Sunbirds in the Salvia

With the South African autumn in full swing, the Southern Double-Collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus) is a frequent and conspicuous visitor to the garden, particularly to the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) and the Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), both now in bloom.

The latter only flowers in autumn but the former does so all year round and so the Southern Double-Collared Sunbird (and its impressive cousin, the Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa)), are always about. They dig deep into the flowers for nectar which they extract with their long, thin tongues. If you look closely at the second image, you will see a small part of it protruding from its beak.

In the third image, notice the blue and red collars from which “double-collared” in its common name is derived. Though not visible in these images, since it is not usually on display, there are also yellow tufts hidden on the male’s shoulders which he flaunts in the sunlight when looking for a mate becomes a serious pursuit.

These little birds are very forgiving of their admirer, and so I am able to photograph them up close (provided I do not make any sudden movements).

Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 10 April 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 10 April 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 10 April 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

The Southern Double-Collared Sunbird

With the arrival of the South African autumn, the sunbirds are more active than ever. They are “chee-cheeing” in the trees and darting about the flowering bushes in an iridescent display. Southern Double-Collared Sunbirds (Cinnyris chalybeus)—and Malachite Sunbirds (Nectarinia famosa)—are regular visitors to the garden from the nearby woods where they nest. A few days ago, I photographed a female.

She was accompanied by a male who could not quite decide what bush was to his liking, and so I was unable to photograph him on that occasion. I include, therefore, a male I photographed in April last year. I must add that in the case of the photograph of the male, there is no enhancement of the image; its feathers are as splendid as they appear—in fact, they are even more magnificent to the naked eye!

A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Female (Cinnyris chalybeus), 29 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Female (Cinnyris chalybeus)
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 3 April 2018. Copyright 2018 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus)

This March

Sheep on the Hill, 16 March 2018. Copyright 2018 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
I took this photograph of a flock of sheep peacefully grazing on a hill.

I was tricked by a bird!

I have been working on the last of a set of three poems titled “The Batis” for the greater part of March. The Cape batis is a small bird with one of my favourite calls—three simple notes which it measures out in the sweetest whistles: foo-foo-foo, foo-foo-foo. I have been enamoured with the creature ever since I first heard its call and was compelled to adore it in verse! The subject of the third “The Batis” poem was not, however, this particular three-whistle call, but another: cherooo-weet-weet-weeeet. I had attributed this call to the batis because I had seen the bird sing this song last year, and in the “The Batis III” verses, describe both bird and call (and the joy it brings on autumn mornings) based on that incident.

A few mornings ago, hearing again the cherooo-weet-weet-weeeet, I ventured out to see if I could spot the bird. To my surprise, I discovered it was not a batis singing but a robin-chat! Puzzled, I set out to learn how I came to misidentify the songster and learned that robin-chats sometimes imitate the calls of other birds. I realised how I may have been tricked. When I identified the batis, last year, two things must have happened: the robin-chat sang the batis foo-foo-foo at one point and its own cherooo-weet-weet-weeeet at another, and I mistakenly attributed the latter to the batis, thinking it another of its calls; and since the birds look somewhat similar at first glance, subsequent sightings evidently compounded my error.

A Batis in the Tree, 5 May 2017. Copyright 2017 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Cape batis (Batis capensis) in the garden.

Robin-Chat in the Tree, 5 May 2017. Copyright 2017 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Cape robin-chat (Cossypha caffra) in the garden.

This meant I had written an ode to the wrong bird and it had to be changed! Upon evaluating the poem, I found that only the title and two lines needed replacing. “The Batis III” became “The Robin-Chat” and I exchanged two descriptive lines in the second verse—“A little bird of black and white / Brushed with reddish-brown”—for new ones more suitable, given what had transpired. Thus far, “The Robin-Chat” (heretofore “The Batis III”) has taken the longest to write and is still being revised in light of the new edits. Its four verses, though short, have, thanks to the subject matter, proven a fount of poetic possibility. Whether it becomes part of the final publication or not, it has been an adventure to compose!

I discovered an early poem.

This month, a year ago, I wrote “Rains and Roads”, the first poem drafted specifically for my poetry publication when it was still a distant idea. I came across the poem whilst organising my notes. It was dated 16 March 2017, a rough sketch borrowing somewhat from an earlier 2012 poem, “Autumn”. “Autumn” was the first poem I had ever written on a pastoral theme; in retrospect, my first essay at the format I would ultimately embrace: the Romantic lyrical ballad. “Rains and Roads” continues the theme of “Autumn” but applies it to winter. It consists of two verses and describes a wet day in the countryside: the sun breaks through the clouds after a shower of rain and rivulets trickle beside the gravel roads.

I spoke to David Armes about the poetry publication.

David Armes of Red Plate Press created and produced the handmade letterpress sleeves for the eponymous Forgotten Fields album. I spoke to him earlier this month about publishing the poetry as a handmade booklet—a paperback edition that draws on the minimalist theme of the aforementioned album. In my experience, looking into production early on has a positive effect on a project, and it has certainly been the case here. It has helped me define the concept of the work and thereby the nature and form of the publication. I function best when I have a clear framework for my creative pursuits—it liberates me from the tyranny of carte blanche—and so, articulating my thoughts to David was a boon.

I received the Origins masters and commissioned its artwork.

Taylor Deupree of 12k Mastering has done wonderful work with the recordings for Origins, the first release of contemporary classical pianist Affan and the inaugural release of the Lonely Swallow label. Origins is a collection of six impromptus recorded in low-fidelity. It has all the makings of an intimate, melodic and atmospheric listening experience which Taylor has expertly brought to life in the masters. During the aforementioned conversation with David Armes, we also touched on the visuals for Origins. He will start producing ideas on the press in April, bringing us another step closer to announcing a release date.

Mentioned in this post:

Batis capensis, Cape batis (Wikipedia)
Cossypha caffra, Cape robin-chat (Wikipedia)
“Autumn” (Forgotten Fields Blog Post)
Red Plate Press (Official Website)
Affan (Soundcloud)
Lonely Swallow (Official Website)
12k Mastering (Official Website)