vergenoegd wine estate, stellenbosch, indian runner ducks, ducks, cute, animals, winelands, winter adventures

Snaps: Vergenoegd runner duck parade

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have a real weakness for animals. Especially cute ones.

Just dip into the Gypsified archives and you will find plenty of evidence – phantom cat syndrome, alpaca cuddling with Marli, Monday menagerie, sleepy owls, lonely whales and, of course, a Sandokan overload.

So, when Vergenoegd Wine Estate’s daily duck parade started making headline news sometime earlier this year, it wasn’t very long before I developed a serious obsession.

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How to know if you’re suffering from phantom cat syndrome

I have a cat. His name is Sandokan. He’s a big, fat tabby that weighs in at around 8kg with a temper to match his size. Everyone’s scared of him, including me. Despite his unexpected swipes and frequent hand mauls, I really do love him. And miss him a lot… because, you see, he doesn’t live with me.

I got him in 2009 when he was just a tiny kitten with big ears, big eyes and a tiny belly and I was in the last phase of writing my thesis. For about six months we lived in bliss, him frequently launching his mini feline body across the room and skidding along the highlighted pages carefully arranged on my bed or desk; me, in turn, insisting on constant cuddles that would cramp his tiny style. We got on each other’s nerves, but always made up just in time for him to find a cozy spot on my head/face/neck to sleep while I lay in meditative shavasana so as not to disturb his delicate rest.

At the end of that year I got an amazing internship opportunity that would send me careering off across the country – from Cape Town to Joburg to Port Elizabeth, and back to Joburg and Cape Town again – for the whole of 2010. There was (and still is) nothing Sandokan hates more than a road trip, so it became obvious that our paths would have to split for those twelve months. I put him in foster care with my parents in Betty’s Bay, comforting myself with the knowledge that he had a huge backyard to play around in, fynbos to explore, field mice to pester and birds to dream of catching.

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Cute white alpaca at the Alpaca Loom Coffee Shop & Weaving Studio

An adventure of unparalleled cuteness? Alpaca my bags!

It was just before 8am on Heritage Day morning and Marli and I were rushing along Agter Paarl road in an effort to get her to a trail run – that would be starting in about t-10 minutes at Spice Route – on time.

I was still a little groggy and bleary-eyed and not yet able to fully appreciate the picturesque scenery unfolding (at top speed, I might add) around me: spring-green vineyards with hazy purple mountains towering above them, white ducks kicking up concentric waves in otherwise glassy dams, little houses sending tentative columns of smoke up into the blue – preempting the braai fires that would later be lit.

You know, the standard sort of winelands prettiness one can expect from this time of year.

And then I suddenly found myself doing a double take – as though my body responded to what I’d seen before my mind could quite register.

It was a simple black silhouette on a sign post – recognisable in its absolute ridiculousness, unmistakable in its unexpectedness:

“Alpacas!” Marli and I exclaimed in unison.

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Monday menagerie: Flamingos

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Let me just start by admitting that I have, rather sadly, never paid flamingos much attention.

I knew about them, of course (I mean, who doesn’t?!): large birds, pink plumage, crooked beaks, like wading around algae-filled lakes, and sometimes the ocean. Pretty ridiculous all in all. Just not ridiculous enough to drag my attention away from elephants and owls. *Sigh*

Maybe it was the trashy trailer park connection that put me off. (But probably not). Or maybe, like with particularly flashy people, I just didn’t really know how to handle their over-the-top gregariousness, so avoided them instead.

Whatever the case may be regarding my former indifference, the fact is I’ve suddenly developed a solid fascination with these jewels of the air and water. And I think I have Karen Blixen to thank (or maybe blame), as it was one of her signature wish-I-could-write-like-that kind of descriptions in Out of Africa that made me sit up and see flamingos for the wildly fantastic creations they are.

The flamingos are the most delicately coloured of all the African birds, pink and red like a flying twig of an oleander bush. They have incredibly long legs and bizarre and recherche curves of their necks and bodies, as if from some exquisite traditional prudery they were making all attitudes and movements in life as difficult as possible…

The noble wader of the Nile, the sister of the lotus, which floats over the landscape like a stray cloud of sunset…

(Don’t you wish you could describe something like that?)

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By Steve from washington, dc, usa – flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3963547

So, let’s get right to it… Flamingos. A few fun facts:

  • There are six flamingo species: the Greater (found in parts of Africa, southern Europe and southern Asia), the Lesser (found in Africa e.g. the Rift Valley and NW India), the Chilean (temperate South America), James’ flamingo (High Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina), Andean flamingo (same as James) and American flamingo (Caribbean, Mexico, Belize and Galapagos) 
  • Flamingos are known to be monogamous (how romantic, right?). They form strong pair bonds of one male and one female, although in larger colonies flamingos sometimes change mates, presumably because there are more mates to choose from (not so romantic, but totally understandable).
  • The pink, orange or red color of a flamingo’s feathers is caused by carotenoid pigments in their food, and a flamingo’s diet includes shrimp, plankton, algae and crustaceans.
  • They don’t only appear to be hugely flamboyant. They actually are that way as well!! They’re gregarious and highly sociable, dwelling in flocks of up to a million or more.
  • In the wild their life expectancy is 20 – 30 years, while they have been known to turn 50 in captivity. That’s really, really old for a bird!
  • Finally, flamingos are fun.

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Pic sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

Bizarre Friday video

sloth and cat

This is probably the most bizarre, yet cute video I have EVER seen. And I think you might agree. It involves a sloth, a cat and a lot of long-clawed stroking. Weird. But cute. But weird. But…

Thanks Imar for passing it on.

Want MOAR sloths? Check out this Monday Menagerie post I did a while ago.

Oh, and just to end the post off on an equally cute and bizarre note, here’s a gif of a cat in a shark suit chasing a duckling while riding a Roomba.

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Monday Menagerie: Pallas’ Cat

So you think you’re having an identity crisis, do you? Well, today I’d like to introduce you to a creature that is certainly far more confused than you have ever been.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Pallas’ Cat… or the Manul.

While undeniably adorable with all that soft-looking fluffiness and the huge eyes, these little guys are pretty damn weird-looking.

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Photo: Wikipedia

I mean, let’s just take a moment to study the above photograph. Firstly, I’d like you to place your hand over the lower half of its face. What do you see? A monkey, right? Or maybe a teddy bear on a caffeine buzz.

Now, place your hand over the upper half of its face. What do you see now? A slightly grumpy kitty, no? Maybe a Dr. Seuss character on the loose then.

Okay, now, let’s move on to this next picture.

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Photo: Wikipedia

Place your hand over its head and look at that body. What is that?! Some strange sort of marsupial (but aren’t all marsupials slightly strange? I hear you ask. Yes, yes they are), a misplaced soft toy?

Well, the truth is the manul is generally accepted to belong to the cat family. Not sure how the other felines feel about this, but guess it gives old Pallas’ Cat some feeling of belonging… if you can ignore those round pupils and the koala-like ears.

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Photo: Zooborns

They are found in the grasslands and montane steppe of Central Asia and have been classified as near-threatened by IUCN since 2002, due to habitat degradation, prey base decline, and hunting.

Here are a few fun facts:

  • The species was first described in 1776 by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas.
  • Pallas’s cats are solitary. 

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Photo: Wikipedia

  • They spend the day in caves, rock crevices, or marmot burrows, and emerge in the late afternoon to begin hunting. 
  • They are not fast runners, and hunt primarily by ambush or stalking, using low vegetation and rocky terrain for cover.
  • They feed largely on diurnally active prey species such as gerbilspikasvoles and Chukar partridges, and sometimes catch young marmots.

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Photo: Wikipedia

Sound like all-round pleasant little blokes to me! Your best bet of ever seeing one, would probably be in a North American zoo. Not sure if there are any in the Joburg Zoo or the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria (let me know if there are – would love to see them!)

Alternatively, take a trip to the mountainous regions of KyrgyzstanPakistanKazakhstanMongoliaKashmir or the Tibetan Plateau… if you dare!

Cool internet finds

Friends, today I experienced one of the most ass-kicking internet days of my entire life. It’s true.

There was just so much goodness finding its way onto my screen, as though I had been manifesting “lols,” “awws” and “awesomes” for months on end, a-la followers of/believers in The Secret, only to have it all culminate in one spectacular day!

It’s been so overwhelming, I just had to share the cream of the already very creamy crop with you.

Rock ‘n Roll bride

Rockabilly brides with red shoes and tattoos, grungy grooms, pink hair, leopard print, skulls and all sorts of wayward wedding paraphernalia feature on this bouncy blog. And while not all the weddings are equally aesthetically pleasing, it’s cool to see gutsy people doing something different. Go check it out and tell me your thoughts!

Naming James

Photo: Naming James website

I don’t know how this swashbuckling singer/song writer/string breaker from Johannesburg has been scooting around under my radar for so long, but it kind of feels like time wasted! Listen to a few of the sample tracks from his/their (not too sure) first full length album, ‘The Butcher’s Knife,’ and then come watch him/them perform at Zula Bar on August 18. Peachy Keen will be there too!

Buttermilk, the bouncy goat

Just a video of a cute little goat with waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much energy. Even his brothers and sisters don’t know what hit… or actually, kicked… them! Found by the lovely Jerusha on Jezebel.

Dapper creatures

Pics: Honestly WTF

Check out artist, Ryan Berkley’s illustration of genteel animals donning suits, bow ties, fedoras and other feathered hats.

He even has a story for each. Here’s the eye-patch-wearing cheetah’s: “After cataract surgery ten years ago, this cheetah realized that an eyepatch can be a real conversation starter with the ladies. His eye has long since healed but his social calendar remains quite full.”

Found on Honestly… WTF.

Chad le Clos’ father

Ah, and I couldn’t leave this one out! A heart-warming interview with the father of our Olympic athlete of the moment, Chad le Clos. It’s the sweetest thing I’ve seen in a long time: he calls his sun beautiful, rubs his belly and can’t quite find the words to express his love and admiration. Truly a tear-jerker. Check it out on 2OceansVibe

Menagerie: Snow Monkeys

I know Menagerie is supposed to happen strictly on Mondays, but I came across an animal so crazy and cute that I couldn’t resist doing a post today. Sure it will serve as a good mid-week boost, no? (Came across it on my friend’s Facebook cover pic of all places!)

So, introducing to you the Snow Monkey also known as the Japanese macaque or the Nihonzaru.

They live at latitudes of 41° to 31° north of the equator, making them the northernmost primates in the world – with the exception of humans of course and can often be seen chilling in hot springs, carrying snowballs and having snowball fights.

Despite obviously having quite fun lives, they seem to be a rather miserable, or maybe serious, bunch. Just google image search them a bit… or follow this link.

True story.

Burrowing Owls

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Yes, yes, another post about owls, but jeepers these little fellows are so cute it would be wrong not to have them in the Monday Menagerie.

Burrowing Owls are tiny, long-legged, humongous-eyed birds that nest and roost in – wait for it – burrows. They are found throughout the open landscapes of North and South America and prefer open, dry areas with low vegetation such as grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, and deserts.

Unlike most other owls, they are particularly active during the day, only sticking to their burrows during the worst of the midday heat. However, they prefer hunting from dusk till dawn, like other owls. So, heaven knows what they do in those active hours during the day. From pictures it seems like they just hang around in ridiculously cute groups outside their burrows.

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The Burrowing Owl is endangered in Canada, threatened in Mexico, and a species of special concern in Florida and most of the western USA.

What actually brought my attention to these adorbs little creatures, was a picture I spotted on the Telegraph’s Daily Photo gallery sometime last week.

The caption reads:

Two orphaned baby burrowing owls, nicknamed Linford and Christie, have moved into the home of their keeper Jimmy Robinson. The owlets were hatched in an incubator at Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire, and are now being hand-reared by Jimmy. The native American birds, which get their name from living in small burrows in the wild, can find plenty of nooks and crannys about his flat to hide. “Tea cups and bookcases are a particular favourite,” says Jimmy, “but it’s good to see them developing their natural behaviour and they always seem to find me at meal times.” Read the full story at Daily Mail

So, if you’re wondering what to give me as a house warming gift (I’m moving into my new flat on Saturday), I have a lot of books and some tea cups. Think a Burrowing Owl will be perfect. Thanks.