🐾 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, 30 July 2015

Do Not Disturb! - a nesting or hibernating Hedgehog

If you suspect that a Hedgehog has made a nest somewhere in your garden, leave it alone! In the summer it may be a mother and babies; in the winter an animal might be hibernating. Look forward to seeing the hedgehogs again when they emerge.

Sometimes a Hedgehog might be spotted virtually in the open, sleeping on a bed of leaves. Leave it alone, it might just be napping and, if it gets cold enough, it will soon wake to find a warmer spot. Hibernation is not continuous and periodically the hedgehogs wake up and their temperature returns to near normal. They seldom move about, but simply remain alert in the nest.
By mid-winter, most hedgehogs will have started to hibernate. Any late-born youngsters still found wandering about on these cold winter days are unlikely to survive for very long. I never advocate removing any wild creature from nature, but in the case of very young hedgehogs, I will collect them when I find them late in the season and keep them in a fenced area where I can provide shelter for them, sometimes even keeping them in the house until the worst cold is over. The problem with keeping them inside is that they don’t know it’s winter and will spend the time awake, running about!

Hedgehogs often make use of man-made hibernation spots like boxes or any other structures that offer protection, so think about providing a few cosy spots where the hedgies can find a safe place to hibernate or nest.

It is therefore a good idea not to remove leaf litter from your garden in winter (luckily there are lots of trees shedding their leaves in winter!), it provides a warm and safe haven for any little mammals visiting your garden.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Orb-web Spiderling

The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.
~Alexander Pope


I was SO excited this morning - discovered an Orb-web spiderling, just 3cm from the tip of her front legs to the tips of the hind legs, in my garden this morning! - she had just anchored here lines between a Cape Reed Grass spike and the one pillar of the patio when I took the picture and when I returned half an hour later, she had started on her wheel, complete with the typical thick zig-zag lines in the centre.

During the process of making an orb web, the spider will use its own body for measurements.

Many webs span gaps between objects which the spider could not cross by crawling. This is done by letting out a first fine adhesive thread to drift on the faintest breeze across a gap. When it sticks to a suitable surface at the far end, the spider will carefully walk along it and strengthen it with a second thread. This process is repeated until the thread is strong enough to support the rest of the web.

After strengthening the first thread, the spider will continue to make a Y-shaped netting. The first three radials of the web are now constructed. (the "Y"-thread can be seen in the pic below by her hind legs). More radials are added, making sure that the distance between each radial is small enough to cross. This means that the number of radials in a web directly depends on the size of the spider plus the size of the web.

After the radials are complete, the spider will fortify the center of the web with about five circular threads. Then a spiral of non-sticky, widely spaced threads is made for the spider to easily move around its own web during construction, working from the inside out. Then, beginning from the outside in, the spider will methodically replace this spiral with another, more closely spaced one of adhesive threads. It will utilize the initial radiating lines as well as the non-sticky spirals as guide lines. The spaces between each spiral will be directly proportional to the distance from the tip of its back legs to its spinners. This is one way the spider will use its own body as a measuring/spacing device. While the sticky spirals are formed, the non-adhesive spirals are removed as there is no need for them any more.

Many orb-weavers build a new web each day. I have often watched this process. Generally, towards evening, the spider will consume the old web, rest for approximately an hour, then spin a new web in the same general location. Thus, the webs of orb-weavers are generally free of the accumulation of detritus common to other species such as black widow spiders.

Camera: Canon EOS 550D - Location: My bathroom court-yard garden, Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa
(I did post this in 2012, but thought I'd bring it forward)


Friday, 17 July 2015

Tread softly!

If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive. 

Our egos tells us we're the only ones that have any kind of feelings. We're the only ones with a relationship. We're the only ones with family. You know, I think that, if you kill a spider, there is a relationship that you're ruining.

There's a conversation going on outside with the other spiders.

"Did you hear about Chris?.... Killed! Yeah.... SNEAKER! And now Stephanie has nine hundred babies to raise all alone. Well, she's got her legs full I'll tell you that right now. Chris was so kind, wouldn't hurt a fly. It's just been tough for them lately. They just lost their web last week. Those humans think they're so smart. Let them try shooting silk out of their butt and see what they can make!”


Saturday, 4 July 2015

The home-wreckers!

Common mynahs are tame, bold, and noisy birds; usually seen in pairs or small flocks. They build bulky nests in tree cavities, pockets in buildings, in heavy vegetation and in thatch roofing! A pair moved into my garden a couple of years ago and took to nesting in the little thatch roof over my front entrance gate. Despite numerous attempts at evicting them and repairing the roof, they have been very persistent and this is the current state of my little thatch entrance!

The male keeping a beady eye on me after the female entered the nest with a tit-bit for the babies.

A fledgling sitting in my peach tree

Females lay four to five glossy, pale blue eggs. The incubation period is thirteen to eighteen days. Both parents incubate the eggs. The nestlings may leave the nest at around twenty-two days or longer, but may still not be able to fly for another seven days or so. And this happens several times a year! Mynahs are very territorial and every time nestlings have fledged, I've watched the parents lead them away from our property as soon as they could fly, returning empty-handed and the cycle starts all over again. 

The Myna has been introduced in many other parts of the world and its distribution range is on the increase to an extent that, in 2000, the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN) declared it among the World's 100 worst invasive species. The Myna is one of only three birds in this list of invasive species. It is a serious threat to the ecosystems of Australia and South Africa.

However, the intelligence and loving spirit of these amazing birds is beyond description. When I rescued a fledgling a couple of years ago, I called her Mai and she grew up in my studio and had free range of the house and garden, and one of her favourite past-times was her early-morning bath in the bird bath in the garden, after which she would fly into my studio, roosting on top of the computer screen, preening herself until she was all sparkling and shiny.

 Mai on the back of my office chair, watching as I re-pack the chaos she has caused

They are also extremely playful and inquisitive. She would investigate every item in my studio, picking up the gemclip holder, fishing out a few and then hiding them in all sorts of nooks and crannies, often returning to find and play with her treasures. 

Mai sitting on my knee, intently watching as I eat my sandwich, desperately hoping for a tit-bit!

She was extremely fond of people and one day, after approaching somebody in our driveway, she disappeared mysteriously and I'm convinced that she landed on their shoulder and that the person climbed into their car and drove off with her. I was totally devastated, and I just prayed that they did not cage her, as she was a wonderful free spirit.



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