JANUARY 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

There were 48 birds on my list for last January and 45 this year. I doubt if there are really fewer birds that could be seen from our garden, rather I wasn’t necessarily there to see them. So much depends on when I am outside, how long I spend outside, where I settle to watch birds, and what the weather is like. Birds are scarce during high temperatures – and we have experienced some days of up to 40°C – and equally so during damp weather – very few of those this month!

Possibly the most exciting bird action for me this month was the unexpected arrival of a Steppe Buzzard that sent a flock of Laughing Doves scattering in all directions. I heard a loud, yet muffled, thump and there it was, only about two meters away from me! It blinked at me for a second or two and then flew off so silently that had I not witnessed its departure I would have wondered what had happened to it. Its hunting foray was unrewarded. This one is not in my garden but was photographed on the edge of town.

A pair of Southern Boubous have become regular visitors to the feeding area this month. They arrive either singly or together, waiting in the shrubbery until the coast is clear before coming out in the open.

Of course it is always a delight when the Bronze Manikins come to visit. They have been breeding very successfully for I have seen a whole flock of youngsters accompany the adults when feeding on seed that has fallen to the ground from the hanging feeders. Weavers too have been feeding grain to their chicks.

The Black-collared Barbets are keeping the doctor away by eating apple every day.

A pair of Black-eyed Bulbuls have been hard-pressed feeding their youngster, which is waiting on a rock – not too patiently – for the next bite of apple. The parents have been gradually enticing their youngster to come ever closer to the source of the apples.

Another bird that has just about been run ragged feeding offspring is the ringed Common Fiscal. Once I realised that it was frantically feeding not one chick but three, I helped out by providing some very finely chopped meat. This chick has a slice of sausage – that escaped the chopping – in its beak. I will show more photographs of these chicks in a later post.

I was fascinated to watch a Speckled Pigeon helping itself to some of the chopped meat – I assumed they only ate grain and occasionally fruit.

My January bird list:

African Darter
African Green Pigeon
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
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
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Steppe Buzzard
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-billed Kite

JULY 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

The traditional calendar notwithstanding – nor the fluctuations in temperature between very cold and fairly summery – the birds seem to know a thing or two about when to court, when to breed, and when spring is on its way. The Olive Thrushes, usually quick to see what is on offer, have been more furtive of late. Instead of eating their fill, drinking or bathing afterwards and then perching on a nearby branch until they are ready for the next round, two of them arrive one after the other – disappearing in different directions – to gobble what they can and then carry off bits of food to their nest. I think one is located in our bottom ‘wild’ garden but am disinclined to disturb them. The other day an Olive Thrush took a dislike to a Speckled Pigeon right across the garden for no apparent reason.

Laughing Doves court throughout the year. I counted twenty-six of them the other day – and have yet to come across a single nest!

The yellow beaks of the Common Starlings are an indication that they are also in breeding mode.

There are two Common Fiscals that arrive separately every day – distinguishable only because one has been ringed.

A female Greater Double-collared Sunbird has spent about four days gathering tiny fragments of lichen, small feathers, and even soft grass seeds with which to line her nest – which is possibly in the hedge between us and our neighbours – while Mr Sunbird drinks his fill at the nectar feeder and makes loud territorial noises from on high in the Erythrina tree in the back garden.

The Streakyheaded Seedeaters always arrive as a pair.

Most of the Village Weavers and Southern Masked Weavers are looking a little worse for wear at the moment as they are growing into their breeding plumage.

One Cape Weaver has already built a nest in the side garden, while others arrive with strips of reed leaves in their beaks only to drop them when they tuck into the seeds for a meal.

Here you can see the difference in the shape of the beak of a Blackcollared Barbet and a Black-eyed Bulbul as they feed on cut apples.

Speckled Mousebirds perch patiently in the shrubbery for an opportunity to come down to eat the fruit.

My July bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Blackshouldered Kite
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Batis
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Crowned Hornbill
Crowned Plover
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Spectacled Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Yellowfronted Canary

SEPTEMBER 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

Headline news: it has rained on the last day of the month – 17mm!

Birds come and go as the seasons change. Laughing Doves remain throughout the year and have become so prolific that I have decided not to put out crushed mealies for them every day: they not only eat all of that, but have become adept at filching the finer seed from the hanging feeders too!

Other regular visitors throughout the year are the Black-collared Barbets. Their calls can be heard across the valley throughout the day and they come to inspect the availability of suitable food at least once a day.

Common Starlings are never shy to ‘elbow’ other birds out of the way to gobble up as much as they can at once.

On the subject of starlings, I was very excited to see a single Cape Glossy Starling in our garden the other day – even more so when at least six of them paid a visit yesterday!

Other newcomers this month include a Cardinal Woodpecker, Paradise Flycatcher, Pin-tailed Whydah, White-rumped Swifts, Thick-billed Weavers, Yellow Weaver and several Southern Masked Weavers. More of the latter have been evident than the Village Weavers this month.

I never tire of the Olive Thrushes as they never fail to amuse. They stab at the apples with their sharp beaks and sometimes swallow large pieces whole. They prefer pecking at the bits of apple that fall to the ground though and sometimes drag large pieces away to eat at their leisure under the cover of the bushes.

My September bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow (Black)
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellow Weaver

MARCH 2017 GARDEN BIRDS

What a strange month this has been for watching birds in our garden: for close on two weeks even the Laughing Doves seemed to be keeping their distance; the level of seed in the hanging feeders barely went down; and the nectar feeder has only been replenished once this month – mainly because the spout had become clogged with dead ants!

Then the birds started to return: Yellow-fronted Canaries and Bronze Manikins jostled around the seed feeder early in the mornings, making it sway to and fro with their arrivals and departures; the weavers have been arriving in smaller numbers than usual around mid-morning; a few Black-eyed Bulbuls inspect the window ledges for insects; and the various doves forage for seed scattered on the lawn in the warmer part of the day.

Fiery-necked Nightjars call through the hot evenings – at ten o’ clock last night it was still 24°C – and African Dusky Flycatchers dart about the bird bath set in the deep shade of the forested part of the garden. A family of four Black-collared Barbets, two youngsters each being fed by an adult, kept me entertained at the feeding table recently.

This is a time of change: the Whiterumped Swifts and Lesserstriped Swallows are gathering in ever large numbers in preparation for their arduous journey north; Pin-tailed Whydahs are changing into winter tweeds; weavers are looking drabber; and the African Green pigeons have moved to a more convenient food source elsewhere.

My March list is:

African Darter
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Cuckoo
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Black Saw-wing
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Loerie
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sacred Ibis
Speckled Mousebird
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellowfronted Canary
Yellow Weaver

BLACK SWAN

BLACK SWAN

A dark theme threaded its way through my bird watching this morning, which started with a dashing looking Blackheaded Oriole swooping after another – clearly spring is in the air – chasing it all over the garden before halting to fill up from the free nectar in the ‘pub’.

That tranquil moment lasted only until the Forktailed Drongo dive-bombed the oriole to get its share of the energy drink on this chilly day. Later, this black bundle of aggression chased away both a Laughing Dove and a Village Weaver that happened to beperched nearby.

Blackeyed Bulbuls chirped cheekily at this activity then slid down the branches to investigate what was on offer at the feeding station. As they did so, a large and raucous flock of Redwinged Starlings flew past casting shadows over the dessicated lawn and dappling the swimming pool.

A pair of Blackcollared Barbets called out to each other from the top of the Erythrina then chased each other into the fig tree to continue their courting sounds whilst being well hidden by the foliage – their sense of the onset of spring is much stronger than mine!  Even some of the weavers are beginning to loop blades of grass over thin branches as if trying to remember how to start building a nest.

The striking colour of black in birds was weaving its way through my mind when I commented on the shining beauty of the Black (Amethyst) Sunbird taking advantage of the lull to get its share of the ‘pub’ before investigating the bright orange flowers of the Leonatis leonuris I had pruned earlier.

“What is a black swan?” B asked over tea. That’s easy, I thought until he qualified the question with “I don’t mean the bird.” That stumped me – I am not at all familiar with the term.

It turns out to refer to a completely unexpected event that would have been very difficult to predict. The term was popularised by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2007.  Such an event not only comes as a surprise, but has a major impact – such as those aeroplanes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center; an event now referred to simply as 9/11.