Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Wildlife, Game Reserves

I’m, um, Normal!

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.

– Roger Hogg’s garden bird – normal –

Here’s the part that pleased me:

– Roger – how very English –

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.’

– more Green Twinspots –

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

British birding – we should realise how lucky we are!

“Only around 150 people can look through the fence and see the bird at one time, so we have been organising a queue system. People can see the bird for ten minutes, then get to the back of the queue and wait their turn again.”  – aaah! – to be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life – Geoffrey Caruth esq quoting that scoundrel Cecil John Rhodes

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Moth-Eaten Friends

For some unknown reason, Bruce thinks I know things, so he sends me stuff. Which I really enjoy! What’s this? he often asks. This was a moth on his car in Mbona, an ‘eco estate’ in the KwaZulu Natal midlands.

– what’s this on my BMW? he asked – bragging –

Of course, I immediately knew – after asking Roy Goff of African Moths. He identified it as Pingasa abyssinaria – ‘a regular from that end of the continent. It has an unusual resting posture which often makes people notice it.’

Common name: Duster. Bruce’s picture (shown) is better than any of the pictures I could find on moth websites – not bad! Maybe we can call it The Mbona Duster? Thank you to African Moths and Christeen Grant’s magic Midlands nature blog for info and the use of their pictures temporarily.

Judging by the beautifully fringed trailing edge of its wings, I’d guess it flies very quietly – the better to dodge bats and nightjars and other predators.

– Bruce has a thing about moths –
– another Bruce moth – from their Masizi Kunene Road home in Durban –
Africa, Aitch, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Another Garden Snake

We were happily sitting on a septic tank in River Drive when progress came rudely knocking. The municipality was putting in water-borne sewerage and the pipe was going to go through our garden and across the Mkombaan River at the bottom of it.

There would be some dynamite blasting. Deep blasting where they were going right under the river bed.

Bliksem. I was not happy. Our little wilderness was about to be badly shaken up.

Aitch arranged to meet with the high-ups and extracted some undertakings from them – We hereby undertake to minimise damage; to let you know the exact path so you can move your precious plants; to give you ample warning so you can move your dogs in time – we were still blissfully child-free – etc. they intoned solemnly. And she kept them to their word!

I asked the guys onsite to please not kill any creatures and to bring me anything they found so I could move it away safely. I would reward them. That’s how I came to receive this in a big bucket:

– Natal Black Snake – Macrelaps microlepidotus –

What a beauty! A solid-looking snake about 80cm long. Fascinating. I read up on them: They’re back-fanged, mildly venomous, not life-threatening; very reluctant to bite; slow-moving, placid; Look at the beautiful coloration and scales. 

Relatively rare, they spend most of their life underground – note the small eyes. Found under rotting logs or when doing excavations. Move about slowly on warm, overcast days; good swimmers. Natal Black Snakes feed on frogs, lizards, legless lizards and small rodents; are known to take carrion.

As I promised them, I moved it to a safe place that same evening: the other end of our garden.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Thanks Nick Evans; Tyrone Ping; Chad Keates

Africa, Birds & Birding, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Another Friendly Garden Snake

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!)

– gobbled up by the girls –

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’:

– the ‘head’ – or the leading ‘worms’ –

. . 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:

– fungus gnat larva – about 5-6mm long –

. . and here’s the even tinier gnat next to 1mm marks:

– fungus gnat – body about 2mm long –

Fascinating!

Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

I’m beginning to suspect . .

. . that Soutar was sold a story which he swallowed as he swallowed the fourth free sample they gave him in Ballito.

I don’t think this whisky:

. . is made in KwaZulu Natal.

Reason being they also make Cape Gins and they talk of Cape florals n shit.

But Soutar roared back: They said it is made in Mtunzini and taken to Cape Town for barrel age-ing. (then he adds unpatriotically) . . it was not very nice in comparison to the single malt Irish and Scots of which I had many. I only had one tot of this SA one  – So Waaaaa !!!

Me: Mtunzini!? I’m beginning to like it again. I can just imagine . . . the connoisseur sniffs, sips, and says ‘hmmmm – subtle hints of crocodile shit . . . ‘

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Wildlife, Game Reserves

Blue-Banded Bee

A gorgeous Aussie!

What a beaut Aussie bee! Snapped in flight in a Brisbane garden by Saffer-Kiwi-Aussie ace photographer Steve Reed.

Solitary bees, they don’t hang around in groups. They nest in tunnels in clay or sandstone – but don’t trust me, do some research.

Which reminds me of one of Aitch – Trish – don’t say Patricia! – ‘s favourite songs:

– they hang around in groups like battle-weary troops –
Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Food, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Mfolosi Day Trip

2019 Aug day trip

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.

– dry plastic-y bread rolls and viennas!! –