13 July, 2012

Gardening for wildlife in a Cape winter

We garden for wildlife. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? Between RL and gardening, rediscover your sense of wonder. Take time out, see what wildlife makes its home, or pauses, in your garden.

In Paradise and Roses both of our strelitzias have a flower open. I know our strelitzias are grown in California, I wonder if the hummingbirds use them as a nectar source? Strong stem and a bowl overflowing with nectar brings an impatient queue of  masked weavers and  Cape weavers.

Strelitzia reginae occurs naturally only in South Africa: eastern coast, from Humansdorp to northern KwaZulu-Natal in coastal bush and thicket. It grows along river banks in full sun, however sometimes it occurs and flowers on margins of forest in shade – from PlantZAfrica.

Weaver on Strelitzia

Nectar from Mandela's Gold

Strelitzia reginae Mandela's Gold

Weaver on Strelitzia

It winters very. When my sister was staying on the particularly nasty grey chilly days, we curled up with books and laptop by an early afternoon fire. Last night we went down to 3C (37F which sounds much warmer now I think in C). Tuesday has frost predicted for Malmesbury! Morning wakes with dew-spangled spiderwebs. This  black velvet spider was rescued as he brought in the day’s firewood. 

Green lynx? spider on web
Velvet spider, his and her photos

There are no fairies in my garden, but some quirky whimsy. (As Uncle Paul said – why doesn’t it GO when I say shoo!)

A metal bird with a fish

At the gently sloping shore of the pond, facing into the full benefit of the low winter sun, birds form orderly queues with timestamped tickets.

Masked weaver in the centre

A much smaller Cape white-eye waits with the respect that fits his size.

With a Cape white-eye

Gifted by nature, this is an image of our list … You know those days when you have a block of time and you are on a roll. The furthest bird who is a blur of movement? That was me, shredding the prunings from the plums and figs and part of the Leaning Tower of Should Be Compost. Used the shreddings as mulch beneath the fruit trees.

The next bird – has all the tools gathered and ready. His Ungardening revamp of the Mediterranean Sun Circle – work in progress.

And the four lined up and waiting. Prune the apples, and roses. Weed the driveway.

Sparrows and weavers
with a large spotted European starling

Looking out of the kitchen I saw a bird in a spiffy black and white suit, red tie and canary yellow corsage. Eating the apples we ignored. Says he, seen it already in the fig trees. Acacia pied barbet. In Joy Frandsen's bird book, a resident among trees, excavate their nest in dead trees.


Pictures by Jurg and Diana,
words by Diana of  Elephant's Eye
- wildlife gardening in Porterville, 
near Cape Town in South Africa

(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. 
Those are my links.)

44 comments:

  1. Hi, looks nice, we are under storm warning here, lots of rain since last night, expecting 100mm! I see we are both into the birdies today. The weavers seem to tackle aloe flowers as well - real sweet tooth! Love the comments at the pod. Nice post! LT

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  2. Gosh, that's cold for your areas isn't it? The birds looks like tourists in a hot tub!
    Jane x

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  3. Yikes!! Velvet spider! lol. It looks like summer vacation for all of the birds. Wonderful lighting and photography Diana! Do you have anymore snapshots of the sparrows and weavers by the water?

    -Tony Salmeron

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    1. Bird photos are his work. I pick out the best for my blog posts.

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  4. I've aways gardened for wildlife. First just plain plant vegetation just isn't enough. There are to be purpose to it. Also gardening for wildlife for me also includes beneficial insects which will add an element of protection to my landscape. Finally I just plain enjoy the entertainment of it all.


    On a weather note, here in Scandinavia this is one of the strangest growing or should I say non-growing seasons. Very little fruit on trees and bushes and this is a land of plenty in that department. Wild or garden things are bizzare. I have cut my grass only once this year. Usually it's once a week. But that may sound as if it's a drought. It's not. This is the rainiest summer I've experienced here.


    Trees didn't start blooming till end of May, but wait, it was a warm winter. I can't explain any of it.

    Global Climate Chaos



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    1. I've also read farmers are having to discard their berry crops as the European summer has put people off eating summery food. Sad, every which way.

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    2. Well it hasn't put my wife and I off from eating an African native favourite --> Watermelon

      I grew up on it as a water and food source for revitalizing which hot and exhausted.



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  5. LOVE the photos this week Diana, a lovely post brought big smiles on this freezing winter night here in the southern 'burbs. The Weaver on Strelitzia is a beaut! I've decided now I need to get myself a Strelizia, yours are so beautiful!

    Keep warm!
    PS: "you just can’t get good staff nowadays"; made me laugh. My Hercules behaves the same way. :)

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    1. there's a wide choice. The brash orange and blue. More subtle Mandela's Gold. The HUGE white nicolai. The architectural one whose leaves are just cylinders like a restio on steroids. Olympic steroids!

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  6. It says in the link that the Acacia pied barbet is a Bonthoutkapper. Is it a woodpecker?

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    1. My bird books list barbets and woodpeckers separately. Cousins rather than brothers. But they both nest in dead wood.

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  7. 'If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?'

    I absolutely share your philosophy in gardening for wildlife...

    They are such a joy to see...

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  8. Your little pond shore is quite the oasis for the birds. But that spider! I'm curious about the indentations on its back. I remember seeing some spiders that carry their young, which come streaming out of similar holes. Am I remembering correctly?

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    1. tantalising, I can't find much more info. Did find this blog post http://hedgiesjoy.blogspot.com/2009/12/black-velvet-spider.html
      And this 'Once well fed, can survive for a year without food' says the Struik guide to spiders of SA.

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  9. I almost wish for cooler weather but I don't just a bit of a cool down...love all the birds as they go about their day and that web is a stunner...we continue with record heat and no rain...very unusual weather and it is predicted to continue for at least another month or 2 right through summer

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    1. and our national road between Beaufort West and Jo'burg is closed due to snow.

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  10. Love the photo of the birds lined up in the pond, we also garden with wildlife in mind, you never know what you are going to discover next. Like your Mandela's gold, have only seen the orange / blue ones before.

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  11. Nice shots of what's going on in your garden. Right now our mesquite trees are dropping the pods on the ground and the rodents and canines are loving them:) Birds of Paradise grow here in shade and rarely do I get them to flower. But hummers do indeed love them. Hope you are well. Enjoy those cool temps. It's hot and muggy here:)

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    1. Those two strelitzias get afternoon shade from the wall. Our nicolai plants we had to move along to the shade from the ash trees. Coming from Kwazulu-Natal they are used to sub-tropical and need a little TLC in our summer.

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  12. I have never seen such orderly birds, Diana. They must save the chaos for Spirulino's Cafe. Urban gardening for wildlife is sometimes a disappointment--I plant the trees, but the birds that like them haven't found them. Yet. A lot of gardening has "yet" at the end.

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    1. Stacy do you have other neighbours who garden for wildlife? Are you anywhere near a nature reserve or a public park? Year by year we add new animals to our garden wildlife (who cares if the books say drily Common Resident - it's IN My Garden!)

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    2. Diana, I think the wildlife will come, but slowly. My neighborhood is only 5 years old, built on an old factory site that was vacant land for years. The wildlife that preferred the open land has been displaced (and here I chose an urban infill neighborhood to avoid destroying habitat...), and urban-adapted things are only slowly arriving. In the last year many new trees, etc. have been planted as streetscape and are beginning to take hold--my garden is no longer quite such a lonely island in a sea of gravel. I was thrilled to see an American robin (as common as common can be) the other day, eating the sand cherries. I'm sorry that I always seem to write very long answers to simple questions...

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    3. Sounds like Susan J Tweit - reclaiming industrial land for nature. Wonderful! Urban infill - we too.

      I'm enchanted when the comments develop into conversations which give the blog post a second life.

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  13. Wow Diana, those are very wonderful captures! I don't think we have hummingbirds, but i saw some sunbirds getting nectar from Heliconia rostrata, maybe that is our counterpart to yours. However, my lens cannot give justice to it as the sunbirds are so small. That cobweb looks majestic, makes a beautiful curtain!

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    1. I think, the hummingbirds are reserved for the Americas?

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  14. I love how polite the birds are, I know some people who could learn from them. I'm from southern Canada and we have lots of hummingbirds.

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  15. All of your wildlife is so interesting and beautiful! I love watching all of them go about their day doing what comes naturally to them. As long as I have watched it, I still am captivated.

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  16. Amazing how a garden attracts wildlife. Mine is a swamp right now so I will probably have frogs, mozzies and dragonflies soon. LOL! I got home the other day to a Black Sparrowhawk feeding on one of the pigeons living in my palm tree right on the front lawn.

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    1. Predators are a symbol of a healthy viable habitat. We had a sparrowhawk just before we left our Camps Bay garden, here the fiscal shrike or owls.

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  17. As I sit at my computer, I look out at the bird feeder and the bird bath. I really enjoy watching the birds take baths. They look like they are having such fun.

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  18. Gardening for birds... why do I do so little of it, I wonder. We are planning a birdbath outside the bedroom window. But then for six months of the year I am never in the room in daylight. So elsewhere perhaps? My office window, the only I am close to reliably often, is too high. Perhaps I need to stop running. Is that the problem?? Jack

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  19. So you had frost? And that's not normal...yes we get snow, do we ever...sigh.

    Love the shots, and you make me want to get a bigger pond, of course that would mean even more mosquies....

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. The weatherman was kind and added a couple of degrees to our minimum. Our garden remains frost-free! Dragonflies, fish, bats and swallows get almost all our mosquitoes - and ours don't carry any of the ghastly diseases (malaria, Nile fever ...)

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  20. You paint a beautiful picture of Africa with both your words and photographs. Simply stunning.

    P.S. We don't know what happened to kitty's claws but think they are growing back so it is doubtful the neighbors had him declawed. He may have lost them running from a predator or something. Now his sibling has shown up but it is not as friendly nonetheless we hope to catch and tame it, and fix it of course.

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    1. Glad the first cat is settling in. Ours have all been rescued and 'fixed'.

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  21. I love the spiderweb shot, as well as the cute photos of all the birds in a row! Aragon looks like she is accustomed to good service!

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  22. Diana, I've enjoyed seeing all your birds, especially the weavers. While I was out for a walk this morning, I saw my first American goldfinches of the season. They like to perch on my tall Rudbeckia and rip all the petals off the flowers. Since the Rudbeckia just started blooming today, the goldfinches seem to have shown up right on time! -Jean

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    1. Good news about your goldfinches, elsewhere I've read the birds are arriving a couple of weeks early, that is NOT good.

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  23. How wonderful to have Strelitzias (or as we call them, Bird of Paradise) growing native in your garden! Your cat seems very wise--one of my cats is a sun-worshiper, too. They keep us entertained, don't they?

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  24. When I look and read this blog it seems that we almost live in a different world! Everything is so different from my living here in Finland, in the middle of the rainy summer...

    Satu

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  25. I have come over from Awkward Hill to have a look at your blog, oh the birds, your African birds are just lovely. I love our European ones, but they cannot always compete in the colour department :-) Being Danish, I found your mentioning your grandfather's Dannevirke chest interesting. Do you have any connections with Denmark?

    Helle

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    1. This is from the Dannevirke in New Zealand, where my father was born.

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Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.


Midnight in Darkest Africa

Midnight in Darkest Africa
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