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.

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THE BEE’S KNEES

When we describe someone as being the bee’s knees we are paying them a compliment because this phrase means of ‘excellent quality’. Some sources point to the origin relating to the pollen collected by bees as they flit from flower to flower – and we all know the end result will be honey, which is good.

So, someone who is admired for having certain qualities or for having achieved something significant may be referred to as the bee’s knees. This is the meaning that has been in use since the 1920s.

Funnily enough, when the bee’s knees was first recorded in the late 18th century, it meant ‘something very small and insignificant’. Well, bees may be small but we have all been made aware of how very significant they are in our lives!

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

SERENDIPITOUS PELARGONIUMS

Serendipity: an unplanned, fortunate discovery.

Serendipitous: occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

This is what happened today: two friends and I were admiring the flowers blooming in a nearby indigenous garden. Among them were a variety of pelargoniums in different colours and sporting different patterns on the petals as well as their leaves. We briefly discussed the very early cultivation of these flowers and how they have been developed and domesticated over the centuries to make them such a popular summer bloom all over Europe and in parts of the United States – most originating from our humble indigenous stock. I didn’t have my camera with me so will show you two examples from a previous post.

Once home, I settled down to read the blogs I follow – this is where serendipity comes in to play – and the first to appear was one I look forward to reading each week. This time the topic was none other than pelargoniums! It was as if Carol had been pre-empting our morning discussion. It is a wonderful article which I urge you to read if you are interested in these flowers: https://naturebackin.com/2019/05/23/pelargoniums-wild-and-domesticated/

Soon after, I received this photograph from a friend of her dear departed dog, Dusty, who enjoyed picking a flower now and then.

Now, if that was not serendipitous enough, a belated birthday present arrived for me:

What a happy, pelargonium-filled day it has been!

BLADDER HIBISCUS

So many cattle graze on the open field below our house so often that I am surprised that anything survives – the indigenous trees that were planted there after the enormous Eucalyptus trees were removed haven’t! What a pleasure it was then to find the area brightened by a myriad of cream coloured flowers with a dark eye – I had to take a closer look and walked there, camera in hand.

They turned out to be Hibiscus trionum, also known as the Bladder Hibiscus, which grow in grasslands and in disturbed areas – which fits the bill for this piece of land. The solitary, creamy-white flowers with a dark purple centre have a calyx with conspicuous purple veins.

It is interesting to contrast this annual herb with the enormous flower blooming on the Hibiscus tree in our garden.

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger image.

CAPE HONEYSUCKLE

Looking through my archives, I am reminded of the long flowering period of the indigenous Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) in the Eastern Cape. I have photographs of these beautiful orange tubular flowers stretching from September through to May. There is an abundance of them now, both in gardens and in the veld.

While many gardeners trim these fast-growing plants into attractive hedges, I fight a losing battle against its propensity to spread everywhere. Nonetheless, it is evergreen here and forms a usefully dense screen of glossy green leaves – and I am always grateful for its very attractive flowers.

They are rich in nectar and so attract bees and butterflies as well as a number of nectar-feeding birds. Two I have managed to photograph are the Double-collared Sunbird:

Another is a Cape White-eye:

Despite its unruly, rampant growth, the Cape Honeysuckle is drought resistant and so is a welcome inhabitant in our garden, both in the sun and in areas of semi-shade. It is always a delight to see buds forming as they are the forerunners of a blaze of colour, often when we need it most!

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish a larger view.

MARCH 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

March is a time of change in the garden. The small amount of rain that fell during the month has revived the trees and grass, while encouraging the blooming of the Plumbago.

It is also the time when the natural grasses go to seed, providing a nutritious alternative to the seeds I put out regularly. Weavers are losing their bright breeding plumage and have suspended their nest-building activities until spring. Not so the Olive Thrushes, of which I have counted up to six visible at a time, for at least one pair is still nesting. You will have to look at this photograph very carefully for the patch of orange on top of the dark mass of the nest!

Speckled Mousebirds scour the bushes for tiny berries, leaves, flowers and nectar, while Laughing Doves peck over the recently cleared compost area as well as the masses of tiny figs from the Natal Fig tree that have dropped onto the road below that are crushed by passing vehicles. The clusters of figs also attract African Green Pigeons and Redwinged Starlings among a host of other birds.

As the Hadeda Ibises are no longer nesting, several have chosen to roost in this tree. On some mornings they wake as early as four o’clock to let the neighbourhood know they have slept well and are ready to discuss their breakfast plans. More melodious are the liquid notes of a pair of Blackheaded Orioles that waft through the garden, along with the gentle cooing of Cape Turtle Doves and the cheerful chirrup of Blackeyed Bulbuls. A pair of Forktailed Drongos regularly keep watch from either the telephone pole or the Erythrina caffra tree, ready to swoop down on anything edible that catches their eye. I have already drawn attention to the pair of Knysna Turacos that reside in the garden and recently posted a photograph of one looking at its reflection in our neighbour’s window. This is the view from the other side:

Cattle Egrets roosting in the CBD continue to experience hard times: two tall trees have recently been removed from the garden of a complex of flats because residents complained about the noise they make as well as the smell of their droppings. Several have taken to perching atop a neighbour’s tall tree in the late afternoons, but are not (yet) overnighting there.

Finally, of course my camera wasn’t at hand when we witnessed the very unusual sight of a Cardinal Woodpecker drinking and bathing in the bird bath only a short distance from where we were sitting!

My March bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

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