Since I have arrived here in South Africa, I haven’t been more than about 50 miles from the sea at any time, in fact we are usually at places right on the coast. This has been great for getting to see some of the beautiful shorebirds of southern Africa. In fact, the very first species I saw on this trip was a Spotted Thick-Knee that was running around the airport tarmac as we landed in Cape Town.
My all-time favorite shorebird is the American Oystercatcher, so it is no wonder that I instantly fell in love with the African Black Oystercatcher (pictured above). This species is an endemic and is threatened by human development along the coastline of southern Africa. It can often be found anywhere there are rocky areas right along the sea. I found the banded individual above, and its mate, at a rocky area very close to our base camp at the Cwebe Nature Reserve. I have been told that perhaps researchers at Rhodes University in Grahmstown banded the bird.
The Water Thick-Knee (pictured above) is a very common species along the coast of southern Africa. Its strange call can be heard throughout the night as this species is primarily nocturnal. The cryptic coloration and huge eyes make this a very unique and odd shorebird of the African coast.
Certainly the most common species of shorebirds I have encountered here in South Africa is the White-fronted Plover. This species can be found on any stretch of coastline. Whether the habitat is rocky, sandy, or whatever; you are sure to see this little plover running around. The male of the species has a rich, sand-colored breast while the female has a clean white breast. This species is nesting right now and I have been able to find quite a few little chicks running around the dunes.
Another very, very common shorebird is the Blacksmith Plover. This species can be found throughout southern Africa along the coast, in grasslands, and generally anywhere it is wet or even moist. This species is strikingly patterned with gray, black, and white and makes it presence instantly known to passers-by by calling out with a loud, metallic ‘klink’, much like a Blacksmith working on his goods.
A common species seen along freshwater estuaries and rivers is the Common Sandpiper. This species reminds me very much of the Spotted Sandpiper of the United States both in its appearance and its flight style. This species is a common summer visitor to southern Africa.
During the past couple weeks I have managed to find 10 other species of shorebird in addition to the five I described above. I plan on showcasing these species in a later post!