We received two recent sightings of Egyptian Nightjars (Caprimulgus aegyptius) in this February from two Moroccan birding hotspots: Aousserd in Western Sahara and Merzouga in Eastern Sahara.
The first bird was seen at Laglat/Derraman near Oued Jenna on 18 February by Javier Elorriaga/Birding the Strait. Javier, who was with Yeray Seminario, added that an unidentified nightjar flew over the acacias in Oued Jenna at dusk on the same day. At Merzouga, two Egyptian Nightjars were seen on 21 and 22 February by Mark Beevers with the Rockjumper Birding Tour.
Because Egyptian Nightjars are not known to occur in the breeding areas in February, I did a quick search in grey literature and found that the species was recorded at Mergouga in this month since at least 2007. I list here known observations starting from the earliest:
- One bird seen in a wadi south of Auberge Kasbah Said (near Merzouga) on 20 Feb. 2007 by Scandinavian birder Stefan Magnusson and his colleagues.
- One bird photographed (pic 2) between Rissani and Merzouga on 26 Feb. 2014 by Dutch birder Maurice Elf.
- Single birds were observed at Erg Chebbi, Merzouga on 28 Feb. 2014 and 2015 by Mark Beevers/ Rockjumper Birding Tour. As mentioned above, Mark and his birding group observed 2 birds at Merzouga on 21 and 22 Feb. 2016 (so observed during three years in a row!).
- One bird calling at Merzouga on 26 Feb. 2015 heard by Jakub Vicek (thanks Patrick Bergier for mentioning this).
- One bird photographed (pic 1) near Merzouga on 16 Feb. 2016 by Håkan Johansson and his colleagues (we received this after publishing the blog-post, thanks Håkan).
- Lahcen Ouacha, a local Berber bird guide in the region of Merzouga-Rissani also confirmed the arrival of the Egyptian Nightjars in the breeding area in mid-February. Moreover, some of the observations mentioned above were made with his help.
On the other hand, a road-killed Egyptian Nightjar was photographed in Aousserd region on 29 November 2012 by Mohamed Mediani and his colleagues. This bird along with two records in late October (see table 1 in Mediani et al. 2013) may have been wintering birds rather than late migrants.
Available information in the literature (e.g. Thévenot et al. 2003) gave ‘early to mid March’ as the arrival date to the breeding areas for the species. Comparing this with the dates of the observations mentioned above we can see that the Egyptian Nightjars appear to “arrive” at least 15-20 days earlier. Following these observations, I am thinking about three non-exclusive explanations:
– The early arrival is only apparent (in other words, they always arrived in February but were overlooked in past decades).
– Egyptian Nightjars do arrive earlier at the breeding ground now in comparaison with the observations from the 20th century.
– They winter at or near the breeding grounds in some favourable years.
What do you think? Please don’t hesitate to comment.
Also, please send us any records (recent or old) of Egyptian Nightjars in the breeding areas from November to February (email: moroccan.birds AT gmail.com)
Many thanks to all!
Mediani, M., Radi, M., Slimani, T., El Mouden, H., El Idrissi Essougrati, A. & Qninba A. 2013. Première mention de l’Engoulevent du désert (Caprimulgus aegyptius) dans l’Oued Ad Deheb et possible hivernage dans le sud du Maroc. Go-South Bulletin 10: 102-105. PDF
Thévenot, M., Vernon, R. & Bergier, P. 2003. The Birds of Morocco. BOU Checklist No. 20. BOU, Tring.
– On 18 February 2017, bird guide Lahcen Ouacha photographed the first Egyptian Nightjar for the season at Merzouga (photo 3). Tanemirt Lahcen! (= Thanks in Berber/Tamazight language).
– In 2018, the species arrived a little bit late at the breeding area in Merzouga region. Bird guides Lahcen Ouacha and Cristian Jensen Marcet photographed the first bird on 28 February 2018, that’s 10 and 12 days later than in 2017 and 2016 respectively. Note that these arrival dates are very accurate because Lahcen Ouacha is in constant contact with the local nomades who let him know as soon as the nightjars arrive.