I pulled our bedroom curtains open and looked out onto the small lawn, surrounded by gnarled trees that have been here far longer than our house, and this suburb. An old Jacket Plum and two salmon-barked Lavender Trees arch above a little stone birdbath where a variety birds come to quench their thirst in the dappled shade.
A Kurrichane Thrush and a Dark-capped Bulbul were drinking, when two, much smaller birds arrived at their side. I took them for Cape White-eyes at first, but the way they were moving caused me to think twice. I found my binoculars and was thrilled to identify them as Green Twinspots. These tiny seedeaters are extremely shy and elusive, although their thin, tinkling call is quite a familiar sound in the wooded valley in which we live.
During the mid-summer breeding season, male Green Twinspots establish a ‘song perch’ – a favoured spot in the tree canopy from which they utter their high-pitched, warbling trill – a call easily confused with the mechanical rubbing-sound made by katydids and crickets. This behaviour would go unnoticed to most people, but I happen to have a small balcony on one side of my studio that looks into the canopy and from this vantage point I have been able to observe the male singing, day-after-day, from the same, secluded perch.
Turaco Wood, Nelspruit, South Africa, March 2012
Footnote: A couple of years ago, I planted several clumps of Broad-leaved Bristle Grass (Setaria megaphylla) in our garden after I had observed twinspots feeding on its seeds in the adjacent nature reserve. Once these had matured, they did indeed attract the little seedeaters and they soon became resident and were seen on a daily basis. In winter, I sprinkled cage bird seed in shady places beneath trees and up to ten twinspots would gather to feed together. The Green Twinspot belongs to the Estrildidae family and is closely related to the waxbills, firefinches and mannikins.