I was sitting on the stoep as the sun set, ice-cold white wine in hand. It is the best time of day to relax and unwind. Suddenly I was aware of a distinctive whistle.
It was a clear flute sound on a descending scale; no trills. It was repeated by another and then answered again by the one closest to me in the trees.
Obviously bird calls; but I could not for the life of me place the bird.
I searched through my excellent book on birds, ‘Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa’, to no avail.
Even Google let me down, as despite clearly searching for common garden bird calls in South Africa, it offered up parts of the USA!
I mentally went through all the common garden birds I knew of that visited my little garden.
The tiny birds would be too small to make such a loud whistle. This ruled out common visitors such as the: –
Lesser Double-Collared Sunbird; Cape White Eye; Mossie (Cape Sparrow)
or rare visitors such as the Common Wax Bill.
I know the calls of the medium-sized birds and none of them ever sounded like this so that ruled out the common visitors :-
Laughing Dove; Olive Thrush; Cape Robin; Cape Bulbul
or the migrational European Swallow
and the rarely seen (nowadays anyway) Fiscal Shrike; Cape Canary; Cape Weaver; White-backed Mouse Bird.
The larger birds would not make that clear whistle either, so this ruled out:-
Guinea Fowl; Hadeda; Egyptian Geese; Pied Magpie
and certainly not my elusive midnight visitor, the Cape Eagle Owl.
Having completed my investigation I realised just how many wonderful birds actually visit my tiny garden! I am very lucky.
Now I like puzzles and mysteries; but I like even better to solve them!
I would hear this particular bird call, always in the early evening and from ‘invisible’ birds somewhere high up in a tree. I could never see them.
Finally one day in the middle of the morning I heard a very similar call. I looked out of the kitchen door (it has a half door option and I usually have the top open) and saw a few birds in the neighbour’s tree.
This was my mystery bird!
It was impossible to identify them by eye, so I rushed for my trusty Canon and took a few shots of the tiny specks in the tree. (See the first photo of the tree) Enlarging these later on my computer I found one photo that identified my mystery bird as it flew off. (See the second blurred photo of a bird flying out of shot!)
It was a starling!
Now we occasionally get red-winged starlings, but I think this may be the pied starling. It has a pale underbelly and its wings do not have that reddish-orange that is distinctive of the aptly named red-winged starling.
Either way, mystery solved. Phew!