Well, of all the gardens!! A Mega in Randburg 4th to 6th December 2012
Sitting at my desk and looking out of the window as usual, I was distracted by a small bird which flew into view. Immediately I said to myself, that’s a ‘Pied fly’, then OMG! Realizing the implications of where I was!! A Collared Flycatcher!!!
I feverishly grabbed bins and camera and dashed outside past Irma who was in the kitchen, I told her it was a rare bird, she replied ‘how rare?’, I replied ‘lots-of- people-in-the-garden-rare’!!
I had 20 mins of panic which included climbing on the roof until I eventually found it again and first of all had a good look at the distinguishing features. Once I was certain it was a Collared Flycatcher and not a Semi-collared or Pied Flycatcher, I texted Trevor Hardaker, the countries rare bird coordinator. Within seconds he replied and suitably impressed to phone a bit later to ask me if I realised what would happen if he posted it on the net!
Well, in the next hour there must have been over 80 birders in the road outside as well as on the patio, as the flycatcher seemed very happy in the big Acacia sieberiana which provided perfect feeding habitat for this species.
As it got dark people drifted away, but at 0430hrs the next morning there was already a crowd gathered outside! I located the bird at 0515hrs and gestured for the gaggle of birders to come in onto the patio, whereby a scrum erupted after the ensuing rush to get through the small garden door! 600 to 800mm lenses were set up and the motor drives were going off in steady bursts.
With all these birders present it was no wonder a European Honey Buzzard was picked up heading north quite high!
All the day there were never less than 15 people watching this little flycatcher all the way from eastern central Europe! Occasionally the bird would disappear for an hour or so, but would return.
Several people missed out on the flycatcher during these periods, but as dusk fell again, the bird look comfy and like roosting overnight.
Once again at 0500hrs there was even a bigger posse of twitchers and again I located the bird immediately. Once again a steady stream of birders filed through into the garden, some staying for a minute or so, others spending hours! We had twitchers from as far as Standerton, Potchestroom and Secunda, not to mention many who made the pilgrimage from Pretoria.
As some photos started to come through, I was able to get a really good look at the tertials and in particular the ‘hook’ pattern of a first winter bird. Then a good shot of the tail was taken and it was possible to see the extent of white ‘windows’ in the 3 outer tail feathers which made it a male. Just to make certain we were not dealing with a Pied or Semi-collared Flycatcher, a good look at photos of the tail feathers and white wing patch confirmed it as a Collared.
On Friday morning at 0130hrs a huge rainstorm hit us and as I lay in bed listening to the thundering rain and hail on the roof, I doubted very much that the bird would be there in the morning. At 0500hrs there was no sign of the bird and still birders were arriving including Mark and Tania Anderson who had just got back from Mozambique to the news that there was a ‘mega’ in their neighborhood!
The statistics reveal this to be the first record for Gauteng and the 9th for South Africa. It also just goes to show how many potential ‘megas’ are out there in gardens just waiting to be found!