SOME GARDEN BIRDS

Here is a closer look at some of the regular visitors to our garden:

African Green Pigeon

Black-headed Oriole

Greater Double-collared Sunbird

Lesser-striped Swallows

Pin-tailed Whydah

Streaky-headed Seedeater

NOVEMBER 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

While this has been another wonderful month for observing birds in our garden, having undergone major eye surgery at the start of it has put paid to me taking many photographs – only the Common Fiscal one is new. I apologise if you recognise the others from previous posts.

The saga of the Common Fiscals keep me entertained on a daily basis. There is definitely antagonism between the ringed one and what I call the Friendly Fiscal. The latter has come to expect its own portion of food, which I place in a dish on the garden table while I am there. It still either eats out of my hand or helps itself if I am eating or drinking. The ringed one perches in the branches above and clearly intimidates my friend. Mind you, it remains far too cautious to collect the food itself! You will be hearing more about their interactions.

I think the Blackheaded Oriole is one of the most handsome looking birds in our garden and so I am always pleased when they come to drink from the nectar feeder or taste the fare on the feeding table. They are enjoying the Natal figs this month.

As you have become aware, Laughing Doves abound – filling the garden with their delightful cooing and providing endless entertainment as they court each other, chase off rivals, spread their wings out to sun themselves, or perch on the seed feeders meant for much smaller birds.

Then there is the Boubou, which is heard more often than it is seen.

Lastly the Olive Thrushes, which make regular appearances here, delight in the way they edge closer to me if they sense there is more interesting food in the offing; have the sharpest eyesight that can spot a tiny block of cheese that falls some distance from them – even it is hidden under a flower; are among the first to sample the fresh fruit; and are among the last calls to be heard before darkness sets in.

A single Southern Red Bishop appeared at the feeders for two days in a row before disappearing. Cape Wagtails have been skirting the swimming pool, making quick flights over it to catch insects, and have been combing the lawn for caterpillars. Several Green Woodhoopoes have cackled their way through the trees and aloes, and on these warm nights we are lulled to sleep by the mellifluous sounds of a nearby Fiery-necked Nightjar.

My November bird list:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Dark-capped Bulbul
Diederik Cuckoo
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Doublecollared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Redchested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Greenbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Red Bishop
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellowfronted Canary

DRAWN TO THE PUB

Apart from the blossoms of the Erythrina caffra trees, there is little in the way of natural sources of nectar for birds at the moment. This is why the ‘pub’ in our garden has become increasingly attractive and needs to be refilled every day – if not twice in the day. A few of the recent visitors are:

A pair of Cape White-eyes visit the pub several times a day. One usually waits on a branch nearby for its turn. They are small enough birds for a pair to perch and drink at the same time, which is delightful to see. On other occasions a small flock of them descend on the area, with much chatter has they dart in for a drink when they can.

Cape Weavers have little in the way of manners. They swoop in to drink whenever they feel the need – which is often. The blush on this bird shows the breeding season has arrived.

Here is an example of the dominance of the weavers: a Cape Weaver dislodges Mrs. Amethyst Sunbird.

Mrs. Amethyst Sunbird managed to return, yet was conscious of a Cape White-eye waiting in the wings for its turn to drink.

Lastly, a very welcome visitor to the ‘pub’ is always the brightly coloured Black-headed Oriole.

JUNE 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

Living through this lengthy, socially restrictive lock down brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic would be most unpleasant if it were not for the birds that visit our garden. They provide a pleasant rhythm to each day: Red-eyed Doves call out ‘better get started’ on these dark, cold mornings; the Hadeda Ibises provide a shrill wake-up call about half an hour before sunrise; and the Speckled Pigeons scuffle around in the ceiling, ready to chase any other birds off Morrigan’s feeder – in this case a Cape Weaver – as soon as the seed is put out.

Laughing Doves hug the tree tops to warm up in the morning sun.

Red-winged Starlings swoop over the suburb in ever larger flocks, while Black-eyed Bulbuls keep their sharp eyes open for the fruit on offer.

Olive Thrushes emerge from the shrubbery at the first sign of something tasty to eat – usually fruit, but this one took a fancy to peanut butter on toast!

Cape White-eyes queue at the nectar feeder.

They are occasionally chased off by the much larger Black-headed Oriole.

A Bar-throated Apalis regularly makes its shrill calls during the day as it pokes about looking for insects in the foliage; Greater Double-collared Sunbirds chase each other across the garden in between drinking their fill from the nectar feeder or visiting the aloes; and the Common Fiscal swoops down to see what food is available during quieter moments of the day. Another bird that prefers to inspect the offerings ‘in private’ is the Cape Robin-chat.

My June bird list is:

Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Batis
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
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-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Southern Black Tit
Spectacled Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver

MARCH 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

March has proved to be a topsy-turvy month during which I spent a week away from home and had hardly got my breath back when the COVID-19 virus blasted its way into our lives. I first heard of its appearance in South Africa while I was attending a conference, and saw a few passengers wearing masks on my return flight to Port Elizabeth: everything was so new, so untested, so unexpected as the vapours of unsettlement wafted through the country sowing disbelief, panic, defiance and spawned jokes, fake news and largely unhelpful advice. Then came the official lockdown scheduled for three weeks – stay in your homes with no outside exercise permitted; not even to walk your dog! Now is the time that I really appreciate having our garden and the avian visitors whose presence brightens my day.

The Common Fiscal has made far fewer visits to the feeding area this month – perhaps there is no longer a driving need to feed its young. It arrives silently and perches on a branch above the offerings for some time before taking a quick bite and flying off. The Speckled Pigeons live in our roof and so are ubiquitous – there will come a time when their marching orders will have to be given! Although the Streaky-headed Seedeaters remain regular visitors, they too do not come to the feeders as frequently as before. There are plenty of grass seeds around at this time of the year and so I imagine they are finding the bulk of their food elsewhere. It is a happy thought that the rain we received earlier in the year was enough to provide some autumnal sustenance at least.

It is pleasing to see the Fork-tailed Drongos back after a short absence and I was delighted when an African Hoopoe paid us a brief visit. The Emerald-spotted Wood Dove makes it to my list for the first time – ever. Its mournful cry has been around for the past week.

Photography has not been a priority this month – too many other necessary distractions that meant time spent outside was with a cup of tea and a notebook in hand instead of a camera. I will cheat by showing you some photographs from my archive.

Black-headed Orioles can be heard calling to each other from the tree tops almost daily and are often seen drinking from the nectar feeder. Here is one making a meal of cut apples.

The garden has greened up a lot during this month, making it more difficult to easily spot the shyer visitors, such as the Cape Robin, also photographed eating apples.

As Laughing Doves are often the first to alert me that the feeders are empty – they perch on the telephone cable or queue up on a bare branch – I think it is fit to show you one. Their calls are a comforting burble throughout the day.

My March bird list:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-hawk
African Hoopoe
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
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
Red-eyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Thick-billed Weaver
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-fronted Canary