La Mercy

2nd and 3rd February 2021

On the afternoon of the 2nd of February, Sally and I went down to Durban and up to the La Mercy estuary. Our goal to see the White-cheeked Tern which had appeared there. This was only the 5th time one of these Terns had appeared in South Africa.

We arrived about 15h00 only to be told that the bird had just flown out to sea. We were also told that it had being doing this regularly throughout the day and then returning.

So we waited and waited enjoying the birds on the beach – and keeping a close eye amongst the Terns with which it had been roosting. Mainly Common and Little Terns with the occasional Sandwich Tern. Even a Grey Plover made an appearance.

As we waited an uncommon bird appeared among the Terns – a Hartlaub’s Gull – which we were very happy to see.

We waited and waited peering closely as the Terns took flight and returned – ever hopeful the White-cheeked Tern would appear amongst them.

After 3 hours we gave up, intending to return very early the next day.

At about 05h45 the next day we were on the beach only to be told that the bird had just flown. Another stretch of waiting and watching. Eventually as 09h00 approached we said goodbye and we returned to Sally’s son’s home for some brekky and to pack up and head home. At 09h10 we got a message on the KZN Rare Birds Alert WhatsApp group to say the bird had re-appeared. We quickly packed up, forgot about breakfast and headed back to the site.

As we arrived we were told the bird had just flown out to sea and one chap there said he had watched the bird as it flew way over the ocean. Just our luck.

Anyway, I got out the scope and peered into the Tern roost to see what was there – and there it was with its distinctive dark colour (compared to the other Terns) and its red bill and feet. Showing off its white cheek from which it got its name. Were we ever happy to see this distinctive and handsome bird.

Unfortunately we were too far away for any decent photos but we snapped away anyway.

The bird hung around for a while and then it flew out into the ocean – it seems for the last time as there have been no reports of it at La Mercy since. Here are a few shots of the bird as it flew away for the last time (for now).

Success.

Paul and Sally

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