This time of year is pretty lean for the birds. While I don’t feed them much for the rest of the year, I always do in August and September. Right outside the window in front of my desk, I have two bird feeders hanging in the trees. One full of seed and the other with fruit and pieces of fat. They are busy most of the day and sometimes I get quite dizzy watching them twirl in a flurry of feathers. Southern Boubous, Chorister Robins, Cape Batis, White eyes, Mousebirds, grey headed Sparrows, Queleas, Bulbuls and Doves vist. The undergrowth is shady and damp and has a thick layer of leaf mulch, so there are always Robins and Thrushes scrabbling about too. Not a bad view for work.
The only flowers around at the moment are Halleria lucida, commonly called the Tree Fuschia. The Zulu name for Halleria, ubuTshwala-benyoni, which means ‘beer for the birds’, aptly illustrates the abundance of nectar produced by the red flowers. Birds flock to the trees to enjoy the feast – sunbirds, white eyes, thrushes, loeries and mousebirds. Often the tree is simply abuzz as a swarm of bees descend for a few days to enjoy the sweet flowers.
The bright orange flowers are guaranteed to bring cheer to even the smokiest of Winter days. The flowers are soon joined by fat, green fruits which eventually turn black. Naturally found in the wetter regions of South Africa, this tree survives fire and frost in rocky grassland (resulting in a stunted shrub), but is happiest in the mist belt forest where it can grow very tall. In the garden it grows quickly and is likely to reach about 4m, flowering profusely for much of the year. The perfect tree for a wildlife friendly garden. My garden birds just love it and I like looking at it through my window too. It’s springtime, so why not plant one of your own?