We joined the other foot soldiers & travelled down to Cape Town for the piper’s Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes); the sub-region’s 1st-confirmed sighting ie: a giga. The fact that the bird subsequently proved less inspiring than inversion on a cold morning, is a short story for another time.
Sebastian, our son & a month shy of his own airline seat, tagged along for the return flight. Ever his mother’s child, the boy will live-on in the memory of those passengers close-enough to poke. His is an extended arm of genius; rare in boys this young.
For those who don’t know, a giga describes an ornithological observation no less astonishing than sightings of the marginally rarer unicorn. This catchall brings out birders, birdwatchers, the curious & the kind of people who think genius is Africa’s gnome in the bottle.
Late Tuesday the scrub robin showed in ugly spurts. An addendum to the afternoon featured an over-zealous bumpkin – a local power-doughnut who claimed some sort of crowd-funded social validation; solace, perhaps, for having being excluded from the shampoo aisle some time ago. Apparently the bird’s ‘evening roost’ had revealed itself to this luminary mid-morning the day before; a harebrained hypothesis of coincidence if ever there was. We were living the dream … & returned next morning for better views.
Southern Africa’s birding Elder greeted the field’s company early on Wednesday morning – an emotive trigger for the sheep & a soloist on Snowy vs. Dimorphic; a mechanical, banal debate lost in translation not long after both egrets were all but belittled. Fortunately as the weather worsened the day heated up.
Enter crouching dragon; easy tiger… Here’s how the saga fluffed its actors.
The bird was partial to a hidden scrape in the earthy arena of three small trees, a short flit away from where some of us sheltered against the Gents – the local hang-out.
Somewhere between ‘Where is it?‘ & ‘Where did it go?‘ a human wall of hand-holding oohs encircled the trees until the object of their desires flashed a semi. Clearly The Wall liked what they saw. The more fluid joined the bird in the trees – tai chi masters playing twister in the leafy bric-à-brac. Entwined like squid at an orgy they clung, swung & swayed in the stiffening breeze. From the nearby olive-branch some useful simpleton played a call – a simulated ‘we come in peace.‘ ..
Time aged – Dreamtime’s beginning of knowledge…
The Great Exodus from the bush was awesome. A tsunami of flaccid panic & chaos. In the lead – cock robin. Close behind; the pursuit. The fans flushed fast, scattered widely – then followed, baying like the Hounds of Baskerville. Lickety-split the robin goosed into the scrub nearest us; exposed itself once and went down. A babel uproar… The pursuit lost the scent & milled about, bummed – stiff-legged.
For some time I’ve been aware of a split along a new dividing line. There are those who take the field in quiet contemplation. Then there are those who live in a world obsessed with virtual / #social simulation. These people think initiative & responsibility are optional condiments on a greasy plate of chips.