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Dunn’s Lark at Merzouga, Morocco

Dunn’s Lark reappeared at Merzouga almost 7 years later.

Dunn’s Lark was discovered at Merzouga in April 2010 by a group of Austrian birders (Ernst Albegger and his colleagues). Breeding of the species was confirmed next month by Martin Barry, Benoît Maire and Alain Mathurin. Almost every birder who visited the area during this spring enjoyed watching the species.

In 2011, many birders hoped to see it during their birding trips. However, this was not the case for many of them. In fact, the species was very difficult to spot and was only observed twice:

  • Single bird just east of the regional road R702 (31.2637,-4.0206) connecting Erfoud and Merzouga on 9 April 2011 (Andrew Watson).
  • Single bird near the main road (31.2288,-4.1279) on 16 April 2011 (Hans Matheve and colleagues).

Same thing in 2012, only two sightings:

  • Single bird at about 9.5 km west of Auberge Yasmina on 2 May 2012 (Maarten Schurmans and Erwin Collaerts).
  • Single bird along the track to Café Yasmina on 7 June 2012 (Paul French, Janne and Hanna Aalto). Photo below.
African Dunn’s Lark (Eremalauda dunni) near Merzouga, eastern Sahara, Morocco, 7 June 2012 (Paul French).

Reappearance after 7 years

After an absence of nearly 7 years, the species reappeared in the area again. On 26 March 2019, three birds were found north of Hotel Yasmina by Cristian Jensen (Audouin Birding Tours). This will be referred to as ‘first site’.

Many visiting birders were able to see the birds thanks to Marc Illa at the “Merzouga Bird Ringing Station”.

On 30 March, Marc himself found another bird at Merzouga Lake. On the same day, a single bird was found near Tisserdmine (located some 2-3 km from the first site) by Javi Elorriaga (Birding The Strait) and a group of British birders (M. Frost, R. Frost, L. Frost, B. Abbott and S. Abbott).

African Dunn’s Lark (Eremalauda dunni), Merzouga, Morocco, 26 March 2019 (Jeroen De Bruijn).

On 2 April, local bird guide Lahcen Ouacha found the Dunn’s Lark at a new site SW of Dayet Stij (located some 25 Km south of the first site). The single bird was enjoyed by a group of birders he was guiding with Arnoud van den Berg. See his photo below. Here is Arnoud’s comment (exact quote) about this experience:

“Great find, Lahcen; at yet another site in the Merzouga area: SW of Dayet Srij. Well done, impressive perseverance!”.

African Dunn’s Lark (Eremalauda dunni), Merzouga, Morocco, 2 April 2019 (Lahcen Ouacha)

All these observations most likely involved different birds. Movements of nomadic desert birds, like this species, are governed by rainfall and subsequent abundances of food resources. This might indicate that more Dunn’s Larks could be found in similar habitats all around Merzouga.

This however does not necessarily mean they are easy to find. If needed, you can always count on a local guide like Lahcen Ouacha (this is a bona fide advice, not just a publicity for the local guides).

Taxonomy

Dunn’s Lark sensu lato consist of two taxa: the nominate taxon in Africa and eremodites in the Arabian Peninsula. The HBW Alive split the latter into a separate species, the Arabian Lark (Eremalauda eremodites). The ‘IOC Worl Bird List’, which generally accepts splits earlier than most other World Checklists, hasn’t yet split the species.

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