Out of office

No this is not an Outlook email message. It is a post showing you some of  the bird life which we are fortunate enough to see in our garden. In between trips I practice by taking photographs of birds in our garden.  All the images were taken from my office which looks out onto our garden.  On the east side of the property is the Outspan Bird Sanctuary which has a stream flowing through it. A  number of bird species move down the stream during the morning only to return in the afternoon. The Outspan Bird Sanctuary has many knob thorn, poplar and willow trees growing along the stream which makes it a haven for wild bird life in the area. There is a resident flock of Helmeted Guineafowl which live in the Sanctuary and their calls in the early morning and evening give a sense of being out in the bush.

“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.”
 – William Blake

We have a family of Crested Barbets in the garden. They are near the top of the small bird food chain and don’t take any nonsense from the aggressive Indian Mynas. Their trilling call and vivid colouring are distinctive.

Load shedding opportunity

 The male and female are similarly coloured but the male is bigger than the female.

Weekend at Walkersons

We have a few Masked Weavers which work tirelessly weaving nests in the trees around our garden. The next image was taken before the breeding season where this male had still to grow the black feathers of his face mask.

Load shedding opportunity

As spring progresses so the males gain their full breeding colours. The Southern Masked Weaver has the yellow crown, black forehead and red-eye. The Village Weaver is very similar but its yellow crown extends down to its forehead.

Office AM 5-Oct-14 0027

This Southern masked Weaver’s crown and forehead are more distinct now that he has his full breeding colours.

Office PM 9-Oct-14 0341

Part of the brigade which troop up and down the stream daily are a family of Green Wood Hoopoes, or “cackling widows” as we like to call them. This family travels together and they can be easily heard by their cackling chorus, which at first take sound somewhat like Arrow-marked Babblers. They are very active digging under the bark of branches and tree trunks looking for insects and grubs.

Load shedding opportunity

Dead tree trunks with broken bark is ideal for these Green Wood-Hoopoes. Unfortunately they don’t often give you a chance to photograph them with a clean background.

Load shedding opportunity

The iridescent blues and greens together with their vivid red beak and feet make them very attractive birds.

Load shedding opportunity


“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird . . . So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”
 – Richard P. Feynman

Recently we have had a Brown-headed Kingfisher come into the garden. It seems to like the perch outside my office because it  provides a clear view  of the lawn and surrounds, which makes it easier to spot prey, mainly insects.

Office AM 16-Oct-14 0541

 The Brown-headed Kingfisher is an insect not a fish eater. It makes a distinctive trilling sound

Office AM 16-Oct-14 0558

 The Brown-headed Kingfisher normally comes and perches outside my office in the afternoons probably because it is hotter and the insects are more abundant.

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 The male Brown-headed Kingfisher has black not brown shoulders and is larger than its smaller Striped cousin which looks quite similar.

Office PM 23-Oct-14 0742

An irresistible Prunus it the dappled light.

Office AM 9-Oct-14 0320

Dark-capped Bulbuls are very talkative garden birds, quick to inform you there is a cat , Coucal or Sparrowhawk in the area.

 Office PM 3-Oct-14 0005

These Dark-capped Bulbuls or “toppies” as we used to call them love fruit but will also hunt insects and are partial to a little nectar when it is available.

Chobe river wildlife  photography

In recent years, we have been fortunate enough to have Glossy Starlings in the garden. The next image shows a Cape Glossy Starling with a little nesting material in its beak.

 Office PM 6-Oct-14 0032

The Cape Glossy Starlings also love fruit and will also feed on insects and nectar when available.

Sandton PM 2-Aug-14 0011

 The Cape Glossy Starling lacks the dark ear coverts and has a more blue-green sheen than its blue-eared cousin. These starlings are great company when working in the garden they will sit in the tree above you and chat away.

Office PM 7-Oct-14 0097

There are a number of Olive Thrushes in the garden. There is a distinct “pecking order”. The Thrushes chase most small birds away such as Sparrows and Robins but not the Barbets or Mynas. The next image is of a male in breeding display mode.

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 We don’t get Kurricane Thrushes in the garden.  At first glance they look similar to the Olive Thrush but the Kurricane has dark malar moustache-like stripes which are distinctive.

Office PM 6-Oct-14 0042

We have puzzle bushes in the garden which bear small red berries. The Mousebirds love these berries. The next image is of a Red-faced Mousebird manoeuvering its way through the puzzle to get to the next batch of berries.

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Mousebirds normally arrive in small flocks of six or seven to feed on the berries. They are very skittish and easily scared away.

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 The black face and black and white bill of the Speckled Mousebird distinguishes it from the White-backed Mousebird. These guys also love the red and orange berries on the puzzle bush.

Chobe river wildlife  photography

Surprisingly, Cape Sparrows have been new visitors to the garden. The next image is of a female Cape Sparrow.

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The male Cape House Sparrow has a distinctive black head and white “C” on its cheek, extending from its eye to its throat. This little chap was helping to provide nesting material.

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We get a number of different doves and pigeons in the garden. They range from Laughing, Red-eyed and Cape Turtle Doves to Feral and African Olive-Pigeons (previously called Rameron Pigeons).

Office PM 7-Oct-14 0245

The time of the day is important because the sun moves behind the office in the afternoon which pushes down shutter speeds.

 Office PM 21-Oct-14 0641

Playing with light on common garden plants. Cameras turn the world into an even more fascinating place.

Office AM 17-Oct-14 0615  

The Grey Lourie is common in Highveld gardens. It is also called the “Go away” bird which is an onomatopoeic name. These are nosy birds and not nearly as attractive as their Purple Crested, Livingston and Knysna cousins.

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Grey Louries love fruit which is normally available later in the season but make do with Syringa berries in early spring.

Sandton PM 3-Aug-14 0117

The infamous Indian Myna, although strikingly coloured starling-like birds, are a pest. They breed fast and are aggressive chasing all the other birds away even when there is no food around. The next image of an Indian Myna with nestling material in its beak.

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 These birds have a most amazing speckled coloured iris. It looks to be speckled grey and black .

 Chobe river wildlife  photography

 We have a few Cape Robin-chats in the garden. They are beautiful little birds and wonderful songsters early in the morning and in the evenings.

Office PM 9-Oct-14 0357

“Use the talents you possess – for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best.”
 – Henry Van Dyke

 They are skittish little birds which aggressively protect their territory against other similar sized birds but have to give way to Mynas, Thrushes, Starlings and Barbets.

 Sandton PM 3-Aug-14 0125

The next image is of a Tawny-flanked Prinia. This little bird was industriously searching the lemon tree for insects.

Sandton AM 3-Aug-14 0033

It is that time of the year again when the thunder clouds build in the late afternoon, a time when the light gets really interesting.

Office PM 15-Oct-14 0516

This gorgeous Peach-faced Lovebird came for a short visit and I managed to get a few images before the Mynas chased it away. Obviously a pet or two escaped and they have now bred and there are quite a few lovebirds flying around our area as are the gorgeous Rose-ringed Parakeets. The Peach-faced Lovebird  alternatively called the Rosy-cheeked Lovebird is found in Namibia. I am not sure whether this is a juvenile as the adults usually have red foreheads but colouration is known to vary.

Office AM 1-Nov-14 0950

These Lovebirds seem to really like the new buds on trees such as the Oak tree in the garden. It is too early for fruit so new tree buds seem to do just fine.

Office AM 1-Nov-14 0962

This Lovebird could hear the shutter of my camera and was intrigued at the sound of it.

Office AM 1-Nov-14 0975

Johannesburg, despite being located in the dry Highveld region in South Africa, has created its own micro-climate and become one of the most forested cities in the world. I have also seen Black Sparrowhawks, Little Sparrowhawks, African Harrier Hawks in the garden. The inevitable Hadeda ibises are around in profusion. At this time of the year we can hear the Diederik, Klaas and Red-chested Cuckoos calling. The European Bee-eaters are also back. They are difficult to photograph in the city because they don’t seem to roost around here but can be seen in the evenings about 30 metres up making their distinctive call while catching insects.

The wonderful bird life in the garden helps soothe the vexed soul after a day in the city.

“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.”
 – Henry David Thoreau

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.

Have fun,


2 thoughts on “Out of office

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