|Walvis welcomes back the flamingo|
|Written by Floris Steenkamp|
|Wednesday, 25 July 2012 22:01|
Bird enthusiasts, tourists and tour operators are among the people most delighted by the return of large volumes of the greater flamingo to the Walvis Bay lagoon and wetlands, after an absence of nearly three years.Good rains since 2009 in the flamingo’s breeding habitat, the Etosha Pans and Botswana, resulted in the birds taking a rain check on migrating to the Namibian coast for subsequent years.
A bird count by the Coastal Environmental Trust of Namibia (CETN) in the Walvis Bay lagoon, a Ramsar site and the most important coastal wetland in southern Africa for Palearctic shorebirds, revealed there are around 16 000 greater flamingoes in the Walvis Bay area. Although this is a source of great excitement, given the return of the birds, a 2004 count’s tally indicated that there were more than 40 000 greater flamingoes.
“It is like the old Walvis Bay again,” bird expert Peter Bridgeford of the Coastal Environmental Trust of Namibia (CETN) said this week. The lesser flamingo is however, still absent from Walvis Bay. The recent bird count revealed there are only some 600 lesser flamingo in the Walvis Bay lagoon.
A report by the CETN on its bird count last Sunday revealed that: “The total of 50 814 birds counted, is the lowest for the past seven years, but not the lowest on record. Although the flamingos were conspicuous by their return to Walvis Bay over the past few weeks, the 16 386 Greater Flamingos are a far cry from the 43 000 seen in 2004. The number of Lesser Flamingos is also disappointing, with only 644 seen. A report this past week from Etosha National Park stated that flamingos were still seen on the northern border where a large pan of water supplies them with food. It is possible that a large number of Lesser Flamingos may still be in the Sua Pan area of Botswana. Many of the volunteers commented on the large number of Kelp Gulls in the area. However, the 7 899 seen are far less than the 11 800 counted in 2006.” When and if these birds will migrate to the Walvis Bay wetlands remains a question only nature can answer.
It is estimated that 70% of the world’s Chestnut Banded Plovers rely on Walvis Bay Lagoon for their survival. The biggest count over the past seven years was in 2007, when the total was 9 900, but this time we only saw 1 487. In 2010, a record number of over 19 000 Black-necked Grebes left volunteers with severe eye-strain. This year a mere 6 924 were seen. One of the many attractive birds seen in the Lagoon, the Pied Avocet, only totaled 1 369, as compared to the 5 200 from 2010.
At the Walvis Bay sewerage ponds, where a bird-watching enterprise has started up, a total of 1 633 birds belonging to 27 different species were seen on Sunday.