Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

To all the people who have been following our owls this year....

May we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful, prosperous 2011. For those who don't celebrate Christmas, may we wish you Happy Holidays and all the best for the New Year ahead.

People have asked me what it's like to celebrate the festive season in a hot climate, so this is how it's done 'South African style'. December is a time for shorts, t-shirts, summer dressed, and sandals (not Teeny's sandal, I promise!). Temperatures reach 30 degrees centigrade and higher. The sun shines brightly and it is too warm to go outside without a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.

South Africans love the outdoors so our festive season is spent with friends and family in the fresh air. Some people like to swim in the sea (the coastal areas get very crowded this time of year). It's always fun to get dumped by a wave and end up with sand in your swimsuit (or as we call it here, a swimming costume).

For those people inland, there are swimming pools and even dams to keep cool. Roads are quieter in Johannesburg, which is great for those who don't migrate to the coast for the holidays. In December in Johannesburg, you can finally travel a 20km journey in 15 minutes by car (normally takes 40-plus minutes in normal traffic).

Christmas is normally celebrated on Christmas Day, unless your family is like mine with a European influence, and then we celebrate on Christmas Eve. Traditional Christmas food includes turkey with all the trimmings, gammon, mince pies, Christmas cake etc.

Because of our hot climate, sometimes it is hard to eat a big, hot plate of food at Christmas time. More people are opting for salads or tucking into big pieces of watermelon.

For those who don't celebrate Christmas, December is a wonderful time to relax and be with family and friends. Most annual leave is taken during December, and schools are out for 6 weeks over this time.

Throughout the country, there is a definite 'year-end-wind-down' feeling, and businesses close or cut back on the hours during the day.

For sporting fans, December marks our cricket test series over Christmas and New Year with International teams coming out. This year, we have the Indian cricket team out.

Hope this gives you an idea of how we will be celebrating the festive season.

Merry Christmas everyone and keep safe and happy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wed 15 December

Rain, rain go away and come again another day!

Actually no, I love the rain and it works miracles in Nature - especially in arid Africa - so I don't wish the rain away. In fact, I just loved heading out early evening for a run. The rain just started falling again when I was on my way back home. There's nothing like getting caught in the rain, and resigning yourself to getting wet - and enjoying it.

It is absolutely torrential rain out there now. I doubt the owls are even heading out to hunt yet, although they will have to wait a long time for the rain to subside. Weather forecast predicts heavy rain in our region for another 24 hours.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday 13 December

We've had a whole week of persistent thunderstorms - both day and night. The garden plants and trees have grown inches in this time, and everything is looking green and lush. Even the wetland seems to be working hard at repairing itself. Reed beds are thickening, and new branches are sprouting from the tree stumps that were left untreated by the developer. It's a time for renewal and growth, which brings hope to our owl family and the wetland.

With the constant rainfall, we haven't been out of the house to see if the owls are around. Earlier this evening, one chicks flew right past our lounge window, and flew to the roof of the neighbour's house. I watched it for a while, while it stood on the rooftop - its skinny white legs elongating as the chick stretched up, looking towards the wetland. Something caught its eye, and the chick immediately flew to the wetland, presumably to hunt. I didn't see any other owls.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday 12 December

Thanks all for your welcome back messages. I visited family in Switzerland, which was stunning, but it's always good to be home.

Our petition hasn't reached its goal yet of 30 000 signatures. At the moment, we are sitting on 26 600 - 3 400 left to go. Anyone who has not signed the petition yet, please do so using the link below. And thank you again to all the people who have already signed, and passed the link on to friends and family to sign too. Here is the link:

One of the major newspapers in Johannesburg (The Saturday Star) ran an article in Saturday's paper, on our desire to save the wetland. After quotes and information from our side, the developer was quoted as saying:
" They (Allan and Tracy) are talking about Spotted Eagle Owls. They are the most common owl in South Africa, and will adapt"

While the developer is correct in saying that the Spotted Eagle Owl is one of the most common owls in South Africa, he fails to address the pertinent issue of the complaint we have against the development - that over 70% of the property is delineated wetland. Wetlands should be protected by Law in our country, and indeed, we do have laws that supposedly protect these sensitive ecosystems.

The developer failed to address the issue of all the other fauna and flora in the wetland which are not as 'common' as our owls - the Giant Bull Frog (currently on the Endangered Wildlife Trust's list of Highly Threatened Species); a red-listed data species of orchid found only in this area of the country (photographed as evidence of its existance); and sightings of grass owls (highly endangered in South Africa), amongst many other wetland species.

I hope that someone reading my blog, will pass on the above information to the developer for comment. I wonder how he will attempt to justify the 'adaptation' of our highly threatened species as listed above.

A 'common' species today, left unprotected and their fate in the hands of ignorant people, will be threatened tomorrow, and extinct before we know it.

On a sunnier note, we had a couple of sightings of the chicks this weekend - quick fly-bys, landing on a rooftop for a minute, and flying away again. They are still hissing, which is the only way now we can tell them apart from the adults. They are fully grown and from a distance, I can't see any fluff on them. Only in flight, is it easier to identify these little chicks who are still less graceful than their mom and dad. Still haven't seen Pot Plant Owl, but have heard Pappa hooting.

Will keep you updated.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday 9 December

It's good to be back in sunny South Africa after a short break in Europe visiting family. The weather there was perfect for a visiting Southern Hemispherian - crystal clear winter days, lots of snow and all the acitivty that comes with the cold weather. But as nice as it was to experience all of this, I'm pleased to be back home.

While I was away, Allan had a fabulous sighting of all three chicks playing / hunting in the garden. He also woke up early one morning to find two chicks playing in their old pot plant nest on the balcony. They flew away shortly after, leaving behind a couple of tell-tale signs of their visit - two poops down the side of the now container. How very thoughtful of them!

Last night, I scoured the area and didn't see or hear our owl family. I was sad, but also relieved that Allan had seen the chicks a few nights ago, so they were all well.

Tonight I've been lucky. I've just seen see two chicks flying around our complex. I'm sure one of them was Teeny - flying low with its legs dangling down to the ground. I think it was Teeny flying because the flight still looks a little 'rough around the edges' although the chick managed the height and distance of the flight well enough. The other chick followed when the first one (Teeny?) flew, and soon they were out of sight.

It's not a thrilling sighting with lots of action and engaging antics, but it is comforting to see how well the chicks are doing. No sight of Pappa or Pot Plant Owl. I believe Indie is with Pappa - travelling much further afield in search of a feast of adventures.