NOVEMBER 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

How quickly this month seems to have sped by. It began with the sight of a Cape White-eye collecting spider webs for its nest – not that I have been able to locate it. The local African Harrier-Hawk has made several flypasts across the garden – causing a great consternation each time as the doves whoosh up as one and disappear into the foliage until the perceived danger has passed. I have welcomed the cheerful calls of the Bokmakierie – usually seen more often on the other side of the valley, and a Hoopoe has made the odd welcome appearance. The longed for rain has given the Lesser-striped Swallows an opportunity to get on with the construction of their mud nest under the eaves. This pair, resting on a telephone line, have been hard at work since their arrival from Europe.

They bring globules of mud and pack them in layers, flying back and forth from their source. They have almost finished their tunnel now, which means that they will be able to start breeding in earnest soon.

The first indication I had of the breeding success of the Hadeda Ibis was the appearance of an eggshell next to the wash line in the back garden.

I later found a second one and, although you can only see one chick in the photograph below, I confirmed yesterday that there are actually two very healthy looking chicks in the flimsy looking nest. The mother now spends a lot of time perched on the branch next to the nest.

Laughing Doves abound. This one is sharing the seed feeder with a Bronze manikin.

This Olive Thrush has become curious about the food collected by the Common Fiscal from the table where I have breakfast and decided to venture a little closer. I have seen some spotty Olive Thrushes finding their own food at the feeding tray over the past week or so – another sign of successful breeding.

Several Southern Masked Weaver youngsters are being brought to the feeding tray, where they are fed by their parents. I haven’t seen been many Village Weavers around this month; perhaps they have chosen somewhere further away to build their nests and to feed their young.  Speckled Pigeons remain regular visitors although, since we repaired the eaves – thus blocking their entrance to the interior of our roof – not in as greater numbers as before.

The courting pair of Cape Crows recently spent part of the morning cuddling and preening on our neighbour’s roof.

There are a lot of berries on the Puzzle Bush at our back gate which are attracting Speckled Mousebirds, Cape Robin-chats, Cape White-eyes and Black-eyed Bulbuls.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-Hawk
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-eyed Dove
Red-throated Wryneck
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

NOVEMBER 2021 GARDEN

I am pleased to report that my garden today is wet. Yes, really: it is wet, wet, wet and although the rain has made way for the sun, leaves are dripping – some are even weighing down the branches with the weight of rain. This is a sight for sore eyes – 28mm of rain!

Rain means mud and mud means that the Lesser-striped Swallows can proceed with their urgent task of constructing their mud nest under the eaves.

A Hadeda Ibis chick balances on the edge of the precarious nest in the back garden.

While a beautiful nest woven by an excited Southern Masked Weaver bobs up and down with no tenants – it was obviously not deemed to be good enough when the female inspected it!

My teeny weeny patch of flowers has got a new lease of life – just when I thought it was soon going to revert to being a bare patch of ground.

A very old hibiscus has come into bloom.

So has the indigenous Plumbago.

A matter of weeks ago I thought I would have to remove the Christ thorns lining the front path.

All over the garden the Crossberries are coming into bloom.

As is the very beautiful Cape Chestnut tree.

BIRDS WITH STRIPES

The Bar-throated apalis has a distinctive narrow black collar.Sporting a much broader collar is the Black-collared barbet. Its bright red face and throat is bordered with a black stripe.

The head of a Crowned lapwing sports a black cap interrupted by a white stripe that creates a halo effect.

Often overlooked is the Grey-headed sparrow that has a charming little white stripe on its wings.

Then there are the Lesser-striped swallows with prominent black striping on their white underparts.

The last in this group of birds being showcased today is the delightful Red-necked spurfowl. Look at its dark underparts and you will see there are two white stripes on each feather.

MUD, MUD, GLORIOUS MUD

So sings the hippopotamus to his fair hippopotamus maid in The Hippopotamus Song by Flanders and Swann:

Mud, mud, glorious mud

Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood

So follow me, follow

Down to the hollow

And there let us wallow in glorious mud.

Hippos spend up to sixteen hours a day wallowing in rivers or waterholes –– submerging themselves to keep their bodies cool during the day.

Elephants also cover themselves with mud not only to keep cool, but to protect their skin from parasites. It is enjoyable watching elephants in the Addo Elephant National Park either rolling in mud or squirting it over themselves.

Rhinos also use mud to cool their bodies as they have no sweat glands. As with elephants, a thick layer of mud both helps to protect the rhinos from biting insects and traps parasites that might otherwise burrow into their hide.

Buffalos like a mud bath too. They also use mud as a protection from parasites.

Closer to home, every summer we witness the trials and tribulations of the Lesser-striped Swallows that build their nest from globules of mud.

Mud or dust can be important for humans too: geophagy is the habit of eating mud or dust to augment a mineral deficient diet. Some people feel the need to eat a fingertip of dust every now and then for this reason. This craving to eat earth is also known as pica, and may be an indication that young children have an iron deficiency.