SEPTEMBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Despite having been away for a while, this has proved to be a satisfying month of birdwatching in my garden. At night and during the early hours of most mornings we are serenaded by a Fiery-necked Nightjar. An African Darter has flown over ‘my’ airspace a few times in order to make my list and Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbuls have made cheerful forays to the feeding table. The sounds of cuckoos can be heard – the Piet-my-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo) is another clear sign that spring is here to stay.

On that note, while the sun rises ever earlier, the mornings remain fairly chilly and so it is not surprising to find a flock of Bronze Mannikins gathered in the branches of a Dais cotonifolia to warm up for a while before their breakfast:

I feature the Common Fiscals a lot in these posts, largely because they are such characters and are photogenic to boot. Spotty has even brought a chick along to the feeding area to see what the offerings are. The biggest surprise for me though was the sighting of the only female Common Fiscal I have ever seen in our garden. She did not appear to be connected to either Spotty or Meneer and I have not seen her since. Note the chestnut flanks that characterise the females:

As you can see, I have purchased a new feeder – I’m not sure how well this configuration is being received, but the other one requires a thorough cleaning (when we get a reasonable supply of water again!). Here a Southern Masked Weaver is trying it out accompanied by Bronze Mannikins:

A Grey-headed Sparrow is enjoying a solo feeding session:

Also catching the morning sun whilst keeping an eye out for the neighbouring cats are these Laughing Doves:

I mentioned the Hadeda Ibis nest last month. So far there is no sign of either eggshells at the base or chicks on the nest, so the eggs are still being incubated:

My bird list for this month:
African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
Yellow Weaver

ANOTHER STRANGE VISITOR

Before these pictures get ‘lost’ in the depths of my archives, I must introduce you to a visitor who arrived unannounced on (should I say at?) my front door near the end of July. I first saw the shape of the visitor as I walked down the passage … and gingerly opened the door to see my visitor face to face… it was a very large stick insect (Phasmida).

There are a variety of stick insects in this country and I think this is only about the third time I have seen one in our garden. From the pictures I have perused, it might be a Cape Stick Insect (Phalces brevis) but I am not putting my head on a block about the accuracy of this identification. This is what its head looks like:

The tail end looks like this:

Our visitor remained on the outside of our front door – barely moving its position – for three days before it left. I ‘safely’ measured it against my hand from the other side of the glass and found it was a lot longer than my hand. Actually, despite their size, stick insects are not harmful to humans.

A FINE CELEBRATION

Ursula K. Le Guin tells us that it is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end. We had an end in mind for our journey south that was particularly good to have – a celebration that was worth travelling all that way for. So far I have shown you glimpses of various things along both ways of our journey that made those passing kilometers interesting and the journey feel like a holiday in itself.

Join me in the feast that lay ahead: a selection of sweet and savoury eats to enjoy on a sunny afternoon in the garden of a home with beautiful views and in the company of delightful people. The proteas on the paper serviettes are an apt motif in this area where they grow in abundance.

These arum lilies were picked locally, where fields of them are blooming next to the road, in ditches and damp hollows.

Take your pick.

Who can resist these?

Or these?

The children made a bee-line for these luscious strawberries.

While grapes in both this and the bubbly form went down well with the adults.

Of course there was cake too!

Finally, after much talking and laughter; congratulations and enjoying each other’s company, the afternoon light took on a softer hue; the clouds gathered over the mountain tops; inside lights were switched on; and the guests began to take their leave.

 

A BIRD FEEDER IN HOUT BAY

It is fun watching birds in someone else’s garden and what better way to do so than keeping an eye on the local bird feeder. Among the first visitors to arrive in this Hout Bay garden was a Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus), a familiar visitor in my own garden. There it tends to seek out anything meaty or fruity, so I was surprised to see this one tucking into the seeds:

Another familiar bird arrived, a Cape Robin-Chat (Cossypha caffra). These are beloved garden birds that eat fruit, insects and scraps of any kind. This one was combing the lawn for dried meal worms – something I have never provided for the birds in my garden:

Yet another familiar bird arrived with a loud fluttering of its wings – one of a pair of Speckled Pigeons (Columba guinea). These birds are ubiquitous over the whole country, so their presence was no surprise:

Ah, not only birds visited this bird feeder. The mystery of why the cut apples disappear so quickly was solved with the sighting of this Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in the act. These are not indigenous, having been imported by Cecil John Rhodes during the 19th century:

Mmm … there was another non-avian contender for the fallen seed below the feeder. Such a regular visitor in fact that it has made a getaway tunnel among the plants growing next to the fence. This is a Four-striped Grass Mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio):

Try as I might, I ended having to photograph these delightful visitors through the window. What an absolute delight it was to watch small groups of Swee Waxbills (Coccopygia melanotis) fluttering down from the branches to cluster around the feeder. They never seemed to be still and would fly off at a moment’s notice leaving their high-pitched ‘swee-swee’ contact call in their wake:

Now, a bonus picture that brought great joy to the pre-schooler who had made this elaborate feeder – unidentified visitors (taken through a window with a cell phone) investigating the seed therein at last!

Proof indeed that this carnival-like contraption was also attractive to birds.