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Archive for South Africa / Wildlife

South Africa wildlife VI: the magic of water

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit comfortably at my computer and edit wildlife photos, so I’m easing back into things with an update of some of the everyday (but still special!) wildlife in my own garden here in Cape Town.

Today I’d like to show you the power of water for attracting and photographing wildlife. Giving garden birds a supply of fresh water for drinking and bathing is obviously very important during the hot dry summer months, but keeping the bird bath full year-round helps attract a wide variety of birds to my garden:

birdbath_mixed
The local meeting place: laughing doves, a common starling and a Cape sparrow enjoying a drink and a bathe together.

birdbath_olivethrush
Photo op! Olive thrushes, like most birds (except doves) have to raise their heads to swallow water, so it’s the perfect moment to snap a photo.

birdbath_hadeda
And sometimes things get slightly ridiculous – this hadeda ibis is a) not a garden bird and b) far too large to bathe in my birdbath… but he didn’t care!

I also have a nectar (sugar water) feeder to attract sunbirds – the African equivalent of hummingbirds, and just as pretty.

nectar_sunbird
The female southern double-collared sunbird has brown plumage, but she’s still tiny, fast, and gorgeous!

nectar_sunbird2
The male looks very similar to a male hummingbird, in stunning jewel tones.

But it’s not just sunbirds who appreciate the nectar (and fight over it)…

nectar_weaver
Cape weaver enjoying a sweet treat.

nectar_sunbird_whiteeye
Male sunbird (left) and Cape white-eye (right) having a shouting contest.

nectar_weavers
Southern masked weaver has a drink while Cape bulbul demands his turn.

And water doesn’t just attract birds to the garden – by happy accident, I discovered a few weeks ago that if you put a wet branch or leaf in front of a Cape Dwarf Chameleon, it’ll lick the water off it:

chameleon_water1
Lick!

So now, every time I find a chameleon, I offer him a drop of water on a leaf…

chameleon_water2
Ooh, a wet leaf… 

chameleon_water3
Slurp!

So much fun! (And much easier than trying to catch grasshoppers to feed to them…)

I had another happy discovery this weekend. I’m trying to make a wildlife area at the bottom of the garden, but my new indigenous plants need some extra water to help them get settled in, so I turned on the sprinkler and sat outside for a while….

wildlife enjoying water in my garden
Just sprinkling the garden…

Almost immediately, over a dozen Cape White-Eyes flew in and started hopping from branch to branch under the spray of the sprinkler, fluffing up their feathers, preening, shaking, and enjoying a good shower:

whiteeyes_sprinkler
Fluffy white-eyes!

Luckily I have a good zoom on my new camera, as white-eyes are tiny and these were down at the very bottom of the garden, but I managed to get a little video for you to enjoy:

For the best experience, play the video at Full 1080p HD quality and fullscreen it.

Aren’t they sweet?

I hope you enjoyed another glimpse into my local wildlife – I’ll have more to share with you once I’ve had a chance to go through the past few months of photos. :)

And if you’d like to encourage more wildlife into your own garden, I suggest adding a bird bath, a pond, or a water feature – it really works!

Comments (11)

South Africa wildlife V: baby Chameleons!

I had a truly magical wildlife experience last week, and I just had to share it with you. Every day, I check the bushes in my garden for Cape Dwarf Chameleons – they’ve been absent for the past year, but made up for it when they finally returned last week, as I got to spend a day with 6 teeny tiny newborn baby chameleons who were each barely an inch long (excluding tail)!

If you’re short on time, here’s a collage of my baby chameleon photos:

baby chameleons

And scroll to the end of this post if you’d like to see my baby chameleon video. But, if you have the time, let me share some bigger photos and more details with you first:

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

Comments (15)

Borneo Wildlife

I thought you’d like to see some of the animals I saw on my trip to Malaysian Borneo last month! As this is a craft (and wildlife) blog, I’m keeping this post to just my wildlife photos, but, if you’re interested in knowing more about my trip, I’ve written it up separately as a travel journal with lots more pics: A Bornean Adventure.

We were privileged to get to watch these two rescued orphan orangutan babies in training. Once they’re old enough and have learned how to survive in the wild, they’ll be released back into the forest. (I’ve written more about the orangutan rescue and rehabilitation in my travel journal.)

orangutan1 orangutan2 orangutan3orangutan4

But, although this would have been enough, we saw far more than just orangutans…

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

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South Africa wildlife IV

This post is part of my occasional series of photoblog posts about the wildlife and nature I see while living in South Africa.

For various reasons, it’s been far too long since I’ve been able to get outside and enjoy nature, but this weekend changed all that – we had beautiful summer-in-winter weekend weather and it was too nice to be inside. I took my camera with me to see what I could see, and ease me back into my wildlife photoblogging. So, there’s no real theme to this post, it’s just ‘what I saw this weekend’ :)

In my garden:

…a white butterfly finally stopped moving for long enough for me to photograph it:

white butterfly

…a giant grasshopper found the perfect lighting to pose for me:

locust

…and I spotted a new (to me) sight with my favourite Garden Acraeas: egg-laying!

garden acraea butterflies laying eggs
The female hangs from the edge of a leaf and raises her abdomen to lay her eggs against the underside of the leaf (see the butterfly on the right). I have no idea why a male (top left) kept flying over the other female’s leaf (bottom left) and interrupting her while she tried to do the same.

At a local nature reserve:

…flower season is most definitely beginning:

flowers

…the waterbirds were enjoying the sunshine:

flowers
Back: white-breasted cormorants; front: red-knobbed coots.

…some kind of shield bug (I’m no bug expert!) sunned itself on a succulent:

flowers

…and the red bishops looked spectacular as always:

flowers

And, by the river:

…these tiny flowers look like normal lawn daisies, except the petals are extra-short:

daisies

…we spotted a Cape weaver starting to weave a new nest between two tree branches:

cape weaver nest

…carefully weaving each blade of grass into the ring he’d already constructed:

cape weaver nest

…3 hours later, the ring of grass had become a ball and a female came to check it out:

cape weaver nest
If she liked his work, she’d line the nest and they’d lay their eggs inside.

…she inspected his handiwork thoroughly, but wasn’t impressed:

cape weaver nest

…maybe he needs to do a little more weaving and he’ll have more luck tomorrow! I’ll have to check back – if a female moves in, we should be able to see her flying into the nest with soft lining materials. If not, he’ll abandon the nest in a couple of days and try his luck with a new one…


A bit of a random return for my wildlife posts, but these little signs of spring make me very happy! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them too. Please leave me a comment if so – I do love to hear from you…

Comments (17)

burgled (update)

I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who took the time to leave me a message after my last post about the burglary. Reading them has meant a lot to me. These days, so few people comment on blogs, and it feels good to know you’re still out there reading what I write. I really appreciate all your advice and messages of support – thank you.

I still feel sick thinking about how lucky I was to be unharmed – at least physically – and how this could happen again (with far worse consequences) at any time, but here’s a quick update on my situation in case you’ve been worrying about me.

Fixing the Damage

All our belongings that were taken have been replaced. We’ve actually done quite well out of that: everything was insured, and having 2-4 year old laptops and tablets replaced with their current equivalents means nice shiny new models in place of the old slower ones.

But, in a great example of the relaxed pace of ‘Africa time’, I still have no front door! The company our insurance contracted to fit the replacement door and security door finally came to measure for the new door on Friday (9 days after the burglary…), but it’ll probably take another 2 weeks before the new door is made and can be fitted. In the meantime, our old door has been boarded up and screwed into the frame, so don’t worry: this delay isn’t a security problem, it’s just a bit frustrating not having a front door that opens.

Home Security

Thank you for all the advice – I’m definitely not considering buying a gun, but I’d like a dog, if I can figure out if Maui would be happy with that, and if we can find the right dog for our family. I’ve been considering getting a dog for several years, but it’s a big long-term commitment and I’ve never felt 100% sure that I’m ready. Maybe this will be the push I need, so I’ll have the bonus of a barking alarm as an additional burglar deterrent…

I live behind high spiked gates, with bars on all the windows and metal gates over all the doors. I assumed that would keep me safe, but it’s obviously not enough. I’m hoping the replacement doors will be more secure, and we’re also going to see if we can change how the alarm system works so I have more protection against intruders while I’m working from home all day.

Data Security

One excellent thing has come of all this: I’ve had to seriously address the issue of protecting my data with some sort of offsite backup, so I don’t lose my business files (or personal documents). Several of you suggested cloud storage, but I don’t feel that’s a secure solution for sensitive information. I already use Dropbox for saving ideas and sharing files with other people, but I’m not convinced it’s sufficiently safe for important private data such as my business files, tax records, etc.

I now have an excellent solution (thanks to Aleksandra’s recommendation) – I’ve created my own private, secure, cloud storage on my own web server. It works exactly like Dropbox, so all my files are automatically synced whenever I update them, I have access to all my data from any computer or mobile device. The difference is that my data is all encrypted at my end, so only I have the decryption key, and it’s only stored on my own server, so there’s far less risk of a security breach. And, because my server lives in North America, it’s 100% safe from South African burglars 😉

I know this probably won’t help many of my readers, but in case anyone googling for secure offsite data backup and file synchronization finds this post, I’m using Seafile for my own private cloud storage. A one-sentence review: it’s open source, completely free if you have your own server, and so far I’ve found it very easy to use: my files are auto-syncing from my computer, and I can easily access anything I need using the Android app on my phone and tablet. (I also found a similar solution called OwnCloud, but I haven’t tried it, so that’s not a personal recommendation, just another option you could consider.)

Moving Forward

Well, I’m trying to, at least. I’m still very jumpy, and every noise sounds like an intruder preparing to break in and attack me, but I have a plan for that: if I see anyone on my property, I’ll hit the panic button to set off the alarm, and hopefully scare them off before they get into the house. I feel a bit safer knowing I have some way to protect myself if I see anyone coming.

I’ve also made lots of progress on several of my big long-term projects – trying to take my mind off being scared – although there’s nothing to see yet, as I haven’t been able to do any final quality checks while I’ve been too exhausted to think clearly. But this means there’ll be lots of new PlanetJune stuff coming very soon…

Things are getting better. Thank you for caring. :)

Comments (15)

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    June Gilbank

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