PORTRAIT OF AN AFRICAN GREEN PIGEON

I think I first became aware of African Green Pigeons in the Kruger National Park. It was only in 2004 that I became aware of them clambering about in the Natal fig tree in our garden. Since then I have observed large flocks of them congregating there at various times of the year. Despite their beautiful colouring, they are not easy birds to see. Even if you happen to spot them – especially in the late afternoon, when the lowering sun highlights them in the top branches – they tend to be rather too high up to photograph, or they disappear into the foliage within seconds of you training your lens on them!

I have published pictures of these very attractive birds now and then, such as this one, which shows off its yellow thighs and gives one an idea of its unique green and grey plumage as well as its distinctively bright eye.

I seldom get to photograph the whole bird, yet I rather like this one of an African Green Pigeon catching the sun in a different tree and fluffed up against the cold.

I rather enjoy the benign look in its eye and the clear view of its pink and white bill. The mauve shoulder patch is partly hidden by a branch – of course – and blends into the olive green wing. The reddish feet are clearly visible too.

The large flocks have moved on, making me wonder what trees are fruiting now that the bounty of figs are over. A few of them still sun themselves in the Erythrina caffra and so I remain entertained by their array of croaks and soft chuckling sounds

WHEN A FIG IS NOT A FIG

Mention the word ‘fig’ and this image springs to mind:

Our neighbours have such a fig tree in their garden that sometimes bends with the weight of delicious edible fruit. A succession of families living there over the years have ignored their plump ripeness, leaving them for the Speckled Mousebirds, Cape White-eyes, Redwinged Starlings and Blackeyed Bulbuls to devour!

The enormous Natal fig tree in our garden produces an abundance of tiny fruits that are inedible for humans, yet are a magnet for an enormous variety of birds. This African Green Pigeon among them:

So, when is a fig not a fig? When it belongs to the ice plant or Mesembryanthemacae family. There is such a variety of these plants indigenous to South Africa that they probably deserve a fat guide book all to themselves. Whatever their actual scientific designation, they are commonly known here as mesembs or vygies (little figs). Let me show you why:

Once these beautifully silky flowers have fruited, the fruiting capsules bear a strong resemblance to a little fig (vygie):

JUNE 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Even though the colder winter weather has settled in, there is plenty of fruit on the Natal fig tree in the bottom corner of our garden. A flock of African Green Pigeons seem to have taken up residence there for the time being – only flying out to seek the sun elsewhere during the late afternoons or if startled by loud noises on the street below. In the first photograph of the two below you see how well these fairly large birds blend into the foliage:

Here one of these birds is feasting on a fig:

Enormous flocks of Redwinged Starlings visit this tree daily too, as do doves, Olive Thrushes, Black-collared Barbets, Speckled Mousebirds and weavers. Black-headed Orioles enjoy the figs too and visit the nectar feeder regularly. Although this isn’t a good picture at all – taken with my cell phone from some distance – it illustrates how these birds also enjoy the nectar from aloe flowers:

Laughing Doves congregate in high branches in order to catch the early morning sun. This is one of several perched in the almost bare branches of a pompon tree:

Welcome sounds and sightings this month mark the return of a pair of Cape Wagtails that prance around the edge of our swimming pool and the beautiful bubbling call of a Burchell’s Coucal from deep within the foliage. I have also heard a pair of Bar-throated Apalises nearby. They too are not easy to spot between the leaves, although I caught a glimpse of one in the kitchen hedge whilst I was hanging up the laundry the other day. I see Cape Weavers around more often now, still looking a little tatty in their winter garb:

The other weaver I simply cannot resist showing you more of is the Spectacled Weaver. This one is becoming very bold and visits the bird feeders daily, eating fruit, cheese, fish and seeds during the course of the week:

With aloes, Cape honeysuckle and other winter flowers blooming, there is probably enough nectar to go around – the mixture I put out goes down fairly slowly at the moment – and so it was fun seeing a Cape White-eye sampling my fare:

Fork-tailed Drongos, Pied Crows and a flock of about six Cape Crows have been regular visitors this month too. The Speckled Pigeons appear to have decreased in number – one still roosts on a ledge near our front door and makes an awful mess below. This one is peering down at me from the gutter – which is in desperate need of cleaning!

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
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver

A PRETTY FIND

Even a humdrum activity, such as hanging up the laundry, can result in a happy sighting or two. The first was seeing this delicately coloured feather dropped by a Redeyed Dove:

These birds are common residents of our garden which enjoy perching in both the Natal fig as well as the Erythrina trees – these brown leaves are from the latter, as is the scarlet seed nestling among them at the bottom of the photograph.

I usually only see the Redeyed Doves singly or in pairs when they join the huddle of other doves in their early morning feeding frenzy once I have filled the maize seed feeder. Theirs is one of the first calls I hear in the morning, which is why I have translated their cooing into a melodious yet insistent ‘better get started, better get started’ sound.

The unexpected – and very pretty – find was this feather. At first I thought it might have come from one of the doves for it was greyish with a tinge of white. As I reached down for another item of laundry to hang up, a slight breeze turned the feather over to reveal this:

The attractive greeny-yellow colouring shows this feather has been dropped by an African Green Pigeon.

These beautiful birds usually chuckle from deep within the Natal fig or sun themselves very high up on the Erythrina trees – which is why I show this one from the Kruger National Park.