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Birding Velddrif

Velddrif is a coastal fishing town located on an estuary where the Berg River flows into St. Helena Bay. There are over 350 bird species that call this sleepy coastal town home as it is a habitat for sea, river and land birds – guess this is why it is so popular with birdwatchers.

The name is derived from a local farmer who took his cattle through a drift in the field (Afrikaans word for field is veld), to find grazing across the river – hence the name Velddrift (more commonly known as Velddrif).

The most common bird species found in the area are know as waders – due to them spending much of their time near bodies of water, many have long legs suitable for wading (hence the name “Waders”). I always wondered how they find their prey/food in the mud – the bill is their secret weapon, the bill-tip is lined with miniature sensors that pick up pressure waves bouncing back from solid objects (ie prey/food) – nature never ceases to amaze me!

There are numerous birding spots in the area, 2 of my favourites being:
– Bokkomlaan
– Kliphoek Salt Pans

A) Bokkomlaan – this avenue (laan in Afrikaans) is famous because it is home of the dried fish industry of South Africa – the word Bokkoms describes the dry, salted fish biltong – the fish (mainly mullet or more commonly known as harder) is still hung up to dry for 3 weeks just like it was done a hundred years ago.
Birding is best at low tide when the mud flats are exposed as the water level falls giving access to the various crustaceans for the waders to feed on. Birds to look out for are Great White Peligans, Black-winged Stilts, Grey Heron and Kingfishers (Pied, Giant and Malachite).

The photos below illustrates how the bokkoms are typically hung up to dry.

B) Kliphoek Salt Pan – The pans and mud banks of the estuary along the Berg River supports the migratory waders that visit the area between October and April every year. Birds to look out for are Red-necked Phalarope, Terns, Ruffs, Marsh Sandpipers and various Plovers (look out for the rare Caspian Plover!)

I have added 7 new birds (lifers) to our lifer list the past few weekends when visiting Velddrif, this Chestnut-banded Plover (below) photographed at Kliphoek Salt Pans is one of the highlights.

The long legged Black-winged Stilt is a prime example of why they are called waders!

If you are interested in photographing waders then Velddrif should be at the top of your list.

Till next time…

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