Avian Demography Unit
Department of Statistical Sciences
University of Cape Town
|BIRD NUMBERS||Volume 10 Number 1, July 2001|
18. First record of Bartailed Godwit Limosa lapponica in the Free State, South Africa
Rick J. Nuttall1, Herman Kleynhans2, Janet Kleynhans2,
Dawid H. de Swardt1 & Stephan van der Walt3
The Bartailed Godwit Limosa lapponica is a summer migrant to southern Africa, breeding in the tundra areas of Scandinavia, Siberia and Alaska (Underhill 1997). Although birds visiting southern Africa are found mainly along the coast, there are also a few inland records (Maclean 1993; Underhill 1997). However, no published records exist for this species in the province of the Free State in central South Africa (Earlé & Grobler 1987; Underhill 1997). This note reports on the first known record of Bartailed Godwits in this province.
HK and JK visit Soetdoring Nature Reserve, Bloemfontein district, on a monthly basis for the purposes of recording bird species for the ADU’s Birds in Reserves Project (BIRP). During a visit to the reserve on the morning of 7 October 2000, two largish waders were seen foraging on an area of exposed, muddy shoreline of one of the secluded inlets of the Krugersdrift Dam (28°51'S, 26°02'E). The birds were skittish at first, not allowing an approach closer than 50–70 m. After a while, however, excellent views of the resting birds were possible from 5–10 m. Distinctive features such as the pink base to the otherwise black, slightly upcurved bill, and the banded pattern on the tail, were clearly seen and the birds were identified as Bartailed Godwits. When the observers tried to get closer to the birds, they disturbed Blacksmith Plovers Vanellus armatus, which took flight and thereafter dive-bombed the godwits.
The sighting was reported to other members of the Free State Bird Club, as well as to SvdW, Nature Conservation Officer at Soetdoring Nature Reserve. Although a strong wind was blowing the following day (8 October), SvdW managed to locate the godwits in the same area and obtained video footage of the birds.
RJN and DHdS visited the reserve on the morning of 10 October and found the godwits in the same area. The two birds were foraging, probing their bills into the muddy substrate, not allowing an approach closer than about 50 m, when they took flight and landed on the opposite side of the small bay. The characteristic white rump of this species was seen clearly in flight. The godwits then probed for food while wading in shallow water 5–10 cm deep before resting at the water’s edge for a short period to preen. Soon afterwards, both birds took flight, uttering the characteristic ‘god-wit’ call a few times before disappearing.
Four other members of the Free State Bird Club (Else Beemsteboer, Louise Coetzee, Janine Lieffrig and Graeme Skinner) visited the same site late on the afternoon of 10 October, where they found the birds foraging.
Inland records of Bartailed Godwits in southern Africa are believed to represent birds passing through on their southward migration (Dowsett 1980), en route to coastal areas. The dates of the Soetdoring records support this idea.
Dowsett R.J. 1980. The migration of coastal waders from the Palearctic across Africa. Gerfaut 79: 3–35.
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Document posted: 24-Aug-2001
Office Avian Demography Unit