FEBRUARY 2017 GARDEN BIRDS

It is not surprising that Laughing Doves have been the dominant birds in our garden this month: their numbers have increased over the years and they are always among the first to feed on the coarse maize seed I scatter on the lawn in the mornings. It takes about twenty minutes from the time of doing so until first one or two come down, soon to be followed by the rest of the gang that have flown ever closer to the source of the food – from the telephone cable in the back garden, to the Cape Chestnut, to the Wild Plum (perching ever lower down) until over thirty of them make short work of the maize. A few adventurous ones perch on Morrigan’s feeder to get the fine seed and some manage to hang onto the seed house for long enough to get some of the seed there.

Laughing Doves

Nesting time is far from over: the Lesser-striped Swallows completed their mud nest outside our front door – with the result we tend to use either the kitchen door or the side door to give them some peace. The White-rumped Swifts do not have any compunction about trying to usurp this nest for their own progeny and so the swallows have had to devote a lot of energy towards defending their home territory.

Careful observation of a pair of Olive Thrushes finally revealed their nesting site right next to the garden path!

Olive Thrush nest

Weavers have also continued building nests around the garden.

Weaver nest

I thought I would compare this month’s bird list with that of February last year. Seven species have not been seen, while thirteen others have come to the garden that were not seen last year.

My February list is:

African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Cuckoo
Black Cuckooshrike
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Black Saw-wing
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Boubou
Brimstone Canary
Bronze Manikin
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Common Waxbill
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Gymnogene
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Knysna Loerie
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Red Bishop
Redeyed Dove
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sacred Ibis
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellowbilled Kite
Yellow Weaver

GOOD NEWS ON THE HOME FRONT

The Lesser-striped Swallows work so hard at building their mud nest(s) every year. Each beakful of mud probably represents more than a brick used in the construction of our houses for many carefully-borne loads of mud either miss their mark or do not stick to the surface. My heart always goes out to these birds when they return each summer and finally get to rebuild the nest they left broken at the end of the previous season. I watch, almost with bated breath, as the nest takes on its familiar shape, when the bowl is formed, and rejoice once the tunnel entrance has been completed. Every summer the nest breaks at least once and this season I was heartbroken when this happened only shortly after I had seen the swallows bringing in various materials with which to line their nest.

broken nest of lesser-striped swallow

I have reported on the pair of Lesser-striped Swallows perching on the bathroom window for days afterwards and have anxiously kept an eye on the broken abode for any sign of construction, being only too aware that the summer is moving on. There has been nothing. Dry, hot weather has reduced the available sources of mud too. How sad, I thought, as we left for our brief sojourn in the Western Cape before Christmas.

There is good news though: during our absence, this pair of swallows obviously had a serious discussion about the suitable location of their abode and … they had a re-think. All those days of sitting on the bathroom window must have given them a new idea, for they have relocated to the bathroom side of the house and built a brand new home from scratch.

new lesser-striped swallow nest

This one is tucked under the eaves and is relatively well hidden by the tall trees so will, hopefully, be safe from any takeover bids by the White-rumped Swifts. Hold thumbs that this new address will prove to be the right one, that the swallows will get to raise a family and be saved from doing any more construction work this summer.

SEPTEMBER 2015 GARDEN BIRDS

This has been an exciting birding month in my garden. It began with the welcome return of the Lesserstriped Swallows on the 4th. Although they have not yet begun working on the remains of the mud nest under the eaves, a pair of them regularly perch on a nearby cable and twitter as if contemplating where to begin. With so much rain having fallen in recent weeks, there is bound to be plenty of mud around for when they are ready. Klaas’ Cuckoo has also made its appearance at last.

Lesserstriped Swallows

I walked outdoors the other day just in time to witness a Black Sparrowhawk swooping down to catch an unsuspecting Village Weaver perching at the top of a white stinkwood tree (Celtis africana). It mainly feeds on pigeons and doves, which may account for the clusters of dove feathers I sometimes find on the lawn – meanwhile I have been mentally chastising a neighbouring cat!

The many blossoms in the garden attract numerous foraging bees, which are eagerly gobbled up by Forktailed Drongoes.

Laughing Doves can be a treat to watch. Not only have some of them at last worked out how to perch two at a time on the ‘seed house’ – albeit in an uncomfortable looking position, but last week I watched as one ousted a Blackcollared Barbet from the feeding station and proceeded to eat an apple. A pair of them have been kept busy industriously collecting twigs from the syringa trees (Melia azedarach) growing on the pavement for their nest in a neighbouring garden. As an aside, it puzzles me why our municipality chose to plant these alien invasive trees in the first place – perhaps because they are fast-growing?

I felt privileged when a Knysna Lourie alighted on a branch near me while I was sitting in the shade of my ‘forest’. It eyed me for a few minutes before departing silently to feed on syringa berries. Another large bird that moves silently is the Burchell’s Coucal. Having remarked before that we seldom actually see them in our garden, one has been particularly visible this month as it has called from trees such as the Pompon, white stinkwood and the Erythrina caffra.

Burchell's Coucal

I have counted up to eight Pintailed Whydahs in the garden at one time. So far none have openly laid claim to it as a home territory, although a couple of males have, at times, acted in an aggressive manner towards Bronze Manikins and Village Weavers when feeding.

Pintailed Whydah

Aggression from an unexpected quarter was witnessed in the form of a Black Sunbird hot on the tail of a Laughing Dove. The latter was chased in this manner beyond the confines of my garden. Why, I cannot guess.

My September list is:

African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Sparrowhawk
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Crowned Plover
Fierynecked Nightjar
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Gymnogene
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Knysna Lourie
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redbilled Woodhoopoe (Green Woodhoopoe)
Redeyed Dove
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Streakyheaded Canary
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift

HA HA HADEDA

HA HA HADEDA

Love them or loathe them, the Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash) has made itself at home in suburban area over much of the country. One cannot ignore their strident calls – particularly in the early mornings!

It often seems to me that upon waking, these sociable birds have conversations with others roosting elsewhere: “Anyone up yet?’ or “Where shall we meet today?” It sounds as if responses to these queries come in from near and far across the valley until some sort of consensus is reached and then we hear them flying off noisily, still calling out to others doing the same.

While several of these birds occasionally roost in the fig tree and the Erythrina caffra at night, there are two pairs who have regularly nested in these trees for many years. Each breeding season we watch the Hadedas bring in seemingly impossibly long or awkwardly shaped sticks to add to their untidy nests that are re-used.

Although several eggs and chicks have fallen out of these ungainly and flimsy looking structures, both pairs of Hadedas appear to have become more adept at parenting with time and usually successfully raise one or two chicks each. We are able to watch both nests with ease and enjoy monitoring the hatching process.

Once the chicks have left the nest to explore the garden, they still spend some time ‘test-flapping’ their wings and continue to ‘beg’ to be fed by the adults until they are old enough to be independent.

By the way, Daisy the tortoise was spotted yesterday and the Speckled Mousebird family must have flown the nest in the fig tree as it is not longer being visited.

I feel privileged to see Hadedas probing for worms and insects on the lawn or poking about in the flower beds with their scythe-like beaks. They might look drab to some, but are so beautiful when the sunlight catches their iridescent wing feathers!

They usually appear singly or in pairs in the garden yet occur in much larger groups in open spaces such as sports fields – especially after being watered – and on municipal lawns.

Apart from raucously reminding all in the valley of their presence in the early mornings and before settling at night, the cheerfully strident call of Hadedas can be heard at odd times throughout the day.

They seem to enjoy perching on roof tops and glide from there in the late afternoons to join others already perching in the fig tree. There they flap their wings noisily and appear to settle down for a few minutes, only to fly off to join others still circling the suburb, calling out as they do so. This ritual takes place at the end of every day before they return to at last settle for the night.

FEBRUARY 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

FEBRUARY 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

Not only is February a short month, it was a busy one too with little time for bird watching. I have recorded 43 species with the ubiquitous Village Weaver being the first and the Southern Masked Weaver the last entry on the list. The easiest way to distinguish between these two weavers in a hurry is to note the heavily blotched back of the former – no wonder it used to be called the Spotted-backed Weaver!

A pair of Knysna Louries has flitted in and out of the fig tree – I cannot yet bring myself to call them Knysna Turacos. Some Streakyheaded Canaries have called at the bird feeder and I have seen some Sombre Bulbuls (now called Sombre Greenbuls) darting through the dense cover of bushes on the fringes of the lawn. The Speckled Mousebird is still sitting on its nest perched at the top of the fig tree.

I have experimented with different colours of sugar water in the ‘pub’ and find that red is the most popular, although the sunbirds and other visitors do not seem to mind blue or purple. The yellow mixture (granted it was pale in hue) was ignored until I added some red food colouring to brighten it up a bit. Just for fun, I swapped the ‘pub’ and the bird feeder around one morning. In due course the female Black Sunbird made her way to where she assumed the ‘pub’ was and perched on the feeder – pecked at the seed container, flew off, returned seconds later and tried again before disappearing. I changed them back to their original positions, but it took a while before the sunbird returned – probably wondering if she had had a bad dream.

My February list is:

African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Cuckoo
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Brownhooded Kingfisher
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Lourie (Turaco)
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Pintailed Whydah
Pied Crow
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Streakyheaded Canary
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellow Canary
Yellow Weaver