Photo by John Bowman

For those of you who do not subscribe to Trevor Hardaker’s ‘Rare Birds News’ updates, a Black Skimmer arrived in Cape Town yesterday.  Last night’s update reads:

“As you all know, we have a new celebrity in town, a BLACK SKIMMER, which has turned up at Rietvlei near Milnerton this afternoon. Close to 50 people made it through there this afternoon still after the news was broken and I suspect that tomorrow is going to be rather busy there, especially with all the out-of-towners arriving.   Some people are obviously not sure where to go, so here are some directions:

From the City, you can get there by driving out on Table Bay Boulevard towards the northern suburbs, then taking the turnoff to Paarden Eiland and Milnerton (R27). You drive along Marine Drive to Milnerton, where it becomes Otto du Plessis Drive, and keep on towards Table View. In Milnerton you will see the estuarine part of the Rietvlei Wetland Reserve on your left, the road crosses the reserve at the Diep River Bridge; Rietvlei will now be on your right. Drive on to Table View and take a right turn into Blaauwberg Road (at the traffic lights at the Pick ‘n Pay and Bayside Shopping Centres); in Blaauwberg Road you must take the first turn to the right into Pentz Drive (at the traffic lights), and carry on along Pentz Drive to the first 4-way stop where it crosses Grey Avenue. Turn right there and carry on to the end – you then enter the reserve through the gate to the Milnerton Aquatic Club. The gate guard from probably be able to explain to you from there where to go for the bird.

This afternoon, it spent quite a bit of time in front of the original hide on an island there with some pelicans, but also flew a number of circuits in front of the hide. Later on, it then settled down to roost a little bit north of this closer to the main gravel road. But effectively, it could be anywhere on the body of water, so some searching may be required in order to locate it.”

Today Trevor tells us that “Some further research has revealed that “our” bird seems to be of the nominate North American form (predominantly white tail and white underwings) rather than one of the two other races, both from South America.

Although there have been a couple of historical claims, there is not a single confirmed and accepted record of Black Skimmer anywhere in the world on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Isaac hit the gulf cost of North America in late August 2012 and, on 30 August 2012, an adult nominate form Black Skimmer was reported from County Mayo in Ireland! It was just seen on that one day…

The distance from Co Mayo to Cape Town is around 11000 km… Flying at an average speed of 13 km/h, that should take just under 35 days…!!

You do the sums… It’s not a conspiracy… that is surely just too much of a co-incidence…:) ”

John & Sheelagh Bowman are lucky enough to be in Cape Town and have seen and ticked the Skimmer.  Birding is certainly never boring!