27 October, 2010

Fiscal shriek, sorry, shrike

Jacky Hangman. Dressed in black and white. As the judge used to wear a black hood, when sentencing a prisoner to death. Yesterday the sparrows, weavers and starlings were spinning in distraught circles. Why?

Fiscal shrike

Then we saw the fiscal shrike – somewhat larger than the song-birds, with a vicious little hooked beak that says raptor. (Think sparrow-hawk sort of bird)

Fiscal shrike

Fiscal shrike. 23 cm. Common in grassland with trees (not so much in fynbos). They will seek and destroy intruding birds, impaling them on thorns. Eat beetles, grasshoppers, lizards, small snakes, frogs, chameleons, and other wild or caged birds. From Joy Frandsen’s Birds of the South Western Cape

After the Argumentative-Little-Cuss, who is all bark and no bite – this one is Bite. He has a harsh, raucous cry. But the fiscal shrikes in turn, are playing their role in nature. Seeking food for their fledglings. He used the hook on top of Spirulino’s cage as a perch to swoop on bugs and beetles, and a careless songbird if he can catch it!

A-sparrow-called-SpirulinO with Jacky Hangman looming over him sat. Perfectly still. Quite quiet. Usually he does a convincing imitation of a hyperactive child. Hopping from branch to branch. Up and down. Endlessly. We get tired, just watching! No wonder, when the sun goes down, he hops up to the highest perch in between the leaves. And sleeps. Like a baby. Till tomorrow comes.

Pin-tailed whydah
Pin-tailed whydah in flight
Our Lil Cuss

The Lil Cuss, pin-tailed whydah patrols his territory. He has a new routine. He perches on the satellite dish and swoops past the living-room windows, every few minutes. When he flies he has an elaborately choreographed routine, flourishing his long tail feathers, and hovering, just outside the window. To yell at us a string of blue curses – Get the F*** OUT of My Garden you!!! Becomes a part of the background music of our day. He has even perched on the sash window, so he can yell at that bloody cat sitting on the chair inside!

On a normal day, without the fiscal shriek/shrike, Spirulino is visited by the sparrows and weavers. They hop on the cage and chat back and forth. Spirulino is part of the flock, part of the family. High above the songbirds and the busy parent shrikes, the swallows wheel and turn.

Masked Weaver Airlines coming in to land
Retract flaps
Please keep your seat-belts fastenened until ...
The plane has come to a complete standstill.

The Ungardener is learning to use his new-camera. We are amazed -  Panasonic has upgraded a little tweak to the software, download it off the computer, and away you go ...

A handful of photography links. Mine, not so technical. I can do macros and scenery but I battle with mid-distance wide views of the garden. Taking-top-garden-photos by Rachel Warne

The Ungardener's are technical. 
Photos to aspire to by award-winning young Hungarian wildlife photographer Bence Mate (sorry I can't do the Hungarian accents on his surname)  
For daily updates in the world of photography 1001noisycameras

Why did he choose this camera?
  • 25-600mm Leica zoom lens, no changing lenses. Picture quality almost as good as an SLR
  • manual functions (WE can choose what it focuses on)
  • swivel LCD screen (for bugs down there, or overhead, or against the African sun-glare)
  • fast 11 FPS (frames per second) shooting to capture birds in flight (but the camera is only as good as the Patience and Dedication of the photographer)

Busy bird house
When tired by the song and dance routine, the Lil Cuss eats peacefully with the opposition. Will you blog for world peace on the 4th of November?  Click the link from mine at the top of the side-bar, and you can craft your own LOGO from the basic templates.

 Pictures by Jurg, words by Diana of  Elephant's Eye


  1. Dear Diana of EE, The 'Man with the Camera' is certainly producing some wonderful wildlife photographs. I have no idea what all the technical jargon means but he definitely knows how to point and shoot, in focus to boot!!

    The Fiscal Shrike is a mean looking bird....at first I thought the posting was about your accountant!![I did think that this might have been a curious topic for a gardening weblog]

  2. Fabulous bird photography!! (The Ungardener amazes and delights with his new camera!) Birds I have never seen I might add . . . Our worlds being so far apart but with the same dramas going on in our gardens . . . only the daily play has different characters. Cousins most likely. Your bird house is beautiful too! Lil Cuss wears quite the fancy tails. I will check out the link regarding world peace. ;>)

  3. Hi Diana, thanks for the links. I'd love to improve my garden photography, but it'll be a long time before it looks like your husband's. Maybe I can get my own ungardener interested. Did you build that gorgeous bird house yourselves?

  4. Carol and Barbara - the birdhouse is one of the Ungardener's projects. Now with plain water, as the bees swarmed on the sugar water meant for the sun-birds.

  5. So interesting to see your birds. They are so very different from the birds here in Oklahoma. That first one is kind of nasty impaling other birds on thorns.~~Dee

  6. Dee - I am grateful I have never actually SEEN the shrike's larder. But that is what the book says.

  7. Hi Diana! Thank you for the links. I can only hope to be able to take shots as great as yours. Excellent bird photography!

  8. Goodness Diana, your birdhouse seems to be standing room only! You do have some truly beautiful birds. I know Lil Cuss is a little more chatty than you might like, but what a gorgeous bird! The shrike is handsome, but that beak looks very formidable, and the mask weaver is lovely too. Love the 'touchdown' shot!

  9. You have so many beautiful birds in your garden, it's a pleasure to look at them.
    Great post.

  10. The UnGardener is doing a fabulous job of capturing the bird menagerie! Totally different birds than here, of course, but that makes the photos that much more enjoyable, Diana. Thank you for such fun.

  11. How wonderful to see the pictures! We have the Loggerhead Shrike here, and though he is cruel, he's quite handsome. I always love to see the pictures of the beautiful African birds and to hear about Spirulino -- thanks!

  12. Wow, these are some beautiful birds! Thanks for sharing. Sorry I'm late returning the comment you left on my Garden Bloggers blog.

  13. But... that bird looks so innocent to me! What fantastic shots of all those birds -- maybe I need a new camera!


Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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