A Little Out of Whack

A good few years back my step-mum gave me a Zygocactus. It’s supposed to bloom on my birthday, which is still a month away. I read today that Zygocactus “flower in response to shortening daylength (actually lengthening nights)”. Four floors below us, a neighbour has the same plant on the identical balcony, but positioned slightly closer to the front of it. Theirs is just starting to bud up. Maybe their days are longer because they are closer to the ground 🙂

I was born on the shortest day of the year (in the southern hemisphere), so it makes sense that its flowering at that time would have something to do with less daylight. When I was a child I used to complain to my mother that I was dudded* – I didn’t get as much birthday as other children. She told me that when I grew up, it would be the longest night, laying an emphasis that suggested that would be something secret and exciting. I’m still waiting to work out what she meant.                (* ripped off, conned).

Anyway, thinking of short days reminds me that winter should soon be with us, but today was such a glorious day – around 22’c (10’F  71.6’F) – that there is little sign of it yet. And that seems to have the natural world around us in a spin.

Recently on my walks I have noticed a swallow’s nest. It is built on top of the fire alarm bell beside the front door to the golf club. There are three chicks in the nest, still being fed by the adults. You can just see their heads bob up, but oh boy – when food is near, those tiny beaks can really open wide! Reading up, it seems this must be a flock of Welcome Swallows, described as “metallic blue-black above, light grey below on the breast and belly, and rust on the forehead, throat and upper breast”.  I can’t attest to all of that. They flit around so quickly, that all I have seen is the flash of metallic blue and their forked tail. I think this variety is meant to have finished breeding by now, and should be getting ready to migrate. Perhaps they are a newly married couple who are still getting to know the ropes. Or perhaps these balmy days have them confused.

It reminded me that last November, I spent a day watching a confused pair of moorhens. They were busy building a nest on the waterway you can see in the background of the Zygocactus photo above. Slap bang in the middle of the pond, right out in the open, for all the crows and seagulls and other predators to see. Perhaps they were also a newly married couple still learning the ropes.

It was just a clump of water grass and some stray twigs to begin with.

But with a lot of determined swimming back to the river bank for more materials …

They soon had a respectable new home. Mum wasted no time in laying a clutch of eggs in it, then settled herself in for the afternoon. Dad stayed around to offer ‘helpful’ advice.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I went out for a couple of hours, and when I returned, all excited to see their progress, I saw that the nest had been abandoned and the eggs had disappeared. By nightfall, the nest had broken apart and was just a clutter of twigs and debris floating on the water.

Another of our bird neighbours is a spoonbill. This one is a male in full mating plumage. These fabulous photos are courtesy of Michael Rayner, and his copyright should be attributed if they are to be used elsewhere.

Meanwhile, I guess by the time my birthday comes around, my zygo will be “cactus” ( dead, useless, broken).

So I plan on enjoying it to the maximum now. A beautiful birthday gift which keeps on giving, year after year.



Many thanks to Lord BeariofBow for pointing out my conversion error on the Fahrenheit scale. It must have been a Freudian slip though, as today the temperature was a chilly 10’C (or 50’F) 🙂

12 thoughts on “A Little Out of Whack

  1. We have daft moorhens here and swallows of course, but absolutely nothing as weirdly glamorous as the spoonbill, great photos. Still have to blink and think twice to remember that June can also have the shortest day of the year!!! Happy Birthday for the shortest day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Rayner asks me to assure everyone that the spoonbill did not raid the moorhens nest. He feels I may have rushed that part of the story 🙂 I have some great video of the spoonbill feeding in the creek, but nothing as glamorous as mating attire. And thanks for the birthday wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Been hitting the grog again Gwen? 22º C = 10º F?

    By my calculations 22ºC = 71.6º F

    Couldn’t you find a spot for down the gurgler? I’m sure Derrick would love that one, then again he may have already come across it in one of mine some time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a matter of fact I WAS on my second red – glass … not bottle. And it was late. Did it show that much? Seriously, I threw the mistake in deliberately as a test. Congratulations! You passed 🙂 Perhaps we should do a series of combined blogs on Australian slang. Our attempt to save the language. Although it is hard to imagine the American takeover of our lingo will ever match, ‘As dry as a dead dingo’s donger’.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Those cactus plants are beautiful! I grew up referring to them as “Christmas cactus,” because for us in the US they bloom around Christmas time… After Europe, I’m headed back to South Africa and will arrive there during the heat (or rather cold) of their winter – which hopefully will bring them much needed rain!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s right, it’s the same plant. Also known as Schlumbergera. I suspect South Africa and Australia have much in common in terms of landscape and climate. I’ve ordered some warmer clothes via the internet, but I have a parka I had to buy for a Parisian autumn which will not get used all winter unless we have a trip to the snow. One Australian’s winter is a northerner’s spring 🙂


I love comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s