APRIL 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Not only is this post woefully late, but this is probably the shortest bird list for a long time – mainly because I was away from our garden for half of the month! Once again, photographs have been sourced from my archives.

A pair of Southern Boubous creep out from the thicket behind the bird feeders once they have established that the coast is clear. The first port of call is the birdbath on a stand before one or other ventures down to inspect the feeding tray. Laughing Doves still congregate in the trees or on the telephone cable, but are a lot more wary about fluttering down to feed on the ground. Perhaps they too wish to make certain there are no cats around before they do. It is very pleasing to hear the happy chirps from the weavers after their absence. Southern Masked Weavers were the first to return and now Village Weavers are making a come-back.

Several Speckled Pigeons keep watch on proceedings from the roof – one roosts on our bathroom window every night!

Olive Thrushes still call from within the trees and shrubs, yet have become shyer about coming out in the open since the neighbouring cats appeared. By contrast, it is lovely to both see and hear Red-winged Starlings in ever-increasing numbers as the figs begin to ripen on the Natal fig tree. It is always a pleasure to see a Black-headed Oriole.

Several Black-eyed Bulbuls chatter merrily in the foliage before tucking into the fruit put out for them.

There is plenty of natural fruit and seeds around to attract Cape White-eyes as well as the Speckled Mousebirds that are such fun to observe.

I will round off April’s round-up of garden birds with the real stalwarts, the Bronze Manikins, that arrive daily to flit about the feeder – always shifting up to make room for yet another one to join them there.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape White-eye
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

LOOKING OUT FOR TROUBLE

Regular readers will know that the avian visitors to our garden have had to become more wary about visiting the feeders because of attacks by the neighbouring cats. I was enjoying my breakfast outside this morning as a small flock of Bronze Manikins settled around the hanging feeder whilst others were pecking at the seed that had fallen to the ground; a Bar-throated Apalis announced its presence in the thick tangle of Cape Honeysuckle; and an Olive Thrush approached me for little bits of cheese … it all felt so ‘normal’ for a change: Speckled Mousebirds flew between bushes and even the Laughing Doves were beginning to come down from their high perches.

Then there was a sudden flurry of activity as the manikins flew off in a cloud of tiny feathers, the doves retreated to the tall Erythrina, and the mousebirds crossed to the other side of the garden in haste. I could see white paws and thick grey fur behind a daisy bush and shouted loudly. The cat retreated, but it was too late: the peaceful feeding was over for it takes a long time for the birds to settle after such an intrusion. Here a Southern Grey-headed Sparrow keeps a close watch from a safe distance.

Gardens are all the poorer for the lack of birds and so I keep trying to create a safe haven for them. Birds lie very close to my heart.

RED SALVIA

It was at the beginning of last summer that I bought a tray of red salvia (Salvia splendens) seedlings at a hardware store. I couldn’t resist their bright red blooms and, as they enjoy direct sun, I knew they should do well in the tiny flower garden I try to nurture next to our swimming pool. The other positive attribute of these plants is that they can withstand periods of both intense heat and drought – conditions that have dominated our area for years.

Although salvias are usually regarded as annuals, anything that manages to keep growing in my dry garden is left for as long as possible – and are welcome to drop their seeds too. Salvias have a reputation for flowering for long periods and this particular tray of seedlings has now made it through two summers and the plants are still flowering at the beginning of autumn. What a joy they are to behold!

By contrast, a tray of salvias bought from a nursery at the start of this summer has not fared well at all. The plants flowered for about six weeks and then promptly died. What a disappointment they were. As the bright red flowers provide a ready source of nectar and pollen, they have proved to be attractive to butterflies, bees and ants. I will certainly be looking out for more healthy-looking seedlings once our summer comes round again!

SPOTTY

Last year I told the story of Spotty, the ringed Common Fiscal that has regularly visited our garden since at least 2016. I gave him this moniker because of the distinctive faint black spot on his front.  Over the past year, Spotty became less wary of me and often perched on a nearby branch while I was enjoying tea outside. While he appears in many photographs of the birds in my garden, these ones were taken in January. In this one he is perched above a feeding tray I had wedged into the fork of a tree in an effort to create a safer place (from the neighbouring cats) for the birds to come to.

He has perched comfortably on the edge of the feeding tray to nibble at a piece of sausage.

It didn’t taste too bad.

Once back on the branch, he eyed me silently before flying off. You can clearly see his eponymous dark spot.

Now that I am back from my brief sojourn away, I am hoping to see more of him.