One of our members, Lourie Laatz, sent us a beautiful photo of a Cape Robin (Afr Gewone Janfrederik, or Cossypha caffra) that has come to fetch a worm from her every day, for a while now. This cute little fellow will therefore be our bird of the month.
The colourful Cape Robin is greyish brown above, with an orange rump, conspicuous white eyebrow, black face and bill, brownish pink legs and feet, light orange breast and throat, greyish white belly and orange tail with black centre. When disturbed, they make a harsh 3-syllabled alarm note, WA-deda, and their call can be likened to someone reading off a shopping list – teeu teetoo, teeu tiddly-too, teeu teetoo teetoo. They are common throughout South Africa, except in much of the Northern Cape. Their favourite habitat is forest edges, wooded kloofs, riverine bush, gardens, parks, farmyards, wattle and Eucalyptus plantations. They like feeding on insects, spiders, worms, small frogs, lizards and fruit. The breeding season lasts from June to December, when they usually lay 2-3 pale pinkish or greenish, spotted eggs. Incubation and nestling usually takes about 18 days. (Source: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, sixth edition, 1993).
For quite a while, many of our landowners (especially along the Magalies River) have been experiencing problems with huge groups of Vervet monkeys (sometimes as many as 150 per group), causing much damage on their properties. During the past two years, the monkeys have multiplied alarmingly, mainly because they have no natural enemies any longer, and because they are protected animals. By night they sleep in huge gum trees, and when the sun comes up, they begin with their destruction. They love taking one bite from each pumpkin in a land (so that none can be marketed) or one bite from the tip of each cabbage (so they can’t continue growing), and they cause havoc in a maize field. One finds eaten off mealie stalks everywhere they’ve been. All of them also climb onto a single pecan nut or fruit tree’s branch, so the branches break. They bite all the pecan nuts in half and leave them under the trees. Bird populations have also declined extensively, because they take all the eggs from the nests. Many plans have been made to get rid of them, but they can outsmart you and your pack of dogs long before you’re able to put any chase into action.
At the moment, pecan nut farmers in the valley are harvesting. As was reported in our previous newsletter, these farmers suffer losses because of the large troops of Vervet monkeys that cause widespread damage. The annual harvesting season is also accompanied by large scale NIS theft, and you can be sure that those packets of nuts for sale along the roads, had been stolen somewhere.
When the winter wasn't really cold and if good spring rains fall, ticks can occur on any farm, almost overnight.
An outbreak of blue ticks (Asian blue tick (Rhipicephalus microplus), and African blue tick (Rhipicehalus decoloratus), as well as the smooth bont-legged tick (Hyalomma truncatum) and the bont tick (Amblyomma hebraeum) are all indigenous to South Africa.
Massive urbanisation is taking place all over South Africa, putting National Government, Provincial and Municipal structures under severe pressure to provide effective services in these areas. Rural populations have no choice but to manage the situation and fend for themselves.