This time last year Rob and I were anticipating spending Christmas alone in Windhoek because he had to work over the festive period. We decided to liven things up by starting what we called “The Mongoose Project” which was our name for attracting mongooses into our little garden and photographing them. I can’t believe that a whole year has passed since then – an eventful year too with our move back to Durban, South Africa – and that we are now approaching another Christmas. This year we have a new and very different visitor to our garden in the form of a Woolly-necked stork (Ciconia episcopus). How privileged we are to be host to this magnificent (and near-endangered) bird.
About two months ago I came across three Woolly-necked storks in our driveway when I was on my way to collect the post. I watched fascinated as my neighbour’s gate opened and a cat dashed out and proceeded to herd the three storks in their garden. I asked my neighbour about this and she said that the birds were regular visitors because she fed them chicken.
Thinking of an opportunity for Rob to get some photos of Woolly-necked storks, I decided to keep an eye out for them in the future. It just so happened that the day one came onto our lawn Rob and I had some leftover roast chicken. I grabbed the chicken carcass, Rob grabbed his camera and we spent a few happy minutes watching our dinner guest appreciate his meal. He learned fast, because he was back the next day for more!
He has since come back regularly and now that we have a cat again, we have packets of Bob Martins chicken chunks available to feed our feathered friend. Just have to train the cat not to chase him.
It is strange to see Woolly-necked storks deep in suburbia, as their preferred habitat is wetlands and river margins. I guess with all the rain we’ve had lately we do qualify somewhat in that regard. It makes quite a change from the usual weavers and mannikins that we feed. Apart from tasty chicken morsels, these storks eat most of the goggas that are found in our garden, like insects, frogs and certain molluscs. Yesterday, after polishing off a bowl of chicken pieces, our visitor also picked up half a lizard, compliments of our cat!
So we can tick off mongooses and Woolly-necked storks as Christmas visitors. I wonder who we will be entertaining next year – can’t wait to see.