One of the great delights in life is observing the interaction between the birds that come to the feeders in my garden. They don’t come exclusively for the feeders, but also enjoy a variety of aloes and other indigenous delicacies that I have tried to provide through my gardening efforts over the years. So far the feeders have been the most successful attractors, and bees have also latched on, although I am trying to discourage them. I don’t think much tasty honey will be produced from sugar water, but that is something an apiarist could enlighten us on.
The Cape White-eyes are the most comical, chattering and changing positions on the branch in a constant flow of excess energy. Perhaps a little too much sugar in the diet? Their quizzical looks from tilted heads make you want to enter into a conversation with them. This would be easy, as they are happy for you to stand close to the feeder as long as you don’t move.
The iridescent flashes of colour from the tiny Southern Double-collared sunbirds make it hard to miss them, and when gathered en masse they make a wonderful display, trilling in the happiest bird call I’ve ever heard. But even they are eclipsed by the arrival of the magnificent Malachite sunbirds – two and sometimes three adult males in full plumage. We have watched them mature from a blotchy grey and green to the very eligible suitors they have become, and now they are vying for the favours of the females. Intricate hovering displays and fluttering of tails, and supersonic high-speed chases that leave a parting through your hair would be the envy of any fighter pilot. The females must be impressed, because there are always young Malachites appearing in the garden! Long may it continue.
A new visitor to the garden is always an exciting moment, and the rarest among the sunbirds are the Amethyst and Orange-breasted. Both graced us with their presence many times during the winter and I am hoping they enjoyed the hospitality and will be back soon.
The bulbuls and weavers tend to take over in the middle of the day, when the smaller birds rest in the trees, and the squabbling is reminiscent of toddlers in a pile of toys. Occasionally the Fork-tailed Drongos pitch up, but are still rare visitors, as are the Sombre Greenbuls. If you are not out there looking, you won’t see anything. Perhaps they are always around and we aren’t looking often enough.