Cape Mountain Zebra: close-up details

We think of zebra in terms of black and white, but here the Cape Mountain zebra, a sub-species has a blush of brown showing up in finely aligned facial lines.   The details where the exquisitely patterned lines join at the mid line along the forehead in perfect symmetry, have me ogling in awe!  I described this species in an earlier post here.

The facial lines show up clearly in this close-up shot as the Cape Mountain Zebra forages on grass shoots in a fire ravaged area.

What’s on the Menu?

This is another post on the theme of baboon foraging  – whether a seafood repast, or vegetarian delight, the baboons here on the Cape Peninsula are masters at sourcing a varied diet.  Though at times there are opportunities to raid for ‘human derived food’, for the most part they’re out foraging in the natural environment.

I came across this scene in the late afternoon when this troop of baboons was making it’s way to an overnight sleep-site.  Most had well stocked cheek pouches but a few were still adding to this stash with a last snack or two.  Of interest was a mother with a baby riding jockey-style, confidently perched atop her back, munching on a clutch of succulent grass roots.  Suddenly she veered off into the bush.  Aha!  She’s spotted something of interest, i thought and stopped to watch.  Up she jumped and junior had to react quickly, but for the arched tail (Chacma baboons belong to the Old World monkey group and do not have prehensile gripping tails), he may have slid off ignominiously.   What was the prize up there in the shrubbery ….. ?

Confident baby riding on mother’s back supported by the arched tail.
Up she jumped into the shrubbery
Scrabbling in the shrubbery, baby and all.
The prize is a rain spider’s (Palystes superciliosus) egg nest!
Baby baboon might not be so interested.
Discarded rain spider’s (Palystes supercilliosus) egg nest.

It was a surprise to find that she’d discovered a rain spider’s (Palystes superciliosus) egg sac.   It appeared she was after the eggs, as I examined the image in close-up view and couldn’t make out any hatchlings.  The mystery was where did Mother Rain Spider lurk, as they have a reputation for aggressively guarding their egg sacs until the spiderlings hatch?!    Now where were we with that menu?  A couple of weeks ago I observed this same troop sucking on condom wrappers –  this incident left me wondering about the dangers of spiders and whether baboons suffer from spider bites as we humans do?

Grape-scented condoms, abalone poachers and baboons

How do these three aspects connect you may wonder?  Strewn about condom wrappers could perhaps conjure up images of hot sex orgies in the bush?  The scene is set in a secluded picnic area in Buffels Bay in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve so one might have anticipated a bit of hanky-panky.  But there’s a far more sinister reason for the empty wrappers and that’s where the abalone poachers come in.  Diving for abalone is prohibited, but there are all the tell-tale signs of illegal poaching activities – shucked abalone shells, evidence of overnight campsites, even at times wetsuits stashed in the bush.  The condoms are used as an outer waterproof covering for cell phones which are set to vibrate in case of warning signals when the divers are ready to exit the water.  How sad it is that the stocks of this edible delicacy are being wiped out.  No guesses needed as to where the end product (cured and smoked) ends up – yes China!

Being curious creatures, the baboons are attracted to litter and will often taste test the various discarded items particularly if there are lingering food scents.  To discover them sucking on these grape-scented wrappers was totally disconcerting.  On closer inspection the condom packs turned out to be the government issued “freebies”, never mind that they are supplied as part of the drive to curb the HIV/Aids pandemic.

Jackdaws and Fallow Deer

“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!

Working in pairs, jackdaws pluck deer fur.
Cheeky Jackdaw flies down and confidently plucks soft fur from a fallow deer for nesting material.
The deer appear to be completely unfazed by the jackdaw’s cheeky behaviour.
Ian Morton sums it up … “Jackdaws are pleasing to watch. Solemnly and methodically, they stalk the lawn, unhurried in their search patterns, neat and tidy and dignified in their bearing. Unlike the larger and clamorous cousins with which they often flock, their phrases are clipped, their conversations brief.”
Read more at https://www.countrylife.co.uk/nature/jackdaw-bird-just-loves-people-178185#2HFQFRlRQtT89lK7.99

A quick tango on the beach

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 –