🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Bond between chick and parent does not last

Black Eagle juvenile - Jabulani

Unlike in human beings, where many families share a lifetime of existence together, bonds between parents and offspring only last a for few months for many animals.     

Verreaux's eagles (black eagles) are no exception. The juvenile that hatched a few months ago at the Walter Sisulu botanical Gardens in Gauteng, South Africa, jealously guarded and fed by its parents, will soon be chased away forever to start a life of its own. The eaglet, dubbed Jabulani, enjoyed all the protection it needed to make it in life. It even had the dubious privilege of killing and eating its own sibling with the ‘approval' of its parents. After several months of learning how to fly and hunt, along with other survival skills, Jabulani's future now depends on her wings. 

She took her maiden flight on 13 September 2012 and has been seen taking plunges on some of the canopies. Although she has not yet mastered the art of hunting, all the other features she need have now fell in place - a sharp beak, strong feet with claws as sharp as daggers and wings that will give her total control of the skyline. Her parents will soon chase her out of their Garden territory and she will have to fly away to establish her own territory until she meets a suitable mate who, like her parents, is likely to become a lifetime partner.             

For now, her main concerns will be to learn and perfect hunting skills, and gain weight that will be needed for her battles ahead. Verreaux's eagles are capable of eating any small to medium-sized animals and typical prey includes guinea fowl, francolins and dassies (rock hyrax). 
Photograph: G. Heydenrych  


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Orange River Francolins

On a hot, windy Monday morning in mid-October 2012, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden staff on a plant survey of the ridge nature reserve areas, took a photograph of a wary francolin which, with another, was making its way along through the low bushes. The pair was identified as Orange River Francolins and had not been previously recorded for this Garden. This brings the francolin and spurfowl species number up to four; Coqui and Red-winged Francolin and Swainson’s Spurfowl having been recorded before. 

Orange River Francolin, like most gamebirds, have a varied diet, feeding on bulbs, seeds and insects such as beetles, grasshoppers and termites. The nest is a shallow scrape in the earth made by the female and she broods the chicks when they hatch. Both adults help to care for the chicks.
Info from Walter Sisulu Newsletter

 View from my daughter's house

Well, I'm off to the coast tomorrow for a week to Ballito on our North Coast (South Africa), for a week to visit my daughter and grand-children, but I hope to be doing a post or two as I am taking my Samsung Galaxy tablet with me. I've never used it to post anything on Blogger, so will have to see how it goes. Otherwise I'll have lots of pics and news when I get back! Have a great week ahead and remember, "The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but seeing with new eyes."  - Marcel Proust


Friday, 9 November 2012

Nature's food store

How many of us turn to Nature when it comes to healthy eating and living? I know ALL foods like fruit and vegetables come from nature, but often we buy them after they have gone through strict cleansing and preparation, ready for purchase by us, the public, often with extra additives like bleach to get the potatoes nice and white.

Having a garden sporting a few of your favourite herbs and vegetables is a great way to ensure that you have some healthy, un-treated food at hand, straight from nature to your plate. One of my favourite plants in the garden is Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), which is used as a decorative plant in gardens and has many culinary and medical uses. The plant is said to improve the memory. The leaves are used to flavour various foods, such as stuffings and roast meats.

rosemary, circulation
Image from Ageless
Rosemary is a tonic, astringent, restorative herb that relaxes spasm and increases the rate of perspiration, while stimulating the liver and gall bladder. It improves digestion and circulation and controls pathogenic organisms and has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, spasmolytic, antioxidant, smooth muscle modulating, analgesic, venotonic, as well as anti-inflammatory properties.

I have used Rosemary in many ways - for cooking, as a pest repellent in my chicken coop and even as a conditioning rinse after washing my hair. Here is what I do to make the conditioner:

Take 1 cup of coarsely chopped, fresh Rosemary and 1 quart of distilled water. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let infuse (soak) for 1 hour. Strain, then add 1 quart of white vinegar to the liquid. Store in plastic containers and keep in a cool, dark place. (You may be worried about adding the vinegar, but it acts as wonderful softener for your hair and is also a preservative. You can make your rinses without it, but then they must be stored in the refrigerator and used within two days.)

One of my favourite Rosemary recipes is Rosemary-Garlic Cream Cheese Spread :

  • 1 8-oz. package softened cream cheese (light or regular)
  • 4 Tbsp. sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2–3 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • Fresh mashed garlic to taste
Blend softened cream cheese and sour cream or yogurt in a small bowl; add lemon juice and blend well. Then add the rosemary and garlic and blend well. I use old cream cheese holders to store mine in the fridge. (They can also make great little gifts for a friend - dress up the container with some string or ribbon and a little card or other accessory that you find beautiful.)

This makes a nice spread for bagels, focaccia bread or other kinds of flat bread–spread on warm bread, top with some tomato slices, add some sliced olives, and sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese – yum! You can use it as a dip for fresh veggies, too–add another teaspoon of lemon juice to thin it out a little more if using as a dip. I also like to have some Sweet Chilli sauce at hand for added flavour.

Rosemary Tea. Photo by the80srule
Pic from Food.com

I often make myself a cup of Rosemary tea. Containing powerful antioxidants and many vitamins, rosemary tea is easily made by adding 1 tsp. of the dried or fresh leaves to 1 cup of boiled water. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and sip. As it has a strong rather bitter taste, you can add honey if you need a sweeter concoction. 

It seems that the ancient art of foraging is in decline but in these tricky economic times, it makes perfect sense to collect free food from nature. There is much you can do to ensure your own constant supply of 'food from nature', like planting your own vegetable and herb garden, planting a few fruit trees and keeping a few chickens for a constant supply of fresh free-range eggs. Living off nature is one of the greatest pleasures of life!


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hurricane Sandy and birds

Devestation on the North Coast of South Africa after a storm in 2007
With the whole world watching the progression and now, aftermath, of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast of America, my thoughts of sorrow and compassion for the people involved turned anxiously to the animals that were caught up in this tragedy. Reading other animal lovers' plight and preparations for the safety of their pets and farm animals, had me feeling thankful that we have hardly ever experienced something similar here in South Africa. We don't get hurricanes and have only had a few small (compared to what the rest of the world suffers) tornadoes. Our last big, scary storm that hit our North Coast was in May 2007, when properties on the beach were severely damaged, but luckily with no loss of life.
I just cannot imagine what it must entail to suffer the loss of animals and pets during such a disaster and what preparation it must take to safe-guard, not just your own family and property, but the animals as well.

It is said that chickens, like birds, can predict the weather. Just last week I saw my hens gathering close together on an overcast, windy day, looking rather disturbed and then being led into the coop by Artemis, the rooster. Shortly after we had a HUGE hailstorm, with hail the size of golf balls, destroying half my garden and even damaging windows and cars. But the chooks were safely ensconced in the coop, obviously knowing what was coming.

Many birders have noticed birds will spend a longer time than normal bathing when a storm is coming. Afterward, they spend a significant time preening. Birds such as the quail, guinea fowl and mousebirds would take long dust baths, as if preparing their feathers for some sort of onslaught.

Many birds were affected by Hurricane Sandy, much like humans, especially those close to the devastated areas. Water birds, and seabirds especially, often show up out of their ocean environment and such was the case with this past week’s storm. A Leach’s Storm Petrel, a bird of the open ocean, was found in downtown Newburyport, where someone retrieved it from Interlocks Salon and Day Spa and a Dovekie, a member of the alcid family of birds, which includes puffins, was found trapped in a cellar!

Because birds are so attuned to shifts in barometric pressure, they can often sense ahead of time when a storm is brewing. Read here how birds stay safe during hurricanes. 

But there’s little question that avian mortality increases during a hurricane, whether due to starvation, exhaustion, habitat destruction, or exposure to pounding rains. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo killed half of the wild parrots in Puerto Rico; a year earlier, Hurricane Gilbert decimated the population of Mexico’s Cozumel thrasher.

But it's important to remember that the long-term effects of hurricanes on birds aren't necessarily negative. Every disturbance event is bad for some species but good for others. For instance, hurricanes create gaps in forests, creating habitat for species that require a brushy understory. Birds blown off course occasionally establish entirely new populations; such events may be responsible for much, if not most, colonization of remote islands by birds. Furthermore, hurricanes have been around for a long time and are part of the system in which birds evolved. It is only when they have impacts on species already pushed to the brink by humans, or if hurricane activity is increased by global climate change, that there is cause for concern.

NASA Goddard Photo Video

My thoughts are with all the victims of this terrible super-storm...


Thursday, 1 November 2012

November gifts - New growth

Although time seems to fly, it never travels faster than one day at a time. This Nature knows. 

Each day is a new opportunity to live your life to the fullest, as Nature does. 

In each waking day, you will find scores of blessings and opportunities for positive change, as Nature does. 

Do not let your TODAY be stolen by the unchangeable past or the indefinite future! Be like Nature and know that today is a new day! 

Each new day brings new growth. this Nature knows. 



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