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? ;)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Winter's summary

January started in a quite exciting way with many good birds being found in the Ebre Delta; and indeed this has been so far a very good rarities year in Catalunya. I could not resist the temptation to go to the Ebre Delta to see the Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) and the Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)...

After that, the winter kept as it was, with very few or actually no individuals of winter species like Siskin (Spinus spinus)Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) or Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes); three typical irruptive wintering species that can vary quite much in numbers within years. Anyway, it looks like it has been a good winter season for both Dunnock (Prunella modularis) and Robin (Erithacus rubecula), and while it was initially quite bad for Song Thrushes (Turdus philomelos), it has appeared to be quite good during January (all of this based on local observations in central Catalunya!).

I had never tried a Macro (100mm) lens for birds,
quite nice results!
Indeed, a species that has been clearly quite common through this winter was Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus), with several sightings of several individuals together in many places. We've had some wintering individuals for the last few years in l'Agulla Park, but never so many as this year, since we had 6 wintering individuals.

Can you see the Jack Snipe? ;)
Some interesting trapped birds follows.
This Little Owl (Athene noctua) was actually a recapture from last summer (July 2016), when it was caught as a breeding individual in the same place. It was very interesting to have an 'age-proved' Little Owl in order to improve the moult and ageing knowledge of the species.

Adult (EURING 6)
The Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is a very scarce visitor in my local wetland, and indeed it's even more unlikely to have one in the nets, since they usually climb on higher parts of the trees. So it was a great surprise to get this one, a very nice second-year (EURING 5) female; with
all primary coverts and most of greater coverts and alula unmoulted.

Dartford Warblers (Sylvia undata) are rather common in certain areas, but these places are usually very open, with low bushes, and they are usually not easy to catch with nets. So this adult (EURING 6) male was a very appreciated bird during my CES at Montserrat Mountain.

So far it has been a quite good winter for Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), with more than 280 ringed in the area where I've been working the last winters. This year I had three foreign recoveries (1 from Finland and 2 from France), and I already got the information from the French birds; both ringed during last autumn (2016), one of them just 15 days befire I caught it!, and both from SE France. Also, I received the information corresponding to one of my birds (ringed during November 2014) that was caught at Darmsatd (Germany) during October 2016. Quite interesting stuff!

After having examined the postjuvenile moult extension in quite many Reed Buntings, I think I can safely state that this female is the one with the less extensive moult I have ever seen, with the three outermost greater coverts unmoulted! (bad picture with the phone and flash...)

The Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) ringing project in Barcelona city continued this winter, with our record of captures, thanks to a very good day of 15 individuals caught. Check for blue colour-rings!!
Barcelona's harbour

Several Black-headed Gulls have appeared with foreing rings this year, like this one from Denmark that was seen in the area already on February 2012, but no more sightings until this year!
Picture by Raül Aymí
Also related to Gulls, I could spend some very interesting afternoons in an old factory at Roda de Ter (Osona) with Martí Franch, and we actually managed to see some interesting Gulls for the area. Among the (roughly) 2000 Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis) that regularly go to roost there, we found 3 Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) (a first-winter, a second-winter and an adult) and at least 2 Caspian Gulls (Larus cachinnans), plus to possible hybrids with some cachinnans part on them. Also, around 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) were present, but that's a regular species there. All pictures are taken with the phone through the scope...

First-winter Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Second-winter Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Adult Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
First-winter Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
Pale first-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) (left) and 1w Yellow-legged (Larus michahellis) (right)