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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Berg River Estuary at Velddrif




Does this wading stilt know what is real and what is an illusion as he hunts for small frogs, insect larvae, molluscs and shellfish? The river flows restlessly behind his island, but there is hardly a ripple in the soft blue mirror in front. Around him, inter-tidal mudflats and salt marshes, some parts murky and others shining like metal!

"Stilt" is surely the best name for Himantopus himantopus, or as he is called in Afrikaans: "Rooipoot-elsie". Using his long stilt-like legs he can wade in different depths of water up to his so-called knees and never needs to swim. In flight these long legs extend well beyond the tail.

There is a wonderful atmospheric bird hide on the Berg River estuary at Velddrif and more than 200 species can be viewed here. Besides the black-winged stilts there are amazing spoonbills, pelicans, flamingos, moorhens, Caspian terns and kingfisher. I always visit places on midday, thus I only saw flamingos in the distance resting under the bridge. A week later Liz photographed swarms of them at sunrise, so visit her blog to see more of our lovely river!

Something I love but do not understand is how migrating birds, dolphins, swimming birds, etc can do synchronized movements. Music in their heads, maybe? In my photo two egrets, "Tweedledum and Tweedledee" I shall call them, feed close to the bird hide, totally synchronised!

14 comments:

  1. Interesting question, Marie - how do they synchronize? Also I've always wondered how they know to go to the same places every year? And companionship - they seem to need that, too. Perhaps we underestimate birds and what their lives are really like. And... the 'bird hide'? Is that where hunters hide? Oh, my!

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  2. You live in a magical place. I love coming here.
    Your painting is terrific. The water is absolutely incredible!!

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  3. Beautiful work Marie, I'm so glad your corner of the earth has a "bird hide" and other sanctuaries. Our songbird populations and wetlands are disappearing so fast here in the US, it is a quiet tragedy.
    many hugs...

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  4. Hi Kelley!Interesting question about birds keeping company! We have many "bird hides" in South Africa, also wildlife hides. That is where people can sit quietly in the midst of the birds and watch them in their habitat. Luckily NOT for hunting! So many birds are on the danger list and we protect them as much as possible! This estuary is an Important Bird Area which is almost like a world heritage site.

    Manon, you are right, and next to our lovely river you feel all your troubles just disappear!

    Nancy, I know, it is nice to know that this river will not become the site of a waterfront mall or such like!Also the pollution is kept at bay. I must admit too: I saw a lovely estuary on a beautifully preserved beach at the Central Coast in California!

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  5. What a stunning painting, Marie! Those colors in the dry grasses are just gorgeous, the water is perfection. I so love being near water and miss living in WA where I was close enough to visit any time I wanted to visit. I used to take my kids and we'd go walk the beaches and explore the tide pools. Your painting and words bring back such wonderful memories for me!

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  6. love the painting! I've always held a fascination with birds.
    Enjoyed your commentary.

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  7. Oh I LOVE your stilt Marie! Gorgeous painting! I can sit and watch water birds for hours...

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  8. Thank you Sherry, Dean and Maree....yes there is nothing nicer than watching birds!I am not sure whether I always have the correct names, (the synchronized team of two for instance!)Walking around with "Roberts Birds of South Africa" is a very dedicated pastime!

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  9. Marie, what a wonderful visit we have had with your lovely paintings, photos, and beautiful descriptions. I commend you on the paintings. I love the people cleaning fish. I think you can successfully paint any scene! The stilt painting is especially lovely with the soft lavender grasses.

    Ah, the flamingos. I once was treated to seeing masses of them in Kenya.

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  10. To think I was there last week! Such a beautiful reminder Marie. Hope to get up again soon but in the meantime, keep the lovely West Coast paintings coming!

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  11. Beautiful descriptive piece, Marie... I love that you and Liz got together. I wonder if you met in blogdom as we have?? Maybe someday you'll visit California or I'll visit South Africa to see the two of you!!!

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  12. Mary, thanks for the compliments and comments! Kenya is really beautiful, I am glad you saw a piece of Africa!

    Liz, we will do exactly that!I still want us to sketch at the wine farm....sustenance is always at hand there and I want to ask permission to sketch the farm workers' homes too!

    Marian, I must look you up on the California map! I was impressed by the fresh veg markets and home produce and cute towns of the Central Coast.We also visited Yosemite! Of course in America we love the countryside and avoid cities, so I have never been near LA, Vegas, etc! Yes come to SA in the best of summertime, Dec-Feb and Liz and I can give you a tour!(Yes, we met in Blogdom!)

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  13. Marie, another brilliant painting. I love the reflections in the water. Have a wonderful day.

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  14. Love the painting and reading about it. Nice color in your work.

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