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

FEBRUARY 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

This has been a very hot month and the neighbouring cats have been relentless in using our garden as a hunting ground. The birds featuring on my list below are regarded as real warriors by me – even though in many cases my sightings of them have been fleeting. They regularly visit the bird baths in this heat, and have been able to visit the nectar feeder in relative safety as well as the hanging feeders. It is the birds that prefer feeding on the ground that do so in particular fear of being caught by a cat.

Six birds have made a brief foray into the garden for the first time this year: African Hoopoes are intermittent visitors which mainly come when the ground is soft enough for them to probe it with their long beaks; the Black Cuckoo-shrike was absent last month; we seldom get to see a Bokmakierie in the garden; a Fork-tailed Drongo gave a fine aerial display across the garden the other day; a Red-fronted Tinkerbird came tantalisingly close to me but would not be photographed; and a few Yellow Weavers paid a flying visit to the hanging feeders before disappearing.

The Hadeda Ibises do a good job of waking the neighbourhood every morning – fortunately this is gradually becoming later as the sun takes longer to peer over the mountains. During this heat it is comforting to hear the burbling sounds of the Laughing Doves from within the shade of the trees.

The Greater Double-collared Sunbirds have been making their presence known and rush back and forth from the nectar feeder – never in good light or when I have my camera handy though! Cape Turtle Doves call in the late afternoons and the Black-eyed Bulbuls wolf down bits of fruit – always with a wary eye open for a cat lurking about. The Bronze Manikins mostly take food from the feeder these days as picking fallen seeds up from the ground is far too dangerous for them.

I often hear the Cape Crows go ‘boil boil’ during the day. At least one of them enjoys calling from the top of the cypress tree next door after sunset.

The pair of Grey-headed Sparrows have become very wary of approaching the feeders and almost seem to keep a look out for each other.

The colour scheme this month appears to be a sombre one – a reflection of the times perhaps.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo-shrike
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Diederik Cuckoo
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-winged Starling
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow Weaver

DECEMBER 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

The rain received this month has been a glorious change from years of drought – not that the drought is broken. Nonetheless, our garden is green and filled with flowering trees. So quick has been the growth after the rain that even though I have already pruned around the bird feeders, I shall soon have to do so again if I want a reasonable view of the birds!

The White-rumped Swifts have been scything overhead in their daily search for insects and – alas – the Lesser-striped Swallows had just completed their mud nest when it fell down. This intrepid pair have built another one around the side of the house, where I hope they will enjoy greater success and get to rear at least one brood. The Laughing Doves continue to gather in the mornings, waiting for the seed to be put out. Recently they have been put to flight several times by the neighbouring cat which, sadly, has caught more than one of them during the course of the month.

The nest of the Hadeda Ibis has fallen apart since the two chicks have learned to fly and no longer need that sanctuary. Here they are inspecting our swimming pool. They still sometimes choose to lie down on the warm bricks and are occasionally accompanied by their mother.

The nectar-bearing flowers are on the trees and shrubs this month – Tipuana, Pompon, Cape Chestnut, Cape Honeysuckle, and Plumbago – and so I considered myself fortunate to get this shot of a Greater Double-collared Sunbird perched high up in the Tipuana tree.

Although I featured Bronze Manikins last month, I cannot resist showing you this one swinging on a creeper in the front garden. These tiny birds have also been enjoying the seeds in the wild grass growing in our back garden.

With all the comings and goings of the various Common Fiscals, I have been intrigued observing the progress of this offspring of Spotty. Having been brought to the feeding table several times, it has become more independent and is quick to chase other birds away.

Here it is perched on a branch with Spotty.

A strange phenomenon I have experienced for several years now is the annual December visit from a single Southern Red Bishop. It appears at the feeder for a day or two, then disappears not to be seen again for another year.

Apart from the weavers, regular visitors to the feeder are a pair of Grey-headed Sparrows. This one appears to be telling its mate to join in the seed feast.

My bird list for this month:

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 Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Forest Canary
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Red Bishop
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

NOVEMBER 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

How quickly this month seems to have sped by. It began with the sight of a Cape White-eye collecting spider webs for its nest – not that I have been able to locate it. The local African Harrier-Hawk has made several flypasts across the garden – causing a great consternation each time as the doves whoosh up as one and disappear into the foliage until the perceived danger has passed. I have welcomed the cheerful calls of the Bokmakierie – usually seen more often on the other side of the valley, and a Hoopoe has made the odd welcome appearance. The longed for rain has given the Lesser-striped Swallows an opportunity to get on with the construction of their mud nest under the eaves. This pair, resting on a telephone line, have been hard at work since their arrival from Europe.

They bring globules of mud and pack them in layers, flying back and forth from their source. They have almost finished their tunnel now, which means that they will be able to start breeding in earnest soon.

The first indication I had of the breeding success of the Hadeda Ibis was the appearance of an eggshell next to the wash line in the back garden.

I later found a second one and, although you can only see one chick in the photograph below, I confirmed yesterday that there are actually two very healthy looking chicks in the flimsy looking nest. The mother now spends a lot of time perched on the branch next to the nest.

Laughing Doves abound. This one is sharing the seed feeder with a Bronze manikin.

This Olive Thrush has become curious about the food collected by the Common Fiscal from the table where I have breakfast and decided to venture a little closer. I have seen some spotty Olive Thrushes finding their own food at the feeding tray over the past week or so – another sign of successful breeding.

Several Southern Masked Weaver youngsters are being brought to the feeding tray, where they are fed by their parents. I haven’t seen been many Village Weavers around this month; perhaps they have chosen somewhere further away to build their nests and to feed their young.  Speckled Pigeons remain regular visitors although, since we repaired the eaves – thus blocking their entrance to the interior of our roof – not in as greater numbers as before.

The courting pair of Cape Crows recently spent part of the morning cuddling and preening on our neighbour’s roof.

There are a lot of berries on the Puzzle Bush at our back gate which are attracting Speckled Mousebirds, Cape Robin-chats, Cape White-eyes and Black-eyed Bulbuls.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-Hawk
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
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
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-throated Wryneck
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

SEPTEMBER 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

Good news should always come first – so far we have enjoyed 19mm of the lightest rain imaginable and there is still dampness in the air; droplets of water on the leaves and flower petals; the mist is hanging low; and I write this against the swishing of tyres on the street below our home. Good news this is indeed for all the plants – and the birds too for the bird baths are filling with fresh rain water on a day that we have no water in our taps. So, they won’t go thirsty!

It was a happy surprise to begin this month’s bird viewing with the arrival of a Cardinal Woodpecker beavering away in the rotting branches of the Tipuana tree that looms over our garden wall. The tree is old, dry and brittle and I shudder to think of the damage it will cause when it finally topples over. Meanwhile, it is visited by other birds such as the Green Wood-hoopoes. A couple of them have made several forays into the garden. These ones have been working their way through the dry Pompon trees at the end of the swimming pool.

I continued to be entertained by the Common Fiscals. Meneer regularly arrives for his private meals while I am enjoying breakfast or tea outdoors. He alights next to the little dish, looks at me and accepts a morsel from my hand. We do this a few times and then I leave him to help himself. Spotty, the ringed one, having noted this private source of food, is becoming ever bolder and occasionally swoops down to take a morsel I have placed on the edge of the table. Not to be outdone, the third one has also cottoned onto this lark. It remains very cautious and perches in the branches above my head for ages before nicking any piece of cheese or meat that might have been dropped by one of the aforementioned fiscals. Quick as a wink it comes – and is gone!

Red-eyed Doves call from early in the morning – as do the Cape Turtle Doves – and sometimes come down to do battle with the army of Laughing Doves that make short work of the maize seeds that fall to the ground from the messy eaters on the feeder above. Another large visitor mingling with this melee is the Speckled Pigeon. Although they can no longer nest in our eaves, they still roost on the window sills at night or stare down at me from the rooftop – or is that really a glare?

I was watching birds recently when all the doves and weavers whooshed away in a flash. There was not a sound to be heard. I looked up in time to see an African Harrier-Hawk seemingly floating in the sky, hardly flapping its wings as it circled against the sun. Among the first birds to return once all sense of danger was over were the Bronze Mannikins. They too seem to float like falling blossoms as they alight either on the ground or take advantage of the empty feeders to peck at the fine seeds.

The Cape Weavers are appearing in greater numbers now – both to eat seeds and to visit the nectar feeder. They are a noisy lot and, when not feeding, can be heard chatting nineteen-to-the-dozen in the thicket nearby. This one is seen in the company of a Streakyheaded Seedeater.

Having featured the Olive Thrush several times in past posts, I think you might find it interesting to see what its messy nest looks like. This is one of two I have identified in the garden: one is next to the front path and the other is close to the wash line.

Over thirty years ago we would only see crows of any kind winging their way across the municipal rubbish dump or swooping across the Burnt Kraal area where there used to be a clay pigeon shooting range. Is it the prolonged drought that has brought them into town? Or perhaps it is the increasing amounts of rubbish lying uncollected on the pavements. A Cape Crow often perches in one of the tall trees in the garden and pontificates loudly about life in general. Here is a Pied Crow doing a regular flyover of the garden.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-Hawk
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo-Shrike
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Forest Canary
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-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver