AUGUST 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

This has been an interesting month for watching birds in our garden, beginning with the unmistakable sound of Red-necked Spurfowl under my bedroom window early in the morning. I counted six – not regular visitors, yet I am pleased to see how far they have ventured into the garden. One even hopped up onto the raised bird bath for a drink.

The Black-eyed Bulbuls (Dark-capped these days!) are courting – I watched a pair canoodling on the branches, looking very lovey-dovey – in numbers. This morning I counted eight of them in the feeding area. Several Speckled Mousebirds can also be seen cosying up to each other. The two Common Fiscals (one ringed and the other not) are clearly rivals and dart in and out trying to avoid each other. When they do meet they set up a loud haranguing match and have even attacked each other! I have observed a fiscal spreading out its tail feathers when confronted by a Black-collared Barbet at the feeding tray – determined to stand its ground. The barbets nearly always arrive as a pair. Another regular pair of visitors is the Streakyheaded Seedeater.

I put out both fine and coarse seed daily as well as filling up the nectar feeder. Other fare usually includes fruit, finely chopped pieces of meat, cat crumbles, or fat smeared on biscuits or thin slices of bread. This month I decided to take careful note of who ate what:

Dark-capped Bulbuls have enjoyed fat, cheese and fruit.

Both Common Fiscals seem to eat anything that is not fruit and are particularly partial to meat. This one, however, snitched part of my breakfast!

While the Red-winged Starlings are partial to fruit, they also eat cheese. This female is about to tuck into the pears.

Speckled Mousebirds prefer fruit and are prepared to wait their turn for it.

I usually associate weavers with eating the grain. These Cape Weavers, however, are tucking into a piece of fish. They also eat cat food, cheese, and fat.

The pair of Cape Robin-chats usually wait in the wings for the main rush to be over before they feed. I have seen them eating fat, as well as tiny portions of meat. This one has been eating cat food.

Common Starlings seem to eat anything. They tuck into fruit, cheese, fat, bread and cat food with relish.

I associate Cape White-eyes with fruit, nectar, and aphids. Yesterday though a few of them made off with tiny cubes of cheese.

My August bird list is:
African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul (Black-cap)
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Crowned Hornbill
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Longbilled Crombec
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Spectacled Weaver
Sombre Greenbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
Yellowfronted Canary

HEADING HOME

One of my readers mentioned the other day that I have been very quiet about the Urban Herd. Interestingly enough, there was no sign of cattle in town for the first few weeks of lockdown. I  mainly drive to the supermarket and back, yet even that short trip used to yield sightings of them in the road. I frequently spotted a herd on the grassy hill opposite to where I live and the (mainly) cows would walk past our gate and often settle on the lawn below our house. There was nary a sign of them.

Weeks have turned into months … the Urban Herd is back. I see them on the hill opposite now and then; sidestep the evidence of their passing on the street; hear their lowing occasionally; and today there were about fifty of them on the outskirts of town. Here are the first few of many heading homeward – wherever that may be – at the end of the day.

MAINTENANCE AND A MYSTERY

Our municipality won’t win any prizes for maintaining the infrastructure of the town. Grass verges are not mowed anymore; street lights do not always work; potholes get wider and deeper – never expect the holes dug up to repair water mains to be properly filled in and tarred over; sewage seeps across streets for weeks until stinking rivulets form; the electricity department tries its best; the water department probably does too – let us give them the benefit of doubt. Despite the long drought we have experienced (the ideal time, I would think) storm drains are never cleaned …

Speaking of storm drains, the cover of this one has been missing for years.

You can see that it is filled to the brim with leaves, twigs and grass – and, hidden from view, are plastic bottles, papers and cardboard. This one is situated on a corner (almost opposite our fig tree) and when it rains, really rains – as in buckets down for a day or two – the water bypasses this choked drain, dams up, and then spread across the road. The trouble with this is that it is at a low point and so all the soil, leaves and other debris is deposited there too – a road hazard.

A little further on is another storm drain on a straight section of the road. The cover of this one is, surprisingly, still intact.

It bears the name East London (just over 180km away if one travels via the N2). Presumably the cover was manufactured there.

Now the mystery: stuck in the tar, right opposite our front gate is this very old looking metal pin.

Could it be a survey pin? If so, why would it be in the road? If there were ever any markings on it (should there have been?) they would have been worn off by decades of passing traffic.