Other birders will understand the excitement of spotting a "lifer" This means you see that as a bird-watcher you see a certain bird for the first time. Often it's one which you've wished you could see and imagine you never will.
Ever since returning from the Sudan five weeks ago, I have heard a different bird call in the garden. A loud, harsh Tshweat-tshweat-tshweat. I haven't actually given much thought to what it could be (don't ask me why, I normally am very interested in any new bird calls in my garden) but today while sitting here in the office at my desk I heard the continous call again so I decided to investigate.
Taking my binoculars, I went outside in the direction of the call. I spotted the bird almost immediately with my naked eye; it was sitting in the tree which we lopped to remove the shade from my vegetable garden. (BTW, the vegetables plants are THRIVING and I promise to do a post on them soon)
I dashed back to the house and this time, I grabbed my camera. The bird was sitting very high up on the edge of a stubby branch and the light was not at all conducive to good photography. Nevertheless I began to snap away at the bird while it sat there calling at regular intervals.
Returning indoors, I downloaded the photos onto my laptop and then the search was on. I opened my Roberts Birds of Southern Africa field guide and my first thought was to look under the cuckoos. Not found. Then I tried the Honeyguides. No success there either.
After searching a few more birds which I thought it could be, I called Grant to come and help me with the ID of the bird. As he saw the image on the screen, he said: "Phew! I've never seen this bird before." Then he also said try the cuckoos or the honeyguides etc.
At the same time, I was on Skype with sister-in-law in Kwa-Zulu Natal who is a bird boffin and often helps me with identification of birds. I sent a couple of the clearer photos to her. She'd obviously left her computer as I didn't hear from her for a while. Next minute she came back to me and congratulated me on the good photos and said it was a Red-throated Wryneck (in SA these birds are grouped with Woodpeckers) Now, we never see Woodpeckers in this part of the Free State and Grant and I both have NEVER seen a Wryneck. So this was a great sighting and very exciting for both of us. (Grant saw the bird in real life when it returned half-an-hour later and sat in the same tree, calling) My sister-in-law also said that they normally sit very high up in trees and are difficult to spot and to photograph properly.
Here below is the best photo of the series I took of this bird.
Red-throated Wryneck in my garden!
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