A Cape Robin-Chat spotted from an upstairs window:
One of the best places, other than in my garden, to watch Cape Robin-Chats (Cossypha caffra) in action is Jack’s Picnic Site in the Addo Elephant National Park. There they have become so accustomed to the regular ebb and flow of human visitors that they happily perch in the shrubbery – and even on the picnic tables – while they watch out for a morsel of food. Here is a sample of some of the many photographs I have taken there of these absolutely delightful birds.
Occasionally a Cape Robin-chat will alight next to one’s vehicle as soon as the doors are open – quite ready to inspect the picnic fare.
Indeed, it has already found what may be a sunflower seed among the gravel – left by a previous visitor to the picnic site.
This one is perched on a wooden step leading down to a picnic site. Its gaze is quite intense.
You can tell that this Cape Robin-chat has a wary look about it.
This youngster is already learning the ropes and is keenly watching the ground on the off chance that some food might appear.
This has been an interesting month for watching birds in our garden, beginning with the unmistakable sound of Red-necked Spurfowl under my bedroom window early in the morning. I counted six – not regular visitors, yet I am pleased to see how far they have ventured into the garden. One even hopped up onto the raised bird bath for a drink.
The Black-eyed Bulbuls (Dark-capped these days!) are courting – I watched a pair canoodling on the branches, looking very lovey-dovey – in numbers. This morning I counted eight of them in the feeding area. Several Speckled Mousebirds can also be seen cosying up to each other. The two Common Fiscals (one ringed and the other not) are clearly rivals and dart in and out trying to avoid each other. When they do meet they set up a loud haranguing match and have even attacked each other! I have observed a fiscal spreading out its tail feathers when confronted by a Black-collared Barbet at the feeding tray – determined to stand its ground. The barbets nearly always arrive as a pair. Another regular pair of visitors is the Streakyheaded Seedeater.
I put out both fine and coarse seed daily as well as filling up the nectar feeder. Other fare usually includes fruit, finely chopped pieces of meat, cat crumbles, or fat smeared on biscuits or thin slices of bread. This month I decided to take careful note of who ate what:
Dark-capped Bulbuls have enjoyed fat, cheese and fruit.
Both Common Fiscals seem to eat anything that is not fruit and are particularly partial to meat. This one, however, snitched part of my breakfast!
While the Red-winged Starlings are partial to fruit, they also eat cheese. This female is about to tuck into the pears.
Speckled Mousebirds prefer fruit and are prepared to wait their turn for it.
I usually associate weavers with eating the grain. These Cape Weavers, however, are tucking into a piece of fish. They also eat cat food, cheese, and fat.
The pair of Cape Robin-chats usually wait in the wings for the main rush to be over before they feed. I have seen them eating fat, as well as tiny portions of meat. This one has been eating cat food.
Common Starlings seem to eat anything. They tuck into fruit, cheese, fat, bread and cat food with relish.
I associate Cape White-eyes with fruit, nectar, and aphids. Yesterday though a few of them made off with tiny cubes of cheese.
My August bird list is:
African Green Pigeon
Black-eyed Bulbul (Black-cap)
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Southern Masked Weaver
South African readers will attest to the inquisitive nature of the Cape Robin-chat. They are shy birds – yet, with time, endear themselves to their garden hosts by adopting a confiding demeanour. This relationship is enhanced if food becomes a part of it. The Cape Robin-chat vies with the Olive Thrush to be first to inspect the offerings on the feeding tray – both get chased by the Common Fiscal, only to return in a flash once the latter has flown off. Cape Robin-chats love cheese and finely chopped meat. I have written before of one which made itself very at home in our house when we still had a cat. It would inspect nearly every room in the house, making sure to help itself to cat food in the kitchen, and would even peck at any crumbs left on the dining room table. We would sometimes be treated to a song while it perched on the door of the lounge while we were having tea!
With the demise of our cat came the absence of the Cape Robin-chat. I missed its visits, although not having to clean up behind it! Recently I began to be concerned that we might have nocturnal visitors in the form of mice for I found tiny droppings on the windowsill in the lounge. Then I found the odd squishy visiting card on the back of the couch, on the table cloth on the dining table, and on a shelf in the kitchen … a familiar image came to mind. Caught in the act: I looked up from my knitting to see this little creature perched on a bookcase.
It was quite at home and clearly knew its way around. What a happy sighting! They are always on the lookout for food, often just peeping out of the shrubbery.
Everything is carefully scrutinised.
Even an apple will do.
Robin-chats are very wary of potential dangers and can be gone in a flash. There are times though, such as this, when one comes almost within touching distance of me in the garden.
Such encounters leave me with a warm feeling inside.
Living through this lengthy, socially restrictive lock down brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic would be most unpleasant if it were not for the birds that visit our garden. They provide a pleasant rhythm to each day: Red-eyed Doves call out ‘better get started’ on these dark, cold mornings; the Hadeda Ibises provide a shrill wake-up call about half an hour before sunrise; and the Speckled Pigeons scuffle around in the ceiling, ready to chase any other birds off Morrigan’s feeder – in this case a Cape Weaver – as soon as the seed is put out.
Laughing Doves hug the tree tops to warm up in the morning sun.
Red-winged Starlings swoop over the suburb in ever larger flocks, while Black-eyed Bulbuls keep their sharp eyes open for the fruit on offer.
Olive Thrushes emerge from the shrubbery at the first sign of something tasty to eat – usually fruit, but this one took a fancy to peanut butter on toast!
Cape White-eyes queue at the nectar feeder.
They are occasionally chased off by the much larger Black-headed Oriole.
A Bar-throated Apalis regularly makes its shrill calls during the day as it pokes about looking for insects in the foliage; Greater Double-collared Sunbirds chase each other across the garden in between drinking their fill from the nectar feeder or visiting the aloes; and the Common Fiscal swoops down to see what food is available during quieter moments of the day. Another bird that prefers to inspect the offerings ‘in private’ is the Cape Robin-chat.
My June bird list is:
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Southern Black Tit