AUGUST 2018 GARDEN BIRDS

This is a late entry for August, which has been a busy month for the birds as well as for me! The birds have an earlier sense of the approaching spring than humans do and waste no time in making the most of what the change of season heralds. Cape Weavers have, for example, been building their nests in the back garden, making loud announcements while doing so. Several nests have been left incomplete and the birds move from one site to another – looking for the best place. It is all about location, location, location. Not to be outdone, the male Village Weavers spend a lot of time attracting attention by flapping their wings in between eating.

An abundance of Laughing Doves make short work of the seed I scatter on the lawn every morning, efficiently aided by Speckled Doves and a few Red-eyed Doves. The Hadeda Ibises wake earlier by the day, as if not a moment is to be wasted.

The Fork-tailed Drongo has been up to its regular trick of sounding an alarm call that sends all the birds rushing for cover, leaving feathers fluttering to the ground in their haste, only to use that moment to pick over the tit-bits in peace. A pair of them have been courting this month, making an interesting variety of calls while doing so. They have occasionally been joined by a third, which leads to interesting bouts of chasing each other vigorously around the garden until one gives up and flies off, leaving the other two in peace – for a while. The Black-eyed Bulbuls are equally cheeky as far as giving other birds a fright so that they can home in on the fruit.

A Boubou usually waits until all is quiet before inspecting what is on offer on the feeding tray, while the Olive Thrushes – often the first to arrive – regularly return during the day to glean what has been dropped once the main rush of birds have left to scour the neighbourhood for other sources of food. A pair of Black-collared Barbets have been calling each other from the treetops and occasionally flit down to the feeding tray in silence. Eating is a serious business for them and they have particularly enjoyed the offerings of fresh fruit.

With little in the way of nectar-bearing flowers blooming, the nectar feeder has required refilling on a daily basis. Regular visitors include Black-eyed Bulbuls, Black-headed Orioles, Cape Weavers, Village Weavers, Fork-tailed Drongos and Amethyst Sunbirds.

My August bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird (Black)
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Shrike (Fiscal)
Common Starling
Fierynecked Nightjar
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Rednecked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon (Rock)
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver

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DARK CAPPED BULBUL

Dark-capped Bulbul it might now be, but it will always be a Black-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus tricolor) to me – after all, it is really only the colour of the eyes and the eye-rings that distinguishes it from the Red-eyed Bulbul!  Nonetheless, I mostly see them singly or in pairs in the garden, where they often perch on the highest branches. I enjoyed an interesting encounter this week: first there was one Bulbul peeping through the leaves

Then there were two, perched at ease

“Good morning, my dear,” said the first

“The morning is chilly I fear,” replied the second

Then off it flew – leaving only one to look at the view

“What’s going on down there?” He was talking to me.

“This is my best side, be sure to see!”

 

APRIL 2018 GARDEN BIRDS

What a beautiful month this has been – no rain, sadly, but mostly clear skies with warm days and at night one can feel the winter chill moving in as if to say “Don’t be fooled, I am on my way ha ha!” The aloes coming into bloom are attracting the sunbirds: the Black Sunbird was seeking nectar elsewhere last month and is a welcome returnee, whilst the Olive Sunbird is making its annual fleeting visit.

At least three pairs of Speckled Pigeons have settled under our roof to breed. There are always one or two standing sentinel on the corner.

As the source of figs has dried up, the Redwinged Starlings keep an eye on the fruit I put out now and then. Here a female is making short work of her bite of an apple.

The Blackeyed Bulbuls also arrive soon after they spy the fruit on the feeding table.

I was very surprised to see six Rednecked Spurfowl on a warm day mid-month. Here today and gone tomorrow they were, as was the look-in by a Cape Wagtail. It has been a month for raptors too: the African Harrier-Hawk is a fairly regular visitor and was  joined this month by a Yellowbilled Kite and a Verreaux’s Eagle – all exciting to see.

My April bird list is:

African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)
Barthroated Apalis
Barn Swallow
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Shrike (Fiscal)
Common Starling
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Sunbird
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Rednecked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sombre Bulbul
Speckled Mousebird
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater (Canary)
Verreaux’s Eagle
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellowbilled Kite

BLACKEYED BULBUL (2)

I have written about Blackeyed Bulbuls before and am pleased to see and hear these cheerful birds back in our garden after a short absence. They have been re-named Dark-capped Bulbuls (Pycnonotus tricolor) and are easily recognisable by their dark head, dark eye-ring and the yellow vent below their tails. These are conspicuous birds with a lively chattering call sometimes described as klip, klop kollop with enough variations to make one look more closely to be sure that it is indeed a Blackeyed Bulbul one is hearing! I have also heard their call quite accurately described as ‘doctor-quick doctor-quick be-quick be-quick’.

I often see these birds sitting on top of the trees or bushes calling out to one another across the garden. They have probably returned to feed on the plentiful nectar provided by the aloes as well as the berries borne by several trees in our garden. They also eat insects – of which there are many in our garden.

Note: In light of the reference to Cape Bulbuls below, I include a picture of one for comparison.

SONY DSC

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.