March has proved to be a topsy-turvy month during which I spent a week away from home and had hardly got my breath back when the COVID-19 virus blasted its way into our lives. I first heard of its appearance in South Africa while I was attending a conference, and saw a few passengers wearing masks on my return flight to Port Elizabeth: everything was so new, so untested, so unexpected as the vapours of unsettlement wafted through the country sowing disbelief, panic, defiance and spawned jokes, fake news and largely unhelpful advice. Then came the official lockdown scheduled for three weeks – stay in your homes with no outside exercise permitted; not even to walk your dog! Now is the time that I really appreciate having our garden and the avian visitors whose presence brightens my day.
The Common Fiscal has made far fewer visits to the feeding area this month – perhaps there is no longer a driving need to feed its young. It arrives silently and perches on a branch above the offerings for some time before taking a quick bite and flying off. The Speckled Pigeons live in our roof and so are ubiquitous – there will come a time when their marching orders will have to be given! Although the Streaky-headed Seedeaters remain regular visitors, they too do not come to the feeders as frequently as before. There are plenty of grass seeds around at this time of the year and so I imagine they are finding the bulk of their food elsewhere. It is a happy thought that the rain we received earlier in the year was enough to provide some autumnal sustenance at least.
It is pleasing to see the Fork-tailed Drongos back after a short absence and I was delighted when an African Hoopoe paid us a brief visit. The Emerald-spotted Wood Dove makes it to my list for the first time – ever. Its mournful cry has been around for the past week.
Photography has not been a priority this month – too many other necessary distractions that meant time spent outside was with a cup of tea and a notebook in hand instead of a camera. I will cheat by showing you some photographs from my archive.
Black-headed Orioles can be heard calling to each other from the tree tops almost daily and are often seen drinking from the nectar feeder. Here is one making a meal of cut apples.
The garden has greened up a lot during this month, making it more difficult to easily spot the shyer visitors, such as the Cape Robin, also photographed eating apples.
As Laughing Doves are often the first to alert me that the feeders are empty – they perch on the telephone cable or queue up on a bare branch – I think it is fit to show you one. Their calls are a comforting burble throughout the day.
My March bird list:
African Green Pigeon
Cape Turtle Dove
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Southern Masked Weaver