Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann Column 5 - Let’s talk about other species

The other evening I sat at my computer working on a text when a beetle came visiting, one species I have never seen before and not shy at all. I later looked it up in my clever wildlife book and found it was a rhino beetle. We have quite a wildlife in our garden and on my daily walks through it I have come across many varieties of birds, reptiles, insects and mammals and I enjoy my encounters with them. Summer arrives by the sound of the cicadas when we discover their carcasses they have left for one short season in our trees after many years hidden in the earth. How delicately woven these spider nets are, glittering in the early sun with the owner sitting in the middle; lately I encountered one as big as my hand. Or the paper pulp nests the wasps build around a twig, however, they are less welcome inside the house, in my wardrobe or under the roof. Artisans they are, chewing up material and mixing it with saliva. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a praying mantis? I often wondered what she is thinking. In South Africa she is regarded as a goddess in traditional myths and practices of aboriginal tribes. When I do my rounds in the swimming pool I often see red dragonflies waiting for a drop of water by the side of the pool. Or magpies hop down the steps to drink directly from the pool water, they are used to us. We don’t use chemicals but the silver/copper method to keep our pool water clean. Once a pigeon got entrapped in our skimmer; unfortunately we realized it too late, she was very weak when we rescued it from its prison and although I did everything I could, it died of exhaustion. The partner pigeon stayed around the pool for over a week looking for its other half. The reptile species are in danger from my cats, the geckos and the chameleons, how often have I saved one of these eye rolling slow chameleons from my cats’ paws. When there is a very dry year, rats and mice come to where water is, pierce the water hoses and finish all our almonds. We used to have black snakes which are supposed to keep the garden clear of those but unfortunately they have left us. I love my birds, we have many varieties come to our garden, especially when the hunters are around. Robins, Jays, swallows, even one hoopoe I encountered one day; and then there are very tiny birds very much like humming birds when the aloes are in bloom; sparrows by the hundreds choosing one special tree for their meetings, crows, magpies, they had babies this year just opposite our terrace and we could hear the excited cries when mom and dad came back with the food; at night we hear the owls ..unk unk…and if we are lucky, even a nightingale. Above the ravine around our garden we often see small falcons and hear francolins call in the mating season. One day a jay bumped its head on a glass door and was unconscious; I picked it up and did what my grandmother used to do with me, flatten the bump with a cold knife blade. When it came to it stayed with me for over an hour, resting and taking some water. And not to forget the story of our fox kit which came living with us for some weeks eating next to our cats, it must have lost its mother. A very dense population around us, you see, we are not alone, never. I havn’t even counted all the bees and flies, the moscitoes, the ants and snails, the bugs, especially the carpenter bug drilling holes into everything wooden. And they all live with a reason. I sometimes ask myself if we humans do.

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