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African Wild Cat, Close-Up

African Wild Cat, close-up, Kruger National Park, South Africa Caption: African Wild Cat close-up showing the diagnostic red color behind the ears, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D; Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM zoom; Focal Length: 252mm; Aperture: f/5.6; Shutter Speed: 1/60; ISO: 800.

This is not your common or garden domestic kitty, but rather a true African Wild Cat (Felis silvestris).

We know it’s a genuine wild cat because of the distinctive red hair on the back of the ears, which is not found in domestic or feral cats.

You can find out more and see additional pictures on our web page, African Wild Cat Standing Side-On.

Amethyst Sunbird Feeding Juvenile

Amethyst sunbird feeding juvenile Caption: Adult male Amethyst Sunbird feeds a juvenile female while both cling to the stem of a red-hot poker, Curry’s Post, KZN, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EF 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM; Focal length: 400mm; Aperture: f/8; Shutter speed: 1/1250; ISO: 640

I don’t have a garden in front of my cottage – just a tiny patch of lawn that falls away to natural grass that, at this time of year, is thick and very unkept.

Last year I did, however, plant three red-hot pokers on the edge of the lawn. This summer one colorful head bloomed, soon discovered by the sunbirds.

White taking some photos of a female amethyst sunbird (Chalcomitra amethstina) feeding on the nectar of the red-hot poker, an adult male appeared. Immediately the female opened her bill and the male responded by feeding her.

I don’t know why a male would feed an adult female in this way, so can only assume this was a juvenile, although it seemed quite capable of finding its own nectar from the red-hot poker (below, left). On the right is the adult male.

Female amethyst sunbird feeding on nectar of red-hot pokerAdult male Amethyst Sunbird feeding on nectar of red-hot poker

Gaudy Commodore Butterfly

Gaudy commodore butterfly feeding on nectar, Curry's Post, KZN, South Africa Caption: Gaudy Commodore in summer (wet season) form feeding on nectar, Curry’s Post, KZN, South Africa

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM telephoto; Aperture: f/5.6; Shutter speed: 1/4000; ISO: 800

The Gaudy Commodore (Precis octavia sesamus), found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of 48 – 56 mm.

The Gaudy Commodore, amazingly, looks completely different in winter. In fact, it shows such extremes of seasonal dimorphism that the summer and winter forms were at one time thought to be two distinct species.

The pictures above and below show Precis octavia in its summer or wet season form. The photographs were taken in a neighbor’s garden at the end of December last year (mid-summer), using a telephoto lens.

As can be seen, in its summer form, the coloring of the Gaudy Commodore is pinkish-red with black borders and dark markings at the base of the wings.

In winter it looks totally different – the upperside of the wings is bluish-purple, checkered with black and a row of red spots. Sorry, haven’t got a photo showing the winter colors, so will need to keep an eye out for one in the coming months.

Gaudy commodore butterfly on yellow flower

Gaudy commodore butterfly (Precis octavia sesamus) in summer colors, Curry’s Post, KZN, South Africa

Imaguard Plugin Guides Searchers to your Blog

Although I previously installed the Break Dance plugin as a way of getting searchers to visit my blog from Google’s new image search, I have now replaced this with another, more sophisticated plugin that aims to achieve the same result.

The new plugin, Imaguard, doesn’t require any fiddling with the .htaccess file as it makes necessary changes for you. It also offers more options, including a “non-aggressive” and “aggressive” approach. (Note: Please see Update at foot of this post).

I tried the aggressive option briefly.

This is what happened: click on thumbnail in search results and the hot-linked image appears within the results as normal, but after a moment it blacks out with a “Click Here” link right in the middle. This should be sufficient incentive to make the searcher click, which takes them through to the actual page on which the image appears (i.e. your site).

However, if the searcher clicks instead on “View original image”, they will see the same, blacked-out image, but at full size. I think this could irritate searchers and there’s nothing further to induce them to your site.

So I switched to the non-aggressive approach, simply because I believe it provides more avenues for the searcher to get to your site.

Here’s how I have it working:

1. In image search, click on thumbnail and, as per normal, a larger version of the image opens within the results. However, the picture is slightly fuzzy – it’s an enlargement of the thumbnail because the plugin prevents Google from hot-linking to the original image.

If you now click on the image, you’ll be taken to the blog/web page as normal. However, because the image is a bit fuzzy, the searcher is quite likely to click on “View original image” (highlighted in yellow below).

Imaguard plugin stops hotlinking

2. Now, however, when you click on “View original image”, instead of your original image being displayed full size in a blank window, the image appears (at a size you can select) within your blog. All the menus, display ads and links are visible and clickable. So the searcher is at least now seeing your blog and has more incentive to browse around (below).

Imaguard plugin at work in image search

3. Should someone still want to view the full-size image, they can click on the image within your blog (the text above the pic is customizable) and will then see it full-size in a window floating above your blog, like in a photo gallery (below).

Imaguard plugin showing full size image

While this plugin will not stop image theft, it’s clever because the first image someone sees when clicking on a thumbnail is a slightly fuzzy version. They’ll either move on, click on the image and get taken to the relevant web page, or click to view the original, in which case they’ll see your blog. They’ll have to click again to view the full-size image and once they close it or click on it, they’re taken back to your blog.

The Imaguard developer is quick to answer questions and help solve issues in the Support thread, so I’d definitely recommend this plugin for anyone wanting to drive visitors back to your blog via image search.

UPDATE 19 FEB 2013: There are unfortunately some issues resulting from use of the plugin. Main concern voiced by web publishers is that Googe is not indexing new images that have been added since they installed the plugin, while some older images are falling out of the index. You can read more about this on the Imaguard Support Thread.

As a result of this, I am going to deactivate the plugin for the time being and see what transpires. I would recommend that anyone considering using Imaguard bide their time until some of the problems have been sorted out.

WordPress Plugin for New Google Image Search

In my previous post, I wrote about Google’s new image search and the impact this is having on photographers and artists. Since the changes, web publishers with image-rich sites are seeing a substantial drop in traffic and are understandably furious.

Not only are they seeing a fall in visitors and revenue, but they’re also concerned about increased image theft. Publishers who buy images from stock photo sites are subject to strict usage conditions and are understandably worried that Google can display the full-sized image in a new window with no copyright notice or links to the originating website.

As a result, many publishers are taking the drastic step of blocking Google from indexing images. Others are looking for less drastic, alternative solutions that will encourage visitors to visit their websites. One such site that’s creating plenty of discussion is fansshare.com.

While I’m not endorsing this site, I mention it as they have somehow thwarted Google so that anyone clicking on a fansshare thumbnail while in Image Search initially sees the hotlinked image that Google displays within the results, but a moment later the image is grayed out with a prominent link to the actual web page (below).

fansshare image search

For a brief moment you see what Google wants you to see after clicking on a thumbnail in image search

fansshare and new google image search

Moments later the image is grayed out, replaced with a link to the page on the fansshare site

This sort of solution usually requires some fancy programming and changes to files on the server, which is beyond the capabilities of most publishers. However, I have found a partial solution for WordPress blogs, so that searchers are taken to my original blog post, rather than an image in a blank window, when they click on “View original image”.

It’s a plug-in called Google Break Dance. It’s simple to install, but does require that you add some code to the .htaccess file. Here’s the gist of the English translation that describes the plugin:

“When the visitor clicks the link ‘View original image’ on the Google search page, then the URL will be redirected immediately to the post where the image is located. Before installing this plugin do not forget the following input text lines to the very top of the .htaccess file:”

My blog resides in a sub-folder on the server and there was already an .htaccess file in that folder (same where wp-admin, wp-content etc are located). It had some lines of code related to my blog, so I added the additional code that the plugin requires. I had to put in the exact URL of the blog to get it working.

So here’s what I added to the .htaccess, below the existing lines:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} wp-content/uploads/.*\.(gif|jpg|jpeg|png)$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://blog.wildlife-pictures-online.com/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ /get_image?$1 [R=302,L]
# END WordPress

So far this seems to be working fine with my blog images. You can test it by going to Google image search, then typing in “site:blog.wildlife-pictures-online.com” (without quotes).

This will show thumbnails of images from my blog. Click on any one, then click on “View original image” and you should be taken to the blog post on which the image appeared. (In a few instances it doesn’t work, where the original image is from a category page rather than an actual post).

I get very few visitors to this blog and certainly no revenue, so the plugin is hardly going to make a difference. However, it’s more a matter of principle as I firmly believe what Google is doing with its new image search is unethical, unfair on publishers, and totally against its motto of “Don’t Be Evil”.

UPDATE WED FEB 13: Looks like there could be potential problems with the Break Dance plugin redirecting to the original blog post. There are reports on the Web of people seeing a drop in rankings of their images since using the plugin.

However, there is an alternative, the Imaguard plugin, that I’ve installed instead. (Thanks Charles). Hope to add a post about how this works in the next day or two.

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