NEW GROWTH

We missed out on the joys of spring this year, thanks to the long drought which seemed to suck the marrow out of the earth. Now, in the autumn, there are pleasing signs of new growth to celebrate the renewal of life. First up is one of many lavender buds that hold the promise of colour and food for bees:

Around the bird feeder are some self-sown tomato plants – I have already picked one small ripe one – a bonus:

In the thick leaf litter in the back garden came an interesting surprise in the form of these two mushrooms:

In the same leaf litter – dry leaves falling off the Erythrina caffra – is the start of a new tree:

Soon the garden is going to be ablaze with the beautifully vibrant aloes, still tightly wrapped:

Then there is a single self-sown Californian Poppy in a pot:

Where there is new growth there is hope.

LAST SPLASHES OF COLOUR

There has been no soft introduction to spring this year. Even the peach blossoms shrivelled within a day or two before disappearing in the dry wind. For two or three days I thought the jasmine flowers would fill the garden with their scent after each hot day – they too shrivelled and died without ceremony. There are not even single flowers to herald the spring in my garden – and not many in the veld either! I think anything that pops its head above ground in the latter gets grazed by wild and domestic animals eager for moisture and the taste of anything other than short, dusty grass.

At least indigenous trees know how to survive in this heat (we have already experienced 41°C without reaching the official summer) and dry weather. Most sport green leaves in different hues, even though some remain bare and skeletal looking. The last vibrant splashes of winter colour come from the Erythrina trees.

The Erythrina caffra in our back garden has been flowering for weeks and is only now beginning to cover itself with green leaves.

Several Erythrina lysistemon trees grow in the suburbs and their scarlet flowers are balm for the soul.

FOUR HUNGRY BIRDS

The birds in our garden are regularly supplied with seeds and fruit, although there are a number of berries on indigenous trees at this time of the year as well as succulent flowers on the Erythrina caffra tree especially. Weavers and other smaller birds are provided with fine grass seeds in the hanging feeders and coarse seeds, such as crushed maize and millet are scattered on the ground for doves and pigeons. Well, that is the way it is supposed to work. Here is one of many Cape Weavers making the most of the abundance of Erythrina caffra flowers.

Amethyst sunbirds, Speckled Mousebirds, Common Starlings, Black-headed Orioles, Fork-tailed Drongos, Laughing Doves, African Green Pigeons, Black-eyed Bulbuls and a variety of other birds visit these blossoms during the day. Laughing Doves, Red-eyed Doves and the Speckled Pigeons also gather below the hanging feeders to eat the seeds that fall to the ground. These Laughing Doves have decided to get to the source:

Not to be outdone, a Speckled Pigeon has usurped Morrigan’s feeder for a good meal:

There are a lot of berries and seeds around for the Speckled Mousebirds to feed on, but here they have homed in on an orange I put out on the feeding tray:

CHANGING SEASONS

As the cycle of life continues, the seasons gradually bring change with them. We can already see the end of winter and an early start to spring in our garden. These range from dry seed pods, to the bright blooms of the Erythrina caffra, to a peach tree that is hastening from blossoming to sprouting leaves – as if there is no time to waste.

Some birds have already hatched their first batch of young, while others, such as this Cape Weaver, are sporting snazzy new courting colours.

NOTE: Click on a photograph should you wish to see a larger version.

BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE

Most of the photographs I have posted of a Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus) have been taken while one has been visiting the nectar feeder. It has been easier this way as they tend to frequent the tall trees and so are hidden by the foliage. The latter is thinning out now that winter is upon us, making it easier to spot this one perched in the branches of the Erythrina caffra growing in the back garden.

There were two of them – too far apart to frame together – calling to each other, their liquid sounds passing to and fro between them. This one has been captured whilst calling to its mate. You can see its strong bill, which aids its diet of fruit, berries and insects – apart from nectar, which it is partial to.