10th January 2014

I promised you birds last week, and birds you shall get.  Well, a few anyway.  First, the baby Ostriches over the Nek are not so little any more.  Half the height of their parents, they are looking positively adolescent and quite chubby, in the irritating way that adolescents have.  Point is that the Ostrich population in the immediate neighbourhood seems to have doubled overnight and, save a raid by the valley’s surviving jackals, may be competing with us for space on the Square.  And if they have R50 for a year’s trading licence and the phone number of the Dihlabeng Economic Development Forum, their presence is a certainty.

More parochially, I literally tripped over a Piet my Vrou in the garden last weekend, having never laid eyes on one before.  Like every other resident of Clarens, their call rings in my ears year-round, but for some reason I haven’t actually seen the little buggers before.  So, glass of wine in hand as I perambulated about my little corner of God’s green acre, I swung past a gum tree to confront the little fellow leaping about in search of food or some other social adventure.  I was with guests who masquerade as Twitchers in a neighbouring country of limited economic significance (just saying), and they brightened visibly at the sight of what was for them also a first sighting.  I have to say, as first times go, it didn’t rival my sexual debut a century ago, but was still rather satisfactory.  The little fellow is quite stout and sports a striped chest like a public school tie.  Most importantly, he was not the slightest bit put out by our presence and bounced about for about five minutes, almost at our feet in fact, turning over bits of twig and gum.  So, in summary, I can confirm the presence of this lovely little not-so-brown-job in my garden, and now wear a smug smirk every time he (she?) pierces the afternoon with a distinctive cry.

Finally, Indian Mynahs.  And Red-Winged Starlings.  In my grapes.  I have just finished construction of a machine gun emplacement overlooking my fledgling vineyard and with tears streaking my ancient cheeks, watching as these unspeakable creatures split grape after grape in search of a drop of sweetness.  Needless to say the gun jammed at the critical moment and I was reduced to bayonet-charging them with limited success.  What to do?  The factories that make bird netting are closed for the summer, it appears, and another year of satisfying grape-trampling and bottling is rapidly slipping by.  So, notwithstanding my deep respect for the Indian Cricket Council’s abbreviated tour of South Africa, I may have to make a formal application to have the visas of all adult Indian Mynahs rescinded.  I know, I know.  It’s hard to make ends meet back on the Sub-Continent, but these fellows will have to learn not to interfere in our wine industry if they know what’s good for them.  In any event, they are lousy eating and I’ve just remembered that these are actually table-grapes.

So birds can be quite interesting, after all.  But not half as interesting as our Kaalvoet who has apparently tired of dunking water-skiers on the Vaal dam and is, as we speak, on her way to the South African base on Marion Island.  A series of hitch-hiking adventures took her to the Cape (not to be confused with the Mother City of Fouriesburg) and a XXXXXX-overcoat got her on board the Navy’s Good Ship Venus.  So we bid her farewell, at least for now, and hope her search for an equivalent partner (check Singles365 for 2.5 metre tall, sensuous silver-backs) and a long and happy life here in the mountains.

What we all want really.

The Twitcher