FEBRUARY 2018 GARDEN BIRDS

The delightful news was going to be that the long-suffering pair of Lesserstriped Swallows finally finished rebuilding their mud nest during the first week of February. A bit late in the season for breeding, I thought, however that instinct to procreate must be hard-wired into them. Sadly, the nest fell down only a week later. Such have been their ups and downs that I am unable to tell whether or not they have raised any chicks this summer.

Meanwhile, the Whiterumped Swifts that moved into the snug nest the swallows left intact last year have bred successfully. As they tend to flit into the nest after dark and leave before sunrise, it is only the lack of their mess under the nest that suggests they now have migration on their minds. This picture of a young Whiterumped Swift was taken near Brits last year.

I welcome the sound – and sight – of African Green Pigeons and Redwinged Starlings feasting on the first figs of the season. They are joined by Speckled Mousebirds, Cape White-eyes, Common Starlings and the Knysna Turaco amongst others. The Knysna Turaco regularly flits about the branches of the large Natal fig tree chasing one bird after another, as if to establish its right to be there.

The sound of Redfronted Tinkerbirds fill the air akin to a conference of tinkers beating their pots at different times – they are not at all easy to spot, especially since the trees have responded to the rain this month by ‘bushing out’ their foliage. A single Yellowfronted Canary made a brief appearance a few days ago.

We have also had exceptional views of the local Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk) flying very low over the garden for several days in a row. On one occasion a plucky pair of Forktailed Drongos mobbed it. I have already devoted a post to the Spotted Thickknee seen this month – a wonderful sighting that was!

My February bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)
Barthroated Apalis
Barn Swallow
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Oriole
Black Saw-wing
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin (Cape Robin-chat)
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Shrike (Fiscal)
Common Starling
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Pied Crow
Pintailed Whydah
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redeyed Dove
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sacred Ibis
Speckled Mousebird
Spotted Thickknee
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellowfronted Canary

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AND THE BATTLE WAS LOST

I mentioned in the October round-up of birds in my garden that the resident pair of Lesser-striped Swallows have had a torrid time, defending their nest against a bevy of White-rumped Swifts intent on usurping it to breed their own offspring. The aerial combat was so fast and furious and the acrobatics so remarkable that these birds easily put the Silver Falcons to shame.

The swallows had left their mud nest intact at the end of last summer and I had such high hopes for them that it was with a degree of triumph that I ended my October report with the words, so far the swallows are winning.

They haven’t.

To quote from the delightful nursery rhyme, Who killed cock robin?

All the birds of the air

Fell a-sighing and a-sobbing

Well, most wouldn’t care, would they, but I felt and heard the keening and sad chirruping as the swallows contemplated their future. They discussed their ‘home grab’ at length in the late afternoons while perched on the ledge of the bathroom window. They eyed different locations and met to discuss their building plans as they perched on the telephone wire.

They mourned the loss of their snug little home as they wheeled about the sky. You see, the swifts had taken over the home of Mr and Mrs Swallow. It is the swifts who have now lined the snug nest with feathers glued together with their saliva.

The ever-practical swallows have returned to the blueprint they attempted last summer – shortly before building their dream home – and have rebuilt a nest under the eaves outside the bathroom.

The tiny balls of mud on the right-hand side is a remnant from their nest that fell down last year.

DECEMBER 2015 GARDEN BIRDS

The tally of birds seen in our garden over the year stands at 72 different species – the same as last year. I have reported a few times on the ups and downs of the Lesser-striped Swallows, the first on my list this year. So far this summer they have not had good fortune as their newly completed mud nest broke soon after completion and they have not returned to repair it. Perhaps they have really given up this time and found a better place to build. There are plenty of them around though and they, along with the White-rumped Swifts, wheel and dart about the sky in the late afternoons hawking insects and twittering from afar.

A Jackal Buzzard is the last on my list. We have watched it on several occasions being mobbed by smaller birds as they valiantly try to chase it away. One has regularly been seen sitting on a pole on the narrow road that bypasses the town behind us. It is probably the same one.

For interest I compared this month’s list of birds with that of December last year. Five birds from then have not appeared, while there are eight ‘new’ ones. The most prominent of these is the Knysna Loerie. At least one pair of them seem to have adopted this area as their home territory for we hear and see them almost daily now. Streaky-headed Canaries are seen more often too, happily competing with weavers, doves and sparrows for seed. Feeding among the more common Village- and Cape Weavers this month have been Spectacled Weavers and Southern Masked Weavers.

southernmaskedweaver

My December list is:
African Green Pigeon
Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Cuckoo
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Blackcollared Barbet
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Heron
Blackheaded Oriole
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Common Starling
Diederik Cuckoo
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Greyheaded Sparrow
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Jackal Buzzard
Klaas’ Cuckoo
Knysna Loerie
Laughing Dove
Lesserstriped Swallow
Malachite Sunbird
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pintailed Whydah
Redeyed Dove
Redbilled Woodhoopoe
Redchested Cuckoo
Redfronted Tinkerbird
Redwinged Starling
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Sacred Ibis
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Masked Weaver
Speckled Mousebird
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Canary
Village Weaver
Whiterumped Swift
Yellowfronted Canary
Yellow Weaver