A week or three ago, Christa van Zyl, a friend, first reported her sighting of a pair of White-fronted Bee-eaters (Merops bullockoides) on their farm about 20km south-east of Aliwal North. She first heard the call that did not sound familiar at all and then saw the birds in the garden of the farmhouse. At first she could not believe what she saw – so she went to her father-in-law to listen the bird calls on his Roberts' Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa. Now she had been sure, the call was unmistakably the calls she heard in the garden. The next obstacle was to get a photo of the birds. She literally stalked them, but could unfortunately not succeed in getting near enough to get a clear picture. She sent me the best she could manage – her photo is added to confirm the sighting.
If compared to the current distribution records of SABAP2 and the older distribution records of the previous atlas, it is very clear that these two birds are way out of their normal range of distribution.
Christa's sighting is a very good example of the contribution that citizen scientists can make towards research on birdlife and the distribution of bird species. Well done, Christa, this record gives us a clearer picture of the movements of this species.
Our next challenge wil be to capture the birds to ring them in an attempt to monitor their movements. We will attempt this if the birds stay around in the next few weeks.