THERE IS NO RUST IN …

Those of you who have moved to a new town will empathise with the difficulties one faces when seeking a home to purchase. An obvious priority is that the house must fit within one’s budget, yet there are many other aspects to consider. The real estate world drums out the message ‘location, location, location’ … in our case, having spent a considerable amount of time travelling between home and school, we were keen to find a house that would be within reasonable walking distance of the schools our children would attend, not only at the time but as they grew older. Then there was the matter of the railway line – in some towns the siting of a house on one side or the other can make a difference of one kind or another. Not here, the estate agent told us, happily pointing out that a judge lived here, an advocate there, a professor somewhere else … This estate agent had several houses on his books and took us to one close to the one we finally settled upon. I had spent a year living at the coast and had been horrified at how quickly everything rusted there. As most of the houses we had looked at didn’t have a garage or, if they did, not one large enough to house our trailer, gardening equipment and so on and the fact that our town is only about 60km from the coast, we inevitably asked “Is there a problem with rust?”

At the time the estate agent was standing at the end of the driveway of a house we had looked at and had his hand balanced on the post box affixed to a wooden pole. It was not this one, yet looked very similar:

He looked at us with a straight face – perhaps not aware of the irony – and declared “There is no rust in Grahamstown.”

Needless to say, we concluded the sale of our present home with someone who appeared to be a little more honest!

OCTOBER 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

Although I have not been able to photograph one, I am delighted to hear the Red-chested Cuckoo once more. It is commonly known as the Piet-my-vrou here, as that is what its call sounds like – a strident command early in the morning, occasionally in the afternoon and even sometimes in the evening. Both the Klaas’ Cuckoo and Diederik Cuckoo entertain us with their distinctive calls during the day. Of course the Hadeda Ibises continue to wake us early and call to each other across town before they settle down for the night.

There seems to be an explosion of the Dark-capped Bulbul population of late. They queue up to drink from the nectar feeder, biff each other out of the way to eat apples and oranges, and several pairs sit very close together on the branches in true lovey-dovey style.

I am used to the Laughing Doves rising in a whoosh whenever a particularly noisy vehicle passes by, the neighbour might slam a door, or a lawnmower starts up in a nearby garden. There are times though when all the birds disappear in a quiet flash – a sure sign of a predator on the prowl. This month began with a flying visit from an African Harrier Hawk and ended with a low-flying Yellow-billed Kite, both of which saw the garden birds head for the closest cover.

Mundane tasks, such as hanging up the laundry, can have its interesting moments too. The light and distance were of little help to me, yet I could hear the persistent tap-tap-tapping coming from nearby that I dropped what I was doing to scan the trees … and there it was: a Cardinal Woodpecker chipping away at a dead branch of the Erythrina tree that towers over the back garden.

A well turned out visitor is the male Pin-tailed Whydah. He visits fairly often, although I have only seen one female in our garden this month.

While this is the best I could do from a distance with only my cell phone at hand, here is proof that a small flock of Cape Glossy Starlings paid our garden a visit.

I have often said that birdwatching in our garden is balm for my soul. October has been no different.

My October bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk
African Hoopoe
Amethyst Sunbird
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Dark-capped Bulbul
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redchested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Greenbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

WAAINEK WIND FARM

The turbines making up the Waainek (meaning ‘windy corner’) wind farm along the Highlands road on the outskirts of Grahamstown dominate the skyline – much to the initial chagrin of residents in the area. One can get used to most things and so, over the years, they are regarded as part of the landscape.

The wind farm consists of 8 Vestas V112 – 3.075 MW turbines. These have a hub height of 84 m and a rotor diameter of 112 m.

Seen from close up each turbine is enormous!

This turbine looms ahead of an avenue of Eucalyptus trees on the Highlands road.

As they are all placed on top of the ridge, the turbines command a magnificent view.

Despite the many negative views that abound, there is a certain elegance about the turbines.

MIST BUT NO RAIN

Several of my overseas readers have complained about the amount of rain they have experienced during the summer, while in the Eastern Cape of South Africa we are desperate for soaking rain to replenish our dams and to rejuvenate the natural vegetation. Within that context, imagine this tantalising scene: mist hugging the high ground and obscuring the trees.

I stopped along the Highlands road, running between Grahamstown and Alicedale, simply to breathe in this moist air, to feel the light touch of mist droplets on my skin – and to photograph this Eucalyptus tree towering above the road.

Further on, another tree loomed into focus as I drew nearer.

The mist was already breaking up and drifting away as I neared the end of the dirt road.

All this mist – and no rain!