Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Now, where are all the ladies?

Sometimes you have to let life turn you upside down... so you can learn how to live, right side up.
(Anon) 

A male African masked-weaver (Ploceus velatus) looking around to see if there are any takers for a nest (one of many!) he’s just completed.

These lovely colourful little birds are so prolific in our gardens that we sometimes tend to over-look them. I’ve tried to count the Weavers nesting in my garden but, apart from counting the nests, of which there are sixteen, it’s impossible to keep track of these little busy-bodies! They provide me with hours of pleasure, watching them building their nests and their constant squabbling and other antics makes me feel like I'm in primary school with dozens of uncontrolled children!

They are prolific breeders, normally two babies to a nest, two or three times in a season, and with a dozen or more nests in my garden, it's inevitable that there is some tragedy. Last summer alone I have picked up six babies that have fallen out of the nest. Usually the injuries sustained just from the fall takes its toll and lying exposed to the elements and the heat for an extended period of time before I happen to find them also contributes to the fatalities. Add to that the impossibility of getting them back into the nest, even if I knew which one they fell out of, makes it impossible to really save any of them.

They have to be prolific breeders as they face many dangers. Heavy winds battering the nests, egg-eating snakes and nest-raiders like the Mynahs cuts heavily into the population.

Singing lustily to attract the ladies to his new nest

Also known as the Southern Masked Weaver, it occurs across southern Africa, even in arid areas, extending into Angola, Zambia and Malawi. It generally favours semi-arid scrub, open savannah, woodland edges, riverine thicket, farmland with scattered trees, alien tree plantations and especially gardens. It mainly eats seeds, fruit, insects and nectar, doing most of its foraging in small flocks, gleaning prey from leaves and branches, taking seeds from the ground and grass stems.

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