Thursday, April 24, 2008




Animal magnet

This is a little off topic from my usual theme but I was delighted by the emerging of a large number of Painted Jezebel butterflies on a Wrightia Religiosa(Shui Mei) bush in front of my house. This is the latest in a string of wonderful visits by some unusual guests. They seem to want to share in my little abode of peace. For the last couple of weeks, that bush was invaded by an army of hairy caterpillars. They disappeared suddenly but one Saturday while pruning the bush, I saw a huge number of chrysalises on the underside of the leaves. This morning they emerged eventually just after I returned from breakfast with my wife. The burst of color was so delightful to watch. I was glad that I had left them alone.

One week after I moved in many years ago, a cat gave birth to a litter of kittens in my garden. They were inconspicuously hidden under some shrubs and nobody would have known of their existence had they not mewed when their mother was not around. Although I grew up in a countryside setting, I had never looked after a pet directly. In those days, there was no shortage of wildlife and in the family compound, there was a talking mynah, parakeets and even a monkey from goodness knows where. Not knowing what to do with the cats, I called the SPCA.

My neighbor's runaway pets also had a penchant of ending up in my house too. I had a Chinchilla hiding under my Christmas tree once. The Chinchilla even dropped me a few black pellets as a Christmas present. This was followed by a visit by her white mouse and rabbit.

Even though my house is not at the edge of any forest, I had a visit from an Iguana in my backyard. I was not there to greet him as I was at work. However, my wife came face to face with him while hanging out the clothes to dry in the backyard. I had to do some homework that evening to seal up the backyard grating to prevent him from getting trapped in my backyard.

The most memorable visit must be from a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds who built their nest right in front of my sliding door. For the next couple of months, my sliding door stayed shut as I did not want to be an inconsiderate neighbor. I tried my best to respect their privacy. I guess nobody likes to have busybodies peering in while passing by. The wife finally laid an egg which hatched eventually. From then on, dad and mum were busy flying in and out feeding and cleaning up baby. When I had to change my babies' diapers, I had hands but for these bird parents, clearing up after baby involved baby raising its rear to the nest opening. Daddy bird, perched at the entrance, grabbed the white dollop of poo in its beak and proceeded to the nearest tree to wipe off on a twig. It was just fascinating.


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