Google – man’s and a bird’s best friend

If Google can tell you what to feed runaway rabbits, I assumed it would be able to inform me what to feed the 13 tiny guinea fowl which were hatched out last week in a quiet corner of our garden.

At least I think there were 13. Counting the keets – the term for baby guineas younger than 12 weeks – was difficult. They kept darting around mom and dad keeping watch for a passing feral peacock. Although our local guineas and peacocks live harmoniously on the same farm down the road, the omnivorous peacocks chase and eat keets.

A few years ago a neighbour tried unsuccessfully to rescue a couple of new-borns chased by a greedy peacock into a stormwater drain.

The bleating from deep below the road went on for a couple of days.

Uncertain what to offer the baker’s dozen of brown blobs on the lawn, I threw down tiny pieces of softened bread and handfuls of wild bird seed.

The adults responded but not the keets.

This lack of hunger was explained by Dr Jacquie Jacob of the University of Kentucky who in the Google article wrote that newly hatched keets, like all birds, can survive for 48 hours on the nutrients they take in when they absorb the yolk during hatching.

However, when the whole family of guineas returned to the garden three days later, 
I wished I’d bought a packet of poultry food.

Dr Jacob said that domestic keets do quite well on commercial chicken food although they do need a higher protein feed than chickens, but those in the wild soon learn to forage with their parents.

While some people find the loud nickering of guineas a nuisance, the noise is considered a bonus for those on farms and small holdings.

The racket they kick up when disturbed makes them an effective “burglar alarm” and some farmers regard them as their watch dogs.

Other good deeds awaiting to be performed by our 
13 keets – if they are lucky 
to survive to adulthood – include keeping down mice and small rats, consuming large amounts of insects without affecting garden vegetables and flowers, controlling wood ticks, grasshoppers, flies and crickets. Whole flocks of guineas have been known to attack and kill snakes.

Roots up

If ever there was a salutary lesson for homeowners to be wary about putting too much time, money, love and effort into the verges, it is the example of what has happened to the beautiful bank of mauve and white bougainvillea in Maryland Avenue, Tokai.

A host of plants in full bloom are now lying, some with roots exposed, in the shade of the pavement across the road. They have been dug up by the team of workmen digging trenches all over Tokai to make way for the installation of fibre to the home (FTTH), the replacement of old copper phone cables with optical fibre which apparently will make a dramatic improvement to internet connections.

Passers-by seeing the state of the once-beautiful slope with sand dumped all over the remaining plants during the removal of the others, have expressed sympathy for the owners and wondered how such carnage could have been allowed.

The hard truth is homeowners do not own the land in front of their houses. The verges, however beautified, are there for the installation and maintenance of services.

One hopes that the teams that try hard to replace the grass and plants continually being removed for the FTTH initiative, will be able to restore the site to something of its former glory. Much will depend on how long the plants are out of the ground and how easily bougainvillea recover from being moved. Possibly some new established plants will be required to fill the gaps of those that succumb.

Eye-opener

Recently I spent two hours as a passenger in a car driven by a patroller of the Tokai Neighbourhood Crime Watch team. It was an eye-opener.

What struck me was how dark the streets, homes and gardens are at night. That’s because street lighting is permitted only on main roads. So the quiet lanes and cul-de-sacs depend entirely on the lights of the car to show up.

What made a noticeable difference to the gloominess were those lights embedded by homeowners in their surrounding garden walls.

Keeping them burning all night must chew up the electricity.

It was early in the evening, too early for the opportunists to be moving around in search of a chance to break into a car, garage or climb through an open window. The only things we saw moving around were three cats.

Those two hours really made me appreciate the service willingly performed by those who regularly patrol at nights and into the early hours of the morning while putting up with endless snatches of conversation over the community-radio from the police and other protection units.

Remembering a friend

I knew Pam Golding only by sight from saying “good evening” to her as she sat in her wheelchair at The Friends of Music’s reception following many a concert of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in the City Hall. Over time I exchanged brief views with her on the soloists or the wonderful music we had heard and always she was polite and friendly without any airs and graces.

I will miss seeing her straight black hair and friendly smile during the next series of concerts. I can’t believe she was 90. She came across as an amazing personality.

Fat vs fun

If you want to avoid things that make you fat don’t look at scales, mirrors, photographs and selfies.

fionachisholm@iafrica.com