LOOKING BACK OVER A THOUSAND POSTS

This is my thousandth post since I tentatively began my blog in December 2013. Apart from trawling through my archives or wanting to find out more about me, the three posts that have attracted the most views since then have surprised me. This might be an appropriate time to tell you how they came about:

The most viewed post is Weeds with a History (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/weeds-with-a-history/) published in June 2015. While only ten bloggers have ‘liked’ it and it took three years before anyone responded to it (thank you Joy!), the post about three of the most common invasive weeds in South Africa (Khakibos, Blackjacks, and Cosmos) has been viewed nearly eight hundred times. Are viewers interested in weeds, or does the ‘with a history’ attract their attention? It came about as a result of one of our many travels through this country when we were climbing up Yeomanry Kopje outside Lindley in the Free State to view the graves of British soldiers buried there during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). As we walked through the inevitable swathes of Khakibos in the long grass it struck me then that these weeds had not existed in this country prior to that war. Having researched the subject, I gave a short talk on it at the Eastern Cape branch of the South African Military History Society. The interest shown there encouraged me to publish the post.

Following close on its heels – and closely related to it – is War Horses: the role of horses in the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/war-horses-the-role-of-horses-in-the-anglo-boer-war-1899-1902/) published nearly a year later. I have long been familiar with the Horse Memorial in Port Elizabeth, having first seen it as a child, but visiting the Horse Memorial on the campus of the Weston Agricultural College in KwaZulu Natal brought home to me the role that horses have played in war and in the Anglo-Boer War in particular. This post is very basic – written while I was feeling passionate about the topic but had not yet researched it deeply. Only nine bloggers have ‘liked’ it and Nature on the Edge is the only one to have responded (thank you Liz!), yet it has been viewed nearly seven hundred times. My interest in the topic grew and the more I found out about the role played by horses, the more I wanted to disseminate this. Thus I have since expanded it and addressed the Military History Society, The Grahamstown Historical Society, our local U3A and Friends of the Library – incorporating poetry and a variety of illustrations to embellish the message.

Surprisingly, the third most viewed post is on the topic of Flying Ants (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/flying-ants/), also published in 2016. Although only four bloggers have ‘liked’ it and only Summer Daisy Cottage responded, it has been viewed close to four hundred times. We actually used to receive rain three years ago and I happened upon the alates emerging from the ground, having been alerted to this by the interest shown by a variety of birds in that particular section of the garden. I thought it would be interesting to record what was happening. Perhaps most of the viewers need to look up ‘flying ants’ for their school projects!

 

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JULY 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

The drought continues.

Laughing Doves never disappoint: they gather in the treetops to bask in the early morning sunshine; scour the ground for fallen seeds or cling onto the hanging feeders to eat the fine grass seed meant for the smaller birds; and fill the garden with their gentle cooing sound throughout the day. Our garden would be poorer without them.

It would probably be poorer without the Speckled Pigeons too, as messy as these home invaders are! The bright yellow Black-headed Orioles are a delight to see and hear every day. They tend to call to each other from the tree tops and swoop down in a flash of yellow to drink from the nectar feeder.

At this time of the year the Redwinged Starlings still fly around in flocks, making the most of the natural fruits and berries available in the neighbourhood.

A Cape Robin-chat regularly serenades me from the shrubbery while I am enjoying a cup of tea in the garden. There are fewer of the other songsters, the Olive Thrushes, about than usual. However, if I look around very carefully indeed, I can usually find one perched quietly in a tree watching me!

A Boubou has taken to helping itself to the offerings on Morrigan’s feeder from time to time.

Meanwhile, Amethyst and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds have been flitting around the garden making happy noises as if to say that spring is in the air. Black-collared Barbets are also calling to each other, but have been rather shy about appearing in the open this month – as have the ‘resident’ / regular pair of Knysna Turacos. The Fork-tailed Drongos never fail to please with their acrobatics and it is always a pleasure to spot Cape White-eyes.

A small flock of Crowned Hornbills paid a visit this month. They are always most welcome.

My July bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow (Black)
Cape Robin-chat
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Crowned Hornbill
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redeyed Dove
Rednecked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you would like a larger view.

JUNE 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

A number of factors have affected my enjoyment of watching the birds in our garden this month. Several days have gone by with only doves and Hadedas to be seen; the seed feeders remained full and the cut apples untouched. Among these factors has been the smoke from the municipal rubbish dump which burned for days on end – any self-respecting bird would have flown further afield to breathe more easily! Colder weather combined with wind does not make ideal bird-watching conditions. Then there is a very large neighbourhood cat, which I surprised the other morning while it was sitting directly under one of the seed feeders!

Black-headed Orioles are always a delight to watch, whether they are calling to each other from the treetops or swooping down to the nectar feeder. It’s strong, flesh-coloured beak can be clearly seen in this image:

The Cape Robin-Chat is another favourite of mine. I often watch a pair of them emerge from the tangled undergrowth behind our swimming pool and then fly across the pool to look for insects within the safety of the Crassula ovata growing on the other side.

A Speckled Pigeon has been collecting sticks for its nest in the ceiling above my study. It perches on a branch, surveys the ground below, selects a stick, flies up through the hole in the eaves, and then repeats this action many times during the day.

A first-time visitor to my garden this month is a Black-shouldered Kite. I didn’t have a camera handy, so this is one photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park:

My June bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Blackshouldered Kite
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Batis
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Wood-hoopoe
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver

NOTE: Click on a photograph for a larger view.

TWO BIRD BATH VISITORS

The bird baths in our garden are less popular during the cooler weather, although I make sure they are filled with clean water every day. It was during a very quiet period in the garden that these two visitors arrived within minutes of each other. First was a Cape White-eye:

This was followed by a Cape Robin:

NOTE: Click on a photograph for a larger view.

WANING ALOES

Among the joys we can look forward to in autumn and winter is the blooming of aloes all over South Africa. Their beautiful flowers appear at a time when other food might have become scarce and so they provide an excellent source of nectar in particular. Certainly, the aloes in our garden regularly host bees, wasps, and a variety of birds including weavers, sunbirds, starlings, hoopoes and the Black-headed Orioles. As our garden has become increasingly shady as the trees mature, the flowering period of our resident aloes has shortened. Sadly, it is already time to bid them farewell.

The flowers open from the bottom and in the image below you can see there are still a few at the top waiting to share their booty of nectar. Lower down, the flowers have either withered or fallen off the stem, or have been eaten by some of the birds mentioned above.

Peeping between these two ageing aloe flowers is a pink Pompon tree flower that usually only blooms from about November.

Once the flowering period is over, aloes continue to please. If you look closely at these young leaves, you might notice a wisp of spider web near the top. Aloes provide shelter for spiders, beetles, ants as well as lizards and geckos.

In time these leaves too will wither, harden and turn brown.

There are patterns and shapes in this image that remind me of, among other things, the eye of a jackal; the snout of an aardvark; a caterpillar; a frog; and the mouth and ear of some mystical creature. I wonder what you can see.

Here is a reminder of the beauty of aloes as seen along some of our roads: