A group of about 12 of us met for the Midlands Bird Club outing to Darvill, just outside Pietermaritzburg – led by Gordon Bennett.
The morning started with a stroll along the road beside the sewerage canals. A Grey Duiker took us all completely by surprise. Not something you see here with all the poaching.
We ambled along a-ways when I decided to have a closer look to see if anything was hiding in the canals. And that is when it all happened – the biggest excitement for the day.
The scope came out when I noticed a wader in one of the canals – sleeping on a log. At first I thought it was a Common Sandpiper but it lacked the white patch up the shoulder. Then I noticed barring on the tail and a prominent white eyering (no eyebrow supercillium nor speckled back so not a Wood Sandpiper either, I thought). Then I got excited and called the rest of the group to come have a look. Meanwhile I went to get closer which meant crossing the fast flowing nearer canal. Fortunately there was a crossing further down and I managed to get up to about 30 metres from the bird – all the while stopping and taking photos. When it eventually flew we were able to see its rump which was white but not extending up its back and the end of the tail was barred.
Much discussion and book searching followed. There was mention of it possibly being a Solitary Sandpiper which a number of us had never heard of. The features are similar. (At home I looked it up and found that Solitary Sandpipers breed in woodlands across Alaska and Canada. It is a migratory bird, wintering in Central and South America, especially in the Amazon River basin, and the Caribbean).
That aside, it was felt at the time that this could be a Green Sandpiper – all the pointers seemed right but we were nervous about making a bad call and decided to wait and see the photos. Once home, the call for confirmation of ID went out on Facebook etc and Green Sandpiper it was.
The amble continued along the side of the canals to the river then up to the ponds. Along the way a swarm of Swifts and Swallows passed overhead. There were many different species of Swift seen amongst them – African Black, African Palm-, Alpine (special), Little, and White-rumped.
The paths are clear so the view of the ponds was good. Numerous water birds were on the ponds. Some of the highlights included a group of 6 African Snipes, a Squacco Heron, Little Stints, all 3 Teals etc.
Both Klaas’s and Dideric Cuckoos were heard and the Klaas’s seen. African Marsh Harrier was seen quartering one area and Kites and a Jackal Buzzard flew above us. Altogether Sally and I recorded 81 different species. Click here to see our list. This excludes a number of other birds seen by other members of the group. To conclude we had the pleasure of seeing a pair of Grey-crowned Cranes in the fields above the ponds.
Excitedly we returned home to check our photos of the Sandpiper.
Paul & Sally Bartho