Shortly after we had relocated to the city Gaborone, capital of Botswana, a weird green ball appeared in the lemon tree.
I stared at it for a while, wondering what it was, when a small, bright yellow bird flew into it, holding a strand of grass in its’ beak.
It was soon chattering and weaving the strand into the intriguing contraption – Holy fork, it was a nest.
I had never seen anything like it and ran off to fetch our bird-book, previously un-touched.
It was a male, masked weaver – as common in Gaborone, as a sparrow had been in London.
This was my first up-close and personal experience of wild-life in Botswana.
We were in the city, Gaborone, but to the north of us sprawled the wondrous Okavango Delta, which I had only seen in pictures.
During a visit to London, our flight back to Africa was delayed and I decided to take our daughter to Londons’ Wetlands, having picked up a leaflet. I was immediately struck by the similarity aeriel pictures bore to the Okavango Delta, revered as a place of beauty.
As well as the birds I had been expecting, they had successfully reared otters, in their ‘natural’ habitat – another revelation.
This was as startling to me as weaver birds in Gaborone and I can only describe the feeling that welled up inside of me as the most immense, humbling gratitude.
The Thames had been, for the most part, a dirty, murky river, when I had been growing up, dotted with the odd shopping trolley and old plastic bottle.
I had never imagined otters in there, or king-fishers dipping in and out – banks of reeds, full of wading birds.
Driven by hormones and the desire to have the best flick in the world, at the time, I was not giving attention to such things, and it was now deeply thought-provoking, that somebody else had been.
I wasn’t sure how I could get involved, I wasn’t even able to make a mermaid sit up straight, but I desperately wanted to say thank you, so back in Botswana, I began to give a small amount to WWF (World Wildlife Fund) having recalled a couple of double u’s in the acronym.
Our weaver bird finished his nests and started bouncing on the branches, simultaneously flapping his wings to create vibrations – calling female weavers to come and check out his efforts.
If she approves a nest, she moves in and if not – he builds another, until she’s satisfied with the quality. Eventually, little chirps told us he had finally succeeded.
(Click arrow below to see babies)
Meanwhile, the monthly direct debits to WWF started to trickle out.