Saturday, 6 November 2010

Close encounters of the feathered kind

I'm not very fond of ostriches.  Firstly, they can kick.  Hard.  Or so I suspected many moons ago simply by observing their anatomy: Those long, sinewy legs with two freaky toenails and a big gluteus muscle to swing it all into action.  My suspicion was confirmed years later, after witnessing an ostrich kicking out a front light of my uncle's pick-up.  So there: Ostriches can kick hard. 

Secondly, they're not the cleverest of birds.  They are, after all, known as the only animal on the planet with a brain smaller than one of its eyeballs.  And - apologies to all ostriches everywhere, but - it shows.  You run; they run like mad.  You stop; they prance.  You look at them; they become all funny.  And they can never leave you alone.  Not if you're within a 100 m radius of them, anyway.

I once had a bad experience with an ostrich.  I was busy tying a shoelace whilst doing fieldwork when, all of a sudden, a male ostrich marched out from behind a thicket a mere two or three meters away from me.  I froze.  Yup, in the shoelace-tying pose.  Head down to the knees and hands on the toes.  And there I stood, upside down.  He came happily grazing along for what seemed like an eternity.  Until I could have literally just reached out and patted him.  And then he saw my hair...  There was a slight breeze and my bangs were blowing this way and that - much to his fascination.  Which must be why he started gently pecking at my head...  Now, I really didn't mind the pecking - it was the fear of a whole pick-up full of game viewing tourists coming around the bend at any moment and witnessing this spectacle that really had me blushing!       

It is with the above-mentioned knowledge and experience in the back of my mind that I tackle my weekly runs in the game farm close to home.  The place where ostriches roam freely...  And lo and behold, it wasn't long before our first encounter.  I saw them from afar this time.  A male and a female.  And, you've guessed it: When they saw me coming, they started running like mad.  In my direction.  I stopped; and they started prancing and dancing.  I backed off, and they came even closer.  They just wouldn't leave me alone.  Then suddenly I remembered the piece of advice that I got from a game warden years ago: An ostrich will be afraid of you and leave you alone only if you're taller than him.  I.e. use a broom stick, or whatever is handy, lift it in the air, thereby making yourself "taller", and the ostrich will go away.  Which I did then and there: With my arms and hands held high in the air (in a peculiar ostrich beak mimicking motion) I tried to intimidate them - much to the delight of the couple in the car who, right at that moment, came from the opposite direction!

Fortunately it all ended well.  The (laughing) couple in the car chased off the ostriches and I could continue with my run.  Anyone else with ostriches featuring in their most embarrassing moments?!

1 comment:

  1. oooo neeeee Saar, lekker lag ek nou vir jou!!! Bly jy darem OK! x


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