The Brilliance of Birds

When we got onto the farm there were almost no birds. You’d see the occasional pigeon, and on the edges of the gorge you might see sunbirds and sugarbirds in the proteas. Now the farm is full of a wide variety of birds. Knysna Loeries are drawn by the Cape Ash, the fruiting yellowwoods, and the Hyperphyllum that we have planted. They also love the Ficus as do the bats that come in numbers at night. The fiscal shrikes love the vines to hunt among. Mousebirds, chats, thrushes, tambourine doves, wood pigeons, herons, ibis, ducks, geese, forest finches, white-eyes, hoopoes, drongoes, – all are common here now and the list goes on. We have even seen trogons, hamerkops, hoopoes, ramerons, and paradise flycatchers.

We’ve always had a lot of snakes on the farm. The most common by far are the boomslangs but we regularly encounter puffadders and night adders. Several of our dogs have been bitten and one was killed. Puffaddders are by far the worst. They do not move away readily when the dogs find them and unless you get the dog to a vet quickly, their bites are fatal. Even when you do get to the vet in time, it is awful to deal with the results of a bite. Hero, one of our Great Danes, spent more than a week with a weirdly misshapen head.

The Cape Robins tell us when a boomslang is around. They have a distinctive alarm call that calls all the other birds to come and harass the snake. I made a snake-catching device out of an old fishing rod and I’ve become quite adept at catching snakes and taking them to the snake sanctuary down the road. Sometimes things go wrong though. On one occasion a really big boomslang escaped from the pillowslip and took off round the lounge to the outrage and alarm of our many dogs.