A FEW BIRDS IN THE KAROO NATIONAL PARK

Having previously experienced an abundance of birds around the camping area of the Karoo National Park, I found it disappointing this time that sparrows ruled the roost. Granted, there were House Sparrows, Cape Sparrows as well as a few Southern Grey-headed Sparrows that kept a close watch on the tents and caravans at the site – always ready to eat a crumb or two. Now and then a Southern Masked Weaver would muscle its way among the sparrows as did a few Laughing Doves. Red-winged Starlings flew overhead and we could hear the calls of Hadeda Ibises in the early morning and late afternoon. It was also fun to hear the familiar calls of the Red-eyed Doves and a pair of Bokmakieries perched in the treetops near our tent and sang lustily to each other.

The bird list provided by the Park is enticing and spending only one full day driving around the area is not sufficient to do it justice. I saw a few Speckled Mousebirds flying across the road as well as several smaller birds that could be both heard and seen from afar. Most were neither easy to identify nor to photograph as they tended to fly off as soon as our vehicle stopped or as I had almost got my camera focused! This Rufous-eared Warbler was difficult to focus on as it kept moving between these branches:

Some of the more co-operative ones were a pair of South African Shelducks in flight:

House Sparrows:

Familiar Chat:

Laughing Dove

Of course the Common Ostriches were easy to spot as we drove around the park – there were plenty of them too. It is interesting to note that these birds are able to regulate their body temperature via their long necks and their large wings. They also use gular fluttering to cool down on exceptionally hot days.

We plan to spend a lot more time in this beautiful place during our next visit!

MARCH 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

First of all, thank you to everyone who left encouraging comments and useful advice as well as offers of assistance when I lamented that the media storage on my free version of WordPress was 100% full and this wouldn’t allow me to feature any more photographs. After mulling over and considering the cost of changing to WordPress Pro (the only plan offered) against my enjoyment of blogging, I opened my dashboard with a degree of reluctance this morning to start that expensive process … only to find that WP has acknowledged that I actually still have plenty of space, which means I can continue for free for a while longer! So, back to business and my monthly round-up of garden birds:

This is the first month ever since I received my first digital camera years ago that I do not have a single photograph of a garden bird in my folder. It is not from lack of trying as I have taken my camera outside several times … it is an indication of the impact of having the three cats from next door using my garden as their hunting ground! My list below shows there have been birds: most of them have paid fleeting visits or have hidden higher up in the foliage, not daring to spend much time either on the ground or at the feeders. Forgive me then for trawling my archives to illustrate this month’s review of garden birds.

Red-winged Starlings have started appearing in greater numbers once more. I mostly see them in the Natal Fig in the front garden or in the tall Erythrina caffra in the back garden. This is a female starling photographed in 2016.

It is always a delight to hear the distinctive calls of a Bokmakierie for they do not often visit this side of town. I have seldom seen them actually visit the bird feeders; they catch caterpillars and other insects all over the garden and so are probably not particularly perturbed by the presence of the cats. This one was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park in 2015.

The Southern Boubou are naturally shy birds that often skulk about in the undergrowth – leaving them vulnerable to cats. I have heard them a few times and have really only had one confirmed sighting this month. Nonetheless, this one was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park in 2018.

The duets of Black-collared Barbets echo throughout the garden during the particularly warm days. They are generally cautious about approaching the feeding tray anyway, but have been particularly wary of late. This one was photographed in 2015.

The Cape White-eyes can be seen flitting through the foliage and visiting the nectar feeder daily. The ones below were, however, photographed in Cape Town in 2014.

Lastly, from 2016, is a photograph of the very pretty Grey-headed Bush Shrike. One has made several appearances in our garden this month but has been almost impossible to pin down to photograph as it moves very quickly through the leaves of our many trees.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Pigeon
White-rumped Swift
Yellowfronted Canary

BOKMAKIERIE

It was while I was sitting in my garden at half past five this morning that I heard the loud melodious duet of a pair of Bokmakieries somewhere in the tangle of bush behind me. It is a sound that immediately takes me far away in my imagination to early mornings in either the Kruger National Park or the Addo Elephant National Park. At the latter place I can almost be guaranteed to see them in the vicinity of either Ghwarrie Dam or at the Domkrag waterhole, if not along the road.

SONY DSC

While the Bokmakieries are regular visitors to our garden, they tend to be heard more often than they are seen – particularly since our garden has become more forested. I nonetheless see them now and then as they scour the lawn for something to eat or visit the feeding tray to inspect what is on offer. They are opportunistic feeders whose diet includes mostly insects, although I have seen them pecking at the fruit I put out.

bokmakierie

They tend to be rather shy and flit about in the shrubbery. Their main beat seems to be the unruly clumps of Plumbago that grow near an open section of grass over the road from our garden. I have never found a nest or seen any chicks, although I feel sure they must breed either in our garden or nearby.

Bokmakieries are strikingly beautiful birds with grey-green upperparts, yellow eyebrows, yellow underparts, a characteristic black gorget or bib and a hooked bill typical of a bush shrike.

bokmakierie

They lift my mood whenever I see or hear them and I feel privileged to have them around throughout the year.

ADDO SPRING

While the rest of the country is in the grip of drought, this part of the Eastern Cape is at least able to enjoy the verdant pleasures of spring thanks to an abundance of rain. The Addo Elephant National Park is awash with spring beauty: swathes of yellow flowers merging into grammaceous fields of lush green edged with the darker hues of indigenous bush. All this sweetly-scented loveliness is a far cry from the dry-mantled complexion of winter.

Addoinspring

Beautiful flowers are evident all over the Park, from patches of mixed colours to the bright yellow carpets of gazanias or senecio flowers.

mixedflowers

gazanias

Zebra and kudu were in abundance in the northern section of the Park, although we only spotted a few kudu in the southern part.

zebra

kudu

The ever-curious suricates, large eland, shiny blesbuck, the ubiquitous warthogs and the ever-beautiful elephants made driving through the Park a pleasure. We even managed to spot a lioness and two cubs late in the afternoon. Birds are actively concerned about future progeny at this time of the year: a pair of Egyptian Geese guarded their goslings on Ghwarrie Dam, Cape Weavers were building their nests in acacia trees growing in the Woodlands area, and a Bokmakierie was spotted collecting caterpillars to feed its young.

capeweavernest

bokmakierie

We counted fifteen tortoises throughout the day and dodged many dung beetles scurrying across the road.

dungbeetle

My bird list is:

Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Blackheaded Heron
Blackheaded Oriole
Blackshouldered Kite
Blacksmith Plover
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin
Cape Sparrow
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cattle Egret
Egyptian Goose
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greyheaded Heron
Hadeda Ibis
Helmeted Guineafowl
Hoopoe
Jackal Buzzard
Karoo Robin
Laughing Dove
Malachite Sunbird
Moorhen
Olive Thrush
Orangethroated Longclaw
Ostrich
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Pearlbreasted Swallow
Pied Crow
Pied Starling
Redeyed Dove
Rednecked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Rufousnaped lark
Sombre Bulbul
South African Shelduck
Speckled Mousebird