Swarovski Optik Blog 4/9: One wing that rules them all

In 2015 I organized an expedition to Ethiopia. I collected a team of 5 researchers to search for Caprimulgus solala in Nechisar National Park. For the purpose of this expedition, I wrote 9 blogs for Swarovski Optik.

Original blog message here (29 November 2014)



It has been a while since we uploaded our previous blog-message. Nevertheless, we had our reasons. We have been secretly preparing for a daring journey. But first, let’s go back in time…. It all happened some months ago and started as a strange coincidence. I had just completed my first weeks as a PhD-student at Hasselt University. Soon we realized it would be a great idea to go on an exciting expedition within four years from now. But, only one day later we were invited to start a great adventure.

Twenty-five years after its’ initial discovery we will make an attempt in finding the Nechisar nightjar. Most of you might know this bird, which is one of the most mysterious of them all. This nightjar species was described by one wing recovered from a road kill at Nechisar National Park in 1990. Its’ scientific name is Caprimulgus solala. “Solala” is composed out of two words “sola” – “one” and “ala” – “wing”.

Until now any hard evidence was collected about the existence of the nightjar with one wing. In 2009 a team of British ornithologists came close to catching one, but it managed to get away. Now, we have put together a team of 7 scientists and 4 local partners to do research in Nechisar National Park. From January 4th until February 2nd we will make a detailed survey about the birds, mammals and insects at the Nechisar plains and surroundings. Our main goal is to do an intensive survey on nightjars. Finding evidence of the Nechisar nightjar would be a sherry on an already delicious pie.

Last week we visited Tring Natural History Museum to meet “The Wing”, and study Ethiopian nightjars. We also had the privilege of meeting Roger Safford, one of the discoverers of the road kill. I must admit that first I was a bit conspicuous about the Nechisar wing being a new species. But after handling it, it became clear to me that this wing resembles no other. We have to find the body that goes with it!

We left Great-Britain holding a Nechisar National Park -treasure map containing a big X, first hands on experience with Ethiopian Nightjars and big dreams about how the Nechisar nightjar might look like… I feel privileged to go on this daring quest. As a nightjar-researcher it is a dream to search for the one wing that rules them all.

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