It’s not every day a chance like this comes along to admire the exquisite details of the world’s smallest mouse species Mus minutoides. Here he is sitting in a corner, (WordPress Photo Challenge) though not eating Christmas pie.
There is a story attached to this scene: a family of Cape pygmy mice have taken up residence in my neighbour’s kitchen and to outwit the little beauties, the man of the house came up with an ingenuous design for a trap. This is no ordinary mouse trap, it’s a deluxe model, the spacious 5***** Hilton of mouse traps. If you’d like to read about the delightful battle of wills between man and mouse here is the link to “Our Urban Wild” blog post. The catering service is excellent too – seeds, grated cheese and a miniature water bowl are provided. My task is to release the captured creatures to a carefully chosen location. Where we hope they continue to multiply. With a gestation period of just 20 days and the young weaned and independent at 4 weeks the population growth can be robust.
Further reading extract from Wikipedia –
“Grey to brick-red overall, it is pale on the underside and has small but prominent triangular ears. Adults are between 30 and 80 mm (1.2 and 3.1 in) long, with a 20 to 40 mm (0.79 to 1.57 in) tail, and weigh from 3 to 12 g (0.11 to 0.42 oz).
African pygmy mice reach breeding age at about 6 to 8 weeks. Pregnancy lasts for around 20 days and the litter of about 3 young is born blind and hairless. Their eyes open after 2 weeks, and weaning is complete after 4 weeks. The lifespan is about 2 years, although individual specimens have been reported to live over 4 years in captivity.
The African pygmy mouse has a number of unique traits. It stacks pebbles in front of its burrow. Overnight the pebbles gather dew and in the morning the pygmy mouse drinks the dew on the pebbles. After that it retires back to its den. Its method of sex determination has also been found to differ from most mammals in that rearrangements of the X chromosome have led to many XY individuals actually being female.”
The showy Leucadendron laureolum puts on a worthy show across the mountain slopes.
The yellow flower heads show up against the green folliage.
Protea lepidocarpodendron – the handsome Black-bearded protea.
Berzelia lanuginosa – Kolkol, vleiknoppiesbos.
Oedera uniflora – prolific flowerers – their flowers stand up to the fierce winds.
Protea coronata – Green sugarbush protea
Mimetes fimbriifolius, Tree pagoda
Leucadendron laureolum in full bloom.
Glorious yellow, Leucadendron laureolum.
Prolific flowering in July.
In the early 20th C hunters had all but wiped out this species of antelope. Only seventeen survived. Thankfully conservation-minded farmers established a reserve in 1931 and fortunately their numbers increased and today they flourish.
Swathes of yellow catch the eye as the mountain slopes in the southern part of the Cape Peninsula are in full bloom with the showy Leucadendrons (the cone families of the Protea species). Winter is a dynamic time for a number of the protea species – Blackbeards and Green sugarbush proteas also flower showing off stylish flower heads.
The message here is if we paid a little more attention to disposing rubbish responsibly, stopped littering in conservation areas and secured refuse bins carefully wildlife such as the Cape’s Chacma baboons would be less inclined to raid bins for leftover food. Foraging in the wilds for roots and shoots is far healthier and natural food choice rather than the detritus left by humans.
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.
They’re back! The gentle giants – the Southern Right (Eubalaena australis) whales ply the seas from the Antarctic visiting the Cape shores between June and November. Despite their size they have gymnastic tendencies. Through leaping, tail lobbing and spy hopping they create fantastic shows with tremendous splash down . They’re easily recognised by their callosities (sometimes mistaken for barnacles) that cover their heads and blowholes. These patterns are like unique fingerprints particular to each individual.
They’re welcomed with joyful spirit by the many spectators who enjoy their exuberant antics.