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.
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!
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!
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;
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.
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.
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.
‘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 leaftree 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.
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:
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.
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.
. . 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: