OCTOBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

We are delighted to have received 43mm of very light rain during this month – albeit it in dribs and drabs of a few millimetres at a time. This is well below the annual average of 64mm, so we cannot help hoping that November will bring us a lot more rain. Every drop helps though and we have been blessed with a swathe of spring flowers in the veld and the trees in our garden have greened up almost miraculously. Speaking of green, the first bird to make it on my list this month was none other than a Green Woodhoopoe. Although they have been regular visitors, they are far from easy to photograph as they tend to call from within the foliage where they are looking for insects hiding under loose bark or poking their beaks into the dry leaves of the aloes to find food.

The two Common Fiscals continue to entertain us with their antics – both keep a wary eye out for each other before they collect food. Judging from their rapid back and forth movements, I suspect they are both feeding chicks. Their nests are far apart in different directions so they only meet at the feeding station. Bronze Manikins are also always entertaining the way they huddle together on the feeders. Southern Masked Weavers have been plentiful – I am intrigued by how quickly the females especially tuck into the minced meat I put out occasionally. The Cape Weavers have been more interested in the seeds as well as the nectar feeder.

Cape White-eyes are also regular visitors to the nectar feeders.

The Pin-tailed Whydahs have obviously staked their territory elsewhere: we occasionally see a male or two dancing around, but mostly catch sight of the females taking a respite from all the romance to feed quietly on seeds that have fallen to the ground from the hanging feeders.

I suspect the next door cats have made the Cape robin-chats a lot more wary than they used to be, so I was pleased to photograph this one even though the light was not that good.

‘Newcomers’ this month include a few visits from an African Harrier Hawk – the garden becomes absolutely silent when it comes by; a pair of Cape Wagtails have been bobbing around the edge of our swimming pool; Crowned Hornbills paid us a brief visit as they were perhaps passing through town; it is lovely hearing the Diederik Cuckoo and Knysna Turacos calling; a Spectacled Weaver called round for a few days in a row, as did a pair of Forest Canaries. My greatest delight was the arrival of the Lesser-striped Swallows and the White-rumped Swifts.

I regularly hear the calls of Black-collared Barbets and see them in the trees as well as the feeding tray now and then.

My bird list for this month:
African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo-Shrike
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Crowned Hornbill
Diederik Cuckoo
Forest Canary
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pin-tailed Whydah
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

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AUGUST 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

After having spotted an African Hoopoe high up in the Erythrina caffra last month, I was very pleased to see one looking for insects on our back lawn – easily visible through our kitchen window. A pair of Streaky-headed Seedeaters are regular visitors throughout the day – either perched on the seed feeder or eating the seeds that have fallen to the ground. The Hadeda Ibis nest is now complete and, I suspect, eggs are in the process of being incubated.

Both Common Fiscals – Meneer and Spotty – are being kept very busy collecting food to feed their chicks. They do not like each other and frequently clash in the feeding area. Meneer sometimes approaches me as soon as I open the door to put food out and takes food from my hand. Spotty has always been a lot more cautious, yet even this one has seen on which side the bread is buttered and now happily approaches the dish of finely cut up meat or fish on the table even while I am enjoying my tea. Not only that … this wily creature has noticed me sitting in the sun in the back garden too and perches on the wash line whilst flapping its wings gently enough: I need food … the message gets through well enough and I put out a few titbits which are removed in a flash.

Only four Red-necked Spurfowl regularly visit the garden now: a hen with three chicks. They too are becoming more used to our presence and now boldly walk past us to eat the seed that has fallen under the feeders. I have taken to scattering some crushed maize on the brick surround of the pool and they are happy enough to peck at it even though I am sitting a short distance from them. The Bronze Manikins are a joy to watch as they perch closely together on a high branch to catch the last of the sun on chilly afternoons.

The Cape Robin-chats have paired up and are probably having to feed chicks too, for I see each of them taking regular turns to collect what they can from the feeding tray before they disappear into the shrubbery.

Given that the weather is warming up, there appears to be a greater call on the nectar feeder. The Cape White-eyes visit it several times a day:

While the Black-headed Oriole only comes occasionally. This picture was taken from my bedroom window.

Weavers like the nectar feeder too. This Cape Weaver is waiting in the queue.

Lastly, for this month, is a visit from an Olive Thrush perched on the edge of the bird bath.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Barthroated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver

BIRDS EATING FLOWERS

I have often noticed the tubular flowers of the Cape honeysuckle lying on the ground as if something had deliberately cut them off – well, that ‘something’ has generally proved to be one or other of the weavers that frequent our garden! Keen to get to the store of nectar at the base – and having beaks far too short to reach inside – the weavers simply nip off the base of the flowers for their prize snack.

During July and into early August, I have observed the stalks of the Aloe ferox growing outside our lounge have increasingly been stripped too. This time I caught a pair of Streakyheaded Seedeaters in the act. Apart from probing the base of the flowers to get to the nectar, they also eat the buds, anthers and stamens – this picture was taken through the window:

Other birds enjoying the rich source of nectar from aloes – only they have the long curved beaks to poke into the flowers – are the Green Woodhoopoes that chuckle and cackle their way through our garden every now and then:

The tall Erythrina caffra tree in the back garden hosts a wide variety of birds throughout its fairly long flowering season. Cape Weavers appear to be very partial to nectar and are considered to be among the more important pollinators of aloes. This one is snacking on one of the Erythrina caffra flowers:

A Blackheaded Oriole takes a turn to feast on the flowers too:

 

JUNE 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Even though the colder winter weather has settled in, there is plenty of fruit on the Natal fig tree in the bottom corner of our garden. A flock of African Green Pigeons seem to have taken up residence there for the time being – only flying out to seek the sun elsewhere during the late afternoons or if startled by loud noises on the street below. In the first photograph of the two below you see how well these fairly large birds blend into the foliage:

Here one of these birds is feasting on a fig:

Enormous flocks of Redwinged Starlings visit this tree daily too, as do doves, Olive Thrushes, Black-collared Barbets, Speckled Mousebirds and weavers. Black-headed Orioles enjoy the figs too and visit the nectar feeder regularly. Although this isn’t a good picture at all – taken with my cell phone from some distance – it illustrates how these birds also enjoy the nectar from aloe flowers:

Laughing Doves congregate in high branches in order to catch the early morning sun. This is one of several perched in the almost bare branches of a pompon tree:

Welcome sounds and sightings this month mark the return of a pair of Cape Wagtails that prance around the edge of our swimming pool and the beautiful bubbling call of a Burchell’s Coucal from deep within the foliage. I have also heard a pair of Bar-throated Apalises nearby. They too are not easy to spot between the leaves, although I caught a glimpse of one in the kitchen hedge whilst I was hanging up the laundry the other day. I see Cape Weavers around more often now, still looking a little tatty in their winter garb:

The other weaver I simply cannot resist showing you more of is the Spectacled Weaver. This one is becoming very bold and visits the bird feeders daily, eating fruit, cheese, fish and seeds during the course of the week:

With aloes, Cape honeysuckle and other winter flowers blooming, there is probably enough nectar to go around – the mixture I put out goes down fairly slowly at the moment – and so it was fun seeing a Cape White-eye sampling my fare:

Fork-tailed Drongos, Pied Crows and a flock of about six Cape Crows have been regular visitors this month too. The Speckled Pigeons appear to have decreased in number – one still roosts on a ledge near our front door and makes an awful mess below. This one is peering down at me from the gutter – which is in desperate need of cleaning!

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver

SIX BIRDS IN PASSING AT ADDO

I seldom get the opportunity to spend the time to stop and observe birds whilst driving through the Addo Elephant National Park with companions who are far more interested in animals than either birds or flowers. These are birds I managed to photograph during a day trip to that park last month. The first is a Green Woodhoopoe close to the reception. Naturally, it sauntered about in full view until I had retrieved my camera!

One can almost be guaranteed to come across a weaver or two either in or on the Spekboom hedge at Domkrag Dam. This is a Cape Weaver looking a bit disreputable since shedding its breeding finery.

A Speckled Mousebird watches me from a bush next to the road. Without its crest raised, it looks almost as though it has just woken up.

It was at Rooidam that a young Reed Cormorant flapped its wings to dry in the early morning sunlight.

Tripping lightly along the edge of the road was the surprising sight of a Three-banded Plover.

A Cape Turtle Dove inspected the gravel at Jack’s Picnic Site with a degree of success.

Of course there were many more birds seen but not photographed.