Hubby and I were returning from a very rewarding game drive. After a couple of very unremarkable drives, our luck had improved and we had spotted some of our favourites and were looking forward to a relaxing dinner and a game of 30 seconds with the kids. Our driveway veers to the left and just as we turned, a bird that had been sitting in the middle of the road suddenly took flight. The only way I can explain the take-off was that it was reminiscent of Orville’s famous take off in the Disney movie, the Rescuers. It was disastrous and didn’t end nearly as well.
Thelma is a Spotted thick-knee and they tend to be more active at night when they forage for insects. In Afrikaans (a local South African language) a “thick-knee” is called a “dikkop”, which means “thick head” and I think this is an infinitely more apt description of Thelma!
She took off again and flew straight into the middle of a large tree trunk where she crash landed and fell to the floor. This did not deter her however and she took off again, straight into another tree! By the third attempt I was beside myself and she was sitting dazed in the shrubbery. Hubby’s response to my request to go and rescue her was something like “hell, no”, so I did what any mother would do in the same situation and I got out, in the pitch dark in the middle of the Bush and retrieved Thelma.
Thelma allowed me to pick her up. I was amazed at how soft she was and significantly bigger than I had expected. I have rescued a couple of birds in my life but never one quite as large as Thelma. We were only about 50m away from the Lodge at that point, and Thelma was still very disorientated and unresponsive when we got the Lodge door. Teens 1 through 3 and Zaza gathered around her looking genuinely concerned. I was convinced she was just shaken up and not in any mortal danger though.
I was not keen to leave her outside for the night but on the other hand birds don’t enjoy being kept in captivity. On top of that I have absolutely no knowledge of specific diets and care for a Spotted thick-knee! I just knew I couldn’t leave her in her current disorientated state.
We discussed what would be the best way of keeping her safe for the night and decided that the bathroom was probably our only real option. Step one was to make sure that the toilet lid was closed and there was nothing that she could hurt herself on. We gathered grass from outside to give Thelma a spot to hide in and sleep on for the night and put out a bowl of water in case she needed a drink. All went well until Teen 1 took a trip to the bathroom, nose buried in her book – having forgotten about our house guest. I am not sure who got the bigger fright, but after unruffling feathers on both sides, Thelma was left to rest for the night.
When the morning light streamed through the window the next morning, I hurried downstairs to see how Thelma had fared. She was chirpy and you would never say she’d knocked herself out the previous night. I called hubby to help me release her and she took off like the Roadrunner being chased by Wile. E. Coyote.
We were very relieved that she had recovered so well and that we had been privileged to get so close to such a magnificent specimen that we had previously only observed from afar.