Such a pleasure to meet weirdos who prove I’m normal. Friends Petrea and Louis – speaking of weirdos – cracked me an invite to an early morning visit to Bill Oddie’s house in David Maclean Drive to spot some twinspots. To do some twin spotting.
Actually Roger and Linda Hogg’s home – what a beautiful garden! I didn’t take a picture, damn!
Now, looking at birds is normal, of course, as is drinking good coffee. Here are some of Roger’s bird pics. No, I’ll show you the weird part later. His daughters must die of embarrassment. I now can prove to my kids how normal I am.
Here’s the part that pleased me:
Here’s the real Bill Oddie, a crazy Pom. I got to know about him when Aitch bought me his ‘Little Black Bird Book’ cos she agreed with his assessment: ‘Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dishonest, distrusting, boorish, pedantic, unsentimental, arrogant and – above all – envious’.
And here’s an embarrassing discovery: I’ve seen lots of twinspots, but I thought this one in Roger’s garden was a first for Westville. When I went to add them to my life list, I saw that I’d twin-spotted twinspots in my own garden! In 1999 at 7 River Drive!
Petrea’s response was sharp, as always: ‘How wonderful to suffer from Sometimers. Every bird is a lifer! And anyway, ‘normal’ is a setting on a dryer.’
British birding – we should realise how lucky we are!
THRUSH Poetry Journal considers thrush songs to be among the most beautiful birdsong in the world. ‘We love that, and that is how we feel about poems,’ they say.
Thomas Hardy was feeling bleak when:
At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead In a full-hearted evensong Of joy illimited; An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, In blast-beruffled plume, Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound Was written on terrestrial things Afar or nigh around, That I could think there trembled through His happy good-night air Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware.
So my thrush has been calling just after dark and just before light for months but not once did he let me see him. But now I got him. He was way higher up than I’d been looking:
I’m still puzzled how he doesn’t show himself here! I used to see them regularly at River Drive.
Now he’s everywhere! I’ve seen him every morning since. I got footage. Excuse the discordant background noise. That’s son Tommy coming up to give me a hug while I was filming!
Thanks to xeno-canto.org for the top recording of Turdus libonyana, the Kurrichane Thrush – – – – xeno-canto: ‘sharing birdsounds from around the world’ – what a lovely thing to do!
This one on sister Barbara’s beautiful farm Umvoti Villa, on the Mispah side of Greytown. She’d seen a snake on the big homestead veranda, but then no, it wasn’t a snake. What was it? She sent some blurry pictures of the mystery serpent . .
I asked for clearer shots, but by the time she went back to try and get them, the ‘problem’ had been solved! No more snake. Barbara was happy: ‘All gone for breakfast. My problem solved . . no stomping . . no moving . . no doom!’ (spray – aargh!)
Barbara had noticed the ‘snake’ was actually a whole bunch of ‘worms’ marching in line, nose-to-tail. So had the hens and they proceeded to munch them.
Here’s the ‘snake’:
A closer look at its ‘head’:
. . and here’s what I found out: They’re Fungus Gnat larvae! Each one is tiny and leaves a mucousy slime trail, and they gather together to move. Here’s a single one, looking a bit like a small slug:
. . and here’s the even tinier gnat next to 1mm marks:
This trip was notable for the worst lunch ever: Jess usually makes a great lunch. Fresh rolls, mayonnaise, freshly-sliced tomatoes. This time she had plastic rolls, viennas – and chicken viennas at that – and tomato sauce. Ugh! She has undertaken to work with me in raising the standard.
Pigeon Valley is a Natural Heritage Park in Durban, South Africa. It is a magnificent example of a small urban reserve with very high levels of biodiversity. It was established to provide protection for our vanishing coastal climax forest. About 11ha in extent, it overlooks Durban Bay. Its south-facing slope is covered in canopy forest, while the north-facing slope has thorny thickets. An adjoining reservoir provides a tiny rectangular patch of coastal grassland – also a vanishing habitat. It’s a special place and is well worth a visit. see wikipedia.
There are over 110 species of trees occurring in Pigeon Valley, almost all of which are locally indigenous, including the rare Natal Elm, and the Natal Forest Loquat. Large stands of Buckweed (Isoglossa woodii) grow in forest glades.
The park is home to red duiker, blue duiker, large-spotted genet, a troop of banded mongoose, slender and water mongooses, vervet monkeys and the local mamba No.5 Dendroaspis polylepis subsp. hemsonii.
Beautiful forest birds found here include:
Rarer sightings include European Nightjar, Knysna Warbler, Lemon Dove, Mountain Wagtail, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Common Scimitarbill, Palm-nut Vulture, Nerina Trogon and Knysna Turaco. The current bird list for Pigeon Valley stands at 161 species. Summer migrants can include Black Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo and Red-backed Shrike – find the full list at wikipedia –
Friends of Pigeon Valley, led by tireless stalwart and asp whisperer Crispin, ensure that the park is largely free of unwanted plant species – in fact, way better than most people’s gardens! They (that’s Crispin) also liaise with the municipal managers of the reserve to address relevant issues, and guide a monthly walk open to the public at 07h30 on the second Saturday of each month. For some spectacular photos find Friends of Pigeon Valley on facebook.
Pics by Crispin Hemson, Sheryl Halstead and Roger Hogg; and when my point-and-shoot grows up it’s going to take pictures like these . .
Meantime I point at and shoot things that will stand still for me:
It’s a lovely place for a picnic. But you must watch out who you picnic with. There sometimes be weirdos and champagne-guzzlers. And people who adulterate champagne with fruit juice.
We really should try and preserve more areas in a natural state. Don’t you think?
I have not been this excited about a book since Tramp Royal, by Tim Couzens. Well, Trader Horn’s Ivory Coast and then Tramp Royal.
My own The First Safari by Ian Glenn just arrived and it’s beautifully made; a real old-fashioned book, hard cover complete with elegant dust jacket, map, real paper – dry matt, not glossy – and full of fascinating detective work on the trail of its subject, Francois Levaillant, explorer of the unknown-to-Europe (well-known, of course, to the people who lived there!) interior of the Cape Colony back in 1781.
I’ve only just started but already I have had to rush to report: I have a little thing about how a lot of these guys wrote how they went here and they went there and they shot a bloubok; and how often – almost always – they were actually taken there by local people with local knowledge. Their routes, their water holes, their finding animals for food and animals, birds, reptiles and plants for specimens was mostly done by and thanks to people who lived there. These local people weren’t ‘exploring’, they were earning a living as guides. Another huge reason to take along a host of local people – getting back safely! Not getting lost.
So here’s what I learn in Chapter 1: Far from an intrepid lone explorer, Levaillant actually had plenty of assistance on the quiet: A wealthy collector in Holland sponsored him, put him in touch with the VOC (Dutch East India Company) ‘fiskaal’ – like a magistrate – Willem Boers. Boers obtained the release of a prisoner jailed for murdering a Khoi woman. This man knew his way around and could act as a guide and helper for Levaillant.
This prisoner’s name? Swanepoel!
A criminal ancestor of mine lucked out and got to go on an amazing adventure.