Fewer birds counted

Due to the absence of migrant birds the number of birds observed in winter are significantly less than that counted in summer.

28 July 2019 | Environment

Peter Bridgeford, Coastal Environmental Trust of Namibia; “Thanks to all the volunteers or 'Citizen Scientists', several from as far away as Windhoek, who made the counts possible.”

Iréne-Mari van der Walt

Another edition of the Walvis Bay winter bird count was conducted recently with 40 volunteers braving the elements to partake in the exercise over two days.

The bird count is a bi-annual event, occurring once in summer and in winter. Figures obtained are sent to the ministry of environment and tourism who will integrate it with information from other bird counts to formulate a more comprehensive report of bird life in Namibia.

“Reduced visibility as a result of thick fog and no sun worked against the bird counters on the second day of counting. This resulted in and undercount of the Black-necked Grebes, flamingos and the smaller birds in some places. The smelly water also prevented counters getting to some areas and the reeds blocked their view at the sewage ponds,” reported Peter Bridgeford, the organiser of the exercise.

He believes bird counts are vital in giving insight into the state of health of the Walvis Bay lagoon area.

“A healthy environment can be identified by the bird population in the area, given that the lagoon must first be healthy in order to sustain the marine ecosystem that the birds feed from.”

Bridgeford said that this year's tally of 75 176 birds of 38 different species recorded compares favorably with other winter counts of 80 729 in 2018 but was down from the 110 300 in 2010.

“As most of the bird migrants are in Europe having a very hot summer over there, this winter count total is about average.”

He explained that the 36 477 Greater Flamingos counted is consistent with numbers observed over the past years.

There was however a spike in the amount of Lesser Flamingos counted this year.

“Lesser Flamingos, with many juveniles, probably from Kamfers Dam in Kimberley, totalled only 14 789 which is not a bad number for a winter count.”

Counting at limited parts of the Sewage Ponds provided a total of 15 963 birds of 21 species and of these 14 463 were Lesser Flamingos, almost as many as in the lagoon and saltworks (14 789). In total 29 252 Lesser Flamingos were recorded.

The number of Black-necked Grebes recorded are down from 16 494 in 2013, to 2 976 this year. In 2013, 21 919 Black-necked Grebes were recorded.

“However, fog reduced visibility in the ponds with these birds. There could have been many more lurking in the mist. The number of Cape Shovellers in the ponds, with 75 recorded, was noticeable. This may not seem a lot but they are generally not found in the salty water, as they appear to prefer fresh water.”

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