BIRDS EATING FLOWERS

I have often noticed the tubular flowers of the Cape honeysuckle lying on the ground as if something had deliberately cut them off – well, that ‘something’ has generally proved to be one or other of the weavers that frequent our garden! Keen to get to the store of nectar at the base – and having beaks far too short to reach inside – the weavers simply nip off the base of the flowers for their prize snack.

During July and into early August, I have observed the stalks of the Aloe ferox growing outside our lounge have increasingly been stripped too. This time I caught a pair of Streakyheaded Seedeaters in the act. Apart from probing the base of the flowers to get to the nectar, they also eat the buds, anthers and stamens – this picture was taken through the window:

Other birds enjoying the rich source of nectar from aloes – only they have the long curved beaks to poke into the flowers – are the Green Woodhoopoes that chuckle and cackle their way through our garden every now and then:

The tall Erythrina caffra tree in the back garden hosts a wide variety of birds throughout its fairly long flowering season. Cape Weavers appear to be very partial to nectar and are considered to be among the more important pollinators of aloes. This one is snacking on one of the Erythrina caffra flowers:

A Blackheaded Oriole takes a turn to feast on the flowers too:

 

JUNE 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Even though the colder winter weather has settled in, there is plenty of fruit on the Natal fig tree in the bottom corner of our garden. A flock of African Green Pigeons seem to have taken up residence there for the time being – only flying out to seek the sun elsewhere during the late afternoons or if startled by loud noises on the street below. In the first photograph of the two below you see how well these fairly large birds blend into the foliage:

Here one of these birds is feasting on a fig:

Enormous flocks of Redwinged Starlings visit this tree daily too, as do doves, Olive Thrushes, Black-collared Barbets, Speckled Mousebirds and weavers. Black-headed Orioles enjoy the figs too and visit the nectar feeder regularly. Although this isn’t a good picture at all – taken with my cell phone from some distance – it illustrates how these birds also enjoy the nectar from aloe flowers:

Laughing Doves congregate in high branches in order to catch the early morning sun. This is one of several perched in the almost bare branches of a pompon tree:

Welcome sounds and sightings this month mark the return of a pair of Cape Wagtails that prance around the edge of our swimming pool and the beautiful bubbling call of a Burchell’s Coucal from deep within the foliage. I have also heard a pair of Bar-throated Apalises nearby. They too are not easy to spot between the leaves, although I caught a glimpse of one in the kitchen hedge whilst I was hanging up the laundry the other day. I see Cape Weavers around more often now, still looking a little tatty in their winter garb:

The other weaver I simply cannot resist showing you more of is the Spectacled Weaver. This one is becoming very bold and visits the bird feeders daily, eating fruit, cheese, fish and seeds during the course of the week:

With aloes, Cape honeysuckle and other winter flowers blooming, there is probably enough nectar to go around – the mixture I put out goes down fairly slowly at the moment – and so it was fun seeing a Cape White-eye sampling my fare:

Fork-tailed Drongos, Pied Crows and a flock of about six Cape Crows have been regular visitors this month too. The Speckled Pigeons appear to have decreased in number – one still roosts on a ledge near our front door and makes an awful mess below. This one is peering down at me from the gutter – which is in desperate need of cleaning!

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
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-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver

MY JUNE 2022 GARDEN

It is at this time of the year that the Cape Honeysuckle puts on a fine show of cheerful bright orange flowers so beloved by sunbirds, weavers, Cape White-eyes, bees and butterflies.

Aloes vie for space among the crassulas plants edging our swimming pool. They too provide cheer and attract the Greater Double-collared sunbirds, weavers, Black-headed orioles, and Black-eyed Bulbuls as well as bees and ants.

The Spekboom growing in various places in the garden does not mind either the icy weather or the drought.

A large flock of Red-winged Starlings visit the fig tree daily and often perch in the top branches of the Erythrina caffra to catch the early morning sun. These trees are now devoid of all but the hardiest of leaves and are covered in clusters of black seed pods that have split open to reveal the scarlet ‘lucky beans’ inside. Flower buds are making their spiky appearance, so before long the trees will look resplendent in their scarlet blooms.

A Black-headed Oriole perches in one of the many Pompon trees that are rapidly losing their leaves. The formerly beautiful pink blossoms now look like miniature floor mops that have been hung out to dry.

A male Garden Inspector / Garden Commodore (Precis archesia archesia) sees what the Canary Creeper flowers have to offer. We have seen very few butterflies in our garden so far.

APRIL 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Not only is this post woefully late, but this is probably the shortest bird list for a long time – mainly because I was away from our garden for half of the month! Once again, photographs have been sourced from my archives.

A pair of Southern Boubous creep out from the thicket behind the bird feeders once they have established that the coast is clear. The first port of call is the birdbath on a stand before one or other ventures down to inspect the feeding tray. Laughing Doves still congregate in the trees or on the telephone cable, but are a lot more wary about fluttering down to feed on the ground. Perhaps they too wish to make certain there are no cats around before they do. It is very pleasing to hear the happy chirps from the weavers after their absence. Southern Masked Weavers were the first to return and now Village Weavers are making a come-back.

Several Speckled Pigeons keep watch on proceedings from the roof – one roosts on our bathroom window every night!

Olive Thrushes still call from within the trees and shrubs, yet have become shyer about coming out in the open since the neighbouring cats appeared. By contrast, it is lovely to both see and hear Red-winged Starlings in ever-increasing numbers as the figs begin to ripen on the Natal fig tree. It is always a pleasure to see a Black-headed Oriole.

Several Black-eyed Bulbuls chatter merrily in the foliage before tucking into the fruit put out for them.

There is plenty of natural fruit and seeds around to attract Cape White-eyes as well as the Speckled Mousebirds that are such fun to observe.

I will round off April’s round-up of garden birds with the real stalwarts, the Bronze Manikins, that arrive daily to flit about the feeder – always shifting up to make room for yet another one to join them there.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape White-eye
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE

I was thrilled to see a bright flash of yellow cross the garden when we first arrived here over three decades ago: my first sighting of a Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus) and it was in our garden! This surely was a good omen for our move … we have been very happy here and so it must have been. Happily, these birds count among the birds seen in our garden throughout the year.

Both males and females sport the same striking golden-yellow colour with a black head. Their long, strong, slightly hooked bills are coral-pink and are ideally suited to their omnivorous diet of fruit, caterpillars, locusts and beetles.

Despite their bright colouring, it is often easier to hear the musical liquid-sounding call of these birds than to see them, for they tend to be found among the foliage of high trees and thick bush.

We generally see them swooping across the open area of the garden with an undulating fast-and-direct flight pattern, although they do visit the nectar feeder and the feeding table whenever I put out cut apples.

Black-headed Orioles are breeding residents in South Africa.