It is always exciting to identify a particular bird for the first time – even more so in one’s garden. After years of observation, I am familiar with the core of residential birds and look forward to the seasonal visits of others, such as the cuckoos, swallows, and the paradise flycatchers.
I have been thrilled when hitherto fleeting visitors have become more residential, like the African Green Pigeons and, more recently, a pair of Knysna Loeries. I equally mourn the decreasing frequency with which I see what had been fairly regular visitors, like the Hoopoes, Cape Wagtails and the Malachite Sunbirds.
Granted, the habitat of the garden has changed: it has become more forested; there is more shade; the indigenous flowers are seasonal – there is neither space nor enough sunny spots for planting commercially available flower seeds. There are aloes, Plumbago, Cape Honeysuckle, Buddleia salviifolia, Leonotis leonurus (Wild Dagga) and Canary creepers that bloom in their turn.
Apart from the Natal figs there are Harpephyllum caffra (wild plums), white ironwood berries, and Kei Apples. Grass seeds abound too. The birds seem to find plenty of insects, beetles, worms, bees and butterflies to eat – our garden wouldn’t know either an insecticide or herbicide if it saw one.
So, what garden visitor have I identified for the first time? It is a Black-backed Puffback that has been quietly foraging its way through the upper canopy of the Pompon trees fringing the lawn. As it feeds on insects and likes suburban gardens, I hope its stay will be a long one. I shall certainly keep a sharp look out for it.
My March list is:
African Green Pigeon
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)