Yesterday was my birthday and Claudette, one of my best friends since primary school days, treated me to breakfast at the Blue Crane restaurant inside the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Muckleneuk in Pretoria. We arrived there just as the restaurant opened at 7:30 and was ushered in from the cold to sit by the fireside, warming our frozen fingers on cups of tea while catching up on each other’s news.
The restaurant is situated on the banks of a large lake and as we enjoyed our meal (scrambled eggs on toast for me and fresh fruit and yoghurt for her), we were entertained by the sounds of water birds calling from the little island in the middle of the lake, as well as the antics of a kingfisher bird who came to sit on the veranda and peered at us through the glass doors as if hoping we’d ordered the salmon for breakfast and were willing to share.
After Claudette had to leave for work (in a moment of incredible foresight, I had booked the day off last month), I spent the rest of the morning chasing the rabbits roaming the parking lot and trying to get a good picture of the little duikertjie foraging by the park’s fence. Every time I put my camera up against the fence to take a picture of the little animal, it pressed its nose up to the lens, probably wondering what tasty titbit I was offering.
I also took a stroll along the wooden walkways to the Hadeda Hideout, a wooden enclosure where you can sit and watch the birds in their natural habitat (it’s also the only place where you can enter the park itself, as opposed to walking along the outside of the fence). Although there were mostly ducks, geese and hadedas to look at, I also caught a glimpse of three crowned cranes and three blue cranes in interesting poses, one foot in the air, head twisting in strange patterns as they listened to the sounds of cars driving past. We used to live in the area when I was much younger and I remember always looking out for ostriches when we drove past on the way to school. Sadly, I didn’t see any this time round, but I suppose they must have been on the other side of the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary was established in 1958 and is home to around 170 species of birds. Birdwatchers and twitchers will probably be able to spend hours waiting and watching for the park’s more elusive residents. I certainly found my morning most enjoyable, even more so as I looked at my beautiful surroundings and thought about all the people back at the office, working hard and attending meetings, while I listened to the call of the kingfisher and watched the sunlight reflecting off the water of the lake.
Do you book your birthday off to do something special on the day? What do you do and where do you go?