Little Stint feeding among eel grass. Priscilla Beeton
A group of about fifteen birders, led by Mel Tripp and Simon Fogarty, met at Geelbek in the West Coast National Park on Sunday 19th February for the annual ‘Farewell the Waders’ outing. It is an opportunity to get to grips with the ID of some of the confusing migrant waders, with Langebaan being one of the best sites in the country to watch waders. Weather reports during the week had predicted gale force winds and a cold wind certainly blew at Seeberg, although it did not dampen our spirits.
We saw at least five Yellow-billed Kites on the drive to Geelbek, but once in the park, there were relatively few bush birds – probably due to the fact that the veld was very dry. However, on our way to Seeberg we enjoyed sightings of Cape Spurfowl (many), Grey-winged Francolin, Yellow Canary and a flock of Pied and Common starlings, as well as an excellent view of a Black Harrier.
As we approached the hide along the boardwalk, we saw a pair of two White-fronted Plovers plus a chick. From the hide, we were treated to the view of Sanderlings flying in tight formation, perfectly synchronised and bright white as the sun caught their wings. Such training flights continued on and off while we were there. At the same time, Bar-tailed Godwits were flying above in loose formation, before settling on the sand and taking off again. There was a huge range in their breeding plumage, ranging from a soft pink to an orange-red. A Grey Plover was beginning to show its black breeding plumage.
There were good numbers of both Greater and Lesser flamingos. Although Mel was disappointed that there were no Red Knots, which were seen in large numbers the previous day at the hide, we saw a good range of waders and other birds, including Common Whimbrel and Eurasian Curlew. After a coffee-break at about 10.30, we drove up to the Seeberg Look-out for a short visit. Here we felt the full brunt of the wind, although the turquoise colour of the water below us and the interesting museum in the white-washed cottage made it well worth the visit.
Intense viewing from Seeberg Hide. Penny Dichmont We had a leisurely lunch back at Geelbek Manor house as the optimum time for the tide from the Geelbek Hide was calculated at 12.50 pm. However, when the group reached the hide, they discovered that the water had gone out earlier than expected – possibly being pushed out by the wind. Another surprise was the fact that the small pans which we passed on the boardwalk on the way to the hide, usually covered in shallow water, were totally dry as a result of a neap tide.
We still had some wonderful sightings from the hide, including the Red Knot which had eluded us earlier (with flecks of soft red, as it started getting its breeding plumage), Ruddy Turnstones in full breeding plumage and more Grey Plovers. Mel and Simon provided excellent tips for identification, such as the “sewing machine-type action” of the Sanderling and their telescopes were much appreciated to help identify birds among the large group of grey, brown and white waders. Further delights included a Chestnut-banded Plover and a Marsh Sandpiper.
Separating Sanderling from Curlew Sandpipers – The Geelbek Hide. Priscilla Beeton
As it looked as if the best of the day’s sightings was over, some of the group had already left when the brilliant spot was made by Tom Williams, who recognized a European or Common Shelduck, a bird he knew from his boyhood in England – probably an escapee. After the initial euphoria, people realized that the bird did not appear in current field guides and there was some discussion about whether it could or should be “tickable”. Nevertheless, Tom received many congratulations and an offer of a drink – which was not forthcoming, however, as the group packed up soon afterwards and wended their way homeward.
Common (European) Shelduck. Priscilla Beeton
57 species were seen in all. Thanks to Mel and Simon for a very interesting and fruitful trip.
LIST OF SPECIES
Cape Turtle Dove
Waders and Shorebirds
Common Ringed Plover
African Black Oystercatcher
Great White Pelican
European or Common Shelduck
South African Shelduck
Common Ringed Plover