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Birding from your armchair

Updated on May 12, 2015
Yellow Weaver taking daily bath
Yellow Weaver taking daily bath | Source
Spotted Mouse-bird looking for food in garden
Spotted Mouse-bird looking for food in garden | Source
Southern Bou-bou is reputed to have 18 different calls
Southern Bou-bou is reputed to have 18 different calls | Source
Olive Thrush - a frequent visitor
Olive Thrush - a frequent visitor | Source
Brown-hooded Kingfisher using telephone line to look for prey
Brown-hooded Kingfisher using telephone line to look for prey | Source
Cape White-eye taking a turn in the bird bath
Cape White-eye taking a turn in the bird bath | Source

Bird watching from your armchair.

One of the best places to watch birds is in your own garden. Hopefully you have a sitting room that looks out into your garden. Secondly to add to your pleasure you need to have what is known a “bird friendly” garden. Obviously making your garden bird friendly may take some effort and time, sitting in your armchair takes less. Making your garden “bird friendly takes time and effort but it is however well worth it as the results can be a source of ongoing delight. The books on the subject suggest that you plant as many indigenous trees as possible, let the grass grow longer (easy if you spend more time in your armchair).

Our garden is not much to talk about and will not make it into the pages of any of the local magazines that often feature the best gardens in South Africa. In fact some would say it is pretty ordinary. A small lawns with a couple of trees and a vegetable and herb patch. What we have added is a bird feeder and a bird bath and both are well supported by the local bird population. The feeder has two sections, one for seed and one for fruit and so when we remember we dutifully service them.

In one of the beds is a coffee tree that is doing well and overhanging our fence from our neighbors yard is a tropical tree that produces an abundance of yellow berries. A couple of Mandela Gold Strelitzias and an aloes of unknown (to me) species grow in my rather sad rock garden next to the bird bath and I am afraid that is all. Not much to write home about but then I am already at home.

On the positive side on any morning/afternoon we can see over ten species visiting our garden and our garden list stands at over 35. Sometimes we see quite a large number of the same species and this can sometimes lead to fierce competition for food among the flock. Yesterday as we watched a group of Speckled Mouse birds devouring a half apple that Audrey had generously donated to our feathered friends one cheeky bird attacked another. The two tumbled down onto the ground, out of contention like a couple of wrestlers chucked out of the ring. Whether they made it back to the feeder is open to debate as one Mouse bird looks much like another, even with its feathers ruffled.

Every now and then we have a surprising visitor that sends us grabbing for our bird books. Sometimes it is a call that we have not heard before and do not recognize, so we look for our field glasses and peer out of the window to see what it is. Some time ago we were alerted to a visitor by our cat and found a Rock Kestrel perched on our roof. We no longer have cats or dogs-they ended when the kids left home. Having such animals roaming around tends to be a real deterrent to birds.

One advantage of birding in your own garden is that you do not need to travel to a venue to do so. While the chance of finding a “lifer” (a bird we have not seen before) in your garden is rather remote, you just never know.

One of the disadvantages of attracting birds to the garden is that your fruit and vegetables are endangered. So Audrey climbs up a ladder next to her Paw-paw trees to put up shade cloth to protect the lovely succulent fruit. Something the birds cannot really understand as they battle to get their share. The coffee tree faces the same danger and needs the same protection when it is fruiting.

The joy of seeing the Red-eyed Doves, Yellow-fronted Canaries and Red-winged Starlings taking a bath as they splash in the bird bath or watching the Cape White-eyes devouring an apple until they get chased away by the much larger Speckled Mouse Birds makes it all worthwhile. At the same time we are occasionally surprised when a pair of Knysna Woodpeckers arrive to explore our patch, as they did last week, and so we add them to our growing garden list. Soon we may reach the 40 mark. We often hear the Crowned Eagle and Fish Eagle calling as they fly over but have decided that they are not really in the garden and so we have left them off. Perhaps one day these urban hunters will swoop down to catch the neighbors cat as he slinks across the lawn in search of one of our birds.Then we will be able to add it to our list

At times I still need to get out and travel to the nearby nature reserve to avoid becoming a real couch potato. With the advent of DS TV explorer I can even take my sport viewing with me if I so choose and decide to invest in the technology. However the reality show through our sitting room window is hard to beat. So perhaps I will just stay here and enjoy the best of two worlds, right at home from the comfort of my armchair.


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    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      3 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Not familiar with e-Bird - will look into it. Thanks for your comment.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Johan, it is always good to see you and your beautiful birds. Do you use e-Bird for your excursions and for your neighborhood?

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      3 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks Will -you were lucky to grow up in such a great place! Appreciate your kind comment.

    • WillStarr profile image


      3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      One of my fondest memories was the songs of the various birds wafting across the vast farm fields of my home state of Iowa. My personal favorite was that of the red winged blackbird, perched on the top fence wire and serenading the world.

      Very well written Hub, as always Johan!


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