Creatures Great and Small

Yup, that’s a baby whale!

This has been a week when critters prevailed at the beach and the tales are as extraordinary as if they were fabled. It’s hard to know where to begin, so we will go from ground to air to sea.

Neighbour Chris is into snakes. Every time I visit I either have to keep on the deck of their house, or keep my eyes averted as I enter their lounge to avoid looking at the rather attractive Burmese python that is housed in a glass terrarium. The reason for my aversion is the hapless mice and rats in the box with it awaiting ingestion. Chris accuses me of anthropomorphism but I cannot help it – I have far too vivid an imagination and I empathise with all creatures. I even remove spiders and put them outside rather than kill them.

Chris’ brother Scott is here from Dallas writing his thesis at the moment. His feelings about the terrarium are similar to mine: cages just don’t sit well whether the creatures in them have any feelings or understanding about being incarcerated or not. I met him while walking on the dune roads wild-eyed and gabbling. Gradually the tale unfolded.

Another snake, this time a Natal green snake had been found and put in the glass cage, together with the python and the rat. This snake was to be the pet of Chris’ fourteen year old son. They came downstairs one morning to find the rat had completely eviscerated the green snake. A part of me wanted to say: “Good for you! Go, rat, go!” An awful story, which to my mind, completely explained Scott’s agitation. The tale, however, did not end here.

The next day, Scott was in the kitchen when he heard thuds coming from the lounge accompanied by some rather high-pitched shouting. The rat was now attacking the python who was trying to shed its skin, and the thuds were the rat being bounced off the glass walls as the python, who was bleeding on its head and elsewhere, defended itself. Scott decided, quite rightly in my opinion, to ignore all that was happening and continue preparing dinner. He suggested to his nephew that he too find something else to do and let nature take its course. That is, until he heard a new sound: bang, bang-bang, bang-bang-bang. He flew out of the kitchen to find Chris shooting at the rat with a BB gun! At this point he decided enough was enough and left home!

Yellow billed kites are summer residents here and they floated in a couple of weeks ago. It is interesting watching Snatch’s reaction to these graceful aviators. She seems to know that she is too big for them, but she takes up a defensive crouch and watches them very carefully over her shoulder just to make sure that they aren’t singling her out for dinner. They are most intrepid and come in close to look for any scraps that might be waiting for them. A piece of meat on the pole at the end of the deck was adroitly collected. The cucumber was discarded.

The highlight of the week for me, however, was going fishing with my son and neighbour from atop the dune, John. The chaps who run the charter business are located a little south of here and are characters of note. The sort of rough diamonds one tends to find in these more remote locations. John’s wife Jane has nicknamed them “The Cowboys”. So it was with a spirit of resilience that we met Philip on the beach, boarded Calypso and set out to sea.

The fishing was abysmal, but the whale spotting was extraordinary.

Our first sighting was a calf erupting out of the water like a bullet straight into the air. Not once, but over and over again with all the exuberance of youth on a frivolous Friday morning. My camera clicked away, and I managed to miss all of the show! But I was thrilled on putting them onto the computer to discover that I did, in fact, have two very blurred outlines of whales and I am proudly sharing the least blurry of these with you. These are hump backed whales, and whilst not the biggest of the species they are pretty huge, especially close up.

Next we had a cow and her calf cross within spitting distance in front of us. As skipper Philip said, even the babies made our boat look small. We watched them swim by us in awed silence feeling somehow privileged to be allowed so close to mammals that most of us know best from books.

The grand finale was a pod which treated us to a full display of all their antics. They started with the fin slap, then onto the tail whacking with a few back flips thrown in. It was utterly amazing and we yelped with delight at each new trick that was performed for us. I was flabbergasted at the amount of water that is displaced when these enormous mammals do a backflip.

We came back fairly tired out after a day on the water to continue the battle of the bats. Faithful Arlindo arrived half an hour before sunset, armed with his netting and Silicone spray, to continue his quest to secure our gingerbread house against these useful but noxious critters. My son had had little sleep because of the incessant rustling and squeaking in the walls of his bedroom. Saturday morning we were awoken around four to hysterical shrieking and thudding against the walls of the house as the bat brigade returned to find eviction notices across their access points.

We ended the week sitting on the beach last night watching the full moon come up over the ocean. It was incredible. Once again I stood in awe of my Creator, overwhelmed by His grandeur and the opulence of His creation. I can’t wait to see all He has for me this week!

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One thought on “Creatures Great and Small”

  1. And I fully agree with Rio’s final assessment after the carnage in the snake pit — he is opting for a plant! Any ideas where we can get a Venus Flytrap? Thanks for writing up these stories. They are gems!

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