NOVEMBER 2021 GARDEN

I am pleased to report that my garden today is wet. Yes, really: it is wet, wet, wet and although the rain has made way for the sun, leaves are dripping – some are even weighing down the branches with the weight of rain. This is a sight for sore eyes – 28mm of rain!

Rain means mud and mud means that the Lesser-striped Swallows can proceed with their urgent task of constructing their mud nest under the eaves.

A Hadeda Ibis chick balances on the edge of the precarious nest in the back garden.

While a beautiful nest woven by an excited Southern Masked Weaver bobs up and down with no tenants – it was obviously not deemed to be good enough when the female inspected it!

My teeny weeny patch of flowers has got a new lease of life – just when I thought it was soon going to revert to being a bare patch of ground.

A very old hibiscus has come into bloom.

So has the indigenous Plumbago.

A matter of weeks ago I thought I would have to remove the Christ thorns lining the front path.

All over the garden the Crossberries are coming into bloom.

As is the very beautiful Cape Chestnut tree.

THE CROW’S NEST

Look up ‘Crow’s Nest’ on Google and there is a host of accommodation or eating establishments listed bearing that name. The ‘crow’s nest’ I had in mind is a structure on the highest part of the main mast of a sailing ship used as a lookout point. Naturally, with sailing ships fading from memory and stories about them hardly making a wave, this is not surprising.  Until radar was developed, this high position ensured the best view for lookouts to spot approaching shipping hazards – it is the view which many of the above-mentioned establishments have that may have a loose connection with the names chosen by their original owners. This nest commands a 360° view of its surroundings.

Apart from nesting in trees, Pied Crows (Corvus albus) have adapted to nesting in a variety of tall structures, such as telephone poles and windmills – which this one has chosen.

Their sturdy bowl-like stick nests may also include wire and string and are lined with soft materials found in the area.

The nests are re-used. This is what the nest looked like two years ago:

The first stanza of the poem, The Crow’s Nest by Alexander Thomas, while focusing on the nautical meaning, seems to aptly describe this Pied Crow’s nest in the Eastern Cape of South Africa:

Sailing in time,

In the hidden depths of space,

Compressed in the unconscious,

Sailing to uncharted seas,

Floating in dreamscapes,

Warm currents,

Waves of joy,

A caressing glow,

Timeless faces in a timeless place,

Solitary notes of forgotten shores …

 

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-crow-s-nest/

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

After all the chirruping and flying back and forth to select the right materials … after hours spent fastening the first blades of grass to the twig and intricately weaving … in and out … round and through … this weaver nest was abandoned because …

… it was not good enough.

THE HOUSE THE SWALLOWS BUILT

THE HOUSE THE SWALLOWS BUILT

It is an annual event: each summer the Lesser-striped Swallows arrive. They wheel about the sky, swooping and weaving, sometimes low on the ground or whizzing through the gaps in the trees with keen precision.

Hot, dry days and weeks go by before the first rains fall. Not long after that, a pair of swallows perch on the electric cable and twitter to each other as if discussing their building plans for the year. They do this every year. Then the slow, laborious process begins of bringing blobs of mud, one beakful at a time, to build and shape their home. Blob by blob – no hands to help; no wheel-barrows; no ready supply of mud either.

Progress is painstakingly slow. The different sources of mud are evident by the different colours that emerge as the mud dries. See the picture of their nest in the entry on NOVEMBER 2014 GARDEN BIRDS. That clearly shows how the angle of their nest has changed over the seasons. This summer I was sure they had got it right: it looked so sturdy and snug.

I have observed the swallows collect nesting materials such as fine grass and small feathers gleaned from the garden and elsewhere. For some time I have been certain that the eggs were being incubated. Then I felt sure that they must be feeding their young and was looking forward to seeing the little family increase, as they do every year, and sit on the cable in a group of three or four.

At seven o’clock this morning I went outside and automatically looked up at the house the swallows have built. It took a second or two to register the horror … it was no longer there! Only the palest outline on the eaves suggest that anything might have been there.

I looked down, horrified to see that beautiful nest smashed to tiny particles of dust. The lining was intact: a curved collection of soft materials as mentioned above. Even worse … a tiny naked fledging was already being eaten by ants on the concrete slab while the parents twittered on the cable high above.

By the time I returned with the camera the fledgling had disappeared. The parents are still on the cable twittering as they always do. Are they contemplating starting the whole process all over again? What a cruel thing to happen.