Tuesday, 29 January 2013

European Nightjar - a scarce eastern race in Johannesburg

C.e.plumipes! What is fast becoming a catchphrase in local twitching parlance '...in Malcolm's Garden' was again in the limelight with the discovery of a European Nightjar, remarkable in itself but made more so by the scarcity of this bird's race. This one speaks 'Gobi'  [ie: from eastern Asia]. I'd seen this bird yesterday but under the best conditions the Caprimulgiformes (Family Caprimulgidae) or 'goat-suckers' [Don't ask me why...] are difficult to ID. Break that down further into race and it gets quite tricky.
C.e.plumipes - male

We were reasonably confident that the bird roosting in 'Malcolm's Garden' was the sandy-coloured C.e.plumipes and a male. In the hand that would have been relatively easy to confirm. Males have large white spots on the primaries. The tarsi are also more 'heavily-feathered' than the other races. Looking through the glass, however, is more difficult. The only way to confirm with any conviction that this bird was not the more common C.e.unwini was to check the barring on the upper tail which proved impossible yesterday given the bird's propensity to roost 'longitudinally' and the elevation of the slope out back.

Fortunately last night's storm didn't seem to phase the bird much and it was rediscovered, this morning, close by. Even though getting decent pictures proved interesting, we were, however, able to confirm the bird's race. An unexpected bonus and number 373 for our 2013 - 800 Challenge.

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