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.

CATTLE EGRETS AND OX-PECKERS

I have mentioned before how small herds of cattle are sometimes left to roam around our suburbs. This has become more prevalent since this area fell into the iron grip of a drought that has tortured gardeners, farmers, and wildlife of every sort. A bonus of having these cattle graze on unmown verges and on the grassy area between our street and the main road into town is that they attract Cattle Egrets.

cattleegret

There appears to be a symbiotic relationship between Cattle Egrets and grazing animals. We see them with the cattle here, and in the game reserves they follow in the wake of herds of buffalo, eland, springbuck and wildebeest.

cattleegretandbuffalo

In some parts of the country Cattle Egrets are commonly called Tick Birds. Unlike the Red-billed- and Yellow-billed Ox-peckers though, Cattle Egrets do not only pick ticks off the animals. Instead, they mostly forage for grasshoppers and other insects that are disturbed as the grazing animals move through the grass. The Ox-peckers, on the other hand, feed on ticks, flies, lice and worms that can be extracted from the fur of animals such as buffalo, rhinoceros, giraffe and impala by using a scissoring motion with their beaks.

oxpeckerrhino

oxpeckerimpala

The Cattle Egrets are social birds and so gather in fairly large flocks in the veld and – in our town – gather in a particular tree in the CBD to perch en masse at night. As you can imagine, this practice is not looked upon with favour by all residents.

DECEMBER 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

DECEMBER 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

What a joy to start this month with the sound of cackling laughter in the garden as a small group of Red-billed Wood-hoopoes (now called Green Wood-hoopoes) picked their way through the trees looking for insects and grubs. Their cheerful sounds and fleeting visits are always welcome.

The arrival of an African Goshawk had the other birds scurrying for cover. They have had to do the same whenever a Black Harrier skimmed the top of the trees for several days in a row. It is incredible how quickly the sense of danger is communicated from one bird to another.

I am used to flocks of doves and weavers rising with a ‘whoosh’ of feathers at an unusually loud noise from passing vehicles, the arrival of the neighbouring hound, or the footsteps of an unexpected visitor. One or two braver laughing Doves often remain on the lawn and look around as if wondering what all the fuss is about before they resume pecking at the seed scattered between the blades of grass. Not when an obvious predator is about though. Then all the birds disappear in a flash and even the youngsters, which moments before had been quivering their feathers and cheeping loudly for food, are silent until some sort of all clear is given.

The other day we were amused to watch a pair of Fork-tailed Drongos chasing away a Black Crow, which cawed loudly in protest. They didn’t give up until the crow had flown some distance away. I wonder if it had got to close to their nest. I haven’t located one, but regularly see the pair of them in the fig tree.

The Sacred Ibises and Cattle Egrets have been sighted more regularly this month, usually late in the afternoon when the sun highlights their wings as they fly over.

The Lesser-striped Swallows now flit in and out of their recently completed replacement nest. I keep my fingers crossed that the overcast weather we have been experiencing since Christmas is helping the clay globules to dry slowly and firmly so that these birds can successfully raise their young this time around.

Olive Thrushes and Cape Robins have been successful in this department: their respective speckled offspring are evident all over the garden. Cape Weavers and Village Weavers continue to devote a lot of energy to feeding their youngsters. I have also noticed Black-eyed Bulbuls stuffing their beaks before flying off, but have not yet located their nesting site.

Both the Black Sunbirds and the Greater Double-collared Sunbirds visit the ‘pub’ regularly, as do the Fork-tailed Drongos, Cape White-eyes, Black-headed Orioles, Black-eyed Bulbuls and the weavers.

It is lovely hearing the liquid calls of the Burchell’s Coucals again. These ‘rain birds’ transport me back to the farm of my childhood: whenever their calls could be heard during a particularly long dry spell, farmers and their labourers alike would hopefully remark that the rain would surely be coming at last.

This blog started very tentatively a year ago. Thank you to those who read it from time to time, for the encouraging ‘likes’, comments and especially to those who have become ‘followers’. It is gratifying to know that there really is an audience out there!

My December list is:

African Goshawk
African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Cuckoo
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Black Harrier
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Grey Heron
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redchested Cuckoo
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Black Tit
Speckled Mousebird
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift

JUNE 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

JUNE 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

It was the resident flock of Laughing Doves that ‘flew’ onto my bird list first this month. I find them fascinating to watch and have discovered they are not without wit either.

When the seed I had scattered on the ground had been gobbled up by all and sundry, I once observed a Laughing Dove edge ever closer to the bird feeder frequented by the weavers, Bronze Manikins and canaries. After days of trial and error, a Laughing Dove at last managed to get a grip for long enough to grab a seed or two from the now wildly swinging feeder. Practise makes perfect and within a few days one dove at least could balance on the edge for long enough to get some satisfaction from that source of seeds.

Several weeks later I saw two frenzied flapping Laughing doves clinging onto the feeder to extract as many seeds as they could before losing their balance. This is not a regular occurrence and so they may have been two particularly innovative birds.

It is interesting watching the Laughing Doves having a dust bath and then sitting on the ground with their wings fanned out. Sometimes one will lift a wing so that it sticks up and then lift the other. They frequently sit very close together when doing this.

There is obviously safety in numbers as far as they are concerned. A brief period of cautious waiting usually follows after I have scattered seed on the lawn. I have learned to be patient and watch as the doves first gather in the jacaranda tree on the pavement and then gradually edge closer through the trees to the branches of the acacia tree, which is closest to the food. It takes one dove – either brave enough or very hungry – to flutter down to begin the feast. Then the others descend en masse, initially feeding as closely together as possible before fanning out to find seed on the fringes.

Cattle Egrets were the last on my list this month. Newcomers are the Southern Black Tit, which I only see in our garden at this time of the year and – to my great excitement – a Cape Glossy Starling.

I happened to look out of my study window and there it was in all its shining glory in the Erythrina tree! This is a bird I have always associated with the Kruger National Park especially, although I also enjoy seeing them in the Addo Elephant National Park.

My June list is:

Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Bronze Manikin
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Crowned Plover
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon
Southern Black Tit
Speckled Mousebird
Village Weaver
Yellow Canary

An update for those who remain interested in the welfare of Daisy the Tortoise: having disappeared for several days, Daisy seems to have found a new sunny spot near the pool pump house and looks very contented.

Laughing dove side view