SEPTEMBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Despite having been away for a while, this has proved to be a satisfying month of birdwatching in my garden. At night and during the early hours of most mornings we are serenaded by a Fiery-necked Nightjar. An African Darter has flown over ‘my’ airspace a few times in order to make my list and Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbuls have made cheerful forays to the feeding table. The sounds of cuckoos can be heard – the Piet-my-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo) is another clear sign that spring is here to stay.

On that note, while the sun rises ever earlier, the mornings remain fairly chilly and so it is not surprising to find a flock of Bronze Mannikins gathered in the branches of a Dais cotonifolia to warm up for a while before their breakfast:

I feature the Common Fiscals a lot in these posts, largely because they are such characters and are photogenic to boot. Spotty has even brought a chick along to the feeding area to see what the offerings are. The biggest surprise for me though was the sighting of the only female Common Fiscal I have ever seen in our garden. She did not appear to be connected to either Spotty or Meneer and I have not seen her since. Note the chestnut flanks that characterise the females:

As you can see, I have purchased a new feeder – I’m not sure how well this configuration is being received, but the other one requires a thorough cleaning (when we get a reasonable supply of water again!). Here a Southern Masked Weaver is trying it out accompanied by Bronze Mannikins:

A Grey-headed Sparrow is enjoying a solo feeding session:

Also catching the morning sun whilst keeping an eye out for the neighbouring cats are these Laughing Doves:

I mentioned the Hadeda Ibis nest last month. So far there is no sign of either eggshells at the base or chicks on the nest, so the eggs are still being incubated:

My bird list for this month:
African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
Yellow Weaver

A BIRD FEEDER IN HOUT BAY

It is fun watching birds in someone else’s garden and what better way to do so than keeping an eye on the local bird feeder. Among the first visitors to arrive in this Hout Bay garden was a Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus), a familiar visitor in my own garden. There it tends to seek out anything meaty or fruity, so I was surprised to see this one tucking into the seeds:

Another familiar bird arrived, a Cape Robin-Chat (Cossypha caffra). These are beloved garden birds that eat fruit, insects and scraps of any kind. This one was combing the lawn for dried meal worms – something I have never provided for the birds in my garden:

Yet another familiar bird arrived with a loud fluttering of its wings – one of a pair of Speckled Pigeons (Columba guinea). These birds are ubiquitous over the whole country, so their presence was no surprise:

Ah, not only birds visited this bird feeder. The mystery of why the cut apples disappear so quickly was solved with the sighting of this Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in the act. These are not indigenous, having been imported by Cecil John Rhodes during the 19th century:

Mmm … there was another non-avian contender for the fallen seed below the feeder. Such a regular visitor in fact that it has made a getaway tunnel among the plants growing next to the fence. This is a Four-striped Grass Mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio):

Try as I might, I ended having to photograph these delightful visitors through the window. What an absolute delight it was to watch small groups of Swee Waxbills (Coccopygia melanotis) fluttering down from the branches to cluster around the feeder. They never seemed to be still and would fly off at a moment’s notice leaving their high-pitched ‘swee-swee’ contact call in their wake:

Now, a bonus picture that brought great joy to the pre-schooler who had made this elaborate feeder – unidentified visitors (taken through a window with a cell phone) investigating the seed therein at last!

Proof indeed that this carnival-like contraption was also attractive to birds.

THREE PINK SPRING FLOWERS

The veld is dominated by yellow and purple flowers at the moment. Nonetheless, today I want to bring three pink spring flowers to your attention. Although the first is still sans an ID, its warm pink flowers make a pretty show next to the country roads.

Another small pink flower belongs to the Oxalis family – I think this it is an Oxalis purpurea – and stands out in semi-shaded areas. This is one of many growing along a sandy path.

Then there are these vygies, as they are commonly called here, more formally known as Carpobrotus edulis. These flowers are widespread and we have recently seen them carpeting the veld from the Eastern Cape through to the Western Cape. These particular ones are growing in my garden.

SPRING IN THE GARDEN 2022

My posts are filled with the doom and gloom of the prolonged drought so it is time to showcase some of the bright spots in my spring garden. Although the freesias are almost over now, they brought great joy for their blooms have been more prolific and have lasted for longer than in previous years. Most of them are white and then there are these:

The rosemary bush growing near our front door is covered with flowers – again more than we have been able to enjoy for ever so long. It must be thanks to some of the light rain that fell during the latter part of August:

Plumbago blossoms are always a delight: the first ones are coming out now and so before long there will be masses of these lovely blue flowers in the garden:

We inherited several golden shower creepers with the garden and these thrive with no help from me at all:

This iris is part of a clump given to me by my brother in Gauteng – I love how plants can provide connections between people!

Lastly, even though there are a few more splashes of colour, I must highlight the dianthus seedlings that are showing a new lease of life after the rain:

MY GARDEN THEN AND NOW

Google Photos reminded me of flowers I had photographed with my cell phone on this day last year. Given the drought, changes in temperature, some unexpected rain, and the general wear and tear of my garden that does not have the luxury of being watered, I thought it would be interesting to compare the 2021 images with those taken exactly a year later. The first is one of the many Osteospermum spp. commonly known as an African daisy. Last year this was newly planted:

Over the past year this daisy bush has come close to dying from heat and a serious lack of water. I have poured buckets of water over it to revive it and it has held on bravely. It has grown in size, but is regularly flattened by the doves – and especially the speckled pigeons – that trample over it in their quest for seeds that fall on the ground from the hanging feeders.

Last year the indigenous Crassula multicava, widely known as fairy crassula, added both beauty and much-needed ground cover during even the driest months.

Some light rain over the past month has given this hardy plant a boost and it is growing thickly all over the garden. This photograph is of the same bank of flowers as the previous one.

The clivias growing along our front garden path came into bloom, providing bright spots of colour in an otherwise shady part of the garden.

This year the flowers have opened more fully earlier – also there are many more buds in various stages of opening than we had in 2021.