OCTOBER 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

Although I have not been able to photograph one, I am delighted to hear the Red-chested Cuckoo once more. It is commonly known as the Piet-my-vrou here, as that is what its call sounds like – a strident command early in the morning, occasionally in the afternoon and even sometimes in the evening. Both the Klaas’ Cuckoo and Diederik Cuckoo entertain us with their distinctive calls during the day. Of course the Hadeda Ibises continue to wake us early and call to each other across town before they settle down for the night.

There seems to be an explosion of the Dark-capped Bulbul population of late. They queue up to drink from the nectar feeder, biff each other out of the way to eat apples and oranges, and several pairs sit very close together on the branches in true lovey-dovey style.

I am used to the Laughing Doves rising in a whoosh whenever a particularly noisy vehicle passes by, the neighbour might slam a door, or a lawnmower starts up in a nearby garden. There are times though when all the birds disappear in a quiet flash – a sure sign of a predator on the prowl. This month began with a flying visit from an African Harrier Hawk and ended with a low-flying Yellow-billed Kite, both of which saw the garden birds head for the closest cover.

Mundane tasks, such as hanging up the laundry, can have its interesting moments too. The light and distance were of little help to me, yet I could hear the persistent tap-tap-tapping coming from nearby that I dropped what I was doing to scan the trees … and there it was: a Cardinal Woodpecker chipping away at a dead branch of the Erythrina tree that towers over the back garden.

A well turned out visitor is the male Pin-tailed Whydah. He visits fairly often, although I have only seen one female in our garden this month.

While this is the best I could do from a distance with only my cell phone at hand, here is proof that a small flock of Cape Glossy Starlings paid our garden a visit.

I have often said that birdwatching in our garden is balm for my soul. October has been no different.

My October bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk
African Hoopoe
Amethyst Sunbird
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Dark-capped Bulbul
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redchested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Greenbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

A CLOSER LOOK AT DARK-CAPPED BULBULS

Dark-capped Bulbuls often feature in this blog thanks to their frequent visits to our garden, where they splash in the bird baths and make the most of the food on offer. They are bold and gregarious birds. This one appears to be enjoying the spring sunshine.

They sometimes eat the tiny blocks of cheese I put out (with the Cape Robin-chat in mind), are very fond of any fruit and make frequent visits to the nectar feeder.

The Dark-capped Bulbuls are also enjoying the nectar and flowers on the Erythrina caffra which is blooming now. I have also observed them eating spiders and caterpillars. I am intrigued by the way they often spread their wings as well as their tail feathers when they arrive to eat – whether there are other birds present or not.

REVISITING THE DARK-CAPPED BULBUL

I still call them Black-eyed Bulbuls (Pycnonotus tricolor) for old habits die hard. Nonetheless, Dark-capped Bulbuls are very welcome visitors to our garden. As you can see below, its upper parts are brown, extending to its chest, while its head is darker – doubtless lending ‘dark-capped’ to its name.

Its eyes, legs and feet are also black.

The yellow vent is the only colour they have.

Seeing the bulbul from the back, we can just make out the crest on the top of its head – this is sometimes raised more prominently.

Even though there is usually a variety of natural fruit available in the garden, the Dark-capped Bulbuls make a bee-line for the (mostly apples) I place on the feeding tray. I sometimes see them enjoying the nectar from aloes too.