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.

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JULY 2016 GARDEN BIRDS

This month has been characterised by very dry and chilly weather, although we have enjoyed some much-needed rain over the past few days. Apart from the Cape Robins obviously being in courting mode since last month, other birds have got in on the act too – Olive Thrushes, Fork-tailed Drongos, Black-eyed Bulbuls, and even the Knysna Louries have been chasing each other around the garden. Some Cape Weavers have even been building a practice nest in the back garden. I have also seen Mrs. Greater Double-collared Sunbird collecting feathers from the lawn.

I was delighted to see a Cape Wagtail bobbing about last week for they bring such a feeling of joy to the garden.

Cape Wagtail

Klaas’ Cuckoo showed up this morning and a Burchell’s Coucal appeared in the garden last week – good signs that spring is on its way. It has also been pleasing to see the odd Malachite Sunbird in passing and more of the Black-backed Puffback. The latter has become a fairly regular visitor this month, as has a pair of Spectacled Weavers.

Spectacled Weaver

My July bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackbacked Puffback
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Chinspot Batis
Common Starling
Crowned Plover
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Jackal Buzzard
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Lourie
Laughing Dove
Malachite Sunbird
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Speckled Mousebird
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Canary
Village Weaver
Yellowfronted Canary

A BOKSBURG GARDEN

A BOKSBURG GARDEN

Having experienced the push, squeeze, swerve and shove of the Gauteng traffic to reach Boksburg, it was a happy surprise to wake up to a chorus of cape turtle doves, grey louries, redeyed doves, and the cheeping of Cape sparrows. I discovered later that a pair of the latter were kept very busy feeding their chick.

Through my half-opened curtains I spotted several speckled mousebirds methodically working their way through a bed of rosemary and red-veined spinach. Then I heard the distinctive call of a crested barbet – a sound that immediately transported me back to the farm garden of my youth, where my mother often referred to these barbets as ‘clown birds’ because of their colouring.

crestedbarbet

The sight of a hoopoe sunning itself on the garden bench quickly drew me outside to find my own spot in the sun and to enjoy what this Boksburg garden had to offer for the rest of my stay. Often there were two hoopoes poking their strong beaks into the kikuyu lawn in search of food.

hoopoe

What a pleasure it is to spend time in this garden which has so much to offer, from a cheekily cheerful frog to a variety of palm trees, shrubs and even a seasoned tree stump. There is a richness on offer in an apparently restricted space which actually carries no restriction.

gardenfrog

treestump

For example, it wasn’t long before I discovered that the closely clipped yesterday-today-and-tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora) growing at the edge of the lush, even lawn, hides a rich, fertile compost heap.

compost

While the compost itself adds to the quality of the soil in the garden, it also carries within it a bounty such as this enormous Kentucky Blue pumpkin, the last of the ‘free’ crop.

pumpkin

It has also spawned a riot of juicy cherry tomatoes which have colonised flower pots as well as the tiniest of spaces around the perimeter of the lawn. So prolific have they been that bags of the plump red, sweet fruit already reside in the home freezer for later use in bredies, soups and sauces. Even so, I picked a colander full of them – leaving plenty more for another day – for supper one afternoon and have since happily transplanted some seedlings to my own garden.

cherrytomatoes

Nothing goes to waste: self-sown seedlings of the red-veined spinach have been transplanted into a raised bed and along the edge of the patio. I can attest how delicious these leaves are in salads. Flowers, vegetables and trees, including a pomegranate, vie for space below the clear, bright blue sky, so typical of summer on the Highveld. There is even a self-sown cabbage tree growing from the trunk of a palm tree!

verbena

profusion of pots

pomegranate

cabbagetree

Apart from Sheba, one of the two resident hounds and a cat, it is the birdlife that enhances the tranquillity of this garden in spite of the regular roar of planes taking off from and landing at the nearby OR Tambo Airport.
Each day I delighted in watching the Cape turtle doves either chasing each other around the perimeter of the bird bath or sunning themselves on a patch of open ground.

Sheba

Common mynahs flitted past the bright purple bougainvillea and skeins of sacred ibises flew overhead.

sacredibis

I first ‘met’ a kurrichane thrush while camping in the Okovango Swamps many years ago – and have since become used to the olive thrushes that dart about my garden in the Eastern Cape. In this Boksburg garden I never tired of watching the kurrichane thrushes work over the lawn, their heads thrust to one side or scratching around the edges of the compost heap.

kurrichanethrush

The appearance of redheaded finches reminded me of our happy camping trips to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

redheadedfinch
While the Cape glossy starlings stirred my sense of anticipation for our forthcoming trip to the Kruger National Park.

capeglossystarling

Grey louries regularly visited the garden in the early mornings to feed on apple quarters and returned in the late afternoons.

greylourie

One afternoon I was startled by a black harrier swooping low after a redeyed dove. I cannot tell what happened for the two birds disappeared behind the house in a flash.

redeyeddove

Cape wagtails are a strong link to my own garden, to which I would soon return.

capewagtail

This Boksburg garden is truly a tranquil haven and a blissful place in which to unwind.

Over the course of a week I saw the following birds:

Black harrier
Blackeyed bulbul
Cape glossy starling
Cape sparrow
Cape turtle dove
Cape wagtail
Cape white-eye
Common mynah
Crested barbet
Darter
Egyptian goose
Grey heron
Grey lourie
Hadeda ibis
Hoopoe
Kurrichane thrush
Laughing dove
Pied crow
Redbilled woodhoopoe
Redeyed dove
Redheaded finch
Rock pigeon
Sacred ibis
Southern masked weaver
Speckled mousebird
Whiterumped swift

MAY 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

MAY 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

May has been a chilly – and very busy – month with little time to spend outdoors on leisurely activities such as watching birds. A Black Crow (also known as the Cape Crow) flew onto my list first as several of them have taken to swirling around in groups and one or two occasionally perch high up on either the Cyprus or the Fig tree while making a variety of bubbling calls announcing their presence.
I was delighted to see a pair of Cape Wagtails at last. They used to be resident in our garden and for two years in a row a pair nested in the tangle of air plants draped over the lower branches of the trees creating deep shade in part of our garden. Their cheerful movements are encapsulated in John Clare’s beautiful poem, Little Trotty Wagtail:

Little Trotty Wagtail he went in the rain
And twittering, tottering sideways he ne’er got straight again,
He stooped to get a worm and looked up to get a fly,
And then he flew away ere his feathers they were dry.

Little Trotty Wagtail he waddled in the mud,
And left his little footmarks, trample where he would.
He waddled in the water pudge and waggle went his tail,
And chirrupt up his wings to dry upon the garden rail.

Little Trotty Wagtail, you nimble all about,
And in the dimpling waterpudge you waddle in and out;
Your home is nigh at hand and in the warm pig stye,
So, little Master Wagtail, I’ll bid you a goodbye.

It has been over a year since an African Dusky Flycatcher has graced our garden with its presence. It flits about among the trees in the back garden, occasionally venturing out to sit on one of the many aloes that have come into bloom.
The beautiful Cape Robin is the last on my list. I hear it often, yet actually spotted one only recently as it serenaded me from the thicket while I was drinking tea late one afternoon. This uncharacteristic shyness is a far cry from recent years when robins made a habit of flying in and out of our home as part of their food-seeking territory: cat food in the kitchen crumbs on the dining room table, and sometimes even perching on the lounge doors to watch for the fall of tiny titbits on the carpet!
My May list is:

African Dusky Flycatcher
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon
Speckled Mousebird
Streakyheaded Canary
Village Weaver
Yellow Canary
Yellow Weaver