17 01 2013 …Since I have been rudely accused of ignoring matters ornithological of late, a short story, which I am reliably informed is true and is certainly too good to dismiss. My source is an esteemed Clarens resident, of impeccable credentials and a complete stranger to fiction. The stirring story goes as follows: Those of you who turn your eyes to the Heavens, for whatever reason, will have noticed that there are several families of Black Eagles in residence, particularly around the pass to Bethlehem. Known more formally as Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) these magnificent birds of prey (sorry, not vegetarians) were first recorded by the French naturalist Jules Verreaux, who visited southern Africa to open a chain of Brasseries in the early 18th century. Males of the species weigh in at over 4kgs and have a wing span approaching 2.2 metres, so they are hard to miss if they swoop down to pinch your wig or snaffle your miniature Poodle – although they prefer Dassies. The point of the story is that these noble creatures normally fly for about 30 summers before succumbing to age and the elements – largely as a result of their beaks wearing down and limiting their hunting abilities. However, some Black Eagles reportedly decide not to turn their claws up and die, but instead initiate a process to reinvent themselves. In short, they retire to the hills and find a sharp rock on which they grind-down their beaks, stimulating a regrowth which, after some long while, results in a shiny new beak. The plot thickens, as these feisty birds then use this new proboscis to pull out all their feathers, again to stimulate regrowth. Thus, assuming you could penetrate the high mountains and were lucky enough to happen upon this process of reinvention, you would be confronted by a bright pink, duck-like apparition with a monstrous pecker (sorry, beak). In due time, its thick black plumage grows back, although some cynical observers suggest that instead of a white ‘V’ on its back, there will now be a ‘VI’. Once reborn, this extraordinary hunter then takes to the skies once more and lives another 30-years of rejuvenated life. How’s that for overcoming adversity? Of course, there is no reason homo sapiens (no, that’s us, silly) couldn’t do the same. Anyone wishing to go into the mountains to grind down their noses and tug out their thinning grey hair should contact the Twitcher for directions, who may be found most evenings on the third bar-stool on the left in the Clarens Brewery. Take that David Attenborough!
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