Friday, 18 October 2013

A Big City Triple Crown - a winning trifecta...!

White-breasted Cuckooshrike - Groenkloof [Pretoria]
Out the stalls I make no apologies for the quality of these images. A roughie or an odds-on favourite makes no difference at the tote if you're holding the winning ticket..! [The misguided adventures of my youth - Law-school was expensive...]

Big City birding is AWT (All weather racing) and it's not for the faint of heart. When word filters through that a bomber [rarity] has hit home-track you take the bit and run.. 

Pretoria's Groenkloof NR is a true Blue Hen & is fast becoming the region's rarity-mecca. Late Monday's FB-post that a White-breasted Cuckooshrike had been seen a few days earlier was a neon-light attention-grabber. In hand and having appraised the house-highweight (Alisha) of the impending stampede we made our way through to Groenkloof early next morning, as did most of the usual grandstand-membership. Although blown on the walk up the ridge and pulled-up short on the phone to confirm the sighting, there is no joy, in this game, more crystal-pure than a mega [a bomber- see above] in perfect stride. 
Mountain Wagtail - Groenkloof [Pretoria]

The post-parade dust had hardly settled when friends on the rail confirmed another local mega; Mountain Wagtail - under the rail-bridge and back a few hundred yards.. ! Chalk this one up to luck but sometimes the dice fall as they will.. Perhaps not as well-turned out as the WBCS & more aware of the stands, this bird proved even more elusive to photograph. Later it took a bow for our regional ticket, even so. 

There are occasions when circumstance deals a quirky hand so unexpected that the odds are almost a milkshake[illegal]. If the cuckooshrike and the wagtail were light on the toteboard [long-shots] then the Bush Blackcap's maiden visit to Johannesburg is the winner going away. 

Bush Blackcap - Randburg [Johannesburg]
Although stewards have lodged the usual inquiry on the validity of these sightings, considered flukish if not unnatural, I for one hold a winning ticket. So do many other lucky punters. What excitement & what a race!

As an addendum I want to emphasise the good-natured spirit that abounds in SA birding [bird-watching.] I'll annotate for ease of reference:
  1. Dirk Maartens Human unselfishly brought the original sighting of the White-breasted Cuckooshrike to our attention via social media; ably supported later by the administrators of the various SIT groups;
  2. SARBN [SA Rare bird news], a free service administered by Trevor Hardaker, kept interested members abreast of developments as they unfolded;
  3. Dewald Swanepoel and Gisela Ortner highlighted the Mountain Wagtail, a truly unexpected surprise on a day when the cuckooshrike held centre-stage; and
  4. I cannot say enough for Gisela Ortner who unselfishly opened her home to the birding community when the Blackcap was first discovered in her garden. 
We live for weeks like these, as ephemeral as the rarities themselves. Whilst the adrenaline does strange things to ordinary people we cannot deny the truth. This is an African Spring!

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