BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE

Most of the photographs I have posted of a Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus) have been taken while one has been visiting the nectar feeder. It has been easier this way as they tend to frequent the tall trees and so are hidden by the foliage. The latter is thinning out now that winter is upon us, making it easier to spot this one perched in the branches of the Erythrina caffra growing in the back garden.

There were two of them – too far apart to frame together – calling to each other, their liquid sounds passing to and fro between them. This one has been captured whilst calling to its mate. You can see its strong bill, which aids its diet of fruit, berries and insects – apart from nectar, which it is partial to.

SPIDER-HUNTING WASP

Three or four spider-hunting wasps (belonging to the family Pompilidae) have been daily tea-time companions for a couple of weeks. They have been difficult to photograph as they hover above or go in and out of the potted plants on the patio. I have at last captured one on a Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) and am showing off its brilliant colours as highlighted by the sun in these three photographs:

NOTE: Click on a photograph should you wish to see a larger view.

BRAZILIAN PEPPER TREE

In its wisdom, our local municipality planted a row of Brazilian Pepper trees (Schinus terebinthifoliu) along the street that runs in front of our home. I say ‘in its wisdom’ – although, to be fair, this knowledge might not have been readily available forty odd years ago – because not only are their bright red, slightly fleshy fruits poisonous, but the sap of these trees is a skin irritant and affects the respiratory tract! How wonderful to have these as our street trees.

They were probably planted as ornamental trees because they are evergreen with wide-spreading, horizontal branches and the bountiful crop of fruits look attractive. Each of the fruits contain a single seed, most of which are dispersed by birds and animals.

The interesting thing is that this attractive tree is a Category One invasive alien, which means it is illegal to grow it in one’s garden – yet, here is a whole row of them in the street! The Brazilian pepper-tree is native to south eastern Brazil, northern Argentina and Paraguay. It is now classified as a highly invasive species that has proved to be a serious weed in South Africa. Any chance they will be removed by the municipality? Don’t bet on it.

NOTE: Click on the photographs if you want a larger view.

AGAVE ATTENUATA

While the leaves of the Agave attenuata, also known as Swan’s Neck or Fox Tail are attractive on their own, for me the real attraction is their flowers.

The long spikes of flowers appear as each of these rosettes of sharply pointed grey-green leaves matures over a period of four to five years.

As you can see, these flower spikes grow to be about 3m tall and bend over so that from certain angles they look akin to the curve of a swan’s neck – hence that common name, although it is also known here in Afrikaans as Die Sonkyker.

Probably due to their weight, these tall spikes reflex towards the ground before arching up again – apparently like the tail of a fox, giving rise to another common name.

Each of these spikes is filled with a myriad creamy flowers. Once a rosette of leaves has produced a flower, it dies.

This plant originates from Mexico and is a popular plant for large gardens and in public gardens. This particular specimen grows next to the road leading into our town, along with various colour varieties of bougainvillea – plants suited to ‘neglect’ as they have been planted on a bank and are never watered by the municipality.

 

ERYTHRINA SEEDS

The Erythrina caffra trees in our back garden epitomise the strange weather patterns that have characterised the past year: they are sporting green leaves and yellow leaves, are shedding brown leaves and have clusters of open seedpods clinging to them in the gusty wind, exposing their scarlet seeds.

This is one of many pods that have been detached and scattered by the wind.