Caspian plover at Kuifkopvisvanger, Velddrif

WermutregenpfeiferTravelling through the western and northern cape of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) at the end of November, we visited also the West Coast National Park. We decided to stay on a charming farm at Velddrif on the banks of the Berg River in a self-catering cottage. The surroundings looked very promising.

On the last day, almost on the way up to Namaqualand we were told by the owner, that beside a pair of Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) there had been an observation of a Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus) the weekend before. Caspian Plover would be a lifer for me. A good reason to pay some extra time for a search.

After passing the first salt pans, we were lucky to see the Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) swimming lonely in one of the pans. On a dam between the pans in the upper parts of the area, we noted some plovers on the dam and sandpipers on the shore of the salt pan. Clearly some Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius), but there were also 2 individuals of the Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) which is a good bird, too.

On the far end, there seemed to be a bigger plover as well. The first impression was: American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica). Unfortunately the whole flock departed due to a raptor flying over. Driving the dam further, a brownish bird flew off and showed some white flashes on the inner primaries. The bird dropped on the shores of another salt pan. Here I was able to shoot the image of the blog. The bird was cautions but not particulary shy.

At that time, I was a bit disappointed. Because of the overall appearance and some dark patches on the belly and the breast, I was still thinking of a American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica), which would be good bird for Africa as well – but not the lifer I was looking for. Only on the evening I realized, that although the mantle looked dark-grey the eyebrow stripe was much more extensive as in the Golden-Plover. Ok, that was my lifer: a non-breeding plumage Caspian Plover!

In general Kliphoek Salt Pans near Velddrif is an excellent site to observe Caspian Plover with good reliability this far south in Africa. Early this year (2015) an amazing 21 Caspian Plover had been found and photographed in January at these Salt Pans in Velddrif on the Kuifkopvisvanger Farm. It must have been on the same pan just to the right of where also the Red-necked Phalarope had been hanging around.

This is also a great site for Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) on the West Coast. If you want to track down some Plovers (e.g. Kittlitz’s Plovers or Chestnut-banded Plovers) on the West Coast this is the place. Please manage to make contact via CapeBirdNet with the owners of the farm and guest house, Kuifkopvisvanger, which is located on the southern shores of the berg river and is reputably a reliable spot for a number of shore bird species.

The guest farm can be contacted on 022 783 0818 and I suggest you phone ahead to make arrangements. The spot is easy to find and you will be not. We found at least 6 individuals and using our car as a hide we were able to get within about 10 metres of them.

Also for accommodation purposes, the farm at Velddrif on the banks of the Berg River is highly recommended. They offer well equipped self-catering cottages, with microwave, plate stove, kettle, toaster, fridge / freezer, indoor and outdoor braai with grid. Bedding and bath towels are provided. This for rates of ZAR350 per person sharing.

In order to meet the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western Palearctic. Trips to remote places like this one to capture images of rare birds of western Palearctic were very successful. The nice image of the blog is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture-Shop” very soon. Just give a message, if could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online..

Other successful shootings you can see under:

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