Winter at the Cape Peninsula can be petulant: wild and stormy with the Atlantic sea crashing in with dramatic drift and flow contrasted with the calmest sheerest-whisper-of-wind days. Returning after months away traveling to tropical countries, this for me is the best time of year to be in Cape Town. Though home is in the southern peninsula – away from the city lights where nature shows her untrammeled face. I have written quite a few posts on Olifantsbos Beach, here , here and here. This working beach with it’s natural processes attracts diners to a veritable feast. Seabirds flock here and recently i visited hoping to photograph the African Black Oystercatchers but instead got totally distracted by a gaggle of Egyptian geese in mating mode. Their strut and ‘necking’ stole the show. Then the ostriches showed up, the buck and the baboons …..
A wobble of ostrich.
This Chacma baboon troop is one of the wild troops living within the park. There are only two troops which aren’t habituated to raiding anthropogenic food sources and forage only in natural fynbos and the rock pools for shellfish. The rest of the troops are under threat one way or another, either through being attracted into residential areas or through poor conservation practice. Generally there is an overlap into their home range where human recreational facilities feature vineyards, restaurants, picnic and campsites. If baboons know they are going to get easy rewards and when residents and property owners do not secure garbage bins or adequately baboon-proof their properties / homes, baboon raiding patterns become entrenched as they will return over and over. If they learn to rely on human food it voids their inherent role in the ecosystem and disrupts their social relationships. They can become aggressive and when they have to be euthanised there is much outrage often from the humans who are the cause of the entrenched raiding patterns in the first place. While SANParks recognise the ‘res nullius’ free roaming status of baboons, there is a lack of law enforcement for fining people who feed the animals nor are there enforceable by-laws for securing garbage so ultimately it’s the baboons which suffer the consequences.
A feeling of elation lingers as the soft rain which has fallen over the last two days, soaks into the parched earth and the raindrops glisten like jewels. The dam levels supplying Cape Town’s needs are still way below par but through this respite we can visibly see the vegetation greening up and the first signs of spring are emerging. Through my dining room window there’s a buzzing scene. Wagtails are in-coming carrying nesting material, while the sugarbirds and sunbirds flit about foraging for nectar. The protea pincushions (Leucospermum) are coming into bloom though i still put out the occasional bottle of sugar water (fructose/sucrose formula) for the sunbirds.
The ‘tweeting’ going on is full of robust conversation; the wagtail pair call constantly with urgency – “Where are you, where? Bring in the next twigs, need fluff, fluff?” While the sugarbirds have the gruff throaty voice of nightclub singers; deep and croaky. They have the least melodious of songs while the dainty sunbirds have ‘chirp’; full of small bird attitude. My guidebook describes their calls as a wheezy single “tsearp” or double “teer-turp”. And with that, a jubilant “hallelujah” from all of us here on the rainy shores of the Cape Peninsula.
As time rolls on there’s a shift as spring gives over to summer and trending now is the season for cute babies: parenting roles come to the fore. There is much activity in our backyard with the chirps and cheeps from the pair of feisty of wagtails and their chicks. This year they built their nest craftily anchored to a trellis supporting a jasmine creeper. Two rotund chicks have fledged but the parents will continue feeding them until they are self sufficient.
Other nesting pairs are sitting (though fortunately not in the backyard) or guarding nest spaces and like a maiden aunt i am anxiously awaiting results. On the left, is the spotted thick-knees which have previously featured here in this blog. By scoping out the nest with binoculars when the parents change sittings I can make out that there are two eggs.
Ostrich in his black night attire is inconguously sitting in broad daylight, which rather debunks the theory that the female with her drab colouring is better camouflaged for duty during the day. They go for big broods and lay between 15 – 20 eggs.
The last on the right, is the Kittlitz plover, a shy retiring, little bird.
Hopefully, soon I will have more to report on the happy flutter of new arrivals.
Fit for purpose, the bill of the puffin is narrowly shaped, designed to cleave through water. But useful too in building it’s nesting burrow by cutting through the soil and then shovelling away the material with it’s feet. It has a raspy tongue, an adaptation which enables it to hold multiple fish. The fish are pinned against the spines on the palate while allowing it to open its beak. What a charismatic species. We were fortunate to observe the colony on Lunga Island (Inner Hebrides), Scotland.