Plovers and other sea-birds near Big Bay, Cape Town.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Plovers breeding 20-11-2008

Plover and chick. These Plovers were forced into the open by sunbathers occupying their nesting area. The crows were hovering nearby. This chick will be lucky if it survives. The Blouberg Oystercatchers did not seem to find an undisturbed breeding spot on this beach this year.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Predators among the Plovers

Plover beach, between Big Bay and the Horse Trails.

Dog sniffing a Plover chick dropped by the crow. The crow possibly found the chick after it was disturbed from it's camouflaged place of hiding.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fw: Google Alert - white fronted plover bird

White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus) - BirdLife species ...
Search for information on all of the world's bird species.
Charadrius marginatus - WHITE FRONTED PLOVER Vaalstrandkiewiet ...
Fernkloof Nature Reserve - Hermanus - Birds - Charadrius marginatus. ... Common name - WHITE FRONTED PLOVER Vaalstrandkiewiet R246 ...
White-fronted Plover stamps - mainly images; gallery format
Stamps showing White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus.

 This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google.

Google Alert - white fronted plover bird

Mangoverde World Bird Guide Species Page: White-fronted Plover
This is the White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus) multimedia field guide page of the Mangoverde World Bird Guide.

 This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google.


Fw: Google Alert - white fronted plover bird

Plover - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nov 5, 2008 ... Plovers are a widely distributed group of wading birds belonging to the ... White-fronted Plover, Charadrius marginatus; Red-capped Plover, ...
White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus) - BirdLife species ...
Search for Important Bird Area sites (IBAs) around the world.

This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sensitive beach cleanup

We should consider that Plovers breed in the same area where the sea spews out the rubbish.
Sensitivity is needed when beaches are being cleaned up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Plover in Flight

During a Google Search I came across this lovely photograph of a Plover in flight

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Human progress is nature regress. 20Sept08

Early Morning Plovers:

A visit to Plover Beach via Horse Trails,


Blouberg Strand

The mission today is to take some photographs, for the Plover Blog, using my husband’s new camera. As per usual, this camera will be mine one day when he upgrades. I am an expert at squeezing the last bit of use out of has-been equipment.

The problem with the plovers has been identified. The research is more or less complete for this area, between Horse Trails and the drum (half way) marker.

We intend to be in Cape Town for just over another year. Will the Plovers continue to teach me like they have been doing this last year?

Will they still be here when we leave?

Before last February, I vaguely knew of their existence. Today they are familiar friends. They opened the door to exploring so many other areas relating to nature. Already we are photographing insects living among the Fynbos.

This beach taught me to look at the footprints of birds and other creatures that share our beaches.

They taught me how civilization and man intrude on nature, right here under our noses.

One does not have to research the Internet and encyclopaedias to know about these creatures. It does help of course, I never believe in re-inventing the wheel. If someone studied something in-dept before me, I would rather build on that study than work from scratch. That is progress.

However, one needs to know what one wants to research beforehand.

Nature, ever changing, is our best teacher.

Just be still, open up your heart, mind, ears and eyes all at the same time. Take deep regular breaths and just be with your environment. It is amazing what one learns. Even a camera and binoculars can obstruct the message.

Just sitting on the white sand with book and pencil in hand and record what comes to me is my best teacher.

I have done that since the beginning of the year.

It is now time for research, and polish, correct mistakes and find out what the experts say about this subject.

That is what I want to do with the Plover Blog for the rest of the year.

It was my intention to ask for sponsors so that I can develop this Blog into a website, but I so hate begging for money. Creating a website for the Plovers is no longer a priority. With the courtesy of Google and Blogspot I shall just use what free tools I have to deliver the message.

Perhaps later I shall create a website in memory of the Plovers and other creatures who lost their home due to human progress.

Human progress is nature regress.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Rigor Mortis of the Plovers' and Oystercatchers' habitat at Blouberg Strand.


This is the first time in weeks that I had the opportunity to visit the strip of beach between Big Bay and the Horse-Trails near Blouberg Strand, Cape.

The destruction of the Plover habitat that I witnessed there did not surprise me. I have seen this happening over the past year. The only thing that surprised me is the speed at which it is happening.

(Above the same stretch of beach Jan 2008 and Sept 2008)

Will the sea level recede in time for the Plovers to breed again before summer?

Did the end of the Plovers come before most beech-goers knew they were there?

The destruction of the Plovers' habitat is due to a combination of: rapid changes and interference along this strip of beach:

  • 1. The dune stabilization in the form of an artificial strip of natural indigenous vegetation, which offers a buffer between the residential area and the beach. From many points of view, this is a good thing. At least our municipality did not allow the builders to build right onto the beach, as is the case in so many countries. For the Plovers, however, this was only delaying the inevitable. As the sea level rose, there was no place for the stony, above high tide, beach area to develop. This stony area offered a natural camouflage for these shy little beach residents. The Oystercatchers too like the stony, flotsam and jetsum, area for breeding, but they left last year already. We must remember, the main reasons of the dune stabilization efforts are to protect the nearby residential and public areas, and not the nature. Nature conservation was only piggybacked onto this need. Any area that needs artificial watering is not a breeding habitat for birds.

(above the photograph of an Oystercatcher on the same beach May 2008.

Note the beach traffic)

  • 2. Closing the most popular beach in the area (Big Bay) to be replaced by high-rise developments. This resulted in opening a previously natural undisturbed stretch of beach on public demand.
  • 3. The necessity for beach cleanup operations. The area above high water where most of the debris collects happens to be the habitat of the beach breeding birds.
  • 4. The ignorance of the public regarding the habits of Plovers.
  • 5. Lack of interest in the need and survival of birds using this stretch of the beach. No action to protect their area during breeding season.
  • 6. Removal of seaweed that provides camouflage and food to sea (beach) birds.
  • 7. The illegal removal of beach stones for building use.
  • 8. Using the vulnerable breeding area for recreation.
  • 9. Entering the beach through the conservation strip.
  • 10. The future need for more parking along the beachfront will eat even further into the strip if irrigated indigenous vegetation.
  • 11 The requirement of a future firewall between bush land and a residential estate, which has been allowed to border the nature strip, will also impact on the conservation area.
  • 12 Domestic cats from nearby homes can wipe out the whole Plover population who prefer to live on the ground.

It is amazing how the needs of birds are hardly ever mentioned in conservation reports and newsletters in the Cape. It is as if we either take them for granted or are too caught up in the invasion of alien species or the human footprint to remember what it is that we are protecting.

My new camera:

We needed to obtain a camera and laptop that could capture the birds from close by. After putting our pennies together we bought a new camera, only to discover that the camera turned its nose up for my old computer. Now we are back to square one. Our library computers are even older. They use the now obsolete incompatible stiffy-disc technology, so it cannot be used for this work either. I shall visit our computer shop at Bayside to find out if their computers can download my photographs, then I can at least e-mail them to myself. In the meantime, we are developing the photos at the photo shop, and then I scan them into my old relic. I tried to photograph the viewer at the back the new camera, but that did not work either. Last week I tried to scan the viewer of the camera but that did not work at all. There is only one suitable option; a new

computer and it has to be a laptop because mobility is my other need. Until we have everything in place, be patient with the quality of the photographs. Try to see (imagine) the bigger picture - as the conservation departments try to tell us.

My husband showed me an advert of a new computer shop due to open in Milnerton. They have cheap laptops for sale to the first five customers. When he phoned them to confirm, they replied that we would have to sleep outside overnight if we want to qualify. Therefore, that is that! Back to scanning and whatever works.

Visiting the beach 5-9-2008,

We parked on the roadside near the entrance of the Horse-Trails. As we walked along the little path, I noticed the sand dunes in the distance. When we got to the storm-water dam, all we saw was devastation and the debris left behind by the pushing tide. The bird-breeding activity of three weeks ago is gone. There is not a weaver in sight.

( Above the same storm water pool 7 August 2008 and 5 September 2008)

The only bird we saw was a single Moorhen looking for food among pieces of driftwood.

When I reached the beach exit, I noticed how the dunes were eroded, making the shortcut into the previously Plover habitat now the default exit.

As I scanned the beach, with my eyes, to see the condition of the Plover habitat, I noticed that it was replaced by sand. There is no camouflage for the birds. The Plovers to the left and right of the exit is gone. My husband walked ahead, armed with his new camera, and instructions to get close-ups of the Plovers. I lagged behind, with my old camera, because experience tells me that husband and dog will chase any chance I have of photographing the Plovers away. As I stood there trying to accustom my eyes to spotting these little birds, I noticed them flying around. I seldom see them flying. They prefer the ground and running out of the way to flying.

It is then that I noticed the reason for them flying. There was a large dog running and chasing every bird he can see. With the Plovers robbed of their normal camouflage, they are easy to be spotted by dogs that like to chase birds.

When I confronted the dog's owner with a request to stop his dog chasing the Plovers, he looked at me as if I was mad. He said his dog never catches the Plovers and that they only play with his mind.

I being hypersensitive about these birds, of course, thought that I was sure the Plovers were not in a mood for games when they are chased from their habitat.

That was about the story of the Plovers today. I hope it is not the last one. These little birds have nowhere to hide, and people are walking where they used to live and breed. How long will they survive under these conditions?

(Plovers with nowhere to hide)

How long will we still be able to see them here? Are the Plovers becoming endangered around our coastline as so many other bird species are?

People do need a beach where dogs can run loose. Keeping dogs in back yards all the time and on leads when they are in an open place, such as a beach, is cruel. Dogs also need a space to run free at the sea. Perhaps this particular beach should not be one of them. Perhaps this little strip of beach should be preserved for the Oystercatchers and Plovers as an inheritance for generations to come.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Protection for vessel in trouble


This morning we decided to visit Kreefte-baai where two fishing trawlers ran aground.

I was also interested to see if there were plovers at that beach.

The nature conservation department was out in full force protecting the vessels and the dunes. It is amazing how quick they can protect something that they perceive to be worth protecting.

It is a pity they do not perceive the Plovers and Oystercatchers to be worth protecting.

If only they would apply the same temporary protection measures to the bird breeding area.

The pebbly area above the high water mark is getting so narrow, due to the dune stabilization that is happening along this whole stretch of coast.

For this reason, it is more of a pity that this small area is not given to the birds for as long as it is suitable breeding ground.

Soon the sand will cover these pebbles also and it will become another dead suburban beach.

It is a pity we cannot protect the few breeding birds along the Blouberg coast.

These birds are suffering in silence and the majority of beach goers will not even miss them when they are gone.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No space for plovers on fine days

Sunday 17 August 2008

It was a lovely day in Cape Town.

The poor plovers must have had a difficult time dodging the pedestrians on Blouberg beach on their narrow strip of territory today

Thursday, August 7, 2008

07-08-2008 Vanishing territory


Big Bay (Horse Trails)

(1/4 Moon tide - in-between tides (10 am. The low tide was at 7 am)

It is a sunny, warm and windless morning here on Blouberg Beach between the Horse Trails and the old drum.

It was not my intention to spend much time with the plovers today. There is not much more I can write about them, I thought. What needed to be written is done, I argued in my mind.

Habits persist, however. My eyes scanned the high tide mark. This is where they normally breed and hide from predators.

Immediately the narrowness of the plover area becomes evident. Before the dune stabilization was introduced, the high tide area stretched far out towards the road. Now the highest waves hits against the dunes, which developed because of the vegetation introduced by conservation efforts.

The area between Horse Trails and BCA already eroded the high tide mark, where the plovers like to be. The high tide now hits against a wall of sand created by a dune stabilization programme.

The same is happening between Big Bay and Horse Trails.

The plover habitat is between the Horse Trails and the old drum (halfway mark). They were behaving as if a female was breeding somewhere. Their colors are very light, and they are unusually camouflaged today.

Their three toed footprints are evidence of the areas they frequent, the narrow strip flotsam beyond the high tide mark.

I do not even know if it is possible for these twelve pair of plovers to be saved.

There are a few things that can be done to extend their existence a bit longer if we have a conservation group that regards them as worth conserving.

Possible solutions can be:

The Horse trail has a double entrance to the beach. Removing the one closer to Blouberg will stop people taking a shortcut over the dune and right over the plover-breeding zone.

Use the wooden fence around the footpath, to cordon off some of the plover territories.

Use notifications advising people to stay clear of these areas.

These fences may have to be shifted or will disappear under the sand, but it is at least doing something.

Microchip some of the plovers to study their movements when this area becomes too unfriendly.

Before I close this blog, I will have to write a few letters of appeal on behalf of these little birds, but I am not very hopeful.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

White-fronted Plover (Vaalstrandkiewiet) Charadrius Marginutus

Plover Beach is situated between Big Bay and the Horse Trails at Blouberg (Blaauwberg) Strand, Cape Town, South Africa.

Here the survival of the little Plover birds are presently threatened.

This happened when pristine beaches, bordering a nature reserve, became a public beach, because the most popular public beach along this stretch of coast were sold out to developers.

The Oystercatchers who used to breed in this area, suffered the same fate.

They have left now, and I am not sure if they will return. (They returned 2009 but were unable to reproduce due to the heavy pedestrian traffic on the beach)


* Measurements: About 18 cm long.

* Weight: About 72 grams

* Eyes: Dark brown.

* Bills: Black, straight (fairly broad for their size)

* Extremities: Legs and feet are black or grey.

* Colour: Above light sandy-grey; Below white, sometimes washed pale pinkish buff on breast, (especially in more easterly parts of range)

* Forehead and eyebrow: White,

* Crown: Blackish,

* Collar: White (also on hind neck),

* Black line through eye stops at the ear coverts,

* In flight: Conspicuous white bar on secondaries.

* Tail: Dark with white outer feathers;

* Feet: Do not extend beyond tail.

* (our Blouberg birds have three toes on each feet, and no back toe)

* Immature: Lacks blackish fore-crown; pure white below.

* Chick: Above very pale grey with broken pattern of black down midline of crown and back, below white.

* Song: Voice: Gentle piping wit or twirit on takeoff and in flight.

* Alarm note: Sharp kittup

* Threat note: drawn-out churrr .

* Distribution: Africa South of he Sahara, and Madagascar; in s Africa mainly coastal, but also on bigger rivers — Zambezi and larger tributaries (not Kariba), Limpopo to Tuli Circle, Sabi, Nuanetsi and Lundi Rivers; also Lake Mellwaine, Zimbabwe, n Botswana, Caprivi and Etosha Pan.

* Status: Common resident, may have local movements.

* The numbers of these birds may be declining rapidly, and we need to keep an eye on them, We need to leave an uninterrupted space for their breeding.

* The Blouberg Plovers will be extinct in a few years, as the beach opens to holidaymakers.
This may be the trend at many beaches along the coast.

There may be breeding space for the Cape Plovers near Koeberg nature reserve, though, I have not been to that beach recently, but will go and have a look during Spring.

* Habitat: Sandy shores of marine and larger inland waters (lakes, pans, rivers).

* Habits: Usually in pairs; flocks of up to 100 birds when in not breeding.

* Runs very fast, sideways; usually tucks head into shoulders; forages along waterline, among kelp and other debris, and away from water into dunes. Flies fast and low when disturbed, settles a little way off, bobs and runs. (the bird I watched, darted forward and pecked the food – one peck.)

* Food: Mainly insects; also crustaceans, arachnids, worms, molluscs. (Our birds love to peck at the insects in the seaweed.)

* Breeding: Season: All months on coast.

* Nest: Scrape in sand, gravel or shingle, sometimes lined with small pieces of shell; usually just above high water, sometimes well up from beach or on inland side of coastal dunes; usually next to driftwood, seaweed or other object.

* Clutch: 1-2-3 eggs (usually 2).

* Eggs: Pale putty colour or creamy buff, sparsely marked with fine spots and lines of blackish brown

* Incubation: 26-33 days by both sexes,

* eggs partly covered with sand by parent when disturbed at nest.

* Fledging: 35-38 days, young cared for by both parents.

(Information from Roberts’ birds of Southern Africa)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Introduction to this blog

It was not the plovers that I noticed when I became aware of the plight of coastal birds along this stretch of wild coast that was opened for public recreation.

Within a very short time this quiet beach turned into a major destination for sunbathers, people walking their dogs and fossil collectors.

When the decision was made to turn a major beach, Big Bay, into a high-rise concrete jungle, the closure of the most popular beach along Marine Drive, forced people in search for beach recreation further up the coast. This action caused a major disturbance to sea birds and animals that previously, nearly exclusively, used this section of the shoreline as their territory.

The beach that was previously interrupted occasionally by humans, nearly overnight became a popular resort.

Although this is a popular beach for water sport, the water is mostly too cold for bathers without wet suits. Blouberg also used to be very windy, however the weather also, seems to have changed.

The only people who used this beach were the white-mussel collectors.

That activity in itself added to the food supply for the sea birds.

Today there is no place for birds who rely on the beach for breeding and food. As the beach traffic increases daily, when more and more people move into newly built dwellings, the birds are pushed farther and farther away from their food source and the area that they need for nesting and camouflage.

What will happen to these little birds?

My guess is that their inability to breed and feed regularly will eventually lead to their extinction on this shoreline. Perhaps this is inevitable. They have no bank balance, so they have no right to be here according to human law.

Here, at Blouberg, they remain silent witnesses of how the habits of man impact on nature, without we even being aware of it.

Not even the dogs notice these shy, brave little birds; The beach plovers.

The Oystercatcher suffers the same fate, but they are bigger and quicker on the wing.

When they no longer visit an area, one knows about it. They are visible. Bird lovers miss their disappearances. Yet no-one knows or cares about the plovers. One cannot miss something that never existed.

These feathered, camouflaged, beach dwellers struggle on long after the Oystercatchers left to look for better breeding ground.

The intention of this website is to make people aware of the plight of sea birds, to make them visible.

Doing that I may save a nest, or I may hasten their extinction. At least, hopefully, they will be missed by someone when they are gone. Once you see them and become aware of their existence, one cannot help falling in love with them. They are so special, so vulnerable, so quietly invisible ... like the thoughts in your mind or the feelings in your heart - invisible to the human eye. It is a rare treat to spot one.

They survived this long because no one notice them.

However, at Blouberg, it is because no one knows that they are there that they walk over their breeding ground and that they are driven from their food supply.

It is my hope that people will respect these birds, and perhaps develops a group of local residents who will become the friends or guardians of the plovers between Blouberg and the BCA

Perhaps some school child will take this topic on as a school project. Perhaps then, we will miss them when they are gone.

Perhaps then we can feel sad because Blouberg lost its virginity to the rape by progress.

(The beach in question is the stretch of beach between Big Bay (Blouberg Strand) and the BCA (Blouberg Conservation Area), with a central (temporary) legal access to the beach at "The Horse Trails." There are also many unofficial access routes through the protected nature area.)