Leaving our house last week to drive a very itchy dog down to Fish Hoek Veterinary Clinic in the hope of finding some relief for him, I had to stop for a young Fiscal Shrike in the middle of my lane who showed no sign of moving, despite the fact that a vehicle was also approaching from the opposite direction. I was surprised when the bird allowed me to pick him up. Our vet examined him, found no broken bits and suggested that I leave him at the practice as Nick Snyman, the husband of one of the receptionists, rehabilitates birds that are injured or distressed in any way.

Nick Snyman with his Laughing Dove Panda on his favourite perchOn phoning Nick this morning I learnt that “my” young bird seemed to have been suffering from concussion and dehydration. He spent the afternoon in the cage walking around in circles and listing to one side, but the following day was strong and alert enough to fly off when Nick left the door of the cage open. I am curious to know whether the bird has flown back to our area or whether he is now one of the number of young shrikes in Nick’s Noordhoek garden.

Nick has an affinity with birds. Having bred pigeons as a young boy, he says he understands their reactions and needs. Amongst the birds that have found their way via Fish Hoek Vet to his sanctuary are young peacocks which he placed under one of his hens, who kindly fostered them as a brood of her own!

IN 2007 Nick cared for young Laughing Dove, Panda, who became one of the family pets for 1 1/2 years. “He was an amazing bird. He would sit on my shoulder as I shopped in Pick n Pay or walked on Fish Hoek beach with the dogs. People would express surprise on seeing how tame he was so I would tell them that the pet shop owner had caught me out, selling the young bird to me as a parrot!” One day Panda flew off from Fish Hoek beach and made his way back home to Noordhoek. “Birds are not just dumb little things that fly around in the garden!” This littlePanda with a halo??! dove was a cocky little bird, walking amongst the cats and the dogs with impunity – which puts a new slant to the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons! It was a sad day for the family when Panda fell prey to a hunting hawk, but Nick is grateful for the “beautiful experience” they had with the bird.

And we both agreed that birds are “otherworldly”, visiting us in special ways when a little comfort is needed. Call us bird-brained if you wish….you won’t ruffle our feathers!

Nick can be reached on 082 416 3213.

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