RANDOM GLIMPSES OF THIS WEEK

The week leading up to Christmas always seems to be such a busy one – there is no end of tasks that need to be completed. My cell phone camera has kept track of some of the interesting sights and events of the week. Today was 38’C so I naturally sought the shade while having tea and watching birds – only to be attacked by mosquitoes!

I have noticed for some time that several Cape Honeysuckle leaves appear to be covered by a series of intricate white dots.

A closer look – thank you cell phone – reveals tiny insects probably sucking at the sap in the veins. I imagine these are a type of aphid. Eliza (see comments) has identified them as cotton mealybug (Phenacoccus solenopsis).

Imagine my surprise and delight at this unexpected courier delivery bringing Christmas cheer from afar!

The poppies in the back garden succumbed to the heat a long time ago, leaving the hardened seed cases behind – I rather enjoy their structural details.

I leave you with a ‘new’ Urban cow sporting an interesting pattern on her hide. Her calf is next to her – they are part of another large herd that have moved in to munch on the long grass growing near the vacated school playing fields.

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A DAMP DECEMBER MORNING

We woke to thick mist casting a white mantle over the garden – not surprising, for last night we enjoyed the rare treat of rolls of thunder and flashes of lightning that turned the sky purple. Such joy it is then to find almost 20mm rain in the gauge – an amount worthy of photographing!

The excessive heat along with the lack of water has put paid to most flowers in the garden. I was thus surprised to see these poppies providing a brave show of colour.

They are among the few successes I have had with growing plants from seeds so far. The marigolds all shrivelled and died once they had put out their first proper leaves – the rain came too late for them, but I shall try again. Meanwhile, the Pompon trees – many of which are self-seeded – have put on a magnificent show this summer, filling our garden with pink delight. They have passed their peak now, yet there are still patches of new blossoms to enjoy.

The other great delight was the later than usual return of the Lesser-striped Swallows. They have deliberated long and hard about the best site for their mud nest. The rains have come at the right time for them and they have made good progress this week at the site of the original nests that have been built here for the past twenty-odd years. They need to complete the cup and then build the tunnel.

I had to negotiate the damp garden path with care in order to photograph the carpet of yellow Tipuana flowers from the tree in our neighbour’s garden. They became very slippery when wet!

While I was walking around our delightfully damp garden, I heard the clopping of hooves of a small group of the Urban Herd walking along the road next to our front fence.

You might just make out some of the lilac Jacaranda tree blossoms that are strewn across the road.

SOME URBAN HERD CHARACTERS

We see these cattle around the suburbs so often that we have given some of them names. I may have introduced you to the Master Hooter before. Several years ago, when there was still a little water in the dam below our home, we heard her calling to the rest of the herd as she stood ankle-deep in the water. Later sightings made it clear that she was the leader of the pack.

Here she is with her latest calf – one of many she has birthed over the years. Look carefully and you will realise there is a similarity in the pattern of their hides. This has made it easy for us to recognise some of the kinship lines.

You may also have met her sister before: we call her Rib Cow because of the pattern on her hide:

We have watched these two growing up together.

A cow of a completely different colour is the New Year Cow, so named because we first saw her as a youngster on a New Year’s Day:

She is a carbon copy of her father and so far all of her offspring have sported a white flash on the forehead.

The Mud-Spattered Cow has also been around for a long time:

Here she is grazing outside my back gate – her twin calves in tow.

We mostly see cows. I suspect the bulls are taken away to be sold when they are old enough as only a few remain to sire the next lot of calves. One of the ‘remaining’ bulls we call the Fancy Garden Gate Bull, partly because of his attractive pattern and partly because the first time we saw him he was stuck in a garden behind a rather ornate automatic gate:

One of the bulls that didn’t stay around for long was named New Brahman because the first Brahman bull we had seen several years before disappeared as soon as he matured. Although we thought this was a different one, we nonetheless checked the photographs I had taken. They were definitely different.

This one disappeared after only three months.

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.