24 – 25 November 2012 – a west coast anniversary
With birders talking about an interesting Common Ringed Plover at Geelbek in the West Coast National Park which showed some similarities with Semipalmated Plover and our impending 6th wedding anniversary on Sunday, we decided to book ourselves into the Duinepos Chalets in the park for Saturday night. After all, 6 years ago, we had gotten married up here on the west coast and spent the morning before the wedding birding in the park anyway, so what better place to celebrate our anniversary.
We got to the park fairly early on Saturday morning and were faced with heavily overcast conditions with light drizzle. We headed straight to Abrahamskraal and spent the first little while in the hide there. A number of common species were in the area and it was good to watch the African Marsh Harriers with their very recently fledged juvenile moving around the area.
We eventually then made our way across to the salt marsh to the south of the Geelbek restaurant and began sifting through the waders. Most of them were rather distant but, over the next few hours, we scanned through what seemed like hundreds of Common Ringed Plovers. The wind had also picked up quite a bit by now which made the scanning even more difficult, but try as we might, we could not pick up on anything that was noticeably different. Lunchtime arrived and we made our way back to the restaurant for a bite to eat and some time to relax.
It was then time to go and book into our chalet, a lovely little cottage set on the outside of the clump of houses with lots of natural bush around us. Unfortunately, with all the wind, there was not too much activity (apart from a couple of Lark-like Buntings around the chalet), so we decided to drive around the park a bit and do a bit of birding from the car working on adding species to our atlas card. Very little photography was done due to the conditions, but we managed to add a number of common species to the list over the next few hours.
15h00 found us back at the Geelbek salt marsh where we spent another couple of hours looking through small plovers to no avail. It was also at this stage that Margaret managed to lose the car keys in the bush somewhere – somehow they had managed to fall out of her pocket. This obviously presented a little bit of a problem for us – we were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no spare car keys and everything that we had with us, including the keys to our chalet, were locked in the car! Panic set in and lots of searching took place without any luck. At around 17h00, we had resigned ourselves to the fact that the keys were definitely gone and phone calls were being made to arrange for our parents to go to our house and collect the spare set of keys and bring them up to us (about an hour’s drive!) when Trevor happened to spot something lying in the long grass and lent down for a closer look. The car keys!! Major relief!
With the keys now safely back with us, we headed over to the lagoon to scan through the waders there and then also spent a bit of time photographing some of them in the late afternoon light. Unfortunately, try as we might, we could not find anything out of the ordinary, but it was good to put the effort in anyway. Then it was back to the chalet to begin preparing the braai for dinner and to relax for the evening.
Early Sunday morning and the wind had dropped a bit. Activity in the bush around the chalet had improved a bit and we spent a little bit of time photographing some of the birds in the area.
Then it was back to the lagoon to spend some time scanning through waders again and, again, we could not find anything out of the ordinary. An African Rail which popped out of the reeds next to the hide was a nice surprise though! A bit of time spent scanning through the line of Bluegum trees also gave us the opportunity to photograph Cardinal Woodpeckers at an active nest before we were joined by John and Greta Graham and Graham Searll.
After a quick coffee at the restaurant and being distracted by Lark-like Buntings and African Hoopoes, we eventually made our way back out to the salt marsh to look at plovers again. Another few hours of scanning and, by now a serious case of “scope eye” was starting to set in. Unfortunately, there was still no sign of anything that looked remotely different to us, so eventually, we called it a day and headed back to the restaurant for lunch and then the drive home. Whilst we didn’t find anything hugely exciting on the weekend, we still managed to see a good number of species in the park with well over 100 species recorded in the Geelbek pentad alone – at least we got a reasonable atlas card and some ok’ish photos out of the exercise and got to spend our wedding anniversary in one of our favourite places…:)