Birding Without Borders

Day 210: Cleanup Crew

The popularity of birding in South Africa.

July 29, 2015 , Cape Town, South Africa — Today being my last day in the Western Province and my last day in South Africa, it was the cleanup of cleanup days. Ethan and I had a much-diminished group of targets to sweep up this morning. We headed to West Coast National Park and ended the afternoon back in Cape Town, where I’m again staying with the Buckhams before flying to Madagascar early tomorrow morning.

The highlight was a 20-minute set of good birds on one of West Coast’s boardwalks this morning: Lesser Flamingos, Gray Tits, Southern Penduline-Tits, White-backed Mousebirds, and a Layard’s Warbler. After that, there wasn’t much left to look for. I’ve swept up most of the easy birds in South Africa.

As we made our way back into Cape Town, Ethan pointed out a nondescript-looking canal next to the interstate and said, “Hey, do you see that palm tree?” I said yes, and, as we continued driving, Ethan explained that, a couple of months ago, a Snowy Egret was spotted here by a local birder. The Snowy Egret, perhaps just the third ever seen on this continent, stuck around for a while. It liked to roost in that palm tree and, during its stay, more than 1,100 South African birders went to look at it, some of them flying in from Johannesburg and other parts of the country just to see this one rare bird. Eleven hundred!

I’m used to stories like this from the U.S. and the U.K., but South Africa? Apparently this country has an incredible number of bird enthusiasts. Picture this: In April 2017, BirdLife South Africa has scheduled a five-day “pelagic trip” within South African waters and, to be able to accommodate all the interested birders, they booked a ship capable of carrying 2,000 passengers. (It’s already nearly full, a year and a half in advance: http://birdlife.org.za/events/flock/flock-at-sea-again-2017). Something is in the water here—and whatever it is, I like it.

New birds today: 8

Year list: 3756

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