CHECKLIST Anton Odendal’s Top 10 birds at West Coast National Park
1. The endemic Grey-winged Francolin (Bergpatrys) seems out of place as it mostly occurs at much higher levels, but this grassy fynbos and renosterveld seem to suit it well. Its call is often in competition with that of the Cape Spurfowl early in the morning.
2. The endemic Black Harrier (Witkruisvleivalk) is regarded as Endangered and breeds mostly in fynbos in the dryer south-western regions of the Western Cape. The West Coast National Park is one of its last strongholds. It largely feeds on vlei rats, mice and small birds.
3. A summer migrant from the Arctic tundra, the Grey Plover (Grysstrandkiewiet) is mostly found in the intertidal zones of estuaries. In flight the non-breeding birds characterised by their black armpits are often referred to as ‘Russian ladies’.
4. The Eurasian Curlew (Grootwulp) is significantly larger, paler and far less common than the Whimbrel that also features a down-curved bill. It is globally Near Threatened and feeds mostly on aquatic invertebrates.
5. Count the toes of the Sanderling on the left and you’ll see the reason for its descriptive Afrikaans name (Drietoonstrandloper). These birds run to and fro as they feed on the beach at the very edge of shallow waves during summer.
6. The African Swamphen (Grootkoningriethaan) is common at the Geelbek and Abrahamskraal hides. During breeding season the male tends to run around with its wings fixed in this upright position, white vent feathers flushed, while screaming continually to impress females.
7. The resident Caspian Tern (Reusesterretjie) occurs at estuaries, not beaches or rocky shores. It is also found at inland dams, lakes and pans. It is fairly uncommon, but often observed at the Langebaan Lagoon while plunging from dizzy heights while hunting for fish.
8. Often occuring in flocks numbering several hundred, the Curlew Sandpiper (Krombekstrandloper) numbers are dwindling and they are now regarded as globally Near Threatened. This bird shows transitional plumage as it moults before its epic migration to the north.
9. The endemic Grey Tit (Piet-tjou-tjou-grysmees) has a peculiar Afrikaans name, apparently referring to its call. The English name is misleading, because the Ashy Tit that occurs to the north is greyer. The scrublands around Duinepos seem to suit it well as it is a popular garden bird here.
10. The characteristic night sound of Africa is the ‘good Lord deliver us’ call of the fairly common
Fiery-necked Nightjar (Afrikaanse Naguil). By day it roosts on the ground in vegetated areas but perches in trees at night.