Spring has wafted in bringing some relief from the drought as swathes of wild flowers stretch across the veld. There’s an air of triumph about – a flap of wings and the squawking of little hatchlings. A welcome sight in our backyard is a newly fledged Cape wagtail chick. It plopped out of the nest like a little plum pudding and landed with a bump. The parents continue to fuss around encouraging it to fly, following with encouraging tweets.
Initially there was a setback with the first nest when it was abandoned after the local baboon troop came for a visit through the neighbourhood. They’d spent a week constructing a perfect little structure and had just lined it with soft feathers when the furry visitors rudely clambered right up the very jasmine creeper where it was sited and partially dislodged it in their rush to jump over the wall. The birds were so spooked that they took off and disappeared for a while before returning to choose a new site to rebuild. Happily there was a successful outcome and if the pattern of past years is repeated the adult pair may well produce two more batches of chicks this season.
The aloes, this year are putting on a fine show and the sunbirds visit as if these nectaries are the best five star offerings. The male Malachite sunbird (Nectarinia famosa) sports bright breeding plumage: he dazzles in bright iridescent green-blue feathers and the bright yellow pectoral tufts make a bold statement. Nest building and egg incubation are undertaken entirely by the female so the male bird has ample time to show off. It takes about seven days to build the nest and another fortnight to incubate the eggs.
Malachite sunbird in breeding plumage
Posing to show off the pectoral tufts.
Malachite sunbirds are useful pollinators for the aloe species.
Winter flowering aloe species.
The Malachite’s curved bill is covered with pollen from the aloe blooms.
The message here is if we paid a little more attention to disposing rubbish responsibly, stopped littering in conservation areas and secured refuse bins carefully wildlife such as the Cape’s Chacma baboons would be less inclined to raid bins for leftover food. Foraging in the wilds for roots and shoots is far healthier and natural food choice rather than the detritus left by humans.
The welcome rain continues to bring relief to the parched veld and urban gardens. Within days new shoots are greening up and animals appear to be coping, if not revelling in the fresh rainwater. Though we have a long way to go before the strict water restrictions can be eased.
Interesting to note the animals’ fur ‘fluffled up’ to create thermoregulation which helps to insulate and retain body heat.
We’ve been putting out nectar feeders for the sunbirds and Cape sugarbirds while the fynbos vegetation recovers from the mountain fires in November. This mob of chattering sugarbirds rushes in as the sun dips in the late afternoon just in time for a dinnertime feed. We expect to see less of them as their nesting season approaches and other duties call. Soon the females will be building nests while the males protect their respective territories.