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 (20 January 2015)
Although no-one ever saw it, the Nechisar Nightjar is expected to be a resident bird at Nechisar National Park. A bird which stays in this area for the entire year. Six biologists and myself tried to find it for over one month… but we did not succeed.
The entire surface of Nechisar National Park (520km²) was screened many times. The roads were checked using four-wheel-drive vehicles. Where roads stopped, or in open fields we covered this terrain on foot. Nightjars were found using powerful torches, and when their eyes reflection, we tried to catch every nightjar we encountered.
We have caught 49 individual nightjars, and 18 of them were caught for more than one time. We estimate only 5-10 to have escaped our excellent catching skills. Yet, none of them was a Nechisar Nightjar. We have caught Slender-tailed nightjars, Sombre nightjars and Star-spotted nightjars. We observed one Nubian nightjar and one Freckled nightjar, which are rare visitors to Nechisar. Strangely, we did not find any Donaldson-smith’s nightjar, which should be quite abundant in the park. On the other hand, the numbers of Star-spotted nightjars and Sombre nightjars was higher than expected.
No Nechisar Nightjar, so expedition failed? Certainly not! We have proven that there is little knowledge on the nightjars of Eastern Africa. If the Nechisar Nightjar would have been present in Nechisar, we would have found him. We searched the entire park and caught over 95% of nightjars we encountered. Probably most of the birds we did not find ware partially migration out of Nechisar. And other might be resident or migratory birds. Where these nightjar eventually go is unclear, but we need to find out before it is too late. I hope the Nechisar Nightjar is not extinct. There are some good arguments for it to be a migratory bird, like its big and pointy wing.
After our final meeting with the National Park’s management it was clear that our expedition was important for the future of the National Park. The discovery of Lions, Leopards and our other surveys are necessary to assure the survival of this park. We hope that our final report will convince the Ethiopian government to invest in Nechisar National Park, as it has great potentials to be a showpiece for this mesmerizing country. Nevertheless it is important to delimit protected areas as overgrazing and human destruction of nature will be the downfall of Nechisar. It is one minute to 12, it’s time to take action.
We hope to go back to Nechisar one day, during raining season. Fingers crossed we have more luck in finding the Nechisar Nightjar than.