Bird lovers in tizz over lost Robin

A foraging Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) flicks its long rufous tail frequently showing the black and white tips of the tail feathers.

A confused Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin caused a bird-watching frenzy at Zeekoevlei Nature Reserve this weekend as it made a 180 degree mistake, flying south instead of north.

It should now be breeding around the Mediterranean but is instead feeding on insects and bitou (Chrysanthemoides monilifera) in long grass at the reserve.

Peter Steyn from Claremont and André Demblon from Constantia made the astonishing find.

They had been swanning around at Strandfontein Sewage Works on Sunday and decided to drive back along the eastern shore of the mirror-like vlei when Peter spotted the bird at 11am and André took a picture of it.

Unsure of the identity because the bird is way off its range, he sent the photo of it to Trevor Hardaker of South African Rare Bird News, who was on a trip at sea.

After much head-scratching by Trevor, along with Clifford Dorse of the Rondevlei Nature Reserve, his wife Suretha and other birders, John Graham and Michael Mason, the bird’s identity was eventually confirmed and that it has never been recorded in southern Africa. This makes it “an absolute mega of the highest quality”, said Trevor.

By Monday afternoon, over 257 twitchers had visited the eastern shore of the reserve, some having flown in from Johannesburg, Durban and the Garden Route.

Mr Dorse said it is a species that migrates from Somalia, Syria and Israel into Africa, normally as far south Kenya. He said this is possibly a case of reverse migration where instead of turning north it kept flying south.

Asked what now for the bird, Peter said he has no idea but it might realise it’s in the wrong place and fly north.

The bird may still be at the reserve to be seen but readers are reminded to not get too close as there will be many birders from other parts of the country travelling to see it.