A dark theme threaded its way through my bird watching this morning, which started with a dashing looking Blackheaded Oriole swooping after another – clearly spring is in the air – chasing it all over the garden before halting to fill up from the free nectar in the ‘pub’.

That tranquil moment lasted only until the Forktailed Drongo dive-bombed the oriole to get its share of the energy drink on this chilly day. Later, this black bundle of aggression chased away both a Laughing Dove and a Village Weaver that happened to beperched nearby.

Blackeyed Bulbuls chirped cheekily at this activity then slid down the branches to investigate what was on offer at the feeding station. As they did so, a large and raucous flock of Redwinged Starlings flew past casting shadows over the dessicated lawn and dappling the swimming pool.

A pair of Blackcollared Barbets called out to each other from the top of the Erythrina then chased each other into the fig tree to continue their courting sounds whilst being well hidden by the foliage – their sense of the onset of spring is much stronger than mine!  Even some of the weavers are beginning to loop blades of grass over thin branches as if trying to remember how to start building a nest.

The striking colour of black in birds was weaving its way through my mind when I commented on the shining beauty of the Black (Amethyst) Sunbird taking advantage of the lull to get its share of the ‘pub’ before investigating the bright orange flowers of the Leonatis leonuris I had pruned earlier.

“What is a black swan?” B asked over tea. That’s easy, I thought until he qualified the question with “I don’t mean the bird.” That stumped me – I am not at all familiar with the term.

It turns out to refer to a completely unexpected event that would have been very difficult to predict. The term was popularised by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2007.  Such an event not only comes as a surprise, but has a major impact – such as those aeroplanes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center; an event now referred to simply as 9/11.






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