MARCH 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

First of all, thank you to everyone who left encouraging comments and useful advice as well as offers of assistance when I lamented that the media storage on my free version of WordPress was 100% full and this wouldn’t allow me to feature any more photographs. After mulling over and considering the cost of changing to WordPress Pro (the only plan offered) against my enjoyment of blogging, I opened my dashboard with a degree of reluctance this morning to start that expensive process … only to find that WP has acknowledged that I actually still have plenty of space, which means I can continue for free for a while longer! So, back to business and my monthly round-up of garden birds:

This is the first month ever since I received my first digital camera years ago that I do not have a single photograph of a garden bird in my folder. It is not from lack of trying as I have taken my camera outside several times … it is an indication of the impact of having the three cats from next door using my garden as their hunting ground! My list below shows there have been birds: most of them have paid fleeting visits or have hidden higher up in the foliage, not daring to spend much time either on the ground or at the feeders. Forgive me then for trawling my archives to illustrate this month’s review of garden birds.

Red-winged Starlings have started appearing in greater numbers once more. I mostly see them in the Natal Fig in the front garden or in the tall Erythrina caffra in the back garden. This is a female starling photographed in 2016.

It is always a delight to hear the distinctive calls of a Bokmakierie for they do not often visit this side of town. I have seldom seen them actually visit the bird feeders; they catch caterpillars and other insects all over the garden and so are probably not particularly perturbed by the presence of the cats. This one was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park in 2015.

The Southern Boubou are naturally shy birds that often skulk about in the undergrowth – leaving them vulnerable to cats. I have heard them a few times and have really only had one confirmed sighting this month. Nonetheless, this one was photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park in 2018.

The duets of Black-collared Barbets echo throughout the garden during the particularly warm days. They are generally cautious about approaching the feeding tray anyway, but have been particularly wary of late. This one was photographed in 2015.

The Cape White-eyes can be seen flitting through the foliage and visiting the nectar feeder daily. The ones below were, however, photographed in Cape Town in 2014.

Lastly, from 2016, is a photograph of the very pretty Grey-headed Bush Shrike. One has made several appearances in our garden this month but has been almost impossible to pin down to photograph as it moves very quickly through the leaves of our many trees.

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
Black-collared Barbet
Black-headed Oriole
Bokmakierie
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow
Cape Robin-Chat
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Pigeon
White-rumped Swift
Yellowfronted Canary

A BOUBOU AT THE BIRD BATH

Having been investigating the contents of the feeding tray, this Southern Boubou perched on the edge of the bird bath. Given their propensity for skulking about in the undergrowth, it was a treat to see it so clearly out in the open.

Note the loose feather under its wing. Unfortunately the bird bath wasn’t very full, it being a day when we had no water in our taps, and so it had to bend far down to drink from the water.

It must have been thirsty, for it repeated this action several times. In between drinks it would remain perched on the edge and look around carefully before bending down for another one. Then it flew up to perch on a branch behind the bird bath, where it posed in the sun for a minute or two.

The loose feather is still clearly evident.

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