SPOTTY

Last year I told the story of Spotty, the ringed Common Fiscal that has regularly visited our garden since at least 2016. I gave him this moniker because of the distinctive faint black spot on his front.  Over the past year, Spotty became less wary of me and often perched on a nearby branch while I was enjoying tea outside. While he appears in many photographs of the birds in my garden, these ones were taken in January. In this one he is perched above a feeding tray I had wedged into the fork of a tree in an effort to create a safer place (from the neighbouring cats) for the birds to come to.

He has perched comfortably on the edge of the feeding tray to nibble at a piece of sausage.

It didn’t taste too bad.

Once back on the branch, he eyed me silently before flying off. You can clearly see his eponymous dark spot.

Now that I am back from my brief sojourn away, I am hoping to see more of him.

SPOTTY’S CHICK

Spotty, the ringed Common Fiscal, must be busy raising another brood for it still flies in and out with food in its beak to pass on to another beak hidden somewhere out of sight. A few weeks ago I noticed that the interval between these flights was becoming shorter until one morning I looked up to find Spotty and its chick perched on a branch above me.

After that encounter it was great fun observing the growing independence of the youngster. While it still accepted food from its parent, it gradually investigated the flowers and shrubs closer to the source.

Its cryptic colouring – compared with the dapper white and black of the parent – help it to blend into its surroundings with a degree of ease. Within days the chick was making forays to the feeding area on its own.

Its sense of place and built-in wariness came to the fore from early on as it would perch on the trunk of the cabbage tree to survey its surroundings before instinctively menacing other birds that came within pecking distance.

With time these dull feathers gave way to a more defined pattern of black and white. I could hear familiar squabbles between fiscals – Spotty vs Meneer (the other fiscal gathering food for its brood in a neighbouring garden); or Spotty vs the sub-adult? Perhaps the message was coming through that the youngster was now big enough to seek a territory of its own.

Spotty still appears daily to collect food and flies off with it … another fiscal family in the making.

DECEMBER 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

The rain received this month has been a glorious change from years of drought – not that the drought is broken. Nonetheless, our garden is green and filled with flowering trees. So quick has been the growth after the rain that even though I have already pruned around the bird feeders, I shall soon have to do so again if I want a reasonable view of the birds!

The White-rumped Swifts have been scything overhead in their daily search for insects and – alas – the Lesser-striped Swallows had just completed their mud nest when it fell down. This intrepid pair have built another one around the side of the house, where I hope they will enjoy greater success and get to rear at least one brood. The Laughing Doves continue to gather in the mornings, waiting for the seed to be put out. Recently they have been put to flight several times by the neighbouring cat which, sadly, has caught more than one of them during the course of the month.

The nest of the Hadeda Ibis has fallen apart since the two chicks have learned to fly and no longer need that sanctuary. Here they are inspecting our swimming pool. They still sometimes choose to lie down on the warm bricks and are occasionally accompanied by their mother.

The nectar-bearing flowers are on the trees and shrubs this month – Tipuana, Pompon, Cape Chestnut, Cape Honeysuckle, and Plumbago – and so I considered myself fortunate to get this shot of a Greater Double-collared Sunbird perched high up in the Tipuana tree.

Although I featured Bronze Manikins last month, I cannot resist showing you this one swinging on a creeper in the front garden. These tiny birds have also been enjoying the seeds in the wild grass growing in our back garden.

With all the comings and goings of the various Common Fiscals, I have been intrigued observing the progress of this offspring of Spotty. Having been brought to the feeding table several times, it has become more independent and is quick to chase other birds away.

Here it is perched on a branch with Spotty.

A strange phenomenon I have experienced for several years now is the annual December visit from a single Southern Red Bishop. It appears at the feeder for a day or two, then disappears not to be seen again for another year.

Apart from the weavers, regular visitors to the feeder are a pair of Grey-headed Sparrows. This one appears to be telling its mate to join in the seed feast.

My bird list for this month:

Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Forest Canary
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Red Bishop
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

A BLOCK OF CHEESE IN CLAW

Watching our friendly Common Fiscal, Meneer, eating a tiny block of cheese led me to wonder if birds are the equivalent of left- or right-handed. Certainly this and the ringed Common Fiscal, Spotty, both hold food in their right claws when eating.

Holding onto the block of cheese.

The first bite tastes alright.

A fine breakfast this is.

AUGUST 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

Birding sessions in my garden would be incomplete without seeing an Olive Thrush. These birds are real characters the way they put their heads down to chase after each other on the ground … round and round the bushes and rocks they go. They are incredibly alert too and you can see from the dirt at the end of its beak that this one has been grubbing around between the flowers to find something to eat. It drank water after I had taken this photograph and then enjoyed a quick bath.

Of course Meneer, the friendly Common Fiscal, is a daily joy too. The other morning it came flying towards me as I opened the door to come outside and grabbed something from the tray I was carrying before flying off. It comes every day, usually perching next to my breakfast before taking a piece of meat or cheese from my hand. The ritual remains the same, even when I place a little dish to one side especially for it. Here it is waiting on the edge of the flower pot near my feet. You can see its white eyebrows very clearly.

Although I recently highlighted Spotty, the ringed Common Fiscal, this image clearly shows his eponymous dark spot.

I have mentioned before that this year the Cape Robin-chat is much more reticent to come out than we have enjoyed in the past. Here it has just alighted on a rock, clearly focused on the food in the feeding tray below. It generally waits until the coast is clear and sometimes gets tantalisingly close to the food before being chased off by the arrival of another bird.

One of the highlights of this month was finally getting an opportunity to photograph the Brown-hooded Kingfisher that has taken to perching on the wash line outside our kitchen. This time it was co-operative enough for me to rush upstairs to get my camera and even stayed still while I quietly opened the door and focused on it. I am very pleased to show it off.

At the moment the Common Starlings are looking very smart in their breeding outfits.

Lastly, to add a little brighter colour, here is a Village Weaver.

Overall, this has been another good month for seeing birds in our garden. The Amethyst Sunbirds regularly visit the nectar feeder; the Black Cuckoo occasionally emits its mournful cry about feeling so sick; some Cape Glossy Starlings paid a very brief visit – as did a Red-necked Spurfowl; and the Pin-tailed Whydahs pop in now and then.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Mannikin
Brownhooded Kingfisher
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fork-tailed Drongo
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver