After an absence of several weeks, Spotty the Common Fiscal has started visiting the garden again. It is still very wary – probably because of the cats next door – yet is gradually coming ever closer to where I am sitting. In these photographs Spotty is perched on a nearby branch: you can clearly see the hooked beak, the eponymous dark spot, and the ring which makes this bird easily stand out from other fiscals visiting the garden.

This is a typical ‘alert’ stance.

Here you can see the other side of this handsome bird as well as catch the warm brown eyes and the bristles below the beak.


Top brass is a term usually used to refer to people in the highest positions of an organisation, such as the military or in business. This is a legacy from when leaders in the 19th century British army wore brass oak leaves on the brim of their caps. The phrase sprang to mind when I saw these brilliantly shining brass taps in the camping area of the Karoo National Park:

The brass connection for the fire hydrant in the reception area was equally shiny:

There is an obsession about shining brass objects in our national parks – including the window latches – that always make me look at my brass garden tap and brass window latches that remain dull, and have become duller over time, with a feeling that I ought to do something about shining them. The feeling doesn’t last long though as I have far too many other things with which to occupy my time.


Over the past four years a pair of rather handsome looking Southern Boubous have made their home either in or very close to our garden. At first I used to see them very rarely and then seldom for long enough to photograph them. Over the past year they have visited the feeding area more frequently to see what is on offer. This female is perched on the edge of the bird bath:

Now she is being a little coy:

The male is bolder and does not seem to mind being photographed whilst enjoying his meal:

I enjoy hearing their beautifully rich tonal duets echo through the garden before I spot one or other of them perched fairly high up in the branches of one of the many trees. As they can mimic other birds too, they have a pleasing repertoire of sounds that are sometimes confusing to the ear. They mostly call early in the mornings or later during the afternoons.


It is at this time of the year that the Cape Honeysuckle puts on a fine show of cheerful bright orange flowers so beloved by sunbirds, weavers, Cape White-eyes, bees and butterflies.

Aloes vie for space among the crassulas plants edging our swimming pool. They too provide cheer and attract the Greater Double-collared sunbirds, weavers, Black-headed orioles, and Black-eyed Bulbuls as well as bees and ants.

The Spekboom growing in various places in the garden does not mind either the icy weather or the drought.

A large flock of Red-winged Starlings visit the fig tree daily and often perch in the top branches of the Erythrina caffra to catch the early morning sun. These trees are now devoid of all but the hardiest of leaves and are covered in clusters of black seed pods that have split open to reveal the scarlet ‘lucky beans’ inside. Flower buds are making their spiky appearance, so before long the trees will look resplendent in their scarlet blooms.

A Black-headed Oriole perches in one of the many Pompon trees that are rapidly losing their leaves. The formerly beautiful pink blossoms now look like miniature floor mops that have been hung out to dry.

A male Garden Inspector / Garden Commodore (Precis archesia archesia) sees what the Canary Creeper flowers have to offer. We have seen very few butterflies in our garden so far.