FEEDING TIME

This Bronze Mannikin was the first to arrive at the feeder moments after I had sat down in the garden with my customary cup of tea. It filled its beak with seeds and flew off.

I followed its flight to see it perching nearby and feeding a youngster – that explains the quick return visits, I thought.

Then, more Bronze Mannikins turned up on the rim of the feeder: coming and going with speed.

I realised they were all hard at work feeding the next generation.

They certainly had to work hard going back and forth to feed those gaping beaks for there seemed to be no end of hunger in sight.

BRONZE MANNIKINS

Those of us living along the eastern side of South Africa are blessed by the presence of possibly the most cheerful birds ever, the tiny Bronze Mannikins (Spermestes cucullatus). They mostly appear in small flocks that flit in and out of the foliage making soft buzzing and twittering sounds before settling down on the feeder, perching very close together. There is no keeping a ‘social distance’ for them as it seems as if it is ‘the closer the better’ for them if there is space enough. The adults have black heads, a bronze-green shoulder patch on the outer scapular feathers, and white bellies that are slightly barred on the flanks.

By contrast, the juvenile Bronze Mannikins are a uniform dull brown.

Bronze Mannikins are quick to come to the feeder once I have filled it up.

As they are attracted to seeds, I have allowed some of the spilt bird seed to grow in the garden so that these tiny birds can feed on the seed heads as they mature.

GETTING TO GRIPS WITH FOOD

One needs to get a firm grip on one’s food if you are not going to miss it – or fall off your perch. You can tell birds were not consulted when this feeder was designed. I need to get a good grip here by holding onto the grid as there isn’t much space for two feet.

Village Weaver

Landing can be rather awkward – even if you are a tad more elegantly proportioned. At least we can be more comfortably seated for snacking once that has been accomplished.

Bronze Mannikins

This is an elegant way to perch.

Village Weaver

Actually eating is not always comfortable though.

Southern Masked Weaver

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

MORNING MEETING

“We need to discuss the dry state of our world”, said the Speckled Mousebird while perching on a sturdy twig of the plum tree that had finally succumbed to one drought too many. Its mates cuddled together and watched the proceedings from on high as the Olive Thrush flew up to perch next to him – keeping a beady eye out for any sign of food below. “Fruit would be good,” it said mournfully, “or even a beetle or two. I haven’t seen a worm for weeks.” The Mousebird made a dry rattling noise in the back of its throat and fluffed out its tail feathers. “There are no buds, no flowers and very few insects – not a berry to be seen.”

“Always complaining, whining and moaning,” mumbled the one Bronze Manikin to the other, its beak filled with seeds. “That’s the problem when you want gourmet meals with so-called variety!” “Eat up,” its companion said,”I can hear the weavers coming!”