Musings on adaptability

15 01 2011

A male paradise flycatcher

A paradise flycatcher has been getting up close and personal this rainy season. They are an intra-African migrant that appear here around October or so. The male (pictured) is a quite noisy bird and I can often hear his “chwee chwau” call when I am around the house. Along with a spectacled weaver and some yellow-bellied bulbuls the flycatcher likes to come foraging for insects under the verandah light early each morning. This must be learned behaviour. I have my doubts that the birds know why the insects are there but they do know that every morning it’s worthwhile calling past to see what’s on offer. On Christmas morning the flycatcher actually came into my dining room, hovered about 2m away from me as I was writing a letter then picked and insect off the inside of the glass door and flew out. It has done it again once since then too.

A little more surprising is the behaviour of the mantids. Predators all, I have often seen them congregate near a light at night but although they are attracted to it they don’t appear to be disorientated the way other insects are. They do occasionally fly around the light but not for long. Have they “learned” like the birds that food it to be had near light sources?

We have started using the ponds at work again for speeding up the growth of some cabbage and tomato seedlings. It didn’t take the toads long at all, about 2 days, to discover the water and start spawning and croaking away though they would not do the latter when I was walking past; I had to stand still. It only took the cattle egrets another 3 days after that to discover the toads. I was surprised by this as the ponds are covered by seedling trays and not easily recognized as a water body that might harbour food. Did the egrets hear the toads? The egrets are quite used to foraging for food around human activity and are often spotted behind tractors cultivating lands and wandering cattle from where they get their name. They do wander around the nursery from time to time but I this was the first time I’d seen them actually come into the area where the seedlings are grown. While I watched one egret actually caught a toad which attracted the attention of the other egrets that tried to steal the toad. In the end the first egret dropped the hapless toad probably deciding it was too big to eat.

Two days ago I saw another opportunist making her way behind a pump house. She was a large and fluffy cat, not at all the wild type that I would have expected to see. There is a healthy rat population around the nursery so I was quite pleased to see her but I am told she has kittens which could become an issue. Cats of course are feral and can live quite easily around habitation without ever having to directly depend on us.



One response

16 01 2011
La Canadienne

Fabulous picture; today we had a Chickadee at the dogwood. Seems rather pedestrian compared to your lot.

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