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

Thursday, 27 March 2014

White-browed Sparrow Weaver (Plocepasser mahali)

Camera : Canon EOS 550D
Location : Taken in my garden, Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa

While working in the garden, I was absolutely thrilled to see a pair of White-browed Sparrow Weavers (Plocepasser mahali – Koringvoël in Afrikaans) visiting one of my bird feeders. These large, plump, short-tailed weavers are not shy at all and don’t fly off easily, even when walking quite close past them. Their boldness is utterly charming and besides a harsh ‘chik-chik’ call which they use to let one another know they’re still around, they have a beautiful, loud, liquid ‘cheeoop-preeoo-chop’ whistle which I haven’t been able to figure out yet.

Pic from Biodiversity Explorer - I've got no pics of the Hosue Sparrow, these little brown jobbies are really hyperactive and I've just not been able to get a good capture!

This Weaver is often confused with the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), but lacks the black mask surrounding the eye and black throat typical of the House Sparrow.

The White-browed Sparrow-Weaver is found in greatest numbers in north-central southern Africa, so seeing them in my garden has been the highlight of the season and I’m hoping they will either move in or at least become regular visitors.

Found throughout central and north-central Southern Africa, it mainly eats insects, seeds, fruit and fleshy leaves, doing most of its foraging in flocks of 4-10 birds (sometimes along with other species), plucking food items from the ground and will even visit bird-feeders.

These birds are monogamous and colonial cooperative breeders, living in groups within which each bird has their own nest. However there can only be one active breeding pair per group who are usually the largest in size, remaining dominant until their death, at which point another pair steps up to the plate. The group is highly territorial, vigorously defending their 50 meter long foraging territory, often chasing intruders out of the territory.

The nest is built by both breeders in about 5-30 days but maintained throughout the year, consisting of an untidy, retort-shaped structure made of dry grass, with two entrances one of which is closed by the breeding pair. It is typically wedged into the branches of a thorny tree, but it may also use telephone wires, power lines and fences.


Monday, 24 March 2014

Farm talk - Surrounded by Karee's

The front entrance of my home, densely framed by two species of Karee’s – Karee viminalis (White Karee) and Karee lancea (black Karee) and various indigenous grasses and aloes.

I’ve had a couple of requests to ‘share’ a bit more about where I live on my little piece of African soil, so I decided to do a short series of my home in Tarlton, South Africa, situated on an 8.5ha smallholding. This is purely for fun! I would just like to mention that, when landscaping my garden about 10 years ago, I took inspiration from Africa, and nature in particular, choosing to plant only indigenous trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers, with the result that I have a rather wild garden with not much colour, as indigenous flowers and shrubs tend to be less spectacular than most exotic plants, which just don’t do well in our climate at all, with very hot and sometimes dry summers and winters that can dish out the coldest of frosts.

I am not ostentatious by nature and prefer the simple and natural things in life. Hope you enjoy and find this series interesting! I know I just LOVE to see other people’s living spaces, be it small or large, simple or ornate, in suburbia or the country, in a basement or a sky-scraper, inland or at the coast.

A garden ornament hanging from a Karee Viminalis (White Karee), and Jacko sitting at the front door 

An old (and now rusty!) paraffin lamp provides some light at night. On the corner of the pathway is a clump of Restio (Cape Reed grass) and right at the back is planted some Zebra Grass (Miscanthus). Grown in India, Australia and Madagascar, South Africa and other warmer countries in Europe. 

The Zebra Grass gets these beautiful white plumes at the onset of winter before dying down. 

One of the many bird baths in my garden. An old log is being cleaned up by some termites (I’ve been chasing them all over the garden by pouring Diesel down their holes and this is the latest spot they’ve surfaced!) 

My vantage point on the patio from where I survey the birds and my garden. A concrete-relief gecko adorns the patio wall. 

Rhamnus prinoides (Dogwood or Shiny Leaf) front right of the pic – (Afrikaans) : blinkblaar, hondepishout) – a tall, conspicuous evergreen shrub, or small tree – a root decoction has been used to treat pneumonia, and the leaves used as a liniment for sprains. Parts of the plant are also reputed to have protective powers against lightning and evil spirits. It’s a rather scrambly plant and seems to be taking over this section of the garden. Planted it in the wrong spot ...

My Acacia karroo (Soetdoring) in the foreground – I just LOVE this Acacia’s beautiful thorns and little yellow pom-pom flowers. It also provides shelter and safe nesting spots for the Red Bishop and Masked Weaver (but not for the Lone Ranger! lol!)

 A large metal Gecko adorns the wall of the garages

The chicken coop next to the garages where Artemis and the girls spend their nights. During the day they terrorise my garden!

The lawned driveway leading to the garages

The fenced area of my wildlife pond where Torti, my Leopard Tortoise, lives

 A vintage metal plant stand on my patio housing some of my succulents

(Camera : FujiFinepix 2800Zoom)


Saturday, 22 March 2014

The ordinary

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the ordinary. 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Camera :Canon EOS 550D
Taken in my garden after days and days of rain


Thursday, 20 March 2014

The way of nature

Nature - it is breathtakingly beautiful, it is life, it is death. Nature brings us great joy, but it is full of sadness as well. That is the way of Nature.

The great debate is whether one should interfere with nature or not, whether to help or 'rescue' an animal in peril or not. The problem is that it is human nature to rescue things and my take on it is normally to let nature take its course. If you should find a baby bird in your garden, it is best to leave it alone as the parents know it's there and will continue feeding it. That is how it learns to fly, how it gets to know its territory and learns all it needs from its parents for survival. If you have dogs or cats, this could present a problem, so, if possible, try and get the fledgling back to its nest or at least up into a tree. It's a myth that the parents will abandon it if they 'smell human contact' on their baby, they will still keep on tending to it.

But sometimes one is presented with a situation where it is impossible not to interfere or to help, like finding an owl entangled in a barbed wire fence or finding an animal with a serious injury that requires medical attention. And living on a smallholding in the country, I am often faced with scenarios like that.

On the home-front side, it's terribly hard to watch when a hen decides it's time for her babies to make their own way in the world. But that's the way of nature. Solly's hen (above) had 8 of the most gorgeous babies and she was a really wonderful other, tending to their every need, finding them succulent insects and protecting them and keeping them warm.

But when they were the tender age of 7 weeks, she decided it was time to go back to Mr. Rooster and besides, nature was calling and she wanted to lay an egg. She started pecking and chasing them and generally being nasty until they were too scared to go near her. She then took off in search of Mr. Rooster. They clumped together, walking around the property, constantly calling for her, absolutely breaking my heart.

One of the chicks, forlornly standing at my studio door and constantly calling for mommy

They soon found solace in my garden where they kept close to me as I went about my chores. They knew me very well, as from birth I would take them snacks and seeds which they eagerly took out of my hands. They even allowed me to pick them up, trustingly sitting in my hand while I cuddled them. 

Now they are almost 4 months old, just about fully grown and quite independent, joining the rest of Solly's chickens when I feed in the mornings and afternoons and often looking for me in the house, hoping for a snack of minced meat, their favourite.

Yesterday I heard a strange, forlorn call in my garden, and not recognising it, I went outside to investigate. There was this 'unknown' bird sitting on my internet aerial, so I got the binoculars to have a better look and soon realised it was a juvenile Red-winged Starling, therefore I never recognised it's call. I have never heard a young Starling calling for its parents and it sat there for a half an hour, calling and calling, with no response from anybody, until it eventually took off to search somewhere else. So, so sad...

Many a time I have also watched as the Mynah's lead their off-spring out of the garden, taking them to another area to fend for themselves, returning alone a couple of days later. That is nature's way of protecting the food source in an area and from over-population. However, Laughing Doves do not seem to adhere to this law of nature - I have hundreds in my garden - where they breed, they feed! Smile!

 Laughing Doves early watching and waiting as I prepare the feed tables at 6am.


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

♪ ♪ ♪ ♫♫♫♫ Oh, what a beautiful morning!

Camera : Canon EOS 550D 
Taken in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) 

An African Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus) proclaiming his territory, singing to everybody that he has cleared the leaves off these branches for HIS nest. This is HIS spot. Shortly after taking the pick, he flew off in the direction of my bathroom court-yard garden, quickly returning with a long sliver of the Windmill Palm’s leaf and he started construction of his nest.

It wasn’t long before he had the foundations of a brand new home and some ladies were sitting in the sidelines, keeping a keen eye on him. Once the nest is complete, a female will inspect it and if she doesn’t like it, she’ll start tearing it apart, letting him know no uncertain terms that it’s not up to standard! However, should she accept the nest, she will start carrying in feathers, lining it for her eggs.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Learning to see without a camera

A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera. 
~ Dorothea Lange 

Camera : Canon EOS 550D - Leaves of the Black Karee (Rhus lancea) in my garden 

One of the things about my camera that I am most thankful for is that it has taught me to stop and take in the beauty of the smallest things. Just a few years ago I know I would have been too preoccupied to spend more than a fleeting moment observing the first blossoms of a new season. Now I find myself not only noticing, but looking...

Now, a slow walk reveals so much of nature's treasures, just because I've learnt to LOOK ...



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