30 October 2012

Pooh, Leo and Pookie

The three of them have been with me since birth. I can't find a picture of Pooh, but he sits near my desk, yellow flannel for fur, with hand stitched eyes, nose and mouth radiating slightly surprised pleasure. Leo was made by my godmother in Cathcart in the Eastern Cape, and his floral green coat only gets more awesome with every year since 1970. I think he takes drugs when I'm not looking. And then there's Pookie. A life of hard loving and a couple of unpleasant encounters with family dogs has been tough on him, but he carries the scars of multiple injuries and facial reconstruction surgery with stoic calm.

It's important to have the right kind of stuffed friends. I couldn't ask for better.

20 October 2012

The cuteness continues: a baby tortoise

Just in case the baby sunbird wasn't heart warming enough, here's a tiny baby tortoise spotted in the garden this morning.

Juvenile Angulate Tortoise Chersina angulata (Schweigger 1812). Adults get to about  the size of a man's outstretched hand, but this one had a carapace barely 8cm long.

Just for the record, this is a free-roaming tortoise. We're a stone's throw from the fynbos of the extended Table Mountain National Park. Wild visitors are one of the huge privileges of living here, and a very good reason to leave the bottom of the garden mostly natural. It also makes for a very nice view across our wild olives and Rhus glauca thicket, which could almost convince you you're actually inside the nature reserve as long as you don't look to the right where suburbia sprawls.

17 October 2012

Just a baby sunbird

Fledged four days ago. At first just a tiny ball of fluff, completely out of control, crashing into the ground and cheeping plaintively while its parents fluttered around frantically . It's a miracle any birds survive their first day or two out of the nest in the hungry wild. Two days later, when this photo was taken, it was starting to fly and move through the plants confidently, even exploring flowers for nectar. But it's still very much a baby. The non-stop peep-peep-peeping makes it easy to find in the garden while its parents hurry around and bring food. I was lucky that the nest was right next to my vegetable garden, so I could watch the show from the very start, and they soon got used to me being a few feet away. Father, like all male Lesser Double-collared sunbirds, is small but spectacular, with an iridescent green head and postbox red breast, separated by a narrow band of the deepest royal blue. He seemed to spend most of his time on top of the nearby Cape Honeysuckle or the fence, showing off his disco plumage and singing his heart out. You could tell when baby hatched, because suddenly mom was around again, all businesslike, backwards and forwards between collecting insects and delivering them. Maybe, baby it will hang around long enough so that I can see it's going to be a shiny boy or a sleek grey girl.

Southern Double-collared Sunbird or Lesser Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnyris chalybeus (formerly in the genus Nectarinia).