🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Chameleon (Chamaeleonidae)

    "We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the colour of our moral character, from those who are around us."
    - John Lock

    W&N watercolour on Amedeo 200gsm

    Chameleons are fascinating and amazing creatures, always popular with anyone who sees them. They belong to the lizard family and the word 'Chameleon' means 'Earth Lion'. 

    I just love Chameleons and there was a time when I used to have them in my garden regularly - no more. I haven't seen a Chameleon for... years. Yes, years... I know they might have difficulty getting into the property because of the high walls, but I at least used to see them on my walks. The over-population in rural areas is really having an effect on these wonderful little creatures... 

    The main distribution of Chameleons is Africa and Madagascar, and half of the world's chameleon population lives on the island of Madagascar. They are famous for their ability to change colour. This serves as a form of communication, a response to temperature, light, and mood, as well as a defense against predators. Their eyes can rotate and swivel independently, enabling them to see almost a complete 360-degrees or observe two things simultaneously. Their tongues can be as long as their bodies. Chameleons can balance on a branch by gripping it with their claws and wrapping their tail around the branch to hold on. Chameleons can even sleep upside down! 

    There are thought to be more than 160 different species of chameleon that range from just an inch to more than a couple of feet in size. The tiny pygmy leaf chameleon, found in the jungles of Madagascar, is the smallest species of chameleon with some males measuring less than 3 cm long with the largest growing to almost 70cm long.


Monday, 28 May 2012

Red-headed Finches (Amadina erythrocephala)


This past summer I was SO blessed with having many beautiful birds nesting in my garden, especially at my pond. Near the water the Red-headed finches gathered en masse, twittering and chattering while they fought over the best nesting spots. The Bronze Mannikens and Red Bishops tweeted and buzzed in unison as they too tried to get a foothold on this prime real estate. 

The two bushes in contention are my Wild Olive (Olea europaea) and the Butterfly bushes, Buddleja salviifolia, common name sage bush, which is endemic to much of Southern Africa, where it grows on rocky hillsides, along forest margins and watercourses. The Butterfly bushes are terribly messy, but well worth the effort for the birds and butterflies it attracts. 


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Soaking up the Winter sun

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. 
- Luther Burbank

Cosmos are like sunshine to the ground! 

Two Pink Cosmos flowers still soaking up the winter sun in my garden, they have long surpassed their usual time of flowering. A bird must have carried in a seed, for I only have this one Cosmos plant, but it's rewarded me with some beautiful flowers! 

Camera : Canon EOS 550D 


Saturday, 26 May 2012

Pebbles and sand

I just love collecting all sorts from nature - pebbles, leaves, grass, crystals, twigs, driftwood, wasps' nests, feathers, porcupine quills, birds' nests, seed pods and even dung! It's a habit I picked up as a child and still practice avidly. It feeds my soul, soothes my senses and pleases my eye. 

A collection of pebbles and crystals in a wooden African bowl next to my bed


Below is a lovely life lesson I picked up on the internet... 

'A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks right to the top, rocks about 2" diameter. 

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. 

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. 

He asked his students again if the jar was full. They agreed that yes, it was. The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. 

"Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed. 

The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff. 

If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important. 

Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. 
Play with your children. 
Take your partner out dancing. 
There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. 
Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. 

Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.' 
— un-attributed 

Seedpods and dung from an Antelope 


Porcupine quills collected on a friend's farm 


Guinea fowl feather in my garden 


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The OC Robin

I have this Obsessive Compulsive Cape Robin that has decided that my kitchen is the best place in the world!. He also wanders through the house as if he's been doing it his whole life. And no, he's not a pet! 

A couple of months ago I sat and watched as the Cape Robin, a total new-comer to my garden, was testing out one of the bird baths. He sat on the edge, dipping his beak and shaking his head, testing the temperature and getting a good splattering at the same time. This carried on for about 3 or 4 minutes before he summoned up the courage to hop in and actually bath. 

Then he flew up onto a nearby rock, preening and cleaning his feathers from head to toe before flying up into the trees and disappearing from sight. Little did I know that he's a totally peculiar character - he actually seems to prefer the indoors to the out-doors. 

Entering through the front door which is always open, he'll spend hours wandering from room to room, sometimes walking, sometimes flying. His favourite spot, however, is standing in front of my stainless steel dustbin in the kitchen, flying up at his reflection, as one sees birds doing to motor car mirrors, coming back frequently from his other trips through the house to once again challenge himself in the shiny dustbin. 

I have wondered if he could possibly have been someone's pet at one stage, he's so totally at ease in the house. I also believe that he is lonely and that the obsessive flying up at his image is possibly because he thinks it might be a potential mate. 

He has learnt what my whistle means when I fill the bird feeders and I can now actually whistle from anywhere inside the house and he will actually come in and have a look if anything is on offer. I especially put minced meat on one feeding table for him, and am now considering leaving a snack for him in the kitchen! 

I feel absolutely blessed that he has chosen my home to be peculiar in, but I do SO wish for another Robin to join him here in my garden....


Photographs taken in my garden in Tarlton, South Africa 


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mommy Bobby and her clutch of 10

“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.”
- Unknown

Day 1

Mommy Bobby, one of Solly's hens, chose to make her nest under a truck canopy lying on the lawn in the workshop area of our business, waiting to be fitted on one of the trucks, snugly out of the rain and harm's way. For three weeks the workshop staff waited impatiently (upon my strict threats that the canopy was not to be touched!) as Bobby sat on her clutch of 12 eggs, fluffing herself to double her normal size should anybody dare to come near. 

Then, at about 11am one morning, she triumphantly emerged from under-neath the canopy, keeping her brood of 10 close to her side, much to the pleasure and relief of all in the workshop, who immediately got to work moving the canopy, now leaving Bobby and her brood totally homeless! 

Now I know I was supposed to do this long before the time, but Solly and I quickly scrambled to erect a make-shift new home for them, finishing the coup that same afternoon. At about 4pm, we slowly herded them towards their new home, securely fenced, protected against the rain and a large area where they stayed for about a week before I opened the gate and introduced them to the garden. Now they spend their days happily scratching around in the garden before she leads them home back to the coup at about 4.30pm every day. 

I’m really enjoying having chickens in my garden once more after an absence of almost 2 years! 

Day 7 

Quick make-shift home for Bobby and her clutch 

Bobby seeking safety inside the chicken coup while Chrissie, my gardener, was mowing the lawn 

Happily playing in the garden 

Mommy Bobby and the brood’s new home – 

I placed an old garden table and chairs in their area, where I do some sketching of them, what a job, they’re never still for a moment! 

Camera : Kodak EasyShare C195



Sunday, 20 May 2012

Dainty but strong

I have one lonely Cosmos plant that took root in my garden, and then fell over because it was so tall and heavy that it needed to be propped up. I thought it wouldn't flower after falling over, but it did produce a whole bunch of flowers, obviously much loved by these pesky beetles that eat holes in every flower they find. 

Interesting info : Historians believe that the seeds of the flower, originally from Mexico, were brought in with bags of horse-feed for the English troops during the Anglo-Boer War. 

Camera: Kodak EasyShare C195 



Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Another breeding season starts

Another breeding season starts for the faithful Black (Vereaux’s) Eagles 


Fifteen eagle-generations have passed since the Black eagles (Verreaux’s eagles) were discovered in the Garden and they are again faithfully preparing their nest for another generation to come. According to some sources the Black eagles are thought to have occupied the Waterfall for over 40 years, long before the Garden was established. 

Over the past 30 years Emoyeni, the female, has produced a chick every second year or even annually at times. 

 Mating usually takes place after nest building has been in progress for some time and is not a certain sign that the female will lay, or that nest building will proceed to the eggcup stage. Mating occurs often after both birds have fed and can occur many times in one day. Laying occurs towards the end of April or early May, if the female is spending long periods of time on the nest. Two eggs are usually laid 4 days apart. After an incubation period of 44 to 45 days, the eggs hatch, but only one chick is likely to make it to adulthood. 

The Black Eagle is one of Africa’s largest and most spectacular eagles. It is big and powerful with a wingspan that measures more than two meters. This enables them to fly at high altitudes without flapping their wings, thus saving them energy. A breeding pair remains faithful to one another for as long as they live. 

(Info from the Botanical Gardens Newsletter - May 2012)


Thursday, 10 May 2012

The feeder is full

Lovely Autumn days here in South Africa and the birds are having a jolly time in the garden! Their chattering is a constant reminder of how full of joy life is, and gratitude for the sunshine we so take for granted.... 


The feeder is full 
Overflowing with seeds 
Little birds gather 
Up high in the trees 

Jump, skip and hop 
They fly down to see 
A glorious feast 
Offered to thee 

Chirping and singing 
They fly away quick 
Swooping and flinging 
They peck and they pick 

 Puffed up and content 
They return to the trees 
Watching the feeder 
For the return of the seeds 
- Written by Sarah Sabatini 


Monday, 7 May 2012

Just one sweet little bird...


Just one sweet little bird 
sitting on an almost-bare bough 
leaves having already scattered 
in autumn's breeze. 
A little gift from Mother nature, 
one tiny jewel 
nestled in it's nest 
of fallen yesterdays 
- The Blue Muse 


My Fiscal Shrike's youngster patiently waiting while Mom collects some minced meat from the bird feeder. 


Friday, 4 May 2012

Super Moon!

Skywatcher Tim McCord of Entiat, Washington caught this amazing view of the March 19, 2011 full moon - called a supermoon because the moon was at perigee, the closest point to Earth in its orbit - using a camera-equipped telescope. CREDIT: Tim McCord 

Skywatchers take note: The biggest full moon of the year is due to arrive this weekend. The moon will officially become full Saturday (May 5, 2012) at 11:35 p.m. EDT. And because this month's full moon coincides with the moon's perigee — its closest approach to Earth — it will also be the year's biggest. 

The moon will swing in 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet, offering skywatchers a spectacular view of an extra-big, extra-bright moon, nicknamed a supermoon. 

And not only does the moon's perigee coincide with full moon this month, but this perigee will be the nearest to Earth of any this year, as the distance of the moon's close approach varies by about 3 percent, according to meteorologist Joe Rao, SPACE.com's skywatching columnist. This happens because the moon's orbit is not perfectly circular. 

This month's full moon is due to be about 16 percent brighter than average. In contrast, later this year on Nov. 28, the full moon will coincide with apogee, the moon's farthest approach, offering a particularly small and dim full moon. 

Though the unusual appearance of this month's full moon may be surprising to some, there's no reason for alarm, scientists warn. The slight distance difference isn't enough to cause any earthquakes or extreme tidal effects, experts say. 

However, the normal tides around the world will be particularly high and low. At perigee, the moon will exert about 42 percent more tidal force than it will during its next apogee two weeks later, Rao said. 

The last supermoon occurred in March 2011. 

To view this weekend's super moon to best effect, look for it just after it rises or before it sets, when it is close to the horizon. There, you can catch a view of the moon behind buildings or trees, an effect which produces an optical illusion, making the moon seem even larger than it really is. 


Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Language of Birds

A Red Bishop I sketched in my garden a couple of years ago - done in one of my Nature Journals 

The “language of birds” has many names; some call it the “Language of the Gods”, others the “Green language”. Some have described the “language of birds” as “the tongue of Secret Wisdom." Its vocabulary is myth. Its grammar is symbolism. 

But what is “bird language”? On first inspection, it would be the language that the birds use to communicate amongst themselves. It is a language the birds understand, but we humans do not. To many, the language of birds is therefore nothing more or less than a series of secret codes and phrases, which pass by in daily conversation, except for those with ears that “hear”.

"Hearing" the birds in your garden is a wonderful past-time. By listening carefully, and regularly, you will soon understand each innuendo, each call, each tweet and twitter. I know exactly when my birds are warning me of an intruder in the garden, when there is danger in the air or when they're purely singing for the joy of it. I also know their mating calls, I know when there's a strange bird in my garden and I know their call when they are looking for one another. Most heart-warming is hearing a fledgling calling its parents from the ground, and their response, as they find him and carry him a little snack. 

C'mon, listen to the birds in your garden, or wherever you are, and discover a wonderful world of communication, excitement and a better story than the Joneses next door! 


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May Gifts

Inspirational words on a textured back-ground by Kim Klassen 

May. A soft syllable, a gentle name for the best month in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming autumn sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights.  

Aaah, the changing seasons! How I LOVE May! Balmy Autumn days, sitting out on the patio with a cup of tea watching the birds as they revel in the perfect weather! And this is the one month where we seem to be one with the rest of the world - while the Northern Hemisphere is rejoicing in spring, it seems as if we, here in South Africa, have been given a second spring, gently easing into the colder months to come. The discussion of philosophy is over; it's time for work to begin! 



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