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THE FIRST EVER RUFOUS-TAILED SCRUB-ROBIN IN SOUTH AFRICA!

Posted on the 18th July 2016

(With appreciation to Trevor Hardaker for posting this report. - Ed.)

Peter Steyn and Andre Demblon made a rather astonishing find this morning near Strandfontein Sewage Works when they located an odd bird and Andre managed to get a record shot of it. Unsure of the ID, they Whatsapp’ed the photo through to me but, since I was out at sea, I only picked up this message rather late this afternoon after returning to the harbour. After fighting through traffic to make it there while it was still light, several of us (Margaret and I, John Graham, Michael Mason and Cliff and Suretha Dorse) were able to relocate the bird in late afternoon light and get reasonable looks at it. Something didn’t fit with this bird in terms of local options and we all started thinking of another, more esoteric option, which we were later able to confirm based on several visible features.
The bird that Peter and Andre had stumbled upon is a RUFOUS-TAILED SCRUB ROBIN (Cercotrichas galactotes), a bird NEVER before recorded in Southern Africa and an absolute mega of the highest quality! It is a species that migrates into Africa, normally as far south Kenya, so this is possibly a case of reverse migration. It is superficially similar to Kalahari Scrub Robin, but the facial patterning is subtly different, the wing pattern is different, the tail pattern differs in that it has a darkish T-bar extension up the middle of the tail which Kalahari SR doesn’t have and, most obviously, the bird has pinkish legs and a mostly pinkish bill whereas these are black in Kalahari.
For those of you wanting to twitch this bird (and I suspect that there are going to be LOTS of those), it was present around the picnic area on the eastern side of Zeekoeivlei along the entrance road to Strandfontein Sewage Works and, although it was moving around a little bit, you can use co-ordinates of 34°03'54.6"S 18°31'13.3"E as a starting point for your search. It moved north and south of this point over the course of us watching it, but never more than 100m or so. It was still around when we left as it got dark which bodes well for tomorrow.
A big words of congratulations to Peter and Andre on this special find. And also to my co-birders who did the head-scratching with me as we worked through the ID process to come to the conclusion – much appreciated everyone...:)
Lastly, just to let you know what it looks like, here are a couple of my photos from late this afternoon. Good luck for tomorrow!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMENTS

2258
TREVOR HARDAKER (posted: 2016-07-25 10:13:27)
One week since the RUFOUS-TAILED SCRUB ROBIN was first discovered at Zeekoeivlei and it has proved quite popular amongst the birding community so far...
To date, I have received the names of 530 birders who have already been to see this bird although I suspect that the real total is somewhat higher than that and a number of people have just been a little tardy in letting me know that they have been to see it. Out of interest, the breakdown of twitchers from the various regions so far is as follows:
Western Cape – 434 people
Gauteng – 78 people
Eastern Cape – 8 people
Mpumalanga – 4 people
Free State – 3 people
Kwazulu Natal, North-west Province and Namibia – 1 person each
Thanks to Margaret Hardaker who took this photo at the twitch yesterday.
So, not a bad start for the first week – if this bird stays on for another week or more, it will be interesting to see just how high the numbers climb...:D
TREVOR HARDAKER (posted: 2016-07-18 13:03:15)
Just a quick lunch time update on RUFOUS-TAILED SCRUB ROBIN to say that it is still currently present and a number of people have already been to enjoy our new arrival this morning. I have 39 names so far, but have been told by others that up to 55 people were counted together at once there during the course of the morning, so I’m still expecting to hear from lots of you to tell me that you’ve been there this morning…:)

Please also act responsibly when twitching this bird and don’t go too close to it or push it too much. Remember that many of our birding colleagues from other parts of the country are still travelling to get there, so please don’t spoil it for them. Just stand back and enjoy the absolute marvel of bird vagrancy and always remember to expect the unexpected…

Kind regards
Trevor