BIRDS EATING FLOWERS

I have often noticed the tubular flowers of the Cape honeysuckle lying on the ground as if something had deliberately cut them off – well, that ‘something’ has generally proved to be one or other of the weavers that frequent our garden! Keen to get to the store of nectar at the base – and having beaks far too short to reach inside – the weavers simply nip off the base of the flowers for their prize snack.

During July and into early August, I have observed the stalks of the Aloe ferox growing outside our lounge have increasingly been stripped too. This time I caught a pair of Streakyheaded Seedeaters in the act. Apart from probing the base of the flowers to get to the nectar, they also eat the buds, anthers and stamens – this picture was taken through the window:

Other birds enjoying the rich source of nectar from aloes – only they have the long curved beaks to poke into the flowers – are the Green Woodhoopoes that chuckle and cackle their way through our garden every now and then:

The tall Erythrina caffra tree in the back garden hosts a wide variety of birds throughout its fairly long flowering season. Cape Weavers appear to be very partial to nectar and are considered to be among the more important pollinators of aloes. This one is snacking on one of the Erythrina caffra flowers:

A Blackheaded Oriole takes a turn to feast on the flowers too:

 

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

FOCUS ON THE STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER

The Streaky-headed Seedeater is not a bird that calls attention to itself, for its colouring is a dullish brown.

The most striking aspect of its outfit is the clearly marked pale eyebrow.

This is a species that has only come into our garden regularly during the last five or six years. As they are usually found in woodland, thickets and dense scrub, I suspect it is the drought that has attracted them to suburbia on a more regular basis.

Even so, I hear their whistled ‘tsee-weet’ call more frequently than I actually see these birds.

They avoid the main feeding frenzy of the early morning, preferring not to compete with the weavers on the feeders or the doves on the ground. This makes them fairly difficult subjects to photograph, so I have left the best portrait for last.