I was making my way past Marinodale on the way to the river. I craned my neck to look out of the window of my vehicle into the sky alongside the road. Yes, it was a white stork!
Suddenly I felt deeply emotional. Nostalgic.
My ears were filled with the incessant springtime call of Guinea Fowl, the mid-summer afternoons with the haunting call of the Ground Hornbill. My vision was blurred by the memory of those bug soiled windscreens we used to get, as much as it was by tears now literally welling up. The Storks. The common Storks. The Storks by their hundreds down on the vlei below the dam. The Red Footed Kestrels lining the telephone lines, the Black Shouldered Kites.
All gone. Or rare enough to be an interesting sighting in these valleys.
What I took for granted as a kid is now gone. In less than a lifetime we have almost completed our act of wiping them from the face of the earth. I was angry.
“Wake up, you bastards!” I said out loud in the cab.
No one was listening.
I pulled myself together. Even doing this alone can feel embarrassing.
The rains had been good. The veld looked magnificent. There were Swallows starting to collect on the old telephone lines where the wire hadn’t been stolen. I did spot a Black Shouldered Kite.
There was plenty worth saving. Aldo Leopold’s entire ethos of a land ethic washed over me. It left its heavy burden all over again. I could feel it on my shoulders. My meeting with the ranger was important.
At my destination, the river ran full. Too full to fish. After my meeting I tried for an hour, but somehow the quietest water was always on the far side, and I decided not to risk crossing. Instead I packed away the rod, and lowered the tailgate for a seat. I pulled off my wet wading boots and sat down with my bare feet drying in the sun. I ate my simple meal of boiled eggs and slices of cold beef.
The ranger had just told me of the size of the Eland herd, and his successes in thwarting poachers. The fishing, while a non-event that day, had been fantastic in weeks and months past. The water was beautifully clean. A storm was brewing over the high berg, and clouds drifted by, shading the landscape in random patterns and heightening the contrast of the hills. I reached for my phone, strolled barefoot to the river bank and took a picture.
There is still a lot to enjoy, right?
It will still be here for the next generation right?
Everyone is listening now, right?
The shelduck is most distinctive in that the male and female are equally striking, but different, and I always seem to see them together.
They inhabit our still-waters here in KZN, and provide a welcome distraction on slow days.