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South Africa wildlife VI: the magic of water

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit comfortably at my computer and edit wildlife photos, so I’m easing back into things with an update of some of the everyday (but still special!) wildlife in my own garden here in Cape Town.

Today I’d like to show you the power of water for attracting and photographing wildlife. Giving garden birds a supply of fresh water for drinking and bathing is obviously very important during the hot dry summer months, but keeping the bird bath full year-round helps attract a wide variety of birds to my garden:

The local meeting place: laughing doves, a common starling and a Cape sparrow enjoying a drink and a bathe together.

Photo op! Olive thrushes, like most birds (except doves) have to raise their heads to swallow water, so it’s the perfect moment to snap a photo.

And sometimes things get slightly ridiculous – this hadeda ibis is a) not a garden bird and b) far too large to bathe in my birdbath… but he didn’t care!

I also have a nectar (sugar water) feeder to attract sunbirds – the African equivalent of hummingbirds, and just as pretty.

The female southern double-collared sunbird has brown plumage, but she’s still tiny, fast, and gorgeous!

The male looks very similar to a male hummingbird, in stunning jewel tones.

But it’s not just sunbirds who appreciate the nectar (and fight over it)…

Cape weaver enjoying a sweet treat.

Male sunbird (left) and Cape white-eye (right) having a shouting contest.

Southern masked weaver has a drink while Cape bulbul demands his turn.

And water doesn’t just attract birds to the garden – by happy accident, I discovered a few weeks ago that if you put a wet branch or leaf in front of a Cape Dwarf Chameleon, it’ll lick the water off it:


So now, every time I find a chameleon, I offer him a drop of water on a leaf…

Ooh, a wet leaf… 


So much fun! (And much easier than trying to catch grasshoppers to feed to them…)

I had another happy discovery this weekend. I’m trying to make a wildlife area at the bottom of the garden, but my new indigenous plants need some extra water to help them get settled in, so I turned on the sprinkler and sat outside for a while….

wildlife enjoying water in my garden
Just sprinkling the garden…

Almost immediately, over a dozen Cape White-Eyes flew in and started hopping from branch to branch under the spray of the sprinkler, fluffing up their feathers, preening, shaking, and enjoying a good shower:

Fluffy white-eyes!

Luckily I have a good zoom on my new camera, as white-eyes are tiny and these were down at the very bottom of the garden, but I managed to get a little video for you to enjoy:

For the best experience, play the video at Full 1080p HD quality and fullscreen it.

Aren’t they sweet?

I hope you enjoyed another glimpse into my local wildlife – I’ll have more to share with you once I’ve had a chance to go through the past few months of photos. 🙂

And if you’d like to encourage more wildlife into your own garden, I suggest adding a bird bath, a pond, or a water feature – it really works!


  1. Evan Lewis said

    During the winter in New Zealand the White Eyes come down from the native forest to our garden. We have a lot of surplus citrus fruit and I cut orranges in half. The White Eyes and Tuis have a feast and it is all gone in a day. They are exactly the same as the Cape White Eyes in your excellent photos and video. They also like sugar water one part sugar to 8 parts water. Thank you for your lovely web site. My wife Kae is writing a blog about our 14 month journey from London to Capetown and on to Durban in 1982-83. Just the two of us in a VW camper I thought you might enjoy that. We had a wonderful 3 months in Capetown.

  2. Carol Derbis said

    Your crochet work is lovely – and your instructions and help are always welcome. Thank you.

    But I MUST comment on your “wildlife” photos – and video…how very fun!
    I’m here in Southern California in the USA. I have a little birdbath fountain – and it, too, has become neighborhood gathering place. I so want to get a bird camera that is motion activated! the fountain is three levels (smallish) and it’s fun to watch birds of all kinds gather and bathe together. They love to sit in middle section and get a shower from above while walking round and bathing in the mid section. During migration season, we have birds of all sorts – many I’ve not been able to identify….from bright reds to lovely blues and about everything in between. The hummingbirds, of course, feel as if it is theirs and try to chase out all interlopers…even those who are four times their size…(usually unsuccessfully!)
    Fun, fun, fun! All the little Gifts we have to make this world not only tolerable but beautiful!
    Thanks for the post…was great start to my day.

  3. Astrig said

    Thank you so much for the delightful peek into your backyard. We feed and enjoy our birds in Maine USA…it’s fun to see the other side of the planet!

  4. Suztats said

    I enjoyed the bird photos, and watching them flit about in their shower video was entertaining. We’re just coming into spring, so I shall have to set up my bird baths again soon.

  5. Johanna said

    I loved reading this post! Thanks for sharing the little world in your backyard!

  6. Alicia G said

    I always love your nature posts! We have a birdbath in our backyard too. Birdwatching is one of my fav things to do when outside other than knitting/crocheting.

  7. Alicia said

    Love the wildlife pictures and video.

  8. Kerrie Taylor said

    Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing your photos. I love watching the backyard wildlife. I think I’d much rather be outside than in!

  9. Jan Young said

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos, and I love the video. I have a bird bath and bird table in my garden, but we don’t get such exotic beauties in Oxfordshire. I spend ages watching a little Robin and Blackbird bathing in the bird bath – often at the same time. I’m sure it is always the same Robin and Blackbird because they are always so at ease around me.

    • June said

      ‘Exotic’ is in the eye of the beholder, Jan! Going to a new country makes you notice the new birds because they’re different, but I have to say I’d be equally delighted to be visited by the common birds from the other countries I’ve lived in – British robins, blackbirds, thrushes, tits, etc, or Canadian juncos, cardinals, chickpeas, finches, etc – they may seem common to you if you live there, just like the white-eyes and sunbirds are to me here, but everyone has some local wildlife they can enjoy.

      This is a mini crusade of mine: encouraging people to notice and appreciate the nature around them. So I’m very glad to know you’re enjoying your robin and blackbird (who I’m sure are the same ones every time!) because they’re just as lovely and interesting to watch as the birds I photograph in my garden 🙂

  10. .: petrOlly :. said

    June, they are amazing! Great idea regarding the chameleons 🙂 I also have a small bath for the birds as well as a feeder – and just today some tits visited it 🙂
    As always I enjoyed your photos and the wildlife post as well as the top enhancements to your site 😉

  11. Judy Carlson said

    June, thank you for sharing your wildlife posts with us. I absolutely love this! I am a bird nerd.

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