21 February 2012

Muizenberg

I didn't know Germany had surfer-dudes until I met Christopher. At about 6'6" and all muscle, he looks like a page out of a California surfing magazine. Needless to say, as he stares down at you and you try not to stare at his beach blond hair, you get the impression he has ridden some serious waves. So, when he called me and asked if I was interested in wind-surfing Muizenberg beach, I said I wasn't keen on surfing but was keen on some Atlantic Ocean action.

We met and loaded up into his rental beetle and headed out to the beach. The winds were strong off the ocean, and the language barrier was finally broken for me when I realized that Christopher wasn't just a surfer, but a kite-surfer! We pulled up and the sky was a myriad of kites belonging to his brethren, and he wasted no time getting his gear and heading out into the chilly waters of Vaalsbaai. I, on the other hand, had some ornithological fish to fry, and headed down the great sandy stretches of the beach (eBird checklist here).

Muizenberg Beach facing east while in the dunes, south of Cape Town, South Africa

As I ventured out, it soon became apparent that this was going to be a terrible place for shorebirds. I wandered amongst the dunes, but mostly focused on the offshore birds hoping for a petrel or a shearwater. Out beyond the breakers, Cape Gannets foraged and avoided the masses of Kelp (Cape) Gulls swarming out over the water and the beach. As I wandered, I was soon distracted by movement in the grasses and scored a life bird - White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus)!

White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus), Muizenberg, South Africa

I kept myself entertained while these miniature sand-colored plovers darted between the dune grasses, and even spotted a tiny mini-plover that was probably only a few days old. To not disturb these cool birds, I headed closer to the coast, and to my astonishment, spotted a Shearwater, though not exactly how I imagined I would.

Subantarctic Little Shearwater (Puffinis [assimilis] elegans), Muizenberg, South Africa

As shown above, I found a Subantarctic Little Shearwater dead on the beach. I was surprised by the sight of such a bird, one that I imagine should be far off shore, so far into Vaalsbaai. I have no idea how he ended up where he did, but it was an interesting sight to see regardless! I photographed the bird for documentary purposes and then continued on my slow march down the beach, watching the White-necked Ravens scavenge in the kelp and occasionally kicking up a "fun bird" like a Plain-backed Pipit or Red-headed Cisticola.

At the end of my walks, I met up with Christopher again, and we decided to mess around with some shots. Unfortunately, the hour was late and they did not come out very well, so we agreed to head out again and I would do my best ESPN impression as he cut the surf with his wind-powered apparatus. As the winds strengthened and the sky darkened, we got our gear together and headed back towards Stellenbosch, ready for the weekend that lay before us.


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