FIERY SUNSET

A veld fire burned at the top of the hill behind where we live – an all too common feature when the grass becomes tinder dry as a result of a combination of drought and winter.

Small flames creating a lot of smoke

Flames are whipped by the wind

Smoke soon filled the valley

The sunset was all the more spectacular as a result

Leaving a glowing sky in its wake

SOUTH AFRICAN BIRDS ON POSTAGE STAMPS

South Africa has a wealth of birds and these are featured on our postage stamps from time to time. Today’s pick from my box of unsorted stamps are these:

Starting from the top left is a Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus). The largest crane in Africa, the Wattled Crane is classified as being critically endangered in this country with only just over 200 hundred individuals left. Other populations of Wattled Crane survive in neighbouring Botswana and nearby Zambia. They are wetland-dependent birds and suffer from the loss of their preferred habitat as a result of activities such as mining, forestry, agriculture, draining/damming of wetlands, and the expansion of industry.  Wattled Cranes have also been killed or injured when flying into overhead powerlines.

This stamp was issued in 1998 – from the redrawn 6th definitive series.

Centre in the top row is a Jackass Penguin (Spheniscus demersus), likewise from the redrawn 6th definitive series. These days it is known as the African Penguin – the former common name referred to the braying sound it makes, which is very similar to that of a donkey. These birds are endemic to the coastline of South Africa.

According to https://www.sanbi.org/creature/african-penguin these birds have “experienced rapid population declines over the past century as a result of overexploitation for food, habitat modification of nesting sites, oil spillages, and competition for food resources with commercial fishing. As a result it is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List and it is listed under Appendix II of the CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). In South Africa, it is further listed as a protected species under the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act (No. 10 of 2004).”

The stamp on the top right depicts a Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus). These are commonly seen in the Kruger National Park where they are frequently seen perched on a branch while on the lookout for grasshoppers or beetles. They also sometimes eat lizards or even crabs. These birds prefer open woodland or grassland with scattered trees. This stamp, designed by Chris van Rooyen was printed in 2000.

The bottom row of stamps show the White-fronted Bee-eater (Merops bullockoides) from the same series of stamps printed in 2000.

These are sociable birds that nest in small colonies of 40 – 80 birds, usually in sandy banks where they make holes for their nest. As the name implies, they mainly eat bees although other flying insects do not go amiss.

BARK STRIPPING FOR MEDICINAL USE

Bark is a popular traditional medicinal product harvested from a range of trees growing in natural forests in this country. Sustainable bark collection is one thing – it is quite another if a tree is over-harvested or becomes ring-barked as it will die. Unless the bark is harvested in small quantities and with care, the injury caused to trees leads to wood deterioration as a result of insect damage and fungal infection.

It was while walking through the patch of natural forest tucked into the side of the mountain along the Dassiekrans Trail the other day that we came across these examples of bark harvesting:

A slice of bark has been carefully removed from one side of this tree trunk.

Although the gashes on this tree trunk look horrendous to me, the botanists accompanying us on the walk assured us that this too is a mark of sustainable bark collection and that it has not harmed the tree in terms of its longevity.

This is an example of of what was identified as unsustainable bark stripping.

One can already see signs of rot and the deterioration of the trunk.

MY GRANNY’S ALBUM: 3

Here are some more of the entries from my Granny’s album. Look at the intricacies of this beautiful illustration in pen-and-ink:

A beautifully painted bouquet of flowers:

Lastly, something close to my heart – birds:

It does not fail to amaze me how much care has been taken by friends and family in their contributions to her album.

THAT URBAN HERD AGAIN

As the drought continues to bite into the countryside, the ever expanding Urban Herd fan out through the suburbs in search of anything worthwhile to eat. Their usual grazing on the commonage on the other side of town has long been grazed to the quick.

STONE TERRACE

Modern materials especially manufactured for terracing mean that one does not see much in the way of stone terracing anymore. This one was photographed at Scotts Barracks in Grahamstown shortly before the building and garden were refurbished for a more modern purpose. I like the nooks and crannies that provide hideyholes for lizards, beetles and other insects as well as purchase for small plants that take root. Even the bare patches of stone are more pleasing to the eye than concrete blocks!

PINCUSHION PROTEA

I have not travelled down to the Western Cape, which is the natural habitat for these flowers, but photographed this beautiful Pincushion Protea (Leucospermum cordifoium) in a friend’s garden in our town, where it appears to be thriving on a steep slope.