From dikkop to thick-knee and plover to lapwing

Kleinemonde musings by ASH COLLEN

On first arriving in our village, a rambler and keen observer soon learns the difference between a honeysuckle and a honey-sucker; not only by the imagined smell associated with each, but by the understanding that honeysuckle can remain where they are, while honey-suckers must do the task required of them quickly, and go away.

In our village, not unlike many others, we take a keen interest in our natural surroundings and the creatures we find there. We do not all share the same interests, or passions; loves or hates! Monkeys, for instance: some swear murder, many are tolerant, or ambivalent, while one soft soul is known to feed them. “Oh my word!” exclaims one old biddy.

Moles, too, are not universally tolerated; ask those who tend the Mashie course, or those whose garden plants are eaten by these rodents. The same goes for that big old rodent, the porcupine, because it debarks some tree species.

What may surprise the newcomer is that not all birds are popular: “Rock pigeons wake us too early in the morning, and they mess on the deck!” declares one old fellow. “Starlings, oh my word,” chirps the old biddy, mentioned earlier, “they make nests in our ceilings, and bring lice!”

The cheeky little drongo can be entertaining; the wagtail, hoopoe and dikkop are universally popular.

Ah, the dikkop! Let us pause here. You may have thought only streets, towns, cities, airports and the like undergo name-changes, but this also applies to our flora and fauna (although these are done by international bodies). The dikkop is now called a knob-knee or thick-knee, or some such comical name – they’ve done the same with our plovers; now called lapwings! Oh, well, a Dikkop it will remain, and we’ll just continue to call our plover a kiewietjie.

Late in November, as we were leaving Kathy’s after supper one night, we were told to “Look out for the Dikkops and their chicks.”  Sure enough, as the car swung round we saw them in the lights as they, in their typical fleet-footed way, raced across the lawn before entering the undergrowth. We recognised the one adult, by its gammy-legged scamper, as having previously nested in the precincts of the Village Church.

In mid-December, I was told of another pair that had a nest below Nettie’s house. With bated breath, the immediate neighbours waited for the chicks to hatch. Their incubation ended during New Year’s night, and we were able to follow their progress with regular sightings

Now for the sad news: All seemed well, until a week ago, when I went for my early-morning walk and found that one of the chicks had been flattened about ten paces up the road. By late that afternoon, all the neighbours had heard the news, and three of us were standing around the spot of the dastardly deed, discussing what appeared to be the result of callous indifference by a brute.

We were very unhappy, even angry. There was mention of the baby tortoise that had been killed a week earlier, a little way along the next road. An angry message had been put on the chat group; and we were determined to see about having speed-bumps laid down to deter speeding.

Happily, the sleepy-eyed dikkops are still around and the remaining chick appears to be well on its way to adulthood.

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