Background Switcher (Hidden)

Flowers Were Yesterday. Waterbirds Today!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

There's a water purification wetland in South Africa called Strandfontein Wetlands. It looks a bit utilitarian; square ponds separated by raised dikes, but any concerns about its aesthetic qualities, or lack thereof, are dashed by the spectacular birdlife using the rich wetland habitat thus created. 

Blacksmith lapwings are elegant, yappy and ubiquitous. We were fortunate to see many pairs with young on our trip, none close enough for photography. 

I've found that my camera absolutely loves blacksmith lapwings. It can see blacksmith lapwings. Ergo, it can focus on them. It can't see lilac-breasted rollers. It is really hard to get a sharp photo of a perched roller. When it flies, the high-contrast midnight blue edge on the wing sticks out to the camera's eye, and I can usually get a sharp shot of one in flight. I'll take it.

Back to the lapwing: my lens even caught the little spurs on the bird's wrists (blown up below). This is a feature shared by jacanas, who have fancy yellow ones, horned screamers, who have dangerous ones, and some other species. I believe the spurs originate from the bird's thumb. Hoatzins, those stinky weird hissing swamp birds from South America, have straight up claws on their wrists, that they use for climbing, Archaeopteryx-style. Doin' it old school. Anyway, I never knew blacksmith lapwings had spurs until I saw my photo. I love my Canon 7D and that 70-300 telephoto lens. So much. 

Black-winged stilt takes wing with the lapwing. Beautiful. 

  More high-contrast birds: A black-headed heron strides by a huge arum lily. We call them callas. Look, dahling. The calla lilies are in bloo-um. Those things are EVERYWHERE in South Africa. Coming up in marshes, on dunes, in An abundance of riches.

Black-shouldered kite eyes us from a Casuarina tree.

A black-winged stilt favors its right leg, which has a fish hook in its heel. Damn it. People. If you're going to fish in a sewage treatment plant stuffed with waders, can you please keep track of your tackle? How I wished I had my long-handled net.

Another stilt takes flight.

Quiet reflections from yellow-billed ducks, Cape shovelers, and another black-winged stilt.

There's an odd brown salvia abloom. The sunbirds love it. Must be full of spicy nectar. Quite a looker, once you get used to the flower color!

This mystery butterfly reminded me of our Harvester. It's feeding at a pelargonium!

Members of the Mesembryanthaceae (we call them ice plants) are called "Vygies" locally. It's pronounced Fay-ghees. You have to roll spit around in the back of your mouth to say it the way the Afrikaans folks do. I try but just end up sounding like I'm hockering. I loved this peach colored one!

The dunes were covered with Osteospermums and other composites. So beautiful! Masses and masses and drifts of spring color, everywhere!

I know. I said we were looking at waterbirds today. When I got a load of the botanizing one can do in the Cape region last year, I made sure to emphasize that in the trip description for Holbrook Travel. And we attracted some master gardeners--three to be exact--who were happy as warthogs in a waterhole, hunkered down appreciating these botanical wonders.

Such a great group, the garden mavens gettin' down low and diggin' those posies.

My kind of people.


I so love your travelogues. Next best thing to being there!

What an amazing trip this must have been -- satisfying to all parts of the naturalist in you. Thank you for sharing it so we can feel as though we were there too!

[Back to Top]