SOUTHERN BOUBOU III

The Southern Boubou (Laniarus ferrugineas) is a bush-shrike commonly residing on forest edges, in thickets and in some suburban gardens. I am happy that a pair has chosen to become more at home here – certainly the part of our garden where I see them fairly regularly – this year more often than before – is bordered by what one could call a thicket. It is a tangled mass of Cape honeysuckle, indigenous bushes and the remains of an ancient plum tree. This area is particularly suited to them as they prefer to feed on the ground and hop through the low dense foliage to find invertebrates as well as coming to inspect the feeding tray, where they eat fruit and are particularly fond of fish, meat or cheese!

What is on the menu this morning?

In the world of birds it is common to see the males looking dramatically attractive in contrast to the duller looking females – guess which one has to blend in with the nest! This might be true of the Southern Boubou insofar as the female is greyer – the males are clearly black-and-white – yet their underparts have an attractive cinnamon wash. I think it looks attractive, although this too is a colour that blends easily into their surroundings: watch a boubou enter a thicket and in two ticks it seems to have disappeared.

Fish or apple today?

Thanks to their colouring and their skulking habits, these boubous are heard more often than they are seen and so I have been pleased with their increasing presence: I mostly see the female, although the male sometimes comes on his own or joins the female briefly.

Fish, I think.

APRIL 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

I am delighted to report that the African Green Pigeons are back in full force this month. Their characteristic grunting sounds are heard from early in the morning and, if I look carefully at the shaking leaves in the fig tree, I catch sight of some of them most afternoons. An exciting visitor, even though I only saw it once, was a single male Dusky Indigo bird – I have not seen these in my garden for some years. Yet another interesting visitor has been a single female Thick-billed Weaver: she has made several forays into the feeding area and has perched on the edge of the bird bath a few times – never when I have my camera though!

In other news, the ‘tame’ Common Fiscal we call Meneer still comes to collect his handout from me several times a week. These days he usually collects a maximum of two tiny pieces of meat and flies away. His rival, the ringed Common Fiscal, frequently sits in the branches above my head and eyes my offerings, but prefers to go to the feeding tray for his meals.

Depending on what is on offer, the feeding tray can get rather busy at times – look at these weavers having a feast.

While these females might appear to be chatting while they eat, it is not always a harmonious scene. Here a female weaver is telling off a Black-eyed Bulbul. He looks quite affronted.

It wasn’t a good day for the bulbuls, for here an Olive Thrush is approaching one in a threatening manner.

As we still have no rain, there is sunshine aplenty. These Laughing Doves are sunning themselves on the bare ground underneath the seed feeders.

Lastly, a pair of Southern Boubous have become regular visitors. They skulk around in the undergrowth or call loudly to each other from hidden perches. I have only seen one of them coming out into the open to feed at any one time.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Batis
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Dusky Indigo Bird
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forest Canary
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Thick-billed Weaver
Village Weaver
Yellow Weaver

JANUARY 2021 GARDEN BIRDS

There were 48 birds on my list for last January and 45 this year. I doubt if there are really fewer birds that could be seen from our garden, rather I wasn’t necessarily there to see them. So much depends on when I am outside, how long I spend outside, where I settle to watch birds, and what the weather is like. Birds are scarce during high temperatures – and we have experienced some days of up to 40°C – and equally so during damp weather – very few of those this month!

Possibly the most exciting bird action for me this month was the unexpected arrival of a Steppe Buzzard that sent a flock of Laughing Doves scattering in all directions. I heard a loud, yet muffled, thump and there it was, only about two meters away from me! It blinked at me for a second or two and then flew off so silently that had I not witnessed its departure I would have wondered what had happened to it. Its hunting foray was unrewarded. This one is not in my garden but was photographed on the edge of town.

A pair of Southern Boubous have become regular visitors to the feeding area this month. They arrive either singly or together, waiting in the shrubbery until the coast is clear before coming out in the open.

Of course it is always a delight when the Bronze Manikins come to visit. They have been breeding very successfully for I have seen a whole flock of youngsters accompany the adults when feeding on seed that has fallen to the ground from the hanging feeders. Weavers too have been feeding grain to their chicks.

The Black-collared Barbets are keeping the doctor away by eating apple every day.

A pair of Black-eyed Bulbuls have been hard-pressed feeding their youngster, which is waiting on a rock – not too patiently – for the next bite of apple. The parents have been gradually enticing their youngster to come ever closer to the source of the apples.

Another bird that has just about been run ragged feeding offspring is the ringed Common Fiscal. Once I realised that it was frantically feeding not one chick but three, I helped out by providing some very finely chopped meat. This chick has a slice of sausage – that escaped the chopping – in its beak. I will show more photographs of these chicks in a later post.

I was fascinated to watch a Speckled Pigeon helping itself to some of the chopped meat – I assumed they only ate grain and occasionally fruit.

My January bird list:

African Darter
African Green Pigeon
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Mannikin
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Burchell’s Coucal
Cape Crow
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
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
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Steppe Buzzard
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-billed Kite

SOUTHERN BOUBOU II

A pair of Southern Boubous (Laniarius ferrugineus) are fairly regular visitors to our garden. I mostly see them singly, yet often hear them call to and answer each other in a melodious ringing duet. These shy birds are very difficult to photograph – not only because of their habit of skulking under the bushes but because we have so many branches, twigs and leaves that get in the way of having a good ‘photographic’ view of them. Strangely enough, the birds that live around the fringes of the rest camps in our national parks are more inclined to ‘expose’ themselves to visitors and are fairly tame.

This one approached us cautiously and eyed us from the safety of a nearby bush for some time before it ventured closer and perched on a dead branch.

Within about fifteen minutes it decided to come down to the ground to investigate the possibilities of any pickings from our picnic lunch.

Where it indeed found a crumb, having afforded me a fine opportunity to photograph it in good light.

A CURIOUS SOUTHERN BOUBOU

A pair of Southern Boubous have been calling to each other in our garden – another sign of the approach of spring even though we are in the throes of the coldest temperatures during the whole of winter! They favour a habitat of dense cover with plenty of hiding places – our garden is ideal for that – and so it isn’t always easy to get a clear view of them. The prolonged drought has, however, led to a thinning out of the otherwise dense foliage and, I think, there might be less food freely available at present which means they come to the feeding tray more regularly than they used to.

This Southern Boubou, in the Addo Elephant National Park, emerged from the thick bush at Jack’s picnic place to keep an eye on our stand-up picnic.

It perched on this thin branch for some time, affording me the opportunity to note its long claws; the different length of its tail feathers; the shape of its bill; and its glossy black feathers. This curious Southern Boubou was not perched there to be admired, rather it was curious about the food we were eating: the second I dropped a nut it swooped down to eat it.

This is an aspect of Addo that I enjoy very much: that at the picnic place several birds have become so accustomed to visitors that even shy ones like these are prepared to come out into the open where we can admire them from close quarters.