Saturday, October 10, 2009

Leaving the Nest

Cormorants "migrating"

My turn to "leave the nest" (= going on tour again as guide with German visitors) - I do have some photos left with regard to the weaver-"saga" but that will have to wait for another day (= didn't have the time to post them because I was busy with the last "corrections" for my photo-story, which should be published by my UK publisher - soon!) Interested to see what it entails? Then visit one of my other blogs to have a look at the "uncut" version of chapter 1:

"See" you again in November!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weaver Controversy

When I checked our little chap's nest 2 days ago [SEE: previous 5 blog-entries], I thought it was showing signs of "wear & tear" (= see bottom of nest); BUT it turned out to be an "optical illusion" because on closer inspection ...

... this is what I found: a nest well-constructed & "furbished" to welcome an "inmate".

In the mean time whilst doing some research (reading up in Robert's Birds of Southern Africa & on Google), I discovered: a Myth = an Urban Legend, which is generally told when the subject "Masked weavers" is under discussion.

It goes like this: if a female Masked weaver doesn't like the nest a male has built, SHE tears it down & he can start all over again. Fact is: if a female doesn't accept a nest, THE MALE (himself) tears it down (!!) & then starts the whole process over by constructing another nest - mostly for another (more appreciative, I guess) female.

Back to our little "hero" - that day NOT a busy little chap - where was he? What was he doing instead of trying to attract a mate hopefully interested in his nest?

I finally found him in another part of our garden. But what was he doing? What had caught his attention?

It was our sprinkler! And our little chap wanted to take a shower! After all, it was rather hot that day.

Whilst he was having fun, I went (on his behalf!!) to check out the "opposition" - & found not 1 but 3 nests in a tree on the other side of our house!

Like our little chap on the other side of the house had done before, a male Masked weaver was "seriously" busy "displaying".

When the male suddenly flew off, I thought he felt threatened by my presence. When the weavers (males & females) continued to chirp in a highly agitated way, I realised that I hadn't caused their "unhappiness" - but what did?

On looking up I discovered the real "enemy" - a Black-shouldered kite sitting on a pole just above the Masked weaver nests! Back in the house I read up on what "constitutes" this bird's food: apparently 98% of the kite's diet is rodents; other: shrews, reptiles, insects & ... small birds!! No wonder the weavers were so agitated because I had heard something, which had a rather sinister undertone:

... the drier, upper nest of the 3 weaver nests actually housed baby weavers. This was confirmed when I re-visited the nests & watched a female feeding her young, which were chirping unabatedly the moment she fluttered close.

The moral of this story: hopefully the chicks will be safe = the Black-shouldered kite won't return to catch them unawares!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weaver Profusion

Since there isn't much to report back with regard to our "little chap", the Masked weaver [SEE: previous 4 blog-entries], I'll concentrate today on more members of the weaver family.

Although this looks like another Masked weaver, it's actually a Lesser Masked weaver - the shape of the nest is also a "dead-give-away". These birds are more "concentrated" in the northern parts of our country.

Does the shape of this nest look "familiar" or is there a slight variation to the "entrance"? It's in fact the nest of a Spotted-backed weaver & to be more precise, belonging to the northern "race" with its entirely black head.

By way of a comparison: although this is an immature Spotted-backed weaver, it's clear that it's a member of the southern race mainly found along the eastern (more coastal) parts of our country.

Going even more "coastal", we find the Yellow weaver - distinguishable by its pale all-over-yellow colour BUT its nest is almost identical to that of a Masked weaver! So far I've only "met" this weaver along the St. Lucia estuary (in KwaZulu-Natal).

This is a "closer" look at what a male Yellow weaver looks like - notice the red eyes ...

... because in contrast a Golden weaver has pale eyes - otherwise there isn't much difference between this & the previous family member, except if one compares the shapes of their nests.

With regard to a Cape Weaver the shape of the nest is similar again to the one our "little chap", the Masked weaver, builds.

Now to a nest (& its weaver) that has a totally different shape & look - belonging to a Thick-billed weaver.

And this is what a Thick-billed weaver male looks like. These birds are found in the more eastern (also more coastal) regions of our country.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Birds & Bees

An updated view of the nest my latest "target" (= a Masked weaver) has built [SEE: previous 3 blog-entries] - it's almost a week "old" now & starts to look "dry", except for the inside of the nest ...

... which our little chap keeps "refurbishing". Since there aren't any new "developments" to report because no other "action" is taking place, I turned my camera-lens on other objects ...

... like this Speckled Mousebird

... or the Amaryllis growing profusely in our garden ...

... to a female sunbird fluttering ...

... and from the birds to the bees: found this honey-bee collecting nectar from a flower on our lemon tree.

Although the bees don't "sit still" for long to take "clear" photos, I did manage to "capture" another bee.

And from the bees back to the birds (= weavers). This is an impressive Sociable weaver nest. These nests (= birds) are only found in the western & drier parts of our country (= photographed at the Witsand Nature Reserve in the Kalahari).

And this is what a Sociable weaver looks like (sexes are alike) - not nearly as colourful as most of the other members of the weaver-family, yet I find this gregarious bird amazing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Weaver Morale

Because it rained the night before, Day 4 starts on a miserable note: the Masked weaver's nest is soaked & the weather stays overcast [SEE: previous 2 blog-entries].

Our little chap inspects his nest - any damage done? It doesn't appear to be the case - so far, so good. He's obviously done a good weaving-job - the nest still is firmly "tied" to a branch.

Since he's meticulous with regard to the overall effect, our little chap also checks the inside of his nest. Everything seems fine - no damage done here either. Now the nest only needs to get dry.

Checking-job done - now it's time for our little chap to also take care of his "ablution" - after all his feathers are also wet!

Ready for action - time to concentrate on attracting females to his nest again! His nest has withstood the test - not even heavy rain managed to destroy his work. His courtship-call echoes loud - does it now include a ring of desperation?

Finally - a visitor! But it's not an interested female weaver our little chap was hoping for! Instead it's a curious, juvenile Fiscal flycatcher.

When for a short while the sun does make an "appearance", a female weaver materialises, but: she reveals a dismissive attitude! At least she didn't try to destroy the nest as some female weavers do if they aren't satisfied with what a courting male represents as a supposedly safe nest to them.

The birds in general appear lethargic all day long & that's a similar case on Day 5. Our little hero even appears to have lost interest in trying to attract females to his nest & disappears for long periods of time - to feed.

Was our young chap perhaps too eager too early in the season?

In contrast, this Masked weaver male was "watched with interest" from the moment he started building his nest at the beginning of the year (= mid-summer in South Africa) = different circumstances to the rather lonely job our little chap is doing right now.