Sounds of Silence

Sounds of Silence
“Breathe, breathe in the air,
Don’t be afraid to care..”

Pink Floyd; Breathe; Dark Side of the Moon 1973

The heading and epigraph above are both, for those of us steeped in the history of contemporary music, from seminal works of two of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, Paul Simon and Roger Waters. Both songs came to me yesterday as I sat outside on a porch staring at an empty ocean; no yachts scudding across the swells, no vessels heading in and out of port. Admittedly this is a different port to the Waterfront Charters home base – I was above Simon’s Town harbour, my chosen home base as a ‘Former Naval Person’ (for those who don’t know, Winston Churchill’s nom de plume when writing to President Roosevelt during WWII) – but both the small False Bay naval harbour and the sprawling Cape Town dockyard would have been equally empty of movement. But one thing struck me as I sat there: the sounds of silence were very loud. Instead of the traffic noise filtering up the hill; the dockyard clangour, the normal sounds of a busy civilisation, there was birdsong. A wide, noisy clamour of calls, whistles and chats. It was amazing, and I revelled in the busy activity of the wildlife, vibrations in the air that are normally only a vague backdrop to the human wall of sound.

Our various birdfeeders were in great demand, and whilst I don’t pretend to be an expert ornithologist (or ‘twitcher’, as they are unaccountably proud to be called), I did recognise most of our visitors. The normal rock pigeons and ring-neck doves were present – they own the small garden – but with them were a flock of White-eyes, Cape Bulbuls, a Southern Boubou, a Fiscal Shrike, a Fork-tailed Drongo (an unusual sighting, I think), Mousebirds, long tailed Sugarbirds and a wide variety of Sunbirds, their metallic feathers glinting magically in the sun. A flock of little finches descended at one point and took over the balcony before heading south, and I can’t identify them, but their song was entrancing. There were others I didn’t recognise, and add to all the above the normal LBJ’s, or Little Brown Jobs as the experts call them, the noisy quintet of hadedas, guinea fowl, starlings, crows and seagulls, and you have a veritable World of Birds – free and very loud in their busy lives. And then, in the trees of the open space in front of us I see squirrels; field mice run busily through the fynbos, a mongoose hurries on some mission, and although I didn’t see him yesterday, there is a resident caracal that glides through the undergrowth: bad news for mice and rats.

Cape Gannets

It made me aware of the benefits this ‘lockdown’ has, over and above the curtailing of COVID-19. Our wildlife will benefit enormously; poisonous emissions will be reduced; hunting and ‘sport’ fishing come to a standstill; the world is just a more sedate place, and we can take some time to focus on what is around us. This is very close to home. Waterfront Charters are not only the preeminent Cruise Company in the V&A Waterfront, we also pride ourselves on our support for the wildlife of the Western Cape. Our world may be a little different in terms of the creatures we encounter: dolphins instead of caracals, penguins instead of pigeons and cormorants instead of guinea fowl, but the idea of conservation and protection is universal and forms a core part of our mission and values. If it takes a time of standstill to appreciate these facts, then good will come out of these trying times. This world is currently focussed on a pandemic; it puts the value of human lives into question. Isn’t it amazing how by pulling together, the earth’s population (with a few lunatic exceptions) is determined to beat the plague? Let’s carry that through by becoming aware that we may be central to the earth, but we are not alone: there are millions of other species that are currently exposed to their own killing plague – humans.

Join Waterfront Charters when the shades have lifted; come with us on an Atlantic Ocean Safari and you’ll see exactly what we mean. A Sunset Cruise, a Coastal Adventure – all our trips put nature at the forefront. But in the meantime, breathe: breathe in the air, and don’t be afraid to care…

And always, take care of yourselves and your loved ones.