THE ASHY FLYCATCHER II

This small blue-grey flycatcher might pass you by if you were not looking about you carefully.

It is a delightful little bird with an erect posture, and prefers the edges of riverine forests as well as open broad-leaved woodland.

The Ashy Flycatcher is very active, making sallying flights to catch insects and small vertebrates, returning to a regular perch – as you can tell from this ‘well-marked’ perch!

Their diet consists of a variety of insects such as beetles, flies, grasshoppers, butterflies, and termites as well as fruit.

A BLOCK OF CHEESE IN CLAW

Watching our friendly Common Fiscal, Meneer, eating a tiny block of cheese led me to wonder if birds are the equivalent of left- or right-handed. Certainly this and the ringed Common Fiscal, Spotty, both hold food in their right claws when eating.

Holding onto the block of cheese.

The first bite tastes alright.

A fine breakfast this is.

A SPECIAL GARDEN SIGHTING

Knysna turacos are truly beautiful birds that, despite their size, are not always easy to see. Their beautiful green colouring and white eye make-up helps them to ‘melt’ into the foliage in a jiffy. We hear them often; their hoarse kow-kow-kow calls seem to be at odds with their beauty. Occasionally we catch a glimpse of the red in their wings as they fly across the garden, yet we do not often see them. You can thus appreciate my delight when I looked up from my tea to see this:

A Knysna turaco perched on the trunk of a cabbage tree growing next to our swimming pool. That this image was taken with my cell phone might give you an idea of how close it was to me. Unbelievably, I had not heard it arrive. They are incredibly silent in their movements. Its mate flew in from the fig tree to the left, outside of this scene, across the garden to perch on a branch near the feeders. I almost held my breath as the two of them moved towards the bird bath. Still, with only my cell phone at hand, I was able to observe them drinking:

Here the one seems to be waiting for the other. A few minutes later they drank together. I watched them in total fascination for about fifteen minutes before they disappeared into the undergrowth. This was a very special garden sighting!

A LOOK AT THE SPECTACLED WEAVER

It might be because the Spectacled Weaver (Ploceus ocularis) is a shy weaver – so unlike its fellow weavers – that is heard more often than it is seen that I feel so privileged to be in the presence of one. As they are encountered in open woodland – which is where I have seen them in the Addo Elephant National Park – as well as in bushy thickets and forest margins, I think our garden is well suited to their presence. I have seen them more often over the past five years or so.

This one does not look very pleased with its companion!

They also differ from the other weavers by keeping their bright yellow plumage throughout the year – the others lose their brightness and look fairly scruffy during the winter. The males of these birds are particularly handsome with their pale eyes and a black streak through eye to ear coverts – hence their common name of Spectacled Weaver, although I have also read of this black streak being described as a mask.

Is this pub really empty?

Only the male sports the black throat patch or bib.

I say, someone ought to do something about this!

The Spectacled Weaver is largely insectivorous. I have observed them eating caterpillars and spiders. Our garden is alive with geckos, which also form a part of their diet. More often though, I see them when they emerge from the shrubbery to eat fruit and seeds – and to regularly visit the nectar feeder.  They are also among the many birds that enjoy the flowers of the Erythrina trees, the Cape Honeysuckle and the various aloes that grow in our garden.

What’s on the menu today?