Dawn breaks

Vulnerable penguin in the early dawn light.

The silvery light of dawn creeps in as an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) heads to the water.   Their numbers are decreasing and IUCN conservation status records the species as endangered.

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The unexpected visitors

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.

Rough seas at Scarborough
A young Cape fur seal.

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.

The otter stayed for a nap, sandbath and returned to eat lunch after hunting down a pyjama shark.

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?

The Southern right whales come to calve and mate  in the bay from June to November.

Further along the road at the penguin colony the chicks are looking quite bedraggled in various stages of growth:

African penguin chicks losing their fine fluff and showing their “blue” coats.

 

A juvenile African penguin accompanied by an adult.

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.

Spring: new tweets

Spring has wafted in bringing some relief from the drought as swathes of wild flowers stretch across the veld.  There’s an air of triumph about  – a flap of wings and the squawking of little hatchlings.   A welcome sight in our backyard is a newly fledged Cape wagtail chick.  It plopped out of the nest like a little plum pudding and landed with a bump. The parents continue to fuss around encouraging it to fly, following with encouraging tweets.

Initially there was a setback with the first nest when it was abandoned after the local baboon troop came for a visit through the neighbourhood. They’d spent a week constructing a perfect little structure and had just lined it with soft feathers when the furry visitors rudely clambered right up the very jasmine creeper where it was sited and partially dislodged it in their rush to jump over the wall.  The birds were so spooked that they took off and disappeared for a while before returning to choose a new site to rebuild.  Happily there was a successful outcome and if the pattern of past years is repeated the adult pair may well produce two more batches of chicks this season.

Malachite Sunbirds

The aloes, this year are putting on a fine show and the sunbirds visit as if these nectaries are the best five star offerings. The male Malachite sunbird (Nectarinia famosa) sports bright breeding plumage: he dazzles in bright iridescent green-blue feathers and the bright yellow pectoral tufts make a bold statement.  Nest building and egg incubation are undertaken entirely by the female so the male bird has ample time to show off.   It takes about seven days to build the nest and another fortnight to incubate the eggs.