Something that’s irked me more often than I’d like to admit is the inclusion of the word “common” in the name of a bird. It seems almost insulting, sure it allows some insight into the abundance of the particular species in a particular area at a point in time, but all birds are rare and exotic somewhere. The irony is most apparent when a bird so named is a legitimate rarity – I get excited whenever I see a Common Ground Dove, for example. They are decidedly uncommon in T&T but surely ubiquitous somewhere else.

This type of common bird is not what spawned this post, however. Bearing the same designation but actually commonplace is the infrequently encountered Common Pauraque. Throughout the island of Trinidad they can be heard almost every night yet seeing one can prove a little tricky. Deserted roads can yield fleeting views, but under lights is not the ideal encounter (for purists at least)!

Common Pauraque

Some degree of skill or pure luck is required to see one of these near-cryptids in daylight. Superbly camouflaged, nightjars are designed to melt into their daytime roost. At dusk a couple nights ago some movement caught my eye as I was driving. I had just turned my lights on and it was a Common Pauraque that hopped from the road back into the leaf litter. With some light still in the sky, I knew this was a golden opportunity to photograph this species with some semblance of natural light.

Carefully, I got out the vehicle and retrieved my camera. Within a few short moments, I was ready with settings primed for the extreme low light. Only thing was that I had taken my eyes off of where the bird was and now felt a bit hopeless as I couldn’t relocate it! I stared at the patch of stones and fallen leaves where the bird was, but nothing materialised. I walked up to where I thought it was, still nothing. I strained my eyes in the fading light. Then realised I was standing not more than 10 inches from the bird! I backed off and looked through my viewfinder and to my astonishment there were actually two Common Pauraques sitting there!

Can you see both Common Pauraques in this frame? The headlamps of my jeep helped with the ambient light and gave one bird a neat little catchlight.

Currently I know I’m one step closer to photographing these beauties in the daytime, but it’s taken so many years to get to this point who knows when I’ll find a day-roosting bird?! It can be next decade or it can be tomorrow – and that is the beauty of birding!

Written by Faraaz Abdool
Faraaz Abdool is an internationally published freelance conservation and wildlife photographer/writer who specializes in birds and the issues they face worldwide. He graciously serves on the Trinidad and Tobago Bird Status and Distribution Committee (formerly the Trinidad and Tobago Rare Bird Committee), and leads birding trips on both islands. Faraaz also runs yearly birding and wildlife tours to East Africa. Although he doesn’t keep a life list, Faraaz has been a keen birder for many years, separating Black and Turkey Vultures at distance as a little boy, skipping class to gaze at Magnificent Frigatebirds as a teenager and quitting his job as an electrical engineer to put all his energy into conservation as an adult. Faraaz cultivates wildlife consciousness via his words and images, in a last-ditch attempt to reconnect humans with nature and save the world.