I’ve been thinking a lot about wildlife this weekend. To most Americans, the term “African wildlife” brings to mind lions and elephants and giraffes. But there is an array of smaller animals that pack every tree, crack, and crevice here, even in the middle of the city.

On an average morning, I can walk out on the deck and see about eight different bird species without looking very hard. Joe, a serious birder, will spot half a dozen more and hear another eight calling out of sight.

These aren’t ordinary robins or starlings, either. There are little yellow weavers and the big clumsy hadedahs, which I mentioned in a previous post. There are bulbuls, thrushes, cape robins, mousebirds, and doves. Then there are the more spectacular varieties, like crested barbets and burchell’s coucals and red-billed woodhoopoes. This is just a partial list of the birds I’ve seen since I arrived, in this garden alone.

Unfortunately it’s ridiculously out of focus but here is a shot of a crested barbet.

My favorites are the gray loeries, slate-colored birds with tall crests that stick straight up from their heads when they’re excited. They make a funny call that sounds like a whining four-year-old. I hear this call most often when our bird-feeder is empty.

A loerie scouts the bird-feeder.

Also out of focus, but here he is swiping his prize — a piece of old apple. He likes to chomp on the middle part and then drop the skin onto the ground.

His mate watches, bemused, from the limb of a nearby cabbage tree.

The abundance of dogs and cats is also worthy of note. Dogs provide good security so lots of people have them. They tend to spend most of their time outside and are hence extremely noisy. One dog will get going and suddenly a cacophony of barking will spread throughout the neighborhood. This can last for hours.

People also enjoy driving with their dogs. This is obviously not unique to South Africa but I wanted to mention it as an excuse to post this photo.

I’ve already mentioned Fruffy, our commune cat.


We also have a feline interloper. I don’t know her name. She initially tormented Fruffy so we were constantly chasing her from the premises. But now they’ve made friends so she’s allowed to hang around. I caught her staring at me through the window yesterday.

The interloper

Lastly, we have a friendly ant colony in the house. I normally find ants very irksome. But they are tiny and stick primarily to one trail from the living room window to a crack in the wall on the other side of the room. Every now and then I catch one walking across my computer screen, but other than that they keep to themselves. The other day I watched them pry a dead fly from between the floor tiles and carry it across the room.

My ant friends carry their quarry back to the nest. They aren’t so scary-looking in real life. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)

Time to pack and prepare for our Sunday evening braai. (Braai is South African for barbeque.) The next time you hear from me I’ll be in Lesotho.

1 Comment

  1. Todd

    Heather, I am so glad you gave tribute to the small animals. As you know, Katherine and I are small-animal lovers, e.g. – mice, rats, cats, etc. They are the unsung heroes of the ecosystem! Oh, and they are fucking adorable!


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