Monday, April 11, 2011

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) - Maree

As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
- John Muir

A couple of weeks ago, as I was doing some garden chores, a White Stork glided over my garden, did a u-turn and clumsily landed with a plop on the lawn, staggering to its feet as it landed. I was quite amazed at this sight and quietly observed him for a while before slowly approaching him. He unsteadily wandered a couple of paces and took shelter in the shade of one of my White Stinkwood trees (Celtis africana), standing quite still, looking in my direction. I've seen many storks foraging on our smallholding, especially after a veldfire, when they snack on the rich pickings of dead and burnt insects, and I've never seen one on its own, they're always together in a small flock.

Not knowing what to do, because he didn't look all that well to me, I let him rest for a while, thinking he would take to the air shortly. They weren't due to migrate for Europe until late-March, early-April, so it's not as if he could be tired. I thought maybe it was a fledgling, but when I later approached him and he made no attempt to wander away, I gave him a close inspection. He was extremely weak and very thin, and the only conclusion I could come to was that it was either a very old bird or very sick.

The White Stork in my garden

The garden had enough water in various bird baths and little ponds, so I carried on with my chores and just let him be. By the time it was getting dark, he was still wandering unsteadily around the garden, and finally he just settled next to some leaf cuttings still lying in the pathway.

I went to bed, spending most of the night worrying whether he would be Ok, even getting up a couple of times to check up on him, but, sadly to say, when I went out at dawn the next morning, I found him lying dead on the cuttings, as if fast asleep. I'd like to think that he was an old chap that had led a rich and full life with many a migration behind his belt.

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