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

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

MARCH 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

First of all, thank you to everyone who left encouraging comments and useful advice as well as offers of assistance when I lamented that the media storage on my free version of WordPress was 100% full and this wouldn’t allow me to feature any more photographs. After mulling over and considering the cost of changing to WordPress Pro (the only plan offered) against my enjoyment of blogging, I opened my dashboard with a degree of reluctance this morning to start that expensive process … only to find that WP has acknowledged that I actually still have plenty of space, which means I can continue for free for a while longer! So, back to business and my monthly round-up of garden birds:

This is the first month ever since I received my first digital camera years ago that I do not have a single photograph of a garden bird in my folder. It is not from lack of trying as I have taken my camera outside several times … it is an indication of the impact of having the three cats from next door using my garden as their hunting ground! My list below shows there have been birds: most of them have paid fleeting visits or have hidden higher up in the foliage, not daring to spend much time either on the ground or at the feeders. Forgive me then for trawling my archives to illustrate this month’s review of garden birds.

Red-winged Starlings have started appearing in greater numbers once more. I mostly see them in the Natal Fig in the front garden or in the tall Erythrina caffra in the back garden. This is a female starling photographed in 2016.

It is always a delight to hear the distinctive calls of a Bokmakierie for they do not often visit this side of town. I have seldom seen them actually visit the bird feeders; they catch caterpillars and other insects all over the garden and so are probably not particularly perturbed by the presence of the cats. This one was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park in 2015.

The Southern Boubou are naturally shy birds that often skulk about in the undergrowth – leaving them vulnerable to cats. I have heard them a few times and have really only had one confirmed sighting this month. Nonetheless, this one was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park in 2018.

The duets of Black-collared Barbets echo throughout the garden during the particularly warm days. They are generally cautious about approaching the feeding tray anyway, but have been particularly wary of late. This one was photographed in 2015.

The Cape White-eyes can be seen flitting through the foliage and visiting the nectar feeder daily. The ones below were, however, photographed in Cape Town in 2014.

Lastly, from 2016, is a photograph of the very pretty Grey-headed Bush Shrike. One has made several appearances in our garden this month but has been almost impossible to pin down to photograph as it moves very quickly through the leaves of our many trees.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Pigeon
White-rumped Swift
Yellowfronted Canary

FEBRUARY 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

There are a few mysteries about the avian visitors to our garden that have had me puzzled this month. Among them are: why are the apples I have put out been pecked at only a few times and then left to shrivel? I have tried two different kinds (both have been tasty and juicy for me); why am I seeing ever fewer Village Weavers – are the Southern Masked Weavers finally taking over this territory? Where have the Speckled Mousebirds gone? I hear both Olive Thrushes and Cape Robin-chats in the shrubbery and yet see very little of them in the feeding area. Common Starlings pop in only every now and then; and the Black-headed Orioles very seldom visit the nectar feeder … Drought cannot be the only answer, for I provide fresh water daily; the seed is replenished daily and I regularly replenish any other food I happen to put out.

Such questions continue to mull over in my mind as I settle to watch birds every morning and as often as I can during the afternoon. February is a time of change: our weather remains very hot albeit with increasingly cooler days between; leaves on the deciduous trees are yellowing, turning brown and float to the ground in the slightest breeze; thin layers of cloud arrive – some even tower up enticingly high on the horizon to catch the pinkish light of the setting sun, yet hardly any rain worth mentioning has fallen. The Common Fiscals and Southern Masked Weavers are still feeding their impatient young; the Lesser-striped Swallows have mostly disappeared and the White-rumped Swifts will be off before long.

The Cape White-eyes continue to provide joy as they visit the nectar feeder often and work their way through the shrubbery.

I had a magnificent view of an African Harrier-Hawk flying low over our garden for two days in a row. On the first occasion I was alerted to its presence by the birds I was watching disappearing in a whoosh of feathers and dust as they sought shelter in the surrounding trees and shrubs. The following day I watched as a pair of Red winged Starlings escorted it out of ‘their’ airspace.

A pair of Hadeda Ibises regularly forage through the leaf litter in the garden – very quietly for such large birds until something gives them a fright and they soar away with loud ‘ha-ha-hadeda’ sounds.

Having had another eye operation this month has made using binoculars impossible, nor can I use my usual spectacles with any confidence yet, so my identification of this as a Forest Canary may be way off and I am happy for it to be placed into its correct ‘box’:

My bird list for February contains both the regulars as well as some new arrivals:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-Hawk
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forest Canary
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Long-billed Crombec
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-fronted Canary

DRAWN TO WATER

As we are experiencing the heat of summer, it seems fitting to draw attention to the attraction of water for birds and animals. I start in my garden then travel through my archives to a wonderful time spent – oh so long ago – in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

An Olive Thrush chooses a quiet moment to step into the shallow bird bath tucked into a shady section of the garden, where there is plenty of cover nearby to duck into should the need arise. It glances around whilst standing stock-still, as if it is assessing what dangers might be lurking around before it takes a few sips of water then splashes itself liberally in the bird bath.

Five Cape White-eyes gather for a communal drink and bathe at a different bird bath in a sunnier spot – still with plenty of cover to dive into if necessary.

This Speckled Pigeon casts a wary eye upwards before settling into the same bird bath for a drink.

Further afield, a lioness slakes her thirst at a water trough in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

So does a Gemsbok, accompanied by a trio of Cape Turtle Doves.

Lastly, a Yellow Mongoose ignores a swarm of thirsty bees to drink at a bird bath set underneath a communal tap in one of the rest camps in the Kgalagadi.