04 july 2012 – great, we spotted the cuckoo…!
A phone call from a local small holding resident near Klipheuwel earlier today suddenly put the local birding community into a bit of turmoil. He had spotted a Great Spotted Cuckoo yesterday close to where he lives and it was, once again, present this morning, so, thankfully, he had the foresight to phone through the news. This is an incredibly rare bird to find in the Western Cape and very few of them have ever been twitchable resulting in a number of the province’s keenest listers still needing it for their Western Cape lists. The last record had been at Rocklands Farm, not too far from where this bird was, in August 2008 and had only stayed in the area for a few hours, hence not giving anybody the chance to catch up with it. The alert was posted on the SA Rare Bird News email alert service at 13h30 and, almost instantly, a number of local twitchers suddenly had emergency meetings to attend to away from the office.
Unfortunately, work commitments meant that we could not drop everything immediately and we only managed to get away from our respective offices after 16h00. Trevor had seen this bird once before in the Western Cape, but Margaret still needed it for her provincial list (it would be number 461 for her Western Cape list!!) and it would also be a fantastic addition to our challenge list. Being in separate vehicles helped a little and Trevor headed for home to collect the binoculars and cameras (the biggest mistake was not having the optical equipment permanently in the vehicle!) while Margaret made a dash straight for the site. Fighting through the traffic was extremely frustrating and really slowed progress to the site. Obviously, Margaret reached the site before Trevor, but by the time Trevor eventually arrived on site, he found a group of rather forlorn looking twitchers standing around not having found the bird yet. It was already 18h00 and we were losing light very quickly – the sun had already sunken below the hills and it was now a race against time to find the bird. Trevor made a couple of quick phone calls to find out where people had last seen it and, once we had an idea, we took a chance and headed off into one of the fields.
Slowly walking along, there was no bird activity at all – everything seemed to have already gone off to roost! Spirits were extremely low when suddenly Trevor flushed the bird up from some longish grass in front of him and it flew up into a close tree. What luck that we managed to find it!! After getting reasonable views of the bird, we even attempted to take a few record shots of it, but they were really pathetic – there was absolutely no light to get any sort of shutter speed, but at least, the bird had made its way on to all the necessary lists…:) Yay!!
Thursday dawned bright with clear skies and, during the course of the day, weather predictions were checked for the next few days. A huge cold front would be hitting the area on Friday morning and the next few days after that were miserable! The only chance for a decent photographic opportunity was on Thursday afternoon before the bad weather hit. An easy decision and, after sorting out some work issues, Trevor shot back out to the site and was in place soon after 16h00 in lovely afternoon light. The bird tended to be quite skittish and one could never approach too closely, but the photo opportunities were hugely improved on yesterday and at least, we could come away with a couple of useable shots, very happy to have this great bird now good and solidly on our challenge list. After all, who knows when the next one might turn up.?!