What is BushCam Adventures?

BushCam Adventures attempts to share some of the amazing images, stories and insights that I've collected during my camera-trapping adventures.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Birds and the Bees

I've always had a soft spot for birds in our garden but, if the truth be told, I'd rather be out camera-trapping for some of Africa's mega-fauna. But since I do have domestic responsibilities it seemed like the time to try some 'close up' camera-trapping in the garden. To get my calibrations right I thought I'd practice on the nectar-feeder with a view to getting some camera-trap images of the Sunbirds that visit it.
I thought the idea worked pretty well and within a couple of days I had, in my opinion, some fun images:

Amethyst Sunbird, Chalcomitra amethystina

Malachite Sunbirds, Nectarina famosa

Cape Weaver, Ploceus velatus

Southern Masked Weaver, Ploceus ocularis, most way through his moult
And that was when the trouble started...............

A Cape White-eye, Zosterops capensis, spots the first bees
I presume these bees are our regular Apis melifera capensis, known for their hardworking ethic. And so, within 10 minutes the word was out:

no more birds!
 ....and 20 minutes later:

What's particularly alarming about this image is not just the quantity of bees but the number of drowned individuals in the bottle. How did that happen? Did they fall or were they pushed?

Within a couple of hours, by the time the liquid was all done, I'd guess there were at  at least 100 dead bees in the bottle:

So now I'm really bummed. The birds have all gone and there is a dent in the local bee population - which we can ill afford.

I can easily make a design change to the feeding bottle so that the bees can't drown. But while there are bees there I know the birds will stay away. I will need to keep my distance too since these guys are pretty aggressive - all sugared-up I guess.

I'd appreciate any advice.


  1. Holy cow! I didn't even see all of the bees INSIDE of the bottle in that last picture at first!

    Could you put a screen on it that would still allow a bird beak to enter, but keep bees out?

    Those sunbirds are stunning, by the way!

  2. Thanks Trailblazer. I'm sure I can insert a screen to keep the bees out of the bottle - but I can't think of anything to keep them away from the bottle.

  3. Your photos are beautiful.

  4. Hello Jeremy,
    I came over to your blog from "Run around Ranch"
    Your blog name caught my eye..
    Saying hello to you there in Franchhoek... from the other side of the Atlantic .. Portugal.
    I love your blog.. and I can relate to it..having lived most part of my life in Africa. and Durban.
    Those bees. They can smell from miles away...
    I was wondering.. if you put a very fine type of mosquito netting.. over the bottle.. move it to a place in your garden where there are not many trees or bushes.. it might work.
    I have problems with the bees living around my oleander trees and they love the pool.
    sending best regards.
    wishing you luck.. so nice to see the weaver again. We dont get them here.

    1. Thanks for the comments Val. I have found a way to keep the bees out of the bottle but they won't leave it alone - and they've chased the birds away. I've tried putting another nectar source out as far away from the first as possible, but that hasn't kept them away from the first bottle. They just monopolise both! Hopefully when Spring arrives they will have enough natural food that they won't bother about my artificial feeder.

  5. Good bird pics! I've seen this thing happen with bees before (but in the Amazon). At it was at a lodge that relied on active feeders, they just empty them out and refill - but usually it wasn't a problem, sometimes the bees just seem to go kamikazi for a day or two (probably one drowned bee lets off a bunch of attack pheremones or something which starts a chain reaction). You should be fine if you remove the feeder for a couple of days.