Calidris melanotos (vagrant)
This rare summer visitor has become a more regular sighting in South Africa’s summer months, especially at Mkhombo Dam Nature Reserve. The clear division between its streaked breast and white belly is distinctive.
Skye Hartog and I had been looking for this “bogey” sandpiper for over a year. This had included at least 5 trips to Mkhombo Dam Nature Reserve, where we had studied many thousands of “pectoral-looking” ruffs but had never found one that had greenish/yellowish legs and a yellow base to its decurved bill. Thus, when we heard that a pectoral sandpiper was hanging around at Kgomo Kgomo, we decided to give it one last bash before the year was out.
We headed to Kgomo Kgomo early on the 20th December 2012 and, after investigating the floodplain for an hour, headed to the spot where the sandpiper had been seen a few days earlier; past the last house on the left and just before you enter the Zaagkuildrift road. On our first pass of the area we saw a few stilts, a stint and a few spoonbills, and thought that the mythical sandpiper had eluded us for the 6th time. Determined to reverse our fortunes, we scanned the water’s edge again and there it was, finally, a pectoral sandpiper hiding in the reeds. What an awesome end to a great year of birding!