VISITORS TO THE BIRD FEEDERS

I move my bird feeders around from time to time, mainly to protect whatever is trying to grow underneath them. This Cape Weaver is eating seeds on the bench-like feeder my granddaughter made for me. You will notice that he is losing his bright breeding plumage in readiness for the winter months.

This rather surprised looking Streaky-headed Seed-eater is sharing the ‘house’ feeder with a Village Weaver.

I used to place this fruit feeder in the fork of a tree, where this Common Fiscal is feasting on cut apples. I have since moved it to a rock elsewhere in the garden.

A Cape Robin-chat is doing the same.

Apart from providing the bird visitors to my garden with seeds and fruit, I also have a nectar feeder. Here a Spectacled Weaver is paying it a visit.

KEEPING COOL

Birds possess a remarkable talent for regulating their body temperature. We have all seen them heading for a bird bath or garden spray to cool off in the water, but they also employ other means of beating the heat.

I have noticed an absence of birds during the hottest parts of the day – so, for example, if I put out seed once the sun is well up and the temperature is already high, few if any birds come to investigate it until the temperature begins to drop in the late afternoon. We have been experiencing temperatures in the high thirty degrees Celsius for most of summer. As birds do not sweat, some open their bills and flutter their throat membrane (called gular fluttering) to allow moisture to evaporate out of the mouth. Here you can see a Common Fiscal panting in this manner even while it is seeking shade in the dense undergrowth. This bird is ringed, making me suspect that it is the same Common Fiscal that I have been photographing in my garden over the past three years at least.

The other interesting aspect to observe is that this bird looks ‘thinner’ than usual. This is because it is holding its feathers more closely to its body – another means of keeping cool. Compare it with this one taken on a cooler day.

I am pleased to report that we have enjoyed a short period of light rain, which has cooled the temperature significantly. Instead of seeing the Common Fiscal hiding in the shade with its beak agape like this

I should see it looking for food like this:

WHAT’S FOR TEA?

A Common Fiscal came to see what we were having for our tea:

One tasty bite was alright:

Some of your scone has gone?

Don’t look at me – I don’t eat tea!

That crumb on my beak you saw isn’t there anymore:

NOVEMBER 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

The heat and drought continues unabated, yet I have been blessed with another bumper month of bird-watching in our garden. Delightful visitors are the Black-eyed Bulbuls (their new name, Dark-capped Bulbul, doesn’t trip off my tongue yet) that frequent both the nectar feeder and partake of the cut apples, although I have occasionally seen them hawking insects too. Here a pair of them are seeking some respite in the shade.

The Black-headed Oriole is always a welcome visitor to the nectar feeder. It swoops down now and then to feed on apples too.

This Bronze Mannikin is perched on a branch with its beak agape while it waits for a turn at the seed feeder – mostly dominated by Southern Masked Weavers and Streaky-headed Seedeaters. Although they are said to eat fruit and nectar, I have not observed them doing either in our garden.

The Common Fiscal is a regular visitor – quite happy to inspect my breakfast or what we are having to eat with our mid-morning tea – and is often the first to inspect what has been placed on the feeding tray. There are two: one without a ring and this one that has been ringed. Checking through my archived photographs, the latter has been seen in our garden over a couple of years and must be resident near here. Both have been collecting fruit and flying off to what I presume is a nest in a neighbouring garden.

As much as we often malign Common Starlings in this country, they can be amusing to watch. They tend to perch on the telephone wire above the feeding area to assess the availability of food then come down straight, akin to the landing of a helicopter, to guzzle whatever is there as quickly as possible. This one appears to be voicing its dissatisfaction that a pair of Redwinged Starlings beat it to the apple.

I have mentioned before how important it is to provide water for the birds to drink and bathe in during this hot and dry period. This Laughing Dove is making its way to one of the bird baths, with very little water in it – I filled it up after taking this photograph. The bird baths get filled twice, and sometimes even three times a day of late.

There is a saga attached to the Lesser-striped Swallows which I will relate in another post.

The daily sound of the squeaky ‘kweek, kweek, kweek’ notes emanating from the Red-throated Wryneck has been frustrating as this bird has been so difficult to locate! I used the binoculars and managed to get a better photograph of this warbler-like bird from an upstairs window yesterday – see how well it blends into the lichen-covered branches of the Tipuana tree.

I cannot resist showing you this picture of a Red-winged Starling about to tuck into an apple.

The Speckled Mousebirds are going to bag a post of their own soon. Meanwhile, this one is waiting for an opportunity to eat the apples on the tray below. Note how well it too blends into its surroundings.

My November bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Crowned Hornbill
Diederik Cuckoo
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Redeyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Redwinged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Red Bishop
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellow-billed Kite