Spring brings new guests to the garden

2018-09-12 06:00
Village Weavers.

Village Weavers.

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“GARDEN birds” is the title of quite a number of books, referring to the birds in your garden and in mine.

Different books cover different areas, and different climates, and gardens might be in completely unrelated parts of South Africa. So, the term “garden bird” is a very loose one, as I found out on a recent visit to my daughter who lives on a private game reserve in the Waterberg area of Limpopo.

Yes, there were some species in their garden that I have in my KZN garden, such as the Dark-Capped Bulbul and the Village Weaver, but note that some here have completely black heads.

However, more often than not it was a species new for my year list.

A Yellow-Bellied Bulbul sipping nectar at the sugar-water feeder, and a White-Throated Robin bobbing around on the lawn, taking the place of my “bobbsies”, the Cape Robins.

Expensive bird seed scattered on the lawn did not attract the carpet of queleas and bishops that I’m accustomed to, but it was francolins making sure the Village Weavers were only allowed the leftovers.

A pair of Crested Francolins ruled the roost and were insistent that the family of Natal Francolins waited their turn. Mom and Dad and three youngsters had to skulk in the bushes until the cresties had eaten their fill.

A sturdy wooden electricity pylon on the edge of the garden was the perfect calling spot for a Bearded Woodpecker.

His resonant rat-ta-tat-tat message soon had a lady answering from nearby (a great sighting and a great tick for my year list).

So very different from my garden, created from a grassland area and only five years old, this garden has mature trees and bushy thickets. Just the spot for a Bleating Warbler, or as it is now called, a Camarop- tera.

In my early birding days there was only one Bleating Warbler, but then it was decided that in the eastern part of the country lived the Green-Backed and in the north and western parts of the country it was the Grey-Backed Camaroptera.

In the Waterberg, it is the Grey-Backed that flits from bush to bush — a delightful and tiny 10 grams.

A pair of Black-Collared Barbets made me feel at home as they worked hard at excavating a nest hole in a crumbling Erythrina tree.

This tree is right outside the window of my daughter’s office, so she will be able to enjoy all the action in the coming weeks.

The Cape White-Eyes splashing happily in one of the many bird baths were also well-known friends. But on closer examination, they were definitely a brighter yellowish-green than ours here in KZN.

One morning a cacophony of warning calls coming from the top of an Acacia tree alerted me to the presence of something other than a feathered friend. I grabbed my binoculars and alerted the rest of the family.

It took us simply ages to find the cause as the dense foliage made it difficult, but eventually a smooth, greyish-brown “branch” turned out to be a boomslang, not in the slightest bit concerned about the multitude of birds shouting abuse at it.

We reckoned she was about 1,5 metres long, so beautifully camouflaged and a definite “she” as “he” would be green.

The birds soon gave up shouting and went back to the more important matter of feeding.

As the fiery circle of the sun sank slowly below the horizon, the call of the Fiery-Necked Nightjar filled the gathering dusk — for me the absolute top-of-the-pops as far as bird-calls go.

The call of the African Fish Eagle comes a close second, but the gentle throb of “Good-lord-deliver-us” wins every time.

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