It’s been a while since i last posted and since returning home after some months of travel, it is heartening to be back in the rainy season. And rain we have, buckets of it. The dams are filling nicely and it looks promising that the harsh drought conditions are behind us.
My travel adventures begin to dim as i hook up again into the language of the familiar, but i’d love to share some of the experiences once i’ve got the photos sorted. There are so many aspects when travel unfolds, from the hubbub of major cities to the quiet of the backroads. Nature delivered some drama too, a bruising from the ‘Beast from the East’ to the unfurling of an exuberant Northern Hemisphere spring. I had a lucky encounter with a Falconer and a Red kestrel working King’s Cross Railway station; stumbled across the Richmond deer herd in a snow storm, met “Cheddar Man” at the Natural history museum; rambled over hill and dale where meadow flowers bloomed in profusion. All the while discovering new habitats and learning to read the landscape – from bluebell glades, acidic uplands, limestone pavements, salt marshes and water, water, water! But most intriguing was seeing how nature finds it’s footing within eco-niches in densely populated urban areas. Who’d have thought that a visit to Tate Modern would also bring a viewing of peregrine falcons nesting high up in the very same building or of foxes roaming boldly through some of the inner London suburbs?
Settling back again into a Cape routine, the dawn chorus comes rustling in with a guttural cacophony of Egyptian geese, hadedah ibis and raucous gulls. I watch in delight as furry creatures scurry across the lawn (green and verdant now) – a mongoose scampers by with two pintsized, energetic juveniles, the baboons make quick unannounced visits, and so too, the nocturnal porcupine family with it’s gorgeous, prickly little baby. Further along the road, the penguin nursery is in full swing attending to the raising of young. This wild bevy of beauties makes my heart soar – here is a natural world right on the doorstep. The wagtails and sunbirds are searching for nesting places and down below on the rocks the dassies sun themselves after the rain showers. A single otter comes often, mud-bathing in the wet black soil. My next door neighbours describe exciting sightings of two caracals, an adult and a youngster, and the opportunity to observe these secretive wild lynx at close quarters.
Living by the coast has it’s drawbacks sometimes – the seasonal wind and sea fret can impact the hardiest of coastal dwellers. Just when we thought spring had settled a couple of low frontal weather systems had us scurrying to get out the winter layers again. On the Atlantic side the seas were huge, and one of the unexpected visitors to our rocky beach was an exhausted young Cape fur seal. It hauled out of the water and spent the day on the rocks recuperating. Seal pups are only weaned when they are about nine months old. Baleful eyes warily watched as I attempted to remain discreetly hidden.
Generally the dassie (Rock hyrax) colony commands rights over the rocks and sandbathing facilities, little seal was the first intruder and then up popped a Cape clawless otter.
It was all action for this photographer, as the next to appear (out at sea) were Southern right whales. Their sheer size and tonnage have us entranced and the trick is to figure what is happening out there by trying to piece together the body parts which randomly appear – a ventral fin, the size of the flukes – is it adult or newly born? Or perhaps the cavorting of mating rituals?
Further along the road at the penguin colony the chicks are looking quite bedraggled in various stages of growth:
Looking sleek and probably almost ready to fledge and make off on it’s own, this juvenile’s plumage will soon change to adult colouration.
False Bay is sometimes referred to as the “Serengeti of the seas” for it’s rich marine life and influx of seasonal species. Though there is the fear that many species are decreasing in numbers and little is being done to protect the resources.
It’s calmer on the False Bay side when the nor’westerly Atlantic swells push onto the coast; though the wave height may not be as high as along the western edge of the Cape Peninsula there is still power in the break. We watch with great anxiety for the otters and penguins as they exit the surging waters. Fortunately the Boulders’ penguin colony is sited in a sheltered sandy cove, with a defence of boulders breaking up the force of the water. Still these sturdy little creatures risk being tumbled in the surf. Once on land they head for shelter from the strong winds. Interesting to see the Cape cormorants happily hunkered down amongst the penguins. (Note the little penguin with the missing foot.)
Close by the Cape clawless otters (Aonyx capensis) maintain secret holts on land where they can hole up out of the rough seas. We’ve been fortunate to observe a pair which have returned to the area near our garden since the vegetation has regenerated after the devastating fires. Unlike the penguins’ sandy beach landing, the otters negotiate a rocky shore and often suffer from injuries. Pyjama shark is the catch of the day. If you’d like to read more details about the otters Wilf Nussey’s enthralling stories are here.
Playful, exuberant and just plain fun, featured here are three of my favourite animal species playing. So why do they engage in these exuberant displays – what do they gain or do they do it just because it feels good? All the scenes exude good humour – a relaxed sense of just goofing around. It was a delight to watch all their antics. Play benefits healthy development of young animals both physically and mentally – helping them to get to grips with their spacial environment and building up dexterity and strength.
Otters are playful creatures and this morning we awoke to their calls and banter. With pure delight we watched as they ducked and dived through the water, came romping along the rocky beach and plunged into the fresh water well.