Black Skimmer — new for Africa — found at Rietvlei, Cape Town!
Africa’s first confirmed Black Skimmer was found yesterday at Rietvlei (Table Bay Nature Reserve), Cape Town, by Robin Wood and the news was put out rapidly by Trevor Hardaker who confirmed its ID. Many thanks to Robin and Trevor for getting the news out so fast! These photos were taken yesterday morning (5 October 2012), as the reserve manager kindly made special arrangements to let in birders early.
Although African Skimmer can show a black tip to the bill in subadult plumage, this bird is in full adult plumage, confirming its identity as a Black Skimmer, which is normally restricted to the Americas. The pale underwings and outer tail feathers suggest that this is the subspecies niger, which breeds along the coasts of North America and is a short distance migrant as far south as Panama. This record has drawn attention to a number of claimed records from Namibia by Tony Tree and Joris Komen which have not been officially evaluated and don’t seem to have been featured prominently in the literature, and it will be interesting to highlight those records in the light of this well-documented bird and confirm further records from Africa.
For those chasing the bird, which was seen on Thursday evening and the whole of Friday but has been missing so far on Saturday, the spot where it has been seen is reached by parking at the Milnerton Aquatic Club at the end of Grey Avenue in the suburb of Table View. If you look on Google Maps, you park just east of the “AmaziPro cc” location, and ask the gate guard (entrance fee R29 pp) where to look for the bird. The GPS location where these photos were taken is -33.840848°, 18.495609°.
UPDATE: The skimmer was not reported from Cape Town on Saturday despite many people searching, but a Black Skimmer has been report early today (Sunday 7 Oct 2012) from Walvis Bay, over 1600 km to the north along the coast, raising the possibility that it could be the same bird! The skimmer was report by Mark Boorman and Otto Schmidt (via Trevor Hardaker) and it will be interesting to examine the photos closely to see if it might be the same bird.