Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring has sprung - continued

Yesterday I meandered into the next door garden trying to photograph a little black-and-white bird which I'd seen flitting about in the wild fig tree. I managed to to take two photos when I heard a melodious call in the lane behind the house. For weeks, I've been trying to photograph the bird making this call so I crept down the lane, binoculars over my shoulder and camera ready.

Standing dead still and trying to focus on a [nother] bird in a tree high above me, I almost missed a smallish bird flying almost past my nose. I gently lowered the binoculars and waited. Sure enough the bird, a Robin-chat emerged from within a patch of scrub in the bank beside me and flew about 20 meters to a patch of Bromiliades in the same bank.

Only recently my sister-in-law, Shelley, reminded me to how to check whether birds are nesting in the garden and surrounds.

I quote: 

Keep your eyes open for any bird that you see carrying nesting material - remembering that often the material is so small that you can't see it, but you can normally tell by the awkward way that the bird flies -  or any bird consistently seen in the same area, or coming or going to the same place over and over again. That usually means that they are either gathering material or building in that area.  Usually if you sit still and don't walk around, the birds will resume their building.  If you are close to where they are building, they won't come and build, and will often drop the nesting material from their beak so that you don't see what they are doing!  They are very clever!  It would be good to find the nests and be able to photograph the bird on the nest or the eggs or chicks. 


And this is what I did. I sat down on a rock, adjusted my camera settings to photograph the bird in the shadows and I waited. It wasn't long and the bird returned with a wad of nesting material in its beak. I spent twenty minutes watching and snapping this bird at work.

It's a White-browed Robin-chat and very common in the area. However, it is a shy and skulking bird and not very easy to spot or capture on film. You hear its call early in the morning, a few times during the day, and again from sunset until dark. This particular Robin-chat has a call that sounds like: "figures-of-eight, figures-of-eight"

It loves to scrummage around in the leaf mould for food. Its diet includes insects, beetles and ants, caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers, and other small invertebrates. Fruits are also eaten.

These birds are  monogamous and territorial; they nest in a cavity in a tree or stump. Two to three eggs are laid and are incubated by the female for 12–17 days.

As suggested by my sister-in-law, I will carefully look if this nest is being used and try to get photos. (Watch this space!)

Take a look at a hard morning's work...

White-browed Robin-chat with nesting material in its beak

It flew back along the lane for about twenty meters, and over the bank into scrub where it collected nesting material
It landed on a different tree every time...

...looked around...
...before flying into its chosen nest area

White-browed Robin-chat, Chibutie, Kimwarer Kerio Valley, Kenya


  1. Wonderful advice that truly paid off. I can't believe how much this looks like The Great Kissadee I spotted yesterday. Hope we get to see more.

  2. Thank you for sharing your SIL's advice! And for this marvellous set of photographs, Jo!!! I'm looking forward to the next exciting installment :)

  3. Jo at last I can publish a comment on your blog! I follow it avidly!

  4. Hi Gaelyn, I've never heard of a Great Kissadee but must be like our Robins.

    Hi Desiree, thanks for always commenting! Will try and visit your blog shortly.

    Hi Rose! Welcome to the comments. I know you've been reading me since forever and not been able to comment. Now I have a sister in the UK (you), a brother in South Africa and a sister-in-law in Kwa-zulu Natal reading my blog. Love and blessings from your big sister, Jo xxx

  5. How neat, Jo. Glad you could see the Robin working on the nest... I love seeing birds this time of year especially. They are just so busy!!!!!!! I love their spring singing also.

    You captured some great pictures. What a gorgeous bird.

  6. You were very patient and so got some wonderful shots of this little White-browed Robin-chat in the act of collecting nest material! I love these words: "skulking" and "scrummage," and will now look for opportunities where I can use them. Also, I had to say "figures-of-eight" out loud several times to hear what that bird!

  7. I love these photos, Jo! Your patience has allowed us to share a lovely piece of your world...just delightful! I look forward to the next installment....:)

    Imagination lane

  8. Hi Jo-Anne,

    Beautiful photos. You are quite a bird fundi.

    My new data cable will arrive next week then I can place some of my photos.


  9. You are a bird paparazzi !


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo