Nature spring many surprises! At Riverside at our home on the Goukou River it is no different.

One of these is the recent encounter between the Dikkop and the Puffadder on the river bank in front of our house. We saw the Dikkop behaving in an unusual way – spreading its wings and jumping around. We took a number of photographs and even two short videos. We did not think much more about it until we downloaded the photographs and had a look at them on our big screen.

Only then did we see what was the cause of the bird’s distressful behaviour. The family of Dikkoppe (officially called Water Thick-Knees) are normally parading in front of our house every day. In the early evening, when insects are out and the security lamps attract moths, they run up and down on the bank while we sit outside around our little bar-b-que, naturally with a nice glass of good Cape red wine in the hand. The Dikkoppe are usually joined by two Blacksmith Lapwings – whom we simply call ‘Kiewiete’.

The have become so used to us that the Dikkop will sometimes approach to within two meters – as if to look you in the eye.

We have been suspecting for some time that both the Dikkoppe and Kiewiete are nesting on the bank – because they are always here. Unless they are scattered by those invading visitors to these parts during the holiday season. It is not easy to find those nests – they are so well camouflaged in the grass. However, the encounter between the Dikkop and the Puffadder did indicate that there was probably a nest there. This is exactly what the Puffadder was after when we took our photographs.

Our photographs show the encounter in various stages – but, as stated, we only noticed the snake on our computer screen later. Short video snippets show the Dikkop dancing around the snake.

At one point a Pied Kingfisher, another regular on the bank in front of our house, joined the party. He flew in from the side – almost as if attacking the Dikkop and chasing him away to save him from the snake. As the Dikkop took off – shouting in displeasure – we also lost interest. Otherwise we would have followed that Puffadder. There are some shrubs nearby and we suspect that he is also using it as a hunting ground for mice – a favourite snack.

Snakes and us

The bottom line is that we never again saw the snake and we know he is around in this area. So we tread carefully when outside. Snakes are part of our lives at Riverside – in the summer they are out and about, with Cape Cobras, Boomslang and Puffadders being the most prominent. We also have mole snakes and various lesser know adders which are seen occasionally. Recently a boomslang came out of our vine (where the birds have been nesting) and moved along the side of the house towards our stack of braai wood at the back. This was too much for the gardener who decided to occupy himself with tasks far away from the wood.

One day a Cape Cobra leisurely made his way across the grass in front of our house – to great consternation of all who saw him. The snake catcher was called but when he got to Riverside the Cobra was probably hundreds of yards away.

That day when the Dikkop confronted the Puffadder – and he flew away – it became silent on the bank. We later saw the Dikkop sitting on the bank lower down from our house. They are now back at night running on the bank – but we cannot help wondering if the Puffadder did find that nest and consumed the eggs.