Birding Blog March 2019

The weather was not kind. A howling gale dominated the Saturday. Most birds don’t like wind. Heads down in the bushes. But luckily swifts and swallows have the opposite view. There’s probably more aerial plankton in windy conditions. Anything small and light gets swept up, and this is the best time for spiderlings to disperse naturally. They produce a single strand of silk that is so light that it acts as a reverse parachute, and away they go. It was encouraging to see so many White-rumped Swifts after the mortalities caused by the heavy rain in January.

Things perked up on the Sunday. Quite a few Cavern “specials” appeared. A Bush Blackcap visited the garden – not an unusual event here, but elsewhere it keeps to the edge of evergreen forest. Gurney’s Sugarbird is also, in summer, elusive as it searches for flowering proteas. So we were lucky to find one just outside the garden. Two Cape Vultures circled high. These would be part of the population that roosts nearby, and spreads out on sunny days. This way it needs only one vulture to find something edible to draw everybody to the feast by a dragnet system of communication.

The good rains in February have sparked a last-ditch breeding effort by several species, something noted on a very recent visit to the Kruger Park. Both there and here Southern Masked Weavers are building new nests, sometimes in isolation. There is just time to raise another brood.

Other animals did not disappoint. Five eland grazed the upper slopes above the Fern Forest. A Natal green snake has taken up residence in the dry stone wall beneath the lower front balcony. As the morning sun warms a small ledge it comes out to bask.

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