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.
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.
The welcome rain continues to bring relief to the parched veld and urban gardens. Within days new shoots are greening up and animals appear to be coping, if not revelling in the fresh rainwater. Though we have a long way to go before the strict water restrictions can be eased.
Interesting to note the animals’ fur ‘fluffled up’ to create thermoregulation which helps to insulate and retain body heat.
One tends to think of porcupine roaming in the wild but they are quite common here in the neighbourhood, though they not always welcome. For the keen gardener who prizes the display of flowering bulbs they can become pests. Being herbivores they are partial to a diet of juicy geophytes and digging up corms / bulbs is a nightly escapade.