Return of the migrants (September to April) - Birding in the South African Spring (and Summer) Season.


Welcome to another entry of Where the birds at.

As it may have been noticed by South Africans, the cold days of winter has faded (as had the rainfalls  in the Western Cape in particular) transforming into warm and sunny days characteristic of that of the spring and summer months (with rain showers now expected in the western parts of SA).

As the temperatures rise and the days are becoming brighter and longer - what is immediately noticeable is the sound of birdsong filling in the air and the flashes of color from flying avians and also from among the green vegetation.

It is well known that spring and summer is the best time of year for partaking in the activity of bird watching as birds are more active due to the fact that most species' breeding season are in the summer months (September-February). This means that for most of the breeding season the males will be donning their brightest colors and singing their songs in an attempt to impress a potential mate.

But the most significant part of this time of year is the arrival of the migrants (both breeding and non-breeding) - these birds that are encountered include the migrating Barn and Greater Striped Swallows and of course the colorful breeding waders (encountered particularly along the coastal areas.

Of course with the blooming of flowers beginning in Spring - the sunbirds must also not be forgotten as the males appear clothed in their most vivid and brightest colored plumages that allows the watcher to easily identify them with their unique features : the bright green and narrow red collar of the male Southern Double-Collared Sunbird ; the wide and bright orange chest band of the male Orange-breasted Sunbird ; and the emerald-plumage and long tail of the Malachite Sunbird (which is absolutely a gorgeous sight in direct sunlight.)

Other active birds including the Cape White-Eye and the Cape Canary are encountered in Western Cape garden during this season.

It should also be noted that Summer is the peak season for garden birding (as I can vouch for that - I was very surprised on a very sunny Christmas Morning to see the high level of bird activity that was happening in my garden).

I will also have a post up on my garden birding experiences and how one can enhance your garden birding too.

What is also the best thing about the breeding is that you can get a chance to hone your bird identification skills through bird calls, especially among the LBJs most especially the cisticolas and warblers and other songbirds in the LBJ category.

I have included an excerpt from a SA tourism site about birding in South Africa - illustrating the birdwatching opportunities that birders and birdwatchers will have in the spring and summer season.

The spring season brings the first of the breeding migrants from further north in Africa, and also heralds the start of the breeding season for the resident species. As the weavers and bishops emerge from their winter browns, so the cuckoos arrive from warmer parts and the breeding season bursts into action.

"With the progression of spring into summer, the non-breeding migrants start to arrive from distant climes, mainly from Europe. Are these South African birds that have gone overseas to breed, or overseas birds that come to South Africa for the northern winter?
Well, arguably the former, for two reasons: firstly, they spend more time in South Africa than on the breeding grounds, and secondly, the breeding grounds only became available fairly recently in evolutionary terms, following the last ice age.At this time of the year birding reaches its peak, with widespread breeding activity and most of the migrant species around. It is no co-incidence that BirdLife South Africa organises its Birding Big Day, when teams around the country compete to see the most birds in a day, during November.
The summer highs continue into the New Year, until migrants start to leave during April and winter is not far away.

Additionally - South Africa hosts a number of African migrants such as cuckoos and kingfishers, as well as birds from the Arctic, Europe, Central Asia, China and Antarctica during the year."


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