. . 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!
We’ll miss you big time Tumi. Our little valley is emptier without you.
Here we see Tom ‘Not Dropping His Phone’ – cos ‘I never drop my phone, Dad, it just breaks!’
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.’
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:
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.
For fifteen years I’ve been warning those Aussies that their time will come.
Well, it came. Don’s Tree Felling moved in (onto my neighbour’s property, conveniently for me) and did away with six big Bauhinia trees, the Australian camelfoot – Bauhinia variegata, I think. Don had dropped the biggest, oldest, leaning-est one a few years before, when the neihgbours then, Suboohi and Nasim Choudhry had said Whoa! This thing is threatening us!
My neighbour Phindi was a star – she allowed Don’s team in and let them get on with the job. I had prepped her a month ago that I wanted to drop all the trees that were looming threateningly over her driveway and a corner of her house, and she was all for it.
Down came the trees to a cacophony of sound. For some reason I hadn’t thought they’d be using chainsaws! HATE chainsaws, so maybe its good I didn’t think of that. Aaargh! How can I complain about noise if I’m making it!? Oh, well, one day only and after this its back to me and my manual bowsaw.
They carted off the flotsam and jetsam, all gathered on Phindi’s driveway, poisoned the stumps, left some trunks as hidey holes for snakes, mongooses and lizards, and peace returned; Followed by a bit of genteel sawing and puffing by yours truly, as I cut down a few left-overs, plus a bougainvillea and a bottlebrush with me bowsaw. Once a tree gave suddenly while I was a-pulling and I landed on my back staring at the sky.
Then the celebration! A double celebration: My first house guests – OK, garden guests – since lockdown; and the birth of a new grassland. ‘Cos that’s what’s going to take the place of that corner of jungle.
To make it special I invited hooligans. I had thought we’d have a wee bonfire, which I prepared, full of the late Brazilian bouganvillea; a modest requiem after the banishment of some Aussies and the rebirth of natural grassland. But Louis Bon Phyre had a different level of celebration in mind. And so he got close to the pagan roots of many a Western tradition:
Before they arrived I reminded them that I take our current virus very seriously and insist on masks. The bottlebrush was allowed a last little requiem moment in one of Aitch’s many vases. This one by potter A Kirk.
I forgot to make supper, but we all had a lot of wine, especially Petrea.
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:
and just for good measure, some beaut pics from neighbours in the valley:
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 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!
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
Bonus! Pictures from a Palmiet neighbour who’s a great photographer. Most (all?) taken right here in our valley:
Lockdown has given us the opportunity to share pictures of birds and mammals and insects and other creatures seen. And plants, which I’ll show in another post. Thanks to the lovely gang of Palmiet Rangers for sharing these! I’m afraid I don’t know all their full names, but the top pic was by Roy Smith, and Roger Hogg took all these bird pics; the butterfly, scorpion and mamba are Sun’s.
This one showcases the reason we’re here! Bird pics and green hawk moth Roger; Citrus Swallowtail butterfly Elize Taylor; White-barred Emperor at bottom, vervet and stick insect mine; Big moth on white is Cay Hickson’s; I don’t know who shot the bushbuck nkonka, but believe it was in their garden in David Maclean road – let me know pls!
. . and lastly, when one of these grows up they want to be the other one:
Then it rained and I remembered a bit late about my duvet! I had put it out to dry in the sun! So I brought it inside – wet – and stayed inside. Mistake! I shouldn’t have! ALL the neighbours showed me what I missed – a rainbow in a sunset!
For years before 1989 I wanted to see a Bufftail – a Buff-spotted Flufftail. I heard plenty, but saw none. First at Hella Hella; Then in 1989 we moved into our first home in Westville and there was one in our yard! We heard him all the time!
But still I didn’t see him. It grew into an obsession. Seeing this little day-old-chick-sized bird was a real desire. I stalked around the garden, lying still for ages as he stopped calling whenever he detected my presence. I lay at the nearest window with a searchlight, bufftail calling within metres. All in vain; the bird’s caution and patience far exceeding mine.
I’ve written about my quest before. We stayed in River Drive for fifteen years and have been in Elston Place for thirteen. Here we also hear a flufftail but not as often nor as closeby.
And now a friend moves in to a new home and – less than two years after moving in – films this from his balcony:
Aargh! Rob Davey!
Here’s the Bufftail hoot again – from xeno-canto.org – sharing bird sounds from around the world:
. . and here’s one to show how small they are – thanks, birdlifetrogons.blogspot.com
*** I haydid – is a Friderichs-ism. Bobby – from ‘Slunnin – used to say ‘I haydid!’ in mock displeasure when things went skew-wiff. Eg: ‘I haydid when my fridge gets carried out the back door!’ – another divorce . .