Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris, Eritrea
from ABC Bulletin 24.2
An exploratory visit to Eritrea in April 2017 resulted in several interesting observations in this rarely visited country. Ring-necked Doves Streptopelia capicola were found to be fairly common in the Gahtelai-Demas area on 27th, between Asmara and Massawa, confirming the presence of the species in Eritrea; Ash & Atkins (2009. Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea) show only ‘uncertain records’ on their map, and it is not mapped for Eritrea in Redman et al. (2011. Birds of the Horn of Africa). A Montane Nightjar Caprimulgus poliocephalus was seen and heard at Medhanit Recreation Centre in Filfil Rainforest on 26th—this is apparently the first sighting of the species for Filfil, and extends its known range in Eritrea northwards; the species was only recently discovered in the southern highlands and is not listed in either Ash & Atkins (2009) or Redman et al. (2011). Marsh Warblers Acrocephalus palustris were observed at Elabered, near Keren (two on 22nd and one on 23rd), with one at Filfil Rainforest on 26th; the species is apparently very rare (or under-recorded) in Eritrea, with only three autumn records listed by Ash & Atkins (2009), and none in spring. An Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina at Elabered, near Keren, on 24th is apparently the first spring record. Two Eastern Orphean Warblers Sylvia crassirostris were seen at Elabered, near Keren, on 23rd—a late date for the species, with no previous records in April and just one in May. White-headed Babblers Turdoides leucocephala were common in mature woodland along the Barka River, Agordat, on 25th, but elsewhere only the more widespread White-rumped Babbler T. leucopygia was encountered (in Eritrea, the local form of the latter also has a white head). The status of Red-winged Onychognathus morio and Somali Starlings O. blythi in Eritrea is confused, with apparently no recent records of Red-winged for Eritrea. Red-winged was observed frequently in April 2017, notably in Asmara, Elabered and Filfil, yet not a single Somali Starling was identified. A Red-breasted Wheatear Oenanthe bottae—surprisingly rare in Eritrea— was noted near Asmara on 20th. Finally, a vagrant Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni was seen at Elabered, near Keren, on 24th; this is the first confirmed record for Eritrea of this Central Asian breeder, whose migration route to its wintering grounds in southern Africa lies to the west of the region (NR).
from previous ABC Bulletins
In late December 2001, an exhausted Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris was captured in the Massawa area by a local fisherman and released at freshwater ponds, where it survived for ten days. Bluethroats Luscinia svecica were observed and photographed at Massawa, Asmara and Akwar hot water springs during November 2000 to February 2001.
Three species that would appear to be new for the country were observed. Seven Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, first seen on 26 November 2002, stayed for almost two months at the Seawater Farms, Massawa. One dead specimen was subsequently collected. A Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus was photographed at the same locality on 20 October. Also there, a Long-toed Lapwing Vanellus crassirostris was seen on 28 July. In October, 60 Ospreys Pandion haliaetus were counted along 550 km of coastline from Massawa to Asseb; two nests were found in January 2003. The White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus photographed at the Seawater Farms, Massawa (cf. Bull. ABC 10: 55, Fig. 4), stayed from 9 September until 25 November 2002. An albino Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis was photographed at the Seawater Farms on 20 December 2002. Eight White-collared Kingfishers Halcyon chloris were seen at Harena mangrove on 6 December 2002; this species is rare in Eritrea.
A trip from 3-26 February 1998 yielded the following interesting records. Three Demoiselle Cranes Anthropoides virgo were in the Cieffà plain near Sen'afe on the 7th. At Adi Quala, a White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis was seen on the 9th in the company of Eurasian Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus. Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca and a Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus were also seen. On 15 February, more than 100 Steppe Eagles Aquila nipalensis were at the Asmara rubbish dump. Four Pacific Golden Plovers Pluvialis fulva were observed at a high-tide roost at Massawa saltpans on 24 February and single Dunlin Calidris alpina in mixed wader flocks on 23 February at Green Island, Massawa. A few Armenian Gulls Larus armenicus and Great Black-headed Gulls L. ichthyaetus were at Massawa around 20 February. Also there were up to 33 Slender-billed Gulls L. genei with 23 more at Desset River mouth. A pair of Caspian Terns Sterna caspia was breeding at Enteara islet, Dahlak archipelago, on 21 February. House Sparrows Passer domesticus were commonly seen in inland towns from Keren to Akurdat on 11-13 February; great numbers of Brown Noddies Anous stolidus were seen around the Dahlak Islands on 2 May. Upcher’s Warblers Hippolais languida were recorded at the Gash River, Shemshemya, on 22 April, and near Hirghigo on 29 April.
A visit to the Massawa area from 31 December 1994 to 2 January 1995 produced a number of interesting records from this exciting and little-known semi-desert area. These included Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti, Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla, Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti and Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis. A White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris was seen on nearby Green Island. Five adult Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita were at Massawa in February 1997. A Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo was seen at a small wetland near Asmara on 26 October and again on 9 and 13 November and this record apparently constitutes the first for Eritrea. Four White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus were at Sembel Dam near Asmara from 5 to 19 October with one bird still there on 9 November. This is apparently only the second record for the country.