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Birds: Three-banded plovers – masters of deception!

The three-banded plover
The three-banded plover

We’ve talked a lot about field guides before – books that help you put a name to the different species, with a photo or an illustration, a distribution map and some useful diagnostic information. But once the birding bug has bitten badly, you’ll progress to site guides. These books tell you where to go birding, and where to find specific targets.

As a kid, my favourite such book was called Go Birding in the Transvaal. (I’m giving away my age here.) Thanks to this book, my dad and I found ourselves in Bloemhof Dam Nature Reserve one cold spring morning. The book had promised all sorts of arid western specials: pygmy falcon, rufous-eared warbler, pririt batis, double-banded courser… and we’d found a good number of them. I was in heaven, but that all changed when we strolled along the muddy margin of a little pan.

Suddenly there was an explosion of screechy calls and a flutter of movement on the ground ahead. A small, grey-brown bird with two rings around it chest was badly hurt. The poor thing was crawling away from us, tail spread and down, flopping around and waving one wing and sometimes just collapsing as if utterly exhausted. I was sure it had a broken wing and I wanted nothing more than to help it. However, every time we got close, it somehow scurried onwards. Eventually we had to return to the car, our spirits deflated.

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