JULY 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

The traditional calendar notwithstanding – nor the fluctuations in temperature between very cold and fairly summery – the birds seem to know a thing or two about when to court, when to breed, and when spring is on its way. The Olive Thrushes, usually quick to see what is on offer, have been more furtive of late. Instead of eating their fill, drinking or bathing afterwards and then perching on a nearby branch until they are ready for the next round, two of them arrive one after the other – disappearing in different directions – to gobble what they can and then carry off bits of food to their nest. I think one is located in our bottom ‘wild’ garden but am disinclined to disturb them. The other day an Olive Thrush took a dislike to a Speckled Pigeon right across the garden for no apparent reason.

Laughing Doves court throughout the year. I counted twenty-six of them the other day – and have yet to come across a single nest!

The yellow beaks of the Common Starlings are an indication that they are also in breeding mode.

There are two Common Fiscals that arrive separately every day – distinguishable only because one has been ringed.

A female Greater Double-collared Sunbird has spent about four days gathering tiny fragments of lichen, small feathers, and even soft grass seeds with which to line her nest – which is possibly in the hedge between us and our neighbours – while Mr Sunbird drinks his fill at the nectar feeder and makes loud territorial noises from on high in the Erythrina tree in the back garden.

The Streakyheaded Seedeaters always arrive as a pair.

Most of the Village Weavers and Southern Masked Weavers are looking a little worse for wear at the moment as they are growing into their breeding plumage.

One Cape Weaver has already built a nest in the side garden, while others arrive with strips of reed leaves in their beaks only to drop them when they tuck into the seeds for a meal.

Here you can see the difference in the shape of the beak of a Blackcollared Barbet and a Black-eyed Bulbul as they feed on cut apples.

Speckled Mousebirds perch patiently in the shrubbery for an opportunity to come down to eat the fruit.

My July bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Blackshouldered Kite
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Batis
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Crowned Hornbill
Crowned Plover
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Spectacled Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Yellowfronted Canary

FEBRUARY 2020 GARDEN BIRDS

We have been blessed with more rain this month, which has not only greened up the garden but seems to have speeded up the blossoming of flowers and the development of grass seeds. Plenty of natural food is available and there has been a fair amount of surface water, so the birds have not been as dependent on the nectar, seeds, fruit and water that I regularly provide for them.

They have probably been about all summer, but I have only recently begun noticing the Barn Swallows as they start gathering on overhead cables in the late afternoons, doubtless readying themselves for the journey north once autumn sets in. The morning and evening skies are filled with swifts and swallows dipping, fluttering, swooping and almost bumping into each other – joined in the early evenings by tiny insectivorous bats. The mud nest of the Lesser-striped Swallows has been a hive of activity – they have definitely been successful at breeding at last. Here is one of the adults peeping out of the opening:

The adults move in and out of the nest so swiftly that I have had to sit on the back steps very patiently to capture them in motion. This one is just leaving the nest:

I was fortunate to have my camera in hand when this Cape Batis came into view next to our driveway:

The Greater Double-collared Sunbirds have been particularly vociferous this month, twittering loudly from high branches or cables. The Amethyst Sunbirds have also been flying to and fro across the garden – neither have made much use of the nectar feeder, that having mainly been visited by the Cape White-eyes and Black-eyed Bulbuls. I am delighted to report that the pair of Red-necked Spurfowl is becoming more daring and have been seen walking right across our front lawn. I have been enticing them to the garden by sprinkling maize seed in the bottom garden.

Southern Masked Weavers have continued to be the dominant weaver in the garden this month:

My February bird list:
African Darter
African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-hawk
Amethyst Sunbird
Barn Swallow
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Mannikin
Cape Batis
Cape Crow
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Common Waxbill
Diederik Cuckoo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Red-eyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-throated Wryneck
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Black Tit
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streaky-headed Seedeater
Thick-billed Weaver
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift
Yellow-fronted Canary

GETTING TO GRIPS WITH FOOD

One needs to get a firm grip on one’s food if you are not going to miss it – or fall off your perch. You can tell birds were not consulted when this feeder was designed. I need to get a good grip here by holding onto the grid as there isn’t much space for two feet.

Village Weaver

Landing can be rather awkward – even if you are a tad more elegantly proportioned. At least we can be more comfortably seated for snacking once that has been accomplished.

Bronze Mannikins

This is an elegant way to perch.

Village Weaver

Actually eating is not always comfortable though.

Southern Masked Weaver

WAVERING WEAVERS

For years Village Weavers dominated our garden. They were the loudest, were seen most often, spent a lot of time building nests and tearing them down again, courted frequently, and were kept very busy feeding their young. Since the Cape Weavers began making their presence felt, the two species seem to get along with each other – except when trying to eat from the same seed feeder. They too nested in the garden and raised their young. A pair of Spectacled Weavers have been regular visitors, although I have not come across one of their nests in our garden yet. Two years ago I would see Southern Masked-Weavers (Ploceus velatus) visiting for a short period during the summer and then they would disappear – now they are the dominant weaver in the garden along with a good number of Cape Weavers. The Village Weavers have definitely been on the wane.

This summer the tables have turned: there are two weaver nests in the large fig tree but neither of them are being used and the remains of a half built one in another section of the garden. For the first time that I can remember, our garden is not a bustling nest-building centre. Nests must have been constructed nearby for here a female is collecting new leaves from the Acacia with which to line her nest and there are a number of young weavers being fed in our garden.

Apart from eating seeds, these weavers are regular visitors to the nectar feeder.

SEPTEMBER 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

Headline news: it has rained on the last day of the month – 17mm!

Birds come and go as the seasons change. Laughing Doves remain throughout the year and have become so prolific that I have decided not to put out crushed mealies for them every day: they not only eat all of that, but have become adept at filching the finer seed from the hanging feeders too!

Other regular visitors throughout the year are the Black-collared Barbets. Their calls can be heard across the valley throughout the day and they come to inspect the availability of suitable food at least once a day.

Common Starlings are never shy to ‘elbow’ other birds out of the way to gobble up as much as they can at once.

On the subject of starlings, I was very excited to see a single Cape Glossy Starling in our garden the other day – even more so when at least six of them paid a visit yesterday!

Other newcomers this month include a Cardinal Woodpecker, Paradise Flycatcher, Pin-tailed Whydah, White-rumped Swifts, Thick-billed Weavers, Yellow Weaver and several Southern Masked Weavers. More of the latter have been evident than the Village Weavers this month.

I never tire of the Olive Thrushes as they never fail to amuse. They stab at the apples with their sharp beaks and sometimes swallow large pieces whole. They prefer pecking at the bits of apple that fall to the ground though and sometimes drag large pieces away to eat at their leisure under the cover of the bushes.

My September bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Crow (Black)
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Robin-chat
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Woodhoopoe
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Thickbilled Weaver
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellow Weaver