with 4 Comments

Hyena in the garden

This week: Blocked holes; Hymenopterist required ; Autumn fruits; Patience; Hyena in the garden;

Cumulus clouds
Cumulus clouds

We had 14mm so just over a half inch of rain this week and more is forecast for this weekend and next week. It has done some good, but we need more

Looking out of my study window, large fluffy Cumulus clouds are building over Brač. Because of the forced perspective, they look close.

In fact they are over Trogir, Kastela and the mainland north of Split where high limestone bluffs forces warm, moist air to rise, cool and condense.

But with luck, this may be the start of the Autumn rains season.


Blocked holes

Things conspire against you!

A couple of weeks ago ( Week 34 ) I bored out the holes in some fence posts to go in the Drupe Orchard. I also mentioned that I would be cutting the threaded bar that I’d purchased, so they were the correct length to take the fittings.

4 holes in each post
4 holes in each post

Well when I put the bar in the vice in my workshop, got the power hacksaw out of its case and fitted a new blade, it made almost no impression on the bar. It certainly didn’t cut through it.

Using a new hand hacksaw blade had a similar result, although I did manage to cut all the way through. I need sixteen 10mm lengths, so one was really not a lot of use.

By chance I had purchased stainless steel threaded bar. I hadn’t gone looking for stainless steel, because I didn’t think it would be available on the island. I had breezed into my favourite local builders merchants, picked two lengths of 8mm bar from the display, paid and left.

Stainless Steel, being harder than mild steel needs a different blade to cut it with. You guessed, they don’t have that kind of hacksaw blade available! So I had left the job unfinished pending getting the right tool for the job.


Hymenopterist required

The posts have been left where I propped them, after I bored the holes, waiting for the hardware. Then on Sunday I noticed that where I could see daylight through the holes, several had suddenly become blocked. Looking closely, both ends have been filled with a clay bung, very neatly applied, completely sealing the holes. Ten holes out of 16 have been blocked.

No light
No light at the end of the tunnel

I’m used to finding all kinds of insects making homes in unlikely places. Obviously something had laid an egg, provided food and then blocked up the hole, but what?

Then as I was passing one afternoon I saw a wasp neatly completing another bung. This is a small Thread Waisted Wasp, a Sphecidae. They are known for their impossibly thin body central sections, although this one is not as thin, or as large as some that I have in the garden.

Small wasp
Small wasp

I learnt a new English word this week – hymenopterist – a person who studies hymenoptera, which includes sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There is even a separate family (in Latin of course) for wasps, Apocrita and the Wikipedia page lists more links than I have had time to look at. So I am not sure exactly what species of wasp my bung maker is.

Wasp but what kind
Wasp, but what kind?

I have seen “Bug hotels” and making one is one of those little jobs I will get round to sometime.

Bug hotels come in lots of different sizes. Some quite diminutive and easy to build, like this one from the wood workers of Wood Green, London

Small bug hotel
Small bug hotel

To this somewhat more involved project, using re-purposed pallets, definitely more of a hotel than a B&B, by Garden Design.

Large bug hotel
Large bug hotel

I have lots of off-cuts and spare bits of timber, but clearly the 8mm holes were exactly the right size for this wasp. I will leave them in peace so they can hatch and fly next spring, by which time I might have the right kind of hacksaw blades to cut stainless steel!


Autumn fruits

It is definitely autumn now. Most of our summer visitors have left. The car parks are empty, there is only one checkout lane needed at our local “hypermarket” and the roads have emptied of traffic.

Our busy coastal highway
Our busy coastal highway

In places the white grape harvest has started, although there will be a meagre crop this year. Whilst for me I have a few autumn peaches.

Late variety peaches
Late variety peaches

I’m still picking figs, but there have not been as many as last year, also weather related I suspect.

The Pomegranates will be ready soon then it will be the citrus fruits.

Ripening Pomegranate
Ripening Pomegranate

Although there was abundant blossom on the apples and pears, the wet May, followed by three months of heat made all the fruit drop before anything could be harvested.

I’ve also cleared out the greenhouse this week, removing the last of the hydroponics, which as I’ve reported before, need I think, a specific variety of tomato. I have turned the propagator off and my rooted cuttings have been removed.

Autumn is that time of year when everything is tidied up, getting ready for winter


Patience

I have waited all summer for these flowers.

Ice Plant
Ice Plant

When I was over in Split in February, I found some Ice Plants at the garden centre, although there was no indication of the type or colour of the flowers.

Along the Freeways of the South Western United States, great swathes of these plants have spread way beyond the intended scope of their planting. The variety called Hottentot Fig is now classed as an invasive species in several areas of the USA.

I bought four plants to try. I’ve nursed them in the barren area close to where the pond will be. Ice plants are extremely drought tolerant, hardy plants so I was delighted when they started to spread.

Coopers Ice Plant
Coopers Ice Plant

This week I have been rewarded with their first flowers and I can identify them as Coopers Ice Plant, Delosperma cooperi. This is an import from South Africa, but one which thrives in the Mediterranean climate.

With horticulture I find all you need is a little knowledge and lots of patience…


Hyena in the garden

I was in that half dream state, as your levels of consciousness rise rapidly through the stages of NREM sleep to awake. It was still dark and I was trying to work out why someone was laughing in the garden outside my window.

No 1 cat Risha bounced across the bed on his way to peer out of the open window. The laughing reminded me of a Hyena call. I was wondering why there would be a Hyena in the garden.

I’ve heard Hyenas call at night on my visits to the Emirates Park Zoo. After the sun has set, the sounds of the nocturnal animals would transport you to the great plains of the Serengeti.

Hyena cub
Hyena cub

Wild Hyenas are not the most cuddly of animals except when they are small. They are now being used in medical research because of their ability to deal with deadly toxins.

Their mocking call once heard will not be easily forgotten.

But this is the Adriatic not sub-Saharan Africa. I was by now fully awake.

The bursts of “Ha, ha, ha” continued from somewhere close by. Then the sound of laughter was moving away, growing fainter. I was considering getting up and finding my digital recorder, when I realised the call was now too faint to be recorded. Risha had lost interest and had gone back to bed.

The calling had also woken my ornithologist neighbour Steve, and he identified the call as a contact call from a juvenile Eagle Owl. There was an adult I could hear calling too.

Eagle Owl
Eagle Owl – Stari Grad Plain Maquis. Photo Steve J.

We have an Eurasian Eagle Owl, Bubo bubo in the Maquis behind my Dol house. I hear her calling all winter, a solitary and rather sad and lonely sounding Boo, Boo, Boo. Very seldom do I hear any response.

I’ve seen her silently flying at dusk, or silhouetted against a twilight sky, sitting high in a tree and resembling a small barrel. Listening to the first call on this you tube video, you will get the idea of how the contact calls sounds like laughter.

I have heard the same calls, but not quite as close, early on another morning, so they are definitely about and hunting. Wish I had some nigh vision goggles…. NRC

4 Responses

  1. Andy Robinson
    | Reply

    Life’s never dull in Dol, Norman!

  2. Andy Obridge
    | Reply

    Angle grinder with a cutting disc for Inox Norman for your bar.
    I have one if you care to pop over later!

  3. Denis W
    | Reply

    Hi Norm
    In relation to cutting your stainless threaded bar ,I always us an angle grinder with a thin For Stainless Steel
    cutting disc .It makes a nice flat neat end and is quicker than a saw
    If you carnt get any on the island let me know and I will send you some .

  4. Marcy
    | Reply

    Once again thank you for sharing. Had no idea that an owl can sound like a hyena. Learn something new from you every week. Your Patience flowers are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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