I will shortly be on the road again and so am posting my list of garden birds early this month. The only ‘new’ bird on my list is a Knysna Lourie, which flew across our garden into the fig tree – now boasting its early flush of fruit. The late afternoon sun caught the beautiful colours of its outspread wings. What a privilege it is to have them visit now and then!
Birdwatching has been good this month, despite the rain and unexpectedly cold weather. Even though they have been far too quick for me to photograph, it is the Greater Double-collared Sunbirds that have attracted my attention as they titter around the garden and regularly visit the ‘pub’ or call from the top of the ironwood tree. The metallic green sheen of the male is particularly beautiful when caught in the sunlight.
Ten years ago I was fortunate to be able to watch a Greater Double-collared Sunbird build its nest at the end of a branch of an Acacia karoo that, at the time, was almost within touching distance of my upstairs study window – before I had a digital camera, alas.
The closed oval nest began with a few twists of grass around the thin branch. This was gradually added to during the week – by grass, lichen and other plant material, bound together with spider webs – until a definite cup shape was apparent below the defined entrance. I watched closely as, over two days, the female brought a variety of soft materials with which to line the inside. At first these were simply dropped inside before she flew off to collect more. Later I saw the female frequently entering the nest, apparently scuffling around, pop her head out now and then, and fly off to repeat the exercise.
My notes of the time reveal that there was no visible activity at all around the nest for three days after which I noted: “On the contrary, the female is obviously incubating the eggs!”
It was some days later that I was attracted by a number of raucous sounding calls and saw the female Greater Double-collared Sunbird, a Black-eyed Bulbul and some Cape White-eyes behaving in an oddly agitated manner. By craning my neck out of the window I could just see a Grey headed Bush Shrike perched perilously close to the nest. As it skulked ever closer, the other birds left the sunbird to emit frantic, high-pitched sounds as she flapped her wings furiously and made darting movements towards the much larger bird. As soon as the shrike moved away, the sunbird flew back to her nest and disappeared. Peace reigned, but not for long for I fear that within a day or two the Shrike successfully raided the nest, which was then abandoned. I have mentioned before that, having watched a different nest being built, it was blown out of the tree during a storm.
Greater Double-collared Sunbirds feed on nectar. Apart from the artificial ‘nectar’ available in the ‘pub’ other sources of nectar are readily available at the moment in the form of some early blooming aloes, Cape Honeysuckle, hibiscus flowers, Plumbago and, of course, the figs. I also often see these birds hovering in front of the webs under the outside windowsills to extract spiders.
My early April list is:
African Green Pigeon
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)