Croak, Creak, Whip-Whip, Sweep

Four frog calls last night – the Guttural Toad’s kraak, the River Frog’s creak, the Reed Frog’s whip-whip, and the Bush Squeaker’s sweep.

– a Reed frog Hyperolius marmoratus calling –
– a differently patterned H. marmoratus nearby –

Earlier, a dragonfly had patrolled the skies above the green waters . .

. . and a frog muncher came to see if any of the night-time crooners were careless by day

~~oo0oo~~

New Neighbours, Maybe

I heard a tap tap tapping next door. Industriousness can be very irritating, so I went to have a look. My neighbour on the other side is industrious and what a pain. There’s a lawnmower, or a leaf blower, or a high pressure hose going so often it drives me crazy. I haven’t shouted GET A LIFE! over the fence. I’m far too polite.

Turns out this tap tap tapping is a bloke building a new home. He has chosen his site for the best possible fibre access. Progress has been stopped today after his lady friend came to look at the joint. Maybe she didn’t fancy the bathroom tiling or the layout or something? I like it. It’s east-facing, gets the morning sun, and is protected from our prevailing wind and rain from the SW.

~~oo0oo~~

If he abandons it a Crested Barbet may move in. He’s been prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-ing in the yellow-flowered Cassia tree next to the pole.

Later I saw him doing some interior work – and spitting out the sawdust:

End-Days Elston Place

I forgot to get the camera out – or rather, aim my phone at people – so that’s the setting for my farewell meals without Petrea, Louis, Charles, Barbara, Jules, Gayle, Grant, Ziggy, Tom, Mbono, Geoff, Janet, Heather or Bruce. A people-free zone before they arrived.

And I didn’t suffer all of them at once, are you mad? I only have five chairs left, so that’s my max guest number. And I sub-contracted out all catering – to Petrea, Louis, Ziggy and Checkers.

Some of these soirees were evenings, some were lunches. The evening ones were interrupted by le frogs calling loudly. Guttural Toads loud BRAAAP! and the gentle creak (that’s creak, not croak) of the River Frog – all in my sparkling blue-green pool. Here’s a guttural toad who scored – managed to entice a svelte young lady. The noisy one is the little guy on her back. He’s quiet now cos he doesn’t want any interruptions while theyr’e makin’ whoopee – and long strings of black fertilised eggs.

We’d have to get up every now and then and shurrup the toads, but you know what its like when you’re horny – they would only shut up for less than a minute. You do know what its like when you’re horny, right? Here’s one of them belting out a number:

Oh, hang on!? Anyway, Fats sounds better.

Here’s the polite lil chap:

Here’s his cousin from Petrea and Louis’ place down the road with a much showier ventral stripe:

One morning I called in expert help to deal with the noisy toads. I don’t know if he manage to relocate any of them. Hope so. He looks like he needs the protein.

I’m told my end-of-days is now only at at the end of February, so more to come.

~~oo0oo~~

Sold!

I just sold my longest-lived-in home. We’ve been here sixteen years. After being given a long fixit list I decided to sell voetstoots – as is. It sold on the day it hit the market – for a song, if you ask me.

Here’s my sequence:

First home Whittington Court. I forget how long, but bought as a bachelor, then Trish moved in ca.1986. When we moved out, sister Sheila lived in it for a while. It was a lovely old one-bedroom flat; big rooms, high ceilings.

.

1989 we bought our first suburban home at the bottom end of the cul de sac River Drive in Westville. A magic place right on the banks of the Mkombaan river. Stayed there fifteen years.

– 7 River Drive –

Then we rented Ian Whitton’s lovely home in Windsor Avenue Westville for about two years.

– Windsor Avenue –

2005 we bought here, a magic home in a cul de sac above the Palmiet river – ‘to be near the schools.’ Now, there’s a story for ya!!

– Elston Place – sold! after sixteen years –

This pic is the house as we bought it – the feature image is Elston Place after our 2011 / 2012 revamp.

~~oo0oo~~

Late Lunch?

That’s different, I thought. Something had zoomed into the Albizia at speed and the birds had scattered.

A juvenile Little Sparrowhawk. She sat for a while peering around and up and down intently. To me it looked like she was on the hunt. Then she darted off in a flash. I hope she got something to eat.

Meanwhile the Hadeda was unfazed, gathering nesting material.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Nailed at Last II

A while ago I spotted an Ashy Flycatcher in my garden and wrote about ‘nailing it at last!’

This morning I got up at 5.40am, made a cup o’ coffee and settled on my lazyboy chair warmly dressed and covered in an old sleeping bag, binocs in hand. Lovely windless, cloudless morning.

And boy, what a parade!

I saw the Tambourine Dove above; More listed below.

Two drongos chased a Mother-of-Pearl butterfly over the grass and meadow, over the pool towards me and then right under my patio roof, where one of the drongos nailed it. It flew off to that same tree you see below and ate it, shedding the wings. Pieces of wing spiralled down slowly in the still air.

– collage of another Mother-of-Pearl I found dead near Durban Botanic Gardens –

And then to top it off, for the first time here, I saw this at last – I’d heard of sightings down the valley, but I hadn’t seen him in my garden yet. Now I have!

– a silhouetted Grey Cuckooshrike, Coracina caesia

Sunrise was behind them, so poor pics but nice and clear in my binoculars.

A Grey Cuckooshrike! Louis in the valley had been crowing and I’d been fuming. Now I’m his equal! Ha!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Saw: Weavers Spectacled and Thick-billed; Starlings Red-winged and Black-bellied; Sunbirds Olive and Amethyst; Greenbuls Sombre and Yellow-bellied; Dark-capped Bulbul; White-eye; Red-eyed Dove; Olive Thrush; Hadeda; Yellow-billed Kite; Purple-crested Turaco; Flycatchers Black and Dusky; Fork-tailed Drongo; Yellow-fronted Canary; Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird; Egyptian Goose; Speckled Mousebird; Barn Swallow; Barbets Black-collared and White-eared; Lesser Honeyguide; Black-backed Puffback; Black-headed Oriole;

Heard: Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Crested Barbet, Southern Boubou, African Firefinch, White-bellied Sunbird, Klaas’ Cuckoo

The Pirates of Palmiet

Hauling out the garbage early this morning a screeching drew my attention to the sky in the SE and there they were: Four pirates in jinking flight heading my way.

Luckily a Kite flying across their path drew their attention; they immediately launched an attack, buzzing him and strafing him and really getting ‘in his face.’ He dodged lazily but kept heading due east towards the rising sun. Four sorties they launched, wheeling round, gaining height, then flying straight at him again.

Then they broke off and laughingly resumed their journey NW, up the Palmiet valley.

Aargh! Me hearties, I heard ’em shouting as they flocked off.

https://www.xeno-canto.org/explore?query=rose-ringed%20parakeet

~~~oo0oo~~~

pics: In flight: thumbnail from nature picture library – Right – wikipedia – thanks.

Rose-ringed parakeets originally come from India and North Africa, but have spread far and wide. Their spread has various adverse effects on the ecology:

The ring-necked parakeet is one of the most successful invaders. A gregarious Afro-Asian parakeet, it has now been recorded in over 35 countries outside its native extent of occurrence. Despite being one of the most introduced bird species throughout the world, its interactions with native biodiversity and environment are not completely known and rely mainly on anecdotal evidence. Future researchers are therefore required to fill these gaps. Trunk cavities represent the preferred breeding sites of these alien parrots and indicate potential routes of direct and indirect competition with native hole-nesting bird species, such as nuthatches and starlings (woodpeckers, barbets, etc). Interactions with tree squirrels, bats and insects are rarely reported but may be more severe than currently known. Droppings by ring-necked parakeets may alter the herbaceous vegetation under the roost but direct cause–effect relationships for this phenomenon are hard to assess if no data about floral composition before the time of invasion is available. The ring-necked parakeet is a potential reservoir of a plethora of diseases transmittable to humans and wildlife. No data concerning ecosystem recovery after the removal of ring-necked parakeets is available, as eradication and numerical control programs are often hampered by the emotional affiliation which links humans to these bright birds.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Gated Community

When we bought this home over fifteen years ago I reluctantly said to my estate agent wife Aitch, OK, we’ll do it, but then we live in it as is, no spending anything on it for five years, OK? I was making like I was in charge, knew what I was doing and, as the Head of the Household I was Laying Down The Law.

Right.

‘Of course, Koosie,’ said Aitch, patting me on the top of my bald head soothingly. ‘After we’ve sorted out the security we won’t spend anything on our home for five years.’ One of the things I liked about the place was it was unfenced and there were no burglar guards on any windows or doors. It looked great. Wide open spaces overlooking the 100ha Palmiet nature reserve. So after Aitch had a new high fence installed with two automated gates, an automated garage door, trellidoors on all the doors and guards on all the windows she said, ‘There you go. No more expenditure.’

And she was as good as her word. As the five year deadline dawned she made plans to ‘sort out’ the rest. Big plans. Dammit then she died on the very day the builders arrived to start the huge changes. Right now she’s wagging her finger at me from up high on her cloud for the lovely open-plan kitchen she never got to use (which, BTW Aitch, is WAY bigger and more-er than I need!). The best-laid plans . . .

Due to no supervision the new wide sliding doors have no trellidoors – cos I think trellidoors are ugly; and due to normal neglect and lack of maintenance the gates and the garage door stopped working in time. I know – or I’ve heard – some people are organised enough to put moth balls in their gate motors every month or so, to keep the ants out, but not everyone has that technical skill set. So we reverted to manual operation and to often leaving the gate or gates open for convenience. The garage door too, reverted to manual up and down. It’s a bit like Eskom: What did we do before candles were invented? We had electricity.

Now we’re automated again, and even have cameras nogal! New gate motors, a new garage door motor and new security gates on doors. An insurance assessment laid out what I needed to do to not be paying for insurance only to have a claim refused. Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted. By turning over a new leaf tree forest I’m sure I will be so much better on routine maintenance from now on. Already my neighbours who charge their cellphones here and draw water at our tap have asked, ‘And now, Pete?’

They do approve, though. They’ve ‘always said, Pete you should . . . ‘ – You know how it goes.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Autumn Driveway Butterflies

I was seeing a visitor off at my bottom gate – manually operated with chain n padlock – and butterflies were flitting all around us. Kept me busy for half an hour after they’d left, photographing them with my little Canon SX620HS.

Junonia natalica – Natal Pansy

Junonia terea – Soldier Pansy

Tagiades flesus – Clouded Skipper

Belenois creona ssp severina – African Common White – got the ID of this one from experts on iNaturalist.org

Whenever the Skipper flew there was a flash of pure white, but I didn’t get a shot of its underside. So I’m pleased Steve Woodhall has this pic in his field guide:

– pure white on the underside hindwing and body –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Rains but Pours

A light shower started which soon increased to a heavy downpour, then back to a light shower followed by sunshine. Another lovely day. The end.

..

People say they can make it rain by having a braai. My rain seems to come after I have eventually and reluctantly had to top up my pool to just above the weir after enduring the kreepy krauly pool cleaner’s death rattle for too long.

~~~oo0oo~~~

A Jessie Makeover!

Jessie’s new friend Sandy took her off to the Pavilion centre and sorted her out like a big sister! Even though she only takes Jess up to her shoulder, she’s a great big sis. They did hair, clothes, shoes – actually boots – nails, eyelashes, the works. A vast improvement from her boring Mom, me.

Sandy and husband Lwazi have been wonderfully supportive of Jess in her travails.

~~~oo0oo~~~

No, Tumi!

. . you can’t go home! You can’t go back to Botswana! Who’s going to help me keep Tom in his place!?

Tumisang Lekoni studied hospitality at the International Hotel School up the road from us and she and Tom became good friends. Twenty two pounds ringing wet and four foot two (I exaggerate!), she has a lovely strong voice and is one of the few people who can get a word in edgeways when Tom is off on a monologue.

You spoilt Tom rotten, helping him with his chores after a full day’s work in which he’d mostly sat on his bottom!

– Then you would treat HIM to a meal !! –

We’ll miss you big time Tumi. Our little valley is emptier without you.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here we see Tom ‘Not Dropping His Phone’ – cos ‘I never drop my phone, Dad, it just breaks!’

Go Straight

Cecilia went home in March, as did Tobias. We thought it was for three weeks of COVID lockdown, but it turned out to be forever.

So now at last I was going to take the mountain of stuff she had accumulated while staying here, to her home in Mtwalume. She has always said she lives in Mtwalume. So with my white Ford Ranger loaded to the gunwales in the canopy and inside the cab – everywhere but my drivers seat, I headed south on the N2 highway. When I got to Mtwalume, I turned off the highway (1) – and phoned her.

‘OK, I’m at the Mtwalume turnoff. Where to from here?’

‘Go straight. There is a white cottage.’

Hm, there are about a dozen cottages, two or three are white. OK, which turnoff must I take – is this the right turnoff?

‘Go to Hibberdene, then look for Ghobela School.’ Ah, OK.

Back to the highway, seven kilometres later I turned off the downramp to Hibberdene (2); then turned right, turned right after Ghobela, turned right again past ‘Arts and Crafts’ and – just as she had said – there was a white cottage (3). Actually, two or three. Then there she was herself. Cecilia! Follow me, she indicated up a rough track.

I reversed up it, soon ran out of traction, engaged difflock and then eventually even that was no go. My wheels were spinning and when cow dung splattered on my rearview mirrors I stopped and we unloaded about thirty metres short of her house on top of the hill. Lots and lots of stuff.

The week before she’d come to Westville for our fourth attempt at satisfying the UIF requirements. This time we made payslips to match her Jan, Feb and March bank statements. Till today, still no luck. At least I could tell her to keep going, as Tobias had received a lump sum payment the week before!

The very next day she messaged me: ‘Morning Daddy. I hope you go well yesterday. I got my uif now. We thank you sir.’

Hallelujah!! At last!

Huge sigh of relief.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Didn’t take a single picture! Damn.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Trish once told me to Go Straight!

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:

~~~oo0oo~~~

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.

~~~oo0oo~~~

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~~~