PLUMP VS ROUND

According to various dictionaries, when used as an adjective, plump means having a full and rounded shape, whereas round means circular or cylindrical. Of course those of us whose shape is not exactly lean are used to being referred to as being plump [in the sense of having a full and rounded shape or being chubby and somewhat overweight.] Should you take offence at this description you might quickly be assured that ‘plump’ in this case is meant to describe an ‘appealing roundness’. Let us look at some examples of creatures with this appealing plumpness.

I don’t think I have ever seen a dassie that looks thin!

Olive thrushes always look ‘cheerfully chubby’.

Unless they have very recently been shorn, sheep also have an appealing roundness about their appearance.

As far as round things go, look at the spherical shape of this dung ball – courtesy of the work of a dung beetle.

Dandelion seeds are appealingly round.

The shape of these rings on a gun carriage may generate a discussion on the difference between round, circular and spherical – we can leave that for another day!

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AUGUST 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

After having spotted an African Hoopoe high up in the Erythrina caffra last month, I was very pleased to see one looking for insects on our back lawn – easily visible through our kitchen window. A pair of Streaky-headed Seedeaters are regular visitors throughout the day – either perched on the seed feeder or eating the seeds that have fallen to the ground. The Hadeda Ibis nest is now complete and, I suspect, eggs are in the process of being incubated.

Both Common Fiscals – Meneer and Spotty – are being kept very busy collecting food to feed their chicks. They do not like each other and frequently clash in the feeding area. Meneer sometimes approaches me as soon as I open the door to put food out and takes food from my hand. Spotty has always been a lot more cautious, yet even this one has seen on which side the bread is buttered and now happily approaches the dish of finely cut up meat or fish on the table even while I am enjoying my tea. Not only that … this wily creature has noticed me sitting in the sun in the back garden too and perches on the wash line whilst flapping its wings gently enough: I need food … the message gets through well enough and I put out a few titbits which are removed in a flash.

Only four Red-necked Spurfowl regularly visit the garden now: a hen with three chicks. They too are becoming more used to our presence and now boldly walk past us to eat the seed that has fallen under the feeders. I have taken to scattering some crushed maize on the brick surround of the pool and they are happy enough to peck at it even though I am sitting a short distance from them. The Bronze Manikins are a joy to watch as they perch closely together on a high branch to catch the last of the sun on chilly afternoons.

The Cape Robin-chats have paired up and are probably having to feed chicks too, for I see each of them taking regular turns to collect what they can from the feeding tray before they disappear into the shrubbery.

Given that the weather is warming up, there appears to be a greater call on the nectar feeder. The Cape White-eyes visit it several times a day:

While the Black-headed Oriole only comes occasionally. This picture was taken from my bedroom window.

Weavers like the nectar feeder too. This Cape Weaver is waiting in the queue.

Lastly, for this month, is a visit from an Olive Thrush perched on the edge of the bird bath.

My bird list for this month:
African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Barthroated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black Cuckoo
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
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
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver

MAY GARDEN BIRDS 2022

I have enjoyed a much more pleasing month of bird watching in our garden: there has been more time to sit in the garden; the number of avian visitors has increased; and I have been able to take some reasonable photographs, so there has been no need to delve into my archives again.

One cannot miss the Red-winged Starlings for hundreds of them have been visiting the Natal fig and fill the garden with their cheerful chirps, tweets and whistles. Should they be startled, the air is filled with the rustle of their russet wings, which glow in the bright sunshine as they take off, circle around only to return to feasting on the figs. Here a pair of them are perched on the roof of our house. The one on the right has a fig in its beak.

Both Common Starlings and Cape Glossy Starlings have made brief visits this month; Knysna Turacos are back making their grunting sounds in the bushes; and it is cheering to have weavers here in full force (variety, that is, not numbers). Among them are the Cape Weavers – no longer looking as smart as they do in summer, and the Spectacled Weaver.

The Cape Robin-chat remains very wary of the neighbouring cats and so I feel privileged every time I see one.

Of course I am always pleased to see the ringed Common Fiscal, although I am saddened that the neighbouring cats have made him a lot more wary too.

Other welcome visitors this month have been Green Woodhoopoes, Cattle Egrets, Streaky-headed Seedeaters, as well as Sacred Ibises flying over ‘my’ air space. Back on the ground, a pair of Olive Thrushes have pleased me enormously by visiting the feeding table and the bird bath.

Lastly, I love the visits from a Brown-hooded Kingfisher to our back garden, where it perches either on the telephone wire or – more often – on the wash line. It sits absolutely still for ages before swooping down to catch one of the many small grass hoppers that abound in that area and then returns to its solitary post.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Brown-headed Kingfisher
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver

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.