Driving around Robins camp in Hwange National Park we spotted this beast, the first one we have found in Zimbabwe. If you looked carefully you may have spotted somewhere in the picture. Below I present you with a close-up where you can see that it is an African Wild cat (Felis lybica).
The following (bad) picture shows some of the characteristic markings of this kind of cat.
I will further ellaborate on this finding in my next post on Hwange National Park.
A short post to share with you a special situation that we have been going through at the farm for the last week or so. White butterflies that usually fly past on a migration somewhere they only know, have arrived. Unlike previous years, they have decided to stay.
Ascia monuste, the great southern white or pirpinto in Argentina is the only species in the genus Ascia. It is found from the United States to Argentina where they migrate yearly but only in one direction and without return. Despite their English name, they are rather small with a wingspan of 63 to 86 mm.
Their main aim is to find plants of the Brassicaceae family (Cabbage, Kale, etc.) to lay their eggs for their larvae to feed on them. However, as there are several sub-species, they can also feed on other plants such as Lettuce, Alfalfa, Cotton, Rice, Potato, Chicory, Cassava, Passion Fruit, Corn, Mustard, Radish, Rocket and Soybeans to name a few.
The larvae will develop in 4 to 5 days and the adults will be appearing a fortnight later and they will feed on the nectar of plants such as saltwort, lantana and verbena while laying their eggs on some of the target species mentioned above.
We were enjoying their visit as they staged a great show that reminds us that Nature is able to create amazing sights.
Unfortunately, Mabel noted that the winged visitors had discovered her treasured rocket plants and they were busy laying their eggs on them so our focus has recently and urgently moved from contemplation to biological control to save our veggies!
On the road and without time to write the few final posts on Ethiopia, I present you with my last contribution for 2020 (although for some of you may be already the first of 2021) with my best wishes for the New Year during which I expect we will all avoid Covid!
Anyway, I found this at the garden and here it is. It seems straight forward but…
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Clearly, the ladybird was too obvious and a distraction! The real hidden beast is this small bluish-gren moth, a real delicate creature, well camouflaged among the leaves.
Finally, after nine months at the farm, Covid 19 cases have decreased in Salta Province (Argentina) and travel restrictions were lifted, although still maintaining the usual precautions.
For a change of scene, we headed for the “Valles Calchaquíes” a string of valleys that go through Catamarca, Tucumán, Jujuy and Salta Provinces. Although I will probably expand on this in future posts, we are now at a place called Payogasta and in the garden of the hotel Mabel found this beast while checking the identity of some of the plants there. So, if it is a tricky “spot”, it is not my fault this time as she found it and took the pictures!
To the left of the yellow flower, there is a toad that was busy catching flies, its whitish mouth gives it away. It is raining in Payogasta, a very dry area. Because of this, a lot of animals usually not seen are now active, including the toads.
I have not been able to continue with “Spots” as we are not travelling and we had gone through our winter in our farm in Salta where we focussed on looking after ourselves in isolation.
The arrival of the spring brought nicer temperatures and things started to change and liven up. Plants and trees started to flower and, because it is dry now, lots of birds have arrived to drink at our water baths.
So, while doing general maintenance preparing for the summer that it seems we would need to spend here, I found this object that, although it is not a usual “beast” it is somehow challenging. Would you guess what it is and what happened here?
I am aware that it is not straight forward… but it gets better if we remove the white cover.
Just in case you did not get what had happened I will explain.
I use the tins of preserve to build bird nests. To this particular one I added the white foam for warmth and used the same material to close it, leaving the round hole for the birds to get in (see first picture, above). They did and you can see their nest at the bottom of the tin. That happened during year one.
The following year a colony of wasps found the tin suitable for their purposes and decided to build their nest inside, on top of the birds’ nest. The birds did not come back again for obvious reasons as these are large and aggressive wasps.
So, removing the wasp’s nest you can actually see the bird’s nest and a few wasp bodies.
Two more pictures to show you the removed wasp’s nest.
While going ahead with a planned holiday with our friend Tom from Zimbabwe, we also got caught in the Covid mess. We planned to visit the Iberá wetlands and then proceed to our farm in Salta where his wife would join us for a few trips around Salta province.
As soon as we were at the Iberá we realized that the virus was behind us or rather the lockdown was and we needed to take fast decisions. So, after only one night there, we opted to go on and attempt to reach our (very) isolated farm where we guessed our chances of survival were best.
So it was that we helped Tom’s wife to cancel her trip and we left very early in the morning. We drove without delay through Corrientes Province towards the Chaco where we spent one short night at Presidencia Roque Saenz Peña, already weary of the approach of the lockdown.
Again, before dawn, we drove non-stop to our farm and we got there a day before the quarantine was imposed by the Argentinian Government and all borders were closed and non-essential travel stopped. Luckily, before this happened we managed to stock-up with essential food to last the three of us for a while. But we were in the countryside, away from the virus!
The view towards the Andean mountains.
We have spent many days watching birds and carrying out house and farm chores that we had accumulated over the years while having a few asados (BBQs) and sessions in the outside oven cooking bread and other delicacies.
Toucans at the farm.
A dusky-legged guan at the feeding table.
So, today we celebrate our 90th. day in quarantine and a couple of days ago, instead of the virus we got internet arriving to the countryside after 13 years of visiting this place so I can resume blogging while I still watch the beauties of nature at the foothills of the Andes until we are able to move again, whenever that may be.