MEET THE COUSIN

I have been reading about the excitement raised by the arrival of an American Robin  in Eastbourne. A friend from there sent me a video of this robin calmly eating berries in a bush against a backdrop of whirring camera clicks and excited voices. That robin was acting up to its scientific name, Turdus migratorius – only I suspect it migrated a little too far off course. What some birds will do for international attention! In the light of the fame garnered by this lost soul, I introduce its quieter and far more sedate cousin that visits my garden regularly and only has to contend with a single camera every now and then: Turdus olivaceous – the Olive Thrush.

NESTS

The trees in our garden are now so tall and thick with foliage that it isn’t always easy to find the nests of birds, even if you know they are there – somewhere. A pair of Cape Robin-chats had me fascinated for days on end as they flew back and forth with food in their beaks … I never could find their actual nest deep in the shrubbery, although their offspring later made an appearance. Two Common Fiscals have plied the food trails to their respective nests for weeks (I think both have actually nested beyond our garden perimeter) and one brought its youngster to the feeding tray a few times before leaving it to fend for itself.

I located the messy nest of an Olive Thrush in a tangle of branches near the wash line, but not in a position to photograph – my neighbour couldn’t get a good photographic view of it either, although we both enjoyed watching the activity around it.This is one taken some years ago:

Black-collared Barbets have brought their offspring to feed on cut apples …

Much more prominent is the mud nest the pair of Lesser-striped Swallows build under the eaves every year:

The rain came at just the right time for them and they set to work straight away. The sturdy nest they built outside our front door one year has been taken over by White-rumped Swifts. Life is filled with trials for these swallows for this lovely nest, already lined with soft materials, fell down one night and shattered. Days of sad twittering followed until the pair again returned to Plan B and built a nest under the eaves around the shadier side of our house – where they have resorted to building in previous years – and this one has stayed put.

Also easy to see was the flurry of activity among the weavers as they set about constructing nests at the end of  branches of a tree in our back garden:

Despite the chattering and hard work going on here, within days these nests had been abandoned and the birds had looked elsewhere to create their happy colony.

A very-hard-to-miss nest, which I have featured before, is the one in which a pair of Hadeda Ibises have successfully reared two chicks:

Both chicks are in the nest here – only their dark tails are showing.

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

A THRILLING THRUSH

If you give any bird more than a passing glance you will be able to achieve more than merely identifying it. This Olive Thrush provided me with several minutes of amusement.

Ever curious to see what’s on the menu.

There might be something tasty among these leaves.

That was a bit difficult to swallow!

I’ll practise my ballet moves.

Looking for a well-balanced meal.

Preparing for lift-off.

AUGUST 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

Birding sessions in my garden would be incomplete without seeing an Olive Thrush. These birds are real characters the way they put their heads down to chase after each other on the ground … round and round the bushes and rocks they go. They are incredibly alert too and you can see from the dirt at the end of its beak that this one has been grubbing around between the flowers to find something to eat. It drank water after I had taken this photograph and then enjoyed a quick bath.

Of course Meneer, the friendly Common Fiscal, is a daily joy too. The other morning it came flying towards me as I opened the door to come outside and grabbed something from the tray I was carrying before flying off. It comes every day, usually perching next to my breakfast before taking a piece of meat or cheese from my hand. The ritual remains the same, even when I place a little dish to one side especially for it. Here it is waiting on the edge of the flower pot near my feet. You can see its white eyebrows very clearly.

Although I recently highlighted Spotty, the ringed Common Fiscal, this image clearly shows his eponymous dark spot.

I have mentioned before that this year the Cape Robin-chat is much more reticent to come out than we have enjoyed in the past. Here it has just alighted on a rock, clearly focused on the food in the feeding tray below. It generally waits until the coast is clear and sometimes gets tantalisingly close to the food before being chased off by the arrival of another bird.

One of the highlights of this month was finally getting an opportunity to photograph the Brown-hooded Kingfisher that has taken to perching on the wash line outside our kitchen. This time it was co-operative enough for me to rush upstairs to get my camera and even stayed still while I quietly opened the door and focused on it. I am very pleased to show it off.

At the moment the Common Starlings are looking very smart in their breeding outfits.

Lastly, to add a little brighter colour, here is a Village Weaver.

Overall, this has been another good month for seeing birds in our garden. The Amethyst Sunbirds regularly visit the nectar feeder; the Black Cuckoo occasionally emits its mournful cry about feeling so sick; some Cape Glossy Starlings paid a very brief visit – as did a Red-necked Spurfowl; and the Pin-tailed Whydahs pop in now and then.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Mannikin
Brownhooded Kingfisher
Cape Crow
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fork-tailed Drongo
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver