21 July 2007

Flamingos and Salt Pans

The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. According to Roberts Birds of South Africa they are spread over southern Europe, Asia and the greater part of Africa and America.

This summer I was concerned by the lack of flamingos at the Swartkops salt pans and was delighted to spot some a few weeks ago. I wanted to stop and photograph them, but every time I drove past I was in a hurry to get to Uitenhage and was unable to do so, or the light was not right.

Today I drove out to the salt pans and found this group. Even though there were not vast numbers of them and they were far away it was still a thrill to be able to watch them and photograph them.

My concern was that their scarcity was another symptom of man’s encroachment on their habitat. The centre picture shows how the suburb of New Brighton has been developed right up to the edge of the salt pans. According to a former colleague there were wetlands, where the N2 and the Settlers Freeway intersect about 50 years ago, which abounded with flamingos. Today those wetlands no longer exist.

Roberts also says flamingo numbers are also subject to annual fluctuations, which may explain why they have been so scarce this summer. I am hoping that they will return in larger numbers in the coming summer.

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