Heinrich became particularly well acquainted with two ostriches at a private game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal for different reasons – the male tried to kill him and the female swallowed his watch.
The male had a rather unpalatable personality. He had the habit of attacking everything that moved, including vehicles and people. When photographing something in the reserve (especially the female ostrich), this ill-tempered male would come running from the furthest hill in a cloud of dust. Heinrich’s subject matter would invariably flee, leaving him to face this black beast alone. It would storm right up to his vehicle and bump it with its chest. Leaning against the vehicle, it would stretch itself as high as possible and open its wings to make itself seem larger than life. This was comical, for it didn’t matter how large the ostrich tried to make itself, it always looked utterly pathetic trying to intimidate a 4×4. However, when Heinrich happened to be outside his vehicle, its intimidation proved to be somewhat more effective.
Needless to say, it wasn’t a very popular ostrich. Its irritating personality eventually led to its downfall shortly after the opening of an à la carte venison restaurant on the reserve.
The female ostrich, which was Heinrich’s other close acquaintance on the reserve, had a more likeable personality and so survived the opening of the restaurant.
Heinrich and the ostrich had a very good relationship, until the unfortunate incident when she swallowed his watch. Heinrich doesn’t want to falsely accuse her, for he doesn’t have any real proof that she actually did it. He didn’t exactly see her swallow it, but he’s pretty sure of it when he considers the evidence.
On the day in question, he awoke to the sound of his watch alarm at 5.15am. He drove to the reserve and came upon the female ostrich in good light, so he climbed out of the car and started photographing her. She was so comfortable with his presence that he could lie down in front of her and photograph her with a 16-35mm lens. But on that day it didn’t work because she kept pecking at his watch, which was shiny and expensive. So to stop her antics, he took off his watch and put it into his pants pocket. He leopard-crawled around her for a while until he captured this picture and then got back into his vehicle and moved on.
A little while later he wondered what the time was, but he couldn’t find his watch. After looking everywhere, he headed back to the patch of grass where he had photographed the ostrich, for it must have fallen out of his pocket while he was lying on the grass. But he couldn’t find his watch anywhere.
From that day onwards there was some tension in their relationship. Heinrich managed to forgive her, for he did get a photograph for his bookShades of Nature. But she just wasn’t herself. She acted very strangely, especially early in the mornings… possibly because of the alarm that kept going off in her stomach at 5.15am every day.