This is probably the shortest bird list I have published here before: I have been away a lot this month and even while at home have been buried in the red tape of applying for visas for our forthcoming trip to visit our children living abroad …

Red-winged Starlings have continued to dominate the garden as the crop of Natal figs have kept them busy. I love watching the sun catching the russet parts of their wings when they fly over the garden. This one is perched on the top of the Erythrina caffra, which has now lost most of its leaves and will soon be covered with scarlet flowers.

Every bird report includes the Laughing Doves because they always seem to be around. On our return from spending nearly a week in the Western Cape though – and no food provided for them in the interim – they took a day or two to return to being their gutsy selves.

The African Green Pigeons have also enjoyed the figs and as these came to an end, so has their presence. They have doubtless found another source of food somewhere within the town.

I hear Black-collared Barbets often, but have seen little of them this month. I suspect they are still wary of the cats next door. Having said that, I am thrilled to see a pair of Cape Robin-chats gradually becoming bolder. The other day I put out a block of cheese and spent several joyful minutes enjoying watching them coming out of the shrubbery to feast on it.

Two Black-headed Orioles also took turns to feast on the cheese.

Olive Thrushes muscled their way in too and frequently chased the other birds away.

A pair of Fork-tailed Drongos mainly swoop around the back garden, favouring a different Erythrina caffra to perch in.

Advance warning: I will be away for most of June and July, so those bird lists will be both very late and very short and I will be very quiet until my return.

My bird list for this month:

Red-winged Starling
African Green Pigeon
Black-collared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Common Starling
Common Fiscal
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redeyed Dove
Rednecked Spurfowl
Sombre Bulbul
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver



The swifts and the swallows have long since winged their way towards the northern hemisphere. The pair of Lesser-striped Swallows that regularly build their nests (yes, they built and rebuilt three times this summer) under our eaves were not successful this past summer. All three times their mud nests fell down once they were near completion. Whenever this happens, I wonder if they will make the effort to return next summer. Perhaps the mud was of the wrong consistency; there wasn’t much rain and, judging from the colours, they clearly sourced their mud from a variety of places. Even if they had been successful, their nest would in all likelihood have fallen down by now.

A swallow’s mud nest built under the corrugated iron roof of a garage at a padstal we stopped at recently had fallen down not very long before we arrived. I wondered if the metal contracting in the heat and cold, or the vibrations from the heavy vehicles thundering past contributed to it dislodging. Whatever the reason, it provides a wonderful opportunity for us to have a close look at what these birds used to line their mud nest to make it a good haven for their young.

Apart from the spotted feathers of the Helmeted Guineafowl, I cannot identify the others. The collection nonetheless illustrates how little goes to waste in nature and gives us an idea of the careful searches undertaken by these birds for suitable material with which to line their nests.


It was in May 2017 that I first mentioned conflict between birds and people ( At the time I was horrified to note that three tall trees growing in a narrow garden outside a block of flats had been felled. It wasn’t only the loss of trees that upset me, but that only a few weeks before I had observed African Sacred Ibises and Cattle Egrets coming to roost in three tall trees growing next to a block of flats at the end of the day. Some of the latter had fledglings in their nests, while others were flapping their wings whilst firmly gripping the slim branches in the afternoon breeze. Doubtless residents had complained of both the noise and the mess made by the birds.

The Natal fig tree in our garden hosts well up to twenty Hadeda Ibises every night – as do other large trees in our neighbourhood. We are usually woken at least twenty minutes before sunrise by their harsh cries. They might have been annoying at first, but after 35 years of listening to them greet each other and plan their day we have grown to love them for their cheerfulness and character. It is marvellous watching them glide silently towards the branches and listen to them scuffling around before they settle down. Their mess? That all adds to the thick layer of much in my ‘secret garden’ below them, which in turn adds to the tiny creatures fed on by birds …

Back to the African Sacred Ibises and the Cattle Egrets … when those trees were felled in 2017 they found other tall trees close to the CBD to roost in. I showed the tops of some of them in February – all I could see above the buildings at the time (

In March this year I watched African Sacred Ibises and Cattle Egrets coming in to roost in a different tree growing on the edge of the Peppergrove Mall. I photographed them with my cell phone.

This week I happened to be in the same car park and was again horrified to see that same tree being felled.

Today there is not even a stump left.

These communal roosting birds regularly use alien species of trees, such as Eucalyptus, Pine trees or Monkey Puzzle trees as these provide suitable nesting opportunities based on their structure and the size of their branches. We have all of these trees growing within our urban environment and so it follows that there will be some conflict between the people and birds.

I cannot give a solution to the problem of noise and mess, but I feel very strongly that cutting down the trees the birds roost in is not the answer. They have already demonstrate that they will simply move on to use the next suitably sized one they find.

In the end, will we have no large trees left? Trees that have taken years to grow?

Do people ever consider how much noise they make whilst partying or think about the rubbish they leave behind after public events? I doubt it – they are having too much fun at the time and … it is someone else’s job to clean up after them.


Few of us wake up looking ready to face the day without help. This African Green Pigeon took advantage of the early morning sunshine to smooth its ruffled feathers:

Nearby, a Red-winged Starling found a feather out of place:

A Knysna Turaco would not show its face until it knew that it would look perfect for the day:

This Grey-headed Gull had some important preening to do too:

It was important for this African Penguin to check on its armpits before deciding whether it had to swim to get clean or swim to catch breakfast:

If you think that all this preening and getting ready for the day is for the birds, take a look at this Vervet Monkey giving itself a thorough grooming!


I featured a photograph of a very beautiful Knysna Turaco perched in my garden during my April garden-bird round-up. Here is another view of it.

What has it to do with my birthday? Coincidence? Serendipity?

A friend whom I seldom see as she has moved to one of the coastal towns pinned us both down for tea today. As the date approached and the weather improved, she announced that I was to provide some savoury snacks and she would bring the rest.

The rest?

It turned out that as she had the opportunity to see me during the latter part of the afternoon she had decided we should celebrate my birthday early with … gin. Not any old gin, but Knysna Gin.

This is delicious! We added frozen mixed berries for an extra festive flair – a successful move.

It is made in a copper pot still by the Knysna Distillery and, according to their website, “features nine different botanicals, including the Knysna Lourie’s favourite food, the Num Num berry [also known as Natal Plum],

almonds from Sedgefield, honeybush from the Crags, and Mondei Whitei from Limpopo.” All in all a very interesting tasting combination.

This was a happy – and tasty – early birthday surprise.