this an exquisite place?

Notice the pink spot above the eye?   That is a gland that helps the penguin regulate its body temperature.  When the air temperature rises, the body pumps blood to the gland so the surrounding air can cool it, much like the veins in an elephant's ears cool blood like a radiator.

On a more personal note, while I was visiting the African penguins, my friends Rose and Julie from Moose Pass, Alaska, were across the street in Simon’s Town helping a local church with repairs, refurbishing, and landscaping.   It was their practice to walk to Boulders Beach in the evening to watch the penguins, and patronize a certain gelato shop.   While I knew they were in South Africa, I was not aware they were in this particular part, nor did they know I would be at Boulders Beach.

Such a small world.

And I did stop at one of the many gelato shops on my way back to the coach.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 61, Hangin' with Bonnie and Clyde

The Africa Journals

Chapter 61
Hangin' with BONNIE and CLYDE

Part Three of the Cape Peninsula

Hell, you might just be the best damn girl in Texas.—Clyde Barrow

When I first spot Bonnie and Clyde, they are enjoying each other’s company in a large grassy field, seemingly unaware they are being watched.   It is almost alarming that such a famed couple could be so careless in attitude.

But then, appearances lie in the eye of the beholder, AND appearances lie.  Bonnie and Clyde know they are being watched and how many eyes are on them.  They know to ignore the ones coming from one direction, and to focus all their attention on others coming from a different direction.   They watch the hands of the latter to see if they should approach or flee.

Their eyes, some say, are larger than their brains, the largest of any land-dwelling vertebrate.   Incredible eyesight, able to spot predators at great distances.    Not even Texas Ranger Frank Hamer could hide from these two, as he has been known to do with the other Bonnie and Clyde.

This Bonnie and Clyde duo are ostriches on an ostrich farm on the Cape Peninsula of South Africa.  Unlike her namesake Bonnie Parker, who was shy of five feet tall and 90 lbs., the feathered Bonnie and others of her ilk can stand 5.5 to 6.5 feet tall, and weigh up to 220 lbs. 

One guess as to the prevailing wind direction.

Bonnie and what appears to be a ghost messing with the shot.   Note how her long lashes and upper lid protect her large eyes from the sun.   Ostrich eyes are two inches in diameter.

Clyde and other males can weigh up to 320 lbs. and stand over nine feet tall.   With a life span of 45 years, these two roaming this pastoral field have twice the life span of the gangsters who were gunned down in their early twenties by Texas Rangers.

This is Clyde.   Clyde is having romantic thoughts about Bonnie.   I can tell because his beak is red.  It's quite a visible tell.

The ostrich is the largest living specie of bird.  Though two-legged, they can run over 40 mph, maintain that speed for a half hour, and cover 10 to 16 feet in a single stride.   Think about that.   In one stride, an ostrich can travel across the average-sized room in a home.    

They have only two toes on each foot, one without a nail and the other with a nail more like a large claw that can inflict horrific damage, and they can kick only forward.

Even Clyde's shins betray his thoughts.   They also turn red when he thinks of Bonnie.   Note each foot has only two toes and one has a savage nail on it.   The other toe is without a nail.  Ostriches are flightless but use their wings for balance and maneuvering while running.There are also three small claws at the end of "finger-type" ones on each wing.

Contrary to popular myth, neither Bonnie nor Clyde nor any of their relatives hide their head in the sand when frightened.   They rely on their great speed to make their escape or they lie flat on the ground, relyingon distance and heat waves to make themselves appear as mounds.   Or, when cornered, they kick forward with that large toe nail.

Observations of ostriches with their heads in the sand searching for pebbles to swallow to grind their food might be the origin of the mistaken legend.  It might also derive from the pale color of the ostrich’s neck and head that seems to blend with the sand when they lie flat.

If you come from the direction of the gift shop, Clyde knows when you have purchased a bag of feed pellets in your hand.   He's got you pegged.

Does the warning sign indicate why these two are named Bonnie and Clyde and not Scarlet and Rhett?  Watching an ostrich swallow is a treat.  I swear you can see the pellet move around to the back of the neck.  Clyde's body feathers are dark and Bonnie's are lighter.


Female ostriches, the poor things, lay large ovoid eggs that are five inches by six inches and weigh three pounds.   The females in the harem incubate the eggs in the communal nest during the day while the male has the night shift.   At this ostrich farm, however, a mechanical incubator takes over the nursery duty, all carefully temperature-controlled and monitored.

Eggs rotating in the incubator, as photographed through glass with lots of reflection.


At one time, the natives of Africa used ostrich eggs to carry water, first eating the contents and then plugging the small hole with earth.   Now, the empty eggs are decorated and sold to tourists.

The ostrich lady.

Ostriches usually are vegans, though they occasionally sin and eat invertebrates.

Now, let’s slip away from their hearing range and discuss the reasons for ostrich farms.  

One is their gorgeous tail feathers, numbering 50 to 60 feathers on each bird.   Unlike most birds, the ostrich feather does not have the little hooks that lock the smooth feathers together.   Hence, their feathers are soft and fluffy and much prized for feather dusters, much better than Swiffer dusters.

Note the flat sternum bone.  In birds that fly, the keel bone is shaped and wings muscles attach to it.  This shape, along with feathers that are not hooked together to create aerodynamic planes, is why ostriches cannot fly.   Well, that and their weight.

That's ostrich leather on the table and on Bob's shoulders.

 Sue is holding a leg bone, Gail some ostrich feathers, Bob an egg and an ostrich leather "cape", and Carol is auditioning to model for Victoria's Secret.

The second reason is for their hides.   Many products are made from this leather.

And third, their meat is delicious.   I have first-hand knowledge of this.

Ostrich steak, mild, tender, and tasty.

 Ostriches of different ages:

Just try to get baby ostriches to hold still for a picture.   I dare you.

Decor at the ostrich pen building.

Photos of ostrich feet from Wikipedia