Rufousnaped Lark

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

December Holidays - West Coast National Park

Egyptian Geese

With JP Le Roux in Cape Town on holiday as well, he convinced me to head up to West Coast National Park which we duly did along with his wife Margaux. This is a place I always look forward to visiting but I can never get the tides right and the visits always end in disappointment. The first time I went there in 1994, there were thousands of waders of all sorts and shapes and this image is what always brings me back. This visit was no different except that I seemed to have got the tides right this time but there were very few birds about and those that were there kept their distance from the hide. Our mission was to find the European Oystercatcher which had been seen around the Seeberg hide but although there was a large group of African Black Oystercatchers the Euro was nowhere to be seen. Birding for the day was good but photography opportunities were terrible.

Cape Wagtail at Seeberg

From the Gate to Seeberg we got some good birds including Cape Spurfowl, Southern Double-Collared Sunbird, Cape Sparrow, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Grey-backed Cisticola, White-backed Mousebird and Southern Black korhaan although Black Harrier was noticably absent.

Grey-backed Cisticola
 Seeberg was disappointing in that the waders were few and far between and the European Oystercatcher was nowhere to be seen (as I might have mentioned earlier). It was a beautiful day when we arrived with clear skies and no wind but by the time we got to Seeberg, the wind had picked up considerably. Waders found at Seeberg were Grey Plover, White-fronted Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Kittlitzs' Plover, Whimbrel and African Black Oystercatcher.

Grey Plover showing the diagnostic black "armpits"

We decided to head off to Geelbek to see what was around as the wind was really pumping now and white horses were visible over the lagoon. At the old hide the tide was pushing the waders up towards the hide but they didn't come close enough for my 100-400mm lens. A 800mm with a 2 times converter would have been ideal in this situation. Here we picked up a few more waders and in the form of Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Greenshank, Chestnut-banded Plover and some distant Bar-tailed Godwits. Some SA Shelducks were also seen in the distance along with the ubiquitous Egyptian Geese!

Marsh Sandpiper


From Geelbek we headed inland to the Salt marsh hide where we got a calling Bokmakierie, African Stonechat, African Pipit (A Freakin Pipit in JP's terms), Little Grebe, Cape Bulbul, Ostrich, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Pied Starlings and Yellow Canary (which are not as yellow down here as up in Gauteng).

Yellow Canary

As it was now getting late we headed back to Seeberg to see if the European Oystercatcher had made its appearance, stopping at the lookout point where we found a Rock Kestrel soaring effortlessly on the strong wind.

Rock Kestrel

Nothing had changed back at Seeberg except for slightly bigger wader flocks and a few Sandwich, Swift and Common Terns with a possible Damara Tern fishing along the shoreline.

White-fronted Plover

This is a park where I would love to spend a whole weekend or even a whole week just birding with no time limits. Driving 120km from Gordons Bay to spend a mornings birding here is just too rushed as there is too much to see and experience. I think that if i am going to go for a days birding again I will definately hire a guide who has experience with the area to optimise the time available..

White-throated Swallow