European Nightjar was spotted at Robindale in Randburg.806 Picture: Matthews Baloyi 1/29/2013

Johannesburg - Birdwatchers are all in a flap over a little bird that has decided to take up residence in a Robindale garden.

The bird is a European Nightjar.

The nightjar appeared in Malcolm Wilson’s garden on Thursday and has been there ever since. On Tuesday, he posted the news of this unusual arrival on the South African rare bird alert network and Facebook, and that is when they started to arrive.

By late afternoon, more than 60 people had come to see the pigeon-sized bird roosting on a tree in the back garden. Many popped in during their lunch break.

The reason for the interest is that European Nightjars are uncommon in Joburg.

Wilson, who is an ornithologist, estimates there have been only one or two local sightings in the past.

What also makes these birds hard to spot is that they blend almost completely with their surroundings. They are also nocturnal.

The twitchers (bird enthusiasts) who arrived to see the rare sighting came so that they could tick the bird off on their check lists.

“Many of them want it for their Gauteng list,” said Wilson. Often, twitchers travel long distances to see and tick off a sighting.

Two twitchers who came to see the nightjar were Alisha and Mark Kirk.

“It is nothing for us to fly to Walvis Bay or East London to see a bird,” said Mark.

As they are Joburg residents, they did not have to travel far for this latest sighting.

This isn’t the first time that Wilson has had a rare bird species pitch up in his garden. In December, he had a far rarer Collared Flycatcher drop into his garden, and that got the twitchers gaga.

He estimates that he had more than 600 people come to his house over the three days that the bird was in his garden.

“There were people sleeping in their cars at 4am, waiting for me to wake up and let them in,” he said.

The nightjar is unlikely to spend much more time in Wilson’s garden. He suspects that on a clear night it will head off, and will soon be migrating to the northern hemisphere.

Wilson doesn’t find it strange that he has had two rare birds in his garden in the space of two months.

“My job is to recognise birds, so I am more likely to notice them,” he said. - The Star