“And down flew a blackbird …. and pecked off her nose”. I couldn’t help thinking of the English nursery rhyme as a watched these cheeky Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) working over fallow deer plucking fur for lining their nests. I expected the deer to object – “ouch, get away….” but they seemed completely unfazed and carried on chewing the cud as the birds boldly alighted and then flew off with tufts of fur. Reading up on their behaviour i discovered that they are the smallest of the crow species and are highly opportunistic. Described as ‘colonial cavity nesters’ using tree holes to chimneys, they build an outer form with sticks and line the inner side with wool or hair. No doubt that deer fur will be insulating creating a soft and warm nest. Clever creatures!
The early morning scene at Boulder’s Beach hums with activity as the African penguins rouse for the day. On the domestic front, the nesting sites are vigorously dug over, sand flying out the deeper holes. Often there is a squabble or two with loud protestation – these little creatures relative to their size have voice projection in volumes. Down at the waters edge groups preen and stretch preparing to go out to sea leaving the chicks huddled together in the creche area. The adults have a straight backed posture and though they waddle, it is with intent. Down to the sea they go – just for some though, there’s the odd dalliance –
Two separate encounters with different baboon troops this week left me wryly thinking about the strange anomaly in their conservation management. They are a protected species here on the Peninsula but the job of conserving the troops falls under the management of different authorities. There’s a certain irony even trying to curtail the movement of wild, agile creatures yet the troops living between the suburbs are assigned rangers to move them along and keep them out of the residential areas. Broadly defined as “res nullius” – a thing belonging to no one whether because never appropriated (as a wild animal) – allows certain wildlife authorities to conveniently pass the buck. The main responsibility of the rangers is to prevent them from developing raiding patterns for seeking out human-derived food.
Pictured below are scenes of the Smitswinkel troop (which roam on the outside beyond the boundaries of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve) visiting the Reserve and raiding the facilities at the entrance, while the City’s contracted conservation rangers aren’t allowed in to chase them out!!
Deeper into the CoGH park, here’s the scene where a local park troop rouses and warms in the rays of the early morning sun before setting off for the day’s foraging in the fynbos where for the most part, they roam freely without being tagged or monitored by full time rangers.
A forlorn young dispersing baboon in an urban setting
Taking a nap on the pavement
No caption necessary
Where to from here?
Some years ago this young baboon came on a ‘recce’ round our neighbourhood. It’s not an easy life when that testosterone kicks in and the males leave the natal troop to hook up with another. Dispersing along the urban edge brings a raft of problems not least finding the way through the suburbs. To assist them they are often darted with a sedative and transferred by vehicle to another area where there are nearby troops. The transition and being accepted into another troop takes time, and it’s not always successful.
Don’t know if you’re like me and always root for the underdog? With the nesting season in full swing, the birds around the garden have adapted to wary vigilance – there are raptors about, and smaller more common birds of the prey, the fiscal shrike. They too have chicks in the nest and we watch as they stake out an area and then swoop down to catch their prey. Commonly known as ‘butcher birds’ for their custom of spiking their live prey onto sharp thorns or barbed wire.
We regularly sight the little four-striped field mice and i’ve been lucky to grab photo opportunities when they’re out sunning themselves or at times raiding our kitchen. There’s no harm done (other than the loss of cotton tassels from the carpet runners used for nesting material) as we shoo them out sometimes with an added bit of encouragement with the use of a broom.
A far cuter species is the dainty Cape pygmy mouse – about half the size of a field mouse but a most engaging and agile creature. My neighbours have a policy of catch and release when these little fellas pitch up in their kitchen and for some years we’ve been relocating them in a custom designed box to an open patch of vegetation on the other side of our houses.
Imagine then, while we were quietly enjoying a beer at sunset, a butcher bird flew in and spiked a mouse on a sharp thorn at the top most reaches of the bougainvillea creeper. Brutal! But was it one of the relocated pygmy mice?! Or was it more likely to be a ‘stripey’? Darn it’s cruel out there.