🐾 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, 27 April 2014

Farm talk - Creative Décor

A wooden Leopard inlay greeting visitors at my front door 

When the creative urge strikes, no surface is safe, not even in my house! I created this wooden Leopard-inlay by nailing together a few pieces of wooden decking slats in a one-meter square, painted the leopard on the boards and then cut it out with a Jigsaw – our builder then threw the concrete floor to surround the leopard, leaving it flush with the rest of the floor. The tail was painted directly onto the concrete before treating the floor.

The concrete floor before being treated with Earthcote 

The floor after Earthcote treatment and varnish 

Having grown up in the house, both Missy and Kiep are quite capable of making themselves at home wherever they please. Yesterday morning I found them sitting quite happily on my wooden Leopard-inlay. Why they would choose that spot is quite beyond me! Maybe the wood was slightly warmer than being outside, our days are decidedly nippy now, and neither of them moved as I made my way towards the door. They spent about half-an-hour there before making their way through my bedroom to have a scratch around in my bathroom court-yard.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Making life simpler

 (Image scsnned from a magazine)

Garden tools displayed at the back door make a nice arrangement as well as being on hand and quickly accessible.

There is nothing worse for me than, when I'm wandering through the garden and I see a branch or two that just needs a quick pruning, to have to go all the way to the garden shed, find the key, unlock the door, and fetch the pruning shears.

Why not just keep it all close and handy and at the same time make a beautiful feature at the back door? An old vintage coat rack with pegs makes an ideal place to keep you most used tools within easy reach - even a piece of wood with nails hammered in will do the job. Display your garden rake and have plenty of baskets at hand for holding freshly picked flowers to take inside. And displaying some pot plants in the baskets makes for a very pretty picture.

Enjoy your ease and comfort and add a pretty feature to your entrance at the same time! 


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Little White Dove

Camera : Canon EOS 550D 

This is Little White Dove, a White Ringneck Dove I found in my garden last June 2013, minus a tail and a big wound on her coccyx. After coaxing her down from the tree with some seeds, I managed to capture her and tend to the wound. She had obviously escaped from a cage or aviary somewhere in the area and must have been somebody's pet as she did not seem overly concerted about being picked up.

The wound healed nicely and within a few days the first new feathers appeared. A week later, a nice little tail had started forming (below).

Little White Dove sporting a brand-new tail 

A couple of days later I opened her cage door and she had her first venture outside the cage which is in my studio. At first she just sat on the open door's perch, checking out her surrounds, but before long she was investigating every nook and cranny, taking short flights onto the top of cupboards and any other perch she could find.

I offered her a bowl with water and within minutes she had her first bath in the two weeks she'd been with me.

Wow! That was great! 

After her bath she would fly up to some high place, preen a bit and then fly back to her cage, settling down in the grass bedding on the floor of the cage with the door open, taking a nap.

Tweeti, my 16-year old Cockatiel, has taken quite a liking to Little White Dove and he will spend every minute he can get with her, singing to her and giving her tail gentle little plucks. Little White Dove is not worried or perturbed by these proceedings and just seems to take it in her stride.

These birds have been bred in cages since biblical times as pets and cannot survive in the wild. They often are not able to find food having had it provided to them all their life and because of their white colour they are easy prey for a variety of predators. Thus many of these released birds, usually at weddings or parties, die or are killed in a relatively short time. Many white doves that have been released end up looking to humans for assistance.

Little White Dove has also become quite tame, loving to come out of her cage and wandering around my studio. She will also come when I call her for some bread or chopped peanuts and intently watches me when I chop her vegetables and fill her bowl. We’re not yet at the stage where she will sit on my shoulder, but we’re getting there!

The white dove is a colour mutation of the African collared dove/Barbareydove that has been around for perhaps a thousand years. A number of species of collared doves are native to Africa and Asia.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Cape Robin in my house

Camera : Canon EOS 550D
Taken in my kitchen yesterday morning 5.23am

I have this Obsessive Compulsive Cape Robin (Cossypha caffra) that has decided that my kitchen is the best place here in Tarlton (South Africa). He also wanders through the house as if he’s been doing it his whole life. And no, he’s not a pet, but I have named him Robbie.

He arrived in my garden early in 2012 and little did I know that he’s a totally peculiar character – he actually seems to prefer the indoors to the out-doors. Entering through the front door which is always open, he’ll spend hours wandering from room to room, sometimes walking, sometimes flying. His favourite spot, however, is standing in front of my stainless steel dustbin in the kitchen, flying up at his reflection, as one sees birds doing to motor car mirrors, coming back frequently from his other trips through the house to once again challenge himself in the shiny dustbin.

He has learnt what my whistle means when I fill the bird feeders and I can now actually whistle from anywhere inside the house and he will actually come in and have a look if anything is on offer. I specially put minced meat on a plate for him in the kitchen and he visits throughout the day, having his fill and finishing the lot. And for months now I’ve been trying to get a picture of him in the house and finally, yesterday morning, he posed for me in the kitchen!

 I feel absolutely blessed that he has chosen my home to be peculiar in and last year he acquired a wife, both who often visit my kitchen now.

The Cape Robin is resident breeder in southern and eastern Africa from Kenya south to Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It is a common species at forest edges and in scrub, fynbos, karoo, plantations, gardens and parks.

Robbie sitting on one of the rafters in the lounge. It was pretty dark and as I was trying to focus, my zoom lens was chattering and whirring and pulling in and out, trying to focus, and by the time I had captured this, he had flown into the kitchen.

Robbie sitting on my Victorian Balloon-back chair

 Robbie merrily singing his song while I'm taking photos!

By the way, although Blogger says, "You may upload multiple files at once" and I have never been successful with that and it is now taken me longer than if I had just done it one-by-one! Aaaargh!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

An amazing morning with the House Sparrows

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Huismossie [Afrikaans]

This morning I was fascinated by one of our most common little brown jobbies - two House Sparrows. There were a lot of birds busy in the garden - the Laughing Doves, the Weavers, the Bulbuls, two Glossy Starlings and lots and lots of sparrows.

But what caught my eye was a pair that stuck together wherever they went in the garden. I first noticed them on the bird feeder, standing their ground against the Robin who was feeding on an apple. Then the male darted up on a branch, followed by the female. He flitted to another tree and she followed. Then he flew down to a sign-board I have in the garden and where I had thrown some seeds on the ground. He uttered a few words and the female stayed put up in the tree. He glanced from side to side, like we do when wanting to cross the road, first right, then left, then right again. He uttered another few chirps and the female joined him on the sign-board. Together they surveyed the scenery for a while before flitting down to the ground and feeding on the seeds. I couldn't get any pictures of that, they were hidden behind the foliage.

 Looking right

Looking at me

Looking left

Looking right again

The female joins the male after he calls her
After a while they both flew to a bird bath where some Laughing Doves were thinking about having a bath and without further ado they hijacked the bowl, had a good splash around and then flew up into a tree and sat together, preening, in contented silence. 

Laughing Doves contemplating a bath

The female sparrow on the left hijacking the Laughing Dove's bath while he looks on in astonishment

The female sparrow drying off

The male sparrow taking his turn with the Laughing Dove still looking on

The female is back in the water again!

Finally she's had enough and she flew onto a branch just above the male.

Next the Bulbuls arrived and once again the timid Laughing Doves had to wait their turn.

Then at last the Laughing Doves had the bath all to themselves.

We so often over-look these Sparrows, one of the most widespread birds in the world, who originated from Eurasia and was introduced to Australasia, the Americas and Africa, specifically along the Nile River and separately from southern DRC through Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. It is often considered an invasive species, ironically, however, its population is experiencing serious decline in many of its native regions. Despite its abundance here in South Africa, it seems to have a minor impact on indigenous birds, although it may have displaced Cape wagtails from urban areas, as they are both adept at scavenging in these environments.

It generally prefers urban, rural and suburban areas and are very rarely absent from human habitation. Being so used to humans has made house sparrows resourceful in finding unique food supplies. They have been seen inspecting car grills for insects, and will feed on farms searching for spilled seed and grain.

It eats a variety of different food, including seeds, nectar, fruit and invertebrates, using a wide range of foraging techniques. It most commonly plucks food items from the ground, but it may glean insects from foliage or hawk small prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:
    •    Plants
    ◦    seeds
    ◦    nectar of Aloe marlothii (Mountain aloe)
    ◦    flowers of Sideroxylon inerme (White milkwood)

    •    Invertebrates
    ◦    katydids and grasshoppers (Orthoptera)
    ◦    aphids
    ◦    termite alates
    ◦    eggs of Helix adspersa (Garden snail)

House sparrows are monogamous with a life-long pair bond and will build bulky nests in roof crevices, nesting boxes and natural tree cavities, or they may chase other birds out of nests. The female will incubate a brood of 4-6 eggs for 14-18 days, then both parents will regurgitate food for the nestlings for 14-18 days until they leave the nest. Depending on the climate, pairs may raise 2-3 broods per year.



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