Birding, lockdown style

I’m not a birder but I know a few and I once had avid birding clients who roused mild curiosity in me. I don’t think I’ll ever become a very good birder with the sort of patience required but I know where to take my clients for good birding. Just before lockdown I spent a few happy hours with my birding friend Cathy Jenkins doing reconnaissance for such a client – at our local sewage works, best birding spot in Cape Town!

During lockdown I was very grateful to be in a house with a garden. My garden is small but there are big trees in neighbours’ larger gardens and I have plants that attract birds, such as aloes that are much loved by beautiful sunbirds.

As I sat on my verandah day after locked-down day, on an old couch (little did I know when I had put it there instead of throwing it away that one day it would become more used than any other seat in the house), I gave the birds a lot more attention than ever before and felt the urge to identify them. This is a birder ‘thing’… the list, the ID, the checking off, followed by some bragging or at least sharing with other birders. And for many, not me, taking good photos with big heavy zoom lenses.

I wasn’t taking great photos so sharing was not going to be of much value and my lockdown inmates were only mildly keen. Well, one didn’t care at all, to be honest, and the other was not always fast enough to react. Also, the two dogs get in the way of silent, motionless, bird-watching. They don’t chase them if I’m around but they are immune to my entreaties to sit still.

Anyway, out came the bird book and, with a level of patience I didn’t know I possessed, I managed to identify all the birds that came to my garden, or neighbours’ trees, and even in the street.

  • Southern masked weaver – not often seen but they live in a tree a block away from my house
  • Cape sparrow – very common
  • Cape battis – a brief visit last winter
  • Red winged starling – permanent residents, very cheeky, pretty song
  • Olive thrush – this was very exciting because I’d never even heard of them
  • Cape bulbul – there are several nests nearby so lots of juveniles flit in and out of the trees at great speed
  • Cape turtle dove – most promiscuous of all, non-stop shagging all day long
  • Black sparrow hawk – most impressive and exciting sighting of all
  • Hadeda ibis – the loudest bird in Africa, bless it, we just love to hate them
  • Southern double-collared sunbird – most delightful of all, attracted to my aloe
  • Spotted eagle owl – this one is only heard, not seen, at night, but is very distinctive
  • Crow – the less said about this noisy road kill lover, the better
  • Helmeted guinea fowl – poor things, all over the street and railway line, we’ve pushed them out of their habitat
  • Egyptian geese – as for the guinea fowl, beautiful birds, trying hard to keep family safe

A chance silly Facebook post led me to a fabulous birding group – #BirdTheFeckAtHome. This is for real birders but even ‘amateurs’ and non-birders will enjoy it because humour is almost de rigeur. It’s run by Australians but members are from all over the world. They keep an awesome Google spreadsheet to record all birds globally. The humour is classic Aussie style and I love the playful rivalry between Aussies and New Zealanders. Join it now, lockdown is not over and it’s the best FB group in the whole universe.

As I was writing this entry, there was drama in my sky! The photo is not at all worth posting but one of my lockdown inmates witnessed a sparrowhawk being attacked by 4 starlings! It’s the second time we’ve seen this so it must be fairly common behaviour but for us this is quite exciting and I will be sure to ask birders about it. In the meantime, some of my rubbish cell phone photos from the garden.

Sorry for the hideous photos – taken with a cell phone and zoomed, not a good combo. A dove on the left having a wash after a love session, and the pretty olive thrush on the right.

I highly recommend this book for beginners. All my birds are in there, except for the sparrow hawk. The tree on the right is a white pear that I planted 2 years ago. It’s still rather small but is already starting to attract some birds, to my delight. At the moment it’s flowering and when the flowers finish they’ll be replaced by little berries – I can’t wait to see if birds come to eat them.

One again, here is my crowdfunding link – please support if you can and I thank you in advance.

Calling all photographers!

bov elephant cover pic

 

The internet is the perfect repository of photographs. Good ones, bad ones, excellent ones, award-winning ones, stolen ones, naughty ones, you name the genre and you will find it online. The Facebook statistics for the number of photos uploaded runs into the millions – per hour! And that’s just Facebook, there’s also Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and a host of other sites. And blogs 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, I have no great skill for taking photographs but I do want to improve so I joined a Facebook group where excellent photographers shared their work. Not all are professional but all posted really good stuff and it was a pleasure to see. I speak in the past tense. Recently, a few newbies misunderstood the general idea and suddenly the group was inundated with the worst images you can imagine.  Despite some advice, the culprits continued with no improvement. Some even became very rude when given advice. All missed the sarcasm.

This had two effects, instantly: most of the good stuff and members disappeared and the rest of us roared with derision.

Someone mentioned a secret group where bird photographers were posting their funny mishaps, so an idea was formed – I started a new group for the worst photos of our city.  A place where people could safely share all those shots that normally get deleted. The parameters of the group soon evolved into ‘our city, surrounding region and the world in general’.

I have not laughed so much in a long long time.

It’s winter, I am not as busy as I want to be, I am cold, I am almost hibernating – a few good belly-laughs were in order. In just a few days the group has grown and provided me with one of my biggest ever internet distractions (and that’s saying a lot!), and muscle-aching belly laughs. LOL has nothing on this.

So, if you fancy a good laugh and want to learn about photography from a different angle, join us! It’s not secret, we want to share the love.

A Facebook group guaranteed to make you less productive than ever before.

 

table mt

The iconic and world-renowned Table Mountain – note the ‘rule of thirds’ has been well maintained here with the pole and highway railing dissecting it neatly.

Spa

My friend Fadia treated me to a day at the Santé spa in the winelands yesterday. We first stopped on the way to buy some cheese and bread and had ourselves a little picnic on the spa grounds before our treatments. After lazing in the pool and jacuzzi exchanging girl gossip we were ‘wrapped’ in special oils and given the most divine head massage. I felt refreshed, my skin is softer than it’s been in ages, and I was tired earlier than usual last night, which is a good thing, plus I slept like a log which is rare.  Thanks again, Fadia – that was marvellous!

I think I should add a pamper package to my winelands tour and there are several excellent choices in and around the best wine estates, so I’m adding this as a research project to my list of things to do.

Why, you may ask, did Fadia treat me to a spa pamper?  A few weeks ago she was travelling through Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana – alone, after having dropped off some people in Malawi. I was following her trip with interest, jealousy and much admiration. One Friday night I noticed on Facebook that she had posted a cry for help because the corrupt police in a small Zambian town had locked her up for refusing to pay a bribe.  She didn’t have a working phone but was piggy-backing the police station wifi with her iPad. I found an after-hours number for foreign affairs in Pretoria and rang them. They in turn contacted their counterparts in Zambia who helped convince the police to leave Fadia alone.

After an evening in some dodgy beer hall with her saviour from Immigration (she doesn’t drink and this, on top of her refusal to give in to the cops, earned her much respect among the locals, cops included) Fadia drove away triumphantly to the more civilised town of Livingstone.  This is just a short summary of what was quite a dramatic event – not something we would like to experience but very typical of dear old Africa, and all’s well that ends well!

So, that’s how I landed up being pampered yesterday but the real hero of the story (aside from Fadia herself for standing up to the cops) is technology – the internet and Facebook do have good uses!

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First stop – Anura Wine Estate for cheese and preserves. R12 for a wedge of Brie is a bargain and it’s pretty good, too.

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Next stop – Babylonstoren for bread. We bought the rooibos bread and it was delicious!
This estate has the most fabulous gardens and a full-day visit is planned for later this month.

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It was a very warm day! As you can see, Fadia was dressed for summer; it was about 25 degrees – so much for winter!

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Cheese, preserves, fresh bread, coffee and coke – we were happy!

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The heated pool with jacuzzi in the far corner.

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Afterwards I went walkabout in the grounds.

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This was tempting.

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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