A BIRD FEEDER IN HOUT BAY

It is fun watching birds in someone else’s garden and what better way to do so than keeping an eye on the local bird feeder. Among the first visitors to arrive in this Hout Bay garden was a Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus), a familiar visitor in my own garden. There it tends to seek out anything meaty or fruity, so I was surprised to see this one tucking into the seeds:

Another familiar bird arrived, a Cape Robin-Chat (Cossypha caffra). These are beloved garden birds that eat fruit, insects and scraps of any kind. This one was combing the lawn for dried meal worms – something I have never provided for the birds in my garden:

Yet another familiar bird arrived with a loud fluttering of its wings – one of a pair of Speckled Pigeons (Columba guinea). These birds are ubiquitous over the whole country, so their presence was no surprise:

Ah, not only birds visited this bird feeder. The mystery of why the cut apples disappear so quickly was solved with the sighting of this Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in the act. These are not indigenous, having been imported by Cecil John Rhodes during the 19th century:

Mmm … there was another non-avian contender for the fallen seed below the feeder. Such a regular visitor in fact that it has made a getaway tunnel among the plants growing next to the fence. This is a Four-striped Grass Mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio):

Try as I might, I ended having to photograph these delightful visitors through the window. What an absolute delight it was to watch small groups of Swee Waxbills (Coccopygia melanotis) fluttering down from the branches to cluster around the feeder. They never seemed to be still and would fly off at a moment’s notice leaving their high-pitched ‘swee-swee’ contact call in their wake:

Now, a bonus picture that brought great joy to the pre-schooler who had made this elaborate feeder – unidentified visitors (taken through a window with a cell phone) investigating the seed therein at last!

Proof indeed that this carnival-like contraption was also attractive to birds.

JULY 2022 GARDEN BIRDS

Even though I have been extraordinarily busy this month, it has been a particularly satisfying one in terms of bird visiting our garden. One of the loveliest surprises was hearing the beautiful burbling sounds of a Burchell’s Coucal from deep within the foliage: I have yet to see it, but it has clearly made its presence known. Very few African Green Pigeons are left; most have probably sought an easy source of food elsewhere as the figs on the Natal fig tree have almost come to an end. The Olive Thrushes remain welcome visitors to the feeding tray, although a pair of them spend a lot of time chasing each other around the garden – a form of courting? Certainly the weavers think that spring is around the corner and are looking more beautiful every day. The very large flocks of Red-winged Starlings have also diminished along with the plentiful supply of fruit: they have turned their attention to the flowers of the Erythrina caffra. Close to that is an Ironwood in which a pair of Hadeda Ibises are building a nest in the same fork of branches where they successfully reared two chicks last season – they are easy to keep an eye on!

Speaking of eyes. How easily our eyes can deceive us: I was watching the Hadedas bringing in large sticks to add to their nest when I noticed a Laughing Dove preening itself on a branch of the Erythrina caffra nearby. It was only when I looked through my camera lens that I realised (it was high up in the tree) that I was actually looking at an African Hoopoe. They are not common visitors, so I am delighted to show off this one:

The Southern Boubou has been a regular visitor, often coming out into the open once the other birds have had their fill and left the feeding area. It has been interesting to observe how the Olive Thrushes quickly give way to the Boubou whenever it appears:

About eight Red-necked Spurfowl call around almost daily now too to peck at the fallen seed. They are very skittish around humans, so I tend to photograph them from my upstairs bedroom window:

For two days in a row we observed a pair of Trumpeter Hornbills. This is the only usable photograph I managed to get as they tended to perch too high up for me or were obscured by branches:

Also perching high up was this Streakyheaded Seedeater, which was fun to photograph away from the feeder for a change:

Lastly for this month, I heard the characteristic call of a Greyheaded Bush Shrike a few days ago and hunted all over the garden for it. These very attractive looking birds have an annoying habit of hiding in the foliage too, so this rather startled view of it was all I managed to get before it flew off:

My bird list for this month:

African Green Pigeon
African Hoopoe
Amethyst Sunbird
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed (Dark-capped) Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
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
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Bush Shrike
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul (Greenbul)
Southern Boubou
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Trumpeter Hornbill
Village Weaver

SOUTHERN BOUBOU IV

Over the past four years a pair of rather handsome looking Southern Boubous have made their home either in or very close to our garden. At first I used to see them very rarely and then seldom for long enough to photograph them. Over the past year they have visited the feeding area more frequently to see what is on offer. This female is perched on the edge of the bird bath:

Now she is being a little coy:

The male is bolder and does not seem to mind being photographed whilst enjoying his meal:

I enjoy hearing their beautifully rich tonal duets echo through the garden before I spot one or other of them perched fairly high up in the branches of one of the many trees. As they can mimic other birds too, they have a pleasing repertoire of sounds that are sometimes confusing to the ear. They mostly call early in the mornings or later during the afternoons.

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.