Hunting Arthroleptella sp. On Hanskop

07 June 2004

Nose almost touching the black mud,
my senses clutch at a midget black frog,
no larger than a fly.
He has stopped singing, because he sees me,
but I cannot see him.

On this mountain top
the clouds rush low overhead, flinging rain.
Knees squelch in deep moss as I creep
towards a new quarry, one who is still singing.
I don't recognise his song; I suspect
he does not have a name. Nameless he sings:
"I'm here and I want a mate!"
"I'm here and I want a mate!"
"I'm strong and I'm here and I want a mate!"
I cup my ears and twist my head
to locate the beam of his song. I peer
beneath the reeds - he sees me and falls silent –
I stare blindly at his miniature world
of moisture and moss.

High on this dunce-cap mountain,
I cling to a steep, seeping slope. Below,
the pallid city sprawls in the lowlands.
All around me, the fynbos waves in spectra of green.
Above, on the peak, the wind is shrieking
through the unyielding girders of six towers.
Hard, grey flowers bloom on these steel trees:
microwave dishes, quivering slightly in the gale.
Like ears they receive myriad messages, beamed
from the city below, and like mouths they shout them on
to the next ear, on the next mountain.
But my ears hear the wind shearing
on metallic lips.

I turn back to the hidden singers.
I hear their music.
But I must also give them a name.

James Harrison
Avian Demography Unit

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