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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

A very Happy Bird-day - Day 385

A very Happy Bird-day today, Penguins and Ostriches are high on the menu. Not for eating though.

#SimonsTownMuseum is a museum piece in itself, located in a building dating from 1777. We walked down to here just as it opened and in a few minutes, Angela and Patrick arrived, looking refreshed and full from their massive breakfast, which they gleefully described, a bit different from our bowl of porridge. Mind you, we did have blueberries in it this morning! I digress.

This historic house was originally for the Governor of the Dutch East India Company, and between then and 1977, was a hospital, school, post office, police station, jail, Magistrates Court and Residence. It certainly has seen the life of this town, one of the oldest in the country. The museum was a maze of small rooms, each exhibiting different artefacts of historical significance. What I most enjoyed was information about the people who lived here, such as Emily Roose who used to look after the children of Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece. There was a photo of our Price Philip with thick blonde hair sitting on her lap. A letter from his sister Sophie to the museum shows that the children were all genuinely very fond of Miss Roose. Tim’s favourite was a glass case showing photos, and the collar of Able Seaman ‘Just Nuisance’, a Great Dane who was enlisted as an Able Seaman during WWII and on his death was given a full military funeral.

There was a lot more here, but I do want to write about the rest of the day. So moving on, we jumped into Patrick’s car and drove to Boulders Beach, renowned for seeing Penguins. We didn’t bother paying to get into the beach; the proprietor at Angela’s guest house informed her that it’s just as good to walk along Willis Walk (renamed to honour Humphrey “Dumps” Willis, who greatly supported the town). We first saw a lone Penguin having fun in the crystal clear sea, then a raft of Penguins swimming and later, a waddle of them on one of the iconic pale grey huge boulders. Even them just standing still is magic; such comical birds. There were a few young ones with their fluffy grey feathers and a couple standing as if they were deep in conversation.

Nearby was a choir singing typical African melodies. They saw me watching and invited me in to join their conga. I love their relaxed swaying motions, I hope I did them justice with my moves.

Our next destination was Cape Point Ostrich Farm, just a few miles outside of Simon’s Town. A few healthy looking Ostriches were in large paddocks as we travelled up the long drive. We walked around the shop with gorgeous handbags, belts and wallets in many colours. Sadly all too heavy, both in weight and budget for us. The four of us decided to go on a guided tour with a lovely lady called Kelly. She shared how the farm was established in 1996 and turned into a breeding farm. It was the vision of Angelika Coelle and her husband. They bought the 65ha with ruins of 19th century Cape Dutch style buildings and within a year had turned it into this beautiful place.

Kelly explained to us that a female will lay 7 -10 eggs about every two to three days between September and April. These are collected and put into a warm room ready to be placed into an incubator, where they will stay for up to 38 days. They are checked to see if they have been fertilised if not, they become eggs for eating; one egg is equivalent to 18-24 chicken eggs! Wow! That’s one mighty breakfast!

She shared that the nose and the front of the legs of a male turn red when they are “in season” and also that ostriches eat stones as this is essential for digestion – two of the many facts we learnt today – every day is a school day. She showed us the 4 – 5 practice eggs that a young female ostrich lays before it produces a proper egg which will be about 15cm long. Also the leather from the legs and the body, which had 14 layers of skin, so incredibly durable.

In the next room, we could see, through a tiny window, chicks that were hatched on Monday. There was one egg still to hatch, and Kelly informed us that after a few days it might need a helping hand, with a hammer! The shell is tough. No chick is hurt by this process.

Outside we visited two pens with chicks. Oh, they are delightful. It was quite tricky getting a decent photo of them, they don’t stop moving! These ostriches will be sold on and from 18 months old may be slaughtered for their very lean and high protein meat.

We returned to the shop to look at some of the beautifully carved and decoupage eggs that make exquisite lamps. I think Angela and Patrick were sorely tempted, but, from the sound of it, already had full baggage of other stuff to take back to Germany tomorrow.

We went out to see the fully grown Ostriches, two female and one male. I must admit I didn’t want to feed them, those beaks coming down on my delicate hand – no way. Tim spied a feather near the edge of the paddock, so while I kept the birds busy with my bag of feed, he reached in and then handed the long white and brown feather to Angela, She was thrilled.

We popped back to Simon’s Town, stopping on the way to the beach, but it was blowing a Hooley, so we didn’t stay long. After a snack, we said our very fond “wir sehen uns wieder” and “au revoir” to our new friends. Thank you, Angela and Patrick, for a delightful bird-day full of laughter and fun.

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