I took a client birding at the West Coast National Park today. The day started off in a light drizzle but the clouds cleared and before mid-day we had beautiful sunny weather. The client also wanted to see animals and I had my doubts about just how many animals we will be seeing. After some Ostriches, Cape Bulbuls, Karoo Scrub-Robins, a Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, a Bar-throated Apalis and a few others we were approaching the turn-off to Abraham’s Kraal. The first of eventually 5 Steenbok was standing on the track that extends straight from the tar road. On the way to Abraham’s Kraal we heard Southern Black Korhaan calling but we could not find it. At Abraham’s Kraal we found several Cape Shoveller, Cape Teal, Red-knobbed Coot with young, Little Grebe, Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbill, two Great White Pelican, Common Moorhen and a pair of SA Shelduck, amongst others. Two African Marsh Harriers were also hunting over the reed beds, one of which is very white on the upper-wing. A Black Harrier was hunting low over the vegetation some distance to the South, in the same area where a lonely Eland bull was also grazing. On the way back we saw some Yellow Canaries. Then we saw the SB Korhaan, preening himself about 10 meters from the car, affording excellent views and picture opportunities.
By 14h00 the tide was coming in fast at the Geelbek hide. There were lots of very pink Greater Flamingoes, a few overwintering Common Whimbrel, a lonely Grey Plover, a number of Pied Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Grey Heron, Caspian Terns and lots of Kelp Gulls. An African Fish Eagle called but we could not see it. At the Manor House there were 2 African Hoope, a Cape Weaver male was building a nest and a Yellow Bishop, going into breeding plumage came checking for food from time to time. After a quick lunch we walked to the car and noticed the Eland numbers had increased on the open area to the South. Three Red Hartebeest had also grazed into view. We left for the Zeeberg Koppie and stopped briefly on the road overlooking the Mooiberge old farmlands. I could see that there were Red Hartebeest and upon scanning with my scope and found 2 Grey Rhebuck lying in the same area. A single Eland Bul was also present. After a brief visit to the Zeeberg Look-out we drove down to the Zeeberg Hide. There were lots of very pink Greater Flamingo, a good number of African Black Oystercatchers, the lonely Eurasian Oystercatcher (stil present), some Cormorants and Gulls. Two very beautifully marked Kitlitz’s Plovers were guarding the little salt pan where the new boardwalk ends. We started walking back to my car along the new boarwalk but stopped in our tracks halfway when something unbelievably happened. I single Grey-winged Francolin came running towards us in the sand alongside the boardwalk. Earlier in the day we had a brief view of a GW Francolin but before my client could photograph it the bird had disappeared. Not this one. It stopped about a meter from us and looked at us very inquisitively. My client and I anxiously took pictures of the bird, afraid that it might run or fly away. The bird just stood there, even coming closer to us, and kept on looking at us. 32 pictures later we decided that we had to move on and walked to the car. On the way we stopped to look at White-backed Mousebirds in a Snake Berry shrub. By the time that I had put my scope in the car’s boot, the Grey-winged Francolin was at the car too. It had actually followed us. At one point the bird was underneath the car and I was scared that I could drive over it. Eventually we managed to get away without harming the bird.
I am still amazed at what caused the Grey-winged Francolin to act like that, and one can only speculate: Was it a young bird that got seperated from his family group and felt insecure? Or has this bird been fed by people and now associate people with food, hoping that we would feed it? I hope that the latter is not true.
The West Coast National Park has turned green after the recent rains and several Spring flowers are already in bloom. This year is going to be a bumper year for flowers and the wildlife of the park.
DEAT registered Cultural and FGASA Level 2 Field Guide,