DAISY’S ESCAPE FROM CRUNCHING JAWS

DAISY’S ESCAPE FROM CRUNCHING JAWS

Daisy the tortoise arrived in February and has enjoyed a peaceful life in our garden since then – until recently. We were alerted to an odd crunching noise and found the neighbouring hound with Daisy in its mouth!

Fortunately Labradors are soft-mouthed dogs, and I doubt if this one really knew what it was doing. It would probably have lost interest before long, but we weren’t taking any chances and sent him home. He was dog non grata for several days and now knows to give Daisy a wide birth when he comes to visit.

What about Daisy? The shell has been munched on two sides, so does not look as smartly edged as before. The tortoise was not seen for a couple of days – which had us worried. Then she reappeared looking as content as before. For the past week she has been sunning herself against the bottom step leading to our front door and sheltering under the succulents.

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So, Daisy has survived another potentially life-threatening situation. Long live Daisy!

A VERY GOOD FRIDAY

A VERY GOOD FRIDAY

The glorious weather on this Good Friday drew me outdoors very early to tackle the vegetable garden. In spite of the vines stretching way beyond the confines of the bed, clambering up the garage steps, and waylaying the unwary walking past at night, the butternut squashes yielded only two for consumption. Both were wonderful specimens and tasted all the more delicious for being home-grown. The exhausted vines had to go, along with all the weeds that had flourished under and between the large butternut leaves.

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Tea in the shade and a stint of bird watching followed that exertion in the heat. Listing twenty one species is not too shabby, considering I didn’t move from the comfort of my garden chair!

There are African Green Pigeons galore in the fig tree already laden with fruit. At first I thought that spotting five or six flitting in and out of the dark green foliage was a lot – until a passing truck made a loud noise that caused a flock of well over thirty of these beautiful birds to take off in fright!

Between them and the Redwinged Starlings that also flock to feast on the figs, I was assured of a melodious background to my musings. These flocks of starlings look so beautiful when they are in flight with the sunshine highlighting their russet wings.

The flocks of pigeons, doves and starlings take off at the slightest provocation. I kept peering into the clear blue sky to see if a raptor was flying overhead – nothing. This happened so often that I stirred to collect my camera in the hope of capturing the flight of so many birds for posterity. Alas, I was far too slow. Imagine this though: I saw a Redwinged Starling and an African Green Pigeon collide during one of their joint mass exoduses! Both birds continued on their respective flight paths afterwards.

It was while I was trying to photograph the birds that I stumbled across Daisy the Tortoise for the first time in weeks. I am so happy that it is still around chomping its way through our garden.Daisy

I gave up trying to photograph the African Green Pigeons in the fig tree: they disappear in a flash. Then I spotted several sunning themselves in the Erythrina caffra in the back garden.SONY DSC

This has been a very good Good Friday.

HA HA HADEDA

HA HA HADEDA

Love them or loathe them, the Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash) has made itself at home in suburban area over much of the country. One cannot ignore their strident calls – particularly in the early mornings!

It often seems to me that upon waking, these sociable birds have conversations with others roosting elsewhere: “Anyone up yet?’ or “Where shall we meet today?” It sounds as if responses to these queries come in from near and far across the valley until some sort of consensus is reached and then we hear them flying off noisily, still calling out to others doing the same.

While several of these birds occasionally roost in the fig tree and the Erythrina caffra at night, there are two pairs who have regularly nested in these trees for many years. Each breeding season we watch the Hadedas bring in seemingly impossibly long or awkwardly shaped sticks to add to their untidy nests that are re-used.

Although several eggs and chicks have fallen out of these ungainly and flimsy looking structures, both pairs of Hadedas appear to have become more adept at parenting with time and usually successfully raise one or two chicks each. We are able to watch both nests with ease and enjoy monitoring the hatching process.

Once the chicks have left the nest to explore the garden, they still spend some time ‘test-flapping’ their wings and continue to ‘beg’ to be fed by the adults until they are old enough to be independent.

By the way, Daisy the tortoise was spotted yesterday and the Speckled Mousebird family must have flown the nest in the fig tree as it is not longer being visited.

I feel privileged to see Hadedas probing for worms and insects on the lawn or poking about in the flower beds with their scythe-like beaks. They might look drab to some, but are so beautiful when the sunlight catches their iridescent wing feathers!

They usually appear singly or in pairs in the garden yet occur in much larger groups in open spaces such as sports fields – especially after being watered – and on municipal lawns.

Apart from raucously reminding all in the valley of their presence in the early mornings and before settling at night, the cheerfully strident call of Hadedas can be heard at odd times throughout the day.

They seem to enjoy perching on roof tops and glide from there in the late afternoons to join others already perching in the fig tree. There they flap their wings noisily and appear to settle down for a few minutes, only to fly off to join others still circling the suburb, calling out as they do so. This ritual takes place at the end of every day before they return to at last settle for the night.

THE MEAL THAT GOT AWAY

THE MEAL THAT GOT AWAY

Meet Daisy. Not a friendly jersey cow, but an Angulate Tortoise (Chersina angulata). C christened it that as soon as she saw it.

Daisy crossed paths with us a couple of weeks ago when, while P was out walking, a passerby asked if he could borrow a knife.

Who carries a knife when out walking with the intention of enjoying the fresh air and exercise? A walking stick perhaps to ward off the odd over-zealous dog, but not a knife!

The chap indicated a small tortoise clasped in his hand and said he wished to remove the body from its shell in order to eat it. Feeling horrified at the thought, P gave him some cash instead and released Daisy in our sprawling garden.

We have discovered that it covers a wide area in the course of a day and can make a quick get away when it wants to. I can attest that it retreats for cover when the sun gets hot for I found it difficult to keep Daisy in the field of my lens while photographing it. This is one tortoise that could give the average hare a run for its money!

Angulate Tortoises eat grasses and succulents so Daisy has plenty to choose from in the garden and is welcome to chomp its way through the masses of Tradescantia (Wandering Jew) growing all over.

I was interested to read in Bill Branch’s Field Guide to the Snakes and other Reptiles of southern Africa that Angulate Tortoises drink water through their noses! These tortoises typically have a single gular shield below the head – I had to look that one up too: it means a chin shield.

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Daisy has the run of the garden and appears to be content for now. Last year a large Leopard Tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) took up residence in our garden for a couple of weeks, disappearing as mysteriously as it had arrived. We’ll have to see how long Daisy stays for.