Saturday, April 8, 2017

Local birding days

Since I started birding I've been focusing most of my hours and days in the field close to my place, in Central Catalunya. In practical facts there's an obvious reason to go there, since a relatively proper wetland in less than 10 minutes by foot from my bedroom. And despite you can't compare the place to a true birding hotspot, I have seen quite much interesting stuff and, above all, learnt a lot. These are some lines of experiences in my local areas during some last few days.

I came up with this thoughts the other day when I was extremely pleased watching the first Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) seen in my area and in this part of Central Catalunya. Sandwitch Terns are common along the shoreline, fishing in the sea, and they can be seen all year round in the Mediterranean, where they both breed and winter. Nonetheless, inland sightings are very rare! So probably that's why I had never expected this species to show up here. Anyway, the morning of the 25th of March 2017 this individual showed up after an intense storm the previous night.
The whole pale plumage (especially the outer primaries) suggest that it's
an adult (EURING 6 -at least-).
Every spring is different in migration terms! If I had to summarize what this spring season has been so far in my area I would point out the raptors. Due to wind, rain and other meteorological circumstances it has been a remarcable good spring for migrating raptors so far, with no less than 170 Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus gallicus), 2 Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata), 42 Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo), 6 Red Kites (Milvus milvus), 327 Black Kites (Milvus migrans), 46 Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus), Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), 35 Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) and 5 Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis). Most of Black Kites were seen together in a big flock the 1st of April in the afternoon, when a Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) decided to pass by too.

Also, White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) flocks have been quite regular. The latest flock spend the night between the 1st and the 2nd of April, and I could manage to see some rings the following morning, mostly from Germany but also 3 from Switzerland, 1 from the Netherlands and 1 from Sweden.

Swedish Stork tiding up...
Some German individuals also wanted to look nice.
While reading the ring numbers I had very good light, which it was a good suport for getting most of the codes. After looking at them for a while, I realised of some plumage differences between individuals. When the information from the ringed individuals comes, it will be interesting to check if this ageing tips are correct!

Second-year (EURING 5). White Storks have a complete
postjuvenile moult, but it starts between December and May of
the second calendar year. This individual, with rather brownish
plumage except for some very fresh (replaced) scapulars, hasn't
started the primary moult yet.
Primary moult suspended probably due to migration. The outer
primaries, primary coverts and secondaries (not replaced) look
more worn and paler than in the individual below. Maybe an a
second-year that hatched rather early? Could a third calendar
year look like this due to earlier complete moult in the second
years? Is it just an adult with more worn old plumage?
Adult, with suspended primary moult, probably due to migration.
Adult, with some secondaries that haven't been replaced (yet)
in the last complete moult.
Most of my ringing stations are making 5 full years of activity this year, and thus some interesting recaps are already possible to get. For instance this (at least) 5 years old Great Tit (Parus major), which was caught with her partner, also ringed the same day and also older than 5 years now!

Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) are probably the most common migrant so far in the area, with rather good numbers.

Also, Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus)Subalpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans)Common Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) have arrived, together with an early Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoeluca).
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus).
Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans), male.
Second-year (EURING 5) male Redstart (P. phoenicurus).
Second-year (EURING 5) male Redstart.
Adult (EURING 6) male Redstart.
Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos).
Adult (EURING 6) male Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoeluca).
This Scops Owl (Otus scops) was also a nice surprise in the nets!

 It was an adult (EUING 6), due to the relatively fresh flight feathers and their pattern, also in the tail.

But local birding also allows to study in proper detail the local species, such as Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus).
Adult (EURING 8). Some secondaries are retained in the last
moult, but they are rather fresh and adult-like (notice for instance
the edges).
Indeterminate age (EURING 4). All secondaries have been
moulted in the last moult, or at least no retained ones are
Probable second-year (EURING 5). Several secondaries have
been retained in the complete postjuvenile moult, they are worn
and narrower
Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) was a nice bonus for these days, and indeed a species that I don't catch so regularly.
Second-year (EURING 5) female, with all primary coverts still in
juvenile pattern. No red on the malar stripe.
But probably the most local bird I had the chance to study was this Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) that somehow managed to get caught. A typical second-year (EURING 5), with the two outermost primaries still juvenile.

Let's continue with spring!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring colours

Although the actual spring equinox was yesterday, I always start to feel the spring in February, when you can already notice some birds migrating, mainly presaharan birds (such as Thrushes, Dunnocks...) or already the first House Martins (Delichon urbicum)  or Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica). Also, White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) are regular on passage during February, and that makes quite an spring feeling already! Also, amphibians are quite active, and after a very nice rainy evening when we could watch several nice species, I considered the spring to have started.

Iberian Spadefood Toad (Pelobates cultripes)
'Southern' Common Toad (Bufo spinosus)
Common Parsley Frog (Pelodytes punctatus)
Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita)
Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)
After a rather good Black Redstart's (Phoenicurus ochruros) autumn season last year, it was expected also a good spring passage. At least it was quite good in my area, where I could notice well the arrival of migrants since all (or almost) wintering birds had been ringed. Once more, I've been surprised on the relatively high proportion of 'paradoxus' males.

Very black face, throat and breast, dark upperparts, but no tertials
or secondaries showing white fringes (not moulted).
2cy (EURING 5) male.
'Browner' individual, with darker wing coverts, a few dark feathers
on the face and throat and moulted tertials with broad white fringes.
2cy (EURING 5) male.
Slightly dark underparts and wing coverts, some scattered black
feathers on the face, throat and breast. 2cy (EURING 5) male.
2cy (EURING 5) male. This individual is very "brownish"
(almost female-like), but inner greater coverts (moulted) are
clearly grey. Also, S5 is replace by accident and it shows a broad
grey fringe in the outer web.
This year has been remarcable too in my area for several White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) sightings. During February we could enjoy some nice flocks, and during March, several lonely individuals turned up in different places.
White CS37, from France. This one likes to spend the day
playing as a traffic radar!
White Stork and Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus) (not
kidding!, although it looks like Cattle Egret...). Two nice white
big birds not easy to see together in my area.
Raptor's passage has been quite nice too in Central Catalunya, with about +200 Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus gallicus), 9 Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus), 90 Black Kites (Milvus migrans), 7 Red Kites (Milvus milvus) (one of the best springs for both Kites in the area, already), +30 Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo), 20 Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) and 4 Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis). This very nice adult (EURING 8; aged thanks to a retained secondary) male Sparrowhawk had stopped to feed while I was doing a ringing session. We caught it after it had fed recently (it had the crop completely full!), and it left straight away after releasing.

This dates are also very good for migrating Penduline Tits (Remiz pendulinus). Around my area in central Catalunya it can be considered a regular migrant, occasional wintering and rare breeding species. Most of migrants and wintering individuals fit with central European populations, both on phenology and moult extension. Ringing recoveries are also proving that, and this spring I could catch another central European bird: this time from the Czech Republic. Interestingly, the day it was caught another bird showed up nearby, and at least 2 other individuals appeared in Osona county, also in central Catalunya but where the species is much more scarce.

2cy (EURING 5) male, from the Czech Republic!
Ducks are another colourful migrants that are passing these days. So far, the warm and sunny days have provided just a few interesting wildfowl in my area, like this two Shovelers (Anas clypeata) that appeared on February, or this mixed flock of two Shovelers and 4 Garganeys (Anas querquedula).

This 6 birds spent the whole day resting at l'Agulla Park, a
public park in the surroundings of Manresa city. Several hundred
people visited the lake tha day, I wonder how many people
actually realised of the beuaty of this birds...!
Water Pipits (Anthus spinoletta) are in heavy body moult between late February and March, and they gather in certain places, sometimes river shores half-way to the mountains, that are still mostly covered by snow.

This nice Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) was unexpectedly caught in the net that I had for the Water Pipits!

Little Ringed Plovers (Charadrius dubius) have also arrived!, and while some are still passing by, some breeding pairs are already taking their breeding territories.

Male, already defending last year's territory in the
middle of an industrial area.
Adult (EURING 6) female, caught at night-ringing! At least
one bird ringed two years ago seems to be back to the area,
I wish I can catch it to check!
The first Hoopoe (Upupa epops) that arrived this year in my main ringing station at l'Aiguamoll de la Bòbila was actually a female, and indeed it arrived very early in February, so probably had been wintering closeby, where an individual had been seen.

2cy (EURING 5), female.
Another species that is also ready for breeding is the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), already fixing nests and soon busy with incubation.

On the other hand, Little Owls (Athene noctua) are starting to be more vocal, and you may see some 'guarding' the nesting areas, even in the middle of the day!

And this picture was taken in mid-February, doesn't it look like
totally spring already? ;)