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Trees of Life

The clusters of small yellow figs on a tree offered an exciting feast for various species of birds. It was also an invitation for me to stop, pause, and enjoy.

Three trees in a park, closely growing together to form a shady canopy.

Three trees that may not have been much of an attraction for those in search of rarities and new birds to add to their growing life lists. But for those that are willing to slow down there is a simpler way for life. There are birds that may not get the heart rate racing, but they offer one a sense of peace and tranquility.

No birds added to my life list. A great deal added to my life.

Three trees that wrap around you and allow you to enjoy an escape.

Three trees that allow you to stand and drink deeply from the life that they provide. They offer birds a place of nutrition and safety. They offer us a place to nourish the soul and safely ponder the issues of life. They don’t say a word, but the silence and the calls that come from its canopy offer more answers than even the wisest person could ever give.

At first there were no sounds and movement from the trees. The wind started to blow and make itself known, its sound gently making its music through the leaves. Should I move on, find the next spot, and find somewhere with a little more action? I decided to wait, believing that the figs in the tree would eventually draw birds and reward my patience.

The three trees around me were silent at first, but slowly the sounds of birds started to be heard.

A small flock of Cape White-eye busily moved through the top of the trees. At first it was but a sound, but eventually these small, energetic yellow birds started to show. This species brings back memories of a more difficult season in my life. A season where I not only experienced pain, but I also discovered the world of birds. I remember looking out the back door of my mother’s house and taking a photo of two Cape White-eyes behind a barbed wire that was attached to the top of a precast wall. Two delicate, colourful Cape White-eyes behind ugly, harsh silver barbed wire. Beauty and ugliness connected outside my mom’s back door. The scene was a metaphor for what was happening in my own life at the time. While I gazed at these two delicate birds, only a few meters away my mom sat on a blue chair in pain from the cancer that was destroying her frail body. The beauty of the birds a few meters away from the ugliness of cancer. Sometimes in life beauty and ugliness closely reside.

The three trees connecting the present back to a time that shaped much of who I am.

The Golden-tailed Woodpecker let out its sorrowful wail high in the tree, it didn’t allow me to see it, but its call assured me that it was there. I moved to another side of the tree and took time to slowly look around the tree hoping to find something else. A beautiful male Violet-backed Starling proudly sat on a branch. Although I didn’t have my camera, the time I spent admiring it through my binoculars engraved the image of the species in my mind. Although no one was around, words of celebration came out of my mouth as I marveled at the colours that I got to enjoy. A group of Black-bellied starlings started to noisily move through the tree, they were bold enough to show themselves and make themselves known. A common species in the area, but I nevertheless took the time to enjoy their busy time as they moved through the branches.

The three trees filled with sound. Filled with activity.

Suddenly I heard some chunky wing flaps moving in the trees, it sounded like the movement of a dove, but it took time to find what made the sound. After some time, a group of African Green Pigeons started to show. As one of them lazily sat with its green body pressed low down against the branch, it started to look a little like Jabba the Hut. It looked dumpy and satisfied with the feast that it had just devoured. These parrot-like pigeons are always a special sighting.

In about 30 minutes I stood enjoying the sounds and sights of birds that aroused my senses. Around 12 species of birds were seen over the time I was there, not a long list, but I got to slow down and simply enjoy what I got to see.

Three trees in a park. The trees won’t make the next rare bird report or may never even make it as an eBird Hotspot, but these three trees are a place of healing and joy. A place to ponder and pray. A place to discover the wonders of nature, while at the same time finding a place to rest the soul.

Three trees in a park. Maybe it’s time to find yours…


This article was written from a time spent in a park on the banks of the Lovu Estuary, just south of Durban. To see a list of birds seen at the park, see the eBird Checklist for the location


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