Category Archives: Nature

Blue Skies

Blue Skies and Cape Bulbul

Haiku 202

Nothing but blue skies

And chirpy little Bulbul

On sleeping grape vines

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I was wandering round the garden with my new cell phone, taking pictures of flowers and stuff to familiarise myself with the camera.

I was snapping away at my yellow honeysuckle when I heard a determined twittering coming from overhead.

I pointed my camera upwards and clicked.

Luckily, before he flew off, I captured this cheeky little Cape Bulbul, sitting in the winter grape vines and telling me to get lost!

Though he’s not quite in focus, I’m showing the photo here because of that blue, blue sky!

And I know I’ve said it before, some years ago in I see Skies of Blue, but obviously it still bothers me, so I’ll say it again.

As a teenager at school in England, I always painted my skies this deep blue colour. My art teacher, who didn’t like me or my work, criticised yet another of my humble efforts, squashing any artistic dreams I might have had, when she briefly glanced at my “work of art” and said, “You don’t get skies that colour!”

Well, Ma’am, “Yes you do!”

Over here, most days, all day, the sky is resoundingly this marvellous deep clear blue. And my blue wasn’t even as deep as in the above untouched photo!

The thing that bugs me is how teachers back then often totally crushed any individuality or creativity in you.

I mean, it was a painting for Pete’s sake. Why couldn’t the sky have been green, had I so chosen?

 

To see how blue the sky really was, tilt your screen away from you. 

 

Yellow

Yellow Honeysuckle

Haiku 200

Low hanging sunshine

New flowers and golden leaves

Winter’s all Yellow

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Yellow Syringa

The colour of winter in the Cape:

Yellow honeysuckle enticing the Sunbirds’ return; Syringa berries and golden leaves ready to fall; Apple Tree leaves, capturing a sunbeam;

Yellow Apple Leaf

All these make a glorious golden winter time.

 

post script: Here’s is a lovely acoustic clip of Donovan singing his iconic hit “Colours”, beginning with the line Yellow is the colour of my true love’s hair.

 

Winter Solstice 2020

Poinsettia 1

Haiku 198

Winter Solstice morn

The shortest day of the year

Sun now returning

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To be honest, I can hardly say that the sun ever really left! Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, with very mild winters.

Poinsettia 2

Here I’ve photographed my Poinsettia in a little morning mist. The plant is a good 6 metres (20 feet) tall, so basically a tree. I have to shoot from underneath and with my arm high above my head to try to capture the red leaves, technically called bracts.

Right now my garden is full of plants and shrubs in bloom.

The Sunbirds have returned to the Honeysuckle; the Camellia is filling up with large pink blooms; and of course, the Poinsettia is a lovely splash of red in a mostly green world.

Poinsettia 3

Still, it takes some getting used to, after growing up in the North of England, where you had real winters!

Also, most of my Readers live in the Northern hemisphere, where you will have just experienced the Summer Solstice and your longest day. Hopefully you have many more summer days to look forward to!

 

Rare Visitors!

Swee Waxbill 1 – Male

Haiku 197

Spot a flash of red

Tiny pretty feathered thing

Rustling in the bush

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Every morning I do my heavy chores then reward myself with a cappuccino, sitting quietly outside in the garden, armed only with my trusty Canon camera.

I listen to the many different birds chirping and calling to each other in the surrounding trees. I can identify them by their particular song, so I knew the Sunbirds were back again, long before I caught a glimpse of one.

Swee Waxbill 2 – Male

However, the other day as I sat there quietly sipping my coffee, enjoying the cool air, wispy streaks of clouds in a blue sky and the sun beginning to warm up the day, I saw a little bird fly to the honeysuckle and rustle around in the branches. It looked as though he was trying to gather some sticks or grasses for nest building.

Grabbing my camera I took a few shots. I could clearly see the branches moving, but could not get a clear view of the bird. It looked more like a little Mossie (Cape Sparrow) than a Sunbird, or perhaps a Cape White Eye.

Swee Waxbill 3 – Female

Then a bird flew to the lavender and obligingly sat there for a moment, while I quickly took a photo. It’s amazing how light birds are, as this one was resting on the merest stalk of lavender.

This bird was similar to the one I’d just seen, but did not have the black head. Now I could see that the beak was short, thick and triangular; typical of finches. I had once spotted a Common Waxbill by my pool a long time ago, so wondered if it was this again.

Swee Waxbill 4 – Female

Then the bird flew off to a solar lamp, where she paused for a second. I snapped an action shot as she took off again, and you can see her lovely red colouring.

Afterwards, on enlarging my photos of the tiny birds, I identified them from my book, Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa. They were a pair of male and female Swee Waxbills.  Click on the link for excellent photos. The male has the distinctive black face while the female is greyer, but both have the red back and triangular bill.

What a treat! I have never seen them anywhere before.

It just goes to show, that if you sit quietly and patiently, eventually you’ll spot a new (to you) species of bird, even in your own back garden.

 

post script: I apologise for the blurred photos. The birds were tiny and far away from me. It’s the best that my little camera and I could do!

And as I have discovered before, the best advice Google can give me for sharpening up a blurred image, is to take another photo – in focus!!

 

Rose and Green Girls

Roses and Green Girls

Haiku 195

Outside trips curtailed?

Bring a little Nature in

Mini peace garden

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I treated myself to a bunch of delicate pink roses on my last weekly foray outside to replenish food supplies.

These two had broken near the top of the stem. No problem; they fit perfectly in this tiny vase, on top of the piano, between my two Green Girls.

 

post script: As some of you may ask, the ceramic Green Girls came from Denmark; a gift from my mother-in-law. 

 

Sunset

Crimson Sunset

Haiku 194

A Crimson Sunset

Showing there is life beyond

Corona Lockdown

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You have to be jolly quick to catch the evening sunset in Africa, as the gorgeous colours only last an instant. The sun’s last hurrah as it retires for the night.

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Being forced to stay home isolated and socially distant, you have no option but to turn inwards and your world shrinks.

Catching a beautiful sunset is a good reminder that the Universe is still out there and that one day we can rejoin it.

Hang in there my friends and Keep Safe.

 

Autumn

Autumn Leaf in Dog Water Bowl

Haiku 193

Single golden leaf

Floating in the water bowl

I guess it’s Autumn

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One swallow does not a summer make, nor a single snowflake winter, but in Cape Town, a solitary fallen leaf does make Autumn!

Autumn and Spring are so brief here that you have to look at the calendar, rather than the weather or flora, to know what season it is.

Although there is a chill in the air, during the day it is warm and pleasant, usually around 20C, (26C on Wednesday!); what I would call a nice Summer’s day in England!

Right now in my garden, I still have roses in bloom, as well as the honeysuckle, plumbago, hibiscus and frangipani. The camellia is absolutely covered in buds ready to unfurl into massive pink flowers.

So yes, one golden leaf fallen from the grape vine is as good an indication as any that it is actually Autumn.

After all, the 20th of next month is the winter solstice!

 

Oddity

Succulent 1

Haiku 191

Sprouting succulent

Where on Earth did you come from?

Oddest looking thing

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Succulent 2

I have several plant pots on my stoep with a variety of succulents growing in them.

Mostly my succulents just grow bigger, becoming simply larger versions of themselves. I have had this particular plant for decades, but it’s never done anything like this before.

Succulent 3

So I was surprised when I suddenly noticed these flower-like things sprouting out of it, which seemed to happen overnight! How marvellous!

My plants are obviously very happy situated here, with plenty of sun, shelter and water. And I remember to water them because I fill up the dog water bowls regularly for our garden birds to enjoy a nice bath!

 

Abundance

Erica Versicolour 1

Haiku 189

New kid on the block

I know you’re happy when you

Grow abundantly

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Erica Versicolour 2

My daughter Ski gave me this lovely fynbos bush last September. It’s an Erica Versicolour, and has settled in nicely and grown a great deal.

Erica Versicolour 3

It started producing flowers almost at once and has continued to do so ever since.

We are now heading into the winter months here in Cape Town, but it will burst forth anew in Spring, next September.