This has been another action-filled birding month in my garden. While the flocks of Red-winged Starlings has decreased, there are still a number around that are finding fruit somewhere else in the neighbourhood. A pair of them sometimes sit on the open window of my bedroom in the mornings or peek at me in my upstairs study from the guttering outside.
It is cuckoo time! The Red-chested Cuckoo (known here as the Piet-my-vrou) arrived on the 2nd October and since then can be heard calling from as early as two or three in the morning until late at night. They parasitize the Cape Robin – more of that later. I spotted a pair of Black Cuckoos threading their way through the kitchen hedge very early the other morning. They are seldom seen, although their mournful whistle wafts through the mornings and afternoons as if their hearts would break. They tend to pick on the Southern Boubou to bring up their chicks.
Much more cheerful calls come from Klaas’ Cuckoo and the Diederick Cuckoos. Weavers are quite likely to find themselves hosting a chick from the latter.
What a delight to find a Cape Robin has built a nest inside a clump of lavender bushes right next to the steps that lead out to the swimming pool. I have been unable to prune the drooping Buddleja salviifolia after its bumper flowering period as this provides a thick shelter against rain and wind for the nest tucked below it.
I watched the robins for some time as they collected nesting material, such as snippets of dead grass left over from mowing, dried leaves from the Erythrina trees, and lichen pulled from the various trees in the garden.
About five or six days later, I peered through the lavender to see that three eggs had been laid and can just see the top of a robin’s head tucked in when I close the door at night. Since then I have caught a glimpse one chick – I do not wish to disturb them so have generally left them alone aside from a cursory peek in the mornings and evenings.
The aggressive behaviour of the robins has been interesting to observe. They have vigorously chased away Streakyheaded Canaries, weavers and Blackeyed Bulbuls that have ventured too close to the nest. I even saw one chasing after a Laughing Dove.
A Grey-headed Bush Shrike appeared on the branches above my head the other day while I was weeding and watering in the back garden. I kept a fascinated eye on it as it approached ever closer to me – it really is a strikingly coloured bird – then, as I moved from a spot, it would swoop down to catch something that had been disturbed by my activities and immediately fly up to the branches to eat whatever it was.
I had a similar experience with a pair of Fork-tailed Drongos, only they were much bolder: I was weeding the strawberry patch under the watchful eyes of these birds perched on a cable not far away. As I did so, I unearthed or disturbed a couple of spiders and some bright green caterpillars. Before long, both birds would whoosh right past me to catch these hapless creatures. They are very quick off the mark! I again watched one stealing food from the beak of a Cape Weaver while in flight.
It is always a pleasure to see a pair of Paradise Flycatchers in the garden. To my chagrin, they flit and dart about so quickly that I have not been able to catch them on camera. I haven’t managed to photograph the exquisitely beautiful Knysna Louries either, although I am pleased that a pair of them are seen about more often. Both have appeared several times to eat apples or to drink from the bird bath on the lawn and they are heard almost daily calling from within the foliage of tall trees in the neighbourhood.
Common Starlings are generally seen foraging in the garden singly or in very small groups. Their quick movements on the ground as they probe the lawn or flit up to the feeding tray somehow give them a ‘shifty’ look; they generally stay long enough only for a bit or two before flying off. This month I watched one collecting nesting material in the garden for the first time. I have since seen one collecting food and flying off to a neighbouring property, where it is presumably nesting.
My October list is:
African Green Pigeon
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Knysna Lourie (Turaco)
Redbilled Woodhoopoe (Green Woodhoopoe)
Redchested Cuckoo (Piet-my-vrou)
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Southern Masked Weaver
Streakyheaded Canary (Seedeater)