Dear Normal People,

             The bird world is all of a twitter. It’s far worse than if every Twitter fanatic tweeted all at once.

            For most twitchers it only happens once in a life time if they are very, very, lucky.

            They go crazy and migrate to the scene like army ants on the move.

            They have to be able to say they’ve seen it. It’s the epitome of every bird lover’s existence.

            And as nobody’s word in ever good enough, long lenses have to be poking out from behind every bush and clump of reeds to record the event; to provide conclusive proof that nobody can dispute.

            When I tell you it was a Crake the average enthusiasts might not know what I’m talking about?

            I didn’t even know either until it landed not far from my house in a Cape Town marsh for the first time ever.

            Then all the experts fluttered around trying to work out which one of this species had stupidly landed in the wrong place at the wrong time of year. They tossed coins to decided whether it was the Striped, Spotted or Baillon’s variety, because let’s face it one Crake looks much like another.

            Everybody breathed a sigh of relief when one of the coins fell with the Little Crake side up. Porgana Parva to its intimate friends.

This is so rare that my South African bird book doesn’t even mention it. But then my edition dates back to Audubon’s time so perhaps I mustn’t be too critical.

            When word got out people flew from everywhere. Families had burnt dinners as mothers left everything and dashed to the vlei to see this rarity.

            It seems that if you are a Crake that wants to make a name for yourself and fool the twitchers into thinking you are something special all you have to do is fly in the wrong direction. It’s as simple as that. And they’ll love you for it.  

            It’s nothing special really. It’s a dirty brown colour and it skulks around among water weeds and grass trying its best to maintain its never-seen value.

            An Eastern European/Asian species it has just become a star by losing its Garmin and ending up at the bottom of Africa instead of back home after wintering in the North of the continent.

            Unfortunately it has arrived in the Cape just in time for the beginning of our snowy, wet and windy season. I hope it’s got its woollies on.

            It’s got a bird brain alright. That’s one thing the top ornithologists have all agreed upon.

            Then there are some misguided people (I’m not one of them I must add) who say the same thing about that flock of humanity that came to see the Crake of their dreams only to find it was rarer than they expected, and had departed, possibly back to where it should have gone in the first place.

            I’m sorry I missed it too.


          Dearjon Letter  Jon, a bird lover, who prefers watching them on the beach with his high powered binoculars, than up to his ears in a bog somewhere.

See Jon’s essay on Livifem