20 November 2011 – another day on the west coast
Arriving at the gates of the West Coast National Park this morning just after they opened, we entered the park and headed straight for Geelbek where we hoped to catch up with some waders. Unfortunately, it was totally overcast, so the light was not great, but as we arrived at Geelbek, we met up with Tinus Lampbrecht who had also arrived to look through the waders.
Walking along the boardwalk, we picked up a number of the common species like Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff, Common Greenshank, Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers and Pied Avocet. By the time we reached the hide, the water was already just about at high tide, so many of the waders were moving off already. A quick scan had us picking up Marsh Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Whimbrel and a few others before there was not exposed mud left at all. Some commotion amongst the birds over on the other side of the lagoon had us scanning and picking up a distant Marsh Owl flying around during the day! A new species for the challenge with some VERY distant photos which were so bad, they could hardly even be described as record shots…:(
With the tide now fully up, we decided to make our way across to Seeberg. As we pulled up to the car park and looked down on to the sandbanks, we immediately picked up the Eurasian Oystercatcher amongst a small group of African Black Oystercatchers, a bird that has caused quite some excitement amongst local twitchers recently. It was still very far off, so we decided to head down to the hide to see if we could get close enough for a photo. We put up a female Southern Black Korhaan on the way to the hide which gave reasonable views as it floated past us.
Tinus was already in the hide when we arrived as were Faansie and Ronel Peacock and Jason Boyce. Unfortunately, the Euro Oyk had now moved off (Damn, there goes the photo op on this rarity!!), so we began the process of scanning the close on 1000 terns on the sandbank in front of the hide. Most of them were Common Terns, but single Caspian and Sandwich Terns were also picked out and, eventually, a Little Tern as well which we photographed for the first time during the challenge. There were also a few Sanderlings and White-fronted Plovers about, but not much else.
From here, we made our way across to Abrahamskraal to continue with our atlas card for the Geelbek pentad. Most of the usual suspects were picked up without anything terribly exciting. A pair of African Marsh Harriers seem to be nesting in the reeds directly across the waterhole from the hide and they were quite active in the general area which allowed for some photos, but the light was just horrible – we really need to get back there on a nice day and try and photograph them a little better. Eventually the hide was swarmed by a bunch of German tourists who just took over everything, so we packed up and headed out meeting up with Faansie, Ronel and Jason who now also had Megan Loftie-Eaton with them as they were arriving at the hide. We warned them of the onslaught in the hide, but they went in anyway…
Our next stop was the restaurant at Geelbek for some lunch although it took us quite some time to get there having to avoid all the Angulate Tortoises that were out and about (including a few rather amorous ones!). We are now such regulars there that the waitresses greet us when we arrive and already know what we are probably going to order. At least we got the opportunity to add things like House Sparrow and Cape Weaver to our atlas list for the day while we sat and enjoyed a rather relaxed lunch. A short walk outside into the picnic area turned up 2 Ospreys floating by overhead, one with a fish in its talons.
After lunch, we drove around a bit more trying to add a few more bush birds to our atlas list before heading back to Geelbek hide for the dropping tide. By now, the north-westerly wind had really started pumping and was keeping the water in, so apart from another Osprey over the hide, there was very little to see. We sat around waiting and, after a very long time, the first bits of mud became exposed which brought in a few birds. We set about scanning through them, but because of the water not dropping very far, the numbers of birds was also very low with most of the same species seen as earlier with the addition of a few Bar-tailed Godwits. As it was already starting to get quite late, we finally decided to call it a day and began the journey home – no megas for us today, but maybe next time…