This is something that almost everyone reading this has heard of.
No, that is not Yuletide crack.
If you live in a westernised country, you’ve been talking about it since you were small. You’ve sung songs about it. You’ve watched people carry it about in little boxes or in bottles on stage. And if you’re anything like me, you have never really bothered to find out what it was. Maybe this will help.
Yes, good people, that funny yellow dried snot looking stuff is myrrh. As in “gold, frankincense and myrrh.” It was of huge religious importance in biblical times. It was used by the Egyptians to embalm their dead and by other groups, including the Israelites, as incense in their temples. It was pretty hard to come by. So hard, in fact, that it could be mentioned in the same breath as gold as a nifty little present for a baby. And it was made by beating up a living creature and harvesting its blood. Continue reading →
The Lowveld is not exactly a wet place. It is, in fact, rather dry. It is criss-crossed by a network of dry, sandy riverbeds that flow maybe four or five times a year, after heavy rain, to be swallowed up by the sand again after a few days in the driving heat of the sun.
A while back, I wrote a post about a magic tree. A magic penis tree. It was, of course, not really magic at all. It just had such strange, unlikely fruit that it some odd beliefs got attached to it. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any magic trees down in the Lowveld. Here’s one.
If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that I occasionally write about the ecosystem of the Lowveld. These last few weeks, I’ve been writing about owls. Lots of them. I like owls. But I must confess to being just about over writing about owls.
I’ve never seen a Bushpig. I have loved wildlife for as long as I can remember, and wherever I go, I keep an eye open for things that creep and crawl and growl and bustle about in the undergrowth. I’ve seen quite a lot over the years, and in terms of mammals, I can page through a South African mammal guide and tick off most of the list, not counting rats and mice and bats, because life is too short.
A Bushpig. I think. It might be a Pangolin.
There are a couple of ticks missing. I’ve never seen a Serval, or a Pangolin. But that’s OK. Hardly anyone has. They’re pretty rare. But I’ve never seen that Bushpig, either. And they are not rare at all. Better yet, they tend to cling on in areas where most other big mammals have been wiped out. They are pests for farmers, and lurk around in thickets along hiking trails and wilderness areas. Continue reading →
I’ve been threatening to carry on writing about owls for a while, and now that I’ve arranged a place for them to sit, today is the day I do so. As I have said, the Lowveld supports ten different species of owl. We’ve dealt with one of them, in a bit of a hurry. Today, we deal with another three.
When most people think of owls, they tend to picture the sorts of birds that flapped around in the Harry Potter movies; large, powerful birds that would have no problem carrying obscure magical packages around. These are not those sorts of owls. These are small owls. Tiny owls.
I had promised I would get round to writing about Lowveld owls soon. And I will. Soon. But when I sat down to write about them this morning, I realised I had not arranged a place for them to sit. Fear not. I’m on it. They can sit in one of these, in a few centuries time;
It will be well worth the wait. Look at those fine, spreading branches!
I had promised to do a post on the owls of the Lowveld. I’m not going to. I’m going to do a few. And today, I’m going to do a very short one indeed. I’ve been called away on an emergency. I have to go the bush for a night. There I will be forced to spend an afternoon driving around looking at elephants and rhinos while sipping an ice-cold beer before being forced to endure yet another African sunset, while the meat sizzles over the fire and I force down a glass of chilled white wine.
I woke up this morning in the mood to write about Lowveld owls. Actually, to tell the truth, I woke up this morning in the mood to not be awake. The cold has finally moved in, and I would like to take to my bed and stay there ‘til spring.
But life goes on, so Lowveld owls it is. Or rather owls it isn’t. Most places have one or two species of owls. The Lowveld has about seven. That involves quite a lot of research, and cannot be whipped off on a whim. And besides, there’s something in the way that must be dealt with first. The not-owls.
At a glance, the night belongs to the bats. There are tens of millions of them, flitting unseen through the dark. They are hugely successful; about 20 per cent of all mammal species are bats. But bats have their limitations. There are some things evolution hasn’t had time to do to their basic design yet. They have left some room, out there in the cold and the dark, for those other denizens of the air; the birds.
And now you are thinking of owls. But there are other birds out there in the dark. Certainly there are down in the Lowveld. So let’s get those out of the way before we tackle the owls.
The Bat Hawk.
It may look intense, but it’s the worlds laziest bird.