Categories
Nature

Weaving for Love…

Southern or Masked Weaver male
Masked Weaver or Southern Weaver male. Photo by Sheldon_55 from Pixabay.

This brightly colored resident of Southern Africa has an incredible skill being able to weave a sturdy nest from strips of grass, bamboo or palm leaves. He goes through a whole routine to find a mate by firstly building the nest, which in itself takes around 15 hours. Then he does a whole lot of singing and fluffing his feathers around shaking them in a wings spread courtship display.

Eventually he will get a females attention and he will flutter around full of excitement, making an incredible fuss, often having to see off other would be suitors in the process. Each time he displays he moves closer to the nest he has built until eventually hanging from the entrance at the bottom of the nest and flapping his wings, all the time singing away.

Weaver nest display
weaver courtship display at base of nest showing entrance. Photo by Daniel Albany from Pixabay.

He then flies away from the nest opening, inviting her to inspect the house that he has built for her. This might take a while with multiple repeats to and from the nest at any point she may become bored with the whole charade and fly off leaving him to start searching for another female.

If he does manage to get her to inspect the nest, she will grasp the underside of the nest with her feet and then enter it from the opening near the base. She will disappear into the nest while he watches, ever hopeful…

If she thinks its good enough it remains as it is and they will start to prepare it by lining it with soft feathers in preparation for breeding…

However, if she doesn’t like it, nobody else will either !

She lets rip !

Tearing the whole thing apart before leaving him all alone and probably wondering what he did wrong!

Never the less, as the master of resilience, he starts again and builds yet another nest ( he may build up to 25 in a season) before trying to entice the next female. He may need to go through this process a number of times in a single season before being accepted.

Once successful and the kids have left home, he may start the whole process again having multiple broods in a season, each one with a different female.

These nests are typically built near water, often in the long dangling branches of the weeping willow tree, or a palm tree, other times in the reeds and even in suburban gardens.

Weaver nest built in reed bed
Weaver Nest built using reeds. Photo by Lynn Greyling from Pixabay.

As can be seen the nest built using reeds is pretty straight forward but the one hanging from a tree is sort of upside down with the entrance at the bottom. However, his design work has catered for the likelihood of the eggs rolling out by making the living area a little recessed from the entrance and a little bit lower.

So why build it like this in the first place?

The advantage of the entrance being below should be seen in conjunction with another feature. He has stripped off all growth on the branch that his nest is hanging on, but why?

The answer is snakes, by having no growth on the branch it makes it more difficult for a snake to access the nest, especially with the entrance below. Its not impossible, but rather difficult.

As a further defense, these little birds often create colonies and if a predator is in the vicinity they make an incredible noise and indulge in flying towards the predator in an intimidating manner.

After all of this the female will lay 2 beautiful blue eggs but could be up to 5 in number. Then it will take 12 days to hatch them. At this point the male helps with feeding the chicks and after 21 days they are ready to fledge. The main diet of these birds are insects, grain and even nectar, they readily accept picnic scraps and other hand outs.

Weaver eggs
Weaver eggs. Photo by Dennis Larsen from Pixabay.

Weavers are the only birds that are able to tie knots!

Categories
Nature

Thirsty Giants…

dessert Elephants
Thirsty Giants on the move. Photo by Blende12 from Pixabay.

Elephants are notoriously famous for their need for vast amounts of food and liter upon liter of water that they drink in a day. This can be up to 50 gallons (200 Liters). The desert elephant on the other hand often has to search for water and this may take days. They rely on their amazing sense of smell to find it, often in dry river beds where they will dig to access it and thereby help other animals to get a drink in a very dry area. A desert elephant, female or ‘cow’ and baby or ‘calf’ can go for about three days without water. The male or ‘bull’ can go for about 5 days without water.

thirsty elephants
Desert elephants inhabit very dry areas of Namibia. Photo by Publicdomainphotos from Pixabay.

Desert elephants can only be found in Mali and in Namibia, they look taller than there better off family that live in more hospitable regions but its more likely due to the smaller body weight which makes the legs look longer on the desert elephants. One may also notice some difference in foot size with the pads appearing bigger which is probably to enable the desert elephant to walk in loose sand. They are in the habit of walking up to 70 km at night in search of water. Usually this trip is prepared for by a few days of eating in one place where they seldom tear up or destroy the trees they eat from.

Another interesting aspect is that desert elephant herds are typically smaller than elephants in water abundant areas, most likely due to scarcity of food.

Namibia has in the region of 100 of these elephants left and the government has created watering points further from human settlements in an attempt to reduce the number of conflict encounters.

Categories
Nature

Ugly but fast

Warthog
warthog tusks

The Warthog named after the four warts found on its face which are used for defense is found over much of Africa’s Savannas. These warts consist of a combination of bone and cartilage. The animal has a reputation for being able to fight although it normally only does that if it has no other option.

When threatened the Warthog runs with its tail pointing straight up in the air. It normally heads for its burrow which it reverses into so it is able to defend its position with its very potent head and tusks. Warthogs can reach speeds of up to 30 mph or 48 km per hour and are very nimble on their feet. Although Warthogs are very competent diggers, they usually take over a burrow left by another animal, the aardvark (direct translation is “earth pig”)which is Africa’s ant eater.

Warthogs spend most of their time digging for roots, grass and berries but also eat prey such as small mammals as well as birds. They will even scavenge for carrion when the opportunity presents itself. The spend a lot of time in a kneeling position to feed, this is due to their necks being short and their legs are relatively long by comparison.

warthog feeding
kneeling warthog

The Male warthog is a boar and the female is a sow with young warthogs being called piglets and groups of warthogs are called sounders.

Although warthogs are prolific breeders their numbers are contained by predation with the main predators being lion, leopards, cheetah, hyenas, crocodiles and wild dogs. Their chief means of defense is speed and getting into a defensive position by reversing into a burrow. They are however, very capable fighters with dangerous tusks and a solid body.

During breeding season boar on boar conflict is common as they fight for conjugal rights. In general they are not territorial but do occupy home ranges. Warthogs have a polyandrous mating system with males and females having multiple partners.

Typically a sow’s litter would consist of between two and eight with the norm being between two and four piglets. Warthogs are known to foster other piglets if they lose their own litter. This behavior is termed ‘allosucking’ and makes them co operative breeders.

Gestation period is roughly 150 to 180 days with the piglets spending six to seven weeks in the burrow. Once they venture into the big wide world the mother will nurse the piglets until 21 weeks old at which point they need to fend for themselves. It will take a total of about 18 months for them to reach sexual maturity but will only gain access to females at around 4 years.

They can expect to live up to between 7 and 11 years but have been known to reach 18 years !

warthog with main