MAY 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

Days are cooling down and the nights are becoming uncomfortably cold. Red-winged Starlings are gathering in ever-larger flocks as they swoop around the neighbourhood in search of food. I counted twenty of them in the Erythrina caffra yesterday – nibbling at the few scarlet blossoms that are left on the tree. African Green Pigeons continue to hide effectively in the dark green foliage of the Natal fig, although I can hear them chuckling daily. I often feature Olive Thrushes, so will spare you yet another photograph of these delightful birds. Nonetheless, it has been fun watching a spotty youngster grow in confidence so quickly that it now even chases adults away from the fruit on the feeding tray if it wishes.

The fruit I provide regularly attracts a pair of Black-collared Barbets. One alights on the tray first, while the other waits in the branches above for a while before joining the first. They are either the first to visit, or come after the main feeding rush is over.

The Cape Robin-chat has been particularly shy and skittish this year. It peeps out from between the leaves and even advances towards the feeding tray, but flies off as soon as any other bird approaches.

Last month I mentioned seeing a female Thick-billed Weaver. I have spotted it several times this month, either perched on the edge of the bird bath or in the shrubbery.

I was delighted to spot a Hoopoe on our back lawn the other day. It was so busy pecking at the grass that I doubt if it noticed my approach.

Bronze Mannikins are such a delight to watch as they flit around the garden and especially when they crowd around the feeder to eat the seeds.

Then there are the Common Starlings. Usually only one or two come to the feeding area. Today a large flock of them were perched in first the Erythrina caffra and then moved into the Natal fig.

Having observed an unusual bird for three days in a row, I was at last able to identify it as a Brown Scrub-Robin – a first for my garden – only to have it disappear again! There is so much dead wood around the garden that the Cardinal Woodpecker can frequently be heard bashing away at it. Unfortunately it is usually far too high up for me to take a photograph worthy of showing off. The same applies to a pair of Crowned Hornbills that attracted my attention by pecking loudly at a window pane in our neighbour’s house. They flew into the Natal fig as I approached them – and that was the end of that! Both the Spectacled Weaver and the Grey-headed Sparrows have made a welcome return to the garden – and I caught a fleeting glimpse of a Long-billed Crombec. It might be cold, yet this has been a good month for garden birding.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Brown Scrub-Robin
Cape Batis
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Crowned Hornbill
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forest Canary
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Long-billed Crombec
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Thick-billed Weaver
Village Weaver

TWO COLLARED BIRDS

The head, throat and back of the male Greater Double-collared Sunbird are a beautiful metallic green, with a thin blue rump and a wide, bright red breast-band Although ‘collared’ features in its name, the ‘collar’  is not very pronounced. It has a long decurved bill that allows it to get nectar from tubular-shaped or drooping flowers. I am fortunate enough to see these sunbirds throughout most of the year in our garden, however they are particularly prominent during the aloe flowering season.

Another ‘collared’ bird is a more heavily built one. The Black-collared Barbet has bright red face, throat and upper breast, bordered by a broad, black collar which provides an interesting contrast with the yellowish belly. The large, heavy bill is used to great effect in excavating nest holes in trees as well as for ‘digging into’ fruit or eating insects. We see these barbets in our garden throughout the year and they regularly feed on the fruit I put out – as well as tucking into tiny pieces of meat or fish.

WORLD WILDLIFE DAY 2021

It is becoming increasingly important to be aware of, and to celebrate, the diversity of species of flora and fauna that inhabit our world. Expanding human populations with the consequent need for land, homes, factories and warehouses are making large inroads into sensitive habitats that support our diverse wildlife – in whatever form. I offer these photographs in celebration of World Wildlife Day:

The Erythrina humeana or Dwarf Lucky Bean tree occurs along the coastal belt and the midlands of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga into Mozambique. There is one growing on a pavement in one of the suburbs where I live.

Blue Cranes are South Africa’s national bird and prefer open grasslands, where they forage for food while walking. Their numbers have been decreasing in the Eastern Cape and so I was delighted to come across these birds not far from town.

Cabbage trees occur in the bushveld, along forest margins, in mixed deciduous woodlands and among rocky outcrops. This one is growing in my garden.

While the Leopard Tortoise – the largest tortoise in South Africa – is not considered a threatened species, predators of the juveniles include rock monitors, storks, crows and small carnivores. Veld fires and passing traffic are also a danger to them.

Black-collared Barbets occur widely across Africa and are always welcome visitors to our garden.

It is difficult to choose between the many flowers, birds, butterflies, reptiles, trees, grasses and so on that occur here and so I will leave you with this magnificent pair of Kudu walking through the bushveld.

JANUARY 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

I often feel as if the garden birds make a special effort to show themselves at the start of a new year: 48 different species recorded this month! There are probably others that pay the garden a visit that I do not see. As with so much in nature, it is a case of being in the right place at the right time. So it is that although I have recorded two more bird species than I did last January, a significant number were not on that list – and several from there are not on this one.

The bright sun and high temperatures were not conducive to sitting patiently outside with camera in hand, so most of the photographs in this post come from my archives. Two exciting visitors for me have been an African Firefinch – I have not recorded one here for at least twenty years – which perched tantalisingly on a branch above me one morning and hasn’t made an appearance since. The other is a pair of Common Waxbills, which have stuck around for the past three weeks. They are delightful birds that I have often seen on the other side of town. Three interesting ‘fly-overs’ are a Black-headed Heron, Sacred Ibises and an Egyptian Goose.

Black-collared Barbets are regular visitors and it didn’t take them long to realise that I had moved all the bird feeders to the other side of the garden. This was partly so that I could enjoy a better cover of shade now that the daily temperatures have increased so much and partly to flummox a band of rats that were feasting on the fallen seed.

Although I regularly put fruit out for the birds, the pair of Knysna Turacos seldom partake of it. Rather, they more frequently come down from their treetop wanderings to drink or bathe in one of the bird baths that I keep filled with fresh water.

Olive Thrushes are such delightful visitors that I cannot resist posting yet another photograph of one.

When I first noted the Streaky-headed Seedeaters they seemed to be confined to the back garden, only venturing to the front garden once the main gathering of birds had completed their initial feasting for the day. Now they are among the first to occupy the feeders once I have filled them in the morning, and they are often among the latest feeders at the end of the day. This one was not photographed in my garden.

My January bird list:

African Firefinch
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-hawk
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Heron
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Batis
Cape Crow
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Common Waxbill
Diederik Cuckoo
Egyptian Goose
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Thick-billed Weaver
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow Weaver