A BOKSBURG GARDEN

A BOKSBURG GARDEN

Having experienced the push, squeeze, swerve and shove of the Gauteng traffic to reach Boksburg, it was a happy surprise to wake up to a chorus of cape turtle doves, grey louries, redeyed doves, and the cheeping of Cape sparrows. I discovered later that a pair of the latter were kept very busy feeding their chick.

Through my half-opened curtains I spotted several speckled mousebirds methodically working their way through a bed of rosemary and red-veined spinach. Then I heard the distinctive call of a crested barbet – a sound that immediately transported me back to the farm garden of my youth, where my mother often referred to these barbets as ‘clown birds’ because of their colouring.

crestedbarbet

The sight of a hoopoe sunning itself on the garden bench quickly drew me outside to find my own spot in the sun and to enjoy what this Boksburg garden had to offer for the rest of my stay. Often there were two hoopoes poking their strong beaks into the kikuyu lawn in search of food.

hoopoe

What a pleasure it is to spend time in this garden which has so much to offer, from a cheekily cheerful frog to a variety of palm trees, shrubs and even a seasoned tree stump. There is a richness on offer in an apparently restricted space which actually carries no restriction.

gardenfrog

treestump

For example, it wasn’t long before I discovered that the closely clipped yesterday-today-and-tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora) growing at the edge of the lush, even lawn, hides a rich, fertile compost heap.

compost

While the compost itself adds to the quality of the soil in the garden, it also carries within it a bounty such as this enormous Kentucky Blue pumpkin, the last of the ‘free’ crop.

pumpkin

It has also spawned a riot of juicy cherry tomatoes which have colonised flower pots as well as the tiniest of spaces around the perimeter of the lawn. So prolific have they been that bags of the plump red, sweet fruit already reside in the home freezer for later use in bredies, soups and sauces. Even so, I picked a colander full of them – leaving plenty more for another day – for supper one afternoon and have since happily transplanted some seedlings to my own garden.

cherrytomatoes

Nothing goes to waste: self-sown seedlings of the red-veined spinach have been transplanted into a raised bed and along the edge of the patio. I can attest how delicious these leaves are in salads. Flowers, vegetables and trees, including a pomegranate, vie for space below the clear, bright blue sky, so typical of summer on the Highveld. There is even a self-sown cabbage tree growing from the trunk of a palm tree!

verbena

profusion of pots

pomegranate

cabbagetree

Apart from Sheba, one of the two resident hounds and a cat, it is the birdlife that enhances the tranquillity of this garden in spite of the regular roar of planes taking off from and landing at the nearby OR Tambo Airport.
Each day I delighted in watching the Cape turtle doves either chasing each other around the perimeter of the bird bath or sunning themselves on a patch of open ground.

Sheba

Common mynahs flitted past the bright purple bougainvillea and skeins of sacred ibises flew overhead.

sacredibis

I first ‘met’ a kurrichane thrush while camping in the Okovango Swamps many years ago – and have since become used to the olive thrushes that dart about my garden in the Eastern Cape. In this Boksburg garden I never tired of watching the kurrichane thrushes work over the lawn, their heads thrust to one side or scratching around the edges of the compost heap.

kurrichanethrush

The appearance of redheaded finches reminded me of our happy camping trips to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

redheadedfinch
While the Cape glossy starlings stirred my sense of anticipation for our forthcoming trip to the Kruger National Park.

capeglossystarling

Grey louries regularly visited the garden in the early mornings to feed on apple quarters and returned in the late afternoons.

greylourie

One afternoon I was startled by a black harrier swooping low after a redeyed dove. I cannot tell what happened for the two birds disappeared behind the house in a flash.

redeyeddove

Cape wagtails are a strong link to my own garden, to which I would soon return.

capewagtail

This Boksburg garden is truly a tranquil haven and a blissful place in which to unwind.

Over the course of a week I saw the following birds:

Black harrier
Blackeyed bulbul
Cape glossy starling
Cape sparrow
Cape turtle dove
Cape wagtail
Cape white-eye
Common mynah
Crested barbet
Darter
Egyptian goose
Grey heron
Grey lourie
Hadeda ibis
Hoopoe
Kurrichane thrush
Laughing dove
Pied crow
Redbilled woodhoopoe
Redeyed dove
Redheaded finch
Rock pigeon
Sacred ibis
Southern masked weaver
Speckled mousebird
Whiterumped swift

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DECEMBER 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

DECEMBER 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

What a joy to start this month with the sound of cackling laughter in the garden as a small group of Red-billed Wood-hoopoes (now called Green Wood-hoopoes) picked their way through the trees looking for insects and grubs. Their cheerful sounds and fleeting visits are always welcome.

The arrival of an African Goshawk had the other birds scurrying for cover. They have had to do the same whenever a Black Harrier skimmed the top of the trees for several days in a row. It is incredible how quickly the sense of danger is communicated from one bird to another.

I am used to flocks of doves and weavers rising with a ‘whoosh’ of feathers at an unusually loud noise from passing vehicles, the arrival of the neighbouring hound, or the footsteps of an unexpected visitor. One or two braver laughing Doves often remain on the lawn and look around as if wondering what all the fuss is about before they resume pecking at the seed scattered between the blades of grass. Not when an obvious predator is about though. Then all the birds disappear in a flash and even the youngsters, which moments before had been quivering their feathers and cheeping loudly for food, are silent until some sort of all clear is given.

The other day we were amused to watch a pair of Fork-tailed Drongos chasing away a Black Crow, which cawed loudly in protest. They didn’t give up until the crow had flown some distance away. I wonder if it had got to close to their nest. I haven’t located one, but regularly see the pair of them in the fig tree.

The Sacred Ibises and Cattle Egrets have been sighted more regularly this month, usually late in the afternoon when the sun highlights their wings as they fly over.

The Lesser-striped Swallows now flit in and out of their recently completed replacement nest. I keep my fingers crossed that the overcast weather we have been experiencing since Christmas is helping the clay globules to dry slowly and firmly so that these birds can successfully raise their young this time around.

Olive Thrushes and Cape Robins have been successful in this department: their respective speckled offspring are evident all over the garden. Cape Weavers and Village Weavers continue to devote a lot of energy to feeding their youngsters. I have also noticed Black-eyed Bulbuls stuffing their beaks before flying off, but have not yet located their nesting site.

Both the Black Sunbirds and the Greater Double-collared Sunbirds visit the ‘pub’ regularly, as do the Fork-tailed Drongos, Cape White-eyes, Black-headed Orioles, Black-eyed Bulbuls and the weavers.

It is lovely hearing the liquid calls of the Burchell’s Coucals again. These ‘rain birds’ transport me back to the farm of my childhood: whenever their calls could be heard during a particularly long dry spell, farmers and their labourers alike would hopefully remark that the rain would surely be coming at last.

This blog started very tentatively a year ago. Thank you to those who read it from time to time, for the encouraging ‘likes’, comments and especially to those who have become ‘followers’. It is gratifying to know that there really is an audience out there!

My December list is:

African Goshawk
African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Cuckoo
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Black Harrier
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Bronze Manikin
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Grey Heron
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redchested Cuckoo
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Black Tit
Speckled Mousebird
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift

JULY 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

JULY 2014 GARDEN BIRDS

July has been a good month for birding in my garden, largely thanks to a pleasant break early on and some less pressured weekends for a change! It has been pleasant seeing the return of some birds after an absence of some weeks as well as being able to add two new ones for the year.

The first of these is a Sacred Ibis. They used to be regular visitors to the dam across the road and below our house until the clump of mature blue gum trees were felled in the interests of water conservation. I cannot mourn their passing, for the dam has not been without water since – even in the driest of times.

The Sacred Ibises quite likely visit the refuse dump further up the hill, although I have not been out there to verify this. I think that the black lacy edge to their wings in flight make them look most attractive. They look such familiar birds, easily recognised in paintings from ancient Egypt. Apparently they were worshipped in those times – presumably where the ‘sacred’ part of their name comes from?

The other welcome newcomer to my garden list this year is the Redfaced Mousebird, doubtless attracted by the numerous berries currently available on several trees and creepers in the garden.

I was watching a Sombre Bulbul foraging in the foliage of the trees and bushes this afternoon. It too is attracted by the abundance of berries as well as picking its way through the remnants of the canary creeper, the flowers of which have now disappeared.

The last on my list this month is a Southern Masked Weaver, which I first recorded in February. It is not a regular visitor and I have not yet discovered where most of them ‘hang out’ in this town.

While on the subject of weavers, I notice that some Village Weavers and Cape Weavers are beginning to half-heartedly loop blades of grass or strips of leaves around thin branches – nothing more than that. More often than not the grass floats to the ground unheeded within seconds.Perhaps they have a better idea of when winter will draw to a close?

My July list is:
African Dusky Flycatcher
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Bronze Manikin
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Crowned Plover
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Laughing Dove
Olive Sunbird
Olive Thrush
Redeyed Dove
Redfaced Mousebird
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Black Tit
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Village Weaver
Yellow Canary
Yellow Weaver