Day 543 – The birds and the bees

Yes, yes. We’re all adults here. We know how this works. Well, apart from the size difference. I mean, I’ve never really understood… ah… never mind. Another time.

But this is a whole different “the birds and the bees” tale.
It doesn’t end up in any sort of procreation – in fact, quite the opposite.

We’re always “beeing” told to look after the honey bees by Big Apiculture. There are news articles, puff pieces and even a film (allegedly featuring some hints of iffy inter-species naughtiness).

It’s superb PR. The cult is hard at work.

They won’t tell you about the dead penguins, though. Oh no.

The absolute buzzy bastards.

The penguins were transported to SANCCOB for post-mortems, and biological samples were sent for disease and toxicology testing. No external injuries were found on the birds, and post-mortems revealed that the penguins suffered multiple bee stings, with many dead bees found at the site of death.
Thus far, the preliminary investigations suggest that the penguins died after being stung by Cape honey bees. A dead penguin was also found on Fish Hoek beach on Saturday, having also sustained multiple bee stings.

There are just 13,000 breeding pairs of these gorgeous, comical, endangered birds left in the entire country, and then some swarm of angry, stripy scumbags knocks off over 3% of the Boulders Beach population in a single, unnecessary hour-long stinging frenzy, ostensibly just for shits and giggles.

Absolute carnage.

You might think that this would be the end of the story, but only if you weren’t aware that penguins are actually rather well-known for two things: waddling and eating fish their absolute lack of forgiveness, and their cold, abiding bloodlust when it comes to avenging their dead brethren.

Who amongst us could forget the great Muizenberg Herring Massacre of 1978?

Exactly.

This now seems almost certain to escalate way beyond a simple local dispute. Already, there are rumours of calls being made by the survivors of this heinous attack to their less monochrome cousins up north, to assist with retaliatory strikes on hives around the Simonstown area. And it seems unlikely to end there, with the prospect of an all-out World War between birds and insects surely very much on the cards, given each sides’ well-recognised aggression towards the other.

Ostriches vs Termites
Chickens taking on Wasps
Pigeons against Beetles

Overall, my money is on the birds. Not so much the penguins – which, while clearly adorable, are also clearly a bit shit at fighting bees (see above) – but overall, the size and maneuverability of the Aves class will surely outdo the sheer numbers of the six-legged warriors, despite their ferocious reputation for organisation and aggression (and killing penguins).

So… are you Team Honey or Team Egg?

Kies jou kant Choose your side wisely, just in case we humans should get dragged into this conflict.

You think the pro-vax/anti-vax thing is getting nasty?
You ain’t seen nothing yet.

More penguin peril

Life is hard if you’re a penguin.

If it’s not humans overfishing your pilchards and (allegedly) changing your climate, it’s large wild cats eating you on the beach. And if you survive them, you’ve got to look out for malaria and beagles. And whalers.

Nope. Being a penguin ain’t easy.

Now though, they face their latest, smallest but possibly biggest challenge yet. Viruses.

Because yes, penguins are birds, and birds get Avian Flu. This is the same H5N8 strain that has been affecting the Western Cape (and beyond) for several months now. I mentioned it back in August here.

We think about it affecting farms (which of course it does), but no-one ever considers wild birds, which – in the Western Cape – include penguins.

And while Boulders Beach – our most local (but not necessarily our best) penguin colony – will remain open for tourists, they will have to take precautions:

Visitors should change shoes and clothes if visiting poultry farms to prevent contamination from one site to another.

Which is important because the chicken farms just outside Robertson have really upped their tourist game recently, and it would be sad to waste all their effort.

Seriously though: fingers crossed that this doesn’t do a lot of lasting damage.

On the rocks


On the rocks, originally uploaded by Ballacorkish.

On the rocks in more ways than one.
I have been suffering with horrendous stomach ache today and it’s because of this that you’re only getting a quota photo this evening.
I am putting it down mainly to last night’s prawn madras: at least the combination of that and the beer and brandy.
Add to that the [few] hours sleep I managed and it’s a recipe for disaster.
The rest of the Boulders photos can be found here. And jolly nice some of them are, too.

More tomorrow, should I last that long.

Smelly penguins are a thing of the past

Here in the Cape, we’re lucky enough to have a couple of local colonies of the African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) which one can pop along and visit, should one feel the need. Summer days are obviously nicest to spend in the sun, by the sea, getting up close and personal with these curious birds; with just one rather large drawback – the smell.

Penguins eat fish (which smells) and then they defaecate (which smells). It’s like smell². In short: penguins stink.

The penguins at Boulders Beach (so called because of the huge boulders there) and at Stony Point (so called because it’s all stony)* are a huge draw for the tourists, most of whom go home with a head full of wonderful memories, a camera full of wonderful photographs and a nose full of wonderfully fishy poo. Each time I go and visit Boulders, I am reminded of the need to do something about the dreadful whiff that greets me as I open the car door. And again when I arrive there.

But now I can, thanks to an offer from The Guardian in the UK. The UK isn’t known for its penguins, but there are, of course, several zoos and wildlife parks which have penguins in them. And I’m guessing that’s the market that The Guardian is trying to corner here, with the Penguin Steam Cleaner:

psc

They’ve even made it look a little bit penguinesque, so as not to frighten the birds on approach.

The Penguin Steam Cleaner features:

  • Continuous 1600 watt high-pressure (good for repeated penguin cleaning)
  • Steam exits at 105°C (bit warm, but penguins are well insulated)
  • Powerful jet nozzle, ideal for awkward spaces (beak, webbed feet, wingpits etc)
  • And it removes creased feathers. What more could you ask for?

    It’s expensive, but I reckon that the SanParks, who run Boulders, could get a better deal if they bought a job lot. After all – they have a whole load of penguins to clean.

    I will be pitching my idea to them later this week by getting one of these wonderful devices, “borrowing” a penguin and demonstrating the myriad of benefits a steam-cleaned penguin colony would bring to both their visitor numbers and their beleaguered olfactory systems.

    * I don’t make the rules.