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

NOVEMBER 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

The heat and drought continues unabated, yet I have been blessed with another bumper month of bird-watching in our garden. Delightful visitors are the Black-eyed Bulbuls (their new name, Dark-capped Bulbul, doesn’t trip off my tongue yet) that frequent both the nectar feeder and partake of the cut apples, although I have occasionally seen them hawking insects too. Here a pair of them are seeking some respite in the shade.

The Black-headed Oriole is always a welcome visitor to the nectar feeder. It swoops down now and then to feed on apples too.

This Bronze Mannikin is perched on a branch with its beak agape while it waits for a turn at the seed feeder – mostly dominated by Southern Masked Weavers and Streaky-headed Seedeaters. Although they are said to eat fruit and nectar, I have not observed them doing either in our garden.

The Common Fiscal is a regular visitor – quite happy to inspect my breakfast or what we are having to eat with our mid-morning tea – and is often the first to inspect what has been placed on the feeding tray. There are two: one without a ring and this one that has been ringed. Checking through my archived photographs, the latter has been seen in our garden over a couple of years and must be resident near here. Both have been collecting fruit and flying off to what I presume is a nest in a neighbouring garden.

As much as we often malign Common Starlings in this country, they can be amusing to watch. They tend to perch on the telephone wire above the feeding area to assess the availability of food then come down straight, akin to the landing of a helicopter, to guzzle whatever is there as quickly as possible. This one appears to be voicing its dissatisfaction that a pair of Redwinged Starlings beat it to the apple.

I have mentioned before how important it is to provide water for the birds to drink and bathe in during this hot and dry period. This Laughing Dove is making its way to one of the bird baths, with very little water in it – I filled it up after taking this photograph. The bird baths get filled twice, and sometimes even three times a day of late.

There is a saga attached to the Lesser-striped Swallows which I will relate in another post.

The daily sound of the squeaky ‘kweek, kweek, kweek’ notes emanating from the Red-throated Wryneck has been frustrating as this bird has been so difficult to locate! I used the binoculars and managed to get a better photograph of this warbler-like bird from an upstairs window yesterday – see how well it blends into the lichen-covered branches of the Tipuana tree.

I cannot resist showing you this picture of a Red-winged Starling about to tuck into an apple.

The Speckled Mousebirds are going to bag a post of their own soon. Meanwhile, this one is waiting for an opportunity to eat the apples on the tray below. Note how well it too blends into its surroundings.

My November bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Crowned Hornbill
Diederik Cuckoo
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Redeyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Redwinged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Red Bishop
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellow-billed Kite

JUNE 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

A number of factors have affected my enjoyment of watching the birds in our garden this month. Several days have gone by with only doves and Hadedas to be seen; the seed feeders remained full and the cut apples untouched. Among these factors has been the smoke from the municipal rubbish dump which burned for days on end – any self-respecting bird would have flown further afield to breathe more easily! Colder weather combined with wind does not make ideal bird-watching conditions. Then there is a very large neighbourhood cat, which I surprised the other morning while it was sitting directly under one of the seed feeders!

Black-headed Orioles are always a delight to watch, whether they are calling to each other from the treetops or swooping down to the nectar feeder. It’s strong, flesh-coloured beak can be clearly seen in this image:

The Cape Robin-Chat is another favourite of mine. I often watch a pair of them emerge from the tangled undergrowth behind our swimming pool and then fly across the pool to look for insects within the safety of the Crassula ovata growing on the other side.

A Speckled Pigeon has been collecting sticks for its nest in the ceiling above my study. It perches on a branch, surveys the ground below, selects a stick, flies up through the hole in the eaves, and then repeats this action many times during the day.

A first-time visitor to my garden this month is a Black-shouldered Kite. I didn’t have a camera handy, so this is one photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park:

My June bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Blackshouldered Kite
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Batis
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Wood-hoopoe
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver

NOTE: Click on a photograph for a larger view.