Go out by yourself, face the wind, hold up your head and thank the Universe for this world we live in.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
🐾 Hedgehogs, Chooks, Nature, gardening and other rambles. In summer I always enjoy an early-evening walk on our smallholding. No need to get in my car to find nature, I have 8.5ha right here to explore, always hoping to see the Barn Owl or some Guinea fowl, but always enjoying the Bluegum trees and beautiful grasses and wild flowers along the way.
Hi, I am Maree Clarkson, a watercolour wildlife and conservation artist and Nature-lover living on my little piece of African soil in Tarlton since 1975 (Gauteng, South Africa), in love with life, my chickens, gardening and nature!
2013 was an amazing year, filled with lots of joy and love, lessons learned and also a few sorrows. I am ready for 2014! and here's wishing that your year ahead is filled with LOVE, JOY and INSPIRATION!
Thank you all for visiting and the wonderful chats we've had, hope to see lots more of you in the coming year!
"We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the
earth as its other creatures do." - Barbara Ward, Only One Earth, 1972
"You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth... This we know, the earth does belong to man: man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected..."
- Chief Seattle 1851
It starts with you and me...
Make the Earth your companion. Walk lightly on it, as other creatures do. Let the Sky paint her beauty--she is always watching over you. Learn from the Sea how to face harsh forces. Let the River remind you that everything will pass. Let the Lake instruct you in stillness. Let the Mountain teach you grandeur. Make the Woodland your house of peace. Make the Rainforest your house of hope. Meet the Wetland on twilight ground. Save some small piece of Grassland for a red kite on a windy day. Watch the Icecaps glisten with crystal majesty. Hear the Desert whisper hush to eternity. Let the Town bring you togetherness. Make the Earth your companion. Walk lightly, as other creatures do.
I have never known Glossy Starlings to be shy. Whenever we visit the Kruger National Park, they are as brazen as can be, stealing food out of your plate as you're having lunch on the deck and will readily take food out of your hands. But the Glossy visiting my garden is terribly shy. I've been trying to get pics of him for months, to no avail. As soon as they see me, they head straight for the tree tops.
The other day I was having coffee on my patio, camera at the ready, and finally spotted one of them at a bird bath. I was quite a distance away, but daren't move for fear of him taking flight. So the next best thing was to try and zoom in through the maze of plants and tree trunks. Moving very slowly and scarcely breathing, I managed to get a few distant shots of this gorgeous bird with his metallic sheen and very bright eyes.
As he was testing the water and getting ready for his bath (and I saw that he knew I was there and keeping a close eye on me!) a not-so-shy African masked Weaver landed on the bird bath and I thought, "Oh no! that's going to be the end of this now!
Not phased by the Starling's dirty looks at all, the little fella hopped right in and started splashing away.
The Starling got a good soaking in the process!
Shortly after the Weaver left, so did the Starling, without having his bath. Maybe he had gotten wet enough from the Weaver's splashing, but I got the feeling he wasn't happy with my spying at all!
The Glossy Starling - Lamprotornis intense (family Sturnidae) - is endemic to Africa and occurs from Angola and Zambia to Southern Africa, where it is locally common across much of the region, excluding central Mozambique, the Karoo, Namib Desert and the fynbos biome in the Western Cape. It can occupy a variety of different habitats, especially wooded savannah, forest edges, riverine bush, plantations, parks and gardens.
It eats insects, fruit, nectar and scraps of human food, doing most of its foraging on the ground, running and hopping in search of food items. It often associates with antelope, removing ectoparasites from them as well as catching the insects they disturb.
Interesting Info :
- It is a monogamous, cooperative breeder, meaning that the breeding pair may be assisted by up to 6 helpers, who often remain with them through many breeding seasons.
- It usually nests in tree cavities, either natural or excavated by woodpeckers or barbets, but it may also use a hole in a riverbank, metal pipe or even a post box used daily. It adds coarse material such as twigs into the cavity until the platform is close to the entrance, after which it adds a lining of dry grass, dung and snake skins. It often uses the same nest over multiple breeding seasons, in fact one breeding pair was recorded using the same site for 20 years.
- Egg-laying season is mainly from September-February.
- It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female.
- The chicks are fed by both parents and helpers, leaving the nest after about 20 days after which they remain with the group for at least week.
Taken in my back-yard (Tarlton Gauteng, South Africa)
After my Greater Striped Swallows (Cecropis cucullata) returned on the 25th September 2013, a bit late, normally they’re here at the beginning of September, they managed to rebuild their nest in the pump house and 3 days ago I found one of their fledglings inside the walled yard surrounding the pump house. This in itself is not a problem as it is quite safe there, I just hoped the parents knew it was there!
But I needn’t have worried. As I was taking photographs, they were circling overhead, twittering warnings and in general looking like they were going to attack me any moment. I sealed off the gate so nothing could get inside and left it in peace. Of course I will be checking on it often and probably put it inside the pumphouse for the night as we’ve been having heavy showers every night for the past week.
The Greater Striped Swallow is a large swallow and breeds in southern Africa, mainly in South Africa, Namibia and southern Zimbabwe. It is migratory wintering further north in Angola, Tanzania and southern Zaire.
The eggs are glossy white with a few brown spots; three eggs is a typical clutch (so I presume there might be one or two more babies somewhere). Incubation is by the female alone for 17–20 days to hatching. Both parents then feed the chicks. Fledging takes another 23–30 days, but the young birds will return to the nest to roost for a few days after the first flight.
This is a bird of dry open country, such as grassland, and has a preference for hills and mountains. It avoids more wooded areas, but is often found around human habitation.
I actually brought him inside for the night as it started raining heavily just before dusk. This is the little fellow sitting on my calculator at 4am as I was awakened by his constant chirping. I put him back outside at dawn and the parents were there in a flash, answering his calls! I didn't bring him in last night and when I checked on him this morning I was greeted with a hungry chirp. It is now the third day and he still can't fly and I'm wondering how long the parents' patience is going to last. He is SO small...
My Nasturtiums have put up the most spectacular show this season and with summer still stretching ahead of us, I'm hoping to get lots of flowers until about April-May. They are an absolute delight to the insects, with sweet nectar accumulating at the base of the flower, luring ants, bees, flies, and even a few wasps. They also flowered right through winter, brightening up the garden just when I needed it most.
Little Snoodles reaching up to take a tit-bit from my fingers
This is Snoodles, the little chick I pulled out of the egg after rescuing it out of the dustbin (read the full story HERE.) She has grown in leaps and bounds over the past six days and is a real little treasure! Over the past week I have tried several times to put her back with Mommy, who is quite keen to take her, clucking and calling, but unfortunately little Dusty has already imprinted on me and would stand there calling until I answered, when she would run her little legs off in the direction of my voice.
Imprinting is "A rapid learning process by which a newborn or very young animal
establishes a behaviour pattern of recognition and attraction to another
animal of its own kind or to a substitute or an object identified as the
parent." When rearing a newborn animal, it is very difficult to avoid imprinting as it takes a lot of effort of not letting it hear your voice or not letting it see your hand, for example, feeding it. In the wild it is therefore always preferable to let nature take its course and not to interfere and pick up fledglings that have left the nest and landed on the floor. Normally the parents are close-by and will feed it until it is able to fly. That is how they grow strong and learn to fly.
I know predators are always a worry, but unfortunately that's how nature is. Once you "save" it (we all have that instinct), releasing it back to nature is always difficult as it has not learnt the necessary survival skills to ensure it makes it in the wild, where it will then probably perish anyway. The other alternative is then spending the rest of its life in a cage, definitely not an ideal situation.
Investigating everything on my desk
Little Snoodles showing great interest in the seeds I offered her