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 landed in a patch of sunlight, a lifer for Dave. All this thanks to Crispin Hemson showing us his special patch, Pigeon Valley in urban Durban. Talk about Guru Guiding! With local knowledge, depth, anecdotes, asides and wandering all over, on the ground and in our minds. Including 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, 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 –

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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. It was beer n boobs, not birds n ballies.

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Lazy Sunday Rainy Sunday

I woke to a confidential sort of murmuring / chirping outside my window. What birds are those, I wondered and peered through my window, then my bathroom window. Then I went to the scullery and peered through the window. Still nothing, so I opened the top of the stable door and they scattered.

Six Banded Mongooses on the back lawn outside my bedroom window! What a lovely sight! Had I been awake I’d have taken a camera to the door! Last week Jessie had called me to the lounge: ‘Dad! What are those! Come look!’ and showed me three mongooses on our front lawn. Hope they’re here to stay.

A lovely morning so I set off early for Pigeon Valley.

– a Pigeon Valley morning –

Soon after I got home the rain started – lovely lazy day listening to the rain on the roof; eating TomTom’s macaroni cheese, lots of bacon; its quite dark so maybe the sun is over the yardarm, I’ll have some vino now without looking at the clock.

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Pigeon Valley, Durban

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. Only 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.

Plants

– natal elm – Celtis mildbraedii

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.

Animals

– red duiker –

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.

– large-spotted genet – in PV? – Sheryl Halstead’s pic –

Beautiful forest birds found here include:

– Buff-spotted Flufftail –
– Green Twinspots –
– Spotted Ground Thrushes –
– Black Sparrowhawks – Sheryl Halstead –

Rarer sightings include European Nightjar, Knysna Warbler, Lemon Dove, Mountain Wagtail, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Common Scimitarbill, Palm-nut Vulture, Nerina Trogon, Village Indigobird and Knysna Turaco. The current bird list for Pigeon Valley stands around 161 species. Summer migrants can include Black Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo and Red-backed Shrike – find the full list at wikipedia

– Clouded Mother of Pearl – whattaphoto! – Crispin Hemson –

Community

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.

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Pics by Crispin Hemson, Sheryl Halstead, Jonathan Hemson, 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:

– Pigeon Valley collage –

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.

– occasionally there’s a slight vagrant problem – and some shebeen’ing –
– Natal Forest Loquat – Oxyanthus pyriformishand-fertilised – looking chuffed –

We really should try and preserve more areas in a natural state. Don’t you think?

– pigeon valley in red and burman bush left-centre – that’s about all we’ve preserved –

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Assorted pics – mostly of Pigeon Valley, but some by Friends of PV taken elsewhere:

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Labour of Love – nudge wink

Crispin was concerned. The locquat wasn’t getting any action. It happened since the streetlights murdered the hawk moths. He himself is a man of action, so he sprung or sprang into same.

Every fetish has its paraphenalia. This case it was stepladders and camel hair brushes. Handlangers were rustled up and we went a-fertilising. I was a keen volunteer as I hadn’t had much to do with sexual parts and sperm and ova myself for some time; and even if this was actually pollen and stamens, hey, you take what you can get.

Crispin knew where our targets lived. We crept up to and up them, tickled their upright stigma and style delicately with the soft camel hair brush and bang! pregnant! one shot! The candle flower, Oxyanthus pyriformis, natal locquat didn’t know what hit it. For all it knew it may even have been a hawk moth fondling it with its moustache.

– other new life elsewhere in Pigeon Valley –

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handlangers – nogschleppers; hangers-on;

flower parts – check if I got them right;

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Update from Crispin Hemson xmas 2019. It would appear no pregnancies happened! My thought of bang! pregnant! one shot! was over-optimistic – but he’s bok to try again . .

bok – game; up for it

Sanity Break

Kids – six of them! – driving me crazy so I pack a flask of coffee, some buttermilk rusks, grab my binocs and waai. Three minutes away to the Palmiet Nature Reserve on my doorstep. Just me.

Palmiet Picnic.jpg

Two hours later off to Pigeon Valley in town for another two hours. Palmiet is only 90ha in size and Pigeon Valley a tiny 10ha, but they’re rich in plant and birdlife. These collages are just some of the birds I saw and heard today in the two reserves:

Bird Pics internet

I spotted an old landsnail shell in a tree hollow. New life sprouting out of it.

– thanks Derek Keats –

I tried to get a good picture of a Mountain Wagtail from above; As it flew the pattern was so beautiful. I didn’t get one, and I haven’t found a good one on the internet so far, that shows it as well as I remember it. Here’s the best so far, from Derek Keats at stellenboschbirds.com :

I pinched the pics from all over the internet, and some from Friends of Pigeon Valley‘s Crispin Hemson and Sheryl Halstead. Thank you!

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waai – bugger off