BIRD BATHS AND BEES

Just as people, birds and animals seek water to drink when the weather is hot and dry, so do bees. The water in this shallow bird bath at the entrance to the Mountain Zebra National Park is edged with bees and flies taking in much-needed moisture.

Communal taps inevitably drip. Some taps in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park have simple cement bird baths placed under them which both helps to save water and provides for the thirst of bees – lots of them. One actually has to approach these taps with care.

Birds and animals have to approach these watering points with care too.

I was thus impressed to see that in the Karoo National Park not only are bird baths provided under the communal taps, but clear signs warn one to be careful of the bees that will inevitably come to share the water during the hot weather.

Or … perhaps these signs sensitize visitors to the importance of bees and the role they play in keeping our environment healthy.

Either way, it was good to see them.

SOME ANIMALS IN THE KAROO NATIONAL PARK

Proclaimed in 1979, the Karoo National Park is situated on the southern slopes of the Nuweveld Mountains near Beaufort West and is home to approximately fifty-eight endemic species of animals, quite apart from birds and reptiles. Even though the vegetation is sparse, one cannot expect to see them all in only just over a day. Time, as well as the luck factor, determines what one can see during a drive. The animals we saw tended to be scattered over a wide area and did not occur in great herds.

Among the animals we saw was a kudu bull peering at us from behind a bush.

Later, we were delighted to come across more kudu in the company of Cape mountain zebras.

A lone springbok seemed unperturbed by our presence.

It is always wonderful to come across the majestic looking gemsbok.

The red hartebeest shone like burnished copper in the sun.

A small troop of baboons crossed the road ahead of us and proceeded to fan through the veld where they nibbled on grass seeds and overturned stones looking for insects to eat.

There were other animals too, some too far from the road for a good photograph. Sadly, we had only one full day in the park – we clearly need to spend a lot more time there!

THE URBAN HERD CLOSE TO HOME

The Urban Herd often passes by our home – so often that we actually name individual animals we easily recognise. Here is the Mud Cow, for example, so named because she looks as though she has been splashed with mud. This photograph of her was taken in November 2021 when she was grazing on our pavement.

Late yesterday afternoon she was on the pavement in front of the house next door to ours – this time with a skittish calf in tow.

She was one of a larger group of the Urban Herd we had not seen in the gathering gloom until our return. A few of them are caught in the headlights through the windscreen. There were many more dark shapes in the background that we had to wait for before we could proceed.

From time to time we come across a new-born calf. This one was nestled in the grass while its mother grazed nearby on the hill above our home.

At other times we can hear the mournful bleating of a calf that has become separated from the rest of the herd, like this one a short distance below where we live.

Here is a part of the Urban Herd resting in the park below our house. For some reason – apparently a new mower has been purchased – the municipality recently mowed the grass there for the first time in months. The Urban Herd still pays it regular visits though for there is water from a leak that has been untended for years and plenty of shade for them to lie under while they chew the cud.