DECEMBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

December is a hot month that flies past in the build-up towards Christmas and taming the garden after receiving some welcome rain. Cattle egrets flying low over the trees were the first birds to greet the month – making their way to the various members of the Urban Herd that regularly graze near our home. Speckled Mousebirds also fly across the garden as they search for edible berries here and there – they have ignored the fruit I put out and so I imagine there is plenty of natural food about for them at this time of the year. A pair of Common Starlings have been stuffing their beaks with food to take back to their chicks and – such sad news – the Lesser-striped Swallows had almost finished building their mud nest when it came tumbling down. Here they are ‘discussing’ their future plans.

It is always a pleasure to see the pair of Spectacled Weavers visiting the feeding area.

We usually only see a single pair of Greyheaded Sparrows, but this month they had one youngster with them.

I cannot resist showing you yet another photograph of Meneer, the Common Fiscal, who daily comes to see what titbits I have on the table and eats them from my hand. My youngest granddaughter stepped outside a few days ago, a ginger biscuit in hand, and was taken aback when this same fiscal fluttered in front of her face and cheekily took a bite of her biscuit!

The most exciting sighting – and the luckiest shot ever – this month was seeing a Burchell’s Coucal alight on a branch of the Erythrina tree. I grabbed my camera and focused on it through my study window, clicked and when I looked up it had disappeared as silently as it had arrived! We have been hearing its burbling calls all month.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Amethyst Sunbird
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pin-tailed Whydah
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Rednecked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Spotted Thick-knee
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-fronted Canary

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SOME RANDOM BIRDS

I tend to publish photographs of birds seen in my garden during a particular month, always meaning to return to some of the others I have photographed over time. The first four in this post are from ‘my patch’ and we will travel to the Addo Elephant National Park for the final two. Regular readers will be familiar with the Common Fiscals that vie with each other for food at the feeding station. I have mentioned that Spotty has brought youngsters closer to the food source yet have seldom featured what a young Common Fiscal looks like.

The Speckled Pigeons became a real nuisance once they multiplied and moved holus-bolus into our roof. Happily, they moved off once we had the eaves fixed and now appear in more reasonable numbers – although at least two couples have taken to roosting on ledges overnight: one outside the upstairs bathroom and the other outside my study window.

African Green Pigeons are heard more often than they can be seen amidst the dense foliage of the Natal fig tree.

A rare sighting around here is that of the Dikkop – now known as the Spotted Thick-knee. This one is on the pavement.

Why travel all the way to the Addo Elephant National Park for the next two birds? Well, although I have spotted a Secretary Bird on the edge of town it has always been too far away to photograph. These are really interesting looking birds I want to share with readers from abroad. This one is standing near its nest.

Lastly, recent comments in another post relating to birds highlighted how we tend to take the familiar for granted. I mentioned that Ostriches are no real cause for excitement here because we see them so often – yet overseas tourists are excited to see such an enormous bird for the first time. It is in honour of those of you for whom the Ostrich is an exotic creature that I present to you … an Ostrich.

SEPTEMBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Despite having been away for a while, this has proved to be a satisfying month of birdwatching in my garden. At night and during the early hours of most mornings we are serenaded by a Fiery-necked Nightjar. An African Darter has flown over ‘my’ airspace a few times in order to make my list and Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbuls have made cheerful forays to the feeding table. The sounds of cuckoos can be heard – the Piet-my-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo) is another clear sign that spring is here to stay.

On that note, while the sun rises ever earlier, the mornings remain fairly chilly and so it is not surprising to find a flock of Bronze Mannikins gathered in the branches of a Dais cotonifolia to warm up for a while before their breakfast:

I feature the Common Fiscals a lot in these posts, largely because they are such characters and are photogenic to boot. Spotty has even brought a chick along to the feeding area to see what the offerings are. The biggest surprise for me though was the sighting of the only female Common Fiscal I have ever seen in our garden. She did not appear to be connected to either Spotty or Meneer and I have not seen her since. Note the chestnut flanks that characterise the females:

As you can see, I have purchased a new feeder – I’m not sure how well this configuration is being received, but the other one requires a thorough cleaning (when we get a reasonable supply of water again!). Here a Southern Masked Weaver is trying it out accompanied by Bronze Mannikins:

A Grey-headed Sparrow is enjoying a solo feeding session:

Also catching the morning sun whilst keeping an eye out for the neighbouring cats are these Laughing Doves:

I mentioned the Hadeda Ibis nest last month. So far there is no sign of either eggshells at the base or chicks on the nest, so the eggs are still being incubated:

My bird list for this month:
African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
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
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
Yellow Weaver

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

SPOTTY AGAIN

After an absence of several weeks, Spotty the Common Fiscal has started visiting the garden again. It is still very wary – probably because of the cats next door – yet is gradually coming ever closer to where I am sitting. In these photographs Spotty is perched on a nearby branch: you can clearly see the hooked beak, the eponymous dark spot, and the ring which makes this bird easily stand out from other fiscals visiting the garden.

This is a typical ‘alert’ stance.

Here you can see the other side of this handsome bird as well as catch the warm brown eyes and the bristles below the beak.