It was midday, and Peter had arrived at a waterhole in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. Scores of white-backed and lappet-faced vultures covered an eland carcass, squabbling over the meat. ‘Two things hit me simultaneously,’ says Peter. ‘The vile stench of rotting flesh and the intense buzz of flies.’
The white-backed vultures were surprisingly violent as they vied for the best feeding positions. This particular individual had backed off from a fight but was about to re-enter the fray. Covered in dust, wings spread, head lowered, it reminded Peter of a gladiator in his chariot, lining up for a charge.
Its picture is a portrayal of the true character of this feisty bird.
Red Seabeach: Photo by Jia Mi on Flickr | Copyright.
Contributor: Eric Grundhauser
Looking out across the world’s largest wetland area, the swath of marshy flora growing in the shallow waters of Dawa County, China is an eye-popping crimson, making the whole area look like it has been taken over by the fictional “red weed” popularised in H.G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds.
Despite its otherworldly appearance, the red grasses of this Chinese marsh have an all too Earthly, if still rare, origin.
The plant is actually a form of Chenopodium (a member of the Amaranthaceae), although this specific species is unique in that it can thrive in alkaline soil.
The unique landscape also is home to a number of endangered migratory birds and is protected, although tourists can walk among the rare reeds by specially installed wooden walkways that extend out over the delicate ecosystem.
It is unlikely that this location was a direct inspiration for Wells’ weeds, but it makes the site no less unearthly.
The area is also home to the world’s largest reed marsh which is harvested to make papyrus like paper products, perfect for writing science fiction stories on.