Most of us battle to identify the "Little brown jobs" (lbj's) in our gardens
Thanks to Jeremy and Maybeth for sending in these pictures when they spotted what they thought could be an "albino weaver" of a "wild canary". The reply from John Heywood of the SA Bird Atlas Project identified several lbj's
Please send this email to the bird fundi if possible. This bird has us stumped. It is a blondish bird that stands out as different to all other Little Brown Jobs in the garden. It is a regular at a plot over the road from the Walkerville Showgrounds. The plumage has not changed over 3 weeks as a juvenile or adult male might change. My personal (novice) guess is that it is a feral domestic canary? Maybeth has gone through her bird books and is as confounded as me. She needs our help...Or is it a freak colouring and / or albino? Kind regards, Jeremy
Interesting Photo's, I think the "Blondie" is one of the Bishops, probably Southern Red Bishop, showing a fair degree of albinism, or lack of the pigment melanin. Looking at the pictures, the first one shows the bishops or widowbirds in their winter dress on the left, and on the right, two Southern Grey Headed sparrows. The third picture, shows a weaver bird, probably Southern Masked Weaver on the left and Red Billed Quelea on the right. The last picture clearly shows the Quelea on the left and the Sparrow on the right. (John Heywood - Bird Atlas Project)
Birds of the Area
Aren't we just the most gorgeous, garrulous, chirpy chicks you've ever seen? And don't we just brighten up all your gardens with our presence – and see how we're calling our feathered friends to come to Walkerville too. Many years ago a friend claimed to have seen a Grey Lourie in his garden – we all said "Ja, Koos, next time a little less Klippies in your coke...." But shortly afterwards someone else made the same claim, and then someone else - and they actually heard the distinctive call. Now they are so common that we use their new name saying "Go away, yourself, you great, grey noisy bird."
Of course, we had to go, hat in hand, and apologise to Kosie for doubting him…..!
There has been a marked increase in the number of bird species in the area over the past few years. This is probably largely due to more people planting indigenous trees and shrubs and the ready availability of water in most gardens, and putting out food. Many gardeners have a bird table for seed or fruit and the birds also love stale bread that has been soaked. Then there are those daft 'twitchers' who go to great lengths to attract birds into their particular garden: suet and bone meal are much sought after by the insect eaters, particularly in winter when there is a shortage of "goggas." We have also found that nearly all birds love a bit of Pronutro.
So who comes to dinner? Usually the first to arrive at the seed table in the morning are the little red headed finches and the weavers – the males now quite resplendent in their yellow plumage. The bright blue Glossy Starlings get their fare on the upper tier of the feeding table and so do the barbets before going off to find their fruit. The finches wait patiently in the tree whenever the Fiscal Shrike eats – they must be aware of his common name of "Jackie hanger!" One bird that all the others give way to on any feeding table is the Burchell's Coucal – no wonder, this large ungainly fellow eats fledglings. Their soft, melodious call is said to herald the rain – keep calling coucals!!!
Ground feeders hop along scratching for insects and the lively Olive Thrushes will also eat dog food. The Cape Robins are most active in the early morning and late evening when their beautiful singing can be heard. (A pair of robins has trained me so well that they get fed outside the study window on demand.) The African Hoopoe, with it's easily recognisable "hoop-hoop" call, usually feeds alone. It's said to give off a foul smell when harassed by predators so is left to probe the ground in peace. Their noisier cousins, the Green Wood-Hoopoes, go about in small flocks, cackling like witches as they fly from tree to tree. Probably the most unwelcome birds are the ubiquitous Indian Mynahs – unwelcome because they chase other birds away. Some folk go to great lengths to discourage them from their gardens but they are extremely intelligent and fly off at the first sight of a catapult. Serious fruit growers don't like the attentions of the Mousebirds and Bulbuls that nibble everything just as it ripens.
5. Spotted Thick Knee 6. Spotted Eagle Owl 7. African Hoopoe
8. African Oriole 9. Weaver 10. Glossy Starling
11. Grey Loerie 12. Black Shouldered Kite
The more open places in the garden are the preferred habitat of the Lapwings – those "kiewietjies" who are so vociferous when anyone approaches their patch. We have two types in Walkerville – the common Crowned Lapwing and the more attractive black and grey Blacksmith Lapwing - but most of us still refer to them as plovers! (All these name changes were made for scientific reasons - not political….) fairly new visitors are the Black-headed Herons – at about a meter tall they are often mistakenly identified as Blue Cranes. These herons roost in trees over water but seldom feed in water and can often be seen picking off dead insects and rodents after a veld fire. There are still fairly large flocks of Guineafowl about and their raucous calls are heard at dusk and dawn. Another sound that startles many from their sleep is the strident call of the Hadeda Ibis. The 'Piet-my-vrou' is a noisy summer visitor that can even call all night when looking for a mate but, despite all the noise it makes, the Red-chested Cuckoo is often hard to spot. The pleasant late afternoon duet of the colourful Bokmakieries is another familiar sound.
Our most common raptors are the Black shouldered Kites, one can see them on the roadsides hawking from the telephone lines. They're one of a few species that have the ability to hover motionless before swooping down to pick up prey. And then there are owls, the yellow-eyed Spotted Eagle Owl's "hu-hooo" is a contrast to the eerie screech emitted by the Barn Owl. Sadly, many owls are killed on the roads at night and the superstitious still attribute bad luck to them! Another other nocturnal caller, often heard at full moon, is the Spotted Thick Knee. Yes, Dikkop was a better name …..….
Although the bird books list them as 'fairly common residents' some birds are relative newcomers to this area. Among them is the African Oriole, with it's bright yellow plumage and black head, it may be mistaken for a weaver at first but the liquid whistling call and bright red bill distinguish the two. The little Brubru Shrike has also been seen in some gardens and so too the Shikra, a small goshawk. Even the pigeon population has a new addition – the large Rameron which is unique in being the only dove or pigeon to have a yellow bill and legs. And if you see an ungainly bird with a large curved bill flapping about - you are not dreaming, there have been a few sightings of the Grey Hornbill recently!
Of course the birds can't read the books, but they can fly and are attracted to new habitats by the food and foliage available to them. Hopefully this means that we can look forward to seeing a greater variety of birds in our gardens soon, common or rare, the birds add something special to Walkerville. But there is one visitor that we have yet to confirm, the Pennant-winged Nightjar that "Oompie" Gert claims to have seen on his farm ……..
Residents in Drumblade have spotted the following birds between September 2008 and March 2009. The Greater Honeyguide (1) and Levaillant's Cuckoo (2) are resident on plot 133. The Long Crested Eagle (3) has been sighted on the dirt road between Walkerville and Kliprivier, and on the tar road from Kliprivier to the Randvaal Road. The Eastern Red Footed Kestrell (4) or Amurs Falcon have also been active in the Drumblade area. But the most exciting find is the Black Stork, an uncommon to rare resident!
(1) (2) (3) (4)
Black Stork (photo by Cheryl van Kerkhof - March 2009)
For more about the birds in Drumblade click on Drumblade Conservancy
The SA Bird Atlas Project is a project that any keen bird watcher can get involved in, its not difficult, and it can be done as a small project in the area where you live. The aim is to produce a document showing the distribution and abundance of all the birds in Southern Africa. The country has been divided into over 17,000 squares of approximately 8 x 7 kilometers in area and each one will hopefully be visited on at least one or more occasions to record all the bird species found in that square. As you can see its a big undertaking and the more people we can get involved in the project the better. If you would like to be involved, please visit the Bird Atlas Project’s website at www.sabap2.adu.org.za or e-mail Sapab2
Attract owls to your garden by building an owl nesting box. Don't place it too close to the house as they can be rather noisy and messy and they are inclined to be aggresive when it is their breeding season. Visit the EWT website for easy to follow plans and other useful information or contact Vic Wilcox 079 271 2260 who builds boxes for eagle owls, barn owls and also bat boxes ... you can always find him at the Walkerville Showgrounds on a Sunday morning.
Visit www.birdlife.org.za for more information on birds and birding