Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse in Egypt

Last Wednesday, after an overnight flight, I landed at Cairo airport where after a lengthy wait for my bag to arrive I met up with old time Belgian buddies Vincent L and David M. We were quickly on the road and heading south into the Nile Valley. Until recently, as the army have become less officious since Mubarak's fall from grace, a lot of the Nile to the south of Cairo was off limits to westerners. But with less military presence you can travel around Egypt pretty easily, and with this in mind, we headed towards the semi-desert an hour or so to the north of the town of Al Minya. The target was to see Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, a species only recently rediscovered in Egypt.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (two males and a female), Sandafa Al Far, Egypt 24th July 2013
In fact, it was only last year that Swiss birders doing survey work made this rediscovery (presumably of the race floweri) - you can read about it here. Up until then, I'd envisaged that my only hope of seeing Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse in the WP would have been in Kuwait. As it turns out though, this species seems to be pretty common and during the course of the day at Sandafa Al Far on 24th July, I had 16 bird sightings (of ones and twos) from arrival at 10.20am to 3pm and then the afternoon activity turned it up a notch with 87 bird sightings, including a single flock of 16 birds.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (female), Sandafa Al Far, Egypt 24th July 2013
Stunning birds in fantastic light that were attracted to a pool that had been created by a leaking pipe in a semi-cultivated, arid area. It just goes to show that with no coverage, birds that appear to be relatively common - albeit on a local scale - go undetected even in countries such as Egypt.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (two males and two females), Sandafa Al Far, Egypt 24th July 2013

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