It was a glorious, if rather windy, Saturday afternoon when I went for a walk with Sheila, my wife, on the ‘wild side’ at Buffalo Bay (Buffelsbaai) in Knysna. That is to say, Goukamma Beach. You know where I mean – the stretch of sand where endangered African Black Oyster Catchers are supposed to be able to nest in peace. Yet dog owners continue to ignore signs urging that they stay away with their unruly animals. I mean, you can’t expect dogs to read, but presumably most of the idiots in charge of them understand plain English. The notices are large enough to be read by passing motorists for gawd’s sake.
I digress…only slightly. Because yesterday, without the help of a dog, it was obviously stupid me who disturbed the peace.
We were walking across a dune, admiring some of the Spring flowers which are still blooming there, when we came across a sitting, Cape Gull. This thing is about the size of a bakkie so it’s hard to miss. But I hadn’t realised that it was nesting until it started making a hell of a noise and lifted its body off two very large, mottled dark brown eggs. By then, the light switch had come on and I quickly made a sharp turn away from the direction of the nest. But too late. The bird’s call had been heard by its mate and before I knew it I was being mobbed by two very angry parents to be. I experienced this once before as a child, when my dad took me too close to a colony of nesting terns in Fife. They had nothing on this Gaukamma Gang.
The tactics employed by the kelp gulls were remarkable and left me feeling assured that no one would easily make the species as vulnerable as the poor old oyster catcher. As I retreated, they swooped over my head several times until one got its approach just right. He landed momentarily on my thick skull and gave me a very heavy prod with that severe looking bill. Not content with that, he unloaded about a kilogram of well directed guano on my fleeing back.
Thank goodness my follicle-challenged scalp was protected by a baseball cap. Even so, the bird still managed a definite graze of the scalp and got me running for the Vaseline (as well as the washing machine) when I got home.
Moral? None of us have a monopoly on stupidity when it comes to nature.