MILNER DAM

For the past few years the catchment dams around our town have dried up completely during the drought, leaving the town heavily dependent on water piped in from the Orange River via the Fish River. In June last year Milner Dam looked like this:

It has taken months after rain in March  – none of it heavy downpours, but all within the catchment area – for enough water to finally seep through the surrounding countryside so that it could begin filling the dam. This view of it was taken in March:

I felt such a thrill of excitement at seeing the sky reflected off the water! The water level is still very shallow and the dam is still very far from being operational once more. There is less water in it now, two months later, and even less chance of any further rain coming as winter is peeping around the corner. I am hoping though that the dam won’t dry up completely and that more water will come through along with the summer.

THE URBAN HERD CLOSE TO HOME

The Urban Herd often passes by our home – so often that we actually name individual animals we easily recognise. Here is the Mud Cow, for example, so named because she looks as though she has been splashed with mud. This photograph of her was taken in November 2021 when she was grazing on our pavement.

Late yesterday afternoon she was on the pavement in front of the house next door to ours – this time with a skittish calf in tow.

She was one of a larger group of the Urban Herd we had not seen in the gathering gloom until our return. A few of them are caught in the headlights through the windscreen. There were many more dark shapes in the background that we had to wait for before we could proceed.

From time to time we come across a new-born calf. This one was nestled in the grass while its mother grazed nearby on the hill above our home.

At other times we can hear the mournful bleating of a calf that has become separated from the rest of the herd, like this one a short distance below where we live.

Here is a part of the Urban Herd resting in the park below our house. For some reason – apparently a new mower has been purchased – the municipality recently mowed the grass there for the first time in months. The Urban Herd still pays it regular visits though for there is water from a leak that has been untended for years and plenty of shade for them to lie under while they chew the cud.

APRIL 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Not only is this post woefully late, but this is probably the shortest bird list for a long time – mainly because I was away from our garden for half of the month! Once again, photographs have been sourced from my archives.

A pair of Southern Boubous creep out from the thicket behind the bird feeders once they have established that the coast is clear. The first port of call is the birdbath on a stand before one or other ventures down to inspect the feeding tray. Laughing Doves still congregate in the trees or on the telephone cable, but are a lot more wary about fluttering down to feed on the ground. Perhaps they too wish to make certain there are no cats around before they do. It is very pleasing to hear the happy chirps from the weavers after their absence. Southern Masked Weavers were the first to return and now Village Weavers are making a come-back.

Several Speckled Pigeons keep watch on proceedings from the roof – one roosts on our bathroom window every night!

Olive Thrushes still call from within the trees and shrubs, yet have become shyer about coming out in the open since the neighbouring cats appeared. By contrast, it is lovely to both see and hear Red-winged Starlings in ever-increasing numbers as the figs begin to ripen on the Natal fig tree. It is always a pleasure to see a Black-headed Oriole.

Several Black-eyed Bulbuls chatter merrily in the foliage before tucking into the fruit put out for them.

There is plenty of natural fruit and seeds around to attract Cape White-eyes as well as the Speckled Mousebirds that are such fun to observe.

I will round off April’s round-up of garden birds with the real stalwarts, the Bronze Manikins, that arrive daily to flit about the feeder – always shifting up to make room for yet another one to join them there.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape White-eye
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

GRAHAMSTOWN HISTORICAL CEMETERY

A large number of our principal citizens gathered in Church Square yesterday afternoon, with the many immediate friends of the bereaved family, in order to follow to the grave the funeral of this lady, whose decease was recorded by us on Monday last. The ceremony took place in the Wesleyan Cemetery, the neatness and beauty of which bear testimony to the kindly care of Mrs. FLETCHER, with whom (as well as with other members of her family since her illness) it has long been a labour of love to attend to the adornment of the last resting place of so many of our early colonists and their descendants.

Extract from The Grahamstown Journal Wednesday 5 April 1882.  [Bolding of words is mine].

The Wesleyan Cemetery forms a part of the larger cemetery in Grahamstown that is often referred to as the ‘old cemetery’ as the ‘new’ one is situated much further away. Look on in horror at what this historical cemetery looks like today:

This overgrown unkempt cemetery filled with historical graves that provide a capsule of the history of the town is not only scattered with litter, but has been vandalised and it is in fact unsafe to clamber through the weeds and bushes on one’s own. Ironically, a strong metal fence, fancy gates and a sturdy lock guard one roadside frontage, whilst the fence has been torn down elsewhere as people have made a path through it – a shortcut into town.

Most of the rusty metal railings surrounding graves have either been broken or removed – doubtless to sell as scrap metal. This is one of the few that has survived such an onslaught. For how long?

We had visited the cemetery with out of town friends who were looking for graves with a family connection – a very difficult task under the circumstances. Not many graves were still upright and in a fairly good condition like this one:

An astounding number of gravestones have been deliberately pushed over:

Given the climate and the age of the cemetery, it is probably natural that some of the sun-baked bricks would erode – although we felt that some were being deliberately gouged out:

Even the marble lion atop a memorial honouring men from various regiments who had died while serving during various Frontier Wars has had part of its face smashed:

Sadly, this is the fate of many cemeteries, especially those in rural towns.

GOODBYE TO ALL THIS

We leave this morning for an adventure into the Western Cape. As we head out of town we will be saying goodbye to:

A herd of goats in Graeme Street, crossing the road from a private school to test out the lawns further down on the Rhodes University campus.

The Urban Herd of cattle making their way along Somerset Street.

And farewell to these donkeys walking along African Street.

I wish you all well over the Easter weekend.