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About Deviant Member Willem van der MerweMale/South Africa Groups :iconliving-earth: Living-Earth
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Aardwolf by WillemSvdMerwe
Aardwolf
The Aardwolf, Proteles cristata, is actually a kind of hyena!  Not a 'real' hyena: unlike them, it cannot crunch bones.  In fact it has very weak cheek teeth!  These animals are indeed insect eaters ... specifically, they eat termites.  They seek out harvester termites, which unlike other termites eat grass rather than wood.  In truth they forage at night, so my picture should actually be dark!  There you see an aardwolf amidst some snouted harvester termite hills.  Aardwolves lap the termites off the ground using their broad, sticky tongues.  They often ingest a lot of grit and soil too, which might even help digest the insects!  Aardwolvers are sometimes shot by farmers, but do no damage to farm animals at all ... they can't even chew meat!  They're much smaller than hyenas too, reaching about 11 kg/25 lbs in bodyweight.  Pencil drawing, coloured with Photoshop.
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There is a major project of mine that I want to share with you all here in DA: my stories, the ‘Wavendreem’s Garden’ series.  I’ve been trying to get them published for a while but it’s very difficult trying to get agents interested in them.  I’ll keep on trying, but I really want them to be ‘out there’.  The idea around them is rather complicated and weird, but I am sure people will ‘get’ the stories once they actually start reading them.  So: I’m going to share them here, bit by bit.  I would appreciate any advice of course, since I’m not quite sure how to do it.  For now: I’ll first hype them a bit here in journal entries, telling folks what they’re all about.  Then I’ll start submitting them as extracts … in order, making a gallery for them, so no-one will miss any of the story.  I’ll just start at the start and submit a readable piece each time … with illustrations added!  I’ve been working on the illustrations for a while now and have a few of them finished.  They’re still in my simple straightforward style … if you’ve seen ‘Narlesha the Dragonslayer’ you’ll have an idea, except the new illustrations are in colour!

 

‘Narlesha the Dragonslayer’ is in fact a silly folk tale situated inside the ‘Wavendreem’s Garden’ story world.   The main stories will be rather different, somewhat more serious and realistic.  Basically, they’re stories of epic adventure featuring my heroines Valerie, Vivienne and Bridget.  They’re a mix of science fiction and fantasy, and I try to do many things differently from how most writers have so far done them.  So they’re quite experimental, with some things in them you’ll not have seen before, but I really think after all this time working on them that they do work.  I’m making them less grim and dark than many stories these days are … you the reader will have to judge, but I really am aiming for something light, fun and positive.  The stories are also for relaxed reading, for people who enjoy long books!  I don’t know how long it will take to publish them chapter for chapter here, but if you are really impatient you can contact me and I’ll send you the full stories.  The first story, ‘The Disenchanted Kingdom’, is somewhat over 200 000 words. 

 

I’m still figuring out how I’m going to do this.  I’m thinking of publishing each piece under a relevant illustration … but I don’t want the illustrations to give away anything in the story before the reader has had a chance to read the text!  So maybe each illustration should pertain to the previous piece of text.  Also I think every 10th instalment or so, to give a brief recap of the story so far.  Those without the time to read the entire chapters, might even get by just on reading these summaries.  Does that sound like a good system?

 

Whatever the case, I’m going to try this.  I’d like to see the kind of interest and based on that decide how to go further.  I’m thinking of eventually perhaps publishing them as e-books myself, for a very reasonable price.  But I want to share them as much as possible here on DA.  I don’t think them being here for free would necessarily detract from the e-books since over here they will be in bite-sized chunks, whereas the e-book would be the entire thing, which would be more convenient – and the price is really going to be very reasonable!  Again, I’d like to hear what people think.

Pediomeryx/Yumaceras by WillemSvdMerwe
Pediomeryx/Yumaceras
Here's a not-well-known old critter.  It's not clear if Yumaceras is the same as Pediomeryx.  Whatever the case, this was the largest of a group of antelope-like things called the Cranioceratini, of which Cranioceras itself is the best known.  The latest members of this group all had these three horns, two over the eyes and one from the back of the skull.  Apparently they were covered with skin and hair, like the 'horns' of a giraffe.  Here I portray the tips as having been rubbed smooth from lots of fights.  The points of these horns were not sharp, so they wouldn't have been very good at stabbing.  Cranioceratines were members of the Paleomerycidae, a group that 'experimented' with weird horn shapes and arrangements.  Pediomeryx/Yumaceras lived in North America from about 9 to about 5 million years ago, and were the last members of this strange family.  I haven't yet seen bones from the rest of the body of these so I reconstruct only the head.  Perhaps, from what I've read, they were fairly short and heavy-limbed compared to modern antelopes.  They were quite large, about the size of a red deer.  Pencil, coloured with Photoshop.
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Spotted Dikkop by WillemSvdMerwe
Spotted Dikkop
The Spotted Dikkop, Burhinus capensis, is a common bird, yet few people know it well!  That's because it is nocturnal.  It is a member of the Wading Bird Order, the Charadriiformes, but it typically lives far from water, in dry, rocky terrain covered in scrub or grass.  They rest by day, usually under cover, their spotted plumage being excellent camouflage, and when approached will try to sneak away without being seen.  At night they are noisy and active, their piercing whistles being audible from a long distance.  They're similar to their relatives the plovers, but rather larger.  When seen well, they can be recognized by their huge yellow eyes.  Dikkops (Afrikaans for 'thick-heads') are also known as Thick-Knees or Stone Curlews.  Pencil drawing, coloured in Photoshop.
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This weekend there was a bird ringing event in the Polokwane Game Reserve, hosted by Billy Attard and Derek Engelbrecht.  A few others also helped out, and many of the people attending were given their own experience in ringing birds.  The idea of bird ringing is to catch birds, then take careful measurements of them, then put small metal rings on their legs and then release them.  The process enables individual birds to be identified … for instance some of the birds had already been ringed previously, so now when we catch them again, we can compare their stats.  This helps a lot in determining birds’ movements, and also their lifespans. 

First of all, very early in the morning the nets were set up in regions where birds are expected to be moving.  The birds get caught in the nets, which aren’t easily visible, having a very fine mesh.  The birds can get badly entangled, and getting them out again is a difficult and rather nerve-wracking (to me at least!) affair.  The birds caught in these nets are mostly small species; larger ones are often able to free themselves on their own.

After the birds are removed from the nets, they’re placed in special cloth bags.  They are ‘stored’ hanging in the bags from a line until they can be weighed, measured and ringed.  The measurements are done very carefully using precision equipment.  The measurements are of the birds’ bills, heads, wings, tails and lower legs.  Their plumage is inspected for condition and moulting, they’re sexed, and it’s recorded if they’re adult or juvenile.  We had quite a few juvenile birds.  The rings are put very carefully around their lower legs, and then they are released. 

The process can be quite stressful for the birds for many reasons, so they are handled very carefully and the measuring and ringing is done quickly.  The attending members of the bird club got treated to close-up views of many species, and were taught some of the distinctive features of these species.

The ringing continued today (Sunday 8 March) but I didn’t go, so this is just yesterday’s ringing I’m describing.

Right, now for the photos!

Here are Derek and Billy, after the morning’s successful ringing:

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Billy measures a Threestreaked (or Brown-crowned) Tchagra.  This small member of the bush-shrike family is common and widespread in thorny savannah in northern South Africa:

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Here’s the tchagra in Billy’s hand.  Its tail feathers got bent out of shape in the bag.

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Here’s another view of the tchagra.  Note the sharpy hooked bill with which it catches its invertebrate prey.

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Here Billy measures the wing of a Brownhooded Kingfisher.  All measurements are logged in the file you can see here.  These kingfishers don’t really catch fish, but are actually insects (and other small critter) hunters that live in woodland and savannah.

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Derek is holding an Ashy Tit here.  These tits are common in the reserve, their churring calls betraying their presence.  They were not impressed with being handled, giving Derek a few hard nips!

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A very rewarding part of the experience was being able to compare similar species close-up.  Here is a female Lesser Masked Weaver (on the left) and a female Southern Masked Weaver (on the right).  The differences you can see here: the lesser masked weaver has a yellow eye, the southern masked weaver has a dark reddish eye;  the lesser masked weaver is overall more yellow; the lesser masked weaver has bluish legs while the southern masked weaver has pinkish legs.

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Here is a photo of the Lesser Masked Weaver female alone.  These weavers are less frequent in our region than the southern masked weavers, and it was quite interesting to me that we caught them.

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The Melba finch, or Green-winged Ptylia, is a tiny member of the waxbill family.  This is a male; the female lacks the bright red feathers on the head and throat.  We caught a few of these.  They are fairly common in the reserve.

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One of the commonest waxbills around here is the Blue Waxbill.  This is the male.  We also caught Violeteared Waxbills, which are a bit larger and with bright red, reddish brown, violet and blue coloration. Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of one of those.

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Another waxbill that is common in the reserve is the Black-cheeked Waxbill.  Unfortunately this little one lost its tail while struggling in the bag.  The feathers will regrow in time.

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This is a Goldenbreasted Bunting.  They’re related to canaries.  It was interesting to me since I don’t think I’ve seen them in the reserve before.  They do occur in the region, but aren’t particularly common.

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Another view of the Goldenbreasted Bunting.  This one was panting and must have been suffering from the heat and stress.

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This is a Crested Barbet.  These relatives of woodpeckers are widespread and common in South Africa, often entering gardens where their trilling calls are well known.  They are mainly fruit and insect eaters, and use their stout bills to excavate their hole nests in soft wood.

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This is a juvenile Diederik Cuckoo.  It is named for its ‘Dee-Dee-Dee-Deederik’ call which is a very well known sound of the bushveld.  These cuckoos migrate inside Africa, and breed here.  They lay their eggs in the nests of smaller birds like weavers, who are then tasked with raising the gluttonous baby cuckoos.  This youngster looks in fine condition.

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Here you see the lovely gloss and intricate patterns of the wing and back feathers of the cuckoo.  The wings are long and strong since this young cuckoo will soon be flying (along with the others) to more northern African countries.

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Here is another youngster, a Marico Flycatcher.  These flycatchers are common in our region, hawking for flies and other flying insects from branches.

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Here you can see the flycatcher’s wings.  The white spotting on the wing mark it as immature.  Adult Marico flycatchers are plain brown above and white below.

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Another juvenile, this time an African Paradise Flycatcher.  It kept its eyes closed, maybe it was too bright outside for it.  Adults have bluish bills and blue rings around their eyes.  The adult male in the breeding season grows its central tail feathers out very long, for lovely flying displays.

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This was for me the most special catch - an Olive-tree Warbler!  They breed in a small part of Europe and the Middle East around the Mediterranean Sea.  The entire population then flies to Southern Africa to spend the European winter here in the African summer!  These warblers have been recorded, but very sparsely, in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.  It is probable that they are not uncommon, but rarely seen and recognized. They are very nondescript grey birds, the only colour being the bright orange insides of their mouths.

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Here is another view of the Olive-Tree Warbler.  For a warbler it is quite large.  It can be identified by its size and shape, being long and slender, and by its harsh churring call.

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Another warbler I haven’t positively identified until today is the Icterine Warbler.  It is more yellow than the Olive-Tree Warbler, but can be greyish as well.  Its song is higher-pitched than that of the Olive-Tree Warbler and it is smaller, with a comparatively shorter bill.

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Here is a comparison between the Icterine Warbler and another similar one, a Willow Warbler.  Again the differences are relative.  Both are greenish-yellow in colour, but the Willow Warbler is much smaller, with a proportionally much shorter bill.

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Another comparison between the Icterine and Willow Warbler.  The Willow Warbler has a pale eyebrow stripe going back well beyond its eye.  The Icterine Warbler’s eyebrow just goes to above its eye.  Icterine and Willow Warblers are both migrants who breed in Europe and Asia and then come down here in our Spring and Summer to escape the cold.

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Wrapping up, another migrant. This is a female Redbacked Shrike.  She doesn’t have quite as bright reddish brown a back as the adult male does, and also lacks his distinct black mask.  These shrikes also fly a very long distance down to southern Africa from Europe and Asia.

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

There were a few other catches that I wasn’t able to photograph successfully.  At any rate, it was a very informative day and I wish to thank everyone involved!


There is a major project of mine that I want to share with you all here in DA: my stories, the ‘Wavendreem’s Garden’ series.  I’ve been trying to get them published for a while but it’s very difficult trying to get agents interested in them.  I’ll keep on trying, but I really want them to be ‘out there’.  The idea around them is rather complicated and weird, but I am sure people will ‘get’ the stories once they actually start reading them.  So: I’m going to share them here, bit by bit.  I would appreciate any advice of course, since I’m not quite sure how to do it.  For now: I’ll first hype them a bit here in journal entries, telling folks what they’re all about.  Then I’ll start submitting them as extracts … in order, making a gallery for them, so no-one will miss any of the story.  I’ll just start at the start and submit a readable piece each time … with illustrations added!  I’ve been working on the illustrations for a while now and have a few of them finished.  They’re still in my simple straightforward style … if you’ve seen ‘Narlesha the Dragonslayer’ you’ll have an idea, except the new illustrations are in colour!

 

‘Narlesha the Dragonslayer’ is in fact a silly folk tale situated inside the ‘Wavendreem’s Garden’ story world.   The main stories will be rather different, somewhat more serious and realistic.  Basically, they’re stories of epic adventure featuring my heroines Valerie, Vivienne and Bridget.  They’re a mix of science fiction and fantasy, and I try to do many things differently from how most writers have so far done them.  So they’re quite experimental, with some things in them you’ll not have seen before, but I really think after all this time working on them that they do work.  I’m making them less grim and dark than many stories these days are … you the reader will have to judge, but I really am aiming for something light, fun and positive.  The stories are also for relaxed reading, for people who enjoy long books!  I don’t know how long it will take to publish them chapter for chapter here, but if you are really impatient you can contact me and I’ll send you the full stories.  The first story, ‘The Disenchanted Kingdom’, is somewhat over 200 000 words. 

 

I’m still figuring out how I’m going to do this.  I’m thinking of publishing each piece under a relevant illustration … but I don’t want the illustrations to give away anything in the story before the reader has had a chance to read the text!  So maybe each illustration should pertain to the previous piece of text.  Also I think every 10th instalment or so, to give a brief recap of the story so far.  Those without the time to read the entire chapters, might even get by just on reading these summaries.  Does that sound like a good system?

 

Whatever the case, I’m going to try this.  I’d like to see the kind of interest and based on that decide how to go further.  I’m thinking of eventually perhaps publishing them as e-books myself, for a very reasonable price.  But I want to share them as much as possible here on DA.  I don’t think them being here for free would necessarily detract from the e-books since over here they will be in bite-sized chunks, whereas the e-book would be the entire thing, which would be more convenient – and the price is really going to be very reasonable!  Again, I’d like to hear what people think.

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WillemSvdMerwe
Willem van der Merwe
South Africa
I was born in 1972, Pretoria, South Africa. I started painting and drawing at the age of 5. I stopped doing that for a while to study some other fields, but recently I've been getting back into it. I love wildlife and nature but I also paint or draw people. I also paint and draw fantasy creatures or scenes, as well as extinct animals.
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:iconplumita1:
plumita1 Featured By Owner 1 day ago
:iconheartsignplz: Thank you so much! :iconforyouplz:...Did I hear a click? by plumita1
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:iconevometheus6082:
Evometheus6082 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
HAPPY ST PATRICK'S DAYLeprechaun Emoticon  and Happy Birthday
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015
Thanks and a (late) Happy St. Patrick's day to you too!
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:iconalkraas:
Alkraas Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy Birthday :)
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015
Thank you!
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:iconmouselemur:
Mouselemur Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Willem, I wish you a very happy birthday though the celebrating might be coming to a close already :happy birthday: Happy DeviantART Birthday 
Fijne dag gewenst :hug:
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015
Baie dankie!
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:iconsylverface:
sylverface Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Happy Birthday :ahoy: :party: :cake:  have a great day =D
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015
Thank you!
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:iconsylverface:
sylverface Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
No problem =D
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