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

SEPTEMBER 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

SEPTEMBER 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

September has been an exciting month in the garden: leaves sprouting on hitherto bare branches; the lawn greening up after the spring rains; beautiful clivias brightening shady areas; and such a welcome variety of birds!

A pair of Forktailed Drongos started the month off with their antics around the feeding area. Apart from chasing each other around the garden, at least one of them seems to have taken a dislike to the Bokmakierie: the latter is chased as soon as the Drongo catches sight of it. The drongos make frequent use of the nectar feeder and perch on either the acacia or pompon tree nearby to hawk insects in the air. I mentioned last month that these fine acrobatic flyers are adept at stealing food from weavers while they are in flight.

Forktailed drongo

The Common Waxbill is a complete newcomer to my garden, for I have not recorded a sighting of one before. They remind me of happy trips to the Addo Elephant National Park, where they are frequently seen in large flocks.

Welcome returnees are the Hoopoe and the very beautiful Paradise Flycatcher.

I have learned to look skyward whenever the birds flee to the shelter of trees en masse and, this month, was rewarded with the sighting of a Gymnogene flying overhead. A pair of them have been resident in this town for years, so it is good to see them still around.

gymnogene

Looking up also rewarded me with the welcome return of the Whiterumped Swifts and Lesserstriped Swallows. A pair of the latter are already toiling at rebuilding their mud nest under the eaves above the kitchen. They do this every year – it looks like painstaking work – only to have it fall down as the breeding season draws to a close.

In other nesting news, a pair of Olive Thrushes have built their nest high up in the fig tree and can regularly be spotted taking titbits of fruit and insects to the nest via a circuitous route that has become familiar to me over time.

oliive thrush nest

A pair of Greater Doublecollared Sunbirds have been nesting in the ironwood, painstakingly collecting leaves and feathers with which to line it. Sadly, the strong winds we experienced last week caused the nest to come adrift from its moorings and I found it lying at the foot of the tree. This has nonetheless provided an interesting opportunity to see how it was constructed.

Greater Doublecollared sunbird nest

As we have come to expect, two pairs of Hadeda Ibises have taken up residence in the fig tree and Erythrina tree respectively, laboriously bringing in new twigs to strengthen the existing structures that are several years old already.

The month ended on a glorious note with the return of the euphonious calls of the Burchell’s Coucals early in the mornings. It is many years since we raised one as a chick that had fallen from its nest – a story on its own. I thus have a close affinity for these lovely birds that tend to be heard more often than they are seen.

My September list is:
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Cuckoo Shrike
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Common Waxbill
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey Heron
Greyheaded Sparrow
Gymnogene
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Lourie
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Malachite Sunbird
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon
Sombre Bulbul
Speckled Mousebird
Streakyheaded Canary
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift

AUGUST 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

AUGUST 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

What a rewarding month this has been for watching birds in my garden! A flock of Bronze Manikins (Lonchura cucullata) were the first to fly onto my list. I love watching these tiny birds fluttering like leaves from branch to branch; nestling close to each other at the seed tray; dropping so lightly onto the ground; and seeming to move everywhere in groups. I often see them sitting on the edge of the bird bath shortly before sunset, taking turns at dipping their beaks into the water and flying up to perch in either the Pompon tree or Plumbago growing nearby.

I have mentioned before that the Klaas’ Cuckoo is making itself heard calling stridently across the valley. These days we hear the calls from early in the mornings and at intervals throughout the day.

A most welcome visitor to the garden this month is the Malachite Sunbird. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to skip us this season when I caught sight of its magnificently irridescent emerald metallic sheen and long tail flitting among the scarlet flowers of the Erythrina caffra and the orange tubes of the Golden Shower creeper and Cape honeysuckle.

This morning a Knysna Lourie (also known as the Knysna Turaco) flitted silently through the tops of the trees in the front garden, affording me a beautiful view of the sun highlighting its bright red primary feathers as it flew into the fig tree and out of sight.

A Bokmakierie paid a rare visit to the feeding table only to be chased off by one of a pair of Forktailed Drongos that have commandeered this as part of their territory. It is interesting to observe that while the drongos tend not to take food directly from the table, they are adept at stealing food from the beaks of other birds in mid-flight! Many a weaver has flown off with a large titbit to eat elsewhere and has been robbed of its booty in this way.

The Pintailed Whydahs are out in force now. I counted ten of them in the garden yesterday, only three of which were females. The males are changing into their black and white sartorial splendour, the length of their tail feathers seemingly increasing by the day.

My August list is:

African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Cuckoo
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey Heron
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Lourie
Laughing Dove
Malachite Sunbird
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Streakyheaded Canary
Village Weaver

MARCH 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

MARCH 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

This March has been an exceptionally busy month with a lot of work to be done, travelling, and getting home late from work. That I have only recorded 31 species is not a reflection of decreasing bird life in our garden, but rather a lack of opportunity to truly enjoy the birds. Certainly the early mornings are still heralded with the soft, melodious calls of the Cape Robin and sometimes the distinctive sounds of the Barthroated Apalis flitting through the foliage outside my window. Interestingly enough, the Streakyheaded Canary was the first on my list this month. Outside of aloe blooming season these birds, for some reason, seem to prefer the back garden. As noted last month, they have started visiting the bird feeder in the front. The dapper Bokmakierie slid into the last position – yes, I am cheating for the month has not ended yet, but I am shortly to be on the road again. I love listening to the Bokmakierie calling in the early mornings and later in the afternoon and feel very privileged to see one hopping about on the lawn.

bokmakierie
The mud nest of the Lesserstriped swallows has fallen down from the eaves and these beautiful birds are gathering in increasingly large flocks swooping through the air in the late afternoon light. I will miss them when they go and I am in awe of the long trek they make between continents.
My March list is:
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Brownhooded Kingfisher
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon
Sombre Bulbul
Speckled Mousebird
Streakyheaded Canary
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellow Weaver