139. Storks.

By Peter Fraenkel

Fascinating birds – storks. No, they don’t bring babies and I resent that, as an infant, my parents lied to me about that. They even hung a picture of a flying stork carrying a baby in a nappy in my nursery. Kitsch! I made them take it down even though I would not have known that word at the time.

I’ve never seen storks in England, though I read some have been sighted.  I have, however, seen them frequently in Silesia, in Germany, where I was born, and later on visits to North Africa… seen them and heard them, for they make a loud noise – not an attractive sound clacking their long beaks. I never saw nor heard them at Breslau, my birthplace, now called Wroclaw. I guess in a city of over 660 thousand there are no cattle and hence no dung heaps where insects breed and such insects are among their sustenance. They do, however, also hunt frogs and lizards and such like.

I might have thought the tall buildings of a city would be ideal for their nesting but they apparently decided otherwise. And who am I to argue with them? It’s in the countryside that they build nests, mainly on church towers, and once in a while atop electricity pylons, though that can be dangerous. I have seen some churches in Silesia where cartwheels had been fixed to the tops of towers – in the hope that a stork would nest on it.

They’re migratory birds and in winter, when insects become rare in the north, they migrate south to North Africa. When they return the ear following  they appear to go to the very sites they had come from. Even young birds who, presumably, cannot remember where they were hatched, seem to find their way “home.” Many myths circulate about them. They say they bring good luck, so they are widely tolerated even though their nests are untidy and the noise they make unmusical. Other birds sing beautifully. Larks ascending have even inspired human composition. Storks – never.

But I still love them… these storks.