Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nightjar and wheatear mysteries

Got back early this morning from 48 hours in Frankfurt. My main goal was to celebrate my grandmother's 97th birthday. But since I was there I arranged a visit to the scientific collections at Senckenberg Naturmuseum. I met up with the curator Dr. Gerald Mayr. Gerald was extremely friendly and cooperative - many thanks Gerald! I collected there data for my slow Nubian Nightjar project. Hopefully it will pick up soon. There are six Nubian Nightjars in the collection - 2 nubicus from Sudan, and 4 tamaricis from SW Yemen. 

Nubian Nightjars - tamaricis (left) and nubicus (right)

After I was done with the nightjars, out of curiosity, I asked Gerald to have a look at some 'black' wheatears. I hoped to find a lost warriae specimen. In between Black Wheatears from NW Africa I was amazed to find this small wheatear - clearly not leucura. It was collected by Dr. Eduard Ruppell in 1823. The label says 'Egyptien' but back in those days Egypt included parts of Sudan. It seems that in 1823 Ruppell indeed collected along the Nile in northern Sudan, close to Ambukol. But I will need to do more homework to try and come up with a more exact location and date.
This still needs to be confirmed, but it is probably a new specimen of 'Saxicola syenitica' - a lost and mysterious wheatear taxon, that is known from only one specimen collected by Theodor von Heuglin in 1852 in the same general area of northern Sudan / southern Egypt. The holotype is kept at Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Austria. Check a description and discussion of the holotype here on Researchgate, or an abstract is available here if you're not on Researchgate.
I was in a great rush so didn't have time to take a full set of measurements. But I should be back in Frankfurt fairly soon. However, if it is 'Saxicola syenitica' as it provisionally seems, perhaps it can provide more insight to understand what this poorly known taxon is. Quite exciting. Surely more will be written about this specimen.

Putative 'Saxicola syenitica' (top) and Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura (bottom)

1 comment:

  1. So I was right with my FB comment on NHM Wien... God Work my friend.
    Take care,