17 February 2013 – the long walk to a challenge tick…
After having spent the night with our friends, Keir and Alouise Lynch, in Hermanus last night, we headed out early this morning to De Mond Nature Reserve. We were the first ones to arrive at the reserve and, after entering, soon found a pair of Southern Tchagras moving through the scrub near the main office complex. They didn’t show particularly well for photos, but were still nice to see.
But, they weren’t the reason we were visiting. An active Damara Tern nest had been found in the reserve and, since this was still a species that we needed for our challenge list, it had sparked our interest. What we weren’t totally aware of was just how far we would have to walk to get there…! As it turns out, it was at least a 5km walk through the dune scrub and eventually on to the beach. The fact that a lot of it was on soft sand didn’t help either and the walk really took it out of us! A good 1,5 hours later saw us eventually arriving at the site of the nest and, initially, there was no sign of any birds there! Was this long arduous walk really all for nothing? It took at least 10 minutes before we suddenly found an adult flying over and around us with a fish in its beak – there had to be a chick somewhere closeby!
We began scanning, but couldn’t see anything initially. We sat and waited and still nothing. The birds (now both parents) were sat on the beach not far from us not moving. I decided to crawl a little bit closer for a better look and closer photographic opportunities and got to a point, settled down with my camera pointed at the birds and got ready to take some photos when suddenly, they got up and flew straight towards me and started mobbing me – I realized that I must have inadvertently come very close to the chick, but I still couldn’t see it. Just then, Margaret happened to see it – it was literally right in front of me not more than 2 metres away, but it was in amongst some kelp and from where I was lying on the sand, it was hidden. I moved a little bit further to my right and then had a clear view – what a gorgeous little thing…! I then moved back a little to stop stressing the birds out and sat and waited. Over the course of the next hour or two, we enjoyed the interactions between the parents and the chick and, even although it was totally overcast and the light was terrible, we still ended up taking quite a few shots just for the record.
Then began the long walk back. another arduous journey with not too much to report on. Back at the cars after a couple of hours, we decided to head down to the mouth of the river to see if there were any decent waders about. Quite a bit of scanning produced reasonable numbers of the commoner species like African Black Oystercatcher, White-fronted, Kittlitz’s, Common Ringed and Grey Plovers, Little Stints, Sanderlings and even a Bar-tailed Godwit, but we were pleasantly surprised to find 2 Terek Sandpipers and 3 Greater Sand Plovers, both species that, up until now, we had not managed to encounter for our challenge list yet.
So, after a rather strenuous day, it had turned out to all be worth it with 3 new additions to our challenge list, hardly something to complain about..:)