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

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The thorny side of life

When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality.  
—Pema Chödrön 


We all have unpleasant things that happen to us. How do you handle this 'thorny' side of life? Do you look upon it as a curse you wish you had never experienced? Or do you think you could use these experiences to your benefit? 

When I saw this nest in one of my Acacia trees, the thought came to mind that we could take a lesson from nature and use the 'thorns' to our advantage, like this Sparrow has done. She could have chosen any tree, but she has learnt that these thorns can provide safety for her family. By looking at the thorns in our lives as a lesson, learning from the experience so that we can handle a similar situation better, we can also have protection against the thorny side of life.

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Friday, 27 July 2012

As winter fades to spring...

… hangers-on will be forced to let go, 
making room for new growth 
fresh color, 
life. 
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 A little corner created in the shade 

It's almost August and the warmer weather has spawned an activity of going through my garden to check on what needs to be done and I was horrified to notice that the chickens had just about annihilated my whole garden - what the winter didn't get, they did! I haven't been totally oblivious of this, it's just that it's been too cold to do much about it.

 The start of a new garden 

First it was the major job of cutting down and/or removing dead stuff and then taking stock of what was left - lots of open space! Many of the plants I removed were those that needed sun and had totally deteriorated because of too much shade in my garden now that all my trees have matured to 10m beauties - it's amazing how things creep up on you without you noticing… 
 So some new spaces were created in the sun with old favourites. 

 Progress - a little pathway for easy access and still have to add a few more plants 

After removing Red Hot pokers from a shady patch and not having anything to replace them with, I thought it easier to create a feature for the time being, below, but will have to get to the nursery some time or another! 

A temporary feature in a shady patch It's amazing what a bit of crusher stone and things found will do to help out when you're stuck without any plants…


Joseph filling up an empty spot with some crusher stone and turning it into a new pathway.
 
 And of course, no day in the garden is perfect without our feathery friends enjoying a snack! 

Make way, I also need some!

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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Expectantly waiting

Ten men waiting for me at the door? Send one of them home, I'm tired. 
 - Mae West 



A Laughing Dove expectantly waiting while I fill the bird feeders - I was a bit late that morning and felt very guilty as there were about ten of them all clustered in the tree above the feeder, thinking that it being Saturday was no excuse… 

It is one of my morning rituals filling all the bird feeders - I'm up very early every day (about 4am), when I spend some time on my MAC connecting with all my virtual friends. Then at about 6.30am it's time for a shower and getting dressed, after which all the jugs and buckets get filled, ready to tackle the feeding job.

 
First comes the feeder in my bathroom court-yard garden - this one, above, is one Solly made for me out of some scrap wood I had lying around. Filled with some corn, wild bird seed and some fruit-of-the-day, I move on to the garden, where I have three more feeders.


This one used to be some fancy feeder, but lost most of its parts over the years and now hangs upside down, also filled with corn and wild bird seed. The bars seem to keep away the bigger and more aggressive birds and gives all the smaller birds and timid doves a chance to feed. 

An apple spiked on a tree branch just above the feeder. 


Next is the fruit feeder - a piece of slate with holes drilled in and nails and chains attached - here a daily smorgasbord of apples, bananas, oranges and any other fruit in season and suet and minced meat is served. The Black-headed Oriole pictured here is a frequent visitor, as is the Black-eyed Bulbuls, White Eyes and Crested Barbets. 


As all you bird-lovers know, your garden birds soon get 'spoilt' and become dependent on these daily feeds we put out, especially in winter, and going on holiday becomes a major feat of organising staff or a friend to take over the job while you are gone. You wouldn't leave your dog or cat without anybody to care for them, why would you leave 'your' birds unattended? Once you take on this job of feeding, you're stuck with it forever!

Did you know that there is a National Bird Feeding Society? They help people create bird-friendly habitats by turning backyards into an oasis for birds. The Society's web site offers tips for bird feeding, information on feeders and food,  and research on the dynamics of bird feeding,.

Camera : Canon EOS 550D Location : Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Black Eagle chicks in the midst of a Cain and Abel struggle


Two eggs were laid by the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden’s resident Black Eagle pair during May 2012. The eggs hatched in early June after an incubation period of 44 to 45 days and two chicks emerged four to five days apart. 

The sad reality is that only a single chick will grow to adulthood. The reason for this being a phenomena called Cainism (or in other words a Cain and Abel struggle) whereby the stronger of the two chicks (usually the oldest (Cain), attacks and eventually kills and devours its sibling (Abel) after a 3 to 4 day struggle. The first chick, being the older and the stronger, will intercept the food offered by the female. The male provides most of the food while the chick is in the nest while the female feeds the young chick during the early stages and also defends the nest. The chick will grow into a handsome golden/brown juvenile eaglet. 

The gardens are situated in Roodepoort (Gauteng, South Africa) and fifteen eagle-generations have passed since the Black eagles (Verreaux’s eagles) were discovered in the Garden - I have been following the life of these two Black Eagles (Verreaux’s (Black) Eagles) for many years. Over the past 30 years Emoyeni, the female, has produced a chick every second year or even annually at times. In Nov 2011, Mbuso, their last juvenile Black Eagle chick, left the Garden to establish his own territory.

 Mbuso

The Black Eagles on their nest

The webcam focusing on the nest

The male circling the nest

For more interesting info visit the website or view the eagles via webcam or alternatively view them on TV at the Garden entrance.

PS : You can read all the Black Eagle articles in the menu on the left - they are all coloured RED

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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The dispute


This is Artemis, still suffering from the aftermath of a fight with Chook, my other rooster. These two have been at loggerheads for a long time now, with Chook always being the underdog and taking flight whenever Artemis came near. A couple of days ago, Chook decided ‘enough is enough!’ and turned and faced his aggressor with dire results.

Both suffered extensive injuries (they both have extremely long and dangerous spurs) and it ended up with Chook pinning Artemis, totally exhausted, flat on the ground and not letting go of his grip. We had to separate the two and Chook is currently in the ‘holding pen’ with me deciding the fate of the two – one has to go and it’s a difficult decision I’m not able to make easily. Chook is the friendliest of the two, coming right up to me and begging for a tit-bit, following me around to see if I have more, and Artemis is the beautiful ladies’ man, preferred above Chook by all the hens, who adore and follow him everywhere, succumbing to his every whim.

Artemis and Chook wanting to continue the territorial dispute...

Chook keeping a watchful eye open for Artemis...

What to do...?

Canon EOS 550 D – Sigma 70-300 Zoom lens – 9’ manual focus
Location : Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa

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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Kiep and her Red Bandanna



Kiep, wearing her red bandanna around her neck, ready to deliver this morning's breakfast. Her nest is in my studio, on one of my art tables. She grew up here in my studio since I rescued her as a day-old 18 months ago after being abandoned by her mother. She now spends her days outside with all the other chickens, but daily, without fail, she returns to her nest to lay her egg and spend some time sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk, chatting to me. 

Camera : Canon EOS 550D

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Monday, 9 July 2012

Surviving winter


We've had some extremely cold days a couple of weeks ago, but at least my garden hasn't suffered much (so far!) this winter, thanks to the fact that, over the years I have slowly but surely learnt which plants survive our harsh frosts and which don't - those that have been killed by winter I just have not replaced and I am very careful when I buy anything new - indigenous, hardy, preferably perennial and water-wise to boot. 

A bigger danger to the garden than winter, has been my chickens! The only plants I have left since getting those darlings are those that are too big to be scratched up or too unpalatable to be eaten! 

Three of the little darlings hanging around in the hope of getting a tit-bit… Micky (the black one) Megs (in front) and Doris behind her - Artemis the rooster is is at the back keeping a vigilant eye on his ladies.

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Thursday, 5 July 2012

July gifts

When I asked for all things, so that I might enjoy life, I was given life, so that I might enjoy all things. 
- Unknown 


Isn't it amazing how Nature plays along to make life easier? Here a White Stinkwood (Celtis africana), which is deciduous, has lost all it's leaves, providing sun to the plants below during the icy month of July and also a sunny spot for the Fiscal Shrike's fledgling to wait till mother brings a tit-bit.

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