Even though the early mornings are getting ever colder, eating fruit salad for breakfast is a good way to take in those important vitamins.

Sunflowers help to brighten the entrance of our home and bring with them a sense of warmth and sunshine.

Outdoors, our garden is awash with the beautiful yellow flowers of indigenous canary creepers.

This pretty Aeonium shows shades of yellow too.

The nightly temperatures plummeted during our recent visit to the Mountain Zebra National Park so we were grateful to be warmed by a fire in the grate.

It was pleasant too to round off a pleasant day with a soupçon of honey liqueur.



Several overseas readers have commented on the lovely aloe blooms I feature now and then and some remark that while they have seen aloes, they have not seen them in bloom. With this is mind I want to show some of the flowers in my garden. The first shows an early stage of the flowering spikes pushing upward.

Here is the same aloe a few weeks later. The actual flowers haven’t opened yet.

We have several of these aloes growing all over the garden.

They will look really beautiful once their flowers have opened to welcome birds, bees and ants. Then there is this very tall aloe which is almost past its prime.


I have been late before, but never this late with my monthly report on the birds visiting our garden. Blame it on the hours spent sourcing the necessary information and having to travel all the way to Cape Town to lodge visa applications – no, we don’t have our passports back yet. Keep calm, breathe deeply … that is the only way to deal with bureaucracy. April was a month in which I welcomed several new visitors: Sombre Bulbul, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Common Starling, Amethyst Sunbird, Black Sparrowhawk, Crowned Hornbill, African Hoopoe, Spectacled Weaver and Yellow Weaver.

Strangely enough, the Common Starlings have mainly visited the Natal fig tree and have found something to eat in the Erythrina caffra instead of coming down to ground level – which they have often done in the past.

It is the African Green Pigeons that have provided great delight with their coughing, deep-throated laughing sounds and occasional views of them peeping through the leaves of the fig tree. With the mornings becoming ever colder and the sun taking longer to rise, I have sometimes seen them sunning themselves in the higher branches of the Erythrina caffra.

Once, when a particularly noisy truck passed along the road below our home, over sixty of these beautiful birds took to the air with a collectively loud beating of their wings.

Laughing Doves still take at least twenty minutes of perching in branches before feeling comfortable enough to flutter down to eat the maize seeds on the ground. There are still a number that insist on clinging onto the hanging feeders to get at the fine seed there. Pied Crows fly overhead regularly and occasionally perch in the upper branches of the fig tree or on the top of the cypress in the next door garden.

The Black-headed Orioles have not enjoyed me moving the feeders to the other side of the garden and have taken a while to visit the nectar feeder and the fruit tray. The Cape Robin-chats are also wary, even though there is plenty of cover for them to hide. They tend to come out when few other birds are about and are quick to fly off at the slightest sound. They must be on the constant lookout for the cats next door.

Huge flocks of Red-winged Starlings have been feasting on the figs. The air is filled with their mellifluous calls and their fig-fuelled droppings are all over the garden. They too are sometimes startled by unexpectedly loud sounds from passing vehicles and take to the skies.

I often remark that the Knysna Turacos are more easily heard than seen in our garden. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to see one flying across the garden, but this month I was able to photograph one perched in the back garden.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon

African Hoopoe

Amethyst Sunbird

Barthroated Apalis

Black-collared Barbet

Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul

Black-headed Oriole

Black Sparrowhawk


Bronze Manikin

Cape Crow

Cape Robin-Chat

Cape Weaver

Cape White-eye

Cattle Egret

Common Fiscal

Common Starling

Crowned Hornbill

Fiery-necked Nightjar

Fork-tailed Drongo

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

Grey-headed Bush Shrike

Grey-headed Sparrow

Hadeda Ibis

Knysna Turaco

Laughing Dove

Olive Thrush

Pied Crow

Red-eyed Dove

Rednecked Spurfowl

Red-winged Starling

Sacred Ibis

Sombre Bulbul

Southern Masked Weaver

Speckled Mousebird

Speckled Pigeon

Spectacled Weaver

Streakyheaded Seedeater

Village Weaver

Yellow Weaver




An often underrated bird which occurs right across the country, except for some of the western areas, is the Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer difusus). It tends to be ignored because it is a rather plain sparrow with a warm brown back and a soft grey head which helps it to blend into its surroundings very easily. Unlike the House Sparrow – introduced from Europe – which has taken over the whole country, the Southern Grey-headed Sparrow tends to avoid urban areas. One is highly unlikely, for example, to see one in car parks of shopping malls or even inside supermarkets – the happy domains of the House Sparrows. It likes areas with trees and comes into suitable suburban gardens. We have been fortunate to have a pair of them regularly visiting our garden for years (perhaps their offspring after all this time) and I have come to enjoy observing their quietly cheerful presence – like these ones on Morrigan’s bench feeder.

Apart from eating fruit (I have seen them eating berries from the indigenous trees in our garden rather than tucking into apples), nectar from the aloes and Cape Honeysuckle, and insects, they particularly come into view when eating the fine seed I put out.

I have noticed that these sparrows tend to wait until the early morning rush of feeding is over. They are constantly on the alert whilst feeding, as you can tell from the stance of this one, sharing a feeder with a weaver.

In fact, they often appear to be ready to fly off at the first sign of danger. This time it is sharing a feeder with Bronze Manikins.

They are not ‘pushy’ birds as so many others are, but approach the feeders in a diffident manner. This one perched above the Village Weavers for a while before eventually joining them.

Next time you find a Southern Grey-headed Sparrow in your sights, take time to observe it carefully so that you can appreciate its subtle colouring and the gentleness of its behaviour. I certainly find their presence in our garden gives me a feeling of contentment that they have chosen to come.



The air  is dry; leaves are curling up, turning yellow or brown, and some are carpeting the ground; pot plants have shrivelled in the summer-like temperatures that have scorched us over the past few days; water in the bird baths evaporate almost before my back is turned; wasps and butterflies regularly dip onto the surface of the swimming pool to drink. Everything is crying out for water … April is not a rainy month.

All is not lost though. Canary creeper blossoms are beginning to cover the trees with a bright yellow carpet.

The blue plumbago flowers continue to provide cheer.

The sea lavender also puts on a brave show.

There is plenty of natural food for the birds too. These small Natal figs are already attracting African Green Pigeons, Red-winged Starlings and Black-headed Orioles.

These (so far) unidentified indigenous berries that hang in heavy bunches are eaten by Cape White-eyes, weavers and Speckled Mousebirds.

Ants abound both indoors and out. They are clearly on a quest for water in this hot, dry weather. I watched these ones moving up and down a stone wall outside our kitchen this afternoon.