NESTING CAPE WAGTAILS

Dare I say that spring is in the air? It is for the pair of Cape Wagtails (Motacilla capensis) I watched collecting nesting material from the lawn and taking it to their hiding place in the shrubbery.

This one picked through the lawn to find dry grass, collecting several bits at once before flying off in the direction of its nest. This was repeated over and over during the course of the hour that I watched the wagtails.

Some longer sticks (also dried grass) were required.

Time for a head scratch.

Cape Wagtails are monogamous. Here the couple are taking a breather together.

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IS THAT A MAN OR A BIRD?

The first two images were taken through the windscreen while we were driving along a very rough and very dusty road – hence the poor quality of them. Nonetheless, as the vehicle in front snaked along the sinuous curves and spewed dust into the air, a strange shape emerged in the distance: is that a man or a bird? From several corners away it was difficult to pinpoint the shape according to any known definition – of course it couldn’t be a bird, it was much too large. How could it be a man though?

The shape kept disappearing as we drove around corners or as it became engulfed with more fine-powdered dust.

Now you can see it is a man carrying a long pole – I will show him in another post too – that looks like lengthy extensions of his arms; almost bird-like if you have a fanciful imagination.

A few days later I chanced upon a Cape Wagtail – which you will meet again too – carrying nesting material and showing an odd resemblance to the man. That is if you apply that fanciful imagination!

SEPTEMBER 2018 GARDEN BIRDS

September is a month of renewal: warmer weather – even some light rain – and the hours of daylight stretch at both ends of the day. This means the dawn chorus comes ever earlier – beautiful to listen to and such fun to distinguish the different bird calls. It has been a period of welcoming some birds back from their winter quarters as well as being able to watch the courtship, nest-building – and even finding a few eggshells lying on the ground.

Raptors have made their presence felt. A Black Harrier has swooped low over the garden several times, sending birds of all sizes scattering for shelter in the trees.

Both a Jackal Buzzard and a Yellowbilled Kite have had a nose-in too. I haven’t seen any evidence in the garden of their forays being successful – perhaps all the trees work in the favour of the smaller birds!

I am delighted to see a pair of Cape Wagtails bobbing about the lawn and inspecting the pool for insects once more. Whiterumped Swifts scythe through the air – a sure sign that summer is on its way.

Joining Klaas’ Cuckoo are the lovely sounds of the Diederik Cuckoo and the Bokmakierie. There have also been fleeting visits by Southern Black Tits, Yellowfronted Canaries and a Thickbilled Weaver.

Small flocks of Redbilled Woodhoopoes have swept through the garden from time to time, scouring nooks and crannies for things to eat. I recently saw some pulling what looked like grubs from under the bark of an ageing Tipuana tree and catching spiders in the cracks of a brick wall.

My September bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird (Black)
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow (Cape)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Black Harrier (Gymnogene)
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Egyptian Goose
Fierynecked Nightjar
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Jackal Buzzard
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Sunbird
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redbilled Woodhoopoe (Green)
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Black Tit
Southern Boubou
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon (Rock)
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellowbilled Kite
Yellowfronted Canary

JULY 2018 GARDEN BIRDS

Welcome visitors passing through the garden this month have included a Southern Boubou calling loudly below my bedroom window; Crowned Plovers flying raucously overhead; a few Southern Masked Weavers; and a pair of Common Waxbills. None have stayed for long. I was particularly pleased when a Cape Wagtail entertained me over tea while it worked its way across the pipes in the pool: up and down it would go until the water became too deep, then it would fly back to the edge and start all over again – picking at tiny insects from either the water or on the pipe. This is a photograph taken with my phone from some distance away – for the record!

While we may still be feeling the chill of winter, the birds have already sensed and are preparing for the spring that is still a way off: a pair of Black-headed Orioles call to each other from tree tops across the garden, swooping down now and then to sip at the nectar feeder.

Many Village Weavers are sloughing off their winter tweeds and sprouting their bright yellow breeding plumage, while they fill the shrubbery with their cheerfully lolling swizzling songs or chase each other off the bird feeder.

A pair of Fork-tailed Drongos as well as a pair of Olive Thrushes have been chasing their prospective partners all over the garden for days. An Olive Thrush has been collecting nesting material lately.

Nesting is also on the mind of a Cape Weaver that has been carrying strips of grass towards an as yet undiscovered location in the back garden. For the birds then, spring is definitely in the air!

My July bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird (Black)
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Shrike (Fiscal)
Common Starling
Common Waxbill
Crowned Plover
Fierynecked Nightjar
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon (Rock)
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver

THREE ADDO BIRDS

A visit to the Addo Elephant National Park is incomplete without observing some of the many birds in the area. Here are three we encountered recently:

A Grey Heron contemplating the prospects of food in the Ghwarrie Waterhole.

This Rednecked Spurfowl eyed us curiously as we drove past along one of the many dirt roads.

One of three Cape Wagtails bobbing across the lawn at Jack’s Picnic Site while searching for insects.

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.

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