ONE, TWO, THREE …

While the Speckled Pigeon inaugurated the new position of the birdbath, I have had the pleasure of watching it being visited by Bronze Manikins too. First, there was one:

Then, there were two:

Before long I saw three:

Soon after the fourth one had joined them, a loud sound from the main road caused them all to fly off in alarm:

JANUARY 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

There were 48 birds on my list for last January and 45 this year. I doubt if there are really fewer birds that could be seen from our garden, rather I wasn’t necessarily there to see them. So much depends on when I am outside, how long I spend outside, where I settle to watch birds, and what the weather is like. Birds are scarce during high temperatures – and we have experienced some days of up to 40°C – and equally so during damp weather – very few of those this month!

Possibly the most exciting bird action for me this month was the unexpected arrival of a Steppe Buzzard that sent a flock of Laughing Doves scattering in all directions. I heard a loud, yet muffled, thump and there it was, only about two meters away from me! It blinked at me for a second or two and then flew off so silently that had I not witnessed its departure I would have wondered what had happened to it. Its hunting foray was unrewarded. This one is not in my garden but was photographed on the edge of town.

A pair of Southern Boubous have become regular visitors to the feeding area this month. They arrive either singly or together, waiting in the shrubbery until the coast is clear before coming out in the open.

Of course it is always a delight when the Bronze Manikins come to visit. They have been breeding very successfully for I have seen a whole flock of youngsters accompany the adults when feeding on seed that has fallen to the ground from the hanging feeders. Weavers too have been feeding grain to their chicks.

The Black-collared Barbets are keeping the doctor away by eating apple every day.

A pair of Black-eyed Bulbuls have been hard-pressed feeding their youngster, which is waiting on a rock – not too patiently – for the next bite of apple. The parents have been gradually enticing their youngster to come ever closer to the source of the apples.

Another bird that has just about been run ragged feeding offspring is the ringed Common Fiscal. Once I realised that it was frantically feeding not one chick but three, I helped out by providing some very finely chopped meat. This chick has a slice of sausage – that escaped the chopping – in its beak. I will show more photographs of these chicks in a later post.

I was fascinated to watch a Speckled Pigeon helping itself to some of the chopped meat – I assumed they only ate grain and occasionally fruit.

My January bird list:

African Darter
African Green Pigeon
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
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
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Steppe Buzzard
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-billed Kite

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