Ever since I was a child, I have looked forward to the arrival of White Storks (Ciconia ciconia). There is something very special about seeing flocks of them working their way through cultivated lands or open expanses of grassland. Their annual arrival was a given on our farm. “The storks are here,” someone would comment on first sighting them.
It has always felt good to see them on our journeys through the Free State and particularly in the Bredasdorp-Mossel Bay region of the Western Cape. Their presence has always felt ‘right’.
White Storks migrate south during the European winter to parts of Africa. This is what they have always done. I was thus alarmed to read a report on BBC News in January this year that studies have shown White Storks increasingly staying closer to home and feeding on rubbish dumps to sustain them during the winter. The human tendency to discard food and other waste in large quantities is apparently leading to a change of behaviour in this migratory species. How dreadful it would be if the storks from Russia, Poland and Greece stopped coming here! Apart from the beauty of these large birds, they play an important role in controlling crop pests such as locusts.
It was thus with a degree of relief that I spotted a flock of White Storks in the Winterton-Bergville area while we were in KwaZulu-Natal during April.
I fervently hope they will keep on coming year after year after year!