MOBILE MEALS

We are used to seeing Cattle Egrets darting about in the company of cattle, zebras and buffalo so it is always interesting to see other birds making a meal of the ticks that attach themselves to animals as they walk through the grass. The first of these is a pair of sheep hosting a Fork-tailed Drongo and a Red-billed Oxpecker respectively:

I am always excited to spot an oxpecker around these parts.

Redwinged Starlings are common garden visitors and a large flock of them gather daily in the Natal fig. It was a strange sight, however, to turn a corner in town to find these ones astride a cow while they feasted on ticks:

The sun had already set, so the light is not good yet you can see the russet in the outstretched wings of the bird on the right.

There appeared to be a conflict of views being played out while the cow munched away placidly.

PASTORAL SCENES

This was once the town’s golf course – a new one has been developed in more lush surroundings on the other side of the valley. On this very hot day it hosted part of the Urban Herd we call the Forest Cows. There is no forest here, but this particular herd seem to prefer the bushy hillside as well as grazing on this now open land.

There were about fifty of these animals, accompanied by a busy flock of cattle egrets. All looked peaceful. The scant shade was taken up by as many cows that could fit under the stunted trees. The rest basked in the hot sun.

The different shapes of the horns and the patterns on their hides are interesting.

We call the cow in the foreground The Master Hooter – mainly because we have often seen her apparently calling the herd together by bellowing loudly until they follow her. Meet the V Bull, so named because when he was much younger he sported a crudely scratched V on his flank. This has now stretched to be almost unrecognisable for he is now very large and bulky!

BIRTH IN SUBURBIA

This cow, a member of the expanding Urban Herd, gave birth unaided in the middle of a patch of Senecio flowers growing on some open ground outside some houses in the middle of a suburb.

In no time at all, two local dogs came sniffing around.

The cow was still raw.

Her udder was distended.

While she must have already eaten her placenta, the dogs seemed to be particularly interested in something in the patch of flowers once the cow and her calf had moved away.

By then she had endured enough of their unwelcome attention and nudged her calf towards the relative safety of a nearby park.

We saw them elsewhere in the town a week later: cow and calf appear to be thriving.

THE URBAN HERD

Look at the idyllic scene below of cows grazing on open grassland. The early morning light casts long shadows over the contented herd whilst highlighting the treed hill beyond. Look more closely and you will realize this is no ordinary rural scene.

urban cows

What you are seeing is an open park below our house. Beyond that is the national road that leads into our town at the bottom of the hill. Now, take a closer look at you will appreciate that these are not rail-thin creatures desperate for any food they can find.

cows

No, these animals are sleek and large, well-fed and are quite at home in this open area. Apart from being a hazard to the traffic on the road beyond – I know of people who have stopped at night to shoo them off the road to ensure the safety of other drivers who tend to speed into town – the cows do not confine themselves to this lush patch. The problem is that they move onto the pavements and into gardens. These ones are outside my front gate.

cows

This one is inspecting my neighbour’s verge and made short work of the plants shortly after it was photographed.

And here are some of its mates – those sturdy creatures are not to be trifled with!

white cows

Meet The Urban Herd that wanders through our streets and gardens unchecked. A neighbour complained the other day that not only had she had to herd cows away from her garden early in the morning, but that later on she had had to slow down for about eight donkeys in the High Street, and then was met with a goat running around in the Church Square.

There are donkeys everywhere. I nearly crashed into one on my way to purchase groceries the other morning. Against the rising sun it looked at first like a drum at the side of the road – perhaps warning motorists of yet another pothole – and then it moved in front of my car in a flash. We know of people who have driven into donkeys or had an accident swerving out of their way.

Another neighbour added to the general complaint about the cowpats left on his lawn and that the cows had damaged his rock pathway by “creating a very uneven surface for some-one to stand in, fall or twist an ankle at our letter box”. Others complain of their plants and shrubs being munched on. Who would expect to meet cows standing or lying in the main road or suburban streets in the dark?

Some residents have tried sending pictures of the animals to the Municipal Manager, contacting the traffic police, and have even publicised the telephone number of the person in the municipality who is said to be in charge of stray animals – how odd that he always seems to be ‘out of town’ at a meeting when one asks to be put through to him. All to no avail. As someone said recently, “now that voting is over I think we may all just sing for our supper!”

The Urban Herd appears to be here to stay and the number is growing.

SUNNY SUNDAY

SUNNY SUNDAY

Today has been a perfect sunny day – most welcome after two fierce thunderstorms over the past three days! While listening to the usual cacophony of birds in the garden, my attention was drawn to a scuffling sound outside the front gate that had the neighbouring hound barking furiously.

cows

This small herd of unattended cows have recently become regular visitors to our suburb over weekends. Given that the municipality tends to be lax about mowing the verges, perhaps we should be grateful for this injection of rural living.

A beautiful morning such as this seemed perfect for sitting in the shade, a pot of Yorkshire tea at my elbow, my notebook at hand and, for a change, my camera at the ready.

Apart from the usual flock of Laughing Doves fluttering down to peck at seeds or to sun themselves on a sandy bank by spreading out their wings, I found it interesting to watch a Black-collared Barbet from close quarters as it made its way down the branches of the tree to reach the feeding station.

blackcollaredbarbet

Note how large and sturdy its beak is!

It is fascinating watching the Village Weavers as they court each other, fight with each other, feed their young – and one even trying to build its nest on the bottom of the bird feeder! This one is in the throes of fanning its wings as part of its display behaviour.

villageweaver

A Cape Robin hopped about in the undergrowth – too dark for the camera – nearby; a Boubou Shrike treated me to a song from a branch just above me; a Paradise Flycatcher flitted enticingly from one bush to another – always too quick to be caught on camera; a flock of Speckled Mousebirds flew into the White Stinkwood tree and disappeared amongst the foliage; and Redwinged Starlings showed off their russet wingtips against the bright blue sky as they went in search of tasty morsels.

Best of all, I at last managed to capture a Lesser-striped Swallow peeping out of its nest. More of that later …