Snowy Sheathbill in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province

Snowy Sheathbill in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province



Is this the Eastern Cape? Take me home,

please

…!

If there’s anything more stressful or tedious than a domestic flight, generally, then it has to be a domestic flight to the Eastern Cape, specifically. The hour’s flying time has unwary visitors buffeting in the 20 knot ‘onshore breeze’ well before most succeed in wrestling their seat-belt from under the frame-hugging buttocks of the unwashed behemoth in the adjacent seat. Squawking toddlers, wielding saliva-encrusted plasticrattlers& routinely allocated the seat behind, play whack-the-bald spot,a rather miserable game for the receiving passenger in front.. This & teeth-decaying flatulence from the aforementioned behemothtends to abrogate from the majestic mountains of the Drakensberg seen from the window-seat’sporthole of hopeas the plane heads south.

Vegetation, trees especially, are aslaid backas the local people, a function of the prevailing ‘onshore breeze’ (ie: gale) rather than by design or attitude. Seasoned travelers to the Eastern Cape’sBuffalo City(East London & surrounds) observe, wistfully, thedepartures’ loungeon their way out to rentals from thearrivals-hall..

A suspension bridge joins the island to the ‘mainland’

Occasionally circumstance negates free-will and obligation dictates action. A Greater (Snowy) Sheathbill, an ‘assisted’ vagrant to these shores, was recently reported from the Eastern Cape’s Mazeppa Bay; a fishing hamlet a ‘short drive’ [30 minutes byconcorde] away from the aptly namedHole-in-the-wall,another fishing hamlet. In the a ‘short drive’ is anything closer than theHubble Telescope,the taxman’s pineapple spy way up in the sky.. Ask aSlummies(East London) inhabitant for directions to Mazeppa Bay & you’ll be told it’s in the ‘Kye’ (Kei) a ‘short drive’ away. Don’t ask.

G. Sheathbill – Mazeppa Island ‘Point’ June 2013

A common inhabitant of the Antarctic most, if not all, Sheathbills are considered ship-assisted vagrants to these shores. Sheathbills, incidentally, are not adverse to feeding on faeces or droppings, an unusual characteristic of the avian world. For its curious nature, only amother-can-love-it looksand the fact that we hadn’t seen the Sheathbill in the sub-region before, Alisha & I boarded Sunday’s 6 am. flight to East London. From there we drove the 3 hour / 190 odd kilometers ‘miss-the-angora goat’ obstacle course up-coast to Mazeppa Bay. Road conditions were interesting..

G. Sheathbill – Mazeppa Bay ‘Boiling Pot’ June 2013

itself, a mecca for shore-fishermen, is defined by its hotel, wild seas and rugged coastline. Follow the boat-launch path down to the shoreline, cross the suspension bridge to the island & Bob’s probably your uncle, that’s all there is to it. Hopelessly lost, yet completely at ease & showing no signs of distress, the Sheathbill permitted excellent views. Later we were accompanied by fishermen, holidaymakers & a horde of local kids who joined us as we leopard-crawled over hill & dale in pursuit of ‘the shot’.

The ‘Supermoon’ – a welcome sight as we threaded through the traffic, home.

We returned home later thatarvie(afternoon) on the 6 pm flight, battered by thebuster(strong wind) & a littlekussed out(tired) from our trip to theKye. Awesome.

Mark Kirk

Mark Kirk

Mark & Alisha Kirk are committed amateur naturalists with a specific interest in Southern Africa's birds. Mark, an attorney by training, has spent the better part of his professional career in the financial services industry. He is the Chairman of a leading Family Office. Alisha, an accountant by training, is a senior manager at Africa's largest travel company. They live in Johannesburg with their three children. This calendar year Mark & Alisha are attempting to see 800 bird species and more in the Southern Africa region. Their blog documents the adventure.

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Mark Kirk

Mark Kirk

Mark & Alisha Kirk are outdoor enthusiasts & amateur naturalists with a specific interest in Southern Africa's birds. Mark, an attorney by training, has spent the better part of his professional career in the financial services industry. He is the Chairman of a leading Family Office. Alisha, an accountant by training, is a senior manager at Africa's largest travel company. They live in Johannesburg with their three children. This calendar year Mark & Alisha are attempting to see 800 bird species and more in the Southern Africa region. Their blog documents the adventure.

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