There has been no soft introduction to spring this year. Even the peach blossoms shrivelled within a day or two before disappearing in the dry wind. For two or three days I thought the jasmine flowers would fill the garden with their scent after each hot day – they too shrivelled and died without ceremony. There are not even single flowers to herald the spring in my garden – and not many in the veld either! I think anything that pops its head above ground in the latter gets grazed by wild and domestic animals eager for moisture and the taste of anything other than short, dusty grass.
At least indigenous trees know how to survive in this heat (we have already experienced 41°C without reaching the official summer) and dry weather. Most sport green leaves in different hues, even though some remain bare and skeletal looking. The last vibrant splashes of winter colour come from the Erythrina trees.
The Erythrina caffra in our back garden has been flowering for weeks and is only now beginning to cover itself with green leaves.
Several Erythrina lysistemon trees grow in the suburbs and their scarlet flowers are balm for the soul.
Travelling is enriching, enlightening and broadens our understanding of the world we live in. We tend to equate travel with seeing spectacular views, interesting birds and buildings, or unusual animals; what about this large ant seen along the path while I was walking in the Hottentot-Holland Mountains in the Western Cape?
Look at the angle at which this tree is growing, bent by the prevailing winds along the Western Cape coast.
It is from the Adam’s Krantz viewpoint in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape that one gets a spectacular view of the Fish River way below.
A brick-lined oven can still be seen in the scant remains of Fort Willshire in the Amathole District of the Eastern Cape.
On a private farm about 40km from Grahamstown, one can find the site known as the Clay Pits, a source of red, yellow and white clay that used to be used by isiXhosa-speaking clans on both sides of the Fish River for cosmetic, decorative and ritual uses.
There are always interesting things to discover without necessarily travelling very far.
The days have warmed up quickly and nature is making the most of the seasonal change. The veld in parts of the North West Province is filled with Vachellia (Acacia) trees covered with creamy blossoms.
New leaves are sprouting on thorny branches.
Young Nyala still sport crinkly, fluffy hair.
Impala are feeling frisky.
The birds in our garden are regularly supplied with seeds and fruit, although there are a number of berries on indigenous trees at this time of the year as well as succulent flowers on the Erythrina caffra tree especially. Weavers and other smaller birds are provided with fine grass seeds in the hanging feeders and coarse seeds, such as crushed maize and millet are scattered on the ground for doves and pigeons. Well, that is the way it is supposed to work. Here is one of many Cape Weavers making the most of the abundance of Erythrina caffra flowers.
Amethyst sunbirds, Speckled Mousebirds, Common Starlings, Black-headed Orioles, Fork-tailed Drongos, Laughing Doves, African Green Pigeons, Black-eyed Bulbuls and a variety of other birds visit these blossoms during the day. Laughing Doves, Red-eyed Doves and the Speckled Pigeons also gather below the hanging feeders to eat the seeds that fall to the ground. These Laughing Doves have decided to get to the source:
Not to be outdone, a Speckled Pigeon has usurped Morrigan’s feeder for a good meal:
There are a lot of berries and seeds around for the Speckled Mousebirds to feed on, but here they have homed in on an orange I put out on the feeding tray:
I am increasingly becoming like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland who said “I’m late, I’m late! … I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” It is always my intention to post my monthly Garden Birds blog entry on the last day of each month yet, here I am well into the next one, looking back at the month past.
The weavers heralded the arrival of spring during the course of August, their bright yellow plumage adding much needed colour to our drab-looking garden. Some Village Weavers (seen at the bird feeder below) have already started constructing their nests in the enormous Natal Fig tree.
Meanwhile the male Cape Weavers are sporting an orange-brown wash over their faces and throats – some more intensely coloured than others.
Early nest-building has extended to the Hadeda Ibises as well, for several of these natural early morning wake-up alarm birds have been seen collecting twigs for nesting materials and taking them to the Erythrina caffra tree in the back garden as well as the Natal Fig in the front. While I have not yet discovered where the Cape Robin-chat is nesting, it sings from the same perch every day and disappears into the bush behind it. Careful observation will provide clues to the whereabouts of its nest in due course.
The Knysna Turacos and Fork-tailed Drongos are clearly courting their mates at the moment.
Happily for me, the afternoons are filled with melodious calls of the Olive Thrushes and Red-eyed Doves as they call to each other, the latter from the depths of the Natal Fig in the mornings and from the Erythrina caffra during the late afternoons.
An appearance by a Eurasian Hobby sent the birds scattering the other day and silence reigned until it gave up and disappeared. Cheeky Common Starlings are back, elbowing other birds out of the way to get to the food on the feeding tray. Some Cape Wagtails have bobbed about our non-existent lawn looking for food and I have watched a Streakyheaded Seedeater stuff its beak with seeds to take to its young. All-in-all, this has been a good month for watching birds in my garden.
My August bird list is:
African Green Pigeon
Cape Crow (Black)
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
As the cycle of life continues, the seasons gradually bring change with them. We can already see the end of winter and an early start to spring in our garden. These range from dry seed pods, to the bright blooms of the Erythrina caffra, to a peach tree that is hastening from blossoming to sprouting leaves – as if there is no time to waste.
Some birds have already hatched their first batch of young, while others, such as this Cape Weaver, are sporting snazzy new courting colours.
NOTE: Click on a photograph should you wish to see a larger version.