Mfolosi Aerial Dogfight

It looked like a standoff. At a small pool of water in the dry sandy riverbed of the Black Mfolosi river a male Bataleur and a Tawny Eagle contested the scarce resource. Both stood on the sand at the water’s edge and hunched their shoulders at each other.

I watched a while then scanned all around. Suddenly I heard a cry above me. Two birds circled each other in the air just above our vantage point on a bluff overlooking the river. I looked back at the waterhole. They were gone, this must be them. It was. The eagle was dive-bombing the Bataleur shouting a hoarse kraak kraak. The Bataleur screamed defiantly, dodging the move.

The eagle circled to gain height and folded its wings and took aim again, the agile Bataleur dodging with a sideways roll.

The Bataleur then landed in a tall dead tree while the eagle was climbing again. Soon the Tawny was on his way down again, zooming straight at him and knocking him off his perch. They banked and circled and strained to gain height again, the Bataleur’s wingflaps surprisingly noisy. Once again the Tawny won the climb and launched a dive.

The Bataleur folded his wings and flew away low over the tree tops away from the river.

The Tawny landed back at the pool where it all started, victorious.

High above a white-backed vulture and a Yellow-billed Kite, witnesses to the dogfight, still circled in the thermals.


Wow!! Who needs a lion kill?

Oh, Jessica. Yes, dear. I didn’t realise how long we’d been here. We’ll drive now and look for lions, honey.

pics from https://willemkruger.wordpress.com/ and birdguides.com – thank you!

Grave Problem, DIY Solution

The ole man is thinking burial sites. He has found out it costs around R11 000 to be cremated and he thinks that’s an awful waste of money. Someone also told him you can bury yourself anywhere. Especially in your own backyard, “There’s nothing to stop you”. As a mad-keen DIY guy, he thinks that’s a helluva good idea.

I said “Maybe, but the hard bit will be reaching up and shovelling the soil on top of yourself”.

“YOU can do that” he says.

I said “I don’t think I’d be allowed to. Maybe your friends meant literally YOU can bury yourself in your backyard, but maybe it would be illegal for ME to do it?”

“Oh” – That’s got his active 94yr-old brain thinking. He’s plotting something, you can be sure.

My Car Is Scotch-Guarded

A special place is Montclair. I’ve been here seventeen years now. Longer than I was in town, Musgrave or Pavilion!

My car guard is 80yrs old, a proud member of the McGregor clan. Knows exactly what the weather is going to do each day and tells me with unerring accuracy. “Sunny tomorrow”. The next day if it’s raining: “I knew it would rain today”. Never wrong. Knowledgeable on birds, too. Two drongos attack a kite, dive-bombing it. “Look, that mother bird is teaching the two young ones to fly”. Had me searching the skies hopefully recently for an albatross that hangs around here. “It just flew over. Yes, an albatross. It’s here all the time,” she says. It would be a lifer for me and it would have all the birders in Durban flocking to the centre if there really was an albatross in Montclair! Of course it could be a wagtail.

The bane of her life is school holidays when the youngsters of Montclair use HER roof to kiss, cuddle, grope and “who knows what else!” She chases them off like they’re alien vagrants. When pressed she will confess she was a handful herself in the old days in Joburg. She worked at the Norwood Pick n Pay and frequented the Braamfontein & Downtown pubs. Speaks fondly of the Victoria Hotel and the Station Hotel.

If I leave my lights on she marches into the shop: “Where’s your boss?” she’ll bellow. Stentorian, you could call her voice. Demure, not so much. And off she’ll go with my keys to switch them off for me. If I’m around when she returns she’ll deliver a short lecture about the battery. I know it off by heart, of course, but she’ll repeat it.

Knows all the skinder does Bridget. Which shop got robbed, who did it, what the cops said, her opinion. What the punters at the tote on the roof do and say, whether they have won or lost. How much they pusa (drink). Who drinks inside at the bar and who saves money by drinking standing around an open boot with a strong cane and coke mixture in polystyrene cups.

What a centre. Whose car guard comes to fetch them in the shop, pops up a golf umbrella and walks them to their car every time it rains? Mine does.

 

Jazz at Oxbow

Stayed at Oxbow Lodge one cold winter night. Can’t remember if we were childful yet or child-free. The whole lodge is tightly squeezed in a narrow space between the road and the river. Our little rondawel was icy: Concrete walls, thin iron windows with flimsy curtains, a slate floor. The bed actually looked and felt like an ice cream tub. We fired up the gas heater and went off to find supper.

The bar / dining room / lounge area was big and bleak but warmer than our room. Supper was delicious: a big hot filling stew. Maybe oxbone? With sherry. Plus we had one more great reason to settle down and stay: Lovely jazz music was playing over the speakers perched on the cornices. – – – (these pics are a more recent, revamped oxbow)

After a while I went to enquire at the pub. The lovely lady at reception showed me the CD cover below. We have listened to it ever since. *Click Play* and hear it y’self:

Back in the rondawel it was still cold but Oxbow back then was an oasis in the frigid winter Lesotho highlands. There was nowhere else to go for miles. Anyway, we were young and soon heated up the bed knowhatimean.

The rocky, waterfall-strewn river right outside was frozen solid the next morning, miles of ice and beauty in bright sunshine. Still freezing though.

Oxbow snow.PNG

The Photo Archives

I hardly ever carried a camera back when I was beautiful and had just the one chin. “I’m video’ing it in my head” I would say.

Of course now I’m really grateful other people carried cameras and I could get pics from them. Even in the days when you loaded a roll of film in the dark and wound it on by hand frame-by-frame some people carried cameras. I salute them!

And I admit I would grumble when they said “Stand closer together” “Smile” “Hang on! Just one more!”. Of course some people would think they had put in the roll of film when they hadn’t and all our posing (“poeseer!” remember SanMarie the game ranger’s joke?) was in vain. Yes, I’m thinking of you Taylor. He posed us in various ways on a buffalo carcase and when we eagerly asked for the photies weeks later (they had to go off “for development” of course) he had to sheepishly admit he hadn’t had a roll of film in his steam-driven camera.

Anyway, my memory of that moment was much better than his pic would have been: I remember a bloody carcase with glistening red meat still on the bone and lion prints around the sandy scene. We were posing looking over our shoulder, worried the lions might chase us off their prey at any minute. When later we did get a pic from someone better organised than Taylor the truth was far more mundane. The photo spoilt a good story.

Wilderness Walk.jpg
Intrepid non-photographer on the left with empty camera

So although I do have some slight regrets I still think I was generally more “in the moment” than many camera-occupied companions over the years – and I saw more birds. Anyway, my memories of what happened are usually far better than boring reality. Usually I play the starring role in them.

Once I met Aitch things changed of course and we had a fulltime photographer in the house. The years from 1986 are well documented. Then the kids arrived and the number of pics went through the roof. Thank goodness for digital! Even now when we drive through a game reserve Jess will say “Mom would have said ‘Stop! Go back!’ and you would have to reverse and she’d take a picture of a flower, remember?”

With cameras as ubiquitous as they now are all this smacks of days gone by. I was prompted to write this post when I read this yesterday: ‘If a millennial goes to a beautiful place but doesn’t get a photo, did they ever really go?’…

To end, some advice for Taylor:

Life like Camera.jpg

Here’s a graph showing camera sales in 1000’s since 1933:

Camera sales.jpg

OKay Doctor!

An optometrist friend of mine is a bit scatter-brained at times. He wouldn’t argue with that. He got a phone call once while seeing his last patient of the day. He had fitted him in late and told the staff “You go home, I’ll lock up”. He took the call at the reception desk, listened carefully, said “Yes, Yes” and agreed to get home soon.

He then left the office, locked up and went home – a twenty minute drive.

After he’d been home awhile he suddenly remembered!!! Omigawd! He leapt into his car and roared back to the practice, unlocked and walked in to where the man was still sitting in the chair.

The poor man was the first to speak: “Doctor, I hope you don’t mind, I moved the machine away from my face a little”.

Ahem, “Not at all” said my man and carried on examining the poor humble guy’s eyes.

Man, was he lucky with WHO it was. He coulda got ROASTED! His staff told the story for years afterwards!

 

Honeysucker Visit

Dad! Who farted!? exclaims Jess this morning, wrinkling up her nose.

Not me! Not me! Not me! say all three of us, each suspicious that someone is holding back. Or not holding back?

Soon the mystery is solved as we hear a rumbling in the road at the bottom of our garden. Someone must have been full of shit and the honeysucker has come to the rescue. It’s slurping up the neighbours’ overflow, as it were.

Sewer Honeysucker Truck

Ours was a boring municipal truck, this one from Hillcrest looks better.