Here is a closer look at some of the regular visitors to our garden:
I have posted about them before, yet I think these lovely birds need another airing as it were. Their name, Streaky-headed Seed-eater (Crithagra gularis) is is very apt for they have a streaky head and eat seeds. That said, the subtle beauty of this otherwise fairly nondescript little bird grows on one and closer observation reveals a number of interesting traits. The streaky head is easy to identify for it has a long white eyebrow and pale streaks on top of head.
I have come to enjoy their presence enormously. Their natural habitat is open woodland and scrub as well as gardens and my rather unkempt garden happily falls into this description. For many years they mainly occupied the back garden, where they visited the patches of grass I leave to go to seed. Once they discovered the fine seed in the bird feeders in the front garden, there is a pair that has become regular visitors. This one is inspecting Morrigan’s ‘bench’ feeder.
They often eat the seeds that fall to the ground too, although at this level they have to compete with a flock of Laughing Doves and a variety of weavers.
I enjoy their sweet whistling sound. The soft ‘trreet, trreet’ seems as if they are saying ‘miss you, miss you’. This one is looking a little quizzical.
While it soon becomes coy and seems a little shy of all the attention from my camera.
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
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
The Cape Honeysuckle is a plant that keeps on giving. We look forward to its bright orange blooms every season, usually appearing at a time when the garden is looking rather drab. This blaze of colour is in our back garden, which tends to be neglected during winter.
Seen close-up, you can appreciate why the blossoms would be popular with pollinators such as ants, bees and butterflies.
There is plenty for everyone.
The tubular flowers are a favourite among the sunbirds. Here a Greater Double-collared Sunbird slips his perfectly formed bill in to reach the nectar.
Weavers generally peck holes in the base of the tube, or snip the flower off its base to get the sweetness they desire. This explains why so many flowers end up on the ground even on the finest of days. Once the flowers are over, one might be forgiven for thinking there would be nothing more to offer. This plant keeps on giving though: its seeds are sought after by, amongst others, Streakyheaded Seedeaters.
Recently I have spotted several bees on the leaves. I cannot be sure what sustenance they are finding there, but I see a few of them out almost daily.
I move my bird feeders around from time to time, mainly to protect whatever is trying to grow underneath them. This Cape Weaver is eating seeds on the bench-like feeder my granddaughter made for me. You will notice that he is losing his bright breeding plumage in readiness for the winter months.
This rather surprised looking Streaky-headed Seed-eater is sharing the ‘house’ feeder with a Village Weaver.
I used to place this fruit feeder in the fork of a tree, where this Common Fiscal is feasting on cut apples. I have since moved it to a rock elsewhere in the garden.
A Cape Robin-chat is doing the same.
Apart from providing the bird visitors to my garden with seeds and fruit, I also have a nectar feeder. Here a Spectacled Weaver is paying it a visit.