21 March 2012 – a new tick for the local patch…
I consider the West Coast National Park as something of a “local patch” for myself since I have been birding there for so many years and so I am always keen to increase my own personal park list when a new arrival is found. It’s amazing how much excitement one can arrive when seeing a common species for the first time on your local patch and it was exactly this that happened. News had filtered through to me that, 3 days ago, a Cape Batis had been seen near Geelbek in the park. This is a surprisingly common species in the right areas, but was actually a totally new record for the park taking its overall list up to 309 species. Since today was a public holiday and we didn’t have anything special planned, we decided to head up there.
Leaving home early and picking up a take-away breakfast on the road, we entered the park from the northern gate just after 7am and headed straight down to Seeberg. We were hoping to catch up with Terek Sandpiper for our challenge list (extremely frustrating that we have not yet managed to find this species for our list yet!), but once again, we would be disappointed as the tide was already quite far out and, hence, the birds were distant. We spent at least an hour scanning through them anyway, but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, so decided to move on. The regular bush birds were active and added nicely to our atlas list that we had started compiling.
We spent quite some time working through the other areas in the pentad, not picking up anything terribly exciting, but we completed our required 2 hours for a full protocol atlas list before moving on towards Geelbek which is in a different pentad. Obviously not wanting to waste the opportunity, we started with a list for this pentad as well which had a strong run of bush birds to start with. Arriving at the area where the batis had been reported from, we got out of the car and walked over towards the trees and, almost instantly, found a female Cape Batis, my 242nd bird on my personal park list! Great stuff! We spent some time with her trying to get decent photos, but she never really obliged always landing in areas with distracting backgrounds or back light angles, etc. But it was fantastic anyway to be able to add a new bird to my park list – it’s been quite some time since I was last able to do that!
It was time for a coffee stop now at the Geelbek restaurant which we enjoyed in the company of Cape Weavers, Cape Bulbuls, Cape Sparrows. Well, in fact, pretty much anything that started with Cape! We also had a slight distraction in the form of a nicely perched Rock Martin there which we managed to get a few photos of.
Since the tide at Geelbek was miles out and the waders were nowhere to be seen from the hide, we decided to move on to Abrahamskraal to try and boost the atlas list a little. A number of common water birds were added in quick succession whilst a juvenile African Rail and an immature Black Crake were also acting totally un-rallid-like by walking around in the open and allowing us to get some photos of them. We also saw a couple of distant Common Eland which we made note of for the MammalMap project, an atlas project for mammals. Before long, we were hitting the road to head back home and enjoy the rest of the public holiday relaxing there. Just such a pity that we can’t do this kind of thing EVERY day!