Earlier this year I have seen European Rollers (Coracias garrulus) on three occasions in the vicinity of Aliwal North – twice in the southern Free State and once in the northern extremes of the Eastern Cape (see post in archive). It was quite surprising to observe these birds in our area after being living here for nearly 17 years without once seeing them – and then suddenly three sightings within three weeks.
This weekend I had been surprised by another rarity for our region – a Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudata). Saturday afternoon while travelling to Zastron we spotted this Roller for the first time. Unfortunately we had to pass and could not stop to take a closer look. The wind was blowing strongly, but the long tail rectrices were conspicuous as the wind blew the bird from its perch on the telephone post.
Early this morning I went out to atlas the pentad for SABAP2. It was quite chilly and the mist on the river made for a wonderful scene. At first I passed the location where we spotted the Roller on Saturday. I atlased some other habitats in the pentad. On my return along the route I scanned the high trees and bushes in the hope to find the Roller again. After a visit to the farm dam where we counted a few waterbird species, I spotted a bird perching on the power line. It allowed us to come nearer and I frantically took photos from a distance in the fear it may fly off. Eventually I could stop right beneath the perch on the power line and could take a few close up shots. The bird seemed quite at ease and it seems as if it were settled in to stay in this area. It did not even look uncomfortable with the car right under the power line and the people watching it through their binoculars.
This one is a rarity for our region and definitely a first record for the bird atlas for the southern Free State.