A HOT SUMMER AFTERNOON

The temperature has reached 36°C, turning the outside air into a furnace. The brick paving shaded by the house radiates heat, while the bricks still in the sun are too hot to walk on barefoot.

What is left of the lawn grass crunches underfoot.

It hasn’t rained for months and the sky obstinately remains a beautiful clear blue.

Not a leaf stirs, only the heat waves bouncing off the walls and the brick paving. The Hadeda Ibises sitting on their nest in the Natal Fig tree keep making ‘bib-bib’ sounds.

A Cape Weaver drinks deeply from the nectar feeder, arriving and leaving silently as if there is no energy left to make a sound.

A hot breeze sets a few leaves in motion and then dies abruptly. Hark! There is a wisp of cloud creating patterns in the sky!

It dissipates while I watch. A young Common Fiscal seeks food on the hard-baked ground then flies into the shrubbery, its quest unsuccessful.

Nothing stays in the direct sunlight for long.

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COMMON FISCAL (2)

I have mentioned before that the Common Fiscal (Lanius collaris) is a regular visitor to our garden, coming to feed on what is on the tray or filching food from the beaks of other birds – similar behaviour to that of the Fork-tailed Drongo. This particular one has been ringed, which makes it clearly identifiable as an individual. You can clearly see its ring on this photograph:

There are more than one of them – I frequently see a pair of them at the feeding tray or perched on the telephone wire in the back garden, and have even watched them raise a chick. This particular one though is most often seen poised to eat or about to catch something, so I enjoy these two more ‘relaxed’ views of it:

THERE ARE BIRDS IN ADDO

Far too many tourists drive about seeking one species of animal after the other in their quest to chalk up as many as they can – even driving past elephants, zebra and kudu because of a  “we’ve seen them” attitude – with eyes peeled for the ultimate prize: the sight of a lion. We see bored faces in vehicles as the day progresses, listless looks of bafflement when a passing vehicle asks what we are looking at and we respond “birds” or even tell them what bird we might be looking at. “Birds,” one might say or simply give a nod of the head as they move on in their quest.

Watching out for birds in any game reserve adds to the enjoyment of the environment as a whole. Here are a few of the many seen on our recent trip to the Addo Elephant National Park:

A ubiquitous Common Fiscal. Note how it is holding on to the twigs to keep it steady in the stiff breeze.

A young Olive Thrush perching inquisitively on our picnic table. Notice that it is still covered with speckles.

Cape Bulbuls, such as this one abound in the rest camp.

Large flocks of Pied Starlings can be seen all over in the park.

It is always fun seeing Speckled Mousebirds fly across the road or to working their way through bushes as they look for leaves, berries or flowers to eat.

Beautiful Malachite Sunbirds show flashes of metallic green as they pass by in a flash.

Who can resist the delicate beauty of a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk?

How fortunate it was to find a Greater Striped Swallow at rest!

One can almost be guaranteed to find a Bar-throated Apalis at the picnic site.

Lastly, for now, is a Sombre Bulbul (now called a Sombre Greenbul!).

SOUTHERN BOUBOU

They skulk around the undergrowth and occasionally appear at the feeding tray once the other birds have gone; I often hear their lovely boo-boo duet and may see one or other of the pair perched higher up in one of the trees; I seldom manage to photograph them in my garden though and so these photographs have been taken in the Addo Elephant National Park. The bird in question is the Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineas).

Here one has emerged from the thick bush at the picnic site at Addo to filch a piece of ham that has fallen from the table. The rich buff wash on its belly suggests that this is a male. The meaty meal fits in with its natural diet of invertebrates, reptiles, nestling birds, small mice and even fruit – I occasionally see one pecking at the apples I put out on the feeding tray.

This one, on the other hand, is probably a female.

Although one might mistake it for a Common Fiscal from the back – because of the white bars on the wings – it does not have the same hooked bill, which is clearly visible in this photograph.

The bill and the markings of the Southern Boubou are very clear in this photograph.

Here is another view of the female.