Breakfast on the Deck

Egg, bacon, tomato, black coffee and binoculars. Thanks, Cecelia!

The flying ants were trying to pair up and scurry off and mate after shrugging off their wings, but the ants were nabbing them. The ants, in turn were being robbed by the birds and a skink. They’d grab the juicy termite, flick hard, separating the ant, then peck up and gobble down the termite. Termites taste like butter, ants taste like acid.

westville wildlife

Indoors there was also some wildlife to be seen:

westville wildlife indoors

Made me late for work!

More this week:

The raucous Westville Kookaburra
Dragonfly with a point-n-shoot camera
The dreaded Westville Pteradactyl

Westville Kookaburra – Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Westville Pteradactyl – Hadeda Ibis

Brasil in 1988

Aitch took me to Brasil. She had done well as usual in her sales for Scherag and so off we went. First a flight to Manaus in Amazonas province, then a long drive eastward along the Amazon River towards a lake just off the river, then by ferry to a pousada on Silves Island.

We weren’t married, but I was on my best behaviour and just watched as the bachelors (actual and temporary) in the party would trumpet every night ‘TooDooDoot TooDoo’ “we’re going fox-hunting!” they would announce at dinner and troop out with huge grins on their dials.

I stuck to feathered birds like oropendolas, huge toads, caymans and a fresh, very sad ocelot skin the lodge staff had proudly recently shot! Aaargh!

oropendola call

Then we headed way south to the coast, to Angra dos Reis – the Cove of Kings. A booze yacht trip to the islands and beaches and swimming. One night Aitch felt ill and announced she’d go to bed early, I must go to supper alone. Yes!? I said. Sure, she said. Enjoy yourself. Ha HAAA! I was off – after dressing in my warrior fox-hunting regalia. At supper I tooted the fox-hunting horn with the best of them and announced my newfound freedom. We were off.

We found a bar with a wonderful barman. He gave you anything you wanted and all you had to do was scribble your name! It was first-class. Another round! I’d yell and we’d throw down another marvelous caipirinha and fling the glass over our shoulder. No! No! said the barman, grabbing his broom and sweeping up the pieces. MORE BEER! I’d yell, getting into my stride now.

Of course, I can handle my liquor but some of the guys were less capable. In fact, they dropped me twice on the way back to my chalet. And once there they just propped me up against the door, knocked and ran away. So Aitch found me closely inspecting the door mat and mumbling how I’d have to have a word with them about their service.

She says she dragged me into the shower and ran the cold water full blast and threw me into bed but of course that could all be rumours I don’t know I wasn’t there.

I got up early and made breakfast, feeling sprightly. And where were all the culprits? Nowhere to be seen. All indisposed, it was said. That’s what drinking too much will get you. We checked out that day and I was made to pay a bill a metre long with some complete stranger’s signature on all the slips. A signature that got less and less of something until it was just a short downward line with what looked like drool on it. I just paid. Rumours were going around and I didn’t want to cause a scene. I was there as merely spouse-of, so I had to behave.

Yacht at Angra dos Reis, Brasil

On to Rio! To the Copacabana! I was sure there’d be some licenced premises there too. There were! Aitch turned thirty high up on the roof of our hotel, with her colleagues giving her a huge festive bash. We had a banner made to string above the bar “THIRTY! and UNMARRIED!” it said. We had a roaring party that had the hotel guests below us wanting us to hush and the favela okes on the hills above us wanting to join in!

Copacabana Beach from our hotel roof
the cantagalo favela seen from our hotel roof (wikipedia pic)

pousada – Lodge or Inn

Angra dos Reis – cove – or inlet or creek – of kings

caipirinha – wonderful cold drink; refreshing; then tiptoes around behind you and taps you on the shoulder

favela – informal housing; shacks on the steep hill slopes

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Another pic pf an oropendola, this one by blogger Eduardo Libby.

chestnut-headed oropendola

Mfolosi Day Trip

A drizzly day, not much to report. I was learning about the new little Canon pocket camera. Haven’t worked it out yet. When we got home I saw it took video all the time we thought we were just focusing for still shots!

So aiming for this:

Cape (glossy) Starling

We got this (except much longer):

Martial Eagle and Common (steppe) Buzzard

Also, I lost my tracker! Jess is normally heads-up, spotting everything and saying “What’s that?” and all I have to do is ID what she’s spotted. Today her head was firmly down, eyes glued to her cellphone. “Dad, there’s no signal!” and “Omigod! I got two bars! Oh, they’re gone!”

There’s a boyfriend, see.

Bummer. That’s why I made the feature pic an Impala bum.

Mfolosi day trip Jan 2019

Ah! Now I see: I had the camera on Hybrid Auto mode, “whereby 2-4 seconds of video is captured before each still image and later combined into a 720p digest movie chronicling your day.” That’s what I saw and wondered where it came from!

Labour of Love – Aitch

My bird list book made by Aitch back in 1985, soon after we met.

Aitch birdlist book

Every bird from Roberts handwritten – and done on the quiet so I only got to see the end result for my first xmas present from her!

After that we birded in other countries in Africa. Also in the USA, Brasil, UK, Europe, Malaysia and Indonesia. These lists I just hand-wrote in.

Here she is round about then . .

Aitch ca.1986 in Brasil

16 Ivy Road

Mom was on furlough from the home – Azalea Gardens. Sheila fetched her and Barbara, Linda, Tholo and the two terrors Mary-Kate and Dawie and I joined them at 16 Ivy Road in Lincoln Meade, Pietermaritzburg.

What a lovely day – a great lunch, fun with the kids and ending with a surprise: ancient movies from our youth taken in the sixties with Dad’s 8mm movie camera. Sheila had arranged and paid for hours of old footage to be put on a memory stick! Dad says he had a small Canon movie camera first; I only remember his Eumig camera.

As we were leaving Tholo spotted a birds nest right above the car door with two little chicks begging, and showed Mary-Kate.

Linda lifted Mary-Kate up high and she took the world’s best picture for a five-year-old!

After everyone left I waited till I could spot the mother: a Cape White Eye.

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See the top pic: When the old man moved out of earshot – which means six inches away – Linda murmured to me sotto voce, ‘Here’s the man always telling others to get dressed early mornings: still in his jarmies at noon.’

Giving advice he’s good at.

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Great Excitement!

I got a wifi-enabled camera! My cellphone can now operate the camera remotely! I am going to set it up on a tripod and sit somewhere comfortable and take pictures of unwitting birds. No, man! Feathered ones.

I’ve long wanted this. Having it would have been handy to see what the hyenas and bushpigs were doing outside our hut late at night in Mfolosi game reserve last month.

Being a cheapskate I waited for the Canon Powershot SX620HS. It’s a tiny little compact camera so I can carry it easily; advantages over the phone camera: 25X optical zoom and a bigger sensor.

So now I got the camera aiming at the birdbath waiting for the first exciting shot.

Remote camera on tripod

Hmm, getting the camera and phone to talk to each other has taken way longer than I thought. While I was sukkeling, two spectacled weavers, a golden-rumped tinker, an olive sunbird, two brown-hooded kingfishers, a fork-tailed drongo and a speckled mousebird hopped on and grinned at me. Now that I’m rigged up, nothing so far!

Ons sal sien what comes of this! Maybe word got out in the bird world that the binocular pervert who always stares at them while they’re bathing now has a camera?

Thutty long minutes later I spot a small problem: My attention span! This is not really a sport for someone who hops from twig to twig and often makes frequent forays to the fridge and/or the kettle. One olive sunbird has been photographed, small and blurry; moving fast and olive-greenish against an olive-brownish backdrop. Meantime various ostriches and vultures might have taken gulps of water while my attention was elsewhere. Even moas and dodos; I wouldn’t know.

Steep learning curve ahead!

I can see I need auto-shoot with a movement detector so I can leave it and go to sleep and then see what happened in my absence. And so the drive for ever-more expensive equipment starts!

Another little challenge: Battery life! After waiting a few hours the whole setup suddenly switches off: “Re-charge Battery” it commands.

So whenever you see a great bird picture, take your hat off to the patience and perseverance and expense required to get those shots!

I now remember the stories Neville Brickell used to tell me about how he got his bird pics. He would find a spot where his target bird was likely to be. He would give a big bag of the right seed or feed to someone living nearby and ask them to put a handful out every day for a few weeks. He would then go back and set up a hide. Later he would enter the hide and – if lucky – get his picture! His resident feeder would be rewarded for that ultimate success so he had a reason to keep up the feeding. A lot of work and patience!

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Sukkeling – battling

Ons sal sien – we’ll see; time will tell

**Neville Brickell is a prominent S.A. avicultural photographer and researcher who used to get his specs from me at Musgrave Centre. He wrote books and articles and signed his duck book for me.

Ducks, Geese and Swans of Africa and its outlying islands – book, 1988

Introduction to Southern African cage and aviary birds – book

The Cuckoo Finch Anomalospiza imberbis – Avicultural Magazine Vol.116 No.4 2010