Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Eye on Life

Broad interest online magazine


Feathers flying

Over the last week there has been plenty of opportunity to sit on the deck and watch the avian antics at the feeder. Covid has kept us at home with no visitors or inclination to do anything, and a forced rest has many benefits, not least of which is simply just being present in the moment and letting the world outside carry on with its business. A pair of Cape Sugarbirds has moved into the area, the male having the most magnificent tail feathers I have seen on this species, and the female suitably enamoured. It would be wonderful to see a youngster one of these days, but for now we are enjoying having them arrive before sunrise and sit petulantly in the treetop at the deck, waiting for me to fill the feeder and giving me the beady eye if I’m not fast enough. The garden has aloes in full bloom (I thought they were winter flowerers) and the sugarbirds are not averse to natural nectar, but I feel sure that the male can sense he is superior to all the other birds when he perches at the feeder, where the breeze catches and splays his breeding plumage.

Looking down his scimitar-like bill, he displays an air of king of the castle, and even the bossy weavers bow down before him, waiting impatiently for their turn the instant he flies off the perch. Sometimes the female feeds while he keeps watch for interference, The tiny Southern Double-collared Sunbirds keep their distance, being only a fraction of the size of the sugarbirds, while the hyperactive malachites fret in the background as they see their easy snack diminished by the thirsty sugarbird. The malachites are a wonder themselves. Flying at supersonic speed as they chase each other in play or competition (who knows which?) is a marvel of nature. Never hitting a leaf as they dart in tandem through branches and eaves, sometimes leaving a breeze on the cheek after a narrow miss, one can see where the inspiration came from for fighter planes. At times there can be eight or ten malachites together, constantly on the go and rivalling the Cape White-eyes’ inability to sit still for a moment.

We have been privileged to be visited by a Karoo Prinia, not your average garden bird, pecking for insects in the planter on the deck and not at all nervous of our approach. Our little fountain is working again and has proved to be a great drawcard for birds bathing in the shade of the buddleia. At times, up to 6 birds can be splashing in the upper tier, flying up into the sheltering branches for a lengthy preen. In one afternoon we have counted a Fiscal Flycatcher with juvenile, a Southern Boubou, Karoo Prinia, Cape Weavers, Malachite Sunbirds, Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Fork-tailed Drongo, Cape Sugarbirds (a third male has now joined the other two), Common Fiscal, Cape White-eyes, Cape Sparrows, Grey-headed Sparrows and the dratted Red-winged Starlings who can demolish a suet ball in half an hour. Never a dull moment, but a lot of time spent preparing water bottles!

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