JANUARY 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

I often feel as if the garden birds make a special effort to show themselves at the start of a new year: 48 different species recorded this month! There are probably others that pay the garden a visit that I do not see. As with so much in nature, it is a case of being in the right place at the right time. So it is that although I have recorded two more bird species than I did last January, a significant number were not on that list – and several from there are not on this one.

The bright sun and high temperatures were not conducive to sitting patiently outside with camera in hand, so most of the photographs in this post come from my archives. Two exciting visitors for me have been an African Firefinch – I have not recorded one here for at least twenty years – which perched tantalisingly on a branch above me one morning and hasn’t made an appearance since. The other is a pair of Common Waxbills, which have stuck around for the past three weeks. They are delightful birds that I have often seen on the other side of town. Three interesting ‘fly-overs’ are a Black-headed Heron, Sacred Ibises and an Egyptian Goose.

Black-collared Barbets are regular visitors and it didn’t take them long to realise that I had moved all the bird feeders to the other side of the garden. This was partly so that I could enjoy a better cover of shade now that the daily temperatures have increased so much and partly to flummox a band of rats that were feasting on the fallen seed.

Although I regularly put fruit out for the birds, the pair of Knysna Turacos seldom partake of it. Rather, they more frequently come down from their treetop wanderings to drink or bathe in one of the bird baths that I keep filled with fresh water.

Olive Thrushes are such delightful visitors that I cannot resist posting yet another photograph of one.

When I first noted the Streaky-headed Seedeaters they seemed to be confined to the back garden, only venturing to the front garden once the main gathering of birds had completed their initial feasting for the day. Now they are among the first to occupy the feeders once I have filled them in the morning, and they are often among the latest feeders at the end of the day. This one was not photographed in my garden.

My January bird list:

African Firefinch
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-hawk
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Heron
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Batis
Cape Crow
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Common Waxbill
Diederik Cuckoo
Egyptian Goose
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
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Thick-billed Weaver
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow Weaver

MARCH 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

March is a time of change in the garden. The small amount of rain that fell during the month has revived the trees and grass, while encouraging the blooming of the Plumbago.

It is also the time when the natural grasses go to seed, providing a nutritious alternative to the seeds I put out regularly. Weavers are losing their bright breeding plumage and have suspended their nest-building activities until spring. Not so the Olive Thrushes, of which I have counted up to six visible at a time, for at least one pair is still nesting. You will have to look at this photograph very carefully for the patch of orange on top of the dark mass of the nest!

Speckled Mousebirds scour the bushes for tiny berries, leaves, flowers and nectar, while Laughing Doves peck over the recently cleared compost area as well as the masses of tiny figs from the Natal Fig tree that have dropped onto the road below that are crushed by passing vehicles. The clusters of figs also attract African Green Pigeons and Redwinged Starlings among a host of other birds.

As the Hadeda Ibises are no longer nesting, several have chosen to roost in this tree. On some mornings they wake as early as four o’clock to let the neighbourhood know they have slept well and are ready to discuss their breakfast plans. More melodious are the liquid notes of a pair of Blackheaded Orioles that waft through the garden, along with the gentle cooing of Cape Turtle Doves and the cheerful chirrup of Blackeyed Bulbuls. A pair of Forktailed Drongos regularly keep watch from either the telephone pole or the Erythrina caffra tree, ready to swoop down on anything edible that catches their eye. I have already drawn attention to the pair of Knysna Turacos that reside in the garden and recently posted a photograph of one looking at its reflection in our neighbour’s window. This is the view from the other side:

Cattle Egrets roosting in the CBD continue to experience hard times: two tall trees have recently been removed from the garden of a complex of flats because residents complained about the noise they make as well as the smell of their droppings. Several have taken to perching atop a neighbour’s tall tree in the late afternoons, but are not (yet) overnighting there.

Finally, of course my camera wasn’t at hand when we witnessed the very unusual sight of a Cardinal Woodpecker drinking and bathing in the bird bath only a short distance from where we were sitting!

My March bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

Note: Click on the photographs if you want a larger view.

THE TEASING TURACOS

We hear the rasping korr-korr-korr call of Knysna Turacos (Loerie) in our garden almost daily, so we know they are there – somewhere in the foliage. These fairly large birds move soundlessly between the branches and from tree to tree, which means that we hear them more frequently than we see them. Sometimes a flash of red will catch my eye as one flies across the garden; only a flash mind you and then the bird ‘disappears’. Imagine then how delighted I was when a pair of Knysna Turacos appeared in the Dogwood tree and gradually made their way down through the branches towards the bird bath situated not far from where I was sitting, camera in hand.

They were tantalizingly close, yet so difficult to photograph! One looked at me obligingly while sitting absolutely still for several minutes.

After I had been watching them for half an hour one of the pair disappeared in the direction of the fig tree. One moment it was there and the next it was gone. I thought the other had too, until it reappeared in the Dogwood, from where it kept an eye on me for another twenty minutes or so. What a handsome bird!

Soon after, the other member of the pair appeared on my neighbour’s windowsill, where it spent some time looking at its reflection in the window.

Note: Click on the photographs if you wish to see a larger view.

PORTRAIT OF A KNYSNA TURACO

The name Knysna Loerie trips off the tongue and I suppose the new moniker Knysna Turaco (Tauraco corythaix) will too – in time – after all, Shakespeare told us long ago that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. This truly beautiful bird is found only in South Africa and parts of Swaziland. It regularly appears on my monthly list of birds seen in our garden, yet I seldom show pictures of it as they flit through the treetops so silently and ‘disappear’ into the foliage in the wink of an eye. We mainly see them hopping about from branch to branch in the canopy of the Natal Fig and are always thrilled to see the red wing flashes when they fly across the garden from one tree to another.

Apart from the figs, there is plenty of other food for them in our garden including the fruits of the White Stinkwood (Celtis africana), Cotoneaster berries,

Crossberry, (Grewia occidentalis),

Wild Plum (Harpephyllum caffrum) and the Wild Peach (Kiggelaria africana). Although they cannot always be seen in the dense foliage, we can generally hear their rasping kow-kow-kow calls.

This week I was treated to a wonderful view of one preening itself after a light shower of rain.