For someone who had inherited a bird phobia, I am rather fond of birds now. But not kept in cages, more those in the wild, suburban back yards, open velds, or more recently, up a cliff.
Johannesburg isn’t really a tourist destination. People sometimes touch down here on route to the Kruger Game Park, or a stopover for the Cape of Good Hope, yet for some exquisite creatures, it is a destination every year. The European Bee Eaters migrate here to spend their summers, calling from up high, feasting on goggas and teasing me, because their beauty is just out of good binocular view (for me). They have a distinctive call, and even though the name gave me a huge hint, I was overjoyed when I recognised their call while walking the Camino in Spain a few years back. My excitement in hearing this, made some of my Peregrino sisters laugh, because it is ‘just a bird, right?’ No, this is not just a bird, this is a fellow traveller all the way from Africa.
And this week, I had stood atop our rocky ridge in the city and had my breath taken away. The Northcliff Ridge is part of our rocky outcrops which wouldn’t be present, if a meteor hadn’t hit the ground about 80 miles away, 4 million years ago and caused the earth to split open and push upwards. But I digress.
I was standing there, taking in the marvellous view and I heard the Bee Eater’s familiar call. Except, this time, I didn’t need to look up, instead it was at my feet, flying merrily around and showing me the sheer beauty of it’s colour. I excitedly tried to take a picture but, I realised that this beauty was to be captured by my eye only. My camera fumbling relaxed, I stood there, mouth open. I was alone on the ridge, watching my Northern Hemisphere visitor. I wanted to ask it if it was readying itself for the long trip north, but I already felt the answer. I wanted to ask if it recognised me from Spain, and I laughed at the craziness in my head. Beauty is in the detail, and I had to google for a photo that what do this creature justice. But nothing quite compares to standing there on the ridge, feeling like queen of the world (sorry Titanic) and watching the dance of the Bee Eater.
Safe flight north!