15 February, 2011

Birds at the mouth of the Berg River

Our dentist has moved to Saldanha, a one and a half hour drive away. We travel via Velddrif, where the road crosses the mouth of the Berg River on a long low bridge like a causeway. To the mountain side and home is a wide salt marsh with reed beds and mud flats, teeming with birds and there is a bird hide. To the sea side many flat pans where brine is evaporated in the sun to harvest salt. And the flamingoes take their harvest there too. Salt-of-the-earth from Marie Theron, an artist who lives nearby.

We are – always in a hurry, busy busy busy, things to do, appointments to keep. So we have passed this bird hide a dozen times. Last week when we had half an hour we stopped. He took pictures. I was somewhat daunted, not a dedicated birder. I looked out and saw birds. Every one seemed to be different, and all unknown. Flamingoes in a huge flock across the river. Almost close enough to touch, near the bird hide, blacksmith plovers. For the rest, I have picked out the better pictures and ploughed thru my birdie books. Who are you? Waders and migrants … 

There was a pied kingfisher, 29 cm, black and white, hovering patiently, diving for lunch, then returning to its favoured tree stump. Where it ‘beats the fish to death before eating it’. And back to hovering over the next likely patch of water. Resting on the bank, a white breasted cormorant, but he had his back turned to us, and was having a quiet nap.

Little? stint or a grey plover?


Rednecked (but not in breeding plumage) or little stint? Such appealing names, not! If it was ‘little’ it is the smallest of the waders and the smallest of the migrants. Flying all the way to Russia and Iran. Or a grey plover?? Head down, it feeds busily, on crustaceans, mosquitoes and larvae.

Greenshank

Greenshank – too far way to actually see if his shanks were green, but the shape is right, the wing colour and the long, tip tilted bill. Migrating from the Palaearctic. Eating insects, molluscs and crustaceans – from the surface, or wading right in and probing the sand.

Blacksmith lapwing

Blacksmith lapwing

Blacksmith lapwing

Blacksmith plover, one of those distinctive birds, which even I can identify with a sigh of relief. But, he is now a lapwing, a blacksmith lapwing! Black and white on long legs. Related to the wirebird, national bird of the island of St Helena. This bird eats insects and worms. It likes damp marshy places and is a newcomer (in my 1982 book) to the South Western Cape.

Flamingoes

Flamingoes

Flamingoes

Flamingoes

Flamingoes earn a big sigh of relief. Along Life's Highway and the Yard Art Game with her pink plastic version knows a flamingo. These are Greater flamingoes with black tipped beaks, and flashing scarlet and black wings in flight. 

Flamingoes in flight

Bird books – Joy Frandsen’s Birds of the South Western Cape 1982.  
Sasol Birds of southern Africa by Sinclair Hockey and Tarboton 1998.

Pictures by Jurg
words by Diana of Elephant's Eye
- wildlife gardening in Porterville, 
near Cape Town in South Africa   
   
(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. 
Those are my links)

19 comments:

  1. We have flamingoes here in Port Elizabeth on the Swartkops River, but I don't get to that side of town enough to really watch them more.

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  2. Thanks for sharing these photos and the information. The Blacksmith Plover is beautiful and I love the flamingo photos. I always learn something from your posts - thank you for that xxx

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  3. Birds with long legs, very cool design. A form follows function design.

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  4. A lucky combination for us that your dentist moved elsewhere... ;)
    Please keep on taking pictures each time you go there!

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  5. Diane! These are great shots. Wonderful birds and your compositions are stunning. What an amazing drive to your dentist!

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  6. Carol - he does the patient clicking, I do the trim and post.

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  7. Hi Diana, I'm afraid flamingos are the only one of your birds I could identify either. Great photos - btw I've mentioned your (or Jurg's) fabulous bird photography in my current blog post. Had to laugh about the dentist - it seems people will drive almost any distance to keep going to their trusted dentists and hairdressers. Barbara

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  8. beautiful unusual birds....great pics of them...how wonderful to have this so close...

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  9. Hello,

    I always feel that a good dentist is well worth traveling far away for :-)

    I try to always have a camera in my purse so that I am ready to take photos whenever the opportunity hits. I love your bird photos.

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  10. Barbara - the haircut on the other hand ... was ... I'll never go THERE again! Going to look at your new camera ;~)

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  11. Diana,a visit to the dentist always deserves a treat, thanks for the marvellous pictures, makes a change from seagulls.

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  12. :) love the set of photos of the blacksmith plover. It took my brain a second to catch up to my eyes. As if their legs aren't long enough. I had to do a double take to take in the reflection.

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  13. Diana, If I lived where you live, I wouldn't be indoors blogging.

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  14. I don't think I could drive an hour and a half to a dentist. The profession already scares the dickens out of me, so a long drive to get there would probably end in a car accident or a sweaty/swoony patient.

    Hope the appointment went ok, nothing worse than hearing you have to come back to get a cavity filled. Yeek. I'm already making myself feel nauseated.


    Christine in Alaska, a few birds, but not much

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  15. What a place to live!

    I'm no use at identifying birds and few of them interest me anyway. However, I do enjoy the legs and stride and height of the blacksmith plover, especially in the fist picture on the right.

    Esther

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  16. Fascinating wirebird,the fake broken wing got my interest. Don't believe I've heard that before.
    Makes me think I really should learn more about our local birds.

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  17. I have always loved the elegant flamingo. I get a kick out of their backwards knees.
    Great post!

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  18. your greater flamingo are much more beautiful than the kitschy version that make themselves known my way. I love the scarlet on the wings. I find them more elegant and understated than the American version.

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  19. Hi Diana, I feel absolutely done in, if I haven't seen the birds on the Berg River for a while! Thank you for the delightful photos! And thanks for the surprise link! I wondered where I got some new SA readers from!

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Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.


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