SEPTEMBER 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Despite having been away for a while, this has proved to be a satisfying month of birdwatching in my garden. At night and during the early hours of most mornings we are serenaded by a Fiery-necked Nightjar. An African Darter has flown over ‘my’ airspace a few times in order to make my list and Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbuls have made cheerful forays to the feeding table. The sounds of cuckoos can be heard – the Piet-my-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo) is another clear sign that spring is here to stay.

On that note, while the sun rises ever earlier, the mornings remain fairly chilly and so it is not surprising to find a flock of Bronze Mannikins gathered in the branches of a Dais cotonifolia to warm up for a while before their breakfast:

I feature the Common Fiscals a lot in these posts, largely because they are such characters and are photogenic to boot. Spotty has even brought a chick along to the feeding area to see what the offerings are. The biggest surprise for me though was the sighting of the only female Common Fiscal I have ever seen in our garden. She did not appear to be connected to either Spotty or Meneer and I have not seen her since. Note the chestnut flanks that characterise the females:

As you can see, I have purchased a new feeder – I’m not sure how well this configuration is being received, but the other one requires a thorough cleaning (when we get a reasonable supply of water again!). Here a Southern Masked Weaver is trying it out accompanied by Bronze Mannikins:

A Grey-headed Sparrow is enjoying a solo feeding session:

Also catching the morning sun whilst keeping an eye out for the neighbouring cats are these Laughing Doves:

I mentioned the Hadeda Ibis nest last month. So far there is no sign of either eggshells at the base or chicks on the nest, so the eggs are still being incubated:

My bird list for this month:
African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
Yellow Weaver

JUNE 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Even though the colder winter weather has settled in, there is plenty of fruit on the Natal fig tree in the bottom corner of our garden. A flock of African Green Pigeons seem to have taken up residence there for the time being – only flying out to seek the sun elsewhere during the late afternoons or if startled by loud noises on the street below. In the first photograph of the two below you see how well these fairly large birds blend into the foliage:

Here one of these birds is feasting on a fig:

Enormous flocks of Redwinged Starlings visit this tree daily too, as do doves, Olive Thrushes, Black-collared Barbets, Speckled Mousebirds and weavers. Black-headed Orioles enjoy the figs too and visit the nectar feeder regularly. Although this isn’t a good picture at all – taken with my cell phone from some distance – it illustrates how these birds also enjoy the nectar from aloe flowers:

Laughing Doves congregate in high branches in order to catch the early morning sun. This is one of several perched in the almost bare branches of a pompon tree:

Welcome sounds and sightings this month mark the return of a pair of Cape Wagtails that prance around the edge of our swimming pool and the beautiful bubbling call of a Burchell’s Coucal from deep within the foliage. I have also heard a pair of Bar-throated Apalises nearby. They too are not easy to spot between the leaves, although I caught a glimpse of one in the kitchen hedge whilst I was hanging up the laundry the other day. I see Cape Weavers around more often now, still looking a little tatty in their winter garb:

The other weaver I simply cannot resist showing you more of is the Spectacled Weaver. This one is becoming very bold and visits the bird feeders daily, eating fruit, cheese, fish and seeds during the course of the week:

With aloes, Cape honeysuckle and other winter flowers blooming, there is probably enough nectar to go around – the mixture I put out goes down fairly slowly at the moment – and so it was fun seeing a Cape White-eye sampling my fare:

Fork-tailed Drongos, Pied Crows and a flock of about six Cape Crows have been regular visitors this month too. The Speckled Pigeons appear to have decreased in number – one still roosts on a ledge near our front door and makes an awful mess below. This one is peering down at me from the gutter – which is in desperate need of cleaning!

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver

AN EARLY MORNING

Long before the first light shows behind the hills, the nightjars have fallen silent to make way for the morning sounds to begin. It pleases me to listen to the gradual awakening of the birds as they each add a gentle layer to the growing dawn chorus. Cape white-eyes chatter excitedly; African green pigeons chuckle quietly; while a Cape robin-chat defends its territory with low grunts.

While the sky is still a blank canvas of brightening soft grey suffused with pink, the Hadeda ibises begin fidgeting in the fig tree. The rustling sound of their feathers works its way through the branches until one ibis calls out reluctantly … a faraway reply can be heard giving the signal for the raucous calls to break the morning peace – along with the first vehicles passing by. A vivid smudge of orange intensifies above the horizon followed by fingers of light glowing low through the trees. The hadedas fan out across the valley, calling loud greetings as they go. Close by a Red-eyed dove persistently tells me it’s the ‘better get started’ time and a crow calls gruffly from a treetop. It is in the high branches and on the telephone cable where the Laughing doves meet to catch the warming rays of the rising sun.

As it rises higher, the sun highlights the yellow blossoms of the canary creeper.

Another day has begun.

LOOKING OUT FOR TROUBLE

Regular readers will know that the avian visitors to our garden have had to become more wary about visiting the feeders because of attacks by the neighbouring cats. I was enjoying my breakfast outside this morning as a small flock of Bronze Manikins settled around the hanging feeder whilst others were pecking at the seed that had fallen to the ground; a Bar-throated Apalis announced its presence in the thick tangle of Cape Honeysuckle; and an Olive Thrush approached me for little bits of cheese … it all felt so ‘normal’ for a change: Speckled Mousebirds flew between bushes and even the Laughing Doves were beginning to come down from their high perches.

Then there was a sudden flurry of activity as the manikins flew off in a cloud of tiny feathers, the doves retreated to the tall Erythrina, and the mousebirds crossed to the other side of the garden in haste. I could see white paws and thick grey fur behind a daisy bush and shouted loudly. The cat retreated, but it was too late: the peaceful feeding was over for it takes a long time for the birds to settle after such an intrusion. Here a Southern Grey-headed Sparrow keeps a close watch from a safe distance.

Gardens are all the poorer for the lack of birds and so I keep trying to create a safe haven for them. Birds lie very close to my heart.

A FEW BIRDS IN THE KAROO NATIONAL PARK

Having previously experienced an abundance of birds around the camping area of the Karoo National Park, I found it disappointing this time that sparrows ruled the roost. Granted, there were House Sparrows, Cape Sparrows as well as a few Southern Grey-headed Sparrows that kept a close watch on the tents and caravans at the site – always ready to eat a crumb or two. Now and then a Southern Masked Weaver would muscle its way among the sparrows as did a few Laughing Doves. Red-winged Starlings flew overhead and we could hear the calls of Hadeda Ibises in the early morning and late afternoon. It was also fun to hear the familiar calls of the Red-eyed Doves and a pair of Bokmakieries perched in the treetops near our tent and sang lustily to each other.

The bird list provided by the Park is enticing and spending only one full day driving around the area is not sufficient to do it justice. I saw a few Speckled Mousebirds flying across the road as well as several smaller birds that could be both heard and seen from afar. Most were neither easy to identify nor to photograph as they tended to fly off as soon as our vehicle stopped or as I had almost got my camera focused! This Rufous-eared Warbler was difficult to focus on as it kept moving between these branches:

Some of the more co-operative ones were a pair of South African Shelducks in flight:

House Sparrows:

Familiar Chat:

Laughing Dove

Of course the Common Ostriches were easy to spot as we drove around the park – there were plenty of them too. It is interesting to note that these birds are able to regulate their body temperature via their long necks and their large wings. They also use gular fluttering to cool down on exceptionally hot days.

We plan to spend a lot more time in this beautiful place during our next visit!