The African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus) is a hornbill. Hornbills are a family of tropical near-passerine birds found in the Old World.
The African Grey Hornbill is a widespread and common resident breeder in much of sub-Saharan Africa and into Arabia.
This is a bird mainly of open woodland and savannah. The female lays two to four white eggs in a tree hollow, which is blocked off during incubation with a cement made of mud, droppings and fruit pulp. There is only one narrow aperture, just big enough for the male to transfer food to the mother and the chicks.
When the chicks and female outgrow the nest, the mother breaks out and rebuilds the wall, after which both parents feed the chicks.


This species is a large bird, at 45 cm in length, but is one of the smaller hornbills. It has mainly grey plumage, with the head, flight feathers and long tail being a darker shade. There is a white line down each side of the head and one on the back which is visible only in flight. The long curved bill is black and has a small casque and a creamy horizontal stripe.
The male has a black bill, whereas the female has red on the mandibles. The plumage of the male and female is similar. Immature birds are more uniformly grey. The flight is undulating. The similarly sized Red-billed Hornbill has uniformly grey plumage.
The African Grey Hornbill is omnivorous, taking insects, fruit and reptiles. It feeds mainly in trees.
This conspicuous bird advertises its presence with its incongruous piping pee-o pee-o pee-o call.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a cosmopolitan species of heron (family Ardeidae) found in the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate zones. It is the only member of the monotypic genus Bubulcus, although some authorities regard its two subspecies as full species, the Western Cattle Egret and the Eastern Cattle Egret. Despite the similarities in plumage to the egrets of the genus Egretta, it is more closely related to the herons of Ardea. Originally native to parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, it has undergone a rapid expansion in its distribution and successfully colonised much of the rest of the world.
It is a white bird adorned with buff plumes in the breeding season. It nests in colonies, usually near bodies of water and often with other wading birds. The nest is a platform of sticks in trees or shrubs. Cattle Egrets exploit drier and open habitats more than other heron species. Their feeding habitats include seasonally inundated grasslands, pastures, farmlands, wetlands and rice paddies. They often accompany cattle or other large mammals, catching insect and small vertebrate prey disturbed by these animals. Some populations of the Cattle Egret are migratory and others show post-breeding dispersal.
The adult Cattle Egret has few predators, but birds or mammals may raid its nests, and chicks may be lost to starvation, calcium deficiency or disturbance from other large birds. This species maintains a special relationship with cattle, which extends to other large grazing mammals. The cattle egret removes ticks and flies from cattle and consumes them. This benefits both species, but it has been implicated in the spread of tick-borne animal diseases.cattle egret

Crimson Breasted Shrike

Crimson Breasted Shrike

Rooibors Laksman

The last time I saw this little beauty was in Mookgapong on a visit to a friend’s game farm. How surprising to find one beneath my fig trees.

The Crimson-breasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus) or the Crimson-breasted Gonolek, (‘gonolek’ – supposedly imitative of its call), is a southern African bird occurring in a broad swathe from southern Angola to the Free State province in South Africa. This species was first collected by William John Burchell in 1811 near the confluence of the Vaal and Orange Rivers.

He named it atrococcineus meaning ‘black/red’, finding the striking colour combination quite remarkable. The generic name Laniarius was coined by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot and was meant to call attention to the butcher-like habits of the group. In South West Africa its colours reminded Germans of their homeland flag and it therefore became the Reichsvogel (“Empire bird”). This species is closely related to two other bushshrikes, the Yellow-crowned Gonolek (Laniarius barbarus) and the Black-headed Gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster) of East Africa.rooibors laksman

Convertible greenhouse

With the Bashewa winds, that constant, breezy brother that cools us in summer and blows right through us in winter, it is almost impossible to get your seedlings not to dry out.

But do not despair!

I found this wonderful solution: a convertible greenhouse.

convertible greenhouse

For all those handy people out there, it looks quite straightforward to make.

And how practical. When not in use, simply stack away against a wall.

The other thing I like about it, with my six-foot-three frame, is that when you work in it, you can actually work unhindered without having to bend and stoop and do some sort of gymnastics!

Gotta make me one.


Growing rose trimmings in potatoes?

I found this article by chance, and I just had to share it.

Rose trimmings in potatoes

Apparently you can successfully grow rose cuttings (and other cuttings) in this way:

1. Cut an 20cm tip piece of healthy rose bush at a 45-degree angle. Be sure to use clean pruning clippers. Use plant pieces immediately or place them in a plastic bag on ice if you are not going to use them immediately.
2. Snip off dead flower heads and hips down to the first set of healthy leaves.
3. Fill a medium-size flower pot with high-quality potting medium. Moisten the soil slightly.
4. Create a 8cm hole in a peeled Irish potato using a clean screwdriver that is the same diameter as your rose clipping.
5. Brush some rooting compound on the cutting and shake off the excess. Place the cutting into the potato hole.
6. Make a hole in the potting medium for the potato with a clean spoon.
7. Place the potato into the hole, allowing only the cutting to be exposed.
8. Cover the cutting with an empty and clean soda bottle to create a mini-greenhouse. Twist the bottle slightly to be sure that it is solid in the soil.
9. Place the pot in a warm and light location away from direct sunlight. Remove the bottle from the cutting for a few minutes daily to allow the cutting to breathe. Do not disturb the cutting until you see new growth forming. Keep the soil moist.
10. Pull lightly on the cutting and if you feel resistance, roots have developed.
11. Relocate the pot, without the bottle, to a sunny location with more direct light and allow the cutting to grow until you will harden it off. Keep the soil moist.
12. Harden off the cutting, by gradually exposing it to outdoor temperatures, starting with a few hours each day in a sheltered location with plenty of light but no direct sun. Keep the soil moist.
13. Transplant into the garden after one week of hardening.

Cape White-eye

Cape White-eye


Cape White-eye

Cape White-eye

This species is about 12 cm long with rounded wings, strong legs, and a conspicuous ring of white feathers round the eyes. The upperparts are green, and the throat and vent are bright yellow. The members of the nominate group have a pale yellow central belly with peach coloured flanks. The members of the capensis subgroup have a grey breast and belly, while the virens subgroup have a greenish-yellow breast and belly.
They are very vocal, and constantly keep in touch with soft trilled pee, pree or pirreee callnotes. The song consists of repeated long jerky phrases of sweet reedy notes, varying in pitch, volume and temp, usually starting off with teee teee or pirrup pirrup notes, then becoming a fast rambled jumble of notes, which may incorporate mimicked phrases of other birdcalls.

Crested Barbet

Crested Barbet

With its thick bill and and very colourful plumage the Crested Barbet is unmistakeable. This small bird has a speckled yellow and red face with a small black crest. The  belly is yellow with red speckles, wings are black with white specks and it has a broad black band on its neck. Yellow head and body with black and white feathers, red markings on end of body, its colour blends well in the bush. They have a distinct shrill.

The Crested Barbet feeds on Insects, other birds eggs and fruits.

They nest in a hole in a tree or a Sisal log in a garden. They are monogamous and territorial during breeding. Territory size varies according to their habitat. Eggs are laid between September to December. 1 to 5 eggs are laid at daily intervals. Incubation lasts between 13 to 17 days, beginning with the second or third egg and mainly by the female. The young hatch naked and blind. They are fed insects by both parents. Faecal material is removed regularly. They fledge after about 31 days. Up to five broods have been recorded in a breeding season.

They are found singly or in pairs. They like to bounce around on the ground looking for food, they usually call from a branch out in the open. They do not fly easily and then only for short distances. Crested Barbets roost in holes in trees. They are very vocal, the call being a trill that can continue for long periods. Crested Barbets are aggressive towards other birds in their territory and chase off both nest competitors such as other Barbets and other birds such as doves and thrushes. They have also been recorded to have attacked a rat and killed a snake.

crested barbet

Crested barbet

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