Well, I had hoped to post during February after our move, but here we are half-way through March! All is well, and I am pleased to report we are settling in.

But just to add that unpacking and sorting is just as exhausting as packing. And the process of sorting seems endless.

Eventually our carefully wrapped books got not only unpacked but also unwrapped. I wrapped the older books to prevent abrasion during their long and jiggly road trip

Importantly, our cats and dogs coped amazingly well with the moving process and they are getting more settled. The dogs are enjoying the nearby walks by the river and in the village.

This photo was taken while walking at the nearby river with the dogs one evening – autumn is becoming more evident

The cats are exploring only indoors so far, but this week we made a start building them a small catio.

Nougat’s first exploration down the stairs

The garden birds are very tame and it would be unfair to let the cats loose on them, so a catio seems like a fair compromise.

Our companionable dogs are watching us build the catio. Amy (on the left) is a bit camera shy but Rory is not at all self-conscious

Our new garden is walled so in time and bird permitting the cats may well go on supervised excursions outside the catio.

A laughing dove twirling a twig, photographed through the partially opened shutters on our veranda. In between eating fallen seeds, for some reason, the dove would pick up a twig and twirl it around a bit before dropping it

Some of the species of birds that visit the garden here are familiar and were frequent visitors to our previous garden in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). I am pleased to say that both laughing doves (Spilopelia senegalensis) and red-eyed doves (Streptopelia semitorquata) are at home here too. Cape bulbuls (Pycnonotus capensis), instead of the familiar dark-capped bulbuls (Pycnonotus tricolor), occur here. Cape bulbuls are easily distinguished by the white eye ring that is absent in the dark-capped bulbul.

A pair of red-eyed doves bathing at the grind-stone that we brought with us. In the background are also assorted empty flower pots that we also brought with us

The dove on the right withdraws slightly in response to the vigorous bathing and splashing of its mate. A Cape bulbul awaiting its turn in the water watches while perched on a nearby flower pot.

A Cape bulbul on the lawn in our new garden. The distinguishing white eye ring can clearly be seen. Like the dark-capped bulbul it also has a yellow patch under the base of the tail

A Cape bulbul balancing on a shrub in our new garden. Cape bulbuls are endemic to the Western Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape only, whereas dark-capped bulbuls occur in the eastern regions of South Africa. Beyond our borders their range extends northwards as far as Guinea and Ghana on the western side of Africa, to southern Chad in the central regions and further west northwards to southern Sudan and western Ethiopia

In addition to the Cape bulbul, I have seen one other species of bird that does not occur in KZN visiting our new garden – and that is the Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer). Their long tail feathers enhance their striking looks. They are endemic to the fynbos regions of the south western and southern Cape and the southern regions of the Eastern Cape. They rely largely on protea flowers for nectar, although they do feed from flowers of other indigenous and exotic (alien) plants. They also feed on insects such as beetles and bees and occasionally also on spiders.

A Cape sugarbird seeking nectar from flowers on an exotic Syzygium tree (probably Syzygium paniculatum native to Australia). In our previous garden we had the indigenous Syzygium cordatum, known as umDoni or water berry, which occurs naturally in KZN, the Eastern Cape and Mozambique, but not in the Western Cape.

One afternoon an African hoopoe (Upupa africana) spent a long time foraging on our lawn and I was able to take photos through the shutters on our veranda. African hoopoes occur across most of southern Africa. When I have seen them before they have been shy and/or flighty so it was a real treat to able to watch this beautiful bird at close quarters, so I share several of the photos.

The long bill of the African hoopoe makes an excellent probe when looking for insects in soft ground. They also flick over leaves and animal dung in pursuit of mostly insect prey

The hoopoe partially raised its crest while foraging

The bird exhibited great concentration while wielding its long beak to probe for insects

Having a quick scratch in a patch of sunlight

Of course, being new here to the village of Stanford, I am constantly making comparisons between here and our previous home. Here Cape sparrows (Passer melanurus) our common although I have not seen any in our new garden yet, but I was very happy to see southern grey-headed sparrows (Passer diffusus) in our new garden. Apparently, they are expanding their range in the Western Cape. I have written about the breeding pair we had in our previous garden.

A southern grey-headed sparrow, perching on the washing line, appears to have noticed me peeking through the window

Another familiar bird that is present in our new garden is the fork-tailed drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). Several have been visiting and spending time perched in a large tree preening, and one perched on a plant pot where it took a break from preening to dash off and successfully catch a long-legged insect on the wing.

The fork-tailed drongo returned to its perch, with its captured long-legged insect shortly before swallowing it

The handsome fork-tailed drongo perched on the head of duck (sculptured from scrap metal) that we brought with us from our previous home

We have an olive tree in our new garden. It is not an indigenous wild olive but a domestic olive tree – possibly a mission olive – and it is currently fruiting. I looked up the process of curing olives and unfortunately it looks like too onerous a project to take on while we are still so busy settling in. Anyway, at dusk the other day I was chuffed to see an olive thrush (also familiar from our former garden) picking up and pecking at an olive! The olive thrush (Turdus olivaceus) is named for its olive-grey back colouration and not for its occasional interest in olives. They do eat small fruits, but more commonly eat earthworms and many invertebrates, including snails, slugs, spiders, caterpillars and a variety of insects.

Photographed in the dim light at dusk, an olive thrush tackling a ripe fallen olive

In brighter light on an overcast day while I was watching through a window, I photographed this Cape wagtail (Motacilla capensis) perched in the olive tree. Cape wagtails occur over most of southern Africa

My attention was drawn to a pair of juvenile African harrier-hawks (Polyboroides typus) by their insistent whistling calling and I went outside with my camera to watch them. The one in the top photo, perched on a roof in the neighbourhood, has its bill open as it calls.

I read on a local chat group that the parents build their nest in mature eucalyptus trees on the edge of the village each year. These two juveniles are from the same nest. It has been recorded that in two-chick broods the older chick may kill the other chick, but evidently this did not happen in this case.

In the second photo the two juveniles are perched together but then flew off when an adult, probably a parent, flew by. The adults are predominantly grey in colour.

We often saw adults in the neighbourhood of our previous home, but we did not see any juveniles. The juveniles are variably brown in colour.

This sweet-looking bird is a fiscal flycatcher and not a southern fiscal (fiscal shrike) as I previously and incorrectly thought. Thanks very much to Lesley for pointing out my mistake in her comment. I should have realised that the lack of a heavy and hooked bill indicated that the bird is a flycatcher rather than a shrike.

Southern fiscals (Lanius collaris), are known to be aggressive towards other birds and they are formidable predators. Although southern fiscals (also known as common fiscals and formerly as fiscal shrikes) mostly eat insects they also kill and eat small birds, reptiles, frogs, rodents and even bats, occasionally eating also small fruits, seeds and scraps. Fiscal flycatchers (Sigelus silens) also mostly eat insects but they do not usually hunt the vertebrates that southern fiscals do. Fiscal flycatchers also eat pollen from some aloe species and various small fruits.

I add that I am not alone in confusing fiscal flycatchers and southern fiscals – Roberts (multimedia edition) reports that the anti-predator response of small birds, such as sunbirds, to southern fiscals is also provoked by fiscal flycatchers, suggesting that the small birds are unable to differentiate between the two species!

Although both fiscal flycatchers and fiscal shrikes occur in KZN, neither put in an appearance in our former garden.

A Cape weaver drinking rainwater from our grindstone

Cape weavers have been very vocal calling from trees around our new garden and coming down to ground level to drink. Cape weavers were occasional visitors at our KZN home but were outnumbered by village weavers that don’t occur in the Western Cape at all.

A whole lot of splashing going on

These bird sightings in the garden were kind of incidental to the ongoing process of unpacking, sorting and various maintenance-type tasks. However, we have managed one visit to the beach, twenty-minutes’ drive away. I hope to be posting more about that as time goes on.


Chittenden, Hugh, Davies, Greg & Weiersbye, Ingrid. 2016. Roberts Bird Guide: Illustrating nearly 1,000 Species in Southern Africa (2nd edition). Cape Town: Jacana.

Roberts VII Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa: PC Edition.  1997-2016 Southern African Birding. For details go to http://www.sabirding.co.za/roberts7/portal.html

Posted by Carol