Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Lifer Spotted

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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  1. Oh, that's wonderful for you, Jo. I don't consider myself a birder, although I get very excited when I see birds in our yard. The former owners had birdfeeders, but we had cats at first, so didn't want to encourage birds to come into our yard to be caught.
    Then a pair of Merlin falcons started nesting nearby, and began eating songbirds in the trees above our deck. When I went out one morning and found the deck covered in heads, feet and wings, I screamed. Since then I've been extra nervous about encouraging birds to visit, no matter how much I love to see them.
    I wish we had Red-throated Wrynecks, though. I looked them up and see they specialize in eating ants, and we have a real ant problem around here. If your Wryneck is successful in calling for a mate, and if they find a tree with a suitable hole for nesting, you will likely have them for a long time, because I also found out they're not migratory. They just don't make that call very much in winter.
    Amazing bird you've got there, Jo, and it is ever so cute.
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  2. Congrats on the lifer! Always fun to spot a new species. And nice to have help with the IDing. Maybe the exposed tree trimming brought it in.

  3. Congrats, Jo.... YES----as a birder, I know how exciting it is to see a new bird (lifer)... You found a beauty!!!!! Great picture of it... Thanks!

  4. beautiful bird! it is worth the effort!

  5. Well spotted and shot Jo and what a thrill!

  6. I can well understand the excitement! Congratulations. I always find it so frustrating trying to identify birds from those guide books, you are fortunate to have someone in the family who can help!

  7. Well done! Nog nie een gesien in Mqd. nie.

  8. Congrtulations on spotting and identifying the bird!

  9. Congratulations. Although I am not really a birder, my boyfriend and another really good friend is and I can sense their excitement everytime they spot a bird, whatever they may be. So I am thrilled for you!!!

  10. I can understand your excitement, Jo! How marvelous to be able, not only to spot a new bird, but get a photo and have it identified! Terrific! Hope your week is off to a great start -- looks like it from these photos! Enjoy!


  11. Congrats on your lifer, Jo! It is a great shot, especially since it helped with the id. Your Wryneck looks similiar to our Flickers, which are like woodpeckers.

  12. It's so exciting to spot a new and unusual bird in your garden. Lovely photo!


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