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24 Nov 2023

Rare bird returns to Umdloti

Jacqueline Herbst (North Coast Courier) Picture: Claire McCormack. A rarely seen Eurasian oystercatcher visiting Umdloti's African oystercatcher colony.

There was great excitement among twitchers on Saturday when a rare Eurasian oystercatcher visited Umdloti for the second time in three years. The VIP guest was spotted foraging with the local African oystercatcher colony on the protected mussel beds along Umdloti’s south beach. At first there was only speculation. With several people having seen a bird with black and white plumage among the local solid black African oystercatchers, they thought it might be of the Eurasian variety. Then Umdloti resident Claire McCormack posted photographic evidence on the Conservancy WhatsApp group. The elation was real.

According to the Roberts Bird Guide, fewer than 10 Eurasian oystercatchers visit South Africa annually. Also known as the common pied oystercatcher or bonttobie in Afrikaans, they breed in the Palearctic realm (north of the Himalayas) and are rarely seen in Africa south of the Gulf of Guinea and Kenya. When visiting our shores, they are usually seen on their own or with African oystercatchers.

The last time a vagrant Eurasian oystercatcher popped in for a visit in 2020, news of the esteemed guest attracted birders and photographers from far and wide.

Whether the bird will stick around for a while remains to be seen. Umdloti resident and bird enthusiast, Dr Ryan Daly of the Oceanographic Research Institute, said a Eurasian oystercatcher was also spotted last week on the KZN south coast.

Earlier in the year the Courier reported on the healthy growth of Umdloti’s African oystercatcher colony. The first two were spotted there about five years ago and numbers have since increased to around 21.

Daly attributed their success mostly to the no-take zone between first and sixth avenue that has led to the creation of a healthy rocky shore eco system that has become an important habitat for the oystercatchers