A Fox, a Bush and a Buzzard

Herd on the Hills, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A rough ridge of the Little River range watching over a quiet herd upon the hills.

Yesterday, for the first time, I saw a fox! I had heard of fox mischief during my childhood but had never actually seen the creature, and so I was stunned to spot one in broad daylight, making its way up a hill, turning briefly to watch me scramble for my camera. The photograph below was the frantic post-scramble result, taken with a hopelessly inadequate lens, as I was set up to photograph landscapes, ill-prepared for the zoom necessary in the moment.

Cape Fox, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

It was, undoubtedly, a Cape Fox (Vulpes chama), also called the Silver-backed Fox, a small animal—about 50 cm (20 in) long, the tail adding a further 30 or so cm (11 in); about 30 cm (12 in) at the shoulder—supposedly nocturnal.

Unknown White-flowered Shrub, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

I also saw a shrub in bloom on a north-facing slope which, like so many species of fynbos1, had been unassuming throughout the year, suddenly to impress in late winter. Unable to come sufficiently close to it, I could not identify it; however, it may be part of the Sutera family—a wild guess, based upon vague similarities with certain species in that family. When next I am in that spot, I shall make the precarious uphill climb and attempt to inspect it properly.

Jackal Buzzard, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

Another sighting (this time, photographed with a more appropriate lens) was of an adult Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus)—a bird I have photographed many a time, and which I captured in hallmark circling flight, three years ago2.

Jackal Buzzard, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

  1. Fynbos (Afrikaans for “fine-bush”, pronounced [feynboss], with the [ey] in “feign” and the [o] in “or”, but shortened)—so named for the relative fine-ness of the shrubbery in the Western Cape province of South Africa—is an extremely heterogeneous heather-like vegetation exclusive to the region; indeed, the province (roughly the size of England) has more plant species than the whole of Europe.
  2. Whilst recording footage for the “Verse One” short film. I shared the unused footage in question to both Facebook and Twitter.

Tseeoo, Tseeuuuu!

This morning, I filmed Cape Clapper Larks (of the sub-species Mirafra apiata marjoriae) in display flight. They were at a distance, so one must look closely at the footage, but this was my first (spontaneous) attempt at recording their performance. Unlike Mirafra apiata apiata (the subspecies I first identified), M. a. marjoriae has two descending whistles: “Tseeoo, tseeuuuu!”

Incidentally, the loud “Kraaaank, kraaaank!” calls you hear throughout the video are those of the glorious—nay, divine—Paradise Crane1 (also known as the Blue Crane, Anthropoides paradiseus, the subject of another poem, “A Crane at Eventide”); the cackling at the 01:36 mark (and elsewhere) is the ubiquitous (and pesky) Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris).

  1. See the “I watched a crane leaping in the wind” heading in “This January” for a brief account of a memorable sighting earlier this year.

Rhebok!

A Rhebok Herd, 13 September 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
My first sighting of a Rhebok herd.

Imagine my utter astonishment when late yesterday evening, I should see ten of the rare Grey Rhebok on a hillside! At first, I spied only two—a male and a female—near the lower part of the slope, but when the female darted uphill, lo—a herd!

Amazed, I started taking pictures without checking any camera settings lest I miss the opportunity to document the moment; the images you see here are the meagre results.

Rhebok Female, 13 September 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
The Grey Rhebok female.
Rhebok Male, 13 September 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
The Grey Rhebok male.

The male I presume the sire. Rhebok herds are comprised of one adult male and a group of about fifteen females and progeny. This is my second sighting of this shy species—and the greatest number yet, having seen only one male before.