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Pretty Ducks, Edible Flowers and Birds, Birds, Birds: Strandfontein

Friday, January 22, 2016

I have so darn many photos from my South African safari that it's easy to miss some real goodies in trying to throw a lasso around the whole thing. Flamingos are real lens hogs.

With those Vargas girls in the foreground, it's hard to look at anything else, but there are so many other things to see at Strandfontein!

The marshy dikes were rich with bulbs, all in frenzied spring bloom.

We saw these enormous caterpillars in several places on the Cape. All I could do was enjoy them, without being able to put a name other than "Roscoe" on this creature.

Glorious thing. And don't miss the beetle halfway down the stem.  You'd swear it was a hummingbird-pollinated flower, but it's probably after sunbirds.

Her name is Ruth, but we were all calling her Rootie, as her family does, halfway through the trip. She has the same tendency to go plunging in after things that I do. So we were up to our necks in wild gladiolas. Fantastic!

Rootie set this shot up and I poached it. Sour figs, as purchased, and the ice plant flower that becomes a sour fig when it goes to seed! The plant, Carpobrotus edulis,  also known as sour fig, highway ice plant, Hottentot fig, or pigface, creeps prostrate across sandy dunes, and it's quite common. We saw  chacma baboons eating the flowers and developing fruits. I was concerned about the sour fig harvesting until I saw how many of the plants were on the dunes. Reading a bit, I learned that it's a horrid invasive in California and the Mediterranean, creating ice plant deserts on dunes. It's given to invading on disturbed sandy soil. I still think it's cool that somewhere back in time, somebody figured out you could dry the seedheads and get a delicious treat out of them. Wonder if anyone eats them in California? Perhaps we need to graze more.

Wild pelargoniums reminded me so very much of my wooly rose-scented friends of yore. They were aromatic, but nothing like the scented ones I grow. 

It's not hard to see why Strandfontein has such fabulous bird life. That's a bay right there, and the wetlands are the silver line inland, near the horizon.

 The fillymingos don't have far to fly to get to the rich lagoons.

Those vertebral bumps again! I love seeing skellingtons under all those feathers. 

 And the sudden spread of brilliant salmon wings,

which seem somewhat modest for the size of the bird, until you remember this bird is all neck and legs and featherlight hollow bones. Try this: cover up the neck and legs with your finger, and those wings are in perfect, gooselike proportion to the body size. Plenty.

Greater crested terns, Hartlaub's gulls, and Egyptian geese rest on a platform seemingly built just for preening and roosting.

Levaillant's cisticola sings monotonously from a shrubby lookout 

while his mate hauls cattail fluff to a hidden nest.

The little marsh warbler (yes, its name is little marsh warbler, and no, I'm not capitalizing it) who eluded us for minutes on end finally and inexplicably popped out for a portrait!

Everywhere, yellow-billed ducks (sort of the Cape equivalent to a mallard) sprang quacking from the reeds.

Like the mallard, a supremely beautiful bird to be so common. Lucky, we are.

And out in the lagoons, the pink showgirls preen. We bade farewell to Strandfontein and headed for the southernmost point on the African continent, to gaze out over the southern ocean and dip our toes in it, too. You have to do that when you're in South Africa!

I'm going again in September 2016, and I'd love to have you along. 
Click here for details.


Riveting. Bird and beast and caterpillar alike.

I remember the ubiquitous ice plant from growing up in SoCal. Never knew it had edible parts!

Thank you so much. I just can't get enough of the flamingos.

Thanks for the photos, Julie! I think the flowering stalks that Rootie is in are called Watsonias! I have them growing in my yard here in Poway. They are wonderful!

Wild glads!
I worked on a gladiola farm every summer from 8th grade into college.

Wild glads!
I worked on a gladiola farm every summer from 8th grade into college.

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