30 12 2022
A female Amur falcon with a broken right wing is handled by the resident vet at Birds at 30

She was tragically beautiful and very frightened, fluttering in blind panic with a wing that just wouldn’t work to get her off the ground. Recognizing that the dogs would very likely kill her I reversed back up the track to where Marianne was following with the dogs. Quickly she loaded the dogs into the back of the truck and we took a cover off a mattress and Marianne soon had her trapped in the makeshift bag and the walk could resume.

Over breakfast I contacted various people known to take in injured birds and established that Birds at Thirty, a place I’d never heard of, was the place to take her. It was easy enough to find behind an imposing brick wall and massive gates some 10 minutes from where we live.

I thought I’d arrived at some luxury hotel but the visibly amused receptionist said no, it was the headquarters for Spar Zimbabwe (a local supermarket franchise). I was met by one of the bird park assistants and directed to the veterinary office.

Hilton examined her whilst I told him the circumstances of the find. Initially he was quite positive saying he didn’t think the break was too bad, then he changed his mind.

“She’s bleeding at the joint so it’s an open fracture I’m afraid. I’ll give her some strong antibiotics and strap it up and we’ll see what develops. We may have to get the wing removed.”

“What’s your policy in situations like these?” I asked.

“Well that depends on whether I think our visitors can learn from seeing a bird like this” he replied.

“So do you get quite a lot of school visits?”

He told me that the birds were originally a private collection and anyone was welcome to come and enjoy them (you need to book). They were certainly very much in evidence, swans on a small lake and peacocks strutting around. Schools visited regularly. And I had never heard of the place!

“It also depends on the wishes of the person who brings the bird in” he added.

“Well, I’ll leave that to you” I said, ducking responsibility.

“I don’t see much point in leaving it to spend the rest of its life in a cage” he warned me.

“Well, we’ll have tried” I responded. “Please let me know what you decide”. And I left to get on with my day.

Real man uses worms

15 06 2021

Only in Africa do you find signs such as this. I presume the proprietor was referring to the common use of fishing lures and that real men wouldn’t dream of using anything but his earthworms, but I didn’t stop to find out. I was on the way to Mana Pools Game Park in the Zambezi Valley and I was keen to get there.

It was another 41/2 hours along the somewhat hazardous main road to Zambia before I finally arrived and could relax a bit. A lot of the heavy traffic has now diverted via the new Kazangula bridge that links Botswana and Zambia above the Victoria Falls but one still needs to be quick-witted for over-bearing heavy trucks and wheel-rim bending potholes.

I arrived at “Stretch” (real name Andy) Ferreira’s camp on the edge of the Zambezi just as he and a guest were heading out for the afternoon game drive. He’s been working in the Zambezi Valley and Mana Pools area for some 30 years and promises close up encounters with a lot of the game. Many of the elephants have been given names and know his voice. Under absolutely NO CIRCUMSTANCES should inexperienced people approach elephants like you see in some of these photos (it’s also illegal to do so without a licenced guide).

Four nights later, refreshed and relaxed, I was ready to brave the road back to Harare.