Spring Sprung

Spring birding has been great. Some poor but fun pics of what’s been buzzing about.

– Cardinal Woodpecker – only one, but I inserted him three more times using FastStone –
– three birds in one shot! – top Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spectacled Weaver and female Black Cuckooshrike bottom – I added in a clearer pic of the cuckooshrike –
– Yellow-bellied Greenbul – left one is same bird added in (a bit small!) – insert was nearby – there were three of them –

Above: Cape White-eye and African Firefinch – Spectacled Weaver – Olive Thrush

– the Lodders came to visit and Louis casually shot a Grey Waxbill while we were talking – see in the inset how she flashed her scarlet rump lingerie at Louis –

Below: A Pegesimallus robber fly; The tail hanging down from the branch? A vervet monkey; Temnora marginata (a sphinx moth); Ceryx fulvescens (yellow sleeved maiden moth); and – the white moth possibly a citrus looper? Thanks, iNaturalist.org for help with identification.

The female Black Cuckooshrike returned and I got a better view. Pics are poor as I took them through my dirty window rather than open up and spook her. One bird, I compiled this montage with FastStone again.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Nailed at Last

What’s that at the birdbath? Luckily the camera is on the tripod nearby and I manage to get a few shots. Ah! An Ashy Flycatcher, the old Blue-Grey Flycatcher, Muscipapa caerulescens

As he leaves he calls and I have my mystery bird that I’ve been hearing, ‘knew that I knew,’ but couldn’t identify. Nailed him down.

That was yesterday. Today he flew round and round my garden to the tops of all the trees, calling continuously. A piercing call for such a little fella.

~~~oo0oo~~~

thanks xeno-canto.org for the call recording

Birds n Ballies

. . and a lower quota of Booze.

Lang Dawid came to visit after decades in the hinterland. Always very organised, he sent bearers ahead of his arrival bearing two lists: Ten new birds he wanted to see; and Three old bullets he wanted to see.

We delivered thirty percent of his bird list: A Red-capped Robin-Chat, A White-eared Barbet and a Terrestrial Brownbul;

Forty percent if you count the bonus male Tambourine Dove that landed in a patch of sunlight, a lifer for Dave.

– Dave’s dove –

All this thanks to Crispin Hemson showing us his special patch, Pigeon Valley in urban Durban. Talk about Guru Guiding! with his local knowledge, depth, anecdotes, asides and wandering all over, on the ground and in our minds. And his long-earned exalted status in this forest even allowed us to avoid arrest while climbing through a hole in the fence like naughty truant schoolboys. Whatta lovely man.

– Crispin scans, Dave holds his bazooka at the ready – turn a blind eye to the bottom left corner –

Then Dave and I retreated home to my patch in the Palmiet valley, where Tommy had cleaned up, readied the cottage for Dave’s stay and started a braai fire. Spot on, Tom!

One hundred percent of Dave’s list of old paddling mates arrived. Like homing pigeons, Allie, Charlie and Rip zoomed in. So I had four high-speed paddlers in their day on my stoep, race winners and provincial and national colours galore. We scared off any birds that might have been in the vicinity (feathered or human), but had a wonderful afternoon nevertheless, with lots of laughs.

After they left Dave and I had braai meat for supper; This morning we had braai meat for breakfast and he was off after a fun-filled 24 hours. I sat down to polish the breakfast remains and another cup of coffee and as a bonus, a female Tambourine Dove landed on my birdbath:

– not Dave’s camera –

A tragic consequence of their visit was an audit of my booze stocks the next day. Where before they’d have plundered, this time I ended up with more than I’d started with. How the thirsty have fallen!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dave’s camera equipment is impressive: a Canon EOS 7D Mk2 body;
https://www.techradar.com/reviews/canon-eos-7d-mark-ii-review
and a 500mm telephoto lens and his go-to, a 70-200mm lens. His main aim is getting a pic of every bird he sees. He shot his 530th yesterday here in Pigeon Valley. So he chases all over Southern Africa ticking off his ‘desired list.’ A magic, never-ending quest: there’ll always be another bird to find; there’ll always be a better picture to try for.

Here’s an adventure Dave and I shared back when we were bachelors, not ballies. That time it was beer n boobs, not birds n ballies.

~~~oo0oo~~~

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Beds o’ Bugs

Flower beds, not sleeping beds. Not that I actually have any flower beds in my jungle but just to say . . none in my bed. Just an excuse to use beds n bugs in a sentence.

So what are bugs? Well, it depends. Hemiptera or true bugs are an order of 80 000 insect species such as cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers and shield bugs. They range in size from 1 mm to around 15 cm. Many insects commonly known as “bugs”, especially in American English, belong to other orders; for example, the ‘lovebug’ is a fly; the ‘May bug’ and ‘ladybug’ are beetles. wikipedia

Again, I must add their identifications once I get around to it.

Next, I should do a post on the beatles . . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Herds o’ Butterflies

There been herds o’ butterflies mooching through my garden lately. I been shooting them, but still they come. So I thought I’d post some of those I shot for the enjoyment of them that are fond of the lil guys. Like me.

I’ve posted them – and many other creatures and plants – on iNaturalist.org here.

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“I been shooting them, but still they come,” is me quoting from a book I read long ago, “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.”** It told of settlers living in early Kenya who planted citrus trees. The elephants in that dry country loved them and they shot them and shot them, “but still they came.” Aren’t we humans delightful?

** which man-eater story, incidentally I recommend one takes with a huge pinch of salt. I don’t think lions behave that way, and I don’t think humans behave that way. But it sold like hot cakes and was imitated and frauds were perpetuated on its wave of success (at least one book had that title but the stories inside had nothing to do with the title!).

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I have learnt, in trying to emulate another, more famous Swanepoel with a butterfly net, that catching these flitters aint easy! So its more stalk and click than stalk and catch.

iNaturalist.org is Amazing

iNaturalist
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Connect with Nature!

One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.

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Some Spring Sightings

Palmiet Nature Reserve is ready for Spring! We’ve had a cold winter, some early rain, wind storms and today a hot ‘Berg wind.’ Nature lovers in the Palmiet Rangers group have been spotting all sorts of interesting life in our valley.

Then some Palmetians went to Roosfontein and shot a Nightjar!

Meantime, Pigeon Valley in Glenwood has also been busy, with ‘Friends of PV’ honcho Crispin Hemson keeping us all up-to-date about his patch as always:

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Oh, and babies! I forgot about the babies. When Spring springs, babies pop out . . Warren Friedman is the host daddy to these two broods. And the videographer.

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Palmiet Feathered Beauties

Palmiet neighbour Roger Hogg takes bird photography to amazing heights. We are so happy to receive his regular contributions to our little Palmiet Rangers whatsapp group.

This week he sent three stunning additions:

– female black cuckooshrike –
– dark-backed weaver –

top: half-collared kingfisher

~~~oo0oo~~~

Beautiful Skies

Jupiter and Saturn below the full moon put on a special show. A whatsapp message from an old schoolfriend sent me outside to take a picture, but the moon was too bright for my camera to deal with. Hence the annotated internet picture.

We’ve been having such beautiful skies – night and day – that I added some recent daytime skies.

. . and some birdbath pics:

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and just for good measure, some beaut pics from neighbours in the valley:

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Bird Bathing

A red-capped Robin-chat, a vervet monkey and a Purple-crested Turaco visit the birdbaths. Then later:

More vervets, Red-eyed Dove, Dark-capped Bulbul and Black-bellied Glossy Starlings. And then no birds, but a nice shadow:

~~~oo0oo~~~

– some more recent visitors – Red-eyed Dove, Laughing Dove in the tree, Red-backed Mannikins and Olive Sunbird –
– Brown-hooded Kingfisher, PC Turaco, Olive Thrush, Black Flycatcher, Black-bellied Starlings, Red-capped Robin Chat –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Lockdown – In Our Lucky Valley

Random pictures from lockdown in our valley.

I won’t get all the credits right, but for starters, lots of bird pics from Roger Hogg, lots of butterfly, moth and caterpillar – and many other creatures – from Suncana. And a few from me:

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Morning Sun from the West!?

I suddenly realised yesterday that the Yellow-bellied Greenbul was in bright light, as was the Purple-crested Turaco that was the next lady for a shave. It was 8am and the trouble with my birdbath is that it’s in deep shade and the morning light from behind makes photography difficult.

Took me a while to work it out. So this morning I recorded what happened. Watch how the sun is behind the trees, then suddenly appears between the pickup and left of the trees! Then the sunlight moves from left to right till the birdbath is bathed in its glory.

What the heck? I walked out onto the lawn and looked back:

– the sun from the east beating down on my chair – the reflected sun shining back on my birdbath –

The building behind us on the crest of the hill reflects the winter morning sun down onto my birdbath! Whattapleasure! It’ll only last a little while as the sun moves towards winter solstice. I’ll try’n get a good picture while it lasts. This morning was windy and nothing came to the bath while I watched. Not a sausage!

Whattahoot! Just last week I had used a shaving mirror to reflect the sun onto a butterfly in shade. Here it was being done for me!

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One Day

I know I should work to earn money so I can one day sit on my arse and listen to the birds and photograph butterflies. And see two gory kills within minutes, with two animals dying before my very eyes to satisfy the hungry needs of their predators.

So this morning:

– Forest Queen – ‘rare south of the Tugela’ –

Flies don’t even have to be buttered to be photographed:

– some diptera or other – big fly –

A drongo zapped an insect in mid-flight and a sunbird nabbed probably a spider off the mistletoe, killing them mercilessly for food in the great cycle of nature. Someone has to be sitting on his arse to witness these things.

butterfly Forest Queen
– remote camera setup – pics triggered from my cellphone –

This time I was determined to concentrate. I gazed at my cellphone fiercely for hours. Once I had to change the camera’s battery. This Forest Queen thought he could outwit outplay outlast me!? Huh! I was determined to catch him opening his wings to make sure he was a male. I was occasionally distracted. Had to make coffee, had to reply to some slights on whatsapp, had to take these photos to show the remote setup and my impressive camera (you’ve heard about okes with small willies having to compensate with big cameras, right? Well.). And once I was also – fatally – distracted by Tommy who NEEDED me to transfer cash to his eWallet.

Done. Then back to the app:

– BLIKSEM!! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Lawn Butterfly

I always have little ‘blues’ on my lawn; small butterflies, some tiny that flit about too small, too fast and too pale for my camera to get a decent shot. They usually look little pale grey beauties.

But yesterday one was different, bigger; so I out with the camera and managed to get two fuzzy pics:

I thought ‘Hairtail;’ iNaturalist got back in seconds and said ‘Hairstreak;’ Now I’m thinking maybe one of the Sapphires? The fascinating thing about identifying creatures is . . names change! Knowledge is constantly being updated. Often the only real way to know what you’re looking at is to ask an expert, as even the most recent books are out of date to different extents. They keep up to the minute and usually instantly have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking at, taking image, location, time of year, etc into account.

I’ll update when I find out what this beauty is. And I’ll keep an eye out for a better picture.

Ah! Suncana says its Iolaus silas, the Southern Sapphire! Sun is our in-house entomologist on our Palmiet Rangers whatsapp group, and has a Palmiet project on iNaturalist, which I have now joined. She sent a better pic – Steve Woodhall’s from biodiversityexplorer.info

– tiny yellow meadow flower – while I was down there –

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Bonus! Pictures from a Palmiet neighbour who’s a great photographer. Most (all?) taken right here in our valley:

– Roger Hogg photos –
– red-fronted tinker – Roger Hogg –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Experimenting with a Canon

I’ve learned a bit more about my little pocket Canon camera. updating the firmware and software and checking all the settings seems to have helped better, quicker focusing.

I’ve taken my first lightbox picture – the nest of a potter wasp who obligingly built it in the neglected lightbox, thank you.

And learned to set the zoom so it’ll focus more easily. It was glitchy. Here’s the bedroom doorknob, zoomed out and zoomed in!

– butterfly African Monarch –