“I love my house, I love my nest, in all the world my nest is best” P.D Eastman, 1968.
The slightly chilled, salty air is alive with the sizzling calls of a small but frantic gathering of birds. Multiple male Cape Weavers are fussing obsessively about their respective nest-building projects. Each orange-yellow bird is the epitome of multi-tasking stress. Simultaneously gathering leaves of long, green grass, combating rivals and wooing prospective females. And all the while fixed on the exacting, seemingly impossible task of weaving a tight, well-shaped nest-basket using only their fervent ingenuity and their short, conical beaks!
The weavers’ pale, beady eyes are clear windows into anxious, anguished, angry souls. Each is driven by an irresistible and exemplary work ethic. Levels of productivity at the colony are breathtaking, rivalled only by heated social tensions. Spring has apparently sprung and there is quite simply not a second to waste.
While the males toil, chattering, fluttering, wheezing and weaving, the quiet, understated females look soberly on. Drab and demure, they are pointedly unaffected by the testosterone-driven chaos of the nest-builders. Even those that eventually sample completed nests maintain a carefully tempered cool, in stark contrast to the maniacal responses of their gaudy, super-charged suitors.
It’s all action in the reedbed along the lower reaches of the Bokramspruit – a small watercourse that winds through the outskirts of Kommetjie on the south-western seaboard of the Cape Peninsula. The stream spills out over the beach and into the open Atlantic only 200 m away. The white noise of the nearby surf is a reassuring constant as each member of the enclave of weavers continues striving to build and profit from the very best nest. It’s life or death; the simple answer to success or failure.
Meanwhile the world turns, the bloody moon is eclipsed, and the late winter sun shines on…