Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Crab Plovers of Mida Creek

Got back home on Sunday, but my computer crashed and got fixed only yesterday. So in the next few days or weeks I will upload more images from my Kenya trip. Or at least until I get permission to leave the house and get some fresh stuff from the field...

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of my trip was watching Crab Plovers at Mida Creek on the Indian Ocean coast, south of Malindi. The tidal mudflats of Mida are a fantastic site for shorebirds, hosting many thousands of birds of many species. Most are Palaearctic migrants (mainly Curlew Sand, Little Stint, Lesser, Mongolian and Greater Sand-plovers, Whimbrel and Grey Plover) but there are some local species too - White-fronted and Three-banded Plovers. The setting is beautiful - white sand, mangroves flank the mudflats, and coconut trees add an extra dimension to the skyline. Fishing is an important economic force there, and the estuary is dotted with small fishing boats. Fishermen walking across the mud provide fine photographic opportunities, that I didn't use. Thanks Ron for the image!
The local community of Mida Creek developed, with the support of A-Rocha Kenya, a system of hides and boardwalks that offers great views of the shorebirds at high tide. Unfortunately I was always busy at high tides so my chance for photography was only at low tide when the birds are scattered all over the estuary.
The Crab Plovers at Mida Creek breed farther north up the Indian Ocean coast or even on the Red Sea coast or across the other side of the ocean - nobody knows yet. But between October and March, Mida Creek is probably the best place in the world to watch this carismatic species. I estimated some 300 birds just on my section of the estuary. This year Colin Jackson and his team started sticking colour rings on them, so hopefully they should get some recoveries from other countries within a few years.
On my last morning there at last I had some time for photographing the plovers and the other shorebirds. The hide worked quite well, but each time things started to look good by my tent and birds got close enough a fisherman walked by and flushed everything - classic! So my results are not the best as they are all large crops. But I think they give the impression of this unique and beautiful plover and of its behaviour, and the beauty of the site.

Thanks Ron!

1 comment:

  1. The Crab Plover shots are stunning. The light looks fantastic as well. Steve.