The veld has been tinder dry for weeks as the relentless drought continues. A grass fire, fanned by hot wind, raced through the mountains around our town at the weekend, engulfing us in a blanket of smoke and ash. Today the Mountain Drive area looks bleak and black. Yet, Earth Day is one that encourages us to look at our environment more closely; to get to know it better; to consider what we can do to protect and nurture it better; as well as being thankful for what we have.
How extremely thankful I am for the 4mm of soft rain that we were blessed with during the night!
This has encouraged the canary creeper buds to open – these are the first of what should become a waterfall of bright blooms.
The Crassula ovata is also covered with buds waiting to open.
Meanwhile, the Cape honeysuckle flowers are already providing swathes of bright colour and a useful source of nectar.
The Virginia creeper is showing off its autumn colours.
In keeping with these autumnal colours, it is fortuitous that an Olive Thrush was the first bird to greet me this morning.
This has been the month for subtle seasonal changes. Whatever the calendar might suggest, nature knows what to do when. So it is that the Pin-tailed Whydah has lost his long tail feathers and the tweed of his winter coat is beginning to shine through his worn out tuxedo; the Cape Weavers no longer carry a deep blush; and the weavers in general are all looking a little tatty. Although the Lesser-striped Swallows departed for northern climes earlier in the month, a few White-rumped Swifts continue to fly low over the garden or can be seen twisting and turning high in the sky against the late afternoon light. Thankfully, the Hadeda Ibises are waking later now that the early mornings remain darker for longer!
A pair of Olive Thrushes either chase each other from the feeding area or appear singly to pick out food from the feeding tray and take it to the ground to eat.
A pair of Southern Boubous have become regular visitors to the feeder, usually only one at a time, and I hear them calling to each other during the day. The beautiful orange Cape Honeysuckle is coming into bloom and already the Southern Masked Weavers are biting the tubular flowers off at the base to get at the nectar.
Now that the Common Fiscals are no longer feeding their fledglings I see them less often. The tame one we call Meneer still alights on the garden table now and then to collect its personal handout. Speckled Pigeons seem to breed throughout the year. There are now a lot of them living in our roof!
These two Laughing Doves seem to have run out of things to say to each other.
A Cardinal Woodpecker announced its presence nearby recently with a typical rat-a-tat sound as it tapped at old wood for insects. It took me a little while to spot it through a tangle of shrubbery, where it was hammering away at the trunk of a long dead plum tree.
Green Woodhoopoes pay fleeting visits to the garden to probe old wood, between dry aloe leaves, and cracks for food. This one is a youngster, still lacking the bright beak and the patterns on its tail. It was exploring a tree in the company of several adults.
The Cape Honeysuckle is a plant that keeps on giving. We look forward to its bright orange blooms every season, usually appearing at a time when the garden is looking rather drab. This blaze of colour is in our back garden, which tends to be neglected during winter.
Seen close-up, you can appreciate why the blossoms would be popular with pollinators such as ants, bees and butterflies.
There is plenty for everyone.
The tubular flowers are a favourite among the sunbirds. Here a Greater Double-collared Sunbird slips his perfectly formed bill in to reach the nectar.
Weavers generally peck holes in the base of the tube, or snip the flower off its base to get the sweetness they desire. This explains why so many flowers end up on the ground even on the finest of days. Once the flowers are over, one might be forgiven for thinking there would be nothing more to offer. This plant keeps on giving though: its seeds are sought after by, amongst others, Streakyheaded Seedeaters.
Recently I have spotted several bees on the leaves. I cannot be sure what sustenance they are finding there, but I see a few of them out almost daily.