THERE ARE BIRDS IN ADDO

Far too many tourists drive about seeking one species of animal after the other in their quest to chalk up as many as they can – even driving past elephants, zebra and kudu because of a  “we’ve seen them” attitude – with eyes peeled for the ultimate prize: the sight of a lion. We see bored faces in vehicles as the day progresses, listless looks of bafflement when a passing vehicle asks what we are looking at and we respond “birds” or even tell them what bird we might be looking at. “Birds,” one might say or simply give a nod of the head as they move on in their quest.

Watching out for birds in any game reserve adds to the enjoyment of the environment as a whole. Here are a few of the many seen on our recent trip to the Addo Elephant National Park:

A ubiquitous Common Fiscal. Note how it is holding on to the twigs to keep it steady in the stiff breeze.

A young Olive Thrush perching inquisitively on our picnic table. Notice that it is still covered with speckles.

Cape Bulbuls, such as this one abound in the rest camp.

Large flocks of Pied Starlings can be seen all over in the park.

It is always fun seeing Speckled Mousebirds fly across the road or to working their way through bushes as they look for leaves, berries or flowers to eat.

Beautiful Malachite Sunbirds show flashes of metallic green as they pass by in a flash.

Who can resist the delicate beauty of a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk?

How fortunate it was to find a Greater Striped Swallow at rest!

One can almost be guaranteed to find a Bar-throated Apalis at the picnic site.

Lastly, for now, is a Sombre Bulbul (now called a Sombre Greenbul!).

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THE LIGHTER SIDE OF JACK’S

We were at Jack’s Picnic Site in the Addo Elephant National Park in the company of some little people. What an interesting place it was for them to explore while the rest of us got a delicious picnic ready: a large dung beetle obligingly made its way across the gravel; two songololos (millipedes) explored the logs and crossed in front of several pairs of fascinated feet.

Other delights included a quick witted Boubou that stole a strip of ham from the picnic table in a flash before anyone else had even had a chance to partake of their own salad buns.

We were serenaded by several Cape Bulbuls – you can tell from the background that this was a dull day weather-wise.

A Sombre Bulbul came to see what could be scrounged from both the ground and the table – it was at this point that one of the little ones pointed out a sign warning visitors not to feed the animals [SO low down and completely overgrown that it was rendered invisible to adult eyes].

The visit from a Cape Robin was a fleeting one.

Perhaps because it had not seen one of these before!

HARK THE UNUSUAL NOISE

HARK THE UNUSUAL NOISE

I was comfortable sitting in the shade of the forested part of the garden. The Cape– and Village Weavers were pecking away at the seed I had scattered earlier and would, now and then, latch onto a large (for them) piece of bread and fly up to a nearby branch to consume it at leisure.

My pot of Earl Grey tea was nearing its end when I turned my attention to the Forktailed Drongo up to its usual antics of stealing titbits from the beaks of other birds. It was good to hear the Sombre Bulbuls calling nearby; the Laughing Doves were combing the lawn for seeds and I idly watched Bryan the tortoise amble along, munching as he went. It was an idyllic scene.

The unusually persistent calls of the Cape Robin had barely registered in my languid state until the calls seemed to become louder and more agitated. I realised they came from the thick foliage near the pool, but was too comfortable to investigate – until I noticed the weavers, the Olive Thrush and the Forktailed Drongos swiftly fly towards the sound.

As I approached the pool, I noticed a flurry of feathers as the afore-mentioned birds flew in an out of the leaf cover, all flapping their wings and making a loud noise. I looked up at the leaf canopy from underneath in time to see a large Boomslang winding itself sinuously through the branches. As it looped across towards another tree, the slack, thick cable of its body was repeatedly attacked by robins, weavers, a Black-collared Barbet and even a Speckled Mousebird.

The snake moved swiftly and gracefully, winding in and out of the branches with ease towards a shallow nest balancing precariously in a fork of cotoneaster branches. Neither the mobbing of the birds nor the cacophony of their protests seemed of concern.

I turned away to call P to witness what was happening. My attention was diverted for seconds only … the Boomslang disappeared! As you can imagine, I checked the draping stems of canary creeper very carefully before moving an inch. The agitated birds began to disperse and soon all was quiet. The soporific air of a hot afternoon reasserted itself.

Cape White-eyes resumed their search for insects, the weavers returned to the seed tray, the Laughing Doves tramped across the lawn, and the Cape Robin – which had alerted me to this drama – flew off towards the direction of the fig tree.

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