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
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



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.