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About Deviant Member Willem van der MerweMale/South Africa Groups :iconliving-earth: Living-Earth
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Ostrich family by WillemSvdMerwe
Ostrich family
Ostriches!  These are of course the largest birds in South Africa and indeed the world.  There are one or two species of ostrich.  This is the main one, Struthio camelus, the other species sometimes recognized is the Somali ostrich, Struthio molybdophanes.  Although I portray a sort of 'nuclear' family here, male ostriches typically have many mates.  They all lay their eggs in a single nest, the male brooding by night and the females by day.  Lots of animals will try to steal and eat ostrich eggs.  Mongooses and Egyptian vultures have learnt to use stones to crack the thick shells.  Ostriches can reach 2.7 m/9' in height and 155 kg/340 lbs in weight.  Pencil drawing coloured with Photoshop.
Wandering Albatross by WillemSvdMerwe
Wandering Albatross
The wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans, is the largest of the albatrosses and also the living bird species with the longest wings.  There have been claims of wingspans of over 4 m/13' but the largest reliably recorded wingspan is about 3.6 m/12'.  The long wings of this albatross allow it to soar low over the sea the whole day long with hardly any flapping.  Albatrosses catch squid, mostly at night when they're closest to the surface.  They breed on subantarctic islands that are free of large predators.  The albatrosses are very tame and can be approached, even touched, on their nests.  It takes nine months to raise a chick, so the albatrosses breed only every second year.  They breed until late in life; a related female albatross has been noted to still be raising chicks at an age of over sixty years!  This is a pencil drawing, tweaked and coloured with Photoshop.
Saddlebilled Stork by WillemSvdMerwe
Saddlebilled Stork
While the Marabou (see previous in this gallery) is one of Africa's ugliest birds, the Saddlebilled Stork, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, is one of its most attractive birds!  It is huge, as tall as or taller than the marabou, exceeding 1.5m/5' in height, but is more slender and weighs less.  It is named for the yellow saddle-like frontal shield on top of its red and black bill.  It is interesting for being sexually dimorphic, the male and female looking different - BUT both sexes being equally impressive!  The difference is that the male has dark brown eyes, while the female has bright yellow eyes, and the male also has a pair of hardly-visible small yellow wattles at the base of his bill.  So this is the male.  Saddlebilled storks hunt fish, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals, most of the time wading in rivers or lakes.  I once saw one swallow a river turtle bigger than its head and about three times wider than its neck!  Pencil drawing, coloured in Photoshop.
Marabous by WillemSvdMerwe
The Marabou, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, is one of Africa and the world's largest storks.  Apart from the African species, there are two very similar Asian species called Adjutants.  Marabous have among the largest wingspans of all birds.  They are fairly generalist feeders, but eat carrion a lot. They have rather vulture-like naked heads and necks.  They also have inflatable pouches below and at the back of the neck, which they use for display.  Drawing coloured with Photoshop.
Gerenuks by WillemSvdMerwe
The Gerenuk, Litocranius walleri, is also known as the Giraffe Antelope.  Here you see the male (rearing up) and the female.  Gerenuks have slender, elongated necks, that of the male being thicker than that of the female.  They also have long, slender legs.  They are able to stand up on their hind legs, which allows them to browse much higher than other antelopes (though not as high as actual giraffes!).  They have unusually small, fine mouths with which they pick out the juiciest leaves.  Gerenuks reach a head-body length of 1.5 m/5' and can browse at a height of about 2 m/6'6".  They are found in northeast Africa in dry savannah or scrubby woodland.  Pencil drawing, coloured with Photoshop.
On Saturday I was out to visit my friends the Van Schalkwyks and to do some plant seeking! The farm is about 50 km from Pietersburg/Polokwane, close to the town of Haenertzburg, in some of the foothills of the Wolkberg Mountains. The plants I was looking for were Euphorbia pulvinata plants. They are succulents with spined, angled stems. This particular species has a remarkable cushion-like growth form, the stem tips crowding together to make mounds that can grow over a metre/yard in width and about half that in height. I've never seen the species here before ... I did see them at the Walter Sisulu Botanic Garden, and I also grow them in my own garden! But here I saw a substantial wild population in the hills. They grow in bushveld with grass as well as trees and lots of shrubs, sometimes in the open amidst grass and rocks, sometimes in light shade. The species occurs widely but patchily from the far north of Limpopo Province down to the Eastern Cape.

Here are the Euphorbia pulvinata plants.

A large and healthy specimen, with hundreds of stems tight together:…

A couple of specimens. To the left you can see some damage ... some of them were suffering and there were many dead plants as well:…

A small plant, growing with another succulent: look on the right, the plant with the bright green, finger-like leaves. That is Senecio barbertonicus, another interesting species of which there were many, some quite robust:…

Another small Euphorbia pulvinata growing together with another succulent, this time a little Mesemb, a Delosperma:…

More clumps, the front one showing some growth tip damage and a bit of irregular growth, but overall appearing healthy:…

All in all I was very satisfied.  The population includes perhaps thousands of plants, including some spectacular ones. 

Of course there was much else to see, also, and here are a few more photos.  There were several species of Aloe on the farm. This is, I think, Aloe aculeata, which grew alongside the Euphorbias. They weren't flowering, if they did I would have been able to confirm the ID:…

There were many flowering Barberton Daisies, Gerbera jamesonii. These are the emblem of the Blue Bulls rugby team, and appears on the flag of the province of Mpumalanga. None of which deterred this beetle from making a snack of one!…

These are the lovely flowers of a Cross Berry, Grewia occidentalis. A vigorously growing shrub, tree or climber, bearing fruit that look like four berries grown together in a cross shape.…

Here is a little Bonsai Tacky, or Crassula sarcocaulis. These little succulents, growing in mountainous or hilly terrain, look like stunted little trees. This one has the proportionally fattest stem I've ever seen on one:…

OK the rest is just for plant/environment nerds! 

The natural environment on the farm is quite diverse.  Not as high as the main peaks of the Wolkberg mountains to the south and east, the hills are nevertheless high enough to create a diversity of local climates.  The first hill I ascended was quite dry, covered in light woodland with a good covering of grass.  Luckily this early in the season, the grass was still fairly short, so I could walk about easily.  The Euphorbia pulvinata plants start about halfway up the hill.  They often grow wedged amidst rocks, but sometimes in patches of open ground.  It’s interesting to me to see them growing in savannah woodland, since this species is more in my mind associated with open, rocky grassland.  Climbing to the top of the hill I noticed a second species of small euphorbia, this one Euphorbia schinzii.  It is a widespread species with many different forms.  These were interesting to me since some of them somewhat resembled the Euphorbia clivicola plants that are mostly restricted to eastern Polokwane.  These schinzii plants were much less robust, though.  Also prominent on this hill were the great tree-like Euphorbia ingens.

From this hill I hiked eastwards along the crests and to the peaks of two higher hills.  Here the climate became visibly moister, and the landscape changed.  It was more grassland with patches of scrubby thicket growth.  Also prominent were extensive rocky regions including rock sheets patchily covered with shallow soil and with shallow, water-filled depressions.  Succulents here were mainly restricted to the shallow soil.  I didn’t see any more Euphorbias here, but some other very interesting plants, including the Resurrection Plant, Myrothamnus flabellifolius.  These plants dry out rapidly and apparently completely, looking dead and dry over the dry season.  But with rain they very rapidly respond, apparently returning to life and becoming green!  These plants were also associated with the rock sheets.

Other succulents included tackies, species of the Crassula family: the pig’s ear tacky, Cotyledon orbiculata, the Bonsai tacky, Crassula sarcocaulis, and other species – Kalanchoe rotundifolia, Kalanchoe paniculata, Crassula swaziensis (which were especially abundant around the rock sheets).  The Mesemb family featured in the form of a small Delosperma with cream-white flowers, and a white-flowered Khadia, both growing as very small tufts.  Aloes included Aloe aculeata, A. greatheadii or a related form, the cliff aloe Aloe arborescens, and a robust grass aloe, likely the widespread species Aloe boylei.  The latter seemed to have been browsed, many of the plants having branched as they re-sprouted.  I saw only a single Carrion Flower, either a Huernia stapelioides, or a Huernia insigniflora.  It wasn’t flowering so I couldn’t tell for sure.  Other interesting succulents were Senecio barbertonicus, a succulent member of the daisy family, here appearing thicker and more robust than the ones I know from elsewhere; Senecio oxyrifolius, with beautiful roundish leaves sprouting from subterranean tubers; Kleinia longiflora, just a single but very robust and thick specimen, unusual because I associate it with much drier regions; Cyphostemma lanigerum, a widespread member of the grape family, resprouting from underground tubers but often with at least some persistent above-ground growth; Adenia digitata, another tuberous plant, a relative of passion flowers; a single Ipomoea albivenia plant; small Anacampseros plants in the shallow soil around the rock sheets … probably a form of Anacampseros subnuda.


Other interesting plants include small, charming Pelargoniums; a beautiful flowering small Xerophyta on the high hill crests; lots of lovely Barberton daisies, including the one I show here being sampled by a small beetle; several other daisy species including large, yellow-flowered species and tiny Helichrysums in the high, rocky regions; a species of wild jasmine; species of Carissa or num-num; a single Streptocarpus flowering in the shade of a shrub; a species of Jatropha (a tuberous relative of Euphorbias); some lovely spotted Ledebourias; several Flame Lilies, Scadoxus puniceus; also Sore-eye Flowers, Boophone disticha; many other charming bulbous species that weren’t flowering and that I couldn’t identify; yellow-flowered Grewia’s or raisin-bushes; also the pink-flowered Cross Berry, Grewia occidentalis; trees including cabbage trees, Cussonia spicata and Cussonia natalensis; several species of thorn tree (old name Acacia but now reclassified as, among others, Vachellia), Weeping Wattles, Peltophorum africanum; a few large sumach-beans, Elephantorrhiza burkei; a lovely kind of wild grape, Rhoicissus, with greyish leaves covered with short, white, felty hairs; stem-fruits, Englerophytum magalismontanum; Currant-bushes, Ozoroa (though I can’t say which species); a few species of Rhus/Searsia; species of Guarri, Euclea; some Wild Olives; beautiful purple-flowered Cork Bushes, Mundulea sericea.


I did watch for other things than plants as well!  Birds encountered included Rock Buntings, a female Amethyst Starling, a Chinspot Batis, an eagle flying overhead (couldn’t ID it though), Lazy  Cisticolas, and calling cuckoos down in the valleys – Red-Chested Cuckoos and a Black Cuckoo.  Those I only heard, rather than see.  Other animals included skinks, lizards (flat lizards, probably) and perhaps an Agama that ran so fast I couldn’t see it very clearly.  There were many insects, including butterflies and a host of different beetles.  The tiny ones eating the daisies, other larger chafer-like ones apparently attracted by the cow dung, and one brightly-black-and-yellow CMR beetle.


I didn’t take many photos, since my camera battery was apparently not recharging fully, leaving me only twenty minutes or so of active camera time.  But on coming home when I plugged my camera in, it apparently recharged to over an hour and a half!  So … I hope the battery is all right.  I would like to return to the farm two weeks from now, and again see what I can see and this time hopefully take many more photos!


WillemSvdMerwe's Profile Picture
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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mdlillustration Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2015  Professional General Artist
Hi Willem,

Thank you for accepting the requests for my new group.

Think your creatures like it there :)

See you around!
SaskiaAnnerie Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Your drawings are really great. Amazing gallery :)
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2015
Thanks a lot!
BlurWing Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015
I love it when a comment or DD takes me to a page that i would not have seen otherwise... You have a remarkable gallery and talent!! 
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015
Aw thanks very much!
Evometheus6082 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Happy New Years
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2015
Thanks!  To you too!
DreamyNaria Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Your art is amazing!! OMG 
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2014
Thank you very much!
AsatiraSiti Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Kudos on such a beautiful gallery! I can't stop faving!
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