A description of the location of the recently rediscovered Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses in the Central Nile Valley, posted on EgyBirdGroup and WestPalBirds.
Dear birdwatchers and twitchers,
Following the rediscovery of the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus) in northern Egypt (presumably the thought to be extinct ssp. floweri) in March, I’m pleased to say that the team involved in the rediscovery has now agreed to make the location public.
I hope you can understand that we were initially cautious about this topic and so didn’t publish the exact site immediately. The worst case scenario (but probably and hopefully not), is that the max. 100 birds we have found represent all that’s left of the Egyptian and Western Palearctic population of this species. The status of temporary secrecy wasn’t accepted so well by everyone : some of the mails I received were quite unfriendly and demanding and not appreciative of our concerns.
However, we are now sure that much more can and will be found out by other birdwatchers and ornithologists travelling through the central Nile Valley region – which is apparently extremely “underwatched”. Any additional knowledge, as well as the fact that visiting birders come to see them and locals profit of that, could help protect the birds.
We are appealing urgently to everyone going to search for/twitch the birds to:
- be careful and do nothing that could pose a risk, danger or stress to the birds
- respect the interests of the local people and landowners. The whole area is covered with fields and attempts at cultivation. Before entering an area, check if it is a cultivation (you might not recognize it at first sight).
- tell locals about the uniqueness of the birds on their land – maybe it will aid future protection.
Generally, we only met very friendly people who will likely invite you for a tea at their house. However, the whole region is troubled: the Egyptian revolution is still going on and some issues (e.g. scarcity of fuel) have reached this rather remote and very non-touristic region too. This created some rather dangerous situations during our stay in March.
Location: From the main road Giza-Luxor, a road leads to the town Sandafa to the east (at 28°31′30.07″N 30°35′55.10″E). The birds were seen on several occasions along the first 3 km, on the southern side (but we hardly ever checked the northern side). Habitat becomes much greener and less suitable towards the towns Al Bahnasa and Sandafa. The birds preferred arid and sandy flats with loose vegetation (check here), frequently fields (abandoned and in use) and were flying around a lot, especially in the evening.
Best regards, Leander
PS: After the first sightings (18.3. 4 Ex.; 21.3. 25 Ex.; 22.3. ca.100 Ex.) the birds were seen not very often, but as far as I know, whenever someone of the team was looking for them.