BIRDING BEYOND BORDERS

A distinct advantage of travelling even a short way from one’s home environment is the opportunity to both see and photograph birds other than those which have become familiar as garden birds. Take this Pale Chanting Goshawk, for example. Even though it is endemic to much of South Africa and beyond, it is not a bird I would expect to find in our town for it prefers more arid areas. We always look out for them when travelling through two of our nearest national parks:

Another endemic raptor we are more likely to see out in the country is the Jackal Buzzard, although I have seen one in our garden on rare occasions over the years and once photographed one with an injured leg perched on a street lamp on the road below our house:

It is years since we spotted a Cape Longclaw during walks on the outskirts of town. That area is now a haven for dog-walkers as well as for herds of cattle and donkeys. So, one is more likely to see these pretty birds during travels further afield:

I don’t hear Crowned Lapwings as often as I used to when they nested on the nearby golf course or on the lawns near our home. I suspect the constant presence of various members of the Urban Herd create too much disturbance for them. Again, one is more likely to see them in our national parks:

Cape Glossy Starlings are birds I happily associate with various national parks as they too enjoy more arid areas. I sometimes catch sight of them along one of the country roads I regularly drive along and become very excited when one or two stray into our garden:

I love seeing Cape Bulbuls which have a distinctive white ring around their eyes. We live too far out if its range, although sometimes see them in the Addo Elephant National Park:

OCTOBER 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

Although I have not been able to photograph one, I am delighted to hear the Red-chested Cuckoo once more. It is commonly known as the Piet-my-vrou here, as that is what its call sounds like – a strident command early in the morning, occasionally in the afternoon and even sometimes in the evening. Both the Klaas’ Cuckoo and Diederik Cuckoo entertain us with their distinctive calls during the day. Of course the Hadeda Ibises continue to wake us early and call to each other across town before they settle down for the night.

There seems to be an explosion of the Dark-capped Bulbul population of late. They queue up to drink from the nectar feeder, biff each other out of the way to eat apples and oranges, and several pairs sit very close together on the branches in true lovey-dovey style.

I am used to the Laughing Doves rising in a whoosh whenever a particularly noisy vehicle passes by, the neighbour might slam a door, or a lawnmower starts up in a nearby garden. There are times though when all the birds disappear in a quiet flash – a sure sign of a predator on the prowl. This month began with a flying visit from an African Harrier Hawk and ended with a low-flying Yellow-billed Kite, both of which saw the garden birds head for the closest cover.

Mundane tasks, such as hanging up the laundry, can have its interesting moments too. The light and distance were of little help to me, yet I could hear the persistent tap-tap-tapping coming from nearby that I dropped what I was doing to scan the trees … and there it was: a Cardinal Woodpecker chipping away at a dead branch of the Erythrina tree that towers over the back garden.

A well turned out visitor is the male Pin-tailed Whydah. He visits fairly often, although I have only seen one female in our garden this month.

While this is the best I could do from a distance with only my cell phone at hand, here is proof that a small flock of Cape Glossy Starlings paid our garden a visit.

I have often said that birdwatching in our garden is balm for my soul. October has been no different.

My October bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk
African Hoopoe
Amethyst Sunbird
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Dark-capped Bulbul
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redchested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Greenbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

HEIMWEE FOR THE ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK

We have been in lock-down for ninety-five days already – despite having moved to Level Three (‘advanced’ Level Three nogal!) that allows more businesses to open, we still cannot visit family and friends nor can we cross provincial borders without a permit – and you require a very good reason to get one of those. National Parks are now open for day visitors, yet the above-mentioned restrictions make visiting the Kruger National Park out of the question. In the spirit of the photograph below, I will look back to share some of the delights of the Addo Elephant National Park which we hope to visit again before much longer.

Naturally, one goes to the Addo Elephant National Park to see elephants – they seldom disappoint. We have seen herds of over a hundred individuals congregating around the Hapoor waterhole; been surprised by single elephants right next to the road; and have enjoyed watching small groups – such as the one these two are part of – at the Domkrag waterhole. Here we are able to get out of our vehicle and look down at these magnificent animals as they go about their daily life.

You might be fortunate enough to come across a Secretary Bird striding through the grasslands.  They occur singly and in pairs – it is always worth scanning the veld to see if you can spot another one.

Zebras grace the landscape in Addo – they might occur in small groups or in much larger ones that stretch across the side of a grassy slope. They are always a delight to observe.

I am always pleased to come across the large Mountain tortoises that lumber through the grass or patiently cross rocky areas. This one was taking advantage of a puddle in the road after rain.

Then there are the beautiful Cape Glossy Starlings that brighten the landscape.

By keeping an eye open for more than just animals, you get to enjoy some of the many butterflies too.

SEPTEMBER 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

Headline news: it has rained on the last day of the month – 17mm!

Birds come and go as the seasons change. Laughing Doves remain throughout the year and have become so prolific that I have decided not to put out crushed mealies for them every day: they not only eat all of that, but have become adept at filching the finer seed from the hanging feeders too!

Other regular visitors throughout the year are the Black-collared Barbets. Their calls can be heard across the valley throughout the day and they come to inspect the availability of suitable food at least once a day.

Common Starlings are never shy to ‘elbow’ other birds out of the way to gobble up as much as they can at once.

On the subject of starlings, I was very excited to see a single Cape Glossy Starling in our garden the other day – even more so when at least six of them paid a visit yesterday!

Other newcomers this month include a Cardinal Woodpecker, Paradise Flycatcher, Pin-tailed Whydah, White-rumped Swifts, Thick-billed Weavers, Yellow Weaver and several Southern Masked Weavers. More of the latter have been evident than the Village Weavers this month.

I never tire of the Olive Thrushes as they never fail to amuse. They stab at the apples with their sharp beaks and sometimes swallow large pieces whole. They prefer pecking at the bits of apple that fall to the ground though and sometimes drag large pieces away to eat at their leisure under the cover of the bushes.

My September bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow (Black)
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellow Weaver

BIRDS AND ANIMALS

I have mentioned before how Cattle Egrets are frequently seen in the proximity of the Urban Herd, quick to catch any insects disturbed whilst the cattle are grazing.

We saw several examples of a similar relationship in the Addo Elephant National Park. The first was a pair of Fiscal Shrikes hovering around these Warthogs as they scuffled around in the dry grass for food.

Next up was a pair of Cape Glossy Starlings keeping a close watch for whatever the Zebra may have disturbed while grazing.

A Cattle Egret found several insects to eat next to this Zebra.

This one hitched a ride on the back of a Cape Buffalo!

While this Cape Wagtail had a feast in the company of a Warthog next to the Hapoor Waterhole.