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

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lessons from Nature

I look at the sky so blue, sun shining so bright
Spreading heat and happiness with its blinding light
I watch the waves crash in, breaking on the shore
All their anger dispensed on the oceans floor
Long blades of grass swaying in the gentle breeze
Dancing in rhythm with so much ease

Look up at the trees hearing the singing of the birds
Happily chirping singing at ease without words
Sitting here holding my knees to my chest
Watching and hearing nature at it s best
I ponder how Nature could get it so right
When we have let Natures lessons get so out of sight

We hold our anger, let our happiness slip away
Making our survival a struggle each and every day
We have forgotten the little things that mean so much
Like the laughter, the freedom, and someone's loving touch
If only I could make people stop, watch and listen to Natures tale
We could all sit back happily and our world would not be so frail

In each others existence in harmony we could all survive
I'm sure like the sun, wind, tree, and birds our lives we could revive
If only we let nature take its course in each and every one of us each day and night
As I sit and ponder how Nature got it so right ...

and we lost all sight.


Poem from Family Friend Poems

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Southern masked-weaver - Ploceus velatus

This time of the year (winter) it is very difficult to distinguish between who is male and who is female with these abundant Southern Masked Weavers in my garden. In summer the male's bright yellow and black plumage is quite unmistakable, but now only their demeanour can give me a clue as to who's who.

The upright stance of these two birds clearly indicates they are males. Just moments before, another male tried to join the group at the feeding station and after a short scuffle, these two made it quite clear that he is not welcome!

Above is a Black-throated Canary (Crithagra atrogularis) having a hard time finding space on the bird feeder. These sometimes inconspicuous canaries have a wonderful "tweet-sweet" call which always draws me out to the garden to see if I can get a pic, but they are very skittish.

A group discussion about what's available for breakfast!

Now, is that edible or not...?

 A female (I presume!) Southern Masked Weaver inspecting what's on offer.

These weavers occur across southern Africa even in arid areas, extending into Angola, Zambia and Malawi. It generally favours semi-arid scrub, open Savannah, woodland edges, riverine thicket, farmland with scattered trees, alien tree plantations and gardens.

These birds are greatly preyed upon by the Ovambo sparrowhawk, Little sparrowhawk, Peregrine falcon and Lanner falcon. The eggs and chicks are in danger from the Boomslang, Common fiscal shrike, African grey hornbill and Vervet monkeys. Yet these gregarious birds continue to thrive and their conservation status is LC (least concern).

It mainly eats seeds, fruit (yet I've never seen them show any interest in the fruit I put out, maybe they prefer only certain berries), insects and nectar, doing most of its foraging in small flocks, gleaning prey from leaves and branches, taking seeds from the ground and grass stems. They love Cosmos flower seeds and are also partial to seeds of elms. Recorded fruits are from
  • Rhus pyroides (Common currant)
  • Prunus (Satsuma plum)
  • Viscum rotundifolium (mistletoe)
  • Ehretia rigida (Puzzle-bush)
They also eat the flower parts of Prunus (peaches and apricots), Rhigozum trichotomum (Driedoring) and Tagetes erecta (African marigold). They love the nectar from
  • Aloe marlothii (Mountain aloe)
  • Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle)
  • Schotia brachypetala (Weeping boer-bean)
  • Eucalyptus sideroxylon (Red ironbark)
  • Hibiscus rose-sinensis (hibiscus)
They love insects such as Coleoptera (beetles and their larvae), termites, Ephemeroptera (mayflies) and caterpillars (larval stage of Lepidoptera). They are also partial to human food like bread and porridge.

However, distinguishing between the sexes can be made as follows : The adult male in breeding plumage has a black face, throat and beak, red eye, bright yellow head and underparts, and a plain yellowish-green back. The female has a pinkish-brown bill, brown or red-brown eye and is dull greenish-yellow, streaked darker on the upper back. The throat is yellowish, fading to off-white on the belly. The non-breeding male resembles the female but retains the red eye. The juvenile of this species is like the female.

These birds are polygynous, as males may mate with up to about 12 females in a single breeding season, living in colonies with 1-9 males in total, while each female may often rear multiple broods per breeding season. It is much less aggressive in comparison to most other weavers, although it viciously attacks Diederick cuckoos if they enter its territory. 

Now, in winter, the nests are all empty and abandoned.

The nest  is built solely by the male, consisting of a kidney-shaped structure with a large entrance on the bottom, made of woven grass, palm leaves or reeds with a ceiling of leaves, such as Acacia and Eucalyptus. If the female accepts the nest she lines the interior with leaves, grass inflorescences and feathers.

Egg-laying season is from July-March, peaking from September-February. She lays 1-6, usually 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 12-14 days. The chicks are fed by the female only on a diet of soft insect larvae and grasshoppers, leaving the nest after about 16-17 days.

Every summer I stand watching the African Masked Weavers building their nests in my garden and it’s a hive of activity! Usually there are at least ten of them, with great squabbling going on in between building sessions. This guy seems to be saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know!” I stand amazed at the symmetry and perfection of their work.



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