African water bird winter census at the Walvis Bay Lagoon

Eileen van der Schyff

The Coastal Environmental Trust of Namibia finished their Walvis Bay winter bird count this past weekend. According to Peter Bridgeford who conducted the count, this winter’s bird count total is average as most bird migrants are in Europe to escape our winter.

The count took place on the mornings of 20 and 21 July between 09:00 and 13:00 at the Walvis Bay Lagoon and wetlands also known as the Ramsar site.
Unlike good visibility and mostly sunshine on Saturday, reduced visibility worked against counting on Sunday because of thick fog and no sun all day. Bridgeford said: “Black-necked Grebes are an under count, as are the Flamingos in places and smaller birds. In the Sewage Ponds, the smelly water prevented counters getting to all ponds and the reeds also blocked our view.” A total of 75,176 birds of 38 species were recorded. “This compares favourably with the 2018 winter count of 80,729 but is down from the 110,300 counted in 2010,” Bridgeford said. In 2017 only 54,412 birds were counted and in 2012, 50,800 were recorded. “Our most visible birds, the flamingos recorded at 36,477 which compares favourably with other winter counts. However, the most flamingos were counted in the winter of 2004 at 43,679 fla-mingos. Lesser Flamingos, with many juveniles, probably from Kamfers Dam in Kimberley, totalled 14,789 which is not a bad number for a winter count, as in 2010, we only had 2,945 and in 2012, 644”. Bridgeford said. In July 2013, 21,919 were counted.
Black-necked Grebes are down from 16,494 in 2013, to 2,976 this year. However, according to Bridgeford, fog reduced visibility in the ponds with these birds, so many more could have been lurking in the fog. A surprising 75 Cape Shovellers not usually found in seawater were recorded. These birds prefer fresh water. What could be counted at the sewage ponds provided a total of 15,963 birds of 21 species. Of these 14,463 were Lesser Flamingos. Together with the Lesser Flamingos counted in the lagoon and wetlands, a total of 29,252 Lesser Flamingos were recorded.
The next bird count will be in the summer of 2020.
In conclusion, Peter Bridgeford thanks Walvis Bay Salt Refiners for allowing them access to their property and for sponsoring of their lunches. Thanks go out to Namib Marine Services who ferried the counters from the waterfront to the mudflats. Various groups could communicate with each other thanks to radios supplied by Radio Electronic, Walvis Bay. A word of appreciation is extended to Probst Bakery for keeping the groups hunger at bay, to Binnacle Marine who assisted in catering and to Nambia Breweries preventing the group from dehydrating. A special thank you goes to the Walvis Bay Amateur Squash Racquets Association for the use of their premises on Saturday morning and to Kevin Milne for arranging an alternative meeting place. A word of thanks also goes to all the volunteers (Citizen Scientists) who made these counts possible.

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