Female Pin-tailed Whydah
This somewhat drab little bird is often overlooked as it searches the ground for seed – or is chased through the tangle of branches and into wide arcs of the sky by her male admirer. He, of the tuxedo with the long tail, is the one who generally catches the attention of human admirers.
Male Pin-tailed Whydah
Our garden has not been claimed as a territory this year – yet – and so we see several males passing through. It is the females that I enjoy watching as they peck at the seeds dropped from the feeders higher up. I enjoy the way they scurry between the much larger Laughing Doves or blend in with the visiting Grey-headed Sparrows, for I like to think they are enjoying some ‘me-time’ to savour their food away from the pesky males, who are constantly on the move.
Our garden is all the richer for the presence of a couple of pairs of Olive Thrushes (Turdus Olivaceus). While they are considered to be common residents along the eastern part of the Eastern Cape, they are common garden residents which are well adapted to life in the suburbs. I have found two nests in my garden and have watched several generations of Olive Thrushes grow up here. They often scuttle or hop along the ground; stand still; cock their head to one side; and before you know it, have caught a tasty morsel you cannot even see!
I mentioned in the October round-up of birds in my garden that the resident pair of Lesser-striped Swallows have had a torrid time, defending their nest against a bevy of White-rumped Swifts intent on usurping it to breed their own offspring. The aerial combat was so fast and furious and the acrobatics so remarkable that these birds easily put the Silver Falcons to shame.
The swallows had left their mud nest intact at the end of last summer and I had such high hopes for them that it was with a degree of triumph that I ended my October report with the words, so far the swallows are winning.
To quote from the delightful nursery rhyme, Who killed cock robin?
All the birds of the air
Fell a-sighing and a-sobbing
Well, most wouldn’t care, would they, but I felt and heard the keening and sad chirruping as the swallows contemplated their future. They discussed their ‘home grab’ at length in the late afternoons while perched on the ledge of the bathroom window. They eyed different locations and met to discuss their building plans as they perched on the telephone wire.
They mourned the loss of their snug little home as they wheeled about the sky. You see, the swifts had taken over the home of Mr and Mrs Swallow. It is the swifts who have now lined the snug nest with feathers glued together with their saliva.
The ever-practical swallows have returned to the blueprint they attempted last summer – shortly before building their dream home – and have rebuilt a nest under the eaves outside the bathroom.
The tiny balls of mud on the right-hand side is a remnant from their nest that fell down last year.
This is prime breeding time for Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca). There is much jostling and honking in water ways as the courting procedures get underway. While they appear to have a belligerent nature, it is touching to watch the male using a feather display to attract his mate.
Pairs choose their ‘spot’ and work hard at defending it from others wishing to either muscle in on a mate or take the spot for themselves.
It was while watching a few pairs of them this weekend that we got chatting about the name for these birds. As both the English and the scientific name imply, they have a close association with Egypt. Indeed, they are easily recognisable in the Ancient Egyptian artwork that still survives. The Afrikaans name, Kolgans, is a more practical name in terms of identification, however, for it draws attention to the distinctive brown patch in the middle of the bird’s buff-coloured chest.
Although we often see Egyptian Geese in the water and on the edges of rivers and dams, they also perch on buildings and in trees.
I recently saw a pair nesting in the top of a broken-off date palm in Boksburg.
Here a male takes off from the dam next to his mate.
Flies ahead of her.
Leaving her in his wake.
A road beckoned to three generations of my family.
We came from all over the country to meet for a weekend at a farm in the Bushveld to celebrate what would have been my father’s hundredth birthday.
The firepit was at the centre of our celebrations.
The fire burned all day.
With a kettle constantly on the boil.
It was where we cooked
With plenty of pots to choose from.
A sheep was slow roasted over the fire to feed the gathering of the clan.
It was shady under the Karee trees.
Nyala came down to drink at the dam next to our gathering place.
There were impala nearby too.
Including a few black ones.
Redbilled Oxpeckers kept them free from ticks.
Pairs of Egyptian Geese kept us company.
As did some White-faced Ducks.
Blacksmith Plovers arrived and left throughout each day
We talked, we laughed, we cried. We remembered, we found out new things, we bonded all over again.