The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns is possibly among the most popular means of introducing young people to classical music and to the different instruments that make up an orchestra. The other is that wonderful symphonic fairy-tale for children, Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. At the end of May this year, the Grahamstown Music Society devoted the first half of their concert to a transcription by Werner Thomas-Mifune for cello and piano of The Carnival of the Animals. Parents were invited to bring their children and “nobody will take offence if they leave at interval!”

I cannot show you all of the animals, but will introduce you to a few – with a South African twist.

The Royal March of the Lion

Instead of hens and roosters you can see a Red-necked Spurfowl

Donkeys will stand in for the Wild Asses

Tortoises abound

I will have to skip the kangaroos and the aquarium, but a Zebra will step in for the Characters with Long Ears

Skip the cuckoo for now and come to an aviary

Of pianists I have no pictures, so perhaps some Bagpipers will do

The fossils will be represented by a skeleton

Alas, I have no swan so will show you a Yellow-billed Stork instead!


Given that the temperature was only 6°C when we entered the Addo Elephant National Park, it is not surprising that these Speckled Mousebirds were fluffed up against the cold and sitting on the top of a bush where they could catch the early rays of the sun.

This Rednecked Spurfowl was happy to have its portrait taken.

We saw a number of Crowned Plovers.

A pair of Secretary Birds scoured the veld for food.

While this isn’t the best of pictures, I was excited to spot an Orangethroated Longclaw in the grass.

Fiscal Shrikes abound in the park and are most often seen perched on a bush such as this.

Here is a fine looking Cattle Egret.

I was rather pleased with my bird list:

Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black sunbird
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blacksmith Plover
Brimstone Canary
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Crowned Plover
Egyptian Goose
Emeraldspotted Wood Dove
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greyheaded Heron
Hadeda Ibis
Jackal Buzzard
Karoo Robin-chat
Little Grebe
Orangethroated Longclaw
Pied Crow
Redknobbed Coot
Rednecked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Rufousnaped Lark
Secretary Bird
Sombre Bulbul
South African Shellduck
Speckled Mousebird
Yellowbilled Duck


I have mentioned before how Cattle Egrets are frequently seen in the proximity of the Urban Herd, quick to catch any insects disturbed whilst the cattle are grazing.

We saw several examples of a similar relationship in the Addo Elephant National Park. The first was a pair of Fiscal Shrikes hovering around these Warthogs as they scuffled around in the dry grass for food.

Next up was a pair of Cape Glossy Starlings keeping a close watch for whatever the Zebra may have disturbed while grazing.

A Cattle Egret found several insects to eat next to this Zebra.

This one hitched a ride on the back of a Cape Buffalo!

While this Cape Wagtail had a feast in the company of a Warthog next to the Hapoor Waterhole.


June has been an interesting month for birding in our garden. The ongoing dry weather has meant having to fill the bird baths more than once a day – this is appreciated by the Knysna Louries that come down to drink at around eight each morning, again mid-morning, and occasionally late in the afternoon.

The Black-headed Orioles have been calling loudly from the tree tops and I have seen several Laughing Doves mating whilst perched on the swaying branches of some of the trees in the garden. It tends to be rather chilly in the mornings, making the Hadeda Ibises seemingly as reluctant as we are to rise: the first ones only begin to stir at about twenty to seven and the flock as a whole move out of the fig tree after seven o’clock!

Blackheaded Oriole

It is wonderful to see the return of Cape Wagtails as well as a Brown-hooded Kingfisher. Some Crowned Hornbills and a flock of Red-billed Woodhoopoes have paid the garden a fleeting visit this month – as has a Lanner Falcon. The latter remained perched on a low branch near one of the bird baths for some time, its presence was drawn to my attention by the complete absence of doves of any sort. I heard a loud squawking a while later and caught a glimpse of a pair of Knysna Louries having an altercation with the falcon, which then disappeared into the valley.

Olive Thrushes have become more regular visitors once more.

Olive Thrush

My June bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Cuckoo
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Brownhooded Kingfisher
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Crowned Hornbill
Crowned Plover
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Lourie
Lanner Falcon
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Speckled Mousebird
Village Weaver


I have written about Blackeyed Bulbuls before and am pleased to see and hear these cheerful birds back in our garden after a short absence. They have been re-named Dark-capped Bulbuls (Pycnonotus tricolor) and are easily recognisable by their dark head, dark eye-ring and the yellow vent below their tails. These are conspicuous birds with a lively chattering call sometimes described as klip, klop kollop with enough variations to make one look more closely to be sure that it is indeed a Blackeyed Bulbul one is hearing! I have also heard their call quite accurately described as ‘doctor-quick doctor-quick be-quick be-quick’.

I often see these birds sitting on top of the trees or bushes calling out to one another across the garden. They have probably returned to feed on the plentiful nectar provided by the aloes as well as the berries borne by several trees in our garden. They also eat insects – of which there are many in our garden.

Note: In light of the reference to Cape Bulbuls below, I include a picture of one for comparison.



Before you ask “Where is that?”, Bophuthatswana was one of the so-called ‘homelands’ within South Africa that was declared a self-governing state in June 1972. Five years later, on 6th December 1977, it was granted independence by the South African government, although this was only recognised by South Africa and the other independent state known as the Transkei. We lived in the capital city, Mmabatho, for eight years – from the time it was a motley collection of houses plonked on the open veld with no streets to speak of until it had grown into a recognisable city with all the amenities one might expect. The country was reincorporated into South Africa on 27th April 1994 and is now part of what is known as the North West Province.

Politics aside, there were a number of interesting birds commonly found in that part of the country, of which this commemorative cover shows five. The stamps were designed by the artist Dick Findlay, who was well-known for his ornithological paintings. He also designed South African postage stamps and coins.

The birds depicted here are, from left to right, the Pied Babbler – small flocks of these dove-sized birds make a harsh babbling sound while they hunt for insects.

Carmine Bee-eaters are beautiful summer migrants that gather in large flocks at their roosting places at dusk. They too feed on insects.

The Shaft-tailed Whydah is a seed-eater that does not build its own nest. The female lays her eggs in the nests of other birds, such as the Violet-eared Waxbill (which is shown on the left-hand side of the commemorative cover).

Meyer’s Parrots are commonly found in small groups in the dry thornveld near a water source. Their diet consists of fruit, berries and seeds.