FOUR HUNGRY BIRDS

The birds in our garden are regularly supplied with seeds and fruit, although there are a number of berries on indigenous trees at this time of the year as well as succulent flowers on the Erythrina caffra tree especially. Weavers and other smaller birds are provided with fine grass seeds in the hanging feeders and coarse seeds, such as crushed maize and millet are scattered on the ground for doves and pigeons. Well, that is the way it is supposed to work. Here is one of many Cape Weavers making the most of the abundance of Erythrina caffra flowers.

Amethyst sunbirds, Speckled Mousebirds, Common Starlings, Black-headed Orioles, Fork-tailed Drongos, Laughing Doves, African Green Pigeons, Black-eyed Bulbuls and a variety of other birds visit these blossoms during the day. Laughing Doves, Red-eyed Doves and the Speckled Pigeons also gather below the hanging feeders to eat the seeds that fall to the ground. These Laughing Doves have decided to get to the source:

Not to be outdone, a Speckled Pigeon has usurped Morrigan’s feeder for a good meal:

There are a lot of berries and seeds around for the Speckled Mousebirds to feed on, but here they have homed in on an orange I put out on the feeding tray:

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JUNE 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

A number of factors have affected my enjoyment of watching the birds in our garden this month. Several days have gone by with only doves and Hadedas to be seen; the seed feeders remained full and the cut apples untouched. Among these factors has been the smoke from the municipal rubbish dump which burned for days on end – any self-respecting bird would have flown further afield to breathe more easily! Colder weather combined with wind does not make ideal bird-watching conditions. Then there is a very large neighbourhood cat, which I surprised the other morning while it was sitting directly under one of the seed feeders!

Black-headed Orioles are always a delight to watch, whether they are calling to each other from the treetops or swooping down to the nectar feeder. It’s strong, flesh-coloured beak can be clearly seen in this image:

The Cape Robin-Chat is another favourite of mine. I often watch a pair of them emerge from the tangled undergrowth behind our swimming pool and then fly across the pool to look for insects within the safety of the Crassula ovata growing on the other side.

A Speckled Pigeon has been collecting sticks for its nest in the ceiling above my study. It perches on a branch, surveys the ground below, selects a stick, flies up through the hole in the eaves, and then repeats this action many times during the day.

A first-time visitor to my garden this month is a Black-shouldered Kite. I didn’t have a camera handy, so this is one photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park:

My June bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Blackshouldered Kite
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Batis
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Wood-hoopoe
Hadeda Ibis
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redeyed Dove
Redwinged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver

NOTE: Click on a photograph for a larger view.

MAY 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

I cannot adequately convey how wonderful it is to hear the sounds of the Cape Turtle Dove in our garden at different times of the day. They used to be regular visitors to the feeders until elbowed out by the sheer number of Laughing Doves and Speckled Pigeons that wolf up the grain within twenty minutes of it being scattered outside. So, I hear the Cape Turtle Doves calling from the Erythrina trees in the back garden and see them pecking for food in the kitchen beds more often than they come to the front to see what the masses have left. Cape Turtle doves remind me of my childhood in the Lowveld and our visits to the Kruger National Park as well as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where this photograph was taken.

My favourite visitors are the Cape Robins that are among the first birds to greet the dawn and which come to peck at the fruit and other titbits when the garden is quiet and most of the other birds have left to seek food elsewhere.

A pair of Greyheaded Sparrows also prefer to visit the feeders after the doves and weavers have left. Some of the weavers are beginning to sport their winter tweeds, yet there are still many males looking as though they are ready to find a mate. A few males have been seen carrying strips of grass to tie onto thin branches – perhaps we need a really cold spell of weather to make them realise that there is still the winter to get through!

Of some concern is that the population of Speckled Pigeons nesting in our roof has increased to the point that they may have to be moved on and we will have to reseal the eaves. They are lovely birds to look at, however the mess they make is awful – our front steps and some of the outside walls are covered with their faeces, which cannot be a healthy situation in the long run.

Redwinged Starlings have been gathering in large flocks over the past few weeks. They fly around in flocks of between fifty and a hundred, sometimes breaking off to fly in different directions and meeting up again. They often settle in the Natal Fig, only to be frightened by loud noises from passing vehicles and a cloud of black rises up noisily to whirl about again: their reddish wings look beautiful against the light.

So do the bright red wings of the Knysna Turaco. How fortunate I was yesterday morning to watch a pair of them flitting around in the trees near to where I was sitting and then to drink from the bird bath situated only a few metres away from me!

A really interesting sight was an African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene) flying low over the garden before perching in the Natal Fig. It wasn’t there long before I saw it take off with a single Fork-tailed Drongo in hot pursuit. The Drongo chased it right across the garden and back before the hawk changed direction to fly further afield. I am impressed with the feistiness of the Drongo!

I have already highlighted my photographs of the Green Wood-hoopoes that visited our garden last weekend, so will end with a photograph of an Amethyst Sunbird that posed for me briefly, albeit in the shade:

My May bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)
Amethyst Sunbird
Barthroated Apalis
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Boubou
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Collared Sunbird
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Green Wood-hoopoe
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redeyed Dove
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Rednecked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Village Weaver

APRIL 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

The lateness of this entry is indicative of how busy April was. The paucity of birds on my list is partly due to the lack of opportunity to relax and watch them visit my garden and partly because for several days near the beginning of the month it seemed they had decided to abandon my patch of paradise for one somewhere else. It was disconcerting to find the feeders untouched morning after morning. I can usually rely on the resident Speckled Pigeons as well as the regular contingent of Laughing Doves and the odd Cape Turtle Dove to arrive during the course of the day to gobble up the coarsely crushed maize I scatter on the ground for them. Not this time.

Speckled Pigeon

On some mornings they would gather in the treetops only to inexplicably fly off in a flurry. It was a while before I realised that a Eurasian Hobby had taken up residence!

This was the last month during which we saw White-rumped Swifts as they departed for northern climes earlier in the month. Instead, for a few mornings in a row I was delighted to see a small group of Red-necked Spurfowl exploring my garden.

Rednecked Spurfowl

On the subject of red: Red-eyed Doves and Red-winged Starlings have settled into the fig tree in fairly large flocks this month. A lovely surprise visitor at the nectar feeder was a Collared Sunbird. The other was a pair of African Paradise Flycatchers.

African Paradise Flycatcher

My April bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Paradise Flycatcher
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Collared Sunbird
Common Starling
Eurasian Hobby
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey-headed Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Red-eyed Dove
Red-necked Spurfowl
Red-winged Starling
Southern Boubou
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

FEBRUARY 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

The Olive Thrush was the first to make it onto my February bird list. I have featured these lovely birds several times as they are a joy to watch in the garden. As dry as it is, they still manage to find food by turning over the fallen leaves and keeping a beady eye out for anything that moves in what is left of the lawn. They relish the apples I put out too.

February has been a busy month for me, leaving me not nearly enough time to enjoy the avian visitors to the garden. Two very welcome first-time visitors this month have been a White-starred Robin – the first time I have ever seen one in our garden – and a Brown-hooded Kingfisher. I have heard the calls of the latter for several weeks, but this month it was out in the open more than once.

The Speckled Pigeons are flourishing. This couple was eyeing the seeds on the ground below them.

It cannot be an easy time for the birds now as the plants have dried to brittleness in the scorching heat and nothing new is growing thanks to an ongoing lack of rain. I fill the bird baths several times daily and provide a supply of seeds and fruit. The Bronze Manikins eat the seeds either early in the morning or later in the afternoon, once the main rush of feeding birds has gone.

The nectar feeder has to be topped up regularly too in this hot and dry weather. Here a female Amethyst Sunbird pays it a fleeting visit.

Birds must be tougher creatures than they look, for I see and hear them daily. While this month’s list is shorter than I recorded for last month, I feel privileged to still enjoy their company.

My February bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
Amethyst Sunbird
Barn Swallow
Bar-throated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Saw-wing
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Brownhooded Kingfisher
Cape Robin
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Red-billed Woodhoopoe
Red-eyed Dove
Red-fronted Tinkerbird
Red-winged Starling
Sacred Ibis
Southern Boubou
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Village Weaver
White Starred Robin
White-rumped Swift

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger image.